Dear Grace Church Family,
How big is your God? Big enough to be Creator of the Universe? A multi-universe? It may seem like an unnecessary thing to ask, but it’s not. For too many, God is too small. So how big is yours?
Psalm 89: Toward a Christian Cosmology. Recently, on Trinity Sunday, I preached on the grandeur of God, as our Creator, given what we now know of the wonder of Creation; especially the Cosmos. The point was to show just how amazing it is that such a Creator would even be aware, much less mindful, of a creature as insignificant as us. That was, of course, part of the point that the writer of Psalm 8, the Psalm I was preaching from, was making. But this Biblical Cosmology is expressed throughout the Psalms, such as in these verses from today’s Psalm:
“Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? (vss 5,6)
The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it—you have founded them. “ (vs 11)
Even given this ancient, limited cosmology, the thought is awe-inspiring. Today, thanks to the brilliant works of Galileo, Copernicus, Hubble, and Hawking, just to name a very few, we find that thought staggering. Scientifically-informed cosmology has expanded our understanding of the Creation, and our sense of wonder for the God who is its Creator.
Yet, there are churches that still reject the truth of all this. Though very few of us would even consider such a rejection as intelligent, much less true, their primitive world view still persists. As a result, many outside the Church think that theirs is The Christian view, opening Jesus and us as his followers to the World’s ridicule and scorn.
So, it’s long past time to address this head-on with what Author, Priest and Monk, Richard Rohr calls a Christian Cosmology. Today, and for the next two Thursday’s, I will be excerpting some of Rohr’s writing on this subject. I think that you will find it a feast for thought.
“The word cosmology has been used more frequently in recent years, even in religious circles. If cosmology is the study of the origin, processes, and shape of the universe, then it also involves the study of God, the universe’s Creator. I find it utterly enticing, but I also know how threatening it has been to Christian thought as a whole.
Up until Copernicus and Galileo, western cosmology was very linear and largely informed by faith, with little attention to science. With a kind of extended egocentricity, Christians thought the earth was the center of the universe. God dwelled on his throne (and God was considered male), Jesus somehow dwelled beneath God, with heaven, the earth, and hell set below in their fixed places. But since the Copernican revolution, scientists have discovered ever more galaxies, and demonstrated that we humans are not the center of anything. We are just a small part of a much bigger ecosystem and universe. It is a very humbling lesson that we are still adjusting to five hundred years later! From that revolutionary moment, religion and science largely stopped talking to one another and started going in two different directions.
At a minimum, we need a God as big as the still-expanding universe. Otherwise, many earnest people will continue to think of God as a mere add-on to a world that is already awesome. However, I believe our traditional faith has a key to open the door to a new cosmology. That key is the proper understanding of the word Christ.
Christ, as I like to say, is more than Jesus’ last name. Christ is God, and Jesus is the Christ’s historical manifestation in time. Jesus is a Third Someone, not just God and not just human, but God and human together.
If we cannot put these two seeming opposites of the divine and human together in Jesus Christ, we usually cannot put these two together in ourselves, or in the rest of the physical universe. A merely personal God becomes clannish and sentimental, and a merely universal God never leaves the realm of abstract theory and philosophical principles. But when we learn to put them together, Jesus and Christ give us a God who is both personal and universal. Jesus is a map for the time-bound and personal level of life, and Christ is the blueprint for all time and space and life itself.
When cosmology became largely a secular science, a large number of Christians felt free to reject evolution and history. Today, however, we are living in a wonderful time of convergence. We have a chance to bring them together again. As author Beatrice Bruteau (1930–2014) wrote: “We need a new theology of the cosmos, one that is grounded in the best science of our day . . . so that all the world turns sacred again . . .”
May Rohr’s meditations offer you a vision of a cosmology that is scientifically accurate and still entirely suffused with the presence of God.