the candle

A hodgepodge of beauty, truth, and goodness.

Tag: Science

‘God has acted to make his divine nature known’

Giotto_Adoration_of_the_MagiAdoration of the Magi by Giotto (1266-1337)

Reading today, I happened upon a passage that strikes me as very appropriate for the feast of Epiphany. From Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion by John Polkinghorne, pp. 95-96:

If the quantum world requires its own form of logic, one might anticipate that everyday habits of thought may also require some revision when one engages in the task of seeking to understand divine reality. In addition to that general consideration, there are also particular limitations to be expected in the degree of success attainable in the specific case of theology. The infinite nature of God is never going to be exhaustively contained in the finite categories of human thought. The mysterious ineffability of the divine, emphasised by what is called apophatic theology, must always be borne in mind in the course of honest enquiry. Yet the mystery card should be the last one to be played in theological discussion, for Christians believe that God has acted to make the divine nature known in humanly accessible ways, particularly in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Beyond mere survival

Large_Magellanic_CloudFrom Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion by John Polkinghorne, p. 56:

Once one accepts the enrichment beyond the merely material of the context in which human life is lived, one is no longer restricted to the notion of Darwinian survival necessity as providing the sole engine driving hominid development. In these noetic realms of rational skill, moral imperative and aesthetic delight—of encounter with the true, the good and the beautiful—other forces are at work to draw out and enhance distinctive human potentialities. Survival is replaced by something that one may call satisfaction, the deep contentment of understanding and the joyful delight that draws on enquirers and elicits the growth of their capacities.

Image by ESA/Hubble.

A call to Christian environmentalism

From “God and Country” by Wendell Berry, in What Are People For?, p. 98:

The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because he wanted it made. He thinks the world is good, and He loves it. It is His world; He has never relinquished title to it. And He has never revoked the conditions, bearing on His gift to us of the use of it, that oblige us to take excellent care of it. If God loves the world, then how might any person of faith be excused for not loving it or justified in destroying it?

The indifference or outright hostility of many Christians to the necessity of caring for Creation is embarrassing and indefensible. We are the ones who should know better. We have been given so great a gift, and would we squander it? For what?

Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Universal Doctor

St. Albert the Great window at beautiful Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle.

There is no conflict between science and the Catholic faith. Just ask Albertus Magnus, the 13th-century Dominican bishop, philosopher, theologian, and scientist whose feast the Church celebrates today. So successful was he as a scientist that legends arose that he was actually an alchemist or a wizard. St. Albert also championed the adoption of Aristotle’s philosophy, taught St. Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris, and was named a Doctor of the Church in 1931. He is the patron saint of scientists and philosophers. From the collect prayer at Mass today:

O God, who made the Bishop Saint Albert great
by his joining of human wisdom to divine faith,
grant, we pray, that we may so adhere to the truths he taught, that through progress in learning
we may come to a deeper knowledge and love of you.

Photo by Kevin Birnbaum.

‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’

The Helix Nebula, NGC 7293 (aka “The Eye of God”)

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You whose glory above the heavens is chanted
by the mouth of babies and infants,
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you have established;
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him little less than the angels,
and you have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the sea.

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)

Image by NASA, ESA, and C.R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt University).

How great is the sun?

Seriously, how great is the sun?

It wasn’t until the 20th century that scientists understood that the sun generates its light and heat through nuclear fusion, converting over four million tons of itself into energy every second.

As a cosmologist once pointed out to me, this fact adds depth to the tradition of seeing the sun as symbolic of Christ. Like the Son of God, the sun sacrifices itself for the life of the world.

Image by NASA/SDO (AIA).