As a spiritual leader, I do not want to appear stupid. Nor do I want to sound like a blathering boob or a wimpy wuss. Given the very real danger of both options in the face of the unknowable, prudence dictates that I avoid the issue of God’s transcendence altogether.1
Disregard of God’s immanence deprives us of any sense of intimate belonging, while inattention to his transcendence robs God of his godliness.2 ~Brennan Manning
Have you ever heard a sermon on God’s transcendence? I’ve heard a lot of sermons from many pastors, but can’t recall a single one on how God is beyond all we experience. And, while it is possible you’ve heard a pastor celebrate God’s intimate knowledge of us by counting our hairs (something I’ve never done, even for my firstborn babe), this more appealing side of God’s infinitude still isn’t a frequent subject of those standing behind the pulpit.
But there is a place where these extreme elements of God’s nature are frequently and passionately celebrated!
The gift that creation science gives to us as followers of Jesus Christ is really incalculable. I’ve long noticed that, as a general rule, those of us who care deeply about origins and the sciences aren’t involved in scandal the way some arenas of Christianity are notorious for being. It has always been clear that looking to the heavens or our physical body as David did long ago is an inspiration to worship. It is also a constant reminder that God sees and knows all.
Reading about Manning’s struggles as a pastor to communicate to his flock God’s vastness and nearness helped me clarify what is going on as we worship God through the sciences.
Have you mastered the theological term “ineffable”? It’s taken me a few years of running into it while reading heady books to finally pin down the description of this “beyond description” word.
As a word so foreign and uncomfortable to our humanity, I had to teach ineffable to my spellcheck before it would leave me alone for writing it. At the same time you can describe to a child that the feeling they get when visiting a planetarium or looking at a country sky by night is one of the ways we experience God’s greatness. No one can quite put it into words, but we feel it when we look through the Hubble Telescope or look at photos sent back by space probes.³
The danger is that as Sara H. pointed out in her article this past week, these feelings can leave us, like the Psalmist (Psalm 8:4), feeling puny. It’s not enough, or perhaps even safe, for us to constantly hang out in the planetarium overwhelmed by awe at the majesty of God. If he’s only out there, what would he care about me and my microscopic existence?
Again, science comes to the rescue of our faith and sanity. After being dazed by the vastness of space, we can walk over to the exhibit on the genius code inside our cells. The same God who spins the galaxies writes and regulates the DNA repeated trillions of times throughout my body. The Creator of the solar system also manages the interfaces between my immune system and the microbiome my body sustains.
I am small, but not insignificant. The God who flung up the curtains of space/time (Isaiah 40:22) has written a book inside of me and reads it moment by moment (Psalm 139:16).
Creation science fills me with awe at both extremes of my experience with God. It gives us a vocabulary and a picture of both God’s transcendence and his immanence. And for that I will worship him.
- Ruthless Trust The Ragamuffin’s Path to God, Harper San Francisco, page 77
- ibid. page 82
- I understand even the planetarium can’t plumb the depths of God’s transcendence. Necessarily, God’s nature being larger and beyond the whole of creation means anything describing what is inside of creation can’t capture his ‘beyondness’. But I would suggest outer space gets us closer to understanding this than any other analogy we know. (Isaiah 55:9)