The Celestial Symphony: Meditations on a Vision of Divine Imagination

I initially penciled this little “book” in August of 2010 as a journal entry while I waited in a hot apartment for school to start (in some places drawing on or importing from entirely writing I had produced elsewhere, such as the discussion of free will in chapter 6, which was originally for a philosophy class – its more analytical style shows in the writing; chapter 7 meanwhile is drawn from a blog post in 2009 for a blog to which my password has been lost to the sands of time). I was living in a town I didn’t know with no friends, and the semester wouldn’t begin for two weeks. In that time, I did some reading, and was considering the arguments of the New Atheists. I was also a firm believer in the Arian teaching, which means I denied the Trinity, at the time I composed this document. After I had written it, I underwent a transformation of faith, and became convinced of the doctrine of Christ’s Divinity, and the single God who is three persons. What an incredible thing to imagine – I, become a Trinitarian, who had so long prided myself on my ability to argue against its rationality!

It is hard to explain, in a world which sees Christianity in general as anti-intellectual, how prideful I had been at my ability to debate both atheists and Trinitarian Christians. Shortly after these writings were completed, I had a humbling, awe-stricken weekend where I contemplated the puny nature of my own capacity to reason about anything, and the analytical powers I believed made me so clever proved that I had been a fool. I certainly don’t dare call anyone else a fool, regardless of their beliefs; I only confess that I had been one. I imagine I am still foolish, from time to time. But this writing, which is an attempt to paint a picture of belief, a portrait of why theistic philosophy remains so compelling to me, is also a token from a transitional period from my foolish attitude that I best of all could argue for God’s nature, and learned instead that this nature was one I could fathom only if God first revealed His nature to me. I went from being a theist because I believed I was smart enough to prove he existed, to being a theist because I felt like beautiful things in the life of the mind, the life of action, and in the natural world were sharing sweet intimations of divinity with me the way Wordsworth shared intimations of immortality in his poetry. It wasn’t about arguments – it was about a vision, a transport.

As such, because these writings take the shape of arguments, they fall short of what I want to share. But they have in my life importance because they are symbolic of something that was taking shape in me, a conviction about the transcendent beauty hidden away in a mental capacity to pretend that we think of as playtime or a psychological need or a fabrication. Reason may fail to convince us of God’s existence, but imagination can show us a path to remembering the beauty of belief that our world seems full of wonder because the mind that made it wonders at it too, that is to say, “calls it good.” If you do decide to read these chapters, I appreciate your charity and patience with my attempts to make my perspective clear, and hope that disagreement can become a site of fruitful discussion rather than heated debate. In all honesty, as my own thoughts have developed I am not sure I even agree with myself in every place – there is so much I just don’t know, and I speak of those things in which I am not an initiate (science and math being the best examples). But should it give you some interesting thoughts, that will be enough to please me. I am also interested in chapter 5 for somewhat autobiographical reasons; I argue there for a posture of imagining God as an interdisciplinary concept, not just from one discipline. This is an amazing anticipation of what would be the subject of my dissertation, namely, the interrelatedness of the medieval liberal arts. I had not noticed the connection until my dissertation was defended, but in addition to impacting my conversion to the continuing Anglican movement, it also apparently affected my academic imagination more than I realized!

Table of Contents

Introduction: Take My Musings Lightly

Chapter 1: Science

Chapter 2: Limits of Science

Chapter 3: Origin of the Universe

Chapter 4: Subjective Power

Chapter 5: The Celestial Rail-road

Chapter 6: The Problem of Evil

Chapter 7: A Good Problem

Conclusion: Divine Imagination