Sunday — 22 April 2018
In 1886 the French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) dismissed all gods as unimportant window dressing and insisted that religions are just rites and rituals.
In The Origin of Species (p. 470), Charles Darwin wrote that: “The feeling of religious devotion is a highly complex one….Nevertheless, we see some distant approach to this state of mind in the deep love of a dog for his master, associated with complete submission, some fear and perhaps some other feelings.”
Ever since Darwin equated human devotion to God with a dog’s devotion to its master, biologists, psychologists, and some philosophers have been postulating religious instincts and other neurological bases for religion. Their work always attracts attention, especially in the popular media. Time Magazine and Newsweek, for example periodically announce a “new” revelation about religion. In his best-selling 2006 book, English biologist Richard Dawkins tried to say it all: The God Delusion.
And so the contemporary REALITY questions:
Dose God exist?
Have we discovered God, or have we invented God?
Are there so many similarities among the great religions simply because God is the product of universal wish fulfillment?
Have human beings historically created supernatural beings, because of their need for comfort in the face of existential tragedy and to find purpose and significance in life?
Or….have people in many places and in many times, to a greater and lesser degree, actually gained glimpses of God?
Theologians try to understand and interpret our experience of REALITY. I see three approaches in contemporary “theology,” as it tries to answer the above questions: (1) Static Belief, (2) Short-Sighted Humanization, and (3) Christian Humanism.
Before moving into these three categories, we need to clarify what theology is and is not.
Faith is our experience of God: the human experience of the Divine. Theology is an interpretation of that faith experience and finds expression in words and symbols. The best definition of theology is still that of Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109): Fides quarens intellectum – “faith seeking understanding.” Theology is an interpretation. When we do theology we express ourselves in the symbols, words, and rituals that are products of our culture.
Cultural change means that theology changes as well – in small ways and occasionally in big ways.
In every age people scratch their heads trying to best express what they experience in their faith experiences of the Divine. There is always change in theology just because words change, thought categories change, and symbols and rituals that worked in one era do not always work in another time frame. This has always been my point with my blog “Another Voice,” the challenge I read long ago in Little Gidding by T. S. Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language; and next year’s words await another voice.”
Next week: Two strong but unhealthy contemporary theological trends – Static Belief and Short-Sighted Humanization…..Bear with me please!