Coloring Inside the Lines of Space and Time

The notion that both space and time came into existence at the Big Bang has always intrigued me and simultaneously escaped my grasp.   For as the universe both expanded and cooled, I cannot take away from my mind the sense of being able to somehow look from the outside of this phenomenon of the universe’s creation, existence and expansion, and to observe it from a “God’s eye” point of view.  But the impossibility of such a viewpoint for a mortal is found precisely in the event being “observed” from the outside; for there is nothing outside of the expanding universe and therefore no vantage point from which to view it.   This “nothing” beyond the universe is what defies my thinking, because I tend to think of the universe expanding into something, yet there is nothing to expand into because space and time exist only within the universe.   Like an inflating balloon, the universe is creating and filling its own space, except in the universe there is nothing beyond the latex limit of the balloon for the universe is creating its limits. Part of the trouble is I am still looking at the balloon from the outside and so have this distorted view that there is something beyond the limits of the balloon and thus the universe.  There are many graphics portraying the current scientific idea of how the universe has been expanding since the Big Bang, but they too take the perspective from outside what exists – an impossible view point for us.  Here is one from the New York Times:


It dawned on me the other day that the universe also has to be understood in terms of time, not just space.   And in this thinking, I can accept the sense that the future does not exist (even if I want to qualify it with a “yet”).  Time is expanding out, but there is nothing beyond the current moment.  The universe is creating its own time, beyond which there is nothing.  Accepting the sense of nothing as the future helps me to understand how the universe can be expanding but not moving into something.  Rather it is actually growing all that is just like time does ever making the future (nothing) into the present and past.  Time is not pushing into the future (the future isn’t there!), time is claiming more for itself as the universe expands.  The future doesn’t exist anymore than something existing beyond the expanding universe.  We can abstractly talk about the future as we can talk about negative or irrational numbers or imaginary numbers.   They don’t have to exist in reality to be meaningful and helpful.   The whole history of algebra is humanity’s push into increasingly abstract thinking and ever more imaginary numbers which allow new equations to be solved.

And the universe expands at an accelerating rate – not into something but rather creating the space and the time which it fills.  From the human point of view, there is no “outside” the universe, and graphics which look at the Big Bang from an external point of view are misleading.  We can only see and understand the universe from within it, and we need to come up with graphics that are true to this reality. 

Finally, we need to remember that science is that study of the universe from within, and so science is limited by the universe itself.   Those who believe in God believe God, who in no way is limited by the universe and who is its Creator, does intervene in and reveal Himself within the universe and in and through that which exists.  We believe in and accept this other dimension – divinity – which is beyond the competency of science which can only study the universe itself.  Science truly has to color within the lines of space and time.   God does not.

See also my Why Is it Creation Versus Evolution? and The Dark Side of the Universe

“Let there be light”

Every once in a while, one hears or reads something which causes one to make new connections between ideas and images giving new insight into the interrelation between things in the world and thereby illuminating so many other things.

Such was my experience when I heard Makoto Fujimura  being interviewed on Mars Hill Audio.  As I listened to Fujimura I realized that what I never appreciated or understood about so much art is that art – painting, sculpture, music, poem – is about communicating.  The artist has created a language in which to communicate his/her thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, worldview.  To appreciate artistry, one has to think about the art, to decipher the language in order to be able to understand what is being communicated.  Each artistic creation can be a new language created just to convey a particular thought or emotion, or a whole array of ideas and feelings.  I can’t appreciate art because, quite literally, I don’t know what I am looking at; I don’t understand the language, so it remains foreign to me.   It is not only I who need to think and understand the art, for the truly great artist is also communicating, even if in a unique language; which means great art is capable of communicating to others.  It is meant to illuminate. 

Fujimura wrote many of these same ideas in his blog,  Refractions 26:  The Epistle of van Gogh.   In his own reflecting upon the writings and paintings of van Gogh, he came to appreciate the Christian spirituality van Gogh expresses through his visual thinking.     One insight he offers: 

“… there is an “unwholesome split” between reason and visual thinking today. The post-Enlightenment split between reason and intuition, or emotion, casts a shadow into our assumptions today. Theologically speaking, it is precisely this split that caused the gospel to be communicated as information only, a check list of do’s and don’ts, and not as a cohesive life force full of mysteries and multi-sensory stories. Vincent brings them together. The Gospel as preached by St. Francis, would have meant full engagement of the senses, too. The Word becoming Flesh would not make sense otherwise.”

And all of Fujimura’s discussion of art as language, communication, thinking, and seeing and revealing reminded me very profoundly of the Great Creator Artist and Poet God, who used language to communicate and reveal His thoughts and Himself, when He spoke, “Let there be light.”   And there was light. Vocalizing what He envisioned visualized His vocabulary.   Art was born in that very nanosecond of creation.  Not only was there never a time when the Word was not, there was never a time when art (visual thinking) was not.

Beauty will save the world,” opined Dostoyevsky.  And artists and poets will save the Church from being reduced down to rationalism, literalism and moralism, and will help lift our minds and hearts up to God and to escape the restricting constraints they would place on the human spirit and on our aspirations.

Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I have said you are gods.’”  (John 10:34)

We Cannot Control the Truth but We Can Tell the Truth

In a release dated 26 June 2008 the Interfax Religious News Agency reported that the Russian Orthodox bishop’s council was opposed to clergy discussing inner church problems on the Internet.   The release, Bishops’ Council against Internet discussion of inner church problems, claims the open discussion of inner church problems “not only contradicts moral setup and Church canons but should be considered unacceptable and subjected to condemnation.”  The Council did not condemn all discussion of church problems but questions those discussions taking place in the open forum of the Internet where anyone can read about them and where comments can be made anonymously.   It noted that in fact there was a “lack of lively communication in the Church,” but then suggested the discussions should take place in diocesan meetings where people are gathered face to face.    And of course it is precisely in such small and personal settings where the discussion can be closely monitored and controlled by those in power.

In the Internet/Information age, the Church can no longer control the truth, but it can tell the truth.   And as long as that is the only thing the Church is telling, then there is no need to try to control it.

Unfortunately, though Jesus said we were to be in the world but not of the world, the Church has often entangled itself in worldly issues and lost sight of the fact that its only message is the Gospel of truth – it is not power, it is not control, it is not fund raising, it is not domination over others, nor taking anything from others. 

I’ll repeat a quote from my blog Your Brain Can Give You a Headache:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”  (Joseph Goebbels,  Nazi Germany’s Minister for Propaganda ) 

Church leadership would do well to remember in dealing with dissent or with opinions not of the “party line,” that in vying to maintain their positions of authority they often do not appear to those under their authority to be any different than Goebbels even if their intentions are to protect the Church from negative press. 

Think about the humility of Christ – the only time in His life that anyone ever told Him to come down from His higher position was when He was hanging on the cross.    Otherwise in extreme humility he considered others greater than Himself.   See Philippians 2:5-11.

See also my The Gospel According to John Wayne

The Tragedy of the Orthodox Churches in Kosovo

Though the destruction of the churches in Kosovo is old news, it certainly is worth our remembering. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you…. It is to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’ ”  (John 15:18-25)

Some of the destruction inflicted on these churches was the mindless destruction of those who do not know Jesus Christ and yet hate Him without reason.  

Some of the destruction was understood by the destoryers to be a revenge on Christians for their sins and for being of the world and too tied in to the powers of this world.   May the God of mercy forgive us all.

We pray for those who love us and those who hate us, and all who ask for our prayers unworthy though we be. 

“But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. … But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”  (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36)