Friday, February 6, 2009

Only God is God

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver writes about the danger of thinking that scientific knowledge or technological progress will lead to a more just society—and refers to my favorite author:
The First Commandment—I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before me—is the bedrock of Judaism and Christianity. All of our Western beliefs about the sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights ultimately depend on a Creator who guarantees them. In other words, we have infinite value because God made us, and no other human being or political authority can revoke that infinite value. Only God is God, and there is no other God but the God of Israel and Jesus. Every other little godling that poses as an answer to human suffering and hope—from Wicca to fortune telling to pop psychology to political messianism to cult spirituality—is finally an impostor and a road away from God’s light. Only God is God. There is no other.

I mention this because we live in an age that sees itself as scientific, reasonable and enlightened. In a sense it is. It’s certainly true that science and technology have improved the quality of life for millions of people. But as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man and his novel That Hideous Strength, science doesn’t necessarily kill off superstition or barbarism. In fact, the three can get along quite comfortably. As the Christian moral consensus has declined over the past century, and science has made spectacular strides, people haven’t become more logical or morally mature. The opposite has happened. The 20th century was the bloodiest in history, and today the occult is flourishing in developed nations—especially among young people who’ve lost the vocabulary to understand the gravity of the forces they play with. Knowledge is merely knowledge. Power is merely power. Nothing inherent to knowledge or power guarantees that it will translate to wisdom or justice or mercy. ....

Only God is God. There is no other. The rightful place of science, like all human activity, is in the service of human dignity, and under the judgment of God’s justice.
C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man:
.... I have described as a `magician's bargain' that process whereby man surrenders object after object, and finally himself, to Nature in return for power. And I meant what I said. The fact that the scientist has succeeded where the magician failed has put such a wide contrast between them in popular thought that the real story of the birth of Science is misunderstood. You will even find people who write about the sixteenth century as if Magic were a medieval survival and Science the new thing that came in to sweep it away. Those who have studied the period know better. There was very little magic in the Middle Ages: the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are the high noon of magic. The serious magical endeavour and the serious scientific endeavour are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve. But they were twins. They were born of the same impulse. I allow that some (certainly not all) of the early scientists were actuated by a pure love of knowledge. But if we consider the temper of that age as a whole we can discern the impulse of which I speak. There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the 'wisdom' of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious—such as digging up and mutilating the dead. .... The true object is to extend Man's power to the performance of all things possible. He rejects magic because it does not work, but his goal is that of the magician. .... No doubt those who really founded modern science were usually those whose love of truth exceeded their love of power; in every mixed movement the efficacy comes from the good elements not from the bad. But the presence of the bad elements is not irrelevant to the direction the efficacy takes. It might be going too far to say that the modern scientific movement was tainted from its birth: but I think it would be true to say that it was born in an unhealthy neighbourhood and at an inauspicious hour. Its triumphs may have been too rapid and purchased at too high a price: reconsideration, and something like repentance, may be required.
Thanks to Insight Scoop for the reference.

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