I have recently been watching the new Cosmos miniseries on National Geographic Channel, which follows the format of the original Cosmos miniseries by Carl Sagan in 1980. Following the basic outline of the 1980 series, this new one presents the TV audience with the latest scientific discoveries that have been made since 1980, and it presents this information much more vividly in high definition. Be that as it may, I have to say that I still like the original Carl Sagan miniseries much more than the new one, because I think it had a more elevated and inspirational quality.
Of course, as a person of faith, the only thing in this scientific miniseries I directly disagree with is the conclusion that the evolution of all things is by “chance.” But as a person of reason as well, I say the reality that the universe is finite (including time and space) and the reality that it is incredibly fine tuned toward the manifestation of life are two realities (among others) that lean strongly toward the conclusion that universal genesis and evolution are not by chance.
The fact that absolutely everything (even time and space) began at the moment of the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago clearly tells us that our finite universe was born from some sort of infinite and eternal truth. Not only this, but science tells us that there are at least ten dimensions in order for the universe to make mathematical sense, and this tells us that there are higher aspects to existence than we perceive with our five physical senses. We can use mathematics and creative metaphors to describe these higher dimensions, but we can never really wrap our minds around the scientific fact that the universe has more dimensions than we can fully comprehend. Nor can we wrap our minds around the scientific fact that there was a time before time and space. Furthermore, the fact that our universe is so finely orchestrated on a razor’s edge to produce life strongly suggests an orchestrator — an infinite, eternal and transcendent Orchestrator of all. In fact, if the initial explosion of the Big Bang had differed in strength (either stronger or weaker) by as little as one part in 10 to the 60th power (a number with a 1 followed by 60 zeros) then the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that the genesis and evolution of time, space and everything else (both seen and unseen) are according to the processes and orchestrations of Supreme Providence, not according to chance.
We all know that many Medieval thinkers rejected science, but in 1980 Carl Sagan (a well-known agnostic) described the Medieval religious resistance to science in a simple matter-of-fact way, without belittling religious faith and spirituality in general. Also, compared to the new series, Carl Sagan’s series from 1980 expressed a sense of humility and openness regarding the ultimate issues of spiritual significance. So, unlike the original series, one of the goals of this new series might be to promote the atheistic belief that everything is by chance and everything is one big cosmic accident. This does not need to be the case, but I think that this is an unfortunate characteristic of this new rendition of the Cosmos miniseries.
There are those who seek to perpetuate the archaic notion that there is a war between faith and reason. They insist that a person must be either spiritual or rational, not both. I completely disagree with this false dichotomy. Science addresses a certain set of questions (What? When? Where? How?) and religion addresses another set of questions (Who? and Why?). In other words, science addresses questions dealing with the function of the universe, while religious faith addresses the meaning of it all. Consequently, these are not mutually exclusive pursuits. Rather, while respecting the boundaries and limitations of both science and religious faith, these are actually complementary disciplines. Simply put, to be a person of faith does not mean that you have to turn off your intellectual self, and to be a person of science does not mean that you have to turn off your spiritual self. We can be both scientific and faithful.
The question about our origin has led scientists to enrich our knowledge of the age of the cosmos, of the proportions of the cosmos, of the physical constants of the cosmos, of the development of life forms within the cosmos and of the appearance of human beings. These discoveries invite us to share in an even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator. In a very real way, as God’s human creatures, we are a part of the process of the creation itself learning about itself. “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself” (Carl Sagan).
Finally, another amazing thing is that evolution continues moving forward. By the Divine Providence, not by chance, the universe changes and evolves according to the orchestrations of God from the very beginning unto now and into God’s future. And we, along with all life on all planets throughout the cosmos, are still changing and adapting according to these orchestrations. In other words, God is still creating and destroying and re-creating, and we may not know what the future holds, but we have come to know the One who holds the future. And we intuitively know this truth through the spiritual sixth sense of faith by the power of God’s grace.
Yes, God is still creating, redeeming and renewing, and this is what resurrection-life is all about:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the Apostles, unfit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the church of God… What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain… So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. As there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. — (The Holy Bible, First Corinthians 15: 3-9, 36b-37, 42-44)
On Easter Day we commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, and we celebrate the hope of resurrection-life. Because of Jesus, we Christians believe in “the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting” (the Apostles’ Creed). And the Apostle Paul described this resurrection of the body as relating to some sort of supra-natural “spiritual body” (First Corinthians 15:44) that has the following supernatural characteristics: imperishable, glorified and powerful. For instance, the post-resurrection glorified Jesus was able to appear and disappear. Consequently, according to our New Testament faith in Christ our Lord, we will share in a resurrection-life like his. Thanks be to God for that!
By God’s grace through faith, resurrection-life beyond this present life is the ultimate stage of our existence, and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ was the foretaste of our own resurrection in Christ. Like a caterpillar before its metamorphosis into a butterfly, unable to conceive of flying in the sunlight from flower to flower, we also cannot conceive “what God has prepared for those who love him” (First Corinthians 2:9d). And the eventual end of our finite (and accelerating) universe will be the consummation of all things (of all worlds and all beings) in the infinite and eternal God of all. Therefore, as Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America stated recently, “At the center of our worship is the crucified and risen Christ.” Amen! Christ is risen indeed!
Together in Resurrection Hope, Pastor Tim