The universe, in its rational beauty and transparency looks like a world shot through with signs of mind. John Polkinghorne[i]
In being ourselves we are more than ourselves; … our experience, dim and fragmentary as it is, yet sounds the utmost depths of reality. Alfred North Whitehead[ii]
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We come from mystery; we return to mystery. I accept that fundamental reality, yet it is not resignation. It is not fatalism. That acceptance is filled with hope—hope grounded in the love I have experienced and the beauty I have known. Love is real; beauty is real. Suffering and pain are also real, but those hard realities do not erase the reality of the love that has blessed my life. I am convinced that love is rooted in the very heart of the ultimate mystery in which our lives are embedded. That love, the reality of that love, is the ground of my faith, my hope.
God is the word I use to speak of that Mystery. The word speaks of an intelligence present in all existence, a creative intelligence that lures, but does not coerce, a healing presence that works to call forth new form out of old, new life out of death. Ultimately, life is mystery, yes. But I am convinced that there are things we can know, things we can trust. I have chosen to live within the logic of the reality of love, a logic grounded in the assumption of an intelligible universe which is at the foundation of the scientific tradition[iii] and the sense of being seen and valued that is at the heart of the biblical tradition that is my religious heritage.
The word God gives beauty and meaning to my life: it supports the sense of a dialogue with life that has emerged from my life journey; it allows me to trust that my daughters will somehow be cherished forever. The word God is only a word, yet I am convinced that it identifies something real within existence. I am convinced that God is a legitimate starting point for thought, a fruitful, productive foundation on which to build a life and a trusting relationship with the Unknown.
Loretta Willems, May 15, 2022
[i] John Polkinghorne, Quarks, Chaos, & Christianity: Questions to Science and Religion (New York: Crossroad, 1994), p. 25. Polkinghorne, an Anglican priest and Fellow of the Royal Society, was Cambridge Professor of Mathematical Physics and President of Queen’s College, Cambridge.
[ii] Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1925), p.18. Whitehead (1861–1947) was a British mathematician and philosopher best known for his work in mathematical logic and the philosophy of science. In collaboration with Bertrand Russell, he co-authored the landmark three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910, 1912, 1913).
[iii] Paul Davies. The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (Simon & Shuster, 1992): ”I belong to the group of scientists who do not subscribe to a conventional religion but nevertheless deny that the universe is a purposeless accident…. Furthermore, I have come to the point of view that mind—i.e., conscious awareness of the world—is not a meaningless and incidental quirk of nature, but an absolutely fundamental facet of reality. That is not to say that we are the purpose for which the universe exists. Far from it. However, I do believe that we human beings are built into the scheme of things in a very basic way” (6). Davies is Director of the Beyond Center at Arizona State University. He won the 1995 Templeton Prize for his work on the deeper meaning of Science.
[iv] Polkinghorne: “Mathematics is the free exploration of the finite human mind. Our mathematical friends sit in their studies and out of their heads they spin the beautiful patterns of mathematics. Mathematics can be thought of as a pattern-creating, pattern-analyzing subject. Yet some of the most beautiful patterns that are dreamt up by the pure mathematicians in their studies are found actually to occur in the structures of the physical world around us.” “God’s Action in the World,” Cross Currents: Religion and Intellectual Life 41 (Fall 1991), p. 297.