“A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable.” www.wikipedia.org/wiki/meme
Technical descriptions of memes as units of culture are controversial. But for my purposes, memes seem a useful way to talk about the way human experiences and explanations of gospel are culturally encoded, refined and transmitted. I like the analogy to the idea of “treasures” invoked in the biblical parable from Matthew 13:52 (NIV) “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” This parable itself represents a wisdom meme: wisdom always evolves organically embracing both continuity and discontinuity with the past.
Many think of truth as something that is absolute, unchanging, describable, knowable, and therefore authoritative/unquestionable. I think that the best we have available to us is wisdom: a practical, evolving body of memes that provide useful explanations and stories of our life and experience. My relativity of thought is not a reflection of the reality of gospel, but of the nature of human knowing. During the course of our discussions, I will be seeking old and new memes that continue to provide successful strategies for explaining, confessing, and living gospel. I will be seeking wisdom.
In my “First Thoughts” post, I reflected on the reality of the gospel impacting the universe at every moment, place, and scale. In a future post, I will touch on the implications of our modern understanding of space and time for theology. For now, I will simply say that if gospel impact is pervasive, then we need to expect wisdom concerning this impact to derive universally and particularly. We should seek wisdom everywhere.
- We anticipate and aspire to the new creation. In Christ and like Christ we embody beauty, peace, justice, grace, hope, love, the fruits and excellences of the spirit.
- We observe Christ in suffering – he lays aside his rights, even his life for us. We suffer with Christ, laying aside our demands, our lives for the sake of those we are given to love. This is love.
- We seek wisdom in dialectic with traditions of faith responding to gospel: in scripture, in history, in community (“old and new treasures”).
- We expect that the spirit gives and nurtures life, love, beauty and wisdom in every age, in every place, all of humanity receiving/rejecting Gospel. We become aesthetes of gospel in all humanity.
- We seek wisdom observing all of creation (life the universe and everything) aspiring/groaning toward beauty, peace, justice, grace, and love. We leverage every tool of relationship, knowledge, and stewardship in pursuit of this wisdom … logic, science, art, practice, presence.
There are lots of memes being invoked in this list. The Christ meme unfolds in dimensions of incarnation, suffering/community, and resurrection/new creation. The spirit meme expresses as Christ/Gospel instantiated universally and particularly (ps 104:30 “… when you send your spirit they are created”. I hint at the “in Christ” meme; another take on the spirit meme. Wisdom is a meme itself (which we may contrast with a law meme). All of this will need to be unfolded in future discussions.
I think the acquisition, reconciliation and application of wisdom, the kind of wisdom that answers the question “how shall we then live?”, is a thoroughly human enterprise, perhaps “the” human enterprise. It is task to be shared among all of us.
A final thought: Humanity does wisdom/memes through storytelling. We know through stories.