An artist can appreciate the beauty of a flower. Can a scientist? Or, does the scientist get lost in detail and analysis, forgetting to enjoy the sheer beauty of what he or she is studying? That’s the question Richard Feynman leads with in this video, arguing that knowing something better just adds to our appreciation of its beauty. Looking closely at the flower doesn’t mean that we miss its beauty; it means that we get to see aspects of its beauty that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
As he was talking, I was struck by how similar this is to theology. Many worry that theology turns God into an object of analysis. Theologians study God like a beetle under the microscope, forgetting exactly how amazing and beautiful this wondrous God actually is. And, I’m sure that happens. But, that’s not theology. If theology is about reflecting deeply on who God is so that we get to know him better, it should only lead to a deeper appreciation of his beauty. Theology is about looking closer.
This is really just the first two minutes of the video. In the rest, Feynman discusses scientific knowledge and doubt in an uncertain and mysterious universe. And, he comments on why he finds all religious explanations unsatisfying.
Check it out. If nothing else, the pictures in the video are stunning.
Could apostasy actually be a sign of a healthy church?
Lauren Winner of Duke Divinity School recently considered the situation of writer/director Paul Haggis’ defection from his faith. Haggis bitterly – and publicly – left the Church of Scientology because of his disagreement with them over gay marriage (turns out Scientology is not a fan). Haggis now counts as an “apostate” from Scientology because he has renounced them and their teachings. So why does Winner care at all about any of this? Because it helps her think about her own church (Episcopalian) and the rigor (or lack, thereof) it takes to be a part of it. She writes,
So while I appreciate that my church makes room for patchwork, for doubt, for moving in and out, some days I think: Would that America’s Protestant mainline could produce an apostate. For one might say that a group that lacks the necessary preconditions for making apostates can’t make disciples either.
Now this is a fascinating angle to get at thinking about discipleship – a group isn’t really much good, or good for you spiritually unless it is demanding enough of you that you might leave (or even be pushed out). So…is she on to something? Or is she really romanticizing a certain “rugged” view of Christian community that in fact is coercive and harmful? What do you think?
- Carl Trueman posts his second blog in praise of the generalist, this time arguing that being a generalist is in fact possible.
- Bob Cargill has an excellent reflection on the relationship of faith and doubt. “While the interplay between faith and doubt is daunting enough in the abstract, its lived manifestation fundamentally alters the foundational worldview of anyone who dares to wield the powerful sword of doubt. And that is precisely what I did.” (HT)
- James Smith continues to talk about going to grad school, this time looking at the importance of friends, family, and church in the grad school experience.
- Laura Miller has an interesting post at Salon.com on some significant problems with Google Books.
- Mere Orthodoxy has an interview with Brett McCracken, the author of Hipster Christianity.
- Nijay Gupta offers some reviews of a couple of books on the historical Jesus.
- Justin Taylor offers a list from Ken Myer of the 10 best books for developing a better understanding of culture.
- And, Daniel Kirk explains one reason why understanding Greek accents is more important than you may have realized.
Many thanks to Brian LePort for handling these posts while I was at the Acton conference. I have returned and will be posting some more reflections on Acton over the next day or so. But, for now, here are some interesting links.
- Peter Leithart has a very helpful post on whether we should continue to use the label “Arian” despite recent historical studies suggesting that Athanasius’ opponents were far too diverse to be covered by a single label like this.
- There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Ron Hendel’s decision to relinquish his SBL membership over concerns that the society has changed its position on the relationship between faith and biblical studies, and that it has done so for largely financial reasons (i.e. they’re trying to recruit more evangelical and fundamentalist scholars). John Hobbins, Mike Bird, and Jim West have all offered comments.
- Jim West asks if someone can be a committed Christian and a practicing homosexual. In the process, he presses on the popular notion of what it means to be a “committed” Christian and how this relates to ongoing sinful practices in general.
- Diglogtting reviews Don Schweitzer’s Contemporary Christologies. It sounds like a good, brief resource for familiarizing yourself with a variety of recent less-traditional approaches to Christology. The apparent lack of material dealing with more traditional Christologies, though, belies the back-cover claim that the book deals with the “chief approaches” in Christology since WWII.
- CT has posted its June 2010 interview with Al Erisman, who contends that “we need to think about ministry in the digital culture the way missionaries think about the culture of the people they serve”. They’ve also posted the responses by Wha-Chul Son, Haron Wachira, Nigel Cameron, and Juan Rogers. If you’re wanting to understand some of the pros and cons involved in using technology in ministry, this would be a good conversation to follow.
- With the growing use of the rosary in popular culture, Alan Creech offers a helpful primary on the rosary.
- Stuart discusses some recent claims that fundamentalist Christians are using the BP oil spill to support their eschatology. Joel Watts offers some thoughts as well.
- C. Michael Patton offers some thoughts on his two days as an atheist. His story raises some interesting questions about the nature of faith, doubt, and disbelief.
- And, apparently if you jump onto a moving semi on a dare, you should have some plan for getting down.