Here’s the text of my latest Credo article for the Newark Advertiser.
I hope you find it of interest.
Last week I attended a graduation ceremony where I was awarded my B.A. in Practical Theology. My studies lasted 8 years in total (including a break of two years.) I’ve learned so much, my faith has deepened immeasurably, and I really enjoyed the process (apart from the days leading up to assignment deadlines.)
It’s not the first degree I’ve been awarded. Forty years ago this year I graduated from University College London with a B.Sc. in Biochemistry, the science which studies the chemical processes in living organisms.
Now I don’t know this for sure but I strongly suspect that there won’t be that many people in the country who are graduates both in Science and in Theology. Many people consider that the two subjects are incompatible; that the advance of science has done away with the need for considerations of God. Fairly obviously I’m not one of those people. Instead I’m firmly of the view that the two disciplines should work together to help our quest for the understanding of the amazing universe we live in.
Recently I saw a recording of a conversation between Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (who has the same view as me) and Richard Dawkins, scientist and atheist. Professor Dawkins is vociferously of the view that religion has nothing to offer. At one point the Rabbi explains his position that he accepts that science is very good at answering questions about how things work, but you need to theology to seek to answer the question ‘Why?’; to explore the underlying reasons for things. These are questions science cannot answer.
In response to this Professor Dawkins expressed his view that ‘Why’ questions are not legitimate questions to ask; that questions like ‘Why is there a universe?’ has no right to be asked or answered.
I have never heard such nonsense.
The fact is that it is human nature to ask ‘Why’ questions; to seek to understand and look for meaning. Anyone who has ever had a child will recall the times, once one has answered what seems a relatively straightforward question they have asked, that they then ask the one-word question ‘Why?’ and keep on asking it after each succeeding answer.
I’m sure that every one of us has asked ourselves questions about the underlying meaning of things. Of course some people, like Dawkins, may be content with the answer ‘There isn’t any underlying meaning.’ Others find that underlying meaning in the concept we call God. Many more will be unsure. But to claim that we have no right to pose the question to ourselves is absurd.
8 years of theological study have taught me a lot. One of the most important things I have realised is that I will never have answers to all life’s deep questions. Like the apostle Paul I acknowledge that ‘What I know now is only partial’ (1Cor 13:12).
One thing I do know though is that the quest for meaning is central to what it means to be human.