Our contemporary culture is commited to precision. In modern times, we are particularly meticulous in scientific methods and technical endeavors, dissecting and analyzing reality or truth to its most basic common denominators.
This devotion to accuracy, for instance, has allowed technical sciences to advance far beyond what was imaginable a few centuries ago. Today, we are heirs to a technology revolution that reaches new heights. What began as a race to the moon is now more of an interplanetary and intergalactic exploration for signs of new life. Closer to home, we point to the scientific advances in medicine and biology, where we see an increasing integration of different technologies, robotics and the human body, reflecting our fascination with cybernetic organisms or cyborgs.
The same holds true for social and political sciences; this drive to exactitude or push toward scientific truth has made it possible for us to more accurately compartmentalize and organize human behaviors. The scrutiny, division and categorizations that are part of our demographic classifications illustrate our compartmentalized lives. More than ever, social and political self-understanding is driven by an abundance of demographic studies — each highlighting and stressing different aspects of human identity and behaviors.
Beyond these advances brought about by the modern scientific method, we also note how they have affected our common sense approach to ordinary life and experience of truth. From a relational or social vantage point, for example, it’s not difficult to see how this inclination to interpret reality as divided, compartmentalized and categorized leads to a sense of truth and life as fragmented or disjointed. For those who interpret life more from the philosophical habit of mind, our scientific knowledge can be limiting, especially in relationship to speculation, wonder and contemplation.
This technical attention to reality and its effects takes on a special significance when viewed in faith. The fascination with scientific precision can unintentionally lead us into an approach to faith and spirituality obsessed with technical correctness and abstract firmness, forgetting the speculative, contemplative and surprising dimensions of our faith lives. Put differently, the living wonder of our Sacred Scriptures and tradition with its rich cultural customs, teachings and doctrines can become rigid and disjointed theoretical articulations of truth devoid of any real meaning or effectiveness.
If we aren’t careful, we can reduce our Christian spirituality to a comfortable series of mechanical responses forgetting that our truth and sense of reality is never far from our encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. Spiritual life should be rooted, primarily, in our encounter with the living God of life. Like Sarah and Abraham, we have been invited to go beyond our human knowledge and scientific possibilities to imagine and believe in the Lord who is capable of marvelous events in our lives: “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Genesis 18: 1-15).
For Christians, our faith journey teaches us that it is in this sense of wonder and contemplation of Jesus that our thirst for knowledge and truth finds direction and fullness. Through the guidance of the Spirit of truth and our humble attempts at following in His footsteps, we are able to grow in our knowledge and holy wisdom (John 16:13). As St. Paul reminds us, “for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians: 13:11-12). Together in our faith, hope and love, then, let us rejoice in our Lord who we know and believe is all and in all (Colossians 3:11).
Orozco is executive director for human dignity and intercultural affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.