Theocentric or Christocentric

I remember some time ago a sociology tutor at University in a staff-student seminar saying that he gets most of his sociology from the television. Well, I get most of my ideas from television too.
After Christine and David Dawson's service and David's musical presentation in April I managed to get home for two o'clock and see some theology on the television. Jonathon Miller, an atheist of no religion, was interviewing Sarah Coakley, a fairly doubtful Anglican theologian.
She made the very interesting point that many people in the Christian tradition tend to be either theocentric or christocentric. In other words they either focus on the broadness of God or the role and being of Jesus. My own history reflects her very point. I was once naturally christocentric or Christ centred whilst she was naturally theocentric or God centred.
To counter her own tendencies she attempted to become more trinitarian, to give a greater role to Christ. She believes that the trinitarian God can be experienced through prayer. Against Miller's acute questioning she admitted that she probrably could have experienced other traditions through their prayer and that it is largely an accident of geography that she receives the trinitarian tradition. But she went on that humanity is an important element and the world is of suffering, and that the Jesus element is therefore basic because this is a suffering world and it is hoped that it is redeemable. Well, Miller wondered why the world needs redeeming, and I would add that of course she perceives the trinitarian God through prayer because she wants to and is doing her prayer within the resources of Christianity!
She also includes the Holy Spirit, but I now want to look at this humanity rather than the Godly side.
As I indicated, I began with christocentrism, but I became aware that the uniqueness of Christ depended on the uniqueness of something else to support it, and that was the Resurrection. But given the not uncommon reality of post-bereavement visions - which probrably was the substance of the matter, the fog of its totality of events, and the transitory messianic culture of the time into which it then made sense, then there are insufficient grounds for claiming that it was unique and so I was bound to move to a new non-christocentric position.
I was not and I am not theocentric, but I want religion grounded in reality. Judaism as a religion and as a background to Christianity expresses the idea of the incarnate, that what might be called the food and drink of life is important. At the same time I wish to express the relative nature of knowledge, that what we readily know is only one part of reality, that at higher and lower levels, as discovered by modern physics and even in my own sociology, is a relativism more Hindu and Buddhist in conception. Like the electron beam which is either a particle stream or a wave, but cannot be both, like a sociology which can be understood from a Marxist or a Weberian perspective but cannot be both, knowledge is relative. Having got an overall relativistic perspective we can then move on, and like our most recent Essex Hall lecturer, Carol Pulley MacCormack, avoid the dualism of splitting one real concept from another and instead see our concepts as part of an overall holistic perspective. We are receivers and participators in everything large and small above and around us, and affect and are affected by it all.
So how do we fit into such a relativist and holistic world as persons? I return to television again and one edition of John Searle's current series of Voices where he opposed the idea of artificial intelligence. I refer to this because it tells us about ourselves, our self-meaning and definition.
Some people say that one day a computer will be able to think, and become conscious of itself. Searle says this is to confuse syntax, or the act of shuffling symbols (which is what computers do) with semantics, or self-understanding and being conscious of their meaning, which computers are not.
People are self-conscious but the question is how? Both the proponents and opponents of Artificial Intelligence tend to believe that our consciousness comes from our brains' structure and electrical activity. There is no actual splitting of mind from body and dualism is avoided. Of course this leaves Searle with no ultimate reason why we cannot produce a self-conscious machine, that is artificial intelligence, using materials other than that which makes our brains, particularly when he does not insist that consciousness depends on having biological material. In fact we just do not have a valid theory of consciousness yet, but there is a suggestion that holistic views may have something to teach, that the mind is a system in itself put part of a whole which is materially dependent.
Now, there is a tendency, with a rejection of the dogma that puts religion through the being of Christ, starting with the sort of flowery language in our Orders of Worship and in humanistic poetic-type services to leave down to earth reality and go up into the clouds. But the debate about artififical intelligence, which really is about our own consciousness, shows that modern holistic views of reality are down to earth and indeed modern religious experience does not imply having to be up in the clouds. Looking at the nature of consciousness is one example of a down-to-earth and what I call "food and drink" approach to religion, because it asks who we are. Our search in religion takes account of the Judaeo-Christian down to earth food and drink rootedness, and also Hindu and Buddhist perspectives, in that it is about everyday reality and the widest search for meaning.
Which can leave the question - is it just a philosophy of life rather than religion? In my own sociology thesis I suggest that religion today even includes the watching of soap operas on television and participating in social groups which frame a meaning for ones' life - like ornithologists' groups and Civil War Societies. In the notes, I describe the message of one of Mike's past services on Religion as Experience Plus. My tutor commented that, overall, "stretched in this way the term religion can mean almost anything!" I am afraid that this is one outcome of modern, relativist, holistic, investigative, food and drink approaches to religion.