Celia DEANE-DRUMMOND, Wonder and Wisdom: Conversations in Science, Spirituality, and Theology. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2006, pp. 160 pp., $19.95. ISBN13: 978-1-59947-091-7.
Reviewed by Nathan KOLLAR, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY 14618

“Wonder” and “Wisdom” are terms that refer to “what”? “What” they refer to is important, why? Before you wonder about the “what” and “why” of Wonder and Wisdom you should realize that your present meaning of these terms will be exposed to multiple historical, biblical, philosophical, scientific and theological meanings within various contexts. Out of this multiplicity the author argues for what she considers their root meanings and the consequences they have for our spiritual life.

Deane-Drummond opens many windows to help us view the nature of wonder and wisdom: the natural world, life in general, human life, God, the crucified Jesus, and the trinity. She does this in eight chapters of about twenty pages each composed of historical expositions of such disciplinary “windows” as bible, physics, biology, philosophy, and theology.

Wonder has been linked with curiosity and with childlike naiveté. Augustine saw wonder as evil since it was similar to lust and greed. It destroyed the necessary order we expect of life and its creator God. Scientists did not like its childishness because it did not respect the discipline and rationality of the scientific method. And everyone knows that curiosity killed the cat! So be careful of what you wonder about.

Upon reflection, however, we see that wonder always stimulates us to go beyond the self, challenges the presupposed order of life offered by reason, culture, religion, and personal expectation. After the first moments of enticement, wonder makes us uncomfortable even while it entices us to “figuring it out.” When we allow our selves to wonder we allow ourselves to acknowledge our present foundation for life and thought is not as certain as we expected. Our wondering shows that we need to know more, experience more, be open to the unknown as we become aware of our very self in its multitude of relationships. This is very dangerous – to suggest that the fundamentals of life are not so fundamental.

But if these “fundamentals” may not be enough to base our life upon, is the only choice chaos? The habit of wisdom answers “no.” Wonder may lead us to recognize wisdom. Wonder leads us to see not chaos but pluralism; to realize that our single perspective is never enough because wonder suggests other ways of experiencing and understanding reality. Wonder leads us on a path of infinite learning. Wisdom affirms that there is a path that is purposeful and ordered; that you, the path, the purpose, and the order are related. Wisdom is not mastery. Nor is it a world or person programmed to work in a certain way. To be filled with wisdom is to be filled with an expectation and knowledge of the patterns of our relationships. Thomas Aquinas adds that “prudence” is wisdom in action because it is the skill in the art of deliberating, judging and acting in relationship to the real (these patterns, or relationships, of life). If “character” is anything it certainly is these habits of wisdom and prudence.

Deane-Drummond is a British Christian theologian. She is not fundamentalist in as much as she adheres to contemporary methods of understanding the bible and recognizes the importance of Christian history and those who shaped it for understanding revelation. She argues against the current Christian fundamentalist interpretation of design theory while advocating a purposeful universe. Carefully picking her way through the maze of theological theories describing a purposeful universe, she settles on arguing for the presence of God in all that happens – a presence that is more than that of process theology’s developing God and less than Christian fundamentalism’s intervening God of miracles. God is wisdom. We participate in God’s wisdom. The pattern of God’s wisdom is found not only in the pattern of relationships that we are enmeshed in but also in the crucifixion of Jesus and the enlivening energy of the Holy Spirit. It is this pattern that we are plunged into at Baptism and celebrate in Eucharist. It is this pattern that provides us with the spirit of life by joining us with the Holy Spirit of Wisdom.

This is a small book containing much wisdom. Yet I wonder whether the many questions asked, and sometimes answered, in the text will find resonance in the general population interested in spirituality. Certainly scientists who have some inkling of the role of wonder in their life may read this with interest. Theologians? She takes themes many have thought and written about over the years and offers a different perspective on their relationship. This offering may be beneficial to a theologian interested in how these two emotions/habits/virtues/realities relate to each other and life.


Amazon.com - Continuum - Crossroad - Eerdmans Publishing - Liturgical Press - Orbis Books