It’s only words

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?”

2 responses to “It’s only words”

  1. funny you should be talking about the Enlightenment! I’m just back from our Synod where our new Vision4Life programme was launched. Our General Secretary began by asking the same question you are addressing and coming to much the same conclusion. The Enlightenment gave us good stuff like science and reason but we lost magic and mystery and wonder along with it. we still suffer greatly I think and it has left us in a place where people try to understand the rich metaphor and allegory of the Bible through post-enlightenment specs. You can’t apply reason to imagery! And so we give up. Or we try to contain God in our words. Sad really.

  2. It may be that the success of Harry Potter and other such fantasy books that there is a rediscovery of ‘wonder’ in the popular psyche.
    No wonder – no faith … You can still appreciate something without being totally blown away by it. (I’ll need to think a bit more about this).
    Language is always a problem in theology. Even something as relatively simple as love takes on new levels of meaning when applied to the divine. It’s a bit like pouring an infinite amount of water into a finite jar. There just isn’t enough room…

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