Lord Rowan Williams of Oystermouth delivers the Gifford Lecture series entitled “Making Representations: Religious Faith and the Habits of Language”.
Lecture 1: Representing Reality
When we speak about the world we inhabit, we do so in terms that go well beyond simply listing the elements of what we perceive; that is, we construct schematic models, we extrapolate, we invent, and we use our imagination.
If we think harder about what is involved in representing things (rather than simply describing or replicating them), we may discern something more. We may discover that the way believers talk about God is closely linked to the ways in which what we call “ordinary” speech seeks a truthfulness that is more than simply replication. Moreover, we may understand how speech is regularly stimulated to do this in moments of linguistic crisis or disruption.
Recorded on Monday 4 November at the University of Edinburgh’s New College.
In general, it is extremely foolish … to suppose it should really be such an easy affair with faith and wisdom that they just arrive over the years as a matter of course, like teeth, a beard and that sort of thing. No, whatever a human being comes to as a matter of course, and whatever things come to him as a matter of course, it is definitely not faith and wisdom.
Maybe Jesus was not particularly interested in labels like “left-wing” and “right-wing”. Maybe his kingdom and his interests and his church actually transcend our polarized political and social discourse.
Paul’s preferred term for expressing the content of divine revelation is mysterion (I Cor. 2:1, 7), a term that acquires increasing prominence throughout his writings career. Besides accenting the veiled and hidden character of what is revealed, this word has the advantage of uniting all the various dimensions of God’s salvific design in a comprehensive unity. By designating the object of revelation as mystery, Paul indicates that it remains permanently subject to God’s free initiative and beyond the controlling grasp of the human intellect. As mystery, it cannot be confined to determinate doctrinal formulations, though it can require them for its correct preservation (cf. 2 Thes. 2:15; 1 Cor 11:2; 15:1-8).
This is the way, beloved, in which we find our Savior, even Jesus Christ, the High Priest of all our offerings, the defender and helper of our infirmity. By Him we look up to the heights of heaven. By Him we behold, as in a glass, His immaculate and most excellent visage. By Him are the eyes of our hearts opened. By Him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms up anew towards His marvelous light. By Him the Lord has willed that we should taste of immortal knowledge, ‘who, being the brightness of His majesty, is by so much greater than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.’