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April 2018 Vol 57 No 2
Finding a Balance

“Way Beyond all Science”: A Scientist’s Perspective on Knowing God

In recent decades the claim that science and religious faith are incompatible has been made more widely. Indeed in parts of the Western world, at least, it has become a common assumption. Paul Younger is a research scientist who has published more than 400 scientific papers. Here he argues that, properly understood, theology and science have much to offer each other.

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The Ignatian Rules for Eating in a Contemporary Australian Context

Ignatius Loyola included a series of guidelines in his Spiritual Exercises which were intended to help the one making the Exercises continue to live according to what he or she had experienced in prayer. Elizabeth Delbridge presents one set of these guidelines, the ‘Rules for Eating’, as seen from a contemporary Australian viewpoint.

Rules for Eating

From the other side of the globe we have another perspective on the ‘Rules for Eating’. In this article, first published in the British Jesuits’ online journal, Thinking Faith, Gemma Simmonds sees the Rules as ‘a route to self-knowledge and to liberation from compulsions’.

The Spirituality of Rest

In our second article reprinted from Thinking Faith, Gerald O’Mahony explores the biblical, Ignatian and other foundations of a healthy and positive approach to rest and holidays. He identifies a ‘Still Point’ between the extremes of ‘depression’ and ‘panic’, where we are most closely in touch with the God who is daily to be found in our lives.

My Father and the Historical Authority of Jesus

As a young married couple in the 1950s, the parents of Ruth Agnes Evans searched for the branch of the Christian faith that was in their view closest to the intentions of Christ in founding his Church. Here she describes the journey that eventually led both of them into Roman Catholicism, and how this relates to academic biblical scholarship.

Tolkien, Middle Earth and Laudato si’

Behind J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and its predecessor, The Hobbit, there lies a passionate concern for the environment. According to Nancy Enright, Tolkien is criticizing the same kind of ‘technocratic paradigm’ that Pope Francis identifies in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’. The Pope and the fantasy writer alike seek a spirituality that awakens a call to renew the earth.

The Mystery of Commitment and Our Commitment to Mystery

Robert Doud was a Roman Catholic priest who subsequently left the priesthood and married the woman he had come to love. He experienced this decision as God offering him freedom in a path of self-determination. Here he takes a philosophical look at how experiences such as this can be understood while retaining a meaningful notion of commitment.

The Human Person is the Question to which God Is the Answer: Humanity in the Theology of Karl Rahner

The experience of the last century suggests that human life is cheap and human beings are increasingly regarded as disposable. One task of contemporary theology, therefore, is to safeguard the value of the human. Marcel Uwineza describes one approach to this task, drawing on the work of Karl Rahner.

The Resurrection Appearances in John: Insights for Chaplains

Recent decades have seen a great development in the lay ministry of chaplains to schools, hospitals and prisons, prayer guides, retreat directors and others. Caroline Worsfold has been responsible for offering training to such ministers. Here she shares some insights into their work that she has gained from her study of the Gospel of John.

The Kingdom Exercise: Two Suggestions

At a key moment in the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius Loyola presents the parable of a king inviting others to join him on a valiant, if hazardous, campaign. In these more democratic times, some find difficulty in working with this imagery. Eric Jensen offers two suggestions as to how this might be overcome.

From the Foreword

A RISTOTLE BELIEVED that virtue was to be found at the midpoint between two extremes, one representing excess and the other deficit. He thus opposed extreme asceticism as much as self-indulgence. This is an idea that has not always found favour in the Christian Churches, which have sometimes seemed to come down heavily on the side of fasting, harsh discipline and other forms of self-denial. Yet much modern psychology finds itself in basic agreement with Aristotle, and his outlook also underpins many contemporary patterns of spirituality. In different forms, it is one that is reflected in most of the contributions to be found in this issue of The Way.

This is perhaps clearest in the article by Gerald O’Mahony, reprinted from the online journal of the British Jesuits, Thinking Faith. He draws on personal experience to encourage his readers to work at maintaining a balance in their own inner worlds. When Ignatius of Loyola was composing guidelines for those coming to the end of his Spiritual Exercises, to help them maintain healthy approaches in their ongoing spiritual journeys, one of the topics with which he concerned himself was eating. Long before our modern preoccupation with counting calories and balanced diets, he advocated a path that was neither gluttony nor total abstention from the pleasures of the dinner-table. Gemma Simmonds and Elizabeth Delbridge offer complementary views of these guidelines.

Frequently today science and religion are presented as opposite poles in terms of knowledge, particularly by those who want to argue that only the former is valid. Paul Younger is an engineer and research scientist who has published more than 400 papers in his field. He argues powerfully that, far from being antagonistic to each other, scientific method and religious faith are both necessary if we are truly to know the world as it is. In a very different vein, Ruth Agnes Evans describes the way in which her father came to faith by a combination of rigorous enquiry into the Gospels and an empathetic appreciation of the stories that they tell. A similar combination can be found in Caroline Worsfold’s article, describing how she has helped school chaplains to a deeper encounter with the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.’

Robert Doud, a regular contributor to this journal, arrives at an idea of balance in exploring the concept of commitment. How can the intention of making long-term, even permanent, commitments to other people and to God be reconciled with the transitory nature of human existence and with our call to respond to God in the unfolding circumstances of our lives? Doud offers a philosophical perspective on this question, albeit one deeply rooted in his own life experience. This presentation can be usefully read alongside Marcel Uwineza’s thinking on the value of the human person, as exemplified in the theology of Karl Rahner.

The challenge of finding a proper balance in fashioning a virtuous life is not restricted to individuals. The way each of us chooses to live has profound social and political implications. One of these, of great concern at present, is how creation as a whole is to be cared for. Pope Francis wrote of this extensively in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, and Nancy Enright finds an anticipation of these concerns in the Middle Earth fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien. Eric Jensen returns our attention to the Spiritual Exercises, and the parable of a king whose call to arms is reinterpreted as one to transform the world.

Paul Nicholson SJ

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