Newton’s famous third law of motion, the law of reciprocal actions, states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is true in physics, and physics, as we have always known, is all about relationships.
But it is also true in personal relationships, and the more intimate the relationship, the more profound the action and reaction.
I would like to be the one who tied faith and rational thought together. I would like to be the one who proved the case for Theology among the Sciences.
Sadly I can’t do that, but only because it has already been done. I am merely pointing out a very old truth. It seems to me that just about everyone in the Western world has forgotten where science actually came from.
When we look rationally in the only place we really can, inside our existential selves. We find the evidence is already there for Faith. As CS Lewis put it, “In the only case where you can expect to get an answer, the answer turns out to be Yes; and in the other cases, where you do not get an answer, you see why you do not.”
The shortest route between Faith and Science, if you are looking for one, is Relationality, and it is the phenomenon which ties them together is.
Faith is rational if, and only if, it is relational. This is most clearly observed in intimate relationships between persons… except we would not know if we were not persons ourselves. Intimate relationships re insanely difficult to observe from the outside. Field mice might do what fieldmice always do when a camera and lights are put in their hutch, but people don’t.
There are other kinds of intimate relationships. For example it is true to say that the earth has a much more intimate relationship with the moon than it does with the sun. But we are speaking here of intimate relationships happen between persons, because only persons have the potential of possessing faith.
The earth does not seem to care if it was swallowed by the sun or even worse, ignored by the sun or rejected by the moon, but just one tiny person on the earth would care very much.
The problem with Sex
Now we have a lot to say about relationships, but there is a problem when it comes to intimate human relationships. Sex is a touchy subject for ‘religious’ people, and by extension so is gender. I’m not sure why; it has never been a touchy subject for the God of the bible.
Our translations of sex and sexual apparatus in the bible are not simply modest, they are inaccurate. Admittedly there are intentionally hidden implications and vaguenesses (especially in Hebrew). They are not there on account of Victorian values of modesty. They are there so as not to “awaken sexuality before the time is right” in children. And they need to be explained to modern adults who don’t have the advantage of understanding ancient Hebrew subtlety or romance.
Our translations and overly academic commentaries usually do a poor job of understanding that. They are, you see, products of minds that have been trained to think only rationally. The only way to train a mind to think only rationally is to un-train it to think relationally, which is the default for people.
So through the preaching of our western, sterilized comment of scripture, sex too often for a religious man becomes a constant itch that he may not legitimately scratch; and for a religious women it becomes another item on her already full to-do list, as significant as gym and getting her hair done, but not nearly as fun!
So that’s the context that I am writing in and I say all that because I am going to be quite graphic in this article. I make no apologies for Victorian Christian values, and none for the default and often overlooked implications of gender, happily I am responsible for neither of them.
So what can I observe in and around human and animal sexuality which leads me to conclude that Faith is Rational by Relationally?
Is there an explanation of the Universe that is not just cold hard rationality or subjective existentialism, that includes the intimately relational?
Yes, I say there is, here are four observations.
1. Reproduction at all is a very great surprise; but sexual reproduction is pretty much science fiction! I can imagines some outlandish life forms visiting us from another planet, hearing about the facts of life on earth and exclaiming, “It’s life Gorb, but not as we know it!”
The first time you heard the facts of life everything you were learning was intriguing and fascinating. But explain the facts of life for the first time to an adult and she would battle to believe you.
There is also an inordinate amount of sexual reproductive waste, and it’s highly complex, high protein waste. Not just by-products. the production of vastly more seed than is remotely necessary, the huge expense on the resources of the female (in most species) in raising the young, the vast amount of energy the males expend competing against each other and / or trying to impress the females for the rite to mate with them.
It certainly makes no evolutionary sense to procreate sexually. But it makes all the sense in the world if the designer made life a hormonal addiction, we seem incapable of pure objectivity when it involves intimate relations with the opposite sex. Romance is as much a fact as it is a mystery. Our genders are like an eternal compass shouting at us all day, “you are a relational being.”
- So I would need to find an explanation of the Universe, in particular the origins of life, which adequately describes the existence of sexual reproduction.
And The theory of the evolution of the species does not even attempt to answer this fundamental question.
Think about it for a moment, Our most imitate parts are also our sewerage plumbing. Babies come from the same place (almost) as urine. In the truest sense of the word, it just unholy, it’s religiously embarrassing! We use the same equipment for something as profound as procreation, and as base as weeing!
As exclusive as conception is, so birth is public. To whom do we announce our intimate sexual experiences? In the most intimate sense absolutely no one other than our spouse, but who get’s to hear about the exact moment of birth, and all the details surrounding it? Everyone who is willing to listen.
Why this is science cannot tell, religion has no clue and existentialism scratches on its surface. But it is so well defined relationally that the last time any of us truly asked the question was when we were five or six. Only a relational, interpersonal concept of existence will suffice.
2. Gender is original, it is causal, it is relational, and it affects everything else about a person.
A girl I know wrote on her friend’s wall on Facebook recently, “today’s the big day! I can’t wait to see you walk down that isle, and His face when you do!”
As man my existence is profoundly validated simply because women exist, the opposite is true for a woman. My ethics start here, at my gender relations. “How ought I to resound to other people?” is first asked, “how I ought to respond to Mom and/or Dad“, then brothers and/or sisters, then others; based initially on their gender.
Gender ethics are the first ethics, and ethical development is the first and fundamental development in a human. And as we know for all other physical and intellectual developments to reach their full potential in an individual, moral development must happen first.
Hinder moral development and all other development suffers; hinder gender-moral development and you hinder all other moral development.
- So I would need to find an explanation of the Universe in which our influence over eachother’s gender is adequately described.
And in the bible I find exactly such a description, we are equal, but opposite.
Jesus asked His disciples two questions in Matthew 16 “who do people say the son of man is?” and then immediately after, “what about you, who do you say I am?”
If you don’t see the difference between those two questions think of a woman asking her husband, “do other men think that women are fat?” followed by, “what about you, do you think I’m fat?” Our problem is that we read scripture either religiously or rationally, not relationally.
I find that the bible goes to great lengths to explain that good and evil are neither equal nor opposite; but Good and Mankind are.
I would even go so far as to say that biblical ethics promotes humility about our gender as more important than humility about our person.
3. Base level love
I must be honest that I know neither a prostitute nor a monk. But I can tell you which one of them connects with other people on a sexual level, .
Gender gives us something tangible to hang our definitions of love onto. And as selfish, willful and proud beings we really need something as tangible as this.
It is like the 10 commandments, something portable and succinct that we can carry around with it is the desert to remind us of the fullness and the foundation of our ethics… Imaging carrying the whole law around the carved on stone tablets desert for 40 years! The prostitute offers a a very small and warped measure of love, but it so base, so physical that in many cases it can be greater then the love of a monk who has detached himself from those around him.
- So I would need to find an explanation of the world that includes basic sexuality as a form of love, and does not just acknowledge the high level ‘priestly’ love.
And I find, in the bible, holy and priestly people, alongside the promiscuous likes of Rahab, Samson, Abraham, David and Tamar. All of them in the lineage of the God Man savior.
I also find the same acknowledgment in the Hindu faith.
4. Object Subject
Generally speaking, women are more objective about themselves and about their relation to men than men are about themselves and their relation to women.
This does not excuse why men tend to treat women as sex-objects, neither does it excuse why women tend to treat themselves the same way.
Gender itself does, however, explain why they do this.
It is not just the physical structure of the genders, it is also the psychological and hormonal structures that make them act this way. The fact that no sex penetration can happen unless the man is aroused alone plays a huge role in explaining these tendencies.
- So I would need to find an explanation of the Universe that treats all of creation as objective female and all of creator as subjective male, but subjective only as it pertains to Relationality – which is measurable only in persons.
And I find, in the bible, a God who seems more like a smitten young man in love than the universal bureaucrat picture painted for us by religion. “And in that day I will respond,” Says God in Hosea 2 – it is a procreative response of Subject to Object, it is an essential response, without which nothing procreative would happen – even though something intimate may.
Song of Songs is dripping with what can only be described as God’s sexual arousal.
The tent with the curtain, made in the desert in Sinai is so like a virgin women, penetrated finally and legitimately not just by God, but by the passion of the God Man, who had claimed and covenanted with her; allowing for free and legitimate intercourse between God and man. The Holy Spirit is pictured in intimate language as the penetrator who is not just with the Christian, but in the Christian, individually and corporately, seeding them for works of fruitfulness.
It is very difficult to write honestly about gender, it is intensely revealing and humbling. Nonetheless what can I conclude?
1. Do not think more highly of yourself than you should is a good maxim to live by. Do not think more highly of your gender than you should to comes even before this.
2. Contentment is a product of relationship. It is the lonely & disfellowed who are discontent; not necessarily the poor or the sick.
3. It’s nice to be liked, it’s more important to be right; but more important than both is to be honest.
4. There are a lot of arguments for atheism which portray Faith as insultingly simplistic. These arguments fail to acknowledge the power of existentialism over rationalism, and the overriding experience of the common man. The argument attempts to be rational but fails to be either relationally or rational.
As an example, the argument that no-one of any faith believes in all the gods that ever were is completely inaccurate. It would be like the suggestion that a married woman cannot possibly acknowledge the existence of any other man.
Knowing God, or being known by God in the bible is the same thing as having intercourse with Him. In that sense it is English which is failing us, not the bible. I could state that I know God and I know the devil. One I know like a lover, and one I know in the same way that Batman knows the Joker.
5. Humans have battled with the concept of the trinity, again I’m not sure why? My wife and I are one, and yet we are separate persons. A board of directors is one, and yet they are separate persons. You could argue on the quality or the extent or the durability of the unity of a marriage or a board, but you could not deny it’s existence. The unity is a result of relational intimacy that may or may not include a legal agreement (which is another form of Relationally).
One thing I learned very early on is not to ask Mom for what Dad has already said no to. Granted that I grew up in an unusually functional family, it leads me none the less to believe that this unity has in mind a ‘Platonic ideal’ unity, a perfect unity. In which it’s entities are perfectly protected, perfectly satisfied, entirely unified and yet still separate persons… forever. This is hardly academic, as a theory it finds it’s expression in nursery rhymes not in lecture halls, “… and they all lived happily ever after.” This is a delightfully original idea, mankind’s default state is to never have questioned the existence of happily ever afters.
6. Love is expensive even for God
I must let C.S. Lewis explain this one for me. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…”
7. The reason why the rationalist does not accept this is because the rationalist has crossed his intellectual legs whenever there is a hint of Socratic penetration. His thought, though entirely rational, has not yet reached a climax, let alone a conception! He has a virgin mind because he thinks it can only gratify itself, that any external stimulation is some kind of rape.
The illustrations of divine relationally are so warm and stark and all around us, so inviting and real. I think that it’s about time that humankind responded to a suitable suitor. Pretty soon humanity will be too old to marry, the knowledge of good and evil is ageing us – I think it’s the ‘free radicals’ that cause the wrinkles!
So then what about natural Hermaphrodites?
If gender is so vitally important, why would a loving God allow this horror. Well there are many reasons, perhaps my article on the existence of horror may help. But I’d also read it together with a little common sense optimism.
In the last one I am going to look at the relational options presented to us. There are not nearly as many as one would think.