Monday, August 23, 2010
Today, there are a countless number of methods along with differing schools of thought when it comes to Bible Studies and Theology. At least some astute observers might say there are already far too many, with each 'method' or 'school' contradicting another so that these traditionally Christian fields of study have become nothing more than a 'Mystery Babylon' intellectual enterprise. Obviously, adding yet another catchy term to the list would seem to be compounding the problem, rather than providing a solution. Nevertheless, the project of Neoliteralism, a new term for a new scholarly outlook, has only one intent and that is simplification. Neoliteralism, as the word implies, presumes to take the Bible literally, but it also includes a basic understanding of what the Bible represents. This understanding is simple, not complex, and general, rather than specific. Thus, a perfect example of Neoliteralism can be seen in the following comments and remarks:
I. The Holy Bible is the most published, read, studied, documented, analyzed, interpreted and discussed book ever known in the history of the world.
II. The Holy Bible is currently available in more alphabets, languages, and versions which are spoken and written by more ethnicities and cultures than any other book on earth today.
III. The Holy Bible is the the single most influential book underlying the development of nearly all the written languages still used on earth today.
IV. The Holy Bible is the official text of Christianity, the largest religion with the most followers in the entire world.
V. The Holy Bible is the cornerstone of monotheism, represented by the three great religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
VI. The Holy Bible is the chronological story of a single family's relationship with a specific supernatural entity that began in 3760 B.C. with Adam and ended with Joshua ben Joseph (Jesus) in 33 A.D.
VII. The Holy Bible is the most powerful piece of literature in the modern world that has inspired, motivated, and influenced more individuals to think and act in more ways than any other written document in the history of the world.
Even if the simple generalizations just mentioned may appear controversial to some readers, each one of them is not only true, but a scientific fact that cannot be denied or dis-proven. In other words, Neoliteralism is willing to make ample use of the Statistical Sciences in order to further its primary agenda, simplicity. Is simplicity an objective goal? Is simplicity biased or politically motivated? The answers to both of those questions depend on the assumptions of what simplicity will do to the fields of Theology and Religious Studies. Put bluntly, there is an infinite number of ways of interpreting Neoliteralism's emphasis on simplicity. The non-believer might suspect that it is simply a code word for fundamentalist Christianity intent on quashing complex, sophisticated dissent of traditional Biblical belief systems. On the other hand, the believer may mistake simplicity as either an attempt to water down or dilute Christian truth or an absurd strategy to tear down the Church which has been built upon a continuing accumulation of scholarship compiled and studied throughout the centuries.
In other words, religious scholars may well be skeptical of this new contraption, this intellectual tool known as Neoliteralism. All things considered, they have every right to be. Indeed, for most readers this is the first mention of the word Neoliteralism. This original piece of jargon could end up being nothing more than another case of self-promotion. Theologians and Religious Scholars, just like nearly everybody in today's world, crave attention. They crave readers, listeners, endowments, large offices, and higher salaries. For some, the spread of Christian intellectual truth is also a strong underlying motivation.
With that in mind, Neoliteralism must be honest with itself and with others about what the term really means. This includes the inventor of the word and author of this essay. In other words, who is the man behind the curtain pulling the strings of Neoliteralism? Well, for starters, Neoliteralism is obviously a self-interested attempt to be different. Are not all 'methods' and 'outlooks' found in Theology the same way? Of course they are. Theologians, like all intellectuals, entered the field out of a desire to have their religious ideas read and listened to by others. Assuming the factor of self-interest remains, here are the basic, and specific, agendas underlying Neoliteralism.
I. Neoliteralism is Catholic: Catholic Christianity is emphasized because it is older and has more adherents than Protestantism. The reason is simple, St. Peter was specifically chosen to be the leader by Joshua (Jesus) (NOTE: the author of this essay is a practicing Roman/Ukrainian Catholic scholar.)
II. Neoliteralism is Judaic: Athens, Greco-Roman Philosophy, and Hellenism are ignored in favor of Jerusalem, Mysticism, and Judaism. The reason is simple, Joshua (Jesus) was and is a Jew.
III. Neoliteralism is Iconoclastic: Extreme anti-Christian sentiments and assumptions found in the visual arts proves their inherently Pagan and demonic tendencies. The reason is simple, God prohibited the graven image as one of the Ten Commandments
IV. Neoliteralism is Scientific: Darwin's Theory of Evolution is losing ground due to scientific dissent among experts. Natural law is concurrent with biological behavior of other mammalian species.
V. Neoliteralism is Evangelical: The continued popularity of the Bible, of Christianity, and their combined historical influence clearly indicates supernatural forces that cannot be explained scientifically. The probability of Christianity's success and the Bible's best-selling status are statistically impossible. Judeo-Christian theology is a statistically significant reality.
VI. Neoliteralism is Judeo-Christian: Numerous sayings and parables found in the Gospels have exact parallels in the Talmud, the Apocrypha, and in modern Orthodox Judaism.
VII. Neoliteralism is a Catholic, Judaizer, Iconoclast, Scientist, Evangelist, and Judeo-Christian.
Honesty should not condemn a new idea, theory, or paradigm. In short, these particular aspects of Neoliteralism cannot, and should not, disqualify it from being taken seriously. No type of Theology can ever be objective due to the pre-existing preferences of their creator or inventor. Most importantly, the above statements of subjectivity represent a key component in Neoliteralism. How so? By admitting the simple, unspoken truth of Theology and Biblical Studies. Rather than remain in denial, Neoliteralism simply accepts the reality of dualism embedded in the historical differences of Judeo-Christian thought.
Sometimes, like a coin with only two sides, objective study of these differences is impossible to achieve. Buddists, Hindus, Muslims, even nonbelievers and Pagan, are either Catholic or Protestant because, regardless of their personal faith, they will always prefer one over another. This understanding is also true concerning the traditional Christian stereotypes which have, at times, erupted into violent opposition. Historically speaking, the Glorious Revolution of England and the Iconoclasm Rebellion of the Byzantine Empire are perfect examples of ideas armed with swords. Everyone, including every theologian is, in the end, either a Judaizer or a Hellenizer, an Iconophil or an Iconoclast, an Artist or a Scientist, who is Private or Evangelical about being Christian or Judeo-Christian. To summarize, Neoliteralism is brutally honest about its intentions of being barbarically simple about Theology and Biblical Studies. Complexity and sophistication are both acceptable, but there must be balance instead of a one-sided journey into obscurity and obsolescence.