I HEAR YOU STEPHEN HAWKING, AND…

How serendipitous! The BBC news agency published an article on Sept. 2nd relating that Prof. Stephen Hawking, in his latest book The Grand Design, has concluded that God was not necessary to create the universe. Among Hawking’s statements: “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch-paper and set the universe going”…”The Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics”…and finally, and for me, most importantly, “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

In my August 31st post entitled “Awe…some”, I was offering a different way to think about God, using new language to include God in the discussion with a wide swath of people with variant viewpoints.  It was not the anthropomorphic construct of a Father or Lord with flowing, shimmering robes and a long white beard.  Rather it was “God as the ultimate mystery of things, as the serendipitous creativity manifest throughout the universe…through which new forms and configurations of reality and life have come into being.” (Thank you Gordon Kaufman).

Spontaneous creation says Hawking, Serendipitous creativity says Kaufman.  Scientist, Theologian.  To my way of thinking, the more that one wants to separate these two fields of inquiry, the closer they appear to fuse.  Science and Religion are compatible. They need not be at odds with one another. Whether we are referring to either science or religion, we must be willing to expand our vocabulary, to open our minds to ways of seeing the world, the universe, in ways that to previous generations seemed unimaginable.  This takes both a willing faith to jump into the unknown as well as all of our faculties of reason to make sense of our new discoveries.

The prevalent worldview is that there is only “this”-the space-time world of matter and energy and whatever  other natural forces lie behind or beyond it.  This modern, nonreligious construct has no foundational place for tradition notions of God.  It thus makes the reality of God problematic.  For some, it leads to rejecting the reality of God, or at least to serious doubts about God, and thus to atheism or agnosticism.

And for those who continue to believe in God, it changes how God is thought of.  Many Christians basically accept the modern worldview’s image of reality and then add God onto it.  God is the one who created the space-time world of matter and energy as a self-contained system, set it in motion, and perhaps sometimes intervenes in it.  God becomes a supernatural being “out there” who created a universe from which God is normally absent.  This is a serious distortion of the meaning of the word “God”.

For me, God always points to something greater,  a “More” and an “And” . Why can’t God be Creator, Spontaneous Creation, and Serendipitous Creativity? We can live out of our imaginations. The vision of reality emerging in postmodern physics does not settle our understandings once and for all.  Religion and postmodern science alike both point to a stupendous “More.”  

 People throughout history and across cultures have had experiences that seem overwhelmingly to be experiences of the sacred.  There are also the quieter forms of religious experiences that happen in the dailiness of our lives.  We witness natural disasters and unmitigated tragedies, and we then we see nature growing and returning to burned forest or flood damaged lands. We hear stories of hope and compassion, beacons of light that rise up when the odds would bet otherwise.   While these experiences can’t be quantified, they can be qualified.  Existence refuses to quit creating.  This experiential base of religion is quite strong; it is ultimately what I find to be its most persuasive ground.

In closing, some words from Marcus Borg: “Finally, no story can be told about the truth of God. It can’t be argued or televised.  And witnesses can’t prove it exists.  Yet the truth of God brings peace instantly.  There is only one unchanging truth about anyone and everyone.  None are left outside of the warm assurance and gentle rest it offers, because God’s truth is Love.”

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AWE…SOME

If you like the idea of adventure, if you don’t want to spend your days floating in a tiny boat called “My Knowledge,” and are willing to risk jumping into the vast ocean containing “Infinite Mystery”…then I’ve got a mooring for you.  Here is where God resides, with an anchor weighty enough for firm grounding and yet light enough to change course gracefully.

Today, I wanted to look at an understanding of God as “the ultimate mystery of things, as the serendipitous creativity manifest throughout the universe…through which new forms and configurations of reality and life have come into being.” (Gordon Kaufman, God, Mystery, Diversity.)

Now, before your eyes glaze over and you exit the post, stay with me a minute.  While this idea is different from our  traditional views of God as Lord or Father, we are not talking about mystery here as some far out, non-rational construct.  Harvard theologian Kaufman treads carefully upon the word mystery, stating the word “in its theological employment should be taken as a kind of warning that our ordinary ways of speaking and thinking are beginning to fail us and that special rules in our use of language should be followed.” 

When we start our conversations about God, with an air of mystery, instead of an attitude of already knowing, God can emerge in dialogues with those from many cultures, dogmas, and religions, without fear of judgment. In lieu of God being perceived on the model of property (in other words, something that an authority figure has, that is passed down as a possession to another party, who receives and accepts it), God is liberated from our absolute and exclusionary conceptions that most of us have inherited. 

 Beliefs like: “I ‘get’ God and you don’t”, “God is on my side and not yours”, “God is saving me and not you”, “God is all loving but he doesn’t love certain groups of people”,  etc.etc.) have no sea legs in mystery.  They need walls and divisions to prop them up.  

Without an agenda, God becomes the Vehicle that brings us to newly created ideas and truths that emerge in free conversation with one another.  Conversation and not conversion becomes the paradigm for engagement with one another and a commitment to allowing the process to unfold, trusting that God will be continuously and serendipitously creating; and it is good.   

The beauty of this concept is that God is presented as something that everyone has access to.  The final outcome of any open dialogue is part of the “serendipitous creativity”, and this cannot be encapsulated by one stream of thought, as all participants contain but a fragment of the ‘truth’.  They are fully engaged in working on expanding their consciousness together; with faith that what will emerge (which has no explicit directive) will be something greater, something more.

 This fellowship of commitment to creative communication “about things seen and unseen” must be sharply distinguished from simply a fellowship of a common perspective.  It is certainly more uncertain than a hierarchical approach to truth.  But it allows God and humankind, in Mystery, the constant joy of creative expansion.  This dialectical model “encourages criticism from new voices, and insights  from points of view previously not taken seriously.” (Henry Wieman, The Source of Human Good)