A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Natural Theology-- the Light That Illuminates Reality

from Alister McGrath at biologos.org:
I want to talk about this whole idea of a theology of nature, or “natural theology,” both as a way of doing apologetics but also of engaging with some issues in science and religion. So, I predictably am going to begin with a quote from C.S. Lewis. Many of you will recognize this; it's a very well known quote. It comes from the end of his 1945 lecture, "Is Theology Poetry?" This is the final sentence in the lecture:
I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.
This quote articulates Lewis's mature vision of the explanatory capaciousness of the Christian faith. Lewis is saying is that whatever the Christian faith may be, one of the things it is, is a grid; a framework; a lens that allows us to see things more clearly, to see into the distance far more than would otherwise be the case.

What Lewis is encouraging us to do is to think in terms in a "discipleship of the mind." We are very, very used to the idea of a "discipleship of the hands," where we do things; a "discipleship of the heart," where we try and love God better, but we also need to bring our minds to bear on thinking about the Christian faith and figuring out what its implications might be. You might think of our Lord's summary of the law: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is an area where perhaps some sections of the Christian church are not as good as they ought to be, if I might speak charitably. There's a real sense in some quarters that, in a kind of way, thinking is a dangerous process for Christians. They should simply listen respectfully to their pastors and go do something else. I want to emphasize the importance of ordinary Christians, especially those who are active in the scientific field, thinking about their faith, and beginning to make the connections. The whole transformative vision that underlies the gospel is about the transformation of all our minds, our bodies, our souls; not just transformation in terms of our simple nature being redeemed but transformation in terms of putting on a fresh way of seeing things. I think of Paul in Romans 12, talking about the difference the gospel makes to life: "Don't be conformed to this world [in other words, do not passively reflect what you see around you] but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." It's a marvelous vision for the Christian mind, not being content with simply buying into what the world tells but in fact saying that there is a better way of seeing the world.

I gave you C.S. Lewis, but let's give you a female voice, Simone Weil. Weil became a Christian quite late in her (I have to say) relatively short life—she died in her early thirties. But she was excited by the new way of looking at life. I think this is one of her more perceptive quotes:

When I light an electric torch…I don't judge its power by looking at the bulb, but by seeing how many objects it lights up…The value of a religious, or more generally, a spiritual way of life, is appreciated by the amount of illumination it throws upon the things of this world.

What she's saying is that you're not just looking at the Christian faith (although many of us do that and we like what we see) but we're actually asking: If we look through it, what do we see? Let me just pause and make sure you’ve got that distinction in your mind: Looking at, and looking through. Looking at means, for example, here's what Christianity is, here are some of its historical foundations, here are some of its leading themes, let's do some theology by looking at the doctrine of the Trinity, Christology, etc. I'd like to encourage you to ask, "What way of seeing things does this make possible?" Which is to say, what sort of lens does the Christian faith offer that allows us to see the world in a different way? Simone Weil is just saying that Christianity lights things up.
The entire post can be read here.

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