It is comforting to imagine a God who never changes, a solid rock of reliability and predictability. Perhaps it is the similar claims of reliability and predictability that come from some sectors of the scientific community that has set up the perceived conflict between science and religion, based on a feeling that there can only be one ultimate truth claim. There are two difficulties with this scenario. First, only a small percentage of Americans have a problem resolving their faith with the claims of science (as reported by Max Tegmark) And second, neither religion nor science is necessarily monolithic.
For most of us religious folks, we are glad to accept that the findings of science are a gift of our rational brains, themselves a divine blessing. And while I’m no scientist, I understand that by it’s very nature, science never remains in one place with fixed answers. The scientific method demands questioning in order to create hypotheses that are then tested. When findings do not confirm hypotheses then new hypotheses are needed and when they do there is new information from which to ask new questions. I think that that splendid curiosity that leads to incredible new insights and exciting discoveries can and should be a tool in our spiritual journey as well.
Of course, this bumps up (hard at times) against doctrine that affirms that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. That doctrine was part of the logical conundrum that painted me into a corner on the doctrine of the inerrancy of scripture (I blogged about that here ) I trusted the reason that God had created me with and drew the conclusion that I had to make a choice between an unchanging God and a Bible that contained no errors. But now I am back to wondering about the assumption that God is unchanging. One way of resolving the issue of God seeming to change plans from the Mosaic Law to the grace of Christ’s atonement is to accept that God did indeed change. It could be said that God tried one way, saw that it wasn’t working and thus devised a new plan. Just like I’m no scientist, I’m also no process theologian, but this strikes me as a position that might be supported by that theology. I suppose it has merit. It shows a God who is not locked in to just one way of doing things regardless of result, an evolving God who adapts according to the response of the test subjects, i.e. humanity. I guess there is still enough of my Calvinist roots left to push me away from this position.
I’m more likely to think that what is changing is not so much God as our understanding of God. On Sunday’s episode, Rev. Bruce Booher spoke of how his children poked at their pet hermit crab trying to get to see it but that only caused it to draw into its shell more deeply. He compared that to how God does just the opposite with us, providing us with items of wonder and awe to draw us out of our shells to more fully experience the joy of following God. That got me to thinking about how we too often return that favor by poking God. We poke and prod and examine trying to fit God into the tiny boxes of our understanding. Thankfully, God endures our poking and even when we commit our best comprehension of the divine to writing and elevate it to the level of scripture, God allows us to work with our less than complete picture of God until we are ready to understand more fully and deeply.
So let us keep poking God with new hypotheses that we might find new conclusions that propel us to divine discoveries in which we marvel at the wonder of the God who has designs and dreams for us, loving us beyond our wildest imagination.