I was raised in a mainline evangelical church,1 but it wasn’t until I became an adult that I made a personal and strong commitment to God. The church of my childhood years was associated with a traditional and reserved Calvinistic heritage. However, the church of my young adult years, in the 1970’s, was strongly influenced by the more demonstrative and charismatic orientation of the Jesus People movement on the West Coast of the United States. Later, in my middle adult years, I found myself drawn to yet another church within a traditionally Wesleyan context. Even though the specific sequence of changes varies, friends and colleagues who have followed parallel paths usually agree that our respective theologies are much fuller and richer because of the spiritual journeys we have taken over our lifetimes.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses.
—from “The Weight of Glory”
When he was president of the Oxford Socratic Club during the 1940s and 50s, C.S. Lewis featured weekly discussions on “repellent doctrines.” By these, he meant traditional Christian teachings that seemed puzzling or implausible—teachings on suffering, miracles, hierarchy, and the like. Lewis thought these doctrines conveyed truths that modern people most needed to know but were least likely to recognize: “We must never avert our eyes from those elements in [our religion] which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know.”1 For many Christians today, deification would be such a doctrine. Deification (also known as theosis or divinization) sees salvation not merely as divine pardon but rather as a process of spiritual transformation that culminates in mystical union with God. As Lewis understood it, human beings could one day enter into the very beauty and energy of God and become “true and everlasting and really divine persons.”2 In his book Mere Christianity, which can be seen as a manifesto on the subject, Lewis argues that the whole purpose of Christianity is to turn people into what he variously calls “new men,” “little Christs,” “Sons of God”—and “gods and goddesses.”
As the literature for this Oxbridge 2005 conference notes, “C.S. Lewis once said, ‘the sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.’” Lewis is not alone in his quest. While one might expect such company as writers, artists, musicians, and philosophers it might be surprising to discover a stellar contingent of Nobel Prize winners and other significant physicists along for the journey. It appears, as we will see in the following accounts, that beauty has long been the unsung companion of great discoveries in the physical sciences. Taking a look at the role beauty plays in the realms of both physics and theology could point the way to a place where Christian theology and the modern science of physics might have a conversation profitable to both disciplines.
For centuries, liturgical, large-scale windows metaphorically shielded the sacred from the profane, embued light with spiritual presence, and literally illuminated divine messages. During war reparations, Germany’s shattered postwar outlook challenged a new generation of artists with the daunting task of establishing new religious symbols to speak authentically into a deeply crushed, cynical national conscience. Subsequently, while Germany’s parishes dwindled, glass artists readjusted to a new clientele: dutiful streams of international tourists whose entry fees bankrolled Germany’s historical churches. This original research explores the unique liturgical iconography developed to address a nation’s broken faith, and a global audience’s comprehension in a secularized culture.