For my write-up today on Herman Wouk's The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion, I'd like to feature Wouk's quotation of theoretical physicist Richard Feynman on page 65. Feynman states:
doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this
tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and
all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions,
and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God
can watch human beings struggle for good and evil----which is the view
that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama."
what Feynman says is actually compatible with certain sentiments in the
Bible. The Psalmist in Psalm 8 asks "What is man, that Thou art mindful
of him?" God in the Book of Job essentially tells Job that human
beings are not the center of the universe, for God pays attention to
other aspects of nature, as well. And why not? God is a
creative God. Would it be so unlikely that God would create creatures
and other aspects of nature for his own satisfaction, even if they don't
relate that much to human beings?
But I can understand
why people might ask: Why are human beings so small----not just small,
but infinitesimal----in a vast universe? Doesn't that conflict with any
religious notion that God is so concerned about the human struggle for
good against evil? Moreover, in Romans 8:19-22, Paul affirms that the
entire creation groans and waits for the manifestation of the sons of
God, when the creation will be freed from its corruption. So is the entire universe affected by events pertaining to people who live on an infinitesimal planet?
Armstrongite heritage, as I understand it, interpreted Romans 8:19-22
to mean that sons of God would rule over their own planets in the new
heavens and the new earth. Or something to that effect. When many of
us consider outer space, what strikes many of us is its futility. There
is so much space out there that lacks intelligent life. It all appears
rather meaningless! But, according to my Armstrongite heritage, this
will not be the case in the new heavens and the new earth; rather, that
space will be populated with life. And the sons of God, which
Christians will become, will be involved in bringing about and
supervising this entire process.
Whether Paul himself had
that sort of vision, I'm not entirely sure. When I was in a New
Testament Greek class, my professor said that what Paul probably had in
mind was things such as deserts, which are futile. Paul was
probably echoing certain prophets in the Hebrew Bible, who held that God
would one day replenish the deserts and bring forth life on them.
But didn't biblical authors believe that human beings were small in
comparison to the vast cosmos, for the Psalmist in Psalm 8, after all,
asks what is man, that God is mindful of him? In a sense, they probably
did. I doubt that they envisioned what scientists know
now----that the earth is a tiny speck in a vast universe. My hunch is
that the biblical authors believed in a universe that was much smaller
than what we today know to be the case. But they could still look at
the stars at night, notice how many they were, and feel rather small.
perhaps Paul and the author of Psalm 8 had only a limited insight, not
only into the extent of the cosmos, but into the extent of God's plan.
Maybe God some day will replenish outer space, and the sons of God will
be involved in that process. One problem that I had with Armstrongite
discussion of this issue was the dogmatism that often accompanied it:
that Christians who did not believe that way were looked down upon. I
wondered what right Armstrongites had to be so smug and dogmatic, when
there's no text in the Bible that explicitly says that believers will
rule their own planets! But God is a big God, and the universe is a
vast place. It may happen that the manifestation of the sons of God in
the eschaton will lead to a dramatic transformation of the cosmos, as
life comes out of apparent futility.
Piketty Day at the Graduate Center
1 hour ago