21 June 2011

Form & Content

I've had a little article about form and content published on the blog of the BioLogos Forum. There's a place at the bottom for comments, so yours would be much appreciated. I also thought about starting up a conversation here about the BioLogos Forum itself and its ideas -- it exists to try to bridge the apparent gap between faith and science by using the arts -- but first of all I have no time, and secondly people so rarely comment here that it wouldn't be much of a conversation anyway! So, read the article if you like, leave a comment if you are moved to do so, and have a lovely day.

~ Sorina


A. said...

I'd like to hear more about BioLogos too. From their 'About Us' page I'm unsure of their approach. They believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, presumably based on the reasons that have convinced them to do so. Then, in a way that is structured as equally important to their creed-of-sorts: "We also believe that evolution, properly understood, best describes God’s work of creation." "We are committed to helping the church – and students, in particular – develop worldviews that embrace both of these complex belief structures, and that allow science and faith to co-exist peacefully."

They do have an important point, challenging the large gap between many recent scientific opinions and the beliefs portrayed in most Christian understanding. I'm definitely not against conversation that wonders whether the creation account in the Bible might be poetic, an inspired understanding of what God really did in some unseen way. What troubles me is the way that this is not a conversation but a starting point. Too much is at stake: we potentially lose so much of the intended understanding if we're now reading this passage wrongly. Even more significantly, we're looking at a drift in the churches towards arbitrary standards for how we read the Bible- even once we hold that it's inspired, authoritative and vast.

It's right to discover paradigms that explore and then take up what is real, to whatever extent it's known to be so. A beautiful part of what we understand as Christians is that there's something certain we can anchor our perceptions on, which is in fact the thing that all reality comes back to. It's also good that all sides of this are seen as complex by the Foundation, and that traditions are not defended merely for their own sake. Still, there's a risk of becoming proud in our modernity, establishing a movement that's a culture in itself, cradling the culture of God's Kingdom as if by necessity.

I would love to see less gravity towards the groundbreaking ideas, and more focus on how these hypotheses fit into and illuminate what we've already been exploring- even understanding- for a long time. There needs to be a submission of this conversation to the inspiration of God's Word, which is the real thing for us to explore, rather than a co-authority. This is not a priority of faith over reason (though that's probably appropriate); it's about what is certain and central in relation to was is possible and somewhat important.

But I know very little about it. That's my impression. I feel that we need to seek truth about natural science because the truth is always so valuable, and also so as not to turn people away from the treasure we have if it's mixed with superstition. But I guess it's one thing to state a possibility as fact and try to work it into Christian understanding, and something quite different to embrace the complexity of this and consider it a maybe. I also feel aware of God's shepherd heart, demanding *first* that the conversation not damage the way His people are able to read the Bible as He intended- and I think that's my point. I feel it's most important to be exploring these issues of genre, authority and faith first, and not to shy away from ideas because they are either old or new. Rather than taking scientific observations about the distant past (though they're so relevant) as our starting point, it's probably better to continue exploring the literary, cultural and historical clues that the Bible itself holds about these central questions of *how* we're meant to read it in the first place- and why.

A. said...

I love your article, a lot; it's beautiful, and I think true. So relevant. The question for me is, why does this need to be articulated? Why do we so often feel that our actual unified self- perhaps our essence more than our 'form'- is not the same as the many of the parts from which we're comprised?

Is it that we've been drenched in dualistic philosophy too long? The biblical authors in their culture and in God's revelation to them seem to have understood a thought more similar to yours. I read Psalm 139 after reading your article, and the poet there not only believes that he is the sum of what God has created, but that his physical form belongs in the same sense- though with a different degree- as his inmost being.

I think, though, that Plato's voice resonates so well with us here because he understood the feeling of mutability so well. Things change and die, and are born; there is meaning within categories, but it seems to transcend them. We are a little different in that our spirits- our conscious, even now eternal selves- are usually seen to be within our physical bodies rather than metaphysically behind them. Still, there seems a sort of randomness about the parts of us that change and that which is consistent. Whatever is behind this feeling might also have influenced the translunar idea in poetry.

This is why it's so important to understand what it is to be human: it's not that our bodies are human and our selves are somehow confined to them. Some parts of us are more important, more lasting, than others, but all are as real- and summed up in Jesus. We- complete- are created to be finite, and to share in what is infinite as if it were our own. This is an immeasurable gift, and understood beautifully in your perspective here.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."

A. said...

Oh, I do believe in synonyms though. I don't think either poetry or Lewis transposition would work without them. They aren't exact, but I think that's the point; just as we can define the unity of our selves, we can also understand the beauty of things that take part in other things of their kind :)