Response:  A Message from Spinoza’s God

Joe rightly posted that the biggest news this week was discovery of ‘Gravitational waves’,  proving  key aspects of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  (Bigger than even Donald Trump’s ‘Yuge’ win in New Hampshire….God help us.).   Joe writes: ‘The discovery of Gravitational waves, is the equivalent of a “friend request” from God, at least the god envisioned by Spinoza.”

Einstein was a fan of Spinoza the 17th century Jewish philosopher who saw God in the greatness and complexity of the universe.  Spinoza believed in the existence of a superior intelligence that reveals itself in the harmony and beauty of nature.

Joe puts on his preacher’s hat and says: ‘The voice of nature cannot be defined by some human-like concept (of God).  We cannot anthropomorphize it into a human-like being.  It should not be twisted into some justification to destroy a differing perspective.  It just is.  Nature, some might think of as god, is sending a message.  Perhaps it is time we listened instead of adhering to a false concept of god with misplaced devotion, no matter how sincere.’

Joe raises the question of whether a belief in God or gods is compatible with science.  My answer is ‘of course’.  As a Christian I call myself a ‘theistic evolutionist’.   That is, like Spinoza, I too believe in the existence of a superior intelligence that reveals itself in the harmony and beauty of nature.   Call this God, Mystery or Nature the common ground for each of us is a sense of ‘awe, wonder and humility’.  Imagine, a black hole colliding with a black hole untold billions of years ago and our ability to ‘hear’ the residual waves of that collision.

Thus far Spinoza and I are on the same wave-length. This emphasis on the harmony and beauty of nature makes room for the mystical.  The mystical is that sense that there is more going on in life than can be measured, quantified or proven. It is subjective which is not to suggest that it isn’t real.  A God who set the cosmos in motion untold billions of years ago?  Sure.  A God who speaks into the context of your and my life?  Sure. Who am I to put limits on what is possible?

When I was a boy we played in a local wetlands.  This 50 acre wood was our playground.  I remember one particular lazy afternoon, age nine or ten.  My cousin and I were lying on the group looking up at the tree canopy with the sun beaming through the leaves to the earth.  I vividly remember feeling an ‘out of body’ experience where I felt connected to everything that was: to the sun, soil, water, air, frogs, turtles etc.  It was an ‘ecstatic experience’ which I can’t prove, nor do I feel the need to do so….Now looking back, I now realize I was standing on holy ground, sacred soil, interconnected to everything.

My guess is the scientists who listened to the sound of these ancient gravitational waves, were filled with their own sense of wonder and awe.  This ‘awe’ is the common ground upon which we each stand.

Albert Einstein had a mystical bent as well: “The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  It is the sower of all true science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.  To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness”.

With Spinoza, Einstein and my 10 year old self gazing up into the sky, all I can say is ‘Amen!”



About Kent Harrop

I am bi-coastal...I was raised in New England (Rhode Island) and for twenty years 1994 - 2014 served as pastor of First Baptist Church McMinnville, Oregon. In May 2014 I moved with my wife Tricia back to New England and serve on a team of ministers at the First Baptist Church in Beverly, Massachusetts. I love the beauty and geographic breadth of Oregon and the north shore of Massachusetts. A growing edge for me is the integration of the contemplative and prophetic life. Tricia and I enjoy gardening, camping and kayaking on rivers and ocean. We have two grown daughters who are strong, smart and adventurous. The purpose of the blog is to explore the relationship between faith and the wider culture. The views expressed here are my own.
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