First of all, peace, light and joy for the Christmas season and many blessings as we stand on the threshold of 2017. 🙂 I have been away from the page for longer than I should have as life has inevitably gotten in the way. I have four new posts to start this New Year ” full of things that have not yet been”. The 4th post contains some exciting news that I am anxious to share and marks what I feel will be the formal beginning of my quest to talk to people of faith about their thoughts on the continual unfolding of the likelihood that we are not alone in the Universe.
Talking with People of Faith
Lord of the Starfields
Ancient of Days,
Here’s a song in your praise.
O love that fires the Sun
Keep me burning.
Lord of the Starfields
Sower of life
Heaven and Earth are
Full of your light
from “Lord of the Starfields” by Bruce Cockburn
The above 2 verses are from the song ” Lord of the Starfields” by Canadian folksinger/songwriter, Bruce Cockburn. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can easily check it out on YouTube. This thoughtful and lovely song might have escaped my attention, had it not been pointed out to me by a member of a small Bible study group that I was invited to speak to at the end of October. This was my first opportunity to have a very informal dialogue with people of faith (and organized religion) who , courtesy of a dear friend of mine, were informed of my interest in this topic and the nature of this Blog. ( thanks, Erica:) This small group of very warm and welcoming Christians make up a Bible study group that meets monthly to discuss various aspects of scripture and the Bible, a book which I disclosed right up front that I do not know well. Catholics, from my perspective, do not place as great an emphasis on the Bible as do other Christian religions–which I suppose is a whole other discussion that we won’t get into here. In any event, I was greeted warmly and I found myself in a room with 9 open hearts and minds.
Within a few minutes of our discussion, prefaced by my rather bumbling explanation of the topic and a brief rendering of how a passing interest grew into an overriding passion ( I will get better at this with experience- I promise 🙂 ) , it became apparent to me that these were people of deep faith. Profound faith. More faith than me—that’s for sure. I confess to being a bit rattled by the sight of Bible’s perched on people’s laps–something that you could see and feel was an integral part of their lives. I do own a Bible–I just couldn’t say where it is at the moment, which speaks for itself. But the discussion ensued with honesty and if the group found my interest in life elsewhere in the Universe rather strange, as many do, they didn’t show it. They were respectful and appropriately curious.
One sentiment that came across clearly, and is one that I have expressed myself, is the strong belief that God created everything. And by definition, “everything ” is very broad term. I could see that although the group had apparently not previously entertained the possibility of life beyond our planet, they didn’t have a problem with it . It was or is–seemingly, part of God’s presumably larger plan. This was particularly interesting to me as when I hold that same view, which I do, I invariably end up fretting that it’s too simple and I’m just conveniently making everything “fit ” my personal beliefs and world view—a point I’ve expressed a few times on this blog. But with this group, it seemed so natural and authentic.
So—perhaps it does have something to do with the Bible. Which, as I have already said, I know very little about—OK–maybe next to nothing. I have always assumed that because the Bible was written by mortal human beings a couple of thousand years, it was not only open to the interpretation and bias of the person who wrote it but would not contain any reference to future scientific discoveries that the people of the day couldn’t even have even conceived of. One of the gentlemen in the group, himself a established and well respected geologist ( and hence a man of science—apparently science and faith are not always opposing camps! 🙂 told me that there are two different kinds of revelation of God’s word: Special Revelation: God’s truths which are revealed through the miracles of Scriptures and other supernatural means. General Revelation : God’s truths that are revealed through science and the observation of nature. This was something completely new to me and I confess that my first thought, and I did comment on it, was that the terms “special and general” immediately reminded me of Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity. By purpose or coincidence?
I have done some cursory research on these terms and found that there are at least a couple of Biblical references to General Revelation, specifically Romans 1:20 , which says ” For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities- His eternal power and Divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..” I am assuming that “what has been made” refers to all of nature and the observation of same is moving into the realm of science. And if I had ever actually read the Bible I own ( which I just remembered is on the back shelf of my basement library ) I suppose I might have known that. I’m not sure if that is exactly how I would have interpreted it, but, like all things I learn in this dialogue, it is definitely worth considering and reflecting upon.
Another thought provoking recommendation that came from the group was the book “ The Fourth Day” by Howard J. Van Till.
When I was in my in my teens–a popular turn of phrase in response to someone turning on the lights in a previously dark room–was “And God said, let there be light.” I still say that periodically. I always knew it was Biblical, probably Genesis (I’m not a complete idiot, after all.:) but I didn’t know the exact passage. The full passage is contained on the inside cover of Van Till’s book and is actually Genesis 1:14 ” Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide the day from night..days and years ….” concluding with ” God set them in the vault of heaven to shine on the earth to govern the day and night and to divide light from darkness. God saw that it was good. Evening and morning came: the fourth day.”
Hence, the title of the book. I won’t even try to get into all that is covered in this book and it is definitely one man’s journey with his strong faith and his commitment to science ( he is a physicist and astronomer so he knows of what he speaks ). I am still going through it myself ( a lovely woman from the group was kind enough to lend me her copy- thanks Jennifer! ) but let me share with you something that I found especially intriguing. On page 204 of the book, Van Till tells us that scientific and biblical views are different but do not necessarily contradict each other. For example, if he held up a square green piece of paper and asked 2 people to describe it one word, one might respond “square” and another might respond “green” and both would be right! I found it to be an interesting metaphor that evokes a visual image that nicely summarizes the conundrum of the faith and science dialogue.
If you want to check this book out further–and warning—it is not a beach read!—this link will let you sample a few of the chapters:
Well—I learned a lot from talking to “people of more faith than me” which all adds up to –a lot more to think about! lol 🙂 One of the more defining moments for me came when a member of the group asked me what should be a simple and direct question –and an obvious one to anyone who is reading this blog or listening to me—-“why does this matter so much to you? ” . My answer remains rather vague, or seemingly vague if you are anyone other than me: I don’t really know that –I just know that it does and that someday it will matter to others as well. It’s a matter of faith:)
M.A.N. January 2017