Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is Theology Poetry?

Piper said somewhere that in his youth his was never far from a CS Lewis book. Having spent this week reading 'The Weight of Glory,' which includes the eponymous sermon and seven or eight more, i can see why.

This morning i read 'Is Theology Poetry,' which i believe may be my new favourite, maybe even in front of 'The Weight of Glory' itself. In it Lewis is posed, and answers the question of whether people believe the Gospel because it is aesthetically, poetically pleasing rather than because it is true. I'm not sure this is a question a lot of people are asking in exactly these terms, but the way Lewis answers is very helpful in thinking about how to answer the scientific objections to Christianity.

Lewis starts answering the question by admitting that there is a poetic beauty about the Gospel, that one can see before one is saved by the Gospel. Someone can see it's a great story before they believe and treasure it. But, and here's where the contra starts, there are more beautiful stories that people believe, and, in fact, almost every dogma that people believe has a 'poetry' to it.

Science for example, is life against the void, then man against nature, then man subjugating nature, and then the suns going cold, and the void returning. That sort of 'against all odds' story is pleasing to us, it interests us. It is beautiful in it's own way. More so maybe than the Gospel. In fact it could be argued that the Gospel loses some of it's mythical poetry when the God of the universe incarnates into a man that can sleep in a rowing boat. That's not as poetic as 'God said and it was,' it's just not. Lewis also makes the point that just because Pagan religions involve some ideas that Christianity involves it neither proves or disproves the Gospel. We should expect them to if we believe in common grace. The Gospel, the man Jesus brings blurry mysticism into sharp, Christian focus.

So what of science? Lewis concludes with this, with the 'scientific position' or 'Wellsianity,' as it's also called. There are two massive problems with science. The first is that adherents to the scientific position, or maybe more the layman that follow them believe that they've answered the question that they've been asked. The problem, says Lewis, is not that their answer is wrong, but that they haven't even begun to deal with the question that Christians are asking. Not, 'how did the universe begin' (and Lewis does a good job of deconstructing pure evolution at this point) but, 'why is human thought any more important than the rustle of the win in the trees?' Science can't answer that question, it's not even trying to.

And lastly, science is to Christianity as our dreams are to the real world. Lewis can make sense of why he dreams about dragons when he is awake. The dream world fits into the real world, it is contained by it. Dreams can not make sense of the real world, it is merely affected by them. Christianity can contain science. So Lewis finishes with these famous words:

the waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world; the dreaming world is judged less real because it can not contain the waking one. For this same reason i am certain that in passing from the scientific points of view to the theological i have passed from dreaming to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality and the sub Christian religions. The scientific point of view can not fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity like i believe the sun has risen. Not only because i see it, but because by it, i see everything.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really like your reflection. I am in that phase where I like sermon better than "Weight of Glory." I suppose Socratic Club could have asked, "Is the bible just a fairtale or a story?" I am glad they posed it as "Is theology poetry?" because Lewis' answer is very poetic. Anyway, good post.