I love mystery. I live inside the un-disentangle-able imagination of the greatest enigma – the One who is both immanent and transcendent – “for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Epimenides quoted in Acts 17:28).
In an earlier post, More Enigma: An Explanation, I admitted to being rather inept when I said,
“Over time, searching the solid doctrines that were helpful “Sunday School” answers to complex questions moulted off like a dead chrysalis of a butterfly. That is not to say they were wrong, or bad. It is to say, in my clumsy way, there is so much more to the spiritual life in Christ that can be known in mere dogma, though dogma seems to act as a cocoon for the incubation of thought & life.”
I say this is clumsy because I recognize the need for orthodoxy in a world running headlong into its own self-referenced falseness. Dogmas are cast off, indeed, but so is truth in the guise of individuals claiming one’s own truth, as if that were an ontological category.
The Problem with Metaphor?
I am not sure if it is more a problem with metaphor than it is with dogma, but Zizioulas explains better in his fine book, Being as Communion. He speaks to what he calls the delicate problem that “truth is not comprehensible” and thus not to be objectified and defined. Dogmas are attempts “as ‘formulations’ or ‘definitions’ of the truth, making this truth a captive to the bonds of historical and cultural forms.” He speaks about dogmas as “thought structures” of the Church.
Dogmas, like ministries, cannot survive as truth outside the communion event created by the Spirit. It is not possible for a concept or formula to incorporate the truth within itself, unless the Spirit gives life to it in communion. Academic theology may concern itself with doctrine, but it is in the communion of the Church which makes theology into truth.
Serving no purpose in itself?
Probably no one gets at the paradox of the need for “dogma” so well as Simone Weil did at the end of her short life:
A doctrine serves no purpose in itself, but it is indispensable to have one, if only to avoid being deceived by false doctrines.
The Danger with Dogma
But there is the clash of dogmas in this increasingly intermixing world, where dogmas of religion and “one’s own truth” are pitted like insurmountable walls that keep an individual temporarily insulated from the Person of God who waits outside our door.
The other danger, as we have seen in our day, is to turn dogmas into “petrified relics from the past” and thus widen the chasm between truth and personal experience. The early church handled this tension by understanding dogmas as “doxological statements” of the worship community – as faith transmitted through relationship.
It is no wonder then that postmodernity is shaping into its own big bang – chaotic and anarchistic. My response has been to explore the enigma of this One who holds us in His imagination and memory, His thought and thoughtfulness. I have been adventuring by way of the ancient thought structures of the Church to comprehend what I cannot apprehend.
So, it is not that there isn’t dogma; it’s that there is more enigma than dogma. I invite you to move beyond the thought structures of dogma – – to the imagination of the Personal – He who created you for Himself.