Sep 172007

Stewart’s asking the question, “Have we lost the wonder of God?”

Coincidentally, the reading I’m trying to do for uni is largely on this very thing. Our first lecture in Modern Christology is entitled “What did the Enlightenment do for us?”
The reading, in a nutshell, is saying that the ascendency of philosophy (and its influence on science) changed the way we use language and hence our way of describing the world around us. Our world and our experience became describable and the implication was that everything became describable – there was (or would be) nothing left to wonder about – all could be explained in the language of science or psychology.

Language is a funny thing – it can inspire and motivate but it can also restrict. Again, part of my reading has been about post-Enlightenment views on Aquinas and Duns Scotus and the use of metaphorical language. Aquinas argued it was legitimate to speak of God metaphorically (equivocally). Duns Scotus argued that we could only speak of God with ‘precise’ language (univocally). My sympathies lie with Aquinas. Metaphor contains an element of ‘beyond’. It points beyond itself to something more than the parts of the metaphor. It contains an element of transcendence and, for me, points to the wonder of something much greater.

And yet, not everyone sees it. Does this mean that it only works for those already on ‘the inside’? Does one already have to know God to grasp His wonder? Which, when followed to a conclusion raises the question, “If there is no wonder, is there no faith?”

Aug 312007

I hate doing jigsaws.
It’s something deep in my psyche I reckon. I’m a bit of a control freak – ok, a lot of a control freak. But only in the sense that I like/need to know what’s going on. I don’t need to be in charge, just so long as I can see the big picture and my place in it.
Which is why I hate jigsaws. You spend all the time scouring the pieces – the minutiae – then forget what colour/pattern/feature you were looking for anyway. You only get to glimpse the big picture once in a while.
Or maybe you work the other way round – take a random piece and scour the big picture for a match. But even then you don’t get to step back and really look at the big picture – you’re looking at it too closely.
I hate doing jigsaws.
This is where, in true children’s talk fashion, I get to say, “And in a funny way, faith is just like that.”
But it doesn’t need to be and, perhaps it shouldn’t be – at least for some of the time.
One of the most satisfying things about study – Bible, theology, whatever – is that, even though you spend a lot of time looking at the fine detail (the jigsaw pieces), every now and then one of those pieces falls into place and, for a brief moment, you get to look at the big picture (the one on the box). It works the other way as well – latch on to an issue and scour scripture/tradition to see where it fits and file it away neatly in its place.
But the big picture is where we often need to be looking. To steal a line from a children’s mission we did a while ago, we need to see ‘God’s big plan for the world’. Maybe not a plan in our sense of the word, but an acknowledgement that there is a bigger purpose. We can’t just live in our own little jigsaw-piece world – we’re part of a bigger picture. God’s salvation and purpose is universal, both in the humankind and the cosmic sense. To see how we fit into that, we need to take time to look at the bigger picture.
I hate jigsaws.