Sunday, September 13, 2009

Colonial Cosmology

The new Hubble space photos make the Universe appear delightfully trippy. The contemporary Christian mind, however, often seems more disturbed than delighted by the expanse of the cosmos. Seeing that God became man, why - to put it bluntly - so much "extra"? Faced with this objection, some point to the anthropic principle, that is, all such extra is mathematically necessary to sustain the infinitely complex conditions that permit life on earth. Adequately understood, it's an impressive justification. My friend Adam, the learned Princeton astronomer who avoids Whitman's chastisement, and who is now a freshly minted Ph.D., employs another interesting maneuver. When someone poses this objection, he simply suggests that the "inner space" of atomic structure is equally infinite. Elsewhere in discussion on millinerd, Adam quoted Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet:
"He had read of 'Space': at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not know how much it affected him till now - now that the very name "Space" seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam. He could not call it 'dead': he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. How indeed should it be otherwise, since out of this ocean the worlds and all their life had come? He had thought it barren: He saw now that it was the womb of worlds, whose blazing and innumerable offspring looked down nightly even upon the earth with so many eyes - and here, with how many more! No: space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they had named it simply the heavens."
Brilliant that, and very in line with aforementioned photographs. However, there may be another move still. The appropriate anthropocentrism of orthodox Christian faith has limits. In Concerning the End for which God Created the World, Jonathan Edwards explains:
"There is some impropriety in saying that a disposition in God to communicate himself to the creature, moved him to create the world. For though the diffusive disposition in the nature of God, that moved him to create the world, doubtless inclines him to communicate himself to the creature when the creature exists; yet this can't be all: because an inclination in God to communicate himself to an object, seems to presuppose the existence of the object, at least in idea. But the diffusive disposition that excited God to give creatures existence was rather a communicative disposition in general, or a disposition in the fullness of the divinity to flow out and diffuse itself."
This is a necessary check upon Karl Barth's important assertion that "the universe is created as a theater for God's dealings with man and man's dealings with God." It is that, but more than that as well. On this score, I find Edwards more liberating than Barth, and ironically more up to date.