Strategies for Seeing Anew #2
…towards honouring the wonder of God's world
What does this mean?
The world is extremely complex, and the more we know, the more we are aware of what we don’t know. Mystery is the acknowledgement that there are things in all areas of life – including science – we do not fully understand, or that still provoke a sense of wonder even when we have seen something of how they work. Scientists such as Albert Einstein and Max Planck said that science comes up against the mystery of the universe.
Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve. Max Planck
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. Albert Einstein
In the Bible this mystery and depth are acknowledged, there are some things we cannot understand fully. We can speak intelligently about the doctrines of the Christian faith, but faith and experience of God stretch beyond this, and most doctrines end in mystery (Romans 11:33-34).
Reductionism is a way of understanding and explaining complicated things by reducing them to their parts. It can (but does not have to) result in the mistaken idea that we can explain everything in simple terms. But the world is too deep and complex for that. Reductionism can lead to undervaluing and students can end up thinking human beings are ‘nothing but chemicals’ or sex is ‘nothing but bodies’ or the materials of nature are 'nothing but natural resources'. To be able to name, classify, label, or put to pragmatic use does not mean we have understood the true nature of something. To quote Aristotle: ‘The whole is more than the sum of its parts.’ It is very easy to accidentally lose the mystery in life by using analytical exercises in isolation and unintentionally leave students feeling that: ‘That is all there is to it’.
We say nothing essential about the cathedral when we speak of its stones. We say nothing essential about Man when we seek to define him by the qualities of men. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This section is about moving towards honouring the wonder of God's world. You may wish to think about where people move from; is it a move from dismissing things with, ‘It’s nothing but…’, or is it simply moving from not appreciating the complexity and beauty of the world?
What does this mean in school?
There is a lot of naming, labelling, classifying and analysing that happens in education and is helpful, but appreciating a poem is more than analysing words, structures and techniques. Understanding a flower is more than labelling the parts. We can guard against reductionism and foster wonder by:
- Balancing analytical/naming exercises with fuller experiences. Students can label the parts of a flower with a real one on their desks. A display can include both diagrams and images of flowers and attend to what flowers can mean in certain circumstances, such as ‘I love you’, or ‘We remember’.
- Presenting things in ways that bring out their beauty and mystery, not just their properties and uses.
- Explicitly raising awareness of reductionism. Is a Van Gogh really just chemicals on canvas?
Think of a lesson/unit that involves labelling or analysing the parts. In what way could the teaching and learning be planned to give a fuller experience? In a science lesson on labelling the parts of a human being, have photographs or portraits of people on display.
This article is drawn on by:
In this document:
1Am I saying that God has turned his back on his people? Certainly not! I am one of the people of Israel, and I myself am a descendant of Abraham from the tribe of Benjamin. 2God did not turn his back on his chosen people. Don't you remember reading in the Scriptures how Elijah complained to God about the people of Israel? 3He said, Lord, they killed your prophets and destroyed your altars. I am the only one left, and now they want to kill me. 4But the Lord told Elijah, I still have seven thousand followers who have not worshipped Baal. 5It is the same way now. God was kind to the people of Israel, and so a few of them are still his followers. 6This happened because of God's undeserved kindness and not because of anything they have done. It could not have happened except for God's kindness. 7This means that only a chosen few of the people of Israel found what all of them were searching for. And the rest of them were stubborn, 8just as the Scriptures say, God made them so stupid that their eyes are blind, and their ears are still deaf. 9Then David said, Turn their meals into bait for a trap, so that they will stumble and be given what they deserve. 10Blindfold their eyes! Don't let them see. Bend their backs beneath a burden that will never be lifted. Gentiles will be saved 11Do I mean that the people of Israel fell, never to get up again? Certainly not! Their failure made it possible for the Gentiles to be saved, and this will make the people of Israel jealous. 12But if the rest of the world's people were helped so much by Israel's sin and loss, they will be helped even more by their full return. 13I am now speaking to you Gentiles, and as long as I am an apostle to you, I will take pride in my work. 14I hope in this way to make some of my own people jealous enough to be saved. 15When Israel rejected God, the rest of the people in the world were able to turn to him. So when God makes friends with Israel, it will be like bringing the dead back to life. 16If part of a batch of dough is made holy by being offered to God, then all the dough is holy. If the roots of a tree are holy, the rest of the tree is holy too. 17You Gentiles are like branches of a wild olive tree that were made to be part of a cultivated olive tree. You have taken the place of some branches that were cut away from it. And because of this, you enjoy the blessings that come from being part of that cultivated tree. 18But don't think you are better than the branches that were cut away. Just remember that you are not supporting the roots of that tree. Its roots are supporting you. 19Perhaps you think those branches were cut away, so that you could be put in their place. 20That's true enough. But they were cut away because they did not have faith, and you are where you are because you do have faith. So don't be proud, but be afraid. 21If God cut away those natural branches, couldn't he do the same to you? 22Now you see both how kind and how hard God can be. He was hard on those who fell, but he was kind to you. And he will keep on being kind to you, if you keep on trusting in his kindness. Otherwise, you will be cut away too. 23If those other branches will start having faith, they will be made a part of that tree again. God has the power to put them back. 24After all, it wasn't natural for branches to be cut from a wild olive tree and to be made part of a cultivated olive tree. So it is much more likely that God will join the natural branches back to the cultivated olive tree. The people of Israel will be brought back 25My friends, I don't want you Gentiles to be too proud of yourselves. So I will explain the mystery of what has happened to the people of Israel. Some of them have become stubborn, and they will stay like that until the complete number of you Gentiles has come in. 26In this way all Israel will be saved, as the Scriptures say, From Zion someone will come to rescue us. Then Jacob's descendants will stop being evil. 27This is what the Lord has promised to do when he forgives their sins. 28The people of Israel are treated as God's enemies, so that the good news can come to you Gentiles. But they are still the chosen ones, and God loves them because of their famous ancestors. 29God doesn't take back the gifts he has given or forget about the people he has chosen. 30At one time you Gentiles rejected God. But now Israel has rejected God, and you have been shown mercy. 31And because of the mercy shown to you, they will also be shown mercy. 32All people have disobeyed God, and that's why he treats them as prisoners. But he does this, so that he can have mercy on all of them. 33Who can measure the wealth and wisdom and knowledge of God? Who can understand his decisions or explain what he does? 34Has anyone known the thoughts of the Lord or given him advice? 35Has anyone loaned something to the Lord that must be repaid? 36Everything comes from the Lord. All things were made because of him and will return to him. Praise the Lord for ever! Amen. Christ brings new life