Robin Blount: ecumenical notes, cruise ship chaplaincy and lots more

I believe in God?

1 September 2023

I am dumbfounded. Catching up on TV programmes that I'd missed, I've just been watching Prof. Jim Al-Khalili explaining how the cosmos began and how it might end. In the first of the two programmes, it was made clear that the Big Bang theory has been adopted with good science to back this up. In the second, it seems that the cosmos could either die from becoming unsustainable (but not for further millions of years) or continue to expand for eternity.

It's not the physics that is hard to follow - Jim is a very good communicator. No, it's the sheer scale of what he is describing, the number of zeroes that you'd need to comprehend the vastness of the cosmos. And not only that: it's also the fact that the cosmos - the entirety of stars and planets - is expanding at speeds that are unimaginable, and apparently has been doing so for the last umpteen billion years. Some of those stars we can see from Earth are in fact entire galaxies, each with millions of stars, just like our own (our own!) Milky Way.

All this leaves me with a serious question. Can I still believe in a Creator God? Can I still believe in God as …. whatever words I might use to convey the sense that there was purpose, mind, even love in whatever or whoever brought the cosmos into being? In programme one, Jim just touched on the instant after the Big Bang, an instant which he said was a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second later. That is just beyond my comprehension.

There is much being written in these times to redefine, reimagine, the notion of God. Uniquely, it seems, we humans are the only creatures with the ability to comprehend our place in the cosmos, as beings on a small planet in one of millions of galaxies, and to recognise and evaluate our past on our earthly home, and to a limited extent our future. So I find it difficult to believe in God. Should I focus on that sense of "the other", that realm of presence that speaks to my heart rather than my brain? The phrase "spiritual but not religious" is often decried but surely must find a home in many people who simply (or not simply) have a sense of "something" beyond the horizon of their imagination, but do not encounter this in religion. To bring that sense down to earth is not easy, and not made easier by facile religious declarations of wisdom.

To read Genesis 1 & 21-3 as creation narratives is to miss an important point. The ancient writers had no idea how the world came to be, but their genius was to realise that the world they inhabited was a good place. Other contemporary creation stories were bloody and destructive - see my blog "The Creation". In Genesis, Earth was born in peace, harmony and order. We should never read the biblical creation story as history. And we should gaze at the night sky with awe and wonder.

Robin Blount
1 September 2023