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06.03.2020

More Than Rational

This year it was discovered that the oldest material on Earth is much older than Earth itself. The Murchison meteorite landed in Australia in the 1960s, and contains grains of stardust that are 7.5 billion years old.

To help you wrap your head around that number, the Sun is 4.6 billion years old, so this material comes from outside our solar system. Such large scales are impossible to fully grasp. For the Christian these numbers remind us of God’s greatness. Who else could make a universe as vast and old as ours?

Psalm 139:17-18 says: ‘How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.’ I’m not sure that King David had stardust in mind when he wrote these lines, but he was definitely thinking about big numbers. Today, science can add fuel to our worship.

The Jesuit physicist and philosopher Enrico Cantore wrote about things that we cannot fully comprehend. To him, mystery is what happens when we try to wrap our minds around something like the Murchison meteorite.In his experience, the mysteries of God are based on something rational, but they stretch our comprehension to the limit. He described this as ‘the dazzling light of this exceeding intelligibility’.

By embracing belief in God, Christians are not being irrational but accepting that which goes way, way beyond the finite nature of our minds. Jesus was a man who demonstrated the love and wisdom of God – that I can begin to understand. But at the same time he was also God, whose death and resurrection will one day result in creation itself being ‘liberated from its bondage to decay’ (Romans 8:21).

Most people are capable of feeling a sense of awe when experiences begin with – but then go way beyond – the completely rational: the wonder of a newborn baby who shares your own DNA; that feeling of having a new lease of life when you recover from a serious illness; the sensation of transcendence that can take hold of you when you enter a cathedral.

What would happen if we could hold onto our moments of awe? Would these experiences change us, enabling us to ask different questions, change our priorities, or be willing to step beyond the mundane into more extraordinary ways of living?

 

Ruth Bancewicz
Church Engagement Director, The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge
 

 

Comments

  1. How do you square the circle with regard to the calculated age of this meteorite compared to the age of the earth and the biblical account of creation? And how do you handle that dichotomy in a discussion about the veracity of scripture when it would appear to contradict the scientific “evidence”?

    By Andy - 6th March 2020
  2. Thank you Ruth, for enabling me to think about the awesome power of God in the universe and for dispelling the Dawkins myth that, as believers, we are irrational beings. There are many mysteries that my finite mind cannot grasp, but that serves only to strengthen my trust in the creator God.

    By Nick Dew - 6th March 2020
  3. spot on thank you.

    By Simon Shutt - 6th March 2020
  4. Nice one Ruth

    I know that when I am in awe of God I am at my best.. your article helped me do that. Alas if only it would last for every second of my every-day

    Cheers 😉

    By John from Belfast - 6th March 2020
  5. It is sad that we allow this sort of information without even reference to the Creation as described in Genesis – a history book and not poetry.

    The apparent age difference is interesting. What to eminent creationist scientists have to say?

    By Ian Rogers - 6th March 2020
  6. Thanks Ruth, enjoyed this. I wrote a response to the Apollo 11 film last year reflecting on the possibilities afforded by the experience of awe…

    https://brucegulland.com/2019/08/14/apollo-11-lift-off-for-the-spirit/

    By Bruce Gulland - 6th March 2020

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