Saturday, April 7, 2012

Universal Priesthood I

Scott Bradley


Perhaps the most practically far-reaching proclamation of the Reformation was the doctrine of "the priesthood of all believers." Previously, all questions regarding the Faith were mediated through the institutionalized Church of Rome and that authority was established by virtue of a self-proclaimed apostolic succession embedded in the Pope and his representatives. Luther and other reformers said, No, the relationship with God is an individual one and thus every individual has the right and the responsibility to work it out for him- or herself.

This was, in my opinion, a great step forward, even if it means having the occasional knock on the door by an adherent of one missionizing sect or another. But, like so many similar declarations of freedom, it still had its own orthodoxy, and it wasn't long before it began to suppress those of differing opinions. This is not surprising given the human inclination to 'know' and cling to Truth. And, of course, the Reformation never did actually declare an end to orthodoxy; it simply sought a more individualistic way to express it.

But what if we were able to personally declare an end to all orthodoxy — that no Truth is known, that no God has spoken, that no one is His Prophet, that no one has discovered an exclusive path to "enlightenment"? Well, more likely than not, this would become our new orthodoxy and we would thus be morally required to suppress or demean those who think otherwise.

To truly be a "free thinker", therefore, one would have to personally adhere to no orthodoxy, on the one hand, and allow that all orthodoxies are legitimate, on the other. This does not mean that adherence to orthodoxy is not in some sense considered a form of bondage. But "free thinking" also understands that its freedom from orthodoxy does not necessarily mean it is free of a similar bondage.

I do not feel myself to be at war with Truth, for I know no Truth with which to war. Only I sense that to truly abandon the pursuit of Truth would be in itself an incredibly liberating experience. That that pursuit is so deeply ingrained in our psyches, that our resistance to its abandonment is so palpable, only serves to demonstrate how transformative it might be.

Chen Jen's "find your way to nothing; there is nothing for you to find" is not intended as a metaphysical statement, but as a simple invitation to let go the search for "something" True.

Life is a walk in the woods. There is nowhere in particular to go; there is nothing in particular to accomplish. "For us forms lodged here between heaven and earth," writes Wang Fuzhi, "there is only this wandering, this play, and nothing besides."

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. "I do not feel myself to be at war with Truth, for I know no Truth with which to war. Only I sense that to truly abandon the pursuit of Truth would be in itself an incredibly liberating experience. "
    When I pulled out of the evangelical Christian mindset, I felt so free. I left behind that search for Truth, and also abandoned the responsibility for saving the world through evangelizing. I have continued examining different philosophies/religions/theories, though more with the view of formulating a philosophy to live by rather than discovering the "Absolute Truth."

    "find your way to nothing; there is nothing for you to find"
    I've heard that the Hindu's have said that there's no place to go, and there's nothing to do. Maybe a similar concept? Be here now?

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