The Owl on Freedom

Now we come to the fourth of the Owl’s principal terms: Freedom. The sequence of these terms, Faith then Covenant then Love then Freedom, is intentional: Faith, God’s gift to us; the Covenant under which it is lived in God’s steadfastness; Love, the power that keeps us turning toward God and each other; then Freedom, the sine qua non of Love.

Love is what turns a man’s wheels homeward at the end of the work day, simply because he belongs with the people there rather than wherever else. He is actually free to turn or not, or it is no love that drives him. Love has to be freely given, or it is not love but something else; fear, coercion, deception, but not love.

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God’s Covenant With Us

The Owl continues unfolding What the Owl Is Trying to Say, using five main terms for the outline. Now we are up to the word “Covenant.”

The valiant reader may recall our saying the covenant between God and humankind is really a series of covenants, each with a specific sign and promise, all given on God’s initiative: the Noachic Covenant, with the sign of the rainbow and the promise that God will never again destroy all life on earth with a flood. There follow covenants with Abraham, making him the patriarch of a numerous people; then the covenant with Moses at Sinai, giving Israel the law of Jhwh and making himself their God and them his people. Without ever calling that into question, we have the New Covenant established in Jesus Christ.

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What the Owl Is Trying to Say

We are now about five months into writing An Owl Among Ruins. It would be understandable that our few readers don’t find much logical consistency in the thing so far. We may have created more frustration than clarity. That’s not good for one who is still trying, at 73, to get control his mother tongue. He knows all the best advisors on the subject say Keep It Simple; no extravagant turns of phrase, no complex compound sentences—you learned it in grade school. I’m slow. By now it’s fair to ask, What Is the Owl Trying to Say? Put it down in as few words and as plainly as possible.

OK, here goes. It will help to start with the key terms. Luckily they are few, but unluckily, from the first they don’t mean what people think they mean. Here they are: Faith, Covenant, Love, Freedom, Obedience. These are things already alive in human hearts, maybe in all human hearts. Let’s take them one at a time, then see how they fit into a whole.

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Science and Religion

In From Dawn to Decadence (2000), Jacques Barzun discusses the scientific revolution that occurred between the seventeenth century and the present. In his description, this is not just a matter of learning to observe natural phenomena. Our medieval forebears were meticulous observers of their world—it takes only a look at their exquisite engravings of plants to convince oneself of this. But until a certain intellectual shift they could not derive general laws from what they saw. We moderns do this every day, rising from raw observation to abstraction. Then we treat the abstractions as things in their own right. Note the word rise.

Scientific language is equipped to treat of geometry, physics, chemistry, biology, and more. Finding meaning in the world is another matter. That belongs to poetry, morality, belief, and faith. Its operant language is not merely descriptive, but constitutive of reality. The two things do not operate wholly independently, which is why we have a postmodern debate about how much of science, especially the studies of human being, is comprised of social constructs. However that may be, when western culture developed a scientific world view, we found ourselves in a world divorced from many of its previous meanings.

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