COSMOS AND REVELATION
Reimaging God's Creation in the Age of Science
Chapter 1 sets the stage by exploring the semantic range of the term revelation. It points to some glaring challenges the discoveries of modern science pose for traditional Christian views of the world arguing that if Christians aspire to meet the spiritual hunger of an increasingly science-informed public, they need to take the discoveries of science seriously and include their revelatory implications in their theological thinking.
Chapter 2 seeks to allay the concerns, even fears many Christians hold that by embracing the scientific understanding of the world they must set aside the creation narratives of Genesis 1–2. After highlighting the theological significance of Genesis 1–11, this chapter presents a nuanced reading of the biblical creation accounts highlighting their “revelatory intent,” i.e., God’s relationship with the creation hoping that fellow Christians may come to see how this text is far more open to a dynamic and yet-to-be-finished reading than they have realized.
Chapter 3 narrates the birth and unfolding of the universe, tells the story of galaxies and stars, the fashioning of the Earth in whirlpools of cosmic materials, the emergence of life, and the wonderland of living cells. The chapter fittingly concludes with a reflection on the wisdom that underlies it all.
Chapter 4 presents the new and unified picture of the cosmos and explores humanity’s place in it: First, by sketching ancient cosmologies that have ruled humanity’s religious and cosmological imagination for the last fifteen hundred years; next, by explaining cosmic size scales, cosmic fine-tuning, and the “cosmic calendar” derived from cosmic history when compressed into one calendar year. In closing, this chapter counters the charge often raised by atheistic naturalists that human life is reduced to abyssal insignificance in the face of cosmic immensities.
Chapter 5 recounts the human journey from the earliest Hominin lineages to the appearance of Homo sapiens. By foregrounding the rise of human intelligence, it points to evidence that with the dawning of a higher consciousness our distant ancestors were already reaching for horizons beyond the harsh reality of natural selection. Lastly, the chapter urges Christians to embrace and not ignore our evolutionary history because people, created in the image and likeness of God, are also the living embodiment of our unfinished evolutionary past.
Chapter 6 deepens the quest for an understanding of human consciousness by exploring the human brain as the biological substrate of human spirituality, its role in our perception of God, the spirituality of children, and the nature of the mystical mind. It concludes on the climactic insight that with the emergence of the human brain the very “stuff of the universe” has become conscious of itself and that human consciousness may be understood as the “interiority” of the cosmos as well as the seat of religious revelation.
Chapter 7 makes this last insight more explicit by exploring the exclusively human ability to symbolize and with it perceive a transcendent horizon in religious experiences. After tracing ancient symbols of divinity, the chapter suggests that “religion” is part of the human quest of rendering life more secure. Focusing next on how monotheism evolved in the ancient Middle East, it claims that this experience of faith was marked by two decisive breakthroughs: its shift from the community to the individual and its subsequent radical reshaping by the Abba consciousness of Jesus. The chapter ends with a reflection on Christ’s love as the depth dimension of cosmic “inwardness.”
Chapter 8 opens with the notion that we are a paradox to ourselves. On the one hand, our natural proclivities can unleash some extremely troublesome energies capable of destroying the collective well-being of the species; on the other, we possess the capacity for authentic compassion and selfless love. To shed light on this condition, I engage the mimetic theory of René Girard that posits “mimetic desire” as the key to human agency and its natural outworking in (often bloody) rivalries. This constitution, I argue, inflects everything we do, even infiltrating our conception of God as a survey of five atonement theologies from Ambrose to the Protestant Reformation shows. The chapter ends with a reflection on the crucified and risen Christ as the “Forgiving Victim” whose abyssal compassion transcends all retaliation and violence.
Chapter 9 draws previous reflections together such that God’s magnificent project may be understood as a movement toward an ultimate future where love will reign supreme. For at root, all of God’s creative-redemptive acts are to be understood as the workings of Trinitarian Love that also draws this vast creation toward its ultimate completion in the divine life, proleptically modelled in the resurrection of Jesus. The book closes with a reflection on the clash between Christian eschatology and the scientific view of the cosmos that, according to the second law of thermodynamics, must run out of energy in the far future.