Preface: It’s time to build a bridge
Can the worldviews of the religious and the secular be reconciled in Western thought? Can we loosen the knots of our language and ideologies enough to share greater collective meaning, but not so much that we lose the meanings we already have? Indeed, in our global world today can we really afford NOT to? Can we underestimate the need for the world of science to understand faith? At the same time can we dismiss the need for theology to fully reckon with the fabric and patterns of the natural world?
Is such a unity even possible? I, for one, believe this is a bridge we can build in our time. Indeed I believe the foundations are already here for the mantle of philosophy to again take its place between the knowledge and mysteries of the world and the mysteries and knowings of our hearts.
And I believe Christianity is a prime candidate to place a bid for this bridge-building project. Of all the major world religions, Christianity was the first to let go of its tribal God and embrace a God of all. And in spite of Papal stumblings in the centuries that followed, Christian culture became a nursery for all of modern enlightenment and science that we value today.
So, is there a secular way to adequately describe God? Is there a religious way to accurately appreciate the facts of science? Is there a unified structure for us to hang the data and experiences of both our outer and inner worlds? I think there is, and I’d like to share my own view of it in short.
Granted it requires a loosening of supernatural claims on the side of religion, just as much as it demands a letting go of material reductionism (reducing the world to just bits of matter) on the part of science. Crudely put, both sides have their own portions of denial that must be overcome. Religion in general is in denial of certain realities and rules about the natural world. And at the same time most of the physical sciences are in denial about certain distinct qualities and vitalities of inner conscious experience.
But I believe that with contemporary courage and skill a bridge can be built, one that will open up a whole new territory for humans to finally share our deepest and greatest meanings of life and faith.
I invite you to consider the following sample summary. And then consider for yourself if it helps or hinders the core assumptions of both science and religion. Can you see space for the physical and human sciences? Can you find room for the spiritual and symbolic aspects of religion. To this end, I try to use plain Christian language to encompass some of the most plainly accepted things about reality: like existence, consciousness, and human values.
You be the judge whether such material might have the right properties and proportions to build a bridge that can span the distance that divides our world today.
Over and Under and Through
by: D. Bradlee Grim
We experience God around us. God as Father is the expression of the sacred outside of us. We experience this ultimately as the universal embrace of existence. But we also experience the Father in the blessings and beatitudes of life in our world. The Father is the external embrace of all existence.
(Note: This does not necessarily require an exclusive belief in the Hebrew tribal god Yahweh.)
We experience God within us. God as Holy Spirit is the expression of the sacred inside us. We experience this as the in-most spark of consciousness of our minds. And we also experience Holy Spirit in the positive qualities of things like love, joy, peace, and kindness. Holy Spirit is the inner embrace of every heart.
(Note: This does not necessarily require a belief in ethereal spirits or ghosts.)
We experience God between us. God as Son, as Living Word, is the expression of the sacred within our human form. We experience the incarnation of the Son in the example and teachings of Jesus. We also experience Jesus as Christ in the subsequent living body of his Kingdom of love. Christ the Son is the harmonic embrace of our humanity; a reconciliation of the sacred between our inner and outer lives.
(Note: This does not necessarily require believing in miracles, biological resurrections, or an afterlife.)
This is a universal, non-exclusive, non-literal view of the sacred that does not require any supernatural beliefs or spectacular claims contrary to nature. It rests only on the faith to experience and share the sacred in existence, in our hearts, and through our humanity.
It is said that in Jesus was summed the Hebrew Law and Prophets. Likewise in Jesus’ Kingdom today is summed the Christian Gospels and Epistles. In this way Jesus’ Kingdom can be shared globally and universally. For just as we need not trivialize Gospel by legalizing a set of religious rules, likewise we need not trivialize Christ by literalizing a set of sacred stories.
All are accepted and embraced by existence as Father. All possess the conscious inner spark of Holy Spirit. And because of this, the good news exclamation is that ALL have the capacity to know and express human goodness as the presence of Christ in our lives in spite of the crosses and turmoils we face. This is our salvation and feast!
“In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, [neither religious nor secular, neither believer nor skeptic,] for you are all one in Christ” –Galatians 3:28.