Is God's creation everywhere

Praise to creation in the age of science

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Sermon by Dr. Frank Vogelsang on November 3rd, 2019 in Gummersbach

On Sunday, November 3, 2019, Academy Director Dr. Frank Vogelsang preached in the Evangelical Church in Gummersbach. The focus of his sermon was the relationship between faith and scientific understanding of the world. The sermon is available here for reading.

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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was desolate and empty, and it was dark on the deep and the Spirit of God was floating on the water. And God said: Let there be light! And there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then God separated the light from the darkness and called the light day and the darkness night. Then evening and morning became the first day. (Genesis 1, 1-5)

With these words begins the Bible's account of creation. We can understand the text as an expression of the worship of God. God made everything wonderful. He created the light, the solid earth on which we can walk, the plants, the animals and us, the people. We are familiar with the verses at the beginning of the Bible. We feel their dignity. But on the other hand, they have also become alien to us! They hardly fit in with the idea of ​​the world we have today.

The creation account - just outdated poetry?
When we think of the world, we think of the universe, the solar system, the small earth, we think of the images that the natural sciences convey to us. For millennia, people not only heard praise from the Creator, but saw the verses of the Bible as the precise depiction of the creation of the world. Is the creation account now for us modern humans just outdated poetry?

... and the people gypsies on the edge of space?
Some go further. In the name of the natural sciences, you reject the biblical description of creation all around. The biologist and Nobel Prize laureate Jacques Monod, for example, wrote: “When a person accepts the message of science in its full meaning, then he must finally wake up from his thousand-year dream and recognize his total abandonment, his radical alienation. He now knows that he has his place like a gypsy on the edge of the universe that is deaf to his music and indifferent to his hopes, sufferings or crimes. "(By chance and necessity. Philosophical question of modern biology, Munich 1971, 211 )

The natural sciences are committed to their methods
Statements like Monod's are individual voices that by no means represent all natural scientists. As a rule, most scientists do not refer to God in the context of their scientific work. Your personal convictions are independent of your scientific work. They know that the methodological foundations of their sciences offer no possibility of making religious statements.

The biblical texts also describe reality
But irritations remain even if one observes the important distinction between scientific method and personal conviction. Because the biblical texts don't just want to say something about personal convictions, they don't just want to be beautiful poetry, they rather want to describe the reality in which we live! But what significance do they have in a scientifically described world?

The biblical texts enrich the scientific understanding of the world
I would like to share the following thought with you: The biblical messages do not question the natural sciences, they are not an alternative, rather they enrich our modern, scientifically shaped understanding of the world! You are not satisfied with a neutral list of objects that exist in the world. These messages also concern the scientifically described world, but they go beyond the scientific representation. They read: There is no place in this world that has nothing to do with God. And: God is closer to us in this scientifically measured world than we often believe.

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God's creation is comprehensive, it has no limit
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. One could also say: In the beginning God created everything that is. "Heaven and earth" indicate at this point that God's creation is comprehensive, that there is nothing that could fall out of it. Creation is not just the earth, not something limited behind which something else begins that has nothing to do with God. Whichever path I choose in this world, God is always close to me in his creation. In the creation account in particular, it is important that God's creation encompasses everything that exists: heaven and earth, day and night, light and darkness.

... and we cannot fall from God's creation
There is nothing outside of God's creation. There is no absolute distance from God in this universe. This is beautifully expressed in Psalm 139: “If I lead towards heaven, you will be there, if I made my bed with the dead, see, you are also there. If I took the wings of the dawn and stayed at the outermost sea, your hand would guide me there too and your right hand would hold me. If I say: Darkness may cover me and night instead of light be around me, then darkness would not be dark with you and the night shone like day. ”God is present in God's creation, we cannot fall from God's creation. We cannot ultimately distance ourselves from God in this universe. Wherever we go, whatever limit we overcome - we go with God. If I took a rocket and flew over the solar system, I would not be far from God there either. There, too, is God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Because God's creation is everywhere.

God created heaven and earth, that is, the whole world. But this world is not the same everywhere and not good everywhere. In this world there is nearness to God and distance from God. The Bible knows that the world is not perfect. The account of creation is followed by the fall of man. Suffering and injustice are just as much a part of the world as deeply felt joy and fulfillment. Heaven is God's place in the Bible. Where in this world that God created can he be found? We ask about heaven as the place of God. What the biblical talk of heaven means is impressively illustrated in the texts of the New Testament.

God is always closer than we think
Jesus preached about the approaching kingdom of heaven. In fact, if we are looking for God, we don't have to go anywhere, God comes up to us, God is always closer than we think. In the Gospel of Matthew, the kingdom of God is referred to as the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Here, too, a specific place, a specific sphere cannot really be meant. We do not have to travel far or overcome distant boundaries if we are to seek heaven. When the kingdom of heaven comes near, then God is also near, then his healing power is also near.

Heaven is everywhere where we can feel God's closeness
Heaven is so closely related to the closeness of God. Heaven is where God is near. We pray in the Lord's Prayer: “Our Father in Heaven”. We are not pointing to a specific, distant place within our universe. We point to all those places and moments when God is close. And these places and moments can be found everywhere. But they can also be overlooked everywhere. So it really depends on us how sensitive and open we are.

The strength of the natural sciences are their objectifying methods
We do not discover God as having a detached and skeptical attitude towards the world. When we do science, however, we necessarily look aloof. Then the world shows itself as a collection of physical processes. Indeed, in this way we cannot discover God. Then, as Monod says, we become gypsies on the edge of an endless universe. The natural sciences look at the world with objectifying methods. That is their dignity, their strength and at the same time their limits. Natural scientists are required to look at the world soberly and impartially. As a result, they learned a lot and understood the world better in some ways. Today we have a completely different understanding of the universe than the ancient people or the people of the Middle Ages. In this way we have overcome many a misconception about the world.

We only experience God when we allow ourselves to be spoken to by him
As important and enriching as the distancing attitude of the natural sciences is, we cannot discover everything in this way. When we measure the world, there are great expanses and distances. Is the crucial thing at the very back, perhaps on the other side of our galaxy? Do we have to go that far? If you ask like this, you cannot find out that the world is a place close to God. When we measure the world, we see a lot, but we cannot find out that it is also a place of love. We only experience love when we get involved in it, when we are grasped by it. We only experience God when we are addressed by him and let him speak to us when he comes close to us.

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Experience of God is part of this reality
Thus the psalmist exclaims: “Praise the Lord my soul and what is in me, his holy name. Praise the Lord my soul and do not forget what good he has done you, who forgives you all your sins and heals all your ailments, who redeems your life from ruin, who crowns you with grace and mercy. "Who meets God, who only has an inkling of God, cannot remain sober and distant. He realizes that the closeness of God cannot be measured with devices.

But isn't this religious speech just a speech about one's own state of mind, isn't it just a speech about subjective experience? No, it is actually about experiences in this one world in which we live. It's about the same world that we're measuring, it's about the world of black holes and star explosions, the world of dark matter and background radiation. In this one world we also find love and justice, light shines in the darkness.

Detached viewing and touched religious experience can be close together
The distanced observation and the touched religious experience can sometimes be very close to one another. What do we see when we look up at the sky on a starry night? We see an almost infinite multitude of stars, we sense the endless expanse. But we don't just see points, we also feel something of the overwhelming size of the universe. This fills us with awe. That can be an occasion to want to learn more, to build instruments for a better understanding. But that can also be an occasion to just look at it in amazement. The theologian Schleiermacher put this into a wonderful formula: "Looking at the universe (...) is the highest form of religion." But looking at this is not just sober contemplation, but the discovery that the nocturnal, starry sky is very much then can say a lot about the world when he touches us. He comes so close to us, he touches us. When the world appears as heaven, when the closeness of God can be felt, when we experience heaven on earth, then we are not sober, but fulfilled, we feel something for which we lack adequate words.

Heaven is where we humans in this world can experience God
So where is the sky? The sky is not beyond limits, it is not back there or up there. Heaven is where we humans in this world can experience God. Matthew writes: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in the field, which a person found and hid. And in his joy he went and sold everything he had and bought the field. ”Joy is important and central here. Whoever experiences God's closeness, whoever feels something from the kingdom of heaven, is full of joy. This joy is a testimony from God, the Creator of heaven and earth also in our time. Even in the times of scientific research, we can rediscover the sky in the universe over and over again.
Thank God! Amen


FV, ms / 04.11.2019

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