Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Healing the Eye of the Heart - Alister McGrath on Romans 12:2

The reasoning Alister McGrath is using in his wonderful A Fine-Tuned Universe concerns, among other things, "seeing." By this is meant how a controlling narrative (noetic framework; even perhaps "worldview") allows persons to see aspects of reality that would not be seen by another controlling narrative. McGrath believes that the narrative of Christian Trinitarian Theism sheds much light on nature, society, humanity, and individuality.

McGrath believes that the New Testament predicts such a thing; viz., that on embracing Jesus one will be given new "eyes to see." He writes: "The New Testament speaks of the impact of Jesus of Nazareth in terms of his potential transformation of humanity through faith." (38) This transformation extends to the human mind. The obvious example is what Paul says in Romans 12:2; viz., that we are urged not to "be conformed to this world" but rather to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds." What Paul says here affirms "the capacity of the Christian faith to bring about a radical change in the way in which we understand and inhabit the world." (38-39)

I love what McGrath says next, and as a Christian theist find it beautiful and encouraging:

"The human mind is not replaced or displaced; rather, it is illuminated and energized through faith. Paul is speaking of a transformed disposition of the knower, which leads to a new way of thinking that enables the discernment of deeper levels of reality than unaided human reason or sight permit. Faith is about the transformation of the human mind to see things in a certain manner, involving the acquisition of certain habits of thinking and perception." (39)

The Christian understanding of salvation is that of "a transformative process that has been inaugurated, yet whose final completion has yet to take place." It's a "process of renewal." The renewal has to do with "changed and interconnected patterns of thought and behavior. We come to see the world in a new way, and as a result behave in a new way." (39)

For example, one reads Jesus' parables of the kingdom in a new way. They are "seen" differently, and the result of what is seen leads to "a change in outlook and action." McGrath writes: "The call to love God "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Mt. 22:34-37) clearly envisages a discipleship of the mind, since every aspect of human existence is affected by the gospel." (39)

Augustine, in the fifth century, described this new way of "seeing" as the "healing of the eye of the heart" by divine grace. (In Ib., 39) Augustine wrote: "Our whole business in this life is to heal the eye of the heart, so that God might be seen." (In Ib.) Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar spoke of the "light of grace" coming to our inability by "bestowing vision," "this enabling us to discern God's presence and activity within the natural realm." (39)

All this is used by McGrath in arguing that "there is an integral explanatory element to the Christian vision of reality." (39) He writes: "The Christian vision of reality claims both to tell the truth and to possess explanatory power, because it corresponds to the way things really are." (40)

It's important in all of this to remember that McGrath does not wish to argue for the point beginning from nature. That's what he calls "classic natural theology," which he's not about doing. McGrath's development of a "Trinitarian Natural Theology" uses (as we've previously said) reasoning by "inference to the best explanation," or "abductive reasoning" (which, by the way, he and others find superior to Bayesian explanations - ""Inference to the best explanation" appears to have a significant advantage over Bayesian approaches in being able to illuminate the context of scientific discovery." [57]).

All of this excites and intrigues me very much. McGrath is a excellent writer. And, I'll be changing Logic texts in the Fall and using Lewis Vaughn's The Power of Critical Thinking, which contains an entire chapter on "inference to the best explanation." And, BTW, Vaughn's logic text has nothing on Bayes' Theorem, which my current Logic text by Hurley does.