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Science: Old and New

A Very Insistent Love

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

Science: Old and New

A Very Insistent Love
Sunday, November 3, 2019

Science and religion are long-lost dance partners. —Rob Bell [1]

Faith provides evidence for things not seen. —Hebrews 11:1

For centuries, science and religion worked together, learning from creation. As Ilia Delio, both a scientist and a Franciscan sister, says, “Doing science was a way of giving God glory.” But when Copernicus (1473–1543) discovered that the Earth was not the center of the universe—and Galileo (1564–1642) validated his observations—Christian leaders were not willing to change their thinking. Delio says, “That was the beginning of the rift between science and religion.” [2]

Although the faith tradition insisted that there was indeed “evidence for things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), too often the common notion of faith became something like “whistling in the dark,” or a kind of rugged holding-on that equated faith with a dogged perseverance and love of “old time religion”—back when “God was really God.” It had little to do with discerning the actual evidence that was commonly available in the present, in the mind, memory, heart, soul, and in creation itself.

Mystics like Augustine (354–430), Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582), and John of the Cross (1542–1591) found that evidence in the very nature of the soul and its inner workings, but this was not taught to or experienced by most Christians. Many found evidence in Scripture and dogmas that matched and affirmed their personal God encounter, but perhaps even more used Scripture and dogma to deem human experience untrustworthy. Celtic spirituality in general, Francis of Assisi (1182–1226), Bonaventure (1221–1274), Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), many poets, and everyday mystics found evidence in the natural world, in elements, seasons, animals, and all living things. Sadly, these teachers were often marginalized outside the mainline Christian tradition. Theirs was not seen as “true Transcendence.” How did we miss the core Christian message of Incarnation and its implications when the message was so clear?

What can be known about God is perfectly plain since God has made it plain. Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and deity—however invisible—has been perfectly evident for the mind to see in the things that God has made. —Romans 1:19-20

Fortunately, like never before in history, this generation has at its disposal new and wonderful evidence from science, confirming the presence and power of what many of us would call God or A Very Insistent and Persistent Love at the heart of all creation. (Call it gravity, sexuality, orbits, cycles, magnetism, electricity, photosynthesis, reproduction, animal nurturance of their young, springtime, reincarnation, rebirth, or whatever descriptive model works best for you.)

After centuries of dualistic dismissal, religion is finally ready to befriend the wisdom of science. And science is regaining the humility to recognize that the intuitions and metaphors of religion are not entirely naïve. They are both in their own way trying to honestly name our human experience, and they are actually quite attuned to each other.

[1] To read more from Rob Bell about the shared truth of science and religion, see his book What We Talk About When We Talk About God (HarperOne: 2013), especially chapter 2.

[2] Ilia Delio, “God, Evolution, and the Power of Love,” CONSPIRE 2014: A Benevolent Universe, Session 8 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), MP4 video download.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Introduction,” “Evidence,” Oneing, vol. 2, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), 11-12.

Image credit: Chestnut Trees at Jas de Bouffan (detail), Paul Cézanne, 1880/1891. Minnesota Institute of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: In the old times, our elders say, the trees talked to each other. They’d stand in their own council and craft a plan. But scientists decided long ago that plants were deaf and mute, locked in isolation without communication. . . . There is now compelling evidence that our elders were right—the trees are talking to one another. —Robin Wall Kimmerer
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