6 Pentecost, C p 11, July 21, 2019
Gen. 18:1-14 Ps.15
Col. 1:21-29 Luke 10:38-42Lectionary Link
Modern Christians have been intimidated by the true success of modern science, even to the point off developing a way to integrate modern science into their understanding and presentation of the Bible. And what does one call the scientification of biblical stories? Fundamentalism.
Since science has been so successful, giving us an impressive system of statistical approximations in understanding our world resulting in the best way to do probability theory rendering actuarial wisdom for living in the material world, such greatness has forced many to discount the proper value of discourses of faith in favor of presenting them in the mode of science.
What is the mode of science? Empirical verification. Something is really only true if it can be empirically verified. So how did empirical verification result in fundamentalism?
Fundamentalists are those who are so impressed with the veracity of empirical verification, they feel that the Bible can only be meaningful true, if and only if all of the storied events of the Bible are events that could be empirically verified using the impressive scientific method. So they have to present the Bible using the same criteria of veracity which scientists use for their theories. But scientists are much more humble than fundamentalists; they only state that their laws and theories are tentative. They are open to falsification of their theories; they are open to their theories being superseded by better theories or more comprehensive laws to explain why things happen in the way in which they happen.
Why did fundamentalists copy the scientific method? They were envious of what they perceived to be the certitude of science. Scientists seemed confident and proud of their discoveries and theories and they have been celebrated in popular culture particularly in how their discoveries have had massive collateral effects in our societies in the inventions of all of the devices of modern convenience. But scientific certitude is in the mode of exploration, not any individual outcome, since an individual outcome in terms of a law can still be open to future falsification.
Fundamentalists craved the certitude which they thought science offered and the glory of the pragmatic results of science. So they committed contortionist hermeneutics in trying to conform their presentation of biblical stories in a way that proclaimed the certitude that all events in the Bible could be empirically verified. That has become their truth and they have been sticking to it.
And they have been able to comprise communities of ignorance to falsely apply empirical verification as relevant to all biblical events. They have claimed to have God's active Spirit in their inaptly appropriation of empirical verification to all events in the Bible. And in such misguided use of empirical verification regarding all biblical events, they have also become susceptible to political movements which offered their views a manipulated affirmation, even while trading their souls to follow political princes of lies and truly anti-to-Christlikeness in matters of love and justice for all. An emotional sentiment of religion can easily be morphed to express the disapproval for people who are made to feel to be the "other" and the one to be "excluded." Such religious and emotional sentiment does not have the depth of Spirit and it does not reach the standard of the deep mysticism which is truly trans-formative of all of life, including our lives for the common good of all in love and justice.
People who have adopted the tacit epistemology of their culture and in their conscious lives practice the underpinning of a scientific worldview, have been scornful of the fundamentalists' misappropriation of science. Many scientists and modernists have committed a logical fallacy in their scorn by seeming to say, "all people of faith are fundamentalists." Or all people of faith resort to a misconstrued empirically verification for the interpretation of biblical events and religious experience. At the same time, scientific skeptics can be those who wear the same unwashed T-shirt so that their college football team will not be jinxed. A scientific skeptic can weep at a concert, cry at a movie or in the replay of a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. My point: the sublime can arise in many ways and it can surprise, evoke joy, tears, awe, and mystery. People can understand the discourses of the sublime which we find in many of the artifacts of our cultures. We know that the sublime occurs even as we know that its occasions of "in-breaking" are so intermittent and seemingly random, that the sublime is not reducible to controlled replication which is so important to the scientific method.
St. Paul was at his best as a mystic, one who had completely been bowled over by a mystical event. It was such a pronounced event, that it resulted in him stopping his murderous efforts to hunt down and have the followers of Jesus killed. The mystical experience is trans-formative; it is empirical in the sense that it happens. It is empirical in the sense that it changes one's life to become better. It is empirical in that it results in poetic language of love and faith and fascinating entertaining imagery. And one does not reduce poetry to language and logic of empirical verification; to do so is a violation of the mystical experience. With sharing of the event of the mystical experience, one hopes that one creates the awareness that the mystical is happening and can happen at all times. The sharing of the mystical experience of the sublime, as was the experience of the Risen Christ for Paul, is the invitation for others to be expectant to be "surprised by joy." It is the invitation to live "anticipatingly."
The Pauline hymns to Christ, just like the prologue to John's Gospel, are the attempts in words to express personal meanings of the mystical event. To try to reduce these to parallel meanings of empirical experiences as is done in science is a violation of mystical discourse and the meaning of faith and the experience of beauty.
How did the mystical get expressed in the Gospels? How was the mystical re-configured in a narrative re-presentation of Jesus of Nazareth?
One example: Mary and Martha invited Jesus to their home. Martha was the epitome of hospitality in wanting to have everything perfect for Jesus as she entertained Jesus in their home, their physical house. Her sister Mary sat in contemplation of Jesus as his words entered her inward home and mystically re-ordered her interior environment. Martha has come to symbolize the exterior home, which is the very important home for the occasion of the mystical encounter. Mary is the symbol of our interior home which needs the mystical encounter with the Risen Christ as the Eternal Word to enter our interior homes and rearrange all of the interior furniture so as to be a place of perfect hospitality for the presence of God, Eternal Word, whose words are Spirit and Life.
Friends, do not take the mysticism out of Christianity and do not misunderstand mystical discourse as the equivalent discourse of E=MC squared. Amen.