On a clergy CME day we were ‘treated’ to a talk by a scientist from Liverpool University. A geneticist to be precise, one who was also a priest. He started the day by asking how many of us had studied science to ‘o’ level – GCSE standard, the majority raised there hands. At ‘A’ level standard the number had dropped dramatically a few were graduated and only two were practising doctors. We were mostly a little green on scientific matters to say the least.
After a day of ethical dilemmas about gene therapy and related issues, I was tired when it came to the final session on Richard Dawkins. Being a geneticist it was far easier for our speaker to engage with Dawkins’ work. He did however, give us a great image of the work of Dawkins and perhaps why he wrote the way he did.
He didn’t express his views in this way, but I think this is what he was getting at.
Dawkins is a scientist. His mode of working is scientific, to that end, his description of God and understanding of religious thought is clouded by his scientific enquiry. Not that his scientific enquiry is without merit, he is Indeed an accomplished thinker and a super intelligent person. What makes his enquiry fall short is that he uses scientific means to enquire of God. His experiment, if you like, lacks a vital ingredient. The evidence he uses falls short for him to conclude that God exists because he doesn’t see things in the same way that others see them.
Dawkins was looking at the problem with the eyes of a scientist, looking for evidence, he was unsatisfied because he was looking with the eyes of a scientist rather than the eyes of one who believes in God or one who has had an experience of God in their life. To him god is irrelevant unnecessary, and was irrelevant and unnecessary to begin with, in essence, his enquiry has proved his theory, but neglected to look at the evidence which suggests something different.
To one who finds in God renewed strength for each morning, God is central and life giving. For one who in Jesus finds freedom, God is the key which unlocks their prison. For one who finds in God healing and wholeness, the image of God is life giving. For those who see Jesus as breaking down taboos and barriers in society, the Gospel is an affirmation of the equality of all humanity. For those who see Christ as honouring all of creation this image is one from which a deeper understanding of ecology and our relationship with the earth can come. Dawkins doesn’t see this because he does not see god in the same way. Because his experience is based on evidence from his own position. He is not seeing god with the same eyes as others. Unless he stands with those who find God relevant and necessary stand, he will never see how they see.
We have tried to do that here. We had plans to re-order this church, to repair the building, but in order for it to be of use to you here in this community we had to stand outside. We had to stand where the community stands and to see with their eyes. To ask the question, what use could this building be to this community. We could have stood inside and said what can we do with this building, but that would not have done anything for the community, it would have served the purpose of making the church inward looking and reflected our own ideas rather than those of the community in which we are situated. So rather than stand inside looking out we had to stand outside and look in. We tried to see with the eyes of others to ask what could this building be for us here in Greenfield. I hope plans reflect the needs of the community and the space we have created, for that is largely what we have done, to create a space.
You should, with any luck, find a sheet with three images on it tucked into your service sheet.
I wonder if anyone can tell me what the images are?
This one is also well known, but I wonder what you see. Do you see a tropical bird? Do you see a road, perhaps symbolizing the path to better trading. Perhaps you can see what was originally drawn, blue sky, yellow/green ground and a person holding up some goods that has been grown or perhaps someone waving.
Unless you have seen this one before, it might take a bit of working out. I’ll leave you with that for a bit.
Just like with these images, it is always important to try to see with the eyes of others to see what they see without our own baggage cluttering up the view.
Rosetta, the job of mayor is an honour, there are many of you here today who hold that office or who have held it in the past. It is a job which comes with a unique view, it is a job which straddles both sides, partly within the community, Rosetta as Post-Mistress here in Greenfield, but also without it as part of the council.
I hope you will be able to use the gift of seeing from both sides to build up the community, to work for the place here and be able to communicate the thoughts of those on each side to each other. Some of us here might call it building the Kingdom of God, some of us simply building a better community, but as long as we can see what others see and work accordingly then it will be for the better. It is a unique role that you have been entrusted with, and we wish you well
The last image, focus on the orange and the name Jesus might spring out at you. As with the rest of life however, we always need someone who can see from a different point of view to point out what it means…