“Sensus Divinitatis” is Latin for “sense of the divine”—a sort of sixth sense human beings may have for a presence beyond both magic and modern management, metrics, and manipulation. Philosophically speaking, its more of a disposition or capacity that separates us from other animals: an evolutionarily unnecessary capacity for directed wonder, awe, and gratitude.
Why that title? First of all, the idea that we are wired with a “sense of the divine” arises from my training, which includes a PhD in religious diversity from a secular university and a Masters of Divinity from a divinity college. The term gives room to explore both my religious studies and theological backgrounds—both religious culture and personal faith.
Secondly, it suggests that humans come with a “sense” of the divine. This does not mean everyone believes in God; rather it suggests a built-in intuition for some non-dependent source or energy—usually some transcendent being. In Romans 1:20 St. Paul talks about humans having a natural inclination about God’s power and “the mystery of his divine being.” I know this may be a contentious claim, but Paul goes on to say this intuition can be dulled and blocked, so I’m not assuming it rings true for everyone. Max Weber, one of my key classical references in my dissertation, called himself “religiously unmusical.” That is suggestive, as I do believe this “sense” can be stoked and cultivated, like an appreciation for music.
Finally, this Latin phrase was coined by John Calvin, whom I claim as part of my religious roots. In his Institutes of Christian Religion he writes: “That there exists in the human mind and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity [sensus divinitatis], we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead…. …this is not a doctrine which is first learned at school, but one as to which every man is, from the womb, his own master; one which nature herself allows no individual to forget.”
That says more than most would find acceptable today. But there is a confessional aspect to this blog which I hope is positively provocative. At the very least, “sensus divinitatis” suggests a questioning, longing, and even angst or quiet desperation that animates the human heart for meaning, purpose, and something large and more. St. Augustine felt it stir deeply within, as he wrote: “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee.”