The modern worldview is that because our universe is so old and so vast, humans are totally insignificant. A more helpful and meaningful approach is that because of our intelligence and creativity, which it took the universe so long to produce – 13.7 billion years – we can say again, as people did before astrophysics, that humans are not only significant but central to the entire universe.
Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian physicist and priest, first postulated that, as in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, there must have been a beginning to the universe. Then George Isamow, an American-Russian physicist, postulated the Big Bang Theory, the current view among scientists. Since scientists have proven that everything is expanding outward, if you go back in time far enough, it must have all begun from a single point. Science has to be materially based, it can’t start with spirit, and therefore Isamow further theorized that the universe came from a tiny particle. However, this idea that all the matter of the universe as we now know it was somehow packed into an infinitely small particle seems absurd and is an untestable hypothesis. As such it is a myth. I am not anti-science, in fact I think science is an incredible tool that reveals even more of God’s glory. But I also believe it is important to understand that science is based on this myth. It is just as logical, in fact I believe more logical, to say that the whole universe came from an Almighty Creator.
Ignatius of Loyola invented the prayer methodof inserting yourself imaginatively right into scenes from the Bible. For example, you are in a boat with the disciples in a raging sea. You feel the rocking of the boat, the spray of the waves, and then you see someone walking on the water. You feel the fear of the disciples who didn’t recognize it was Jesus and thought they were seeing a ghost. You feel amazement and relief when Jesus calms the wind and sea and gets into the boat with them. Many people have found that this method of imaginative contemplation leads them beyond “head-knowledge” to “heart-knowledge” of God and emotionally transforms them through a direct experience of God.
In the Jewish Book of Wisdom it says that Wisdom was there in the beginning, co-creating everything with God. Wisdom is an early intuition of the Cosmic Christ or the Holy Spirit. In the Christian scriptures Christ is seen as the wisdom and power of God. By applying themselves to philosophy, history, science and the arts, people are enlightenedby that Wisdom or the Cosmic Christ who is all around us and was there from the beginning.
Christian praxis (practice) is meant to spread the kingdom of love, the reign of God, by transforming social structures and laws that oppress people. The classic example would be the Jim Crow laws in the United States that kept everything segregated even though slavery had officially ended. Blacks got the worst schools, medical care, etc. The great Protestant theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, wrote that “Justice is the proper distribution of love throughout society. Only love can transform us while uniting us to everything. Love is the opposite of segregation.
In 1998, two independent teams of scientists discovered “dark energy,” an anti-gravitational force that is causing the universe to accelerate its expansion. 70% of the universe is dark energy, 25% is dark matter, only 5% of the universe is visible. Science keeps revealing how mysterious God is. Einstein said that it is not that one thing is a miracle, everything is a miracle!
Every spiritual path begins with a founder who experiences a deep spiritual conversion. Then his followers turn this I-THOU relationship between the founder and God into an I-IT relationship by developing beliefs, creeds, rituals, and institutions. And the gap grows between the founder’s experience and his disciples’ lives as the founder fades away in historical time. We need to constantly try to recapture the founder’s original experience.
D. H. Lawrence, mostly known for his erotic novels, was also a spiritual man who wrote that our deepest religious urge is to come into direct contact with the deep elemental life of the cosmos and to derive energy and life from it. He believed that erotic energy underlies everything in the universe, and that God is not only “agape” (suffering love) but also “eros” (the power of attraction) which expresses itself most fully in human sexuality. When the masculine energy of the universe meets the feminine energy, fire happens.
In his “Discourse on Mindful Breathing,” the Buddha taught “Breathing in, I recognize my feeling. Breathing out, I calm my feeling.” Christian monks teach similar spiritual practices. Medical science has now proven them both right: when you inhale and then slowly let your breath out, the breathing out activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect on your whole body. Science is gradually catching up with and proving wisdom taught by ancient religion.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s notion of “cosmic personalization” means that the entire cosmos is headed towards wholeness, complexification, consciousness, andlove.
In 1961 at a General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, James Sittler, a Lutheran theologian, reminded the gathering that, according to Colossians 1:15-17, the Cosmic Christ is the foundation of all things and all things are united in the Cosmic Christ. If this is true, Christians have nothing to fearfrom other religions, philosophy and modern sciencesince all these things are “in Christ” whether they acknowledge it or not. In fact, the values of materialistic scientists and philosophers such as the search for truth,could be a preparation for the acceptance of the gospel.
Since all institutions are relative and provisional, including churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, we must put our hope in the living God who alone can fulfill history. We must hope in God, not any religious institution.
Henri Nouwen saw Christian life as in three stages: communion, community, and commission. That is, life apart from others (in solitude with self and in communion with God), life shared with others (with kindred hearts in community), life given for others (in ministry).
The very essence of the New Spirituality (spirituality outside the church) is freedom to follow your own inner light without any pressure from dogma, teachers, leaders or institutions. As Oprah says “You are your own authority.”The only problem with this is that you are putting a lot of pressure on the one short life you have, and ignoringthe accumulated wisdom of centuries of religion and the tried and true experience of millions of people.
Jonathan Edwards, a 19th century Protestant theologian, wrote that “The Holy Scriptures everywhere place religion in the affections: love, hate, fear, joy, sorrow, hope.” Religion in his opinion, is a matter of feeling and emotion not intellect. This may be true, but Holy Scripture also says we should have “reasons for the hope that is in us.” (1Peter 3:15). This is particularly necessary in an age of science and the New Atheism.
The problem with scientific methods is they can seduce us to think that all truth can be reduced to observable data, and therefore God and the great religious traditions of the world are irrelevant – humans are self-sufficient. However, these methods cannot penetrate the intimate, personal meaning of essential experiences of life such as suffering, sex, death, and the search for meaning itself. Nor can they give us answers to life’s biggest questions such as why are we here? where are we going? Is life and the universe essentially trustworthy?
Nine seemingly good things that can become key temptationsif you overdo them: striving for perfection (where nothing is ever good enough); helping others (to the point of burning yourself out); efficiency (when you ignore the needs of those right in front of you); authenticity (sharing too much of yourself when it is not appropriate); knowledge (dwelling only in your mind); security (being afraid to try anything new); idealism (to the point of losing touch with messy reality); striving for justice (to the point of always being angry about everything); self-deprecation (to becoming a doormat).
The Church, rather than being, as Karl Marx wrote: an “opiate of the masses,” should be a radically counter-cultural force challenging the prevailing ethic of consumption that is destroying our planet.