Monday, 5 March 2007

Every Death is Remembered

This week is regrowing spinal tissue; a strange new gash in the seafloor; how red makes us do poorly on tests; believing in an angry God makes angry people; a pandemic currently among bees in America; and the giant particle smasher which is the center of our galaxy. While admittedly the angry God motif is intriguing and perhaps one I'll need to return to, I've decided to focus instead on cosmic death rays.

My thoughts these past few weeks have been greatly informed by Keith Miller's Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. It is nearly axiomatic that death is part of our religion, probably more so than any other. Without the presence of death, the cross is meaningless. Somehow, and theologians get to argue how ad nausea, the voluntary undeserved suffering and death of one man allowed me to have life, and have it abundantly.

I've been reflecting on how this isn't really a new idea. His death brought forth life par excellent, yes, but the foundation for it was present long before. Everywhere we look in creation, death brings life. It is only by the death of millions of microbes that I can live, or the death of a few big oxen that end up on my plate. Cells had to die in order for me to first form in my mother's womb. Because of limited resources only a certain number of organisms can survive in any particular environment. As some die, others are able to develop into the new spaces, and develop into new ways. Jesus referred to this idea when he said that "unless a seed falls to the ground and dies it can not produce life". He calls us all to give up the old man or woman, to pick up our crosses, and follow Him. I think God set up the principle for the last few billion years, that it would be abundantly clear in every area of life, so that we could finally embrace the soteriology that Christ's ultimate death brings ultimate life.

Then today I read of a new type of gamma ray bursts, greater and therefore more deadly than anything else seen before. It is hypothesized that they could completely wipe out even the most hardy life if they occur close enough to a planet with life on it. And we can see the bursts at least daily somewhere in space.

What kind of God does this? What kind of God incorporates cosmic death rays into His creation, and death into the basic processes of life?

I don't know. I'm not going to try to answer all of the problem of pain here. But I think part of it is that there is something in the very nature of things that allows for life to come from death; that sees the value in death for providing a new formulation and a new creation. This is the mystery of the cross- a good man could die, and so save everyone else, conquering death.

But there is a another mystery here. Another hypothesis is that one of these gamma bursts actually did hit our planet, back in a time period called the Ordovician, 450 million years ago. It was the third biggest mass extinction in our planet's history. (We're currently going through the largest.) It had nothing really directly to do with us humans, the pinnacle of creation. Most of us don't know anything about this extinction, or all these amazing and diverse creatures that once lived at that time, on the land and the seas.

But God does. And I think that's the point. He is aware of all of His creation. He knows if a sparrow falls to the ground and dies. He cares if it dies from falling, or from cosmic rays. He cares about a trilobite dying 450 million years ago- however it died. He is the Great Empathizer, feeling with the pain of all of His creation.

Laurie Bratten points out in Perspectives that this creation is made for God, not for us. Yes, as far as His creation goes, we're pretty special. But we're not everything. Babel should have taught us that. (Although it didn't.) As God tells Job, "Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?" He is aware of every aspect of creation, and intimately involved in it- whether or not we are aware of it now, or ever will be. He knows what happens to the trilobite, and orchestrates the ecology of a sea long dead and disappeared, before we ever came on the scene. There's something humbling in that- that there is so much out there that we as humans will never know, for His creation is just too vast. It is not made for us, but rather for His glory.

When I think on what He has made, and all the years of work He has put into it, I worship my Creator. None can compare to Him, none can even begin to approach the richness of his awesome power and imagination. He has made a universe, and it exists in simple monument to His glory.

1 comment:

Rudy said...

I was telling my older son about gamma ray bursters just today (we were discussing the supernova), and I was wondering to myself about whether there is intelligent life wiped all the time in our universe, and the futility of it.

So your post spoke to me. I don't know why God allows death, but I can see that I was being parochial in worrying only about intelligent life.

Thanks for the quote from Job too, that's a wonderful passage.


This is the discussion of the World Science updates as they become available.
Your thoughts are most welcome here.