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Apperception

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things... Psalm 119.18


Kiwi-American theologian, Marty Folsom, uses the word apperception (lit. towards seeing) to describe the way we understand our surroundings - in other words, our worldview. This begins in infancy as we encounter resistance, which may be benevolent - as in the ground which holds us up - or hostile - from those who would do us harm. If our overwhelming experience is negative we might become angry or withdrawn. Otherwise we progress in wonder and delight, as we grow in active relationship with the people and circumstances which surround us.


Our experience of Church plays its part. If it is of a judgmental institution, characterised by baffling rules and boring sermons, we are likely to turn away, rejecting the God of the Church in the process. But if we are welcomed into fellowship, with a sense that we are loved and accepted, then we are more likely to be open to its teaching and inspiration - even when they challenge the way we act and think.


Philosopher John Macmurray applies the idea to describe whole cultures and even civilisations. He suggests that the Romans illustrate what it looks like to react in defiance, building an empire based on military might which prioritises material power over the power of ideas. By contract the Greeks, he maintains, took the opposite tack, prioritising intellectual gain over material concerns. Only the Hebrews grasped that fulness of life was to be gained in a web of relationships - with God at the centre, making sense of it all.


Macmurray extends his theory further, to focus on the Church. Catholicism, he insists, took its cue from Rome and built a structure based on power and authority. Orthodoxy took the course of Ancient Greece, withdrawing into a mystical approach, intending to reflect the transcendence of God. In Macmurray's view, Protestantism has also missed the mark, to which the Hebrew example beckons, and so the field remains open - to capture an authentic way of being Church, which provides a safe place for people of all ages to learn what it means to approach the Kingdom of God "like a little child", so that we may be truly "born again" as children of God.

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