We had a lovely evening last night with our friends Susan and Steven. Our kids a great friends, and they live within an easy walking distance. We ate, shared a few glasses of wine, and laughed a lot.
And as ever, we discussed religion a little. Susan is a Buddhist, and it has been really interesting to share stories and perspectives. Sometimes it seems that we share so much, whilst at other times, the differences are stark. Michaela and I have often described how good these conversations feel though- neither of us are trying to win the other to our own perspective- rather we feel a respect and a pilgrim-companionship.
Because neither of us have all of this sorted. Perhaps the adjustment was greater for us in this regard- as we have been schooled in a kind of religion that has to pretend to have all the answers, lest we miss an opportunity for someone to come a realisation of the error of their ways. And of course, there is the spectre of hell waiting for those who do not grasp the ‘truth’.
Hmmm- am I sliding still towards syncretism and universalism? Whilst I may have a lot of difficulties with the narrow way of thinking that I describe above, I remain a Christian.
Last night, Susan commented on her experience of reading ‘The shack‘. Not one of my favourite books, I have to say- I found the extended images too laboured, and the writing a bit too overblown. However Susan’s perspective on the book was shaped by her starting point as a Buddhist- and the fact that the ‘person’ of God is not part of her experience. She would not necessarily see God as an entity, or a being- for her faith is a process of becoming.
Initially, I felt a sense of loss for my friend. Because my faith is driven most of all by a developing awareness of the person of Jesus, and the Father, communicated by the Spirit.
But later, I began to think again about what this might mean- to take a look at my belief from the perspective of an outsider- which is the great benefit of these conversations with people of a different faith.
And because I love words, I started with two words-
Personification1. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) the attribution of human characteristics to things, abstract ideas, etc., as for literary or artistic effect2. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Art Terms) the representation of an abstract quality or idea in the form of a person, creature, etc., as in art and literature3. a person or thing that personifies4. a person or thing regarded as an embodiment of a quality he is the personification of optimism
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, natural and supernatural phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts. Subjects for anthropomorphism commonly include animalsdepicted as creatures with human motivation able to reason and converse, forces ofnature such as winds or the sun, components in games, unseen or unknown sources of chance, etc. Almost anything can be subject to anthropomorphism. The term derives from a combination of Greek ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos), human and μορφή (morphē), shapeor form.