April 28, 2011

Gird Up Now Thy Loins

Thunderstorms have been in the forecast here lately.To be clear by thunderstorms I mean actual thunderstorms, I am not being poetic. It`s been raining a lot, and we have had a chance of thunderstorms for the past three days.

For some reason when I heard yesterday's prediction of a possible thundershower I started to think of Job. More specifically I started to think of God questioning Job. The take home message of God questioning Job is, if you cannot understand or control the natural world around you, how can you possibly hope to understand or control God?

We've come a long way since God and Job had this little chat. And it almost seems  like we have taken God up on his challenge; we are trying our best to understand and control the entire natural world.

The question is, where does this leave us?
Like I said we have come along way since Job. The amount our knowledge of the natural world has grown is absolutely staggering. We know things that Job and his contemporaries would never have dreamed of, and likely would have scoff at if they were told. We've learned about big things like galaxies and small things like atoms. We've walked on the surface of the moon and the ocean floor. We've built refrigerators and satellites. Our buildings are taller, our methods of transportation are faster, our tools of war are deadlier, our medication is more effective.

By all accounts we know more about the world around us, and it seems like the rate we are learning is only speeding up. The amount humanity will learn this year will be exceedingly more than the amount we learned last year. This is not to say that there isn't a lot we don't know. If anything the more we have learned the more we realize we need to learn.Every answer we get seems to spark two more questions. The universe is still a vast and mysterious place.

Which brings us back to God questioning Job. What do we do with this passage?

Job Confessing His Presumption to God Who Answers from the Whirlwind
by William Blake 1757-1827 
One thing we could do is sub out the questions we can answer for ones we still do not know. Many do this. There are thousands upon thousands of things we know we don't know, and thousands upon of thousands of things that we don't know enough to not know (think about it).

Given that we can rest assured that in our life times there will always be a fair amount we can point to and say, if we cannot understand that how can we hope to understand God.

There is a danger in this approach. Our knowledge is growing, and the unknown is shrinking. It is at least conceivable that one day we will in fact understand the natural universe. If that is the case do we really want to relegate God to the gaps in our knowledge? Do we want to some how equate God to human ignorance? 

We can approach this another way. We can celebrate God for his ingenious creation. We can praise him for physics, chemistry and biology. Each new thing we learn can be seen as the unveiling of another piece of God's great art work. Likewise we can celebrate him for making us to be incurably curious, avid explorers, and insatiable learners. 

Also let's assume that these are God given characteristics. If God is all knowing, and we are made in the likeness of God, is it that big of a jump to assume the desire to learn is sowed in to our very being? Perhaps learning and knowledge is part of our inheritance as God's image bearers. 

My conviction is that knowledge is never a threat to God. I do not think that there is anything we can learn that would in someway invalidate ones faith in God and Jesus Christ. If one day humanity does learn the answer to every question we can ask about the natural world we have simply fully collected one of our source materials for offering praise to God.