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Buku Great State by Timothy Brook

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Great State by Timothy Brook

Author:Timothy Brook

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: Profile

Published: 2019-09-03T16:00:00+00:00

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Great State by Timothy Brook

A Bolt of Lightning

The Jesuits did not pit theological and scientific truths against each other. For them, European technical knowledge of the natural world was Christian knowledge, and therefore suitable as a bridge to lead from the secular to the religious. By sharing their knowledge of the physical universe, they hoped to lead their more educated interlocutors to knowledge of the divine mind that had conceived this universe. Interested Chinese did not, however, necessarily form the same connection. Some did, Paolo Xu notably among them. For many, though, the new knowledge – geometry, for example – did not appear to require a theological element. For the Jesuits, God could not be taken out of equations, even if for others he could. Still, the Jesuits’ approach to communicating modern scientific knowledge was always with this second purpose in view: to show the properties of the world to be expressions of the intentionality of God’s creation and from there lead to a belief in this God.

Take lightning, for example. When Ricci wrote this sentence in Chinese – ‘Hearing the reverberation of a thunderclap, people see lightning strike a dead tree’ – he could do so without much fear of being misunderstood. The description tallied with everyone’s experience. Cultures might disagree about whether lightning produced thunder or vice versa, but they could happily agree on the notion that lightning could strike the earth and destroy what it hit. Beyond that simple fact, though, misunderstanding could arise, as it did when Ricci went on to observe that lightning ‘did not necessarily strike villains’. With that comment, lightning was no longer a simple physical fact. It became an intentional act by which Heaven punished evil people. Suddenly the conversation turned from physics to metaphysics, overlaid with ethics. Most cultures before the discovery of electromagnetism linked the destructive force of lightning to the idea that the gods used lightning to punish the wicked, so perhaps it was not so awkward for Italians and Chinese to have this conversation. Once he got down to the theoretical models available to him, however, Ricci had considerable work to do to get these models to make sense. For what was the earth, and what was Heaven, and what was the deity dispensing lightning as a punishment for wickedness, and what relationship might that deity have with the gods with which Chinese were familiar?

 

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Great State by Timothy Brook

Author:Timothy Brook , Date: September 23, 2019

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Author:Timothy Brook

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: Profile

Published: 2019-09-03T16:00:00+00:00
A Bolt of Lightning

The Jesuits did not pit theological and scientific truths against each other. For them, European technical knowledge of the natural world was Christian knowledge, and therefore suitable as a bridge to lead from the secular to the religious. By sharing their knowledge of the physical universe, they hoped to lead their more educated interlocutors to knowledge of the divine mind that had conceived this universe. Interested Chinese did not, however, necessarily form the same connection. Some did, Paolo Xu notably among them. For many, though, the new knowledge – geometry, for example – did not appear to require a theological element. For the Jesuits, God could not be taken out of equations, even if for others he could. Still, the Jesuits’ approach to communicating modern scientific knowledge was always with this second purpose in view: to show the properties of the world to be expressions of the intentionality of God’s creation and from there lead to a belief in this God.

Take lightning, for example. When Ricci wrote this sentence in Chinese – ‘Hearing the reverberation of a thunderclap, people see lightning strike a dead tree’ – he could do so without much fear of being misunderstood. The description tallied with everyone’s experience. Cultures might disagree about whether lightning produced thunder or vice versa, but they could happily agree on the notion that lightning could strike the earth and destroy what it hit. Beyond that simple fact, though, misunderstanding could arise, as it did when Ricci went on to observe that lightning ‘did not necessarily strike villains’. With that comment, lightning was no longer a simple physical fact. It became an intentional act by which Heaven punished evil people. Suddenly the conversation turned from physics to metaphysics, overlaid with ethics. Most cultures before the discovery of electromagnetism linked the destructive force of lightning to the idea that the gods used lightning to punish the wicked, so perhaps it was not so awkward for Italians and Chinese to have this conversation. Once he got down to the theoretical models available to him, however, Ricci had considerable work to do to get these models to make sense. For what was the earth, and what was Heaven, and what was the deity dispensing lightning as a punishment for wickedness, and what relationship might that deity have with the gods with which Chinese were familiar?

Most who venture into a new culture avoid such complicated issues. Ricci recognised the value of being tactful rather than confrontational in his teachings, but a mission was a mission. He was in China to explain to Chinese why their metaphysics was mistaken, why their theology was wrong and how a Christian understanding of the cosmos yielded a more correct view. A missionary seeking entry into another culture needs to identify gaps in understanding that can create opportunities for teaching. Ricci was alert to such gaps, using differences to bring his message through the cultural barrier between his Europe and Paolo Xu’s China.

How, for example, did Heaven and

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