Saint of the Day – St. Bonaventure, the Athiests and the NeoPagans
There is a growing cottage industry of books attempting to prove or disprove the existence of God. Today, on this spot on the Church calendar devoted to St. Bonaventure (July 15), reflection on his blending of the rational and the spiritual is even more important than when he formulated it seven centuries ago.
Unfortunately, we live in a time of two simplistic approaches. One claims that religion is literally a superstitious hangover from the time of Bonaventure – the late Middle Ages – and has no basis in rational scientific thought. The inhumanity to which we have been reduced by the rational technological world destroys our spirit just as surely as the dogma of the religious. The scientific rationalists show that there is no empirical proof for the existence of God and the literalist acceptance of the Bible only heaps on further irrationality. The spiritualists of the New Age, on the other hand, are concerned about energy flows, the design of built spaces and the sacred diffuse life force emanating from the planet, with its animate and inanimate manifestations.
As much as we might like to think that these debates are new, they are as old as recorded civilization. Christianity is unusual in the sense that it holds and affirms the supra-rationality of faith in the unknowable and then elaborates the faith experience and its doctrinal content in a rational manner. To say it in more simple terms, the Christian experiences and creates reality within the faith experience itself. Given the inherent order of creation itself, this experience reveals and elaborates that core capability of the human, which is critical reason. Creation is sacred and diaphanous and faith enlightens our minds and leads them to the perfect knowledge revealed in Christ.
These view are presented mystically, poetically, and rationally in St. Bonaventure’s Itinerarium Mentis Ad Deum (The Mind’s Road to God). This small book is in many ways a meditation on the the vision of Christ by St. Francis on Mount Alverno, in which the saint becomes so identified with the Risen Christ that he receives the stigmata and the five wounds appear on his body.
How can thinking people believe is the post modern question. How can people with systematic rationalized collections of belief be spiritual is the New Age question. In the post modern age, empirical science is truth. In the New Age there is my truth, my karma, and your truth, your karma. No faith is required. No revelation is possible. There is no enlightenment and encounter with the Divine – a Divine that we cannot control with mathematical models or the arrangement of crystals.
Bonaventure provides a guide to living for the post-modern / New Age Christian – delightfully encountering the “vestigia Trinitatis,” the footprints of the Trinity in creation, learning and understanding in enlightenment, and caught up in the wonder of the divine.