For every lofty idea You need a lowly idea.
For every hope and aspiration
You need a circumstance and situation.
For every spirit that rises
You need a spirit made flesh.
…At the beginning of God in Search of Man, Jewish philosopher, Abraham Heschel notes that religion can sometimes be its own worst enemy. Rather than blame “secularism” for the demise of religion, Heschel says we need to look at the lack of creativity and relevance of our own faith traditions:
It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion—its message becomes meaningless.
…The ill health of religion in the world is attributable to its dearth of creativity. Non-creative religious traditions lead to fundamentalism, irrationalism, and dogmatism—upon which the sources of war and conflict feed.
Healthy religious traditions are attributable to the richness of creativity. Creative religious traditions lead to peace, healing, newfound wisdom—they draw on the sources of love and beauty.
As Callid notes: “It is possible to ask whether much of our Western Christian failings have arisen not from a lack of reason, but from too much of it, especially when we think that our reason is clearly reflective of some absolute Divine Reason of which we are the arbiters.” Theopoetics suggests that God is encountered as much in the theo-poetical as in the theo-logical. “Encouraging a poetic sensibility within theological discourse allows for the continuing interpretation of God, God’s word, and God’s action, without any proclamation that these things can be fully known and entirely named.”
• From the Preface to Way to Water: A Theopoetics Primer, by L. Callid Keefe-Perry.
By Terry A. Veling Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, Australian Catholic University