Faith, Facts and Frustration

The “good book” tells us in the first chapter, verse 3, that light and darkness had already been established, and God had found the division to be good, and it was these which he called Day and Night.  Dry land did not appear by command until the second “day” (verse 9).  Consequently, the Earth came to be created before the luminaries of the Sun and the Moon, which occurred on day three (verse 16).  The assumption seemed to be that these later additions were something like polished balls put in place for Earth’s benefit.  But that had not been the general understanding which was taught in earlier cultures such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, etc.  But then those ancient Pagan civilizations had not been divinely blessed with revealed wisdom such as spewed out of 8th century BCE Jerusalem. 

Even when God’s son was sent into the Roman Empire a few centuries later, Jesus found no need to explain cosmic principles as means of teaching how his father ran things throughout Creation.  Not even Jesus’ disciples were clued-in, which might have advanced man’s potential considerably.  Of course it may be that mankind was supposed to discover these creative principles on his own by following a few veiled hints.  That, however, required concentration on things other than material gratification.  In addition, the unconventional interpretation of Judaic traditions advocated by Jesus set a course of  understanding that would schism into a hierarchical faith system in which the “saved ones” were groomed to dominate the world.  Any scientific principles were consequently smothered under a blanket of politically structured spiritualism.

Under the faith system that developed as the Roman Empire began to decline, the high political office of that faith system which developed was woefully short of any scientific curiosity.  There would, of course, be those who would step forth to shore up the reputation of the political head of the faith system so people would not  start to question the reverent one too closely.  There was, for example, good old political minded “saint” Augustine (353-430) who was of blessed certainty that scientific mistakes in the pope’s  pronouncements did not invalidate religious authority unless there had been divine support for the errors the pope made.  Such a stance made it halfheartedly tolerable that the pope apparently did not receive regular updates on heavenly actions. 

Augustine’s maneuvering tactics could, for centuries after that, be used to excuse any of the embarrassingly awkward incidents that have revolved around various pope’s scientific and political pronouncements.  This reverent scheming makes it possible for the faithful to continue to defer to the “authority” of the church in its supposed superior understanding of ecclesiastical matters.  Such faith merely requires the sacrificing of one’s skepticism upon the church altar and abandoning any thought that perhaps this wobbly claim of holy word infallibility might put one’s soul in peril.

This political sidestepping would continue to help excuse such booboos as the 1633 affair when the mathematician/astronomer Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition in Rome and forced to recant his writing that Earth moved around the Sun.  Because Galileo had pointed the new invention of the telescope toward the heavens, he had dared to look upon truth.  Contrary to biblical implications, the Moon was not a smooth orb, the Sun was not a polished disc but a flame-covered inferno, and the planet known as Venus displayed itself in periodic phases!  For reporting these wonders to the world, Galileo was promptly found guilty of heresy by the Catholic Church.  Galileo could not deny the truth that he had witnessed, and during his trial remarked something to the effect, “The Bible tells you how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

Galileo’s trial set the standard by which western religions brushed off any scientific endeavors.  Fortunately there were men who continued to feel intuitively that perhaps God had chosen not to reveal too much wisdom to man all at once, and the reason might be that man was to make himself worthy by seeking further wisdom.  Through the centuries men such as Isaac Newton (1642-1727) struggled to reconcile their scientific findings with religious texts, but there always seemed to be irreconcilable differences despite shared feelings of humbleness and awe when pondering the majesty of what we see as Creation.

Even one of the great minds of the 20th century, Albert Einstein, could not break free of the primal concept that some being must have fashioned the universe like some work of art or mechanism.  After decades of searching for the secrets of gravity, time-space, and quantum mechanics, Einstein would say it was not easy to catch a peek at God’s playing cards.  Typically, he would let “the Lord” off easy, saying that although the laws of Creation are subtle, “the  Lord” (creative law) was not malicious.  To a contemporary physicist, Niels Bohr (Danish), Einstein continued to refer to God more than was necessary, and he told Einstein to stop telling God what to do.  But perhaps Einstein’s speaking of God may not have been so much a statement of personal belief as it was the use of common beliefs to comfortably acquaint the unscientific pubic with the operational processes of the universe.  Certainly, in that timeframe, if Einstein had failed to acknowledge a “maker,” the public would have vilified him as  enthusiastically as they had glorified him. 

Today, in the 21st century, some astrophysicist may, in some interview, give mention to God when some newscaster questions how the laws of physics came into being.  It’s a loaded question, for as yet there is still no sufficient data or theory to give a satisfactory answer.  That does not mean, however, that the Bible gives a superior accounting of the creative  forces at work, for if any disguised scientific solutions to cosmic principles were embedded in those holy texts some astrophysicist would be mining them with celebrated results.

It is the magnificence of the living universe that keeps mankind’s faith systems and mankind’s sciences in wonderment and reverence.  Whatever man may deduce from his perspective of Creation, the truth is that there can be no center of infinity.  Most certainly planet Earth is not at its center; and it is even more certain that no man-invented, self-serving faith system is at its center.

9 Responses to “Faith, Facts and Frustration”

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