ABOUT: The Fire Still Burning
Posted by: FireTag
NOBODY CAN FOLLOW JESUS FROM A SAFE DISTANCE!
My daughter saw her first magician at a stage show at a mountain lodge in West Virginia many years ago. Some of the tricks delighted her; some I think were a little frightening. (“Is the bunny all right, Daddy?”)
But she couldn’t wait to learn more magic for herself. God created me the same way: I’m obsessively interested in understanding how the tricks work, and, in fact, understanding the nature of the Divine Magician.
That certainly implies that the first thing I should have learned to appreciate about God is His marvelous sense of humor in creating any human being to want such a goal. No human being can identify more than a fraction of the important questions, and answering them all is unimaginable. Yet, He does seem to find some amusement in revealing Himself to human beings. In fact, I am slowly learning that His motive is more than amusement; there is deep love behind presenting the show.
That deep love is often not in the guise we imagine. The graphic above is a composite of two enhanced telescopic images that illustrate a fundamental mystery about God’s love. The “alpha” side of the picture is a portion of what is called “The Pillars of Creation” — the Orion Nebula, which can be seen in fuller glory here.
The columns of “smoke” extend like dark streamers for trillions of miles behind new stars forming at their tips. Although the streamers are far less substantial than any smoke ever seen on earth, their huge size gives them the image of solidity and permanence. They are the final stages of a process that has filled that portion of the sky with new stars, with perhaps young new planets, and new creatures to someday look up and contemplate those stars as we do.
The “omega” side of the picture is of a location farther away – but not so far away that there shouldn’t be about 1000 similar objects in the local Hubble volume (the space from which light since the Big Bang has had time to reach us). It has been commonly called the “Death Star Galaxy, but I find that to be too pop-cultural to match its theological significance.
Call it “The Gaze of Shiva” instead. The blue spot above the peak of the omega is produced by the atmospheres of worlds in a thousand stellar systems being blowtorched away by a jet of radiation spewing from the larger galaxy immediately to the left of the omega. Any bunnies, or their alien equivalents, are definitely not all right in any of those systems. Neither are any sentient beings, as the law of gravity relentlessly brings them into the beam.
Notice how easily I say “law of gravity”, as if the omega side of the picture is attributable to something different than the Creator I naturally invoke in my image of God on the alpha side of the picture.
BUT IT IS THE SAME GOD ON BOTH SIDES OF THE PICTURE!
The dilemma of an all-powerful God who presides over a reality in which violent, unbearable things nonetheless happen is hardly new in the Judeo-Christian tradition. However, in the 21st Century we see it strewn across the cosmos before our eyes.
Yet, 21st Century science suggests some new answers to that dilemma as well. For example, even grander models of the physical cosmos hold out to the believer the portrait of a God who would express His love for us differently than our Judeo-Christian understanding has supposed. It is a portrait of a God who allows our spirit to experience the full possibilities of its existence in multiple physical bodies recurring throughout spacetime – including the possibilities we find decidedly unpleasant. And He would guarantee the love and wisdom in that choice by choosing the same for Himself when He places His cross between alpha and omega.
Indeed, the findings of today’s science may reorient our Western theology even more drastically than did the notions of 19th Century evolutionary theory. I think the Divine Magician may be revealing Himself as a God so compassionate as to mourn the death of cancer cells, so terrible that He destroys galaxies for purposes of a greater good, and so just that He treats cancer cells, galactic clusters, and all things between or beyond with the same incomprehensible dis/com-passion. To this God, creatures like us are simultaneously less than nothing – and more than anything.
There is no safe distance to follow such a God. He’s not playing by our rules, but by His own. To paraphrase some lyrics from the Contemporary Christian group Casting Crowns:
He is not “…the God we want, but the God who is.
Will we trade our dreams for His? Or are we caught in the middle?”
This site is intended to help throw light on our paths through that “middle” from an unusual direction. This is a place for discussion of the official and cultural theological understandings of Restoration (i. e., Community of Christ, Latter-day Saint, and related) religious traditions as filtered by new scientific discoveries and scientific methods.
Yes, I know that’s much more than enough ambition to make God laugh even more!
Beyond fulfilling my court jester role, however, the only promise I can make is that each post will try to expose the Restorationist to some interesting science, and the scientist to how religious thought may be impacted by what he or she finds.
Say the magic words, boys and girls! And enjoy all of the show!