Thursday, January 19, 2017

In The Beginning . . .

In the beginning . . . 

Genesis starts as all great stories do. It's almost like a fairy tale start of "Once upon a time . . ."

In the beginning, God created . . . 

Why does science and faith part ways at this point?  For me science and spirit are not only connected but enhance and expand each other. 

As a child I loved watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos series and, today, I love watching scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku explain physics and the universe. I love programs like Nova or listening to Science Friday on NPR. Does science challenge me? Yes! But, like scripture, it should. Neither faith nor science should be solidified to the point that I become like an insect trapped in amber.

It is thrilling to me that everything began in what they call the "initial singularity" which was everything compacted to the size of a sugar cube. Imagine that? Everything in every universes and galaxy contained in something as small, if not smaller than a sugar cube. Now most scientists cannot go further back than that. They leave it at mystery with a lower case "m." For me, this all points to Mystery with a capital "M." It's not mystery but Divine Mystery. 

Whenever I learn something new or hear that there are not only multiple galaxies but that there may be multi-verses it does not make me doubt the existence of God, but, instead, makes me realize how much greater and infinite that God really is. God cannot be contained in my small box of thinking. Nor do I shrink back from the Big Bang theory because, I would imagine, that when God speaks everything into existence, that is the power of words like we have never experienced. And from that point of singularity, from that point of beginning, all mass and space-time inflated and expanded out.

It means that everything in existence is created from the same basic elements. We are, as my Papa Fred once told me, "Made up of the stuff of stars."  

Now I know that there will be those who will stop reading this blog merely by my even suggesting that the Genesis account of creation is not literal. There are those who will look at me differently, distrustfully, by my being unconcerned that the creation of everything is not exactly how it's laid out in the Bible. Genesis is poetic, it uses imagery and metaphor to unfold the creation story. Just because it isn't fact, does not mean that it isn't truth. I do believe that God created all things, but I do not and will never understand how He did it. With God, I may ask, but I cannot assert. Job learned this. Instead, I can only bow in worship at a Creator who can ask humanity, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me if you understand." I don't. God's answer to Job and to all of us, really, is one of perspective. God doesn't owe me answers, but I do, however, owe Him awe.

Two of my favorite theologians understood this.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and a geologist. He was someone who understood both scientific and theological thought and did not think them separated or at opposing ends. As he wrote, "By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers."  Teilhard believed the reality of Romans 11:36, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever."

The second, Madleine L'Engle, wrote, "When I look at galaxies on a clear night - when I look at the incredible brilliance of creation, and think this is what God is like, then instead of feeling intimidated and diminished by it, I am enlarged . . . I rejoice that I am part of it." For L'Engle, she understood that one's faith could be expanded not only by theologians like George MacDonald but also by scientists like Albert Einstein. She did not try to disconnect or discount that the spiritual and the scientific are one because they all flow from one source: God.

In glimpses of nature, of creation, one gets glimpses of Truth.

When I heard that theory about "initial singularity," that it all began with everything compressed to the size of a sugar cube, my first reaction was one of reverence and wonder. How miraculous!

I don't attempt to debunk science simply because new discoveries don't fit into some preconceived notion of how God created or how God works. As Saint Augustine told one of his students, "We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God." Science does not make me dismiss or doubt in a Creator; it simply overwhelms me with the realization of how truly infinite He really is.

Finite man only sees the world as though standing at the bottom of a well. Our perspective is limited and we cannot truly grasp the greatness and vastness of creation or its Creator. From my well, I cannot see eternity.

"The most telling and profound way of describing the evolution of the universe," Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, "would undoubtedly be to trace the evolution of love."

From love all things were created. By love all things were created.

Both science and faith give us a larger vision. Both open our minds, our imaginations, our souls.

The more I delve into science, the more I'm convinced of a Creator behind all of this great expanse of space and time. It is amazing to discover all the laws, principles, symmetry and structure behind creation. Faith and science allow me to appreciate the extraordinary beauty that God reveals of Himself through the reality of things; God is not an abstraction. God is a reality by which all reality exists.

Creation is an act of love. It's the miraculous gift of the extraordinary hidden in the ordinary. How many of us see but overlook the opportunity to glimpse small glories that are placed before us? Taste and see that the Lord is good. He gave us our very senses to know Him in the very world around us. In the very food we eat. All is touched by the Divine Mystery. That very thought fills me with such reverence.

The growing of grass. The chaning of seasons. The sound and flow of a mountain stream. The reflection of light on a still pond. Children laughing and running in play. The very atoms that make up everything are gifts of divine grace. It is love that created them and love that holds them all together.

In his masterwork The Confessions, Saint Augustine asked, "What exists, for any reason except that you exist?" His words reiterating Romans 11:36.

Love. Behind all things and in all things. Love that casts out all fears. When we begin to grasp and slowly understand this principle, we learn to fear less. Perfect love casts out all fear. We no longer fear new theories and ideas, but we let go of our rigid, pharisaic dogmas which imprisons.

"Creative scientists and saints, "L'Engle wrote, "expect revelation and do not fear it. Neither do children. But as we grow up and we are hurt, we learned not to trust."

I trust in a God that is bigger than my ideas and concepts. I believe in the Logos. I believe in the Truth. Truth is eternal. Facts and knowledge change as we learn more and more about our world and our universe. We cannot mistake the two for each other. Donald Miller said, "I can no more understand the totality of God than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me."

Both science and scripture remind me: God is not remote. God is not distant. God is ever present.

"Science never threatens God," L'Engle reminds us, "it opens up more possibilities."

That my friend is faith. That is the realization that God is so much greater than ourselves. God is unknowable and that believing requires the same leap it takes to hypothesize new theories and to undertake bold discoveries in the finite to catch a glimpse of the infinite out of the corner of our eye. It is allowing for the question.

The more answers I am given, the more questions I have and that is faith. That is allowing myself to be subject to a Creator who is grander and larger and more spectacular than my mere idol will ever be. It is to walk in wonder and awe and reverence for a Divine Mystery who creates all of this and reminds us, "I did it because I love you."

1 comment:

  1. When I read the part about the stars I was reminded of Chesterton in "Orthodoxy," how when he became a Christian everything suddenly fell into place, all his boyhood questions made sense -- especially why, when he looked up at the stars, they seemed cosy and comforting, not distant and impersonal. A lot of that book is too dense for me to grasp easily, but that part made a huge impression on me.