Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Physiology of Faith

The Physiology of Faith: A Theory of Theological Relativity (Harper, 1979) is by one of the people who presented me for ordination to the diaconate. John W. Dixon Jr. died a few years ago and I have mentioned him and his work before. He was, unusually, a tenured member of two faculties at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: art and religion. He introduced me to his thinking on a class in the religious imagination and then allowed me to read the manuscript for what became this book in an independent study course. I have (you may have noticed) been doing more reading that writing in recent weeks and this is one of the books I have read. I enjoyed discovering how very formative John Dixon was for my own thinking.

For starters, he taught me that the basis of all matter is ‘energy in relation’, and this energy in relation is structured and so given meaning in all kinds of languages and all kinds of ways. While I don’t fully understand how it is that Trinitarian modes of being overcome essential, necessary and potentially destructive dualism, I do get that this presents a critical mode of being that makes sense of Christianity. Some consequences of what his thinking on the meaning of being ‘born again’ found its way into my Easter sermon. His appropriation of relativity theory for theology has, I believe, kept me away from falling off the precipice of relativism on one hand or rejecting Christian faith altogether on the other hand as it is presented, implausibly, as ‘the only way’. I can say that this is the only way for me to have a chance of living with integrity without making my point of view, perspective and experience determinative of all truth, while allowing real commitment and conversion at the same time.

The book is out of print now, but I see that Amazon has access to some used copies. It is not an easy read, but is a great book.

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