Nicholas Lash

Nicholas Lash on ‘spirituality’ and ‘religion’

‘When people say (as they do, it seems, with increasing frequency) that they are more interested in “spirituality” than in “religion”, they usually seem to mean that they prefer the balm of private fantasy, the aromatherapy of uplifting individual sentiment, to the hard work of thought and action, the common struggle to make sense of things, to redeem and heal the world. When church leaders are exhorted to concentrate on “spiritual” affairs, the implication sometimes seems to be that these things are different from, and loftier than, such mundane matters as proclaiming good news to the poor and setting at liberty those who are oppressed’. – Nicholas Lash, Holiness, Speech and Silence: Reflections on the Question of God (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 92–3.

Nicholas Lash on patterns of human action

‘Patterns of human action embody particular conceptions, not only of what it is, but of what it might be, to be human: they simultaneously express both fact and possibility, actuality and hope. Patterns of human action – whether individual, domestic, social or political – thus symbolically express both what is and what might be meant by “humanity” … If human existence, as it is and as it might be made to be, is the contingent expression of the creative and transformative action of God, then patterns of human action are not merely symbolic but are, in principle, sacramental – expressive of the mystery of grace’. – Nicholas Lash, Theology on the Way to Emmaus (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2005), 5–6.

‘Where Does The God Delusion Come from?’

The latest issue of New Blackfriars is now available and includes a fascinating article by Nicholas Lash entitled ‘Where Does The God Delusion Come from?’.

Here’s the abstract:

While Richard Dawkins’ polemic against religion scores easy points against Christian fundamentalisms, he supposes his target to be much vaster: “I am not attacking any particular version of God or gods. I am attacking God, all gods”. Given The God Delusion‘s lack of extended argument, historical ignorance and unfamiliarity with the literature, the praise it has received from some distinguished scientists is troubling.

This essay seeks, first, to examine some of the book’s chief weaknesses – its ignorance of the grammar of “God” and of “belief in God”; the crudeness of its account of how texts are best read; its lack of interest in ethics – and, second, to address the question of what it is about the climate of the times that enables so ill-informed and badly argued a tirade to be widely welcomed by many apparently well-educated people.

The latter issue is addressed, first, by considering the illusion, unique to the English-speaking world, that there is some single set of procedures which uniquely qualify as “scientific” and give privileged access to truth; second, by examining historical shifts in the senses of “religion”; thirdly, by locating Dawkins’ presuppositions concerning both “science” and “religion”, his paradoxical belief in progress, and the reception which the book has received, in relation to tensions in our culture signalled, fifty years ago, by C. P. Snow.

You can read the entire piece here.

Nicholas Lash on ‘Doing Theology’

‘“It is not reason that is against us, but imagination.” … The ways in which we “see” the world, its story and its destiny; the ways in which we “see” what human beings are, and what they’re for, and how they are related to each other and the world around them; these things are shaped and structured by the stories that we tell, the cities we inhabit, the buildings in which we live, and work, and play; by how we handle through drama, art and song the things that give us pain and bring us joy. What does the world look like? What do we look like? What does God look like? It is not easy to think Christian thoughts in a culture whose imagination, whose ways of “seeing” the world and everything there is to see, are increasingly unschooled by Christianity and, to a considerable and deepening extent, quite hostile to it.

In such a situation, continuing to hold the Gospel’s truth makes much more serious and dangerous demands than mere lip-service paid to undigested information. Unless we make that truth our own through thought, and pain, and argument through prayer and study and an unflinching quest for understanding – it will be chipped away, reshaped, eroded, by the power of an imagining fed by other springs, tuned to quite different stories. And this unceasing, strenuous, vulnerable attempt to make some Christian sense of things, nor just in what we say, but through the ways in which we “see” the world, is what is known as doing theology’. – Nicholas Lash, Holiness, Speech and Silence: Reflections on the Question of God (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 3–4.