Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A God Cosmic Yet Personal

In my youth, I have often wondered about God. When I was around five years old, my Evangelical aunts would always tell me stories from the Bible. I still remember the story of King Joash and how he was saved from certain death through Jehoida's intercession, and his subsequent fall from grace. I recall leaving coded messages to my cousins that said 'Mene, mene, tekel upharsin' and I still laugh when Balaam's ass talked back to him and left him literally hanging by a hair (clumps of it, rather) from a tree. I believed all these stories to be true, and I still do. They filled my childhood with joy and laughter and tears, especially the New Testament (specifically, the accounts of the Passion). When I entered my double digits, twelve or thirteen most likely, I began to be more skeptical. Perhaps it was the secularized environment, and then there was also the fact that I had this ridiculous reputation in school as some sort of a "pseudo-intellectual." But that's not really the point of the post.

Going back, in second grade, I read this short story called 'When God Was All Alone'. I remember there was an illustration of a bearded God the Father with a shiny triangle behind his head, and a huge scepter on one hand. His feet rested on lumps of cloud, as is commonly seen in Hispanic religious iconography. In my fourth and fifth grades, I came to love science, especially biology. I loved science so much that, at one point in my life, I decided I wanted to become a paleontologist. I would be the first to find a viable tissue sample of T. rex, and then, using my amazing intelligence, I would clone it, and I would have the best pet in the whole world.

It's ironic that my two favorite subjects-- Religion and Natural Science-- seem perpetually at odds with each other in this day and age. On one hand, you have religion: a way of life, a system of belief, a community of believers and its doctrines. I grew up with religion and had always thought of it as something indispensable. On the other, we have science, a systematized way of gathering knowledge through empirical, tangible means. Religion was based on faith, which is arguably something non-quantifiable, while science rested on the veracity of its assumptions as proven through a battery of tests, in order that the most plausible answer is arrived at. Okay...

I was in my sophomore year of high school when I first had doubts. I knew in my heart of hearts that there was a God. But then, how do I know which 'version' to follow? Why not Zeus? or Odin? or Kali? In fact, why should I confine myself to a personal God, when the universe-- its vastness, incomprehensibility, immensity and chaos-- all seem to point to a cosmic God? I relished the fact that I was an 'independent thinker'; I liked to think of myself then as a rebel. Cheesy, I know, but high school often brings out strange things from many people. How could I honestly reconcile what I see and feel with my senses, the visible and tangible, to my inner conviction?

Religion and science, for all their alleged differences, are actually very similar to each other. Both are concerned with finding the 'Truth'. In religion, in order to determine what is wrong from right, you propose something, and if that proves insufficient, knock it down. The same is true with science. Theories are theories because they are good propositions; but they are not laws (meaning pertaining to all states of matter) because there may yet be a possibility of it being knocked down, or replaced by a more credible theory. But science is not the I Ching. It is but a tool we use to arrive to our generalizations.

I believe that it was Duns Scotus who, in referring to whether the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin was viable, argued as follows: 'If He can do it, why not?' (Latin version goes potuit, decuit, ergo fecit) To those unfamiliar with theology, this basically translates as such: 'Well you can't prove He didn't do it, so why are you so against it?'

As I've said many times before, Christianity is a religion of paradox. We believe in an eternal, uncreated God, and we believe that this same God took flesh in the womb of a Virgin, and was made man. We believe this Man to be just like us, able to experience pain, joy, and sorrow, but unable to sin. We believe that this God sustains the universe into being by His will-- yet we also believe that this God is governed by prayer. We believe in a God Whose ways are far, far above our own, yet we believe that this God is Justice or Love Itself.

If I remember correctly, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in his monumental Summa that angels are simply beyond human comprehension. Since they are pure spirits, they do not need and are not constrained by physical limitations. An angel can be at any point in the universe just by willing it; at the thought of it, they are immediately there. An angel's power is of a magnitude that makes all nuclear weapons detonated at the same time look like a dusty lizard fart in comparison. And just as an angel is so far above humans, such is also the case with the succeeding choirs of angels. From the archangels up to the seraphim, each ascending choir is infinitely greater than that which preceded it. If that ain't DBZ-style godmodding enough for you then I don't know what is.

In physics, I learned that just 10kg of matter, converted into pure energy, is enough to pulverize the earth ( Or was it split it in two? Please confirm this). Both science and religion make bold claims, each one as audacious as the other has to throw. Why, then are we so stuck with the perception that science is an inherently infallible, impeccable thing? I don't think even Bl. Pius IX would have approved of the latter.

In the end, science and religion are not far so from each other. Both are essentially based on the principle that something must have come from something, though what or Who that something or Someone is both still contend. As for me, I've never looked at either as being the be-all-end-all. After all, it was a Catholic monk who discovered heredity, a Catholic priest who proposed the Copernican model and yes, a Jesuit who first thought up of the Big Bang. Why there is such disparity between the two, I think, is a question that is more deserving of an answer than which of the two is right (because they both are).

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