The Church is Dying Because of Graying – But Not Why You Think

Essay by Rev. Mark Sandlin on 24 January 2019 4 Comments

This is simply about the church (remember, the people are the church) breaking out of its safe routines and dogma, and deeply and lovingly engaging the community it is in.

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Question

 
I read Bishop Spong's fine book Unbelievable; in one chapter, he talks about advances in science (such as the size of the universe) that have forced us to reconsider the tenets of our faith that were codified before those things were understood.

I also read Neil Degrasse Tyson's most recent book: he says the universe is estimated to be 90 billion light-years across and contains 100 billion galaxies.

My question: where is God in the universe? Is God bigger than the universe? How can God be both so big but small enough for us to have a chance of comprehension?

Answer

 
Dear Andy,

Without pretending to know the precise answer to your question I’d like to consider a crucial element that helps me better understand this paradox you’ve focused on; that element being the subject-object paradigm that we are slowly transitioning out of.

One of the key findings of quantum physics is that the mind is not separate from what it observes as its object. Quantum physics shows that the processes of our consciousness (what we use to know anything) are not separate from the world we see. It is partly showing us that every act of observation and knowing is an act of God creating. Human consciousness and what it interacts with are deeply entangled, constantly creating with one another. As such, we cannot define God as universal but then inquire about God as if God is an entity separate from us, or the process by which the inquiry arose. That’s where the confusion is brought in.

The subject-object paradigm that existed when we thought we were separate beings, knowing of things as objects, is challenged because of these advances in science and quantum physics. It is indeed making more room to experience God beyond knowledge alone, making God more than an object to be known by the human subject. This is a liberating shift that will bring us to a fuller understanding of our intimate connection with God. However, the old paradigm is so deeply engrained that it will take us lots of practice and continued questions, like the one you posed, in order to work out the kinks and appreciate the paradox that God is both small enough to be felt within our beating hearts, and large enough to stretch to the outer edge of a universe we struggle to fully imagine. It makes God not a mere matter of comprehension but also of direct experience in the present moment and it frees us from assuming a type of power over Creation that we do not in fact have.

These advances are showing us how logic and knowledge alone cannot grasp the fullness of God. These scientific advances in the understanding of our relationship to the universe are helping to heal us from a subconscious separation from God. This separation has caused us to think of ourselves as objects seeking God by our intellectual efforts, without surrendering to the magnificence and awe of what is here and now – of what is within and without all at once. The sciences are in some way bringing us back to the mystery of appreciating God, despite all the related knowledge and ideas we can gather. At the points where our minds seems to hit a limit and experience takes on a less logical yet deeply meaningful quality, God still exists. One may even say that the name “god” starts to hold less power over these experiential revelations, breaking us open to new names, symbols, and stories with which to better connect with the Divine.

Andy, your question and readings on these things is putting you in touch with God in a deeply meaningful way. I hope you find deep nourishment as you continue to explore the elasticity of God-both within and far, far beyond yourself.

All the best,

~ Toni Reynolds

 

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