Monday, January 11, 2016

Oriented to God

We live in a secularized age, right? Or do we? It is true that "religion" is on the outs in much of the West, but to speak of this as a secularized age may be an overly western outlook.  Perhaps it is better to speak of orientation -- whether toward God or not. Some take a more "religious" perspective. Others a more secular one.

I'm reading a Netgalley version of Miroslav Volf's new book Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World. While I will be writing a full review, I thought I might take note of the book and make use of it to encourage some discussion about the role of religion in life.

Volf is a theologian, and thus he thinks about God. In this new book Volf writes about the role of religion in providing for the opportunity of flourishing as a species and as a world. Volf suggests that we have been created by God for relationship with God. He writes that "we are oriented toward God in the very fabric of our being." Religions of all stripes are expressions of this orientation. They may understand flourishing differently, but they presume that the divine desires that we flourish, and that they offer a way toward flourishing.

The question is one of orientation -- where we place ourselves.  Volf writes (and I don't have good page numbers from the Netgalley version):

We call ourselves "religious" if we embrace and articulate orientation toward God and see the world as more than just a sum (however conceptualized) of its components; we call ourselves "secular" if we don't. But the fact of the orientation isn't influenced by what we call ourselves or by anything we do, just as the reality of the world as creation isn't altered depending on whether we experience it as a divine gift or not.
Whatever we call ourselves, deep within us, there is this sense of the divine that we move toward. John Calvin called it the sensus divinitas (sense of the divine), while Augustine spoke of a sense of restlessness that can only be calmed by being in the presence of God. We may put our trust in science (and I value it highly), but it seems that whether we recognize it or not, we oriented to God.  The question then is how does this orientation lead to flourishing? 

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