Aleister McGrath (Belfast, 1953) might call himself an Anglican priest, but he’s also a doctor of biophysics and professor of theology – both at Oxford. Above all, he is a public thinker who has been concerned with the relationship between faith and science for decades.
There are dozens of books under his name and a Dutch translation will be added to that awesome list this week: Puzzle Of God. My journey of exploration through science, faith and doubtto. It is the personal memoir of a brilliant chemistry student who left his salon atheism (with a hint of Marxism) in the 1960s. He converted to Christianity, felt theology, and before he knew it, he was one of the most prominent defenders of the Christian faith of the past half century.
Now you’re describing that entire journey to an audience in chronological order.
“As a writer, I receive a lot of letters and emails from my readers. They say, ‘We know you were converted and that you were an atheist. Can’t you even explain how it went?’ Instead of sending the same email to all of these individuals every time, it was better. To turn it into a book. It’s a book about my intellectual struggles. I hope people will think somewhere at the beginning of the book, hello, that guy describing McGrath, I get to know myself about it! Where was he going from this point onwards? What helped him then, Can that help me as well? ”
I read that this may be your last book. I find it hard to believe.
“No, I am an academic, and I will probably write more books. I should write books, but this is probably my last book for the general public. I have discovered in recent years that it is better for non-scientific purposes to participate in conferences or record videos. This works great.” Better than a book. What I will continue to do is update my current work. Review a book every year, this is my agreement with the publisher. ”
Is so much changing in the theological world that it is necessary?
“You always have to ask yourself two things. First, is there any new material that should be added because it needs to be taken into account? Second, can you explain the existing material better?” The latter is especially relevant in theology. General knowledge of theology and Christianity is taking hold. Degradation. My main goal is to make books accessible and understandable. In practice, this means that you have to start from an increasingly basic level. Certainly in the English-speaking world, there are fewer and fewer people who have grown up on their religion. Then you have to try to make it. It was very difficult for me as a trans. That is why I want to help people in my introductions. ”
If you had stayed a chemist, you’d be in a world where something new is discovered every week. This is very different in theology.
“If I had continued my alchemy research, I would have added new facts and concepts all the time. Now when people ask me what I have contributed to theology, I say, I have done nothing original. What I have done is introduce people to the traditions and help them stick to it. That’s useful enough. Theology is all about gaining a deeper understanding of what is already there, not adding new things. In the beginning, when I just gave up my atheism, it was new to me of course, but now the theology basically goes deeper. It does not advance to more and more knowledge, more and more “Inventions, but getting a deeper, also personal connection to Christianity. That’s why I write a lot about discipleship – we often skip the surface of faith and we should avoid it.”
how to do that?
“We can best read how other believers, who have been students for some time, did it. Or talk to people who have more experience. Have a constant dialogue with others who say, ‘This can help you.’ And have you tried this yet? Sometimes others need to share something that will help you deepen the faith. Christianity is not a single tradition. ”
You’re trying to be a role model with this new book, I think. Your great example is CS Lewis, about whom I have written several books, including an autobiography. Will Lewis’ ideas last until the end of this century, or do you think they are outdated?
“I think CS Lewis is an integral part of his own cultural context. This is primarily the male context: the British Army and then Oxford in the last century, completely dominated by white men. As a person, Lewis would become less important and influential, but his ideas are interesting enough It is picked up and developed by other people .. They will be younger and less English, which helps too.No am I not.Louis and I are middle-class white men from Belfast and both have become Oxford academics.Socially, this is only a small group of people. I would love to show the world what I learned and I hope it will help many, but now others have to take over. ”
She also had a lot with an educated opponent of Christianity, Richard Dawkins.
“Almost an 18th-century Enlightenment atheist, Dawkins thought science could answer all of your questions. I thought so, but then you totally get stuck. You question the natural sciences in this way, and you get them to say things they can’t say. Science is always open to explanations.” And the new paradigms. Dawkins ends the deal and says, “This is what science says, for a while.” What he finds difficult to acknowledge is that his atheist stance cannot be proven like that of people who believe in God.
How does the dialogue between science and religion stand now?
“It has become increasingly constructive and I am happy about it. The new atheism of Dawkins and his colleagues lasted less than twelve years from 2006 to 2018, but now appears to be exhausted. We are increasingly aware that we all cannot prove our positions of faith. This paves the way for a discussion of how.” We have already reached our differing conclusions. This is the eternal human dilemma, said William James, a Harvard psychologist. We have to make big decisions about what is right and what is bad, but we cannot gather conclusive evidence for our final judgment. That’s the big question – the way Important, and that’s what we need to talk about. ”
If Dawkins was a passerby, don’t you think he’s a waste of your time, all those books, writings, and arguments against his ideas?
“When I studied it, I had to read everything he wrote. It helped me understand how Dawkins was thinking. I gained insight into his type of thinking and his spirituality mentality. Although the debate developed further, this deepening was worth it. And also because young people are still attracted to his atheism. Why? Because it is clear and simple. Any ideology that promises security is particularly interesting to young people. Be it political, scientific or religious – as long as it removes ambiguity, suspicion and ignorance. The lesson I wanted to share with this book It is true: We have to learn to live with the fact that we will not get all the answers. ”
When Alister McGrath retires, he gives himself a professional telescope so that he can admire distant galaxies just as he was in his childhood. Until then he will continue writing and speaking about God and science.
The Mystery of God is in the libraries on May 12th.
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