Michael Bishop 07 Nov 2016
I'm just back from my last week of lectures in the Cape for this year and one of the books that we looked at this week was A Secular Age, by the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. Actually, we were spared the whole book (800 pages of philosophy can make anyone feel a little inadequate …) and thankfully we worked through a summary of the book :)
Taylor writes about the shift that has taken place over the last few centuries where there has been a move from practically everyone believing in God to a situation where it is now perfectly acceptable intellectually and socially to believe that there is no God. More telling though is his observation that even those who claim to be believers have very often taken on a deistic worldview (Deism is the belief that there is a God, but that God is not involved in our world. In this view God is like a watchmaker who builds an intricate time-keeper device, winds it up, and then walks away, leaving it to slowly run down.)
Of course, we would all dispute that we are deists – we believe in a God who is involved in our world, who speaks, who answers our prayers, who intervenes. But saying that we believe something is not the same as living as if it is true. Do I really expect God to be active, speaking and present in my world? If so, how is this reflected in the way my life is ordered?
How might our lives look different if we are genuinely expecting God to be active, present and speaking? For starters, one non-negotiable aspect is the need for us to be better listeners. During our week in the Cape, we began every day with an hour of lectio divina – the ancient monastic practice of listening meditatively to God speak through Scripture, and we ended every day with an Examen of Consciousness – the Ignatian practice of reflecting meditatively on the day that has passed. It's worth saying that I resisted these disciplines – I wanted to talk, not listen, I wanted to engage with the stuff we were reading, not sit in silence! And yet as we made space for God, I found myself increasingly aware of his presence and his speaking – the still, small voice of God.