March 19, 2010

You Knew....

...I'd have to read The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfeld. That's pretty much in the no-brainer category. And so far I'm enjoying it very much even though the author writes with a pro-Protestant spin (example: "The robust Reformation theology, which taught enjoying God's creation and doing all that is not sinful to the glory of God, filtered into the centuries following the reformer's work..." (Has he heard of Aquinas?) Of Luther he writes how his goal "was to reform the Roman Catholic Church, not break from it. Yet when the church authorities stood firm and tried to destroy the fledgling Protestant movement, they only succeeded in fanning the flames of the revolt.")

With that caveat, the first couple chapters are a rich history of beer with as fine an explanation of the beginnings of beer as I've ever seen. He quotes this fine little monk ditty from the Middle Ages:
To drink like a Capuchin is to drink poorly;
To drink like a Benedictine is to drink deeply;
To drink like a Dominican is pot after pot;
But to drink like a Franciscan is to drink the cellar dry.
One of the attractive things about the Medieval era was that there wasn't this huge Gnostic/late-Protestant influence that suggests the natural and supernatural are opposed to each other. God takes delight in our delight, even if that delight seems to be of a purely natural source. God is in the natural too.

If the weather is nice and people are in an effusively good mood, I don't think: "their bonhomie is merely the artificial result of the weather." God made the sun, made good weather and He can work through our science.

That last can be a sticking point. As a child I was imbued with the cult of the natural, but what if the natural is unnatural? And what if the line between the two is fuzzy? Is it natural to drink beer? Beer at one time in our past wasn't natural, say before 3000 BC. It was discovered and enjoyed thereafter. Does something unnatural become natural given enough time?

It's easy to see the supernatural as only those things obviously from the hand of God rather than something that we had a hand in developing, even if that is a nonsensical statement since God made matter and made us.

One brewer told the author that he did not think of himself as as brewing beer, but "rather as creating the conditions in which brewing takes place. He told me he felt closer to God brewing beer than he did in church, because when he is brewing he feels like he is participating in the secret ways of the Creator."

That brewer is close to God because he recognizes that God is even in what looks to the casual observer as a purely mechanical, natural process.

Often I look back and think that my finding out about exercise via Cooper's seminal book Aerobics and by James Fixx's The Complete Book of Running were flukes, were lucky breaks that gave me support through the difficult teen years. But what if those were from God? What if God gave me those books and expected me to make use of them?


William Luse said...

At least Luther couldn't cure the monks of their love of beer.

TS said...

Good point Bill - I didn't need to mention Aquinas given the example of the monks!