Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Creative designs…

We live in a weird world; a crazy and wild, weird world. It is beautiful, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, and weird.

A book I finished last week drove this point home to me. It’s called Parallel Worlds, written by renowned physicist Michio Kaku, and is basically “Advanced Physics for Dummies,” for those without years studying high-level math. I took college-level intro physics, so some of this book’s ideas were familiar. But he wanted his readers to move well beyond the basic stuff I once struggled to comprehend. He wrote of notions we typically encounter only in science fiction novels, like the principles behind worm-holes and black holes, the unfathomably tiny strings that (probably) makeup sub-atomic particles, the possibilities of time travel or moving between parallel universes. Like I said, our world is weird! Perhaps I should say- All of reality is crazy!

The fancy term for this kind of thinking is cosmology. Derived from Greek, that means “thinking about the cosmos”, or pondering all that is. And it’s a project the Greeks kicked off in ancient times, as philosophers before even before Plato looked to the stars and…wondered. What creates those flickering lights? Are there patterns or laws they follow? And what about us? Where do we fit in this grand adventure? This cosmic accident? This design? Not everyone ponders so all the time, but we’ve all had some such thought before. I hope.

Indeed, it’s partly why I have a job! We do church, in part, to connect with the cosmos’ Creator. Thus, religion and cosmology have long been close partners; religion being the senior partner for much of history. But not so much anymore, right? Modern physicists who think about these questions are much more likely to quote from Einstein than St. Paul. Abstract math describes the stars’ motions more accurately than poetic statements from the Psalms. Experiments for discovering the secrets of space are better done through massive particle colliders than meditative prayer. Those methods and mathematical models, in fact, have grown so powerful for describing reality, we religious folk can sometimes feel, now, like time is passing us by.

But we shouldn’t, I think, and not because I’m a Christian who thinks the Bible’s more accurate than modern science. The Big Bang sounds more likely a theory to me than either of Genesis’s creation stories. Rather, it’s the very weirdness physicists are discovering, hidden within the fundamental “stuff” that comprises us, that encourages me to keep my mind open to more than only what I can see. Because deep within our minds, our cells, our atoms, strange things happen. Barely perceivable events happen constantly that seemingly contradict laws we’d think common sense. I won’t pretend to understand that stuff, like quantum theory or indeterminacy, but suffice to say that the days are long over of smart folk thinking reality was simple to grasp.

Besides, the heart of religion isn’t so much about finding exact formulas to predict the behavior of people and weather. Sure, for a while people thought that correct prayers would impact that stuff, but I suspect we’ve mostly evolved as a religious species. Religion’s contribution to describing the cosmos, instead, is less about mechanics and more about character. We stare into the stars, seeking the personality behind whatever designer may’ve pushed them into their orbits.

And 1 John puts our most basic “findings” into as precise a formula as any. “God is Love,” he wrote. The two words, we believe, are synonyms. Such that, in this backwater corner of an insignificant galaxy within a vast universe, among many others, our species looks above and understands basic laws, then shares awe at their beauty with others. That something so lovely and improbable could occur among so massive a reality is crazy and wonderful to me. Yet, it reminds me of that babe born in out-of-the-way Bethlehem, poor and insignificant, yet precious to all. But such is the character of this world’s Creator. God is Love, unto eternity. And if the stars themselves follow that law, I guess we should too. Thankfully, for that, for you Christ was born.

Grace and Peace,

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