If you want to have an adult faith, you must face head-on and have answers for some very harsh realities about our violent universe and violent lives. If you cannot handle major disasters, your faith is naïve and meaningless.
Surely colliding galaxies, exploding supernovas wiping out all planets around them, evolution as a painful process marked by mass extinctions, and global wars of unfathomable devastation prove there is no God.
In spite of all this darkness and evil, there are sound reasons to believe. Surely, if there is a God, God is working in all things to the good, as scripture says. In the broadest sense God can be seen as the unstoppable drive of the universe to always generate new life and complexity, the radically pro-life force that overcomes all things, even major catastrophes. Life may be two steps backwards at times, but thank God, it is also three steps forward.
As an amateur astronomer I can reassure you first of all that galaxies do not collide, they merge and form larger and more complex galaxies as the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will do in about two million years. The space between stars is so great (for example, 24,000,000,000,000 miles to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to our sun) that collisions are extremely rare.
Hopefully if a supernova is coming, intelligent life on any planets in the star’s solar system have adequate warning to escape the blast. In any event, supernovas seed the universe with new chemicals necessary for life to evolve, and mass extinctions, as with the dinosaurs, allow for the evolution of more conscious and highly complex species such as human beings.
Global wars such as World War II resulted in the formation of the United Nations and new trade, economic, and military agreements so there has been peace between the Eurozone countries ever since. And the Holocaust resulted in Jewish people reclaiming their original homeland through the formation of the state of Israel.
Global warming may cause new catastrophes in the future, but will surely result in all humans working together in harmony with nature as we are already learning to do. Global terrorism may be expanding, but there is an even greater expansion of democracy, health care, and human rights.
The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, which Christians observe this weekend, symbolize this general depth pattern of crisis and renewal that marks all of life. Extinction and transformation are central features of cosmic and planetary evolution, and crucifixion and resurrection can be seen as universal structures of reality revealed to us in one person.
As Richard Rohr says, “When you observe the four seasons and the life cycles of everything from salmon to stars – constantly dying and being reborn, God appears to be resurrecting everything all the time and everywhere. Resurrection is thus something we can experience in the patterns of our own life, not just a doctrine.”
Everything is moving forward both cosmically and personally, even if it is three steps forward and two back. So evolution and history and our own lives are meaningful not meaningless. This positive direction of all things should give us cause to hope that ultimately God will bring new life out of disaster and even out of death. So let us trust God that our present trials, whether personal or political, will eventually issue forth in greater good.
The Risen Christ, not the apocalypse, should be the icon we use to think about our own destiny and the destiny of our species. The resurrection of Christ celebrated every year reminds us that what we are headed towards is union with God, and that ongoing life, not death, is the eternal pattern of all things – thanks be to God!
By: Bruce Tallman