Saturday, January 26, 2008

Seeker Revisited

As is often the case, I generally find much more interesting things to read online than anything I can ever hope to find the time, energy, and inspiration to write myself. I'm afraid it's been awhile, but checking back with Mystical Seeker, I see that recently he has been working his way through questions of how science can and should reshape our understandings of faith and God.

The whole question of what role, if any, supernaturalism should play in religion given all that has transpired in Western science is something that especially intrigues me (as, I hope, some of the meanderings below suggest). It often strikes me as the elephant in the living room of otherwise progressive Christians. I love to read and try to understand what I can of science, even as layperson, simply because it fascinates me so. It has taken me to murky areas that do not fit neatly into fixed categories of the empirical and the supernatural. While I feel no compelling need to figure it all out (as if I could), and am ready leave much to Mystery, at the same time I find it frustrating that scientific knowledge and thought often are scarcely addressed in the context of discussions of faith and religion, other than by Biblical literalists and fundamentalists who oppose scientific understandings.

Anyway, here are bits of what I've gleaned today from Mystical Seeker. I recommend reading his essays and comments in full, but I especially liked the following:
... by conceiving of God, much as process theology does, as something other than an authoritarian micromanager. The article describes Haught's views this way:
"Love persuades, it doesn't force," Haught says. "God doesn't compel the world to be a certain way, and that's because of how love works. God lets things be, and lets the weeds grow up with the wheat."...

"Creation itself is not divine pyrotechnics but the consequence of infinite mystery contracting itself, making itself small, so something other than God can come into the world," Haught says.
I especially like the statement that "creation is not divine pyrotechnics". I view creation as not a one-time event, and Divine creativity is not a magic show; rather, it is a continuous and co-participatory activity with uncertain outcomes. However, when Haught describes God as "letting things be" and as an infinite mystery "contracting itself", he seems to be suggesting that God voluntarily withholds autocratic power and thus chooses to stand by when things happen. I am not really comfortable with this expression of the concept; instead, I view Divine power as inherently a persuasive and creative lure--autocracy is not "voluntarily" renounced because autocracy is not built into God's character in the first place. As I see it, it is important to note that God is never just standing by and "letting" things happen, but is always urging creation forward in particular ways, and always cares about the outcomes of events.
From Religion, Evolution and God's Nature.

Another thought-provoking passage was from James McGrath, Assistant Professor of Religion at Butler University:
Here is a quote from James McGrath's blog: is worth asking theoretically, even if one hasn't been driven to ask such questions by one's own experiences or theological reflections, whether faith in God based on what God has done or can do for you is necessarily a wholesome, positive sort of faith. What if it turned out that God doesn't do anything for anyone specifically - the weather on your wedding day just happened to be good, and the person you love who recovered from an illness just happened to do so? What if it turns out that God is not the answer to our individual problems, but simply the meaning of our existence? How many of those who call themselves Christians would worship such a God for that reason alone, expecting nothing in return? Would willingness or unwillingness to worship such a God be a good thing? (emphasis added).
From The Religious Life as its own Reward.

This, in effect, takes one beyond science to the one of the biggest questions of them all -- must religion and faith stand on supernaturalism? I've been to Tillich, myself, some years ago in my own seeking and while I think there is more than just "meaning" in this sense and something other than conventional notions of the "supernatural" (i.e. as something above, beyond, and outside "nature"), it strikes me that religious folk (me included) spend too much time doing everything but trying to "mean" what God "wills" us to mean.


Mystical Seeker said...

Sorry for not noticing sooner that you referenced my blog postings.

I think it is true that I am not much for "supernaturalism" (whatever that means) as a component of religion. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about Tillich, for that matter, but I do agree that religion should not just be an academic philospohical exercise, but should have meaning for us if it inspires us to something greater.

klady said...

Thanks for stopping by, whenever you find the time.

Actually, I don't remember much about Tillich anymore, other than a Lutheran pastor was enamored with him and was certain that I would be, as well (something about us -- the pastor and I - both being INTPs - all or which must have had something to do with my later marrying an ESFJ Episcopalian priest - insert emoticon of choice).

In any event, I find myself oddly torn between an affinity for worship and prayer that views physical reality as incarnational (which poses the question of who or what the God who is incarnate "is" not to mention "where") and a reluctance to be allied with any religion or religious institution that does not work hard at doing whatever "good" it discerns its God requires rather than spend an inordinate amount of time and energy parsing out and disputing the details. Seems to me that if God "really" "exists" -- "metaphorically" or "actually" -- it must be as a Spirit that literally moves people to do or be something better than they might be if they entirely ignored or defied that God. I do not approach these questions very clearly or consistently, so I especially appreciate writers and thinkers like yourself who are more careful and thoughtful about it. Dare I say, God help us from those who would deny us the freedom to think, dispute, and wrangle with it all.