Monday, January 25, 2010

Spiritual Dyspraxia

I must admit I do feel a bit of pressure in starting to write for this blog. Fallen pride means I enter into this wanting to be liked, for my ideas and efforts to be appreciated though not necessarily celebrated. Oh the vanity of life! (c.f. Ecclesiastes 1:2). The pressure comes with wanting to start with a bang. So I struggled in thinking of the subject of my first post, as if there was something I could do about it. Then whilst reflecting over my reading in recent months I have come to appreciate that deeper knowledge of God is a wonderful thing, yet we are indebted to do something with the knowledge we attain. Then I finally came to rest on the tagline for the blog: ‘From orthodoxy to orthopraxis’. In so doing I came to dwell on praxis and just what an interesting word it is.

Praxis derives from the Greek πραξις (doing, a way of acting) and like so many other words contains was utilised by the ancient Greek philosophers to great effect to encapsulate a concept. Aristotle spoke of the three basic actions of man each followed by the next: theoria, poiesis and praxis. Theoria (derived from θεωία, contemplation) relates to the pursuit of truth, leading to poiesis relating to the production of something (from ποιέω, to make) which finally culminates in praxis, or action. That, I guess, is the charge of this blog: literally the correct action.

Clinically and neuropsychologically the term praxis is utilised in a slightly different way from Aristotle. Praxis in this sense is the ability to produce complicated and sequenced actions, which may for instance include dressing or cooking. These actions are often considered key to living as an independent adult. The concept of praxis – the ability to perform complicated actions - is so key that it forms one of the seven core cognitive functions (clinically speaking).

Patients lack nothing of the basic abilities needed to perform complex tasks – they do not lack strength, the ability to move limbs, coordination or even the ability to understand what it is they are asked to do. They are even able to perform basic actions that constitute more complex ones. What they lack is the sequencing of those actions into some product or meaningful action. Their product falls woefully short of their intentions; they do not lack ability, just final product. They are, unfortunately, ineffective. This diversion illustrates what I understand the purpose of this blog to be: Christianity is ultimately about action. We can eulogise about theologians we like or impress others with our extensive knowledge of God or even which blogs we read, yet these are of little value unless put into action. We can have all the constituent parts of a life lived conspicuously for Christ, yet neglect the sequencing of it into a tangible action - an action conducive to spiritual life. The warning here is of spiritual dyspraxia. An ineffective Christian is devastating. Yes, let us rejoice in the great depths of knowledge God allows to have of Himself; yes let us be encouraged in engaging conversation with other Christians; but authentic Christianity should never theoria without its poiesis and praxis - a theological praxis. So it is with God and the Apostle John I finish and surely there is no greater bang than that:

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18.)


Iris Godfrey said...

Nice discussion of terms which leads us into the action that grace empowers. Bless you.

yoch said...

so where is the lesion for spiritual dyspraxia? coz i think i've diagnosed myself with it and would like to get it treated - preferably radically.