‘This is my body’

Atheists and religious believers alike, we are all still conditioned by Paley’s account of the creation as a mechanical contrivance.  Look how exquisitely contrived all these organisms are around us, said Paley.  How could they be so exquisitely contrived without a contriver? But Darwin showed that they could indeed be exquisitely contrived without a contriver.  Paley misunderstood Genesis.  The word Genesis uses for create is the Hebrew bara.  It doesn’t mean to contrive a mechanism. It is used elsewhere in the Bible to describe a potter making a pot.  It means to make in the sense that an artist makes a work of art.  We often take the word mechanical to mean a purely physical contraption, but this is profoundly mistaken.  Nothing is so immaterial and spiritual and ideological as a machine, for without its contriver’s idea it would just be a heap of bits.  You can’t see the idea in the machine but it is everywhere within it.  Every tiniest screw and spring is invested with its overarching ideological ordering.  Nevertheless, when we look at a car engine we don’t say that’s a Watts or a Michelangelo.  It would be the same engine whether Watts or Michelangelo or anybody else had had the idea of a motor car engine.  It is not so with works of art.  They are invested with not only the idea but the individuality, the style, the personal being of their maker.  You know immediately that this is music not by Mozart but by Wagner. Dawkins wrote a marvellous book called The Extended Phenotype in which he argued that organisms themselves evolve through fabrications outside themselves that they have themselves constructed.  A beaver’s dam is a kind of extension of the beaver’s body.  And so it is with works of art.  They are physical expressions of their creator as the creator’s body, his or her face and way of moving and talking is an expression of the creator’s self.  And so it is with the world.  We should think of it not as a motor car engine made by God but as God’s body, as inseparable from h(i)r as our bodies are inseparable from ourselves and the work of art is inseparable from the artist.  Not as a mechanical contrivance, however exquisite,  but as having a heart and a mind and a soul as a work of art has a heart and a mind and a soul.  For otherwise how could it not be merely exquisitely contrived, but, as works of art are, so beautiful?

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