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Tuesday, 15 November 2011


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Your analysis reminds me of what I've heard (but not read myself) of the work of Paul Ricoeur concerning naivete. When we are young, we approach scripture, or our faith generally, with the naivete of innocence, and it shapes our imaginations and our hearts. As we learn and grow, and especially as we become familiar with the historical-critical method in terms of scripture studies, we become very analytical, aware of both the flaws and the immense surrounding body of knowledge, the historical and cultural backgrounds, and so on.

But then, once we have integrated that material, we can approach scripture once again in a kind of "second naivete", that is richer for its awareness of all that material, but just as trusting and open to being shaped by the stories and symbols as we were in our first naivete.

Chris Sissons

Thank you. I haven't read Paul Ricoeur either, so that's a good basis for a conversation! My post was based on Gerard Hughes who is a Jesuit and so it could be he and Ricoeur are drawing from similar wells. There are also other faith development approaches, eg James Fowler, who although he has more steps, still presents each stage as a transcendence of the one before.

I wonder whether "second naivety" parallels Hughes' discussion of humility in 'God in all things' - this informed naivety is based on an accurate appraisal of our inability to know absolutely, something missing from the first 2 stages.


I've been thinking further about your discussion of this progression from institutional to critical to mystical. Are you proposing that a church community moves through these stages, as it matures? Because I don't think that would hold up when compared to the apostolic and post-apostolic church: institution emerged later. In fact one might expect it to follow the progression in reverse: a mystical stage inspired by direct experience with the divine; a critical stage as the community grows and starts to think through its needs and its goals, and invent mechanisms to meet them; and finally an institutional stage when those mechanisms get solidified and perhaps sacralized.

Similarly, young contemporary churches may begin with a mystical stage that is more about affective spirituality in their founding, then move through similar stages.

Chris Sissons

First, apologies - life has overtaken me somewhat and I haven't had time to prepare more posts. They do exist and will appear over the holidays.

I think Hughes writes of individual faith development. It is an intriguing idea that organisational development might move in the opposite direction! My interest is in theological approaches and how they are used particularly with reference to ecumenism.

Now that you've raised this idea, I'll give it some thought and try to integrate it into the posts. Be patient these posts will appear!

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