“Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said Let Newton be! and all was light.”
Alexander Pope (1688–1744), British satirical poet. Epitaph Intended for Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey (1730).
During Galileo’s childhood, the most widely accepted belief about the mechanism to explain planetary motion was that planets rode on an eternally unchanging solid crystalline sphere. However, a supernova and a very bright comet, likely seen and remembered by Galileo, shook this seemingly firm foundation of the universe. Between this and the “wandering planets” (two words some people use to describe any pesky little details that just don’t fit current scientific understanding), Galileo began to see the universe as a clock where motions are caused by some force.
It is no secret that Galileo’s ideas, and empirical science in general, were fiercely opposed by religious leaders.
Both in science and in religion, when someone takes the time to think ideas through, to examine, meditate upon, and imagine explanations for wandering planets, it often leads to some of the greatest discoveries mankind has known. Newton’s Mercury did not follow planetary laws, and had Newton left the idea alone, we might not have benefitted from Einstein’s subsequent laws of gravity – concepts that radically changed our understanding of space and time. It has been suggested that Newton’s ideas about attractive and repulsive forces were inspired by his dabbling in the practice of alchemy. This practice was frowned upon by religious leaders. The way I see it, God knows exactly what He is doing, and if alchemy is what Newton needed in order to make his important discoveries, then God placed Newton in such an environment purposefully – so that Newton could hone his thinking-outside-the-box skills.
The same concept can be applied to pesky scriptures that don’t conform to widely accepted doctrine as well as an innate (God-given) understanding that somewhere along the way, humanity really screwed up true spirituality with religious dogma. Orthodox Christians can look down their noses at people who read their horoscopes, go to palm readers, get involved in Scientology or mysticism. Meanwhile, God is doing what He inevitably does best – revealing Himself to people. Sometimes that revelation takes place through a long and difficult learning experience, a path of trial and error.
Giving people the breathing space to explore spiritual matters without condemnation is often viewed, through the orthodox lens, as condoning Satanic or antichrist activity. But this view does not take into account the possibility that God stoops to the individual’s current level of understanding. He knows what knowledge an individual can and can’t receive at any given season in his or her life. Furthermore, God is the only one who knows the intentions of the individual’s heart – whether his or her intent might be defined as the exact opposite of antichrist, that is, he or she may be hungry for spiritual truth, a desire to know God that has been initiated by God Himself, and may be acting upon that desire in the only manner he or she knows. Who are these spiritual police, who know little or nothing about our Father’s timetable and method of reconciliation, to stand in judgment of their brothers and sisters? God stoops for all of us, not just heretics and heathens. Every one of us, every day, maybe even every hour or minute, are all in need of God’s grace.
In scientific theories about gravitation, the new “wandering planets” include extra fast moving stars, the rate of expansion of the universe, extra energetic photons. In spiritual theories, the new “wandering planets” are not even on the table for consideration, at least not within the walls of the orthodox institutions. I believe that God allowed a wedge to be driven between science and religion for a very good reason: so that religious people would become sick to death of religion-in-a-box and learn a thing or two from the scientific community about considering all possibilities, having the ability to admit that perhaps there have been and continue to be some terrible misunderstandings about Who God is and what God does. In fact, this has already begun – look at the mass exodus of the human population from the institutional church.* People will discover the significant difference between religion and spirituality. In addition, people will discover that science and spirituality, like intellect and emotion, are both necessary in order to unravel the mysteries of the universe. It’s only a matter of time…