Messages of Hope

A new cosmology

Published / posted by Sandy
Starry Night Over the Rhône (detail), Vincent van Gogh, 1888,
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of God’s hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

September is celebrated as ‘Season of Creation‘ in many churches, where creation and the Creator is celebrated, and we commit ourselves to a ministry of healing Earth, partnering with Christ for the whole of creation.
Richard Rohr reflects on a ‘new cosmology’:
When I was growing up, the common perception was that science and religion were at deep odds with one another. Now that we are coming to understand the magnificent nature of the cosmos, we’re finding that many mystics’ spiritual intuitions are paralleled by scientific theories and explanations. All disciplines, arts, and sciences are just approaching truth from different perspectives. The modern and postmodern mistake is that they only take one or no perspective seriously.

It’s easy to imagine the delight St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) found by turning skyward. His first biographer, Thomas of Celano (1185–1260), wrote: “he often overflowed with amazing, unspeakable joy as he looked at the sun, gazed at the moon, or observed the stars in the sky.” [1] Thomas Aquinas also intuited the deep connection between spirituality and science when he wrote, “Any mistake we make about creation will also be a mistake about God.” [2] Inner and outer realities must indeed mirror one another.

Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, observes how our view of the universe and God has been evolving. [3] During the Middle Ages, a key period of development for Christian theology, the universe was thought to be centered around humans and the Earth. Scientists saw the universe as anthropocentric, unchanging, mechanistic, orderly, predictable, and hierarchical. Christians viewed God, the “Prime Mover,” in much the same way, with the same static and predictable characteristics—omnipotent and omniscient, but not really loving. God was “out there” somewhere, separate from us and the universe. The central message of Christianity – incarnation – was not really taken seriously by most Christians. In fact, our whole salvation plan was largely about getting away from this Earth!

Today, we know that the universe is old, large, dynamic, and interconnected. It is about 13.8 billion years old, and some scientists think it could still exist for 100 trillion years. The universe has been expanding since its birth. Our home planet, Earth, far from being the center of the universe, revolves around the Sun, a medium-sized star near the edge of a medium-sized galaxy, the Milky Way, which contains about 200 billion stars. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years in diameter.

Furthermore, it is one of 100 billion galaxies in the universe. We do not appear to be the center of anything. And yet, by faith we trust that we are.
Delio writes:
We’re reaching a fork in the road; two paths are diverging on planet Earth, and the one we choose will make all the difference for the life of the planet. Shall we continue our medieval religious practices in a medieval paradigm and mechanistic culture and undergo extinction? Or shall we wake up to this dynamic, evolutionary universe and the rise of consciousness toward an integral wholeness? [4]

We are called to make the paradigm shift to an utterly new cosmology and worldview. I believe, even unbeknown to themselves, many are leaving organized Christianity now because these two cosmologies no longer coincide.

References:
[1] Thomas of Celano, The Life of Saint Francis: The First Book, chapter 29. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1 (New City Press: 1999), 250.
[2] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, II.3.1, II.3.6.
[3] See Ilia Delio, CONSPIRE 2014: A Benevolent Universe (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), MP4 video download.
[4] Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), xxii-xxiii.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 169.

(The Pilgrim 9.30am community worship during September is focussed on Season of Creation)