Some follow-up thoughts about religion and science

A couple of quotations that will help flesh out some of the ideas I’ve explored in my recent series of posts about religion and science (which begin here):

(1)  A reader of the series sent me this quote from G.K. Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy, which he felt summed up pretty well what it means to be “in the middle of the lake”:

“The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.  . . . He has always cared more for the truth than for consistency.  If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus he believed that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man.”

(2) In the most recent issue of Boston College Magazine, in an article entitled “On Not Knowing: The Intellectual and the Mystic Can Agree,” Lawrence Cunningham writes the following (for our purposes, simply substitute “person of faith” and “person of science” for “mystic” and “intellectual”):

Image of Thomas Aquinas accompanying Cunningham’s article

“The harmony between mystics and intellectuals can be described like this: When intellectuals begin to grapple with ideas in order to gain understanding, they grow aware of the horizon of unknowing that extends ever before them—and aware, too, that their goal recedes even as they advance to meet it under the penumbra of hope. Mystics follow a somewhat analogous path, in that their yearnings are never complete in this life; their experience of the presence of God is always tentative, elusive, transitory, and full of promise. Like the Christian intellectual, the mystic lives in the ‘not yet.’ How might their paths converge? Aquinas gives an interesting hint in his Summa Theologica. He begins by defining contemplation as principally pertaining to meditation on God, and then he says that the contemplative can be predisposed to genuine contemplation by a reflection on any truth—Thomas’s way of saying that the intellectual task of seeking and stating truth is a prelude to the encounter with Truth.”

Some further food for thought on the topic of religion and science as non-overlapping ways of knowing.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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