How sophisticated are you?

Blessed are you, Sovereign God, creator of all,
to you be glory and praise for ever.
You founded the earth in the beginning
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
In the fullness of time you made us in your image,
and in these last days you have spoken to us
in your Son Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
As we rejoice in the gift of your presence among us
let the light of your love always shine in our hearts,
your Spirit ever renew our lives
and your praises ever be on our lips.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
Blessed be God for ever.
Celebrating Daily Prayer, 118

Before I was a God-bothering Christian (with highly suspect Buddhist-Animist leanings) I was a lab coat-wearing scientist. Chemistry was my first love.

There is no fundamental conflict between science and theology. Science is one of the ways we get to know God. According to Thomas Aquinas,

Creation is the primary and most perfect revelation of the Divine,

and Thomas Berry,

The universe is the primary revelation of the divine, the primary scripture, the primary locus of divine-human communication.

At its best, science expands consciousness and evokes that quality of awe that might be called the “the fear of the Lord“. Of course, scientists often make hypotheses that are not borne out by observation and experiment. But if over time theology contradicts science then theology needs to take another look.

Take Creationism. Decades, if not centuries of scientific reflection have provided good evidence that

The Genesis account of Creation is an inspiring exposition of love and creativity on a cosmic scale, but when taken as a scientific account of evolution in 6 days it simply doesn’t hold water. The Story of Creation belongs in a different mythological construct from the Story of Evolution. To argue that one is right so the other is wrong is a mistake, like arguing that medicine is right so poetry is wrong. The degeneration of this argument into name-calling, hate, and condemnation is shameful to both sides and just plain embarrassing when exercised in public. 15-love to the atheists.

Deeper than all the arguments between Evolutionists and Creationists is the deeper, spiritual truth about God’s relation to Her creation that both hold in common: love, presence, relationship, delight, care, involvement, incarnation, and mutual abiding.

On Saturday, my friend and I had tea with a beloved friend, teacher, and mentor. Now in her 90’s, she has recently completed her PhD in feminist theology, psychoanalytic theory, and the changes in religious life in her lifetime. We were talking about different levels of theological understanding within the church and bemoaning, as we saw it, the misguided nature of some of them. And then she said something really interesting about how one might distinguish between, on the one hand, different levels of intellectual understanding and, on the other, different stages of spiritual maturity. A person might have a very simple, even simplistic idea of God and the world, but nevertheless be spirituality mature. And vice versa.

Well now, I feel called to account. I who can deride Creationists am hoist by my own petard. The question is not, “How sophisticated is my theology?” God cares not a fig for sophistication. The fundamental question is how loving and trusting am I of God; how loving and trusting am I of my neighbours: the fellow beings from the humble prokaryote to the so-called “higher” animals and the Earth herself; and how kind am I towards myself?

On this account, I am doing pretty poorly.

fasting or feasting, we both know this: without
the Spirit we die, but life

without the Letter is in the worst of taste,
and always, though truth and love
can never really differ, when they seem to,
the subaltern should be truth.
W H Auden, The Common Life

2 thoughts on “How sophisticated are you?

  1. And how blessed are those who are theologically sophisticated, scientifically erudite and spiritually mature – I think of people like C S Lewis, Alastair McGrath, Keith Ward, Frances Collins, John Lennox and John Polkinghorne.
    But I agree, Godliness flourishes in simplicity!

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