At the Gate: No Longer Strangers

Sitting at the gate, one of the most encouraging things I see is that religion and science are no loner strangers to one another, that each discipline has reduced its competitiveness toward the other so that a symbiosis can occur. As it does, both religion and science are better.

I am a neophyte in all this, but the little bit that I can observe is transformative, generating in me the desire to discover more and more. From what I can tell, the fundamental shift occurred when the Newtonian concept of creation as a machine gave way to a view of creation as a living thing.

Theologically, this scientific amendment fits right into a life from Life….being from Being understanding of creation. Theories of biogenesis (living things come from living things) remain plausible, but science has gone beyond them to develop abiogenesis (spontaneous generation of life coming from non-living things), making a Big Bang feasible, not only in science, but also in the first creation story in Genesis as well. [1]

The result is a religious/scientific view of creation as a sentient matrix with pervasive and interactive consciousness (variously expressed) between and among created things, a cosmic oneness that is both alive and life-giving. This brings Paul’s words into the realm of science, “In God we live, move, and exist” (Acts 17:28). It weaves religion and science together in the hymn Paul included in Colossians 1:15-20, giving an enriched and expanded understanding and appreciation of the Cosmic Christ (e.g. John 1:3).

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is often cited as a major contributor to the religion/science symbiosis, using his life as a priest and paleontologist to insightfully integrate the two through a theology of love, seen in both the nature of God and in the nature of creation. [2] Thomas Berry has similarly written to reveal a religious/scientific sacredness in creation. [3] Ilia Delio is substantively popularizing all this in the Center for Christogenesis. [4] A whole new interdisciplinary field, quantum spirituality, is enriching our knowledge. [5]

The learnings given to us through the religion/science convergence are legion. Inwardly, the discoveries of genetics and neuroscience, for example, are transforming our understanding of humanity (e.g. nature, gender, identity, orientation, etc.) as the nonbinary spectrums of existence are seen in all things. Outwardly, cosmology and quantum physics are increasing our sense of wonder. From the smallest particle to the farthest star, David’s words that we are sacredly and variously made (Psalm 139:14) are increasingly confirmed.

We are blessed to be living in this time when the visible and invisible, earth and heaven, cells and souls, telescopes and theologians are declaring the glory of God. Our sense of wholeness and holiness is being enlarged as we learn to see God in everyone and everywhere. [6] The more we learn that religion and science are not strangers to each other, the more we see that we are not strangers to one another either.

[1] Nick Lane, ‘The Vital Question’ (W.W. Norton, 2016). Mike McHargue’s book, ‘Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science (Convergent, 2016).
[2] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, ‘The Divine Milieu’ (1960, reprinted as a Harper Perennial book in 2001).
[3] Thomas Berry, ‘The Sacred Universe’ (Columbia University Press, 2009).
[5] Amit Goswami and Valentina Onisor, ‘Quantum Spirituality’ (Blue Rose Publishers, 2019).
[6] Andrew Davis & Philip Clayton, ‘How I Found God in Everyone and Everywhere: An Anthology of Spiritual Memoirs (Monkfish Book Publishing, 2018).

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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