The great Hubert Reeves, French-Canadian astrophysicist, educator, and possessor of a very handsome beard and hairstyle (i.e. like mine), is much quoted on the Internet –
“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping”,
This reflection has been met with disapproval and consternation by many people whose weltbild is perhaps narrower than it should be.
By our very nature as humans, we all need to define our understanding of the nature/existence/being of ourselves, and so of God.
Of God, because deny it or not, we all possess an innate “knowledge” of something we call (or try not to call) God.
Defining God is no easy task.
It’s not easy because it really cannot be done – any definition we come up with is very subjective simply because it is something that we have come up with using our intellect, reasoning, experience, preconditioning, education, and so on.
Humans are not good with objectivity.
Martin Luther, in my opinion, came up with one of the better definitions of God back in the 16th Century in his “Der Große Katechismus (The Large Catechism)”, where he examines the First Commandment, thus –
“ ‘You are to have no other gods’. That is, you are to regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What does “to have a god” mean, or what is God?Answer: A ‘god’ is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. … … …. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God.”
Now, a few centuries later, we ask ourselves, “on what do I really rely?”
Perhaps the accepted doctrines of the Christian Church, formulated over the years by councils of churchmen?
Do we place blind faith in the stories we were taught as children?
Do we rely on the changeable promises and lies of rulers and politicians?
Or do come to see our universe and world as that without which we wouldn’t exist, couldn’t exist, and never would have existed, and so place our awe and reliance there?
It might seem obvious, but they aren’t simple questions.
I started my education in the biological sciences, and after more than 20 years working in that field I decided to change course and study theology as well.
I have a theology degree and some higher qualifications in that discipline.
For the past couple of decade I have been an ordained clergyman (that is, a “Rev”).
After all these years I still find the questions of the nature of life and God to be fascinating, difficult, and hard to answer, important questions .
When Hubert Reeves said “Man is … … unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping”, I, perhaps surprisingly because I am a Christian theologian, would say that he has got closer to the answer than most theologians I have read or met.
(I am retired, but I am still uncomfortably aware that my bishop, ex colleagues, and most of my congregations will not be delighted by my observations here.)
Yes, I do believe that Jesus Christ is the best pattern for human living and his life and words are more than worthy of devotion and adoration – “worship” if that’s the word you like to use.
That kind of worship is good and necessary – but it is essential for us to have awareness and life outside of the scope of our simple faith and worship.
God is not just an anthropomorphised concept – a stroppy old bearded man sitting up in the clouds – a little god created in our own image.
We have no idea of who or what God might really be other than in our imaginings.
We simple creatures need myths and legends and religion – Creation Myths, miracle stories, ethical practices, good living, hope and so on.
But if we use these good things to build a fantasy universe, we are robbing ourselves of our humanity and potential, and we exploit and destroy the world that gives us life, and end up killing the God we wish to understand and love.