Sacred Space

Sacred Space May 18, 2019


Oxford scenes
The Bodleian Library and the Sheldonian Theatre of the University of Oxford
(Wikimedia Commons)


I am, without apology, an Anglophile.  For me though, perhaps somewhat unusually, the sancta sanctorum of England is to be located in places like Oxford and Cambridge — and one of my keenest regrets is that, while I’ve participated in a conference at Cambridge and spoken at one of the Oxford colleges, I never spent time as a student at either one of them.  I should have made that happen, but I didn’t.  Too bad.


In any event, though, I’m always happy to visit the two great medieval university towns.  (Of the two, candidly, I probably prefer Cambridge.)  Once, my wife and I had the opportunity to spend a full week or so exploring Cambridge on foot, detailed guidebook in hand, visiting most if not all of the colleges and the old churches.  It was an intensive and thoroughly enjoyable self-taught mini-course in English medieval history.


These are towns, too, that are associated in my mind with two of my very favorite authors, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.  More than once, I’ve made my pilgrimage to eat in The Eagle and Child, the Oxford pub favored by Lewis and Tolkien and Owen Barfield and Charles Williams and Dorothy Sayers — the famous “Inklings” — which they called “The Bird and the Boy” and in which they shared their works-in-progress with each other.


This evening, we spent a short while walking and driving in the heart of Oxford, after parking in front of Wadham College, near the Sheldonian Theatre and the Bodleian Library.  The sky was beautiful, partly clouded and water color blue, and the weather pleasant.  It’s a magical place.


Oxford today, of course, is no longer what it originally was, a school where theology is the queen of the sciences.  Nonetheless, there are a number of influential Christian thinkers here, such as Keith Ward, Alister McGrath, John Lennox, and Richard Swinburne.  And I was happy to park behind a car with a fish symbol in its rear window, reading “Jesus.”


Here’s a quotation from one of those currently influential Oxfordian Christians:


The world of strict naturalism in which clever mathematical laws all by themselves bring the universe and life into existence, is pure [science] fiction.  Theories and laws do not bring matter/energy into existence.  The view that they nevertheless somehow have the capacity seems a rather desperate refuge . . . from the alternative possibility. . . .  Trying to avoid the clear evidence for the existence of a divine intelligence behind nature, atheist scientists are forced to ascribe creative powers to less and less credible candidates like mass/energy and the laws of nature.  (John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford)


Posted from Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England

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