This post is the second in a series which explores how to integrate spirituality and science. The series begins by drawing on the fourfold Wesleyan approach to the quest for truth. This Wesleyan quadrilateral, as it is known, consists of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. These four ways of knowing invite us to integrate spirituality and scientific inquiry. In this post we investigate the second part of the quadrilateral: Tradition.
I love churches. Don’t get me wrong: I have a very conflicted relationship with the institution of the Church. But there is something about church buildings that stills my soul and inspires me. I especially love spending time in the great cathedrals of Europe. I need that sense of tradition. I am awed by the feeling of connection with spiritual seekers through the centuries.
When I was imagining what EvoFaith would be, and how to bring a new evolution of spiritual community into being, I considered disconnecting completely from my Christian heritage. But I soon realised that I could no more disregard the religious tradition that has shaped me than I could change the colour of my eyes.
TRADITION HAS VALUE
I may not like what the Christian religion has become, or how it has sold its soul for power, wealth, and exclusivity, but I still find the values and priorities of the Gospel compelling. I still find the rituals and traditions that remind me of what it means to follow the Christ deeply meaningful. I still find transforming wisdom in the Bible. And I have learned that Tradition is a precious and insightful source of knowledge.
I have been tempted many times over the years to break free of what have felt like dry, outdated spiritual practices that have long lost their meaning. I have felt the emptiness that was expressed in Magna Carta’s song Father John.
But, I have also learned to find the treasure in these ancient ways. One of my favourite teachers on this path is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. There is so much I don’t know about Teilhard, in spite of the biography I read roughly two decades ago. But what I do know has inspired and captivated me. As both a priest and a scientist, Teilhard taught me to bring my faith together with the insights of the sciences. We will explore that in more detail next week, but I have been immensely enriched by Teilhard’s ability to embrace the wisdom of his religious traditions while simultaneously integrating the traditions of the scientific method. He paid the price of exile for his convictions, but he refused to compromise on either source of knowledge.
ANCIENT, UNCHANGING WISDOM IN A FAST-CHANGING WORLD
In our individualistic, fast-changing world, spiritual communities, rituals, and traditions may seem irrelevant. But I have found that there is tremendous value in being rooted in something timeless and unchanging. The best traditions do not resist or deny the world’s constant disruptions. They provide a stable base from which to enter and navigate whatever chaos may arise. And, since many traditions have been born out of some crisis or upheaval in the lives of their creators, they often have significant wisdom to guide us through our own times of turbulence. This embrace of ancient traditions can also teach us how to create our own personal rituals and traditions with mindfulness and respect for our faith ancestors.
Sometimes it may seem that spiritual traditions and science have no common ground. But science has its own traditions and rituals. When we allow science to help us understand spiritual traditions, and when we approach scientific traditions from a spiritual perspective, the two can lead us into practices that genuinely support our well-being and our connections with one another.
As we face realities in our world that would never have entered the mind of previous generations, we need the new insights of science to navigate the chaos. Scientific insights into economic, political, social, psychological, ecological, and cosmological realities are essential to our survival. But when they are integrated into a strong and rooted spiritual tradition, their value is multiplied exponentially.
What is your relationship with traditions—both spiritual and scientific?
What spiritual and scientific traditions have shaped you?
How can you be more intentional in integrating helpful traditions into your own life and spirituality?
What wisdom can you share that can help other EvoFaith readers in their spiritual journey?
Leave your responses in the comments, and let’s take the conversation further.
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