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ENCOUNTERS BETWEEN SECULAR AND SACRED KNOWLEDGE


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A quick glance at this book will indicate that it deals with many areas of knowledge. There are thirty in all and they are presented in the first chapter in a purely secular form with which most potential readers will be familiar.
There is no need for such people to go any further; they may well be content with a standard presentation of the respective subjects. But it is possible for inquiring minds to go further and seek the way in which those subjects are presented in sacred contexts.
No doubt many people read the Bible but they may well be surprised when they look into Chapter 2 and see how many of these secular subjects emerge in the text of the Bible. Then there is a further way of perceiving the sacred connections of many of these subjects by looking back into their history and origins, as in Chapter 3.
The obvious examples are those of astronomy and Galileo's conflict with the church; in the life sciences, Charles Darwin's evolution was in antagonism with traditional Christian beliefs about creation. Readers are advised to pick and choose whatever topics attract their interest and trace them through the first three chapters.
The remainder of the book is an attempt to rethink and rephrase in modern terms the principle of St Thomas Aquinas that "theology is the queen of the sciences".

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ISBN: 978-1-922229-51-9     Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 290
Genre: Non Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

 

 

 

Author - Peter Rudge
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2015
Language: English


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Peter Rudge is a Tasmanian who was born in 1927. He completed his tertiary education at the University of Tasmania in 1949 when he graduated with BCom(Acc) and DipPubAd. In those four years at the University he was also involved with the Student Christian Movement, but there was no significant crossover between the secular subjects he was studying and the sacred.

From 1949 to 1953, he studied for the ministry of the Anglican Church. The nature of his course is indicated by the name of the religious order which conducted the college; it was called the Society of the Sacred Mission. It was no ordinary college in that there were no textbooks and no exams. But there were lectures and also the obligation to write weekly essays on the relevant topics. The course involved explorations in psychology and philosophy and spirituality as well as a complete coverage of the Bible and church history. These latter two were very helpful in what eventually transpired in his scholarly career. His knowledge of the Bible involved an intensive study of the whole of this book with that in the Old Testament being helped by a partial knowledge of the Hebrew and then a complete study of the original Greek of the New Testament. Further, church history involved its course from its beginning to the present day.

He was ordained priest in 1953 and served in the parishes in the diocese of Canberra and Goulburn for a period of 10 years. In the cause of his ministry, he said on several occasions that his training in administration from the University of Tasmania was of equal value to his theological background from his college course. He was ridiculed for saying such a thing. Undeterred, he went on to St Augustine’s College in Canterbury where he produced a dissertation entitled A New Approach to the Study of Ecclesiastical Administration. The response of the external examiner was this is not a new approach; it was a new subject. On the strength of that, he went on to complete a PhD at the University of Leeds in the field of church management, with his thesis being published in 1968 under the title of Ministry and Management. That qualification led on to some years of service as a management consultant in churches and Christian bodies.

All that involved an encounter between a secular subject of management and the sacred things in the life of the church.

As life when on, he began to wonder whether there might also be such an encounter between the secular and the sacred in relation to other disciplines besides management. Then began a long haul in coming to understand the content of the 30 subjects set out in Chapter 1 of the book. The next step was to see the extent to which these subjects appeared in the text of the Bible, as they had been for management, with some surprises such as the extent to which engineering was present so often in the Bible.

The next step was to consider the origin and history of all the 30 subjects and seeing the extent to which there were the encounters between those subjects and the realm of theology. There were the familiar instances about Galileo in the field of astronomy and Darwin in the realm of life sciences; many more were found, again with surprises such as the seemingly insignificant disagreement between the founders of the University of Halle in 1694 which led in due course to the definition of the nature of modern chemistry.

This is not a book to be read from cover to cover, starting at Page 1 and going through to the end. For the first three chapters, readers are advised to select one of the 30 subjects and read the respective sections in each of the three chapters. Then repeat the same thing with other subjects until the intent becomes clear and readers become confident in their explorations.

For another way to begin to appreciate the book as a whole, it is recommended that the first six conversations be read in sequence, having the chapter titles at hand for reference. Readers would then be in a better position to understand what takes place in encounters between the secular and the sacred in the history of civilisation. The vocabulary for it is introduced in Chapter 4; there is a sequel to it in Chapter 6. But, readers, please do not look at the seventh conversation until the text of Chapter 6 has been read.

Good luck to all who persevere in pursuing this voluminous exposure of encounters between the secular and the sacred.

 

By the same author

Preaching the Gospel

From Plato to the Present

The Formula To Say… To Do… To Be… In Contemplation

 

Short Stories to Change the World

Acknowledgments

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Most of these quotations are in Chapter 2 with only a few in other locations. Even though there are extensive passages, they do constitute a percentage compared with the whole text that would necessitate specific permission being sought.

I acknowledge with thanks the permission given by McGraw-Hill Education New York for the use of quotations from Douglas McGregor’s The Human Side of Enterprise.

I also acknowledge with thanks the permission given by Macquarie Dictionary for the use of extracts from the meaning of several words in the Macquarie Dictionary.

There are many other quotations used in the text of this book. I am grateful to the authors of them, but I am not required to obtain permission because they are all covered by the 70-year rule.


Read a sample:

Preface

To write about knowledge as I do in this book is to write about something that is vast in its scale. Readers have to go no further than the first chapter to realise how true this is. There are set out statements of the moderate length about 30 selected topics. They are of my choice; others may wish to delete some or add to the list. Taken all together, they indicate something of the vastness of human knowledge and the capacity of the human mind to comprehend their extent. In character, they would all be seen as secular in nature or at least that is the way they are perceived in this current age. Readers in one or other of these 30 specialties might turn to the relevant section to check what I have written and may offer constructive criticisms. Others, in viewing the list, may be aware of several or more topics that have not hitherto been within the range of their minds. They are invited to read these specific sections to add to their knowledge and experience.

But the story does not end there. I have opened the way for surprises. They come in two forms in the respective Chapters 2 and 3 when I seek to expose what is purely secular to a dimension of life which might be called the sacred. Others may refer to it as being spiritual in nature. The scholarly version of the sacred is called theology. The first surprise is in Chapter 2 wherein it is shown that in the sacred text of the Bible there are allusions to all of these 30 topics, not just an odd casual reference, but very extensive presentations of the biblical text. It begins the first of the many encounters promised in the title of this book. What is said is a surprise; it may also enrich and widen horizons, and in the process bring to readers some of the most marvellous passages of English literature.

The next surprise in Chapter 3 is for those who hitherto have been content with the current secular nature of their disciplines and see no need to look further. But they are invited to take the plunge or, in another way, look in the rear-vision mirror to see the history and origins of their particular sphere of study. And surprise! Surprise! In every case in exploring the history of each area, there is an unavoidable reference to what normally belongs in the sacred world. There are 30 such issues, well beyond the two most familiar involving Galileo in the field of astronomy and Darwin in relation to human biology.

Readers may prefer to have a less onerous option when reading the first three chapters. What they can do is to choose a single subject that attracts their attention and then read the sections in these three chapters on that topic, be it chemistry or anthropology or mathematics. They can see better how these three chapters are set out and then continue this single-subject arrangement. Maybe more will be absorbed that way than trying to grasp all 30 topics at one sitting.

In order to prepare readers for what might well be the most significant encounter between the secular and the sacred, an account is given in Chapter 4 of what is known as the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Holy Mount. The chapter may be read for its own worth but its purpose is to introduce the word ‘transfiguration’ into the vocabulary for use in the next chapter in which the achievement of St Augustine is highlighted. Being an heir to all of the knowledge of the ancient Hebrew-Graeco-Roman world, he was confronted with its collapse with the Fall of Rome in 410 AD. He dealt with that knowledge in such a way through his recognised standing in the world of theology and of the sacred; he rescued that secular knowledge from oblivion. Some of the supporting texts use the word ‘transfiguration’ to indicate what he had done.

All that was of long ago – we live in the modern world where the secular is so dominant and perhaps is becoming more so. In the final Chapter 6 the question is raised as to whether there still might be a place for the sacred in this new world. Long ago at the time of St Thomas Aquinas there was the affirmation that ‘theology was queen of the sciences’. It is no longer so and theology has almost disappeared. The purpose of this chapter is to see whether there might be a way of reawakening that theological or sacred component in a way that actually has a relevance to the modern world of knowledge.

While the main text of this book seems to be weighty and forbidding, it is lightened by the interjection of conversations between each of the chapters. They are between me, representing the sacred, speaking to one Trevor who belongs to the secular world. One way in which readers might come to grips with the theme of this book is to read the first six conversations one after the other, having available to them the chapter titles to which reference is made in this speaking together. But please don’t read the seventh conversation until you have read the sixth chapter!

The fact that I take the sacred side in this exchange of views does not mean that I am similarly committed exclusively to that side of the encounter by virtue of my being an ordained priest in the Anglican Church with a good background in theology and biblical matters. I also belong to the secular world, which means that I have had an upbringing and qualification in the field of management. In my life they have not been separate: I have found a way of weaving the two together in such a way as gives full credibility to each of the two elements. I found this in my experience in the ministry; then, to prove the point, I graduated with a PhD in the field of church management. This thesis was subsequently published as Ministry and Management in 1968. The book is still regarded as a pioneer in this field. Reviews and comments since its publication have indicated how loyal I have been to both the theological and the practical, the sacred and the secular. Look at the references to management in the first three chapters to gain some idea of how I established that concord. Such a marriage, as I call it, has stood the test of time and it inspired me to seek to establish such a concord for all the other 29 subjects in this book. It is for those in their respective fields to assess the extent to which I have achieved a similar relationship in all the other disciplines. Add together the secular and the sacred, and the world of knowledge can be enriched accordingly, without prejudicing the commitment of the parties to the two respective and seemingly opposed sides.

I commend this book to all whose minds are open.

Peter Rudge

The Gold Coast

Australia

Conversation 1

“Good morning, Trevor, I was looking forward to your company.”

“Yes, Peter, thank you for the invitation to come and have a chat with you.”

“Come in and make yourself comfortable.”

“Thank you, and I want to tell you that I recently read your book on knowledge called From Plato to the Present.”

“I hope you found it interesting.”

“Yes, very much, especially in the way you set it out.”

“That was a neat way of setting it out. I had in my mind for some time that knowledge progressed in 800-year phases.”

“Very clear; I know how it worked: there were 800 years from Plato to St Augustine; then 800 years to St Thomas Aquinas; and then the same span between St Thomas Aquinas and the present day.”

“And all I had to do was to fill in the details of each phase.”

“That must have taken you a long time.”

“Not really … most of it was in my head and only occasionally I had to check references for dates and events.”

“You make it sound easy but I suppose you have learnt a lot in your 80 years or so.”

“And I find that there is still more to come.”

“So that’s why you wanted me to come and talk things over with you.”

“Yes, if you would be so kind to do so and follow the way in which I have set out the contents.”

“I’ll do what I can.”

“The pattern is not as obvious as in the Plato book, as you can see from the table of contents that the first three chapters share a common reference to the number 30; and the next two chapters share in common the word ‘transfiguration’.”

“Yes, that’s quite a help in awakening my interest.”

“But I will only lead to you through one chapter at a time, making sure that you grasp the point of a chapter before moving to the next in sequence.”

“Okay, lead me to the number 30.”

“I have collected quite a lot of appropriate material together and it so happens that the list conveniently ends at number 30.”

“So the first chapter deals with these 30 subjects and goes on to explain the content of each.”

“Exactly right! Now I can show you the list: yes, 30 topics, which I have grouped under the three headings that are explained as we come to them:

“The Natural Sciences

1.     Astronomy

2.     Chemistry

3.     Earth Sciences

4.     Environmental Sciences

5.     Life Sciences

6.     Light Sciences

7.     Physics

“The Human Sciences

1.     Aesthetics

2.     Anthropology

3.     Dietetics

4.     Demography

5.     Economics

6.     Ethics

7.     Health Sciences

8.     History

9.     Law

10.  Linguistics

11.  Philosophy

12.  Political Science

13.  Psychology

14.  Sociology

“The Imaginative Sciences

1.     Art

2.     Cybernetics

3.     Dramatic Arts

4.     Education

5.     Engineering

6.     Management

7.     Mathematics

8.     Music

9.     Urban Studies.”

“How did you track all these topics down?”

“Some came from my own studies ... the remainder from extensive reading and a bit of curiosity. Eventually the list seemed to cover a reasonable span of interests. I also make use of university calendars and year books, especially The Good Universities Guide published annually for all tertiary institutions in Australia.”

“And did you have any favourites?”

“Well, not really, but maybe No. 30 Urban Studies crept in because of personal factors. At one time many years ago, I lectured in Urban Administration. Then I was surprised to be appointed the first Executive Officer of the newly formed Australian Institute of Urban Studies where I had the good fortune to meet and work alongside all the leading figures in Australia: heads of construction companies, architects, town planners, engineers, university professors, even an urban geographer. I learnt a lot and treasured the experience. If challenged, I referred people to the biblical urban planning tradition at least 2,500 years ago, which I inherited.”

“That makes a good story. I’ll check the references to urban studies.”

“Good.”

“Now I have the text of Chapter 1; I look forward to reading how you describe all these 30 subjects.”

“You may think of a better list than the 30 which I have set out; and so may other readers who may suggest one or more to be added and perhaps several to be deleted. But I’m sticking to the 30 that I have chosen. I hope you are stimulated by the way in which I have defined each of them.”

“Right! Here goes.”

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