The wise men from the East were astronomers, scientists and scholars but they did not make an idol of knowledge. They observed, they wondered and they embarked on a personal quest to find the One under whose rule they would commit their lives:
For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage. (Matthew 2.2)
How easy it is to make knowledge a goal in itself! How sad it would be to think you had arrived at your destination when in fact you had hardly set foot outside the door!
I was greatly encouraged to read the account given in ‘Eurobishop’ (see ‘links’) by Rt Rev. David Hamid, suffragan bishop of the Diocese in Europe, of his participation in a programme entitled “Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science.”
Christian leaders were encouraged to turn their gaze on the stars and contemplate the meaning for Christians of SETI, the search for extra terrestrial intelligence. The lecturer was astrophysicist and theologian Revd Professor David Wilkinson of St John’s College Durham, who is, it seems, to be a speaker at the Readers’ Conference this year. I can’t wait!
Further topics for exploration by Bishop David and his colleagues included issues raised by research into artificial intelligence. Such thinking is vital for Christian theology and ethics and is not simply a matter of being in possession of facts, but of engagement in the Christian search for their meaning.
I was also pleased to learn recently that Canon Joanna Penberthy, Bishop elect of St David’s in Wales is currently studying for a PhD in quantum physics. Excellent preparation for a bishop!
In following the example of the wise men, such searching cannot be conducted in a vague, circular or random manner. It involves trust, the leading of the Holy Spirit and a clear statement of the goal: to find and worship the King.
J.R.R.Tolkien’s inquisitive character of Gollum and his fate is indeed a warning to us:
“…he ceased to look up at the hill-tops, or the leaves on the trees, or the flowers opening in the air: his head and his eyes were downward”
Let us not forget the wonder!