I’ve come across a potent quotation about the hidden price tag of our remarkable technological progress. It comes from a book on the spiritual reading of Scripture (the discipline of lectio divina) by Thelma Hall. Don’t feel bad if you have to read it more than once. I’ve read it over and over because it is dense and rich:
“This technological age and all its achievements of the pragmatic intellect are not without price. The mastery of much of the material world is often gained at the expense of the development of the intuitive faculties, which are directly involved in contemplation. As a result, many people are prone to inhibit and/or delay the spontaneous development of contemplation by an acquired and stubborn tendency to endlessly intellectualize, analyze, judge, and in general be ‘in charge’ during prayer. This is in direct opposition to the inner movement of contemplation, which demands the letting go of any effort to be in control. The passive receptivity it requires, while actually creative and responsive, appears in the practical view to be a sheer waste of time. Therefore there is need for a clear understanding of what will be experienced and required of us, particularly at this point of transition from prayer of the heart to contemplation.” (Thelma Hall, r.c. Too Deep For Words. New York: Paulist Press, 1988, p. 49.)
Am I anti-technology? Of course not! I’m writing this blogpost on a MacBook. I love the power of my iPhone. I’m probably as much a technological geek as anyone! Am I anti-science? Are you kidding? I see what medical insight did for Gem’s recovery from sciatica many years ago. Would I trade that for leeches and incantations?
What I am against is limiting our ways of knowing life and knowing God to technological means alone.
Hall suggests that our singular focus on scientific, objective knowing categorically excludes more subjective ways of knowing. And we have a deep hunger to experience deeper ways of knowing. Few of us are interested in a Spartan, objective, scientific definition of romantic love. We want to taste it, enjoy it, relish it with the one God gives us. We are hungry for the knowing that is a fruit of loving and being loved.
Hall speaks to the mechanistic assumptions that underlie most of contemporary USAmerican life. The triumph of the scientific method over physical realities and dynamics has left us often disregarding intuitive and subjective ways of knowing. Ways of knowing that do not begin from intellect or rational inquiry are suspect at best and disregarded at worst.
So much of my work is helping Christian leaders who are usually well-formed intellectually and theologically to enter more deeply into the personal and encounter-oriented knowledge of God. We are hungry to know the love of God and love Him back. Being able to give an accurate definition of the word “love” from the Greek doesn’t do much to feed our souls.
- In what ways might God—Father, Son and Spirit—be inviting you to offer your heart and mind to Him, to receive the gifts of insight and wisdom He longs to give to you?
- How might he enrich your relational knowledge of Him in these days?