My new album, and why I wrote it
This past September two big things happened to me. The first is that I got married. The second is that I started my MA in theology. I started studying again because it’s a dream of mine to teach. One of the biggest reasons why I want to teach theology, is that I want to make good tools for reading the Bible available to anyone. Even people who haven’t studied theology.
One of the three classes I had this semester was called Principle and Methods of Theology, taught by Dr Jan Barna at Newbold College. And I can say it is, by far, one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days it made my brain hurt. (But a good kind of hurt.)
In short, the class examines world views, and the discipline of Epistemology. Epistemology is the study of knowledge or knowing – what we know, how we know what we know. It also challenges the ‘black box’ of presuppositions and philosophical baggage we bring to the table every time we talk about truth or trying to discern reality.
It was during this class, as I listened and took notes, that I realised I had to write an album about what I was learning. So amidst writing my papers, and commuting back and forth between home and college, [Known] was born, mostly written on the back of napkins and ticket receipts.
But what was so great about this class that it made me want to write a whole music album about it?
In class we learned that all human beings ask the fundamental questions of:
- Who am I? (What are my origins?)
- Why am I here?
- What is the problem with the world?
- What is the solution/ future – where am I going?
We call these fundamental questions, Universals. And when we try to answer those questions, we use our worldview to do so. Our worldview basically shapes how we see reality.
There are three main world views, which have swayed and shaped human history since the beginning. From Aristotle to Augustine to Austen – all thinkers, all people, have gone to one of these three ‘lenses’ to answer the Universals listed above.
The first is Nature. This worldview looks to the natural, material world for answers, leading to disciplines like science. It assumes that if something exists or is true, it can be sensed or discovered by sensing beings.
The second is Mind. This worldview, birthed by the Greeks, sees the answers as lying in thought and the mind. It split reality into two parts – one the material world, which is a shadow and something which needs to be escaped from, and the other the world of logos – thought/idea/mind. This is where truth lies in this world view.
And the third is Revelation. This worldview supposes that human beings can’t find truth, the Universals, or reality by observing the world around them, or by looking into their own mind. In fact, they can’t do it by themselves at all. The Revelation epistemology claims a Creator God as being the source of all true knowledge and reality. It is he who reveals to us the truth of our origins, the problem in the world, and the future.
Imagine for a moment what a radical idea this is – a Revelation worldview. It flies, in many ways, in the face of Humanism. It goes against the commonly-held faith in human progress, ability and genius. It presents us as completely dependent on someone else than ourselves.
Many Christians believe they have this Revelation worldview, but in reality they often mix this worldview with the other two. A way of mixing them is to, for example, look to Nature to prove there is a God, or to validate the biblical story. Or by mixing it with Mind, and believing that if we just study and meditate enough, we can arrive at the truth, instead of God being the one who opens our eyes to it.
I say again – I think the Revelation worldview is a radical one. But it was also the one held by the biblical writers. John believed it. Paul believed it. It was their worldview.
The Principles and Methods class made me realise just how much ‘mixing’ I had done myself. And I thought that if the Revelation worldview was the worldview of writers of the Bible, then I wanted to understand it better. I wanted to better see the lens through which they saw the world – in fact, the lens of the first Christians.
I am reminded of a quote from one of C. S. Lewis’ fictional novels.
“‘You would not have called to me, unless I had been calling to you,'” said the Lion.” (The Silver Chair).
And perhaps this is a very good way to explaining the Revelation worldview. God is the instigator. He reaches to us before we even know we want to reach for him. He takes the first step, and keeps taking steps to reach us, to reveal to us, to call to us. In fact, human beings finding any truth at all hinges entirely on him.
I wrote [Known] because I wanted to find a way to make some of the big questions asked in class available and accessible to others. I wanted to challenge and prod, and make a call, as much to myself as to anyone else, to ask God to restore a Revelation lens to my thinking. To restore again to us a image of a Cosmos entirely dependent, every second of every day, on his Provision and Sustaining.
And to see through a glass darkly the image of a God who wants to be known.
Natalie Kendel is a Christian theologian who works as a songwriter and musician. To listen to and download her latest album [Known] , visit her site here: