So, how did this come about? There are, Polkinghorne writes, essentially four possibilities:
- This fine-tuning is highly unlikely in a random possible universe, but God has ensured in God’s loving wisdom that it is so, so that we can come into being.
- This fine-tuning is highly unlikely in a random possible universe, but just by luck the one that exists is anthropic, that is, suited for life.
- This fine-tuning is highly unlikely in a random possible universe, but there are such a vast number of other universes that it is not unlikely that at least one of them is anthropic, or suited for life.
- There are as yet undiscovered reasons why this fine-tuning is not highly unlikely in a random possible universe.
As I said, I’m just fascinated by all of this. I know that some of you have struggled a bit with how to square scientific theories like the big bang and evolution with your faith and with what the bible says. Polkinghorne’s work suggests that there is room within science for God, and that there is room in the bible for science. As I studied our gospel lesson this week, I was struck how John, who wrote almost two thousand years ago in a pre-scientific age, almost seems to be aware of modern scientific theories, and how he makes room for them. John begins his gospel with “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and Word was God.” He is, I think, almost certainly intentionally trying to echo the words from the very beginning of the bible, from Genesis: “ In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” Both Genesis and John make the same point: before there was anything, there was God. And in both Genesis and John, God creates through the Word. In Genesis, God says, “Let there be light,” and there was light. John uses the Greek word logos, which is translated in our bibles “Word.” Logos is more than a part of speech, more than simple communication. Logos implies a will and intention, a mindfulness, even an action. Logos reflects what God is thinking, what God desires, what God wants, what God does, what God brings into being, what God creates. This finely tuned universe we inhabit can be understood as one magnificent expression of God’s logos, one way that God’s will and desire is revealed. And John says that Jesus is also the Logos, Jesus is the word of God. When John calls Jesus the Logos, what he is saying is that in Jesus, God speaks God’s mind. In Jesus, we see what it means to be fully and completely human. In Jesus, we see the potential that exists in each of us to be truly children of God. In Jesus, we see how God calls us to live this life. I think part of what God shows us in Jesus is someone who is more fully conscious and intentional in their interactions with others. Instead of automatically shying away from or avoiding people on the margins, or people who are sick and might have a contagious disease, or people who are from different walks of life, Jesus works to bring people into the center, works to bring healing to people who need it, works to bring people together. Instead of jumping to conclusions about why the lonely woman is at the well by herself in the middle of the day, Jesus tries to show her that she is a beloved child of God, despite what her culture says. Instead of assuming that Zaccheus is corrupt and evil because he is a tax collector, Jesus invites himself over for dinner. Even while he is dying on the cross and being taunted by the soldiers and crowds below, instead of lashing out at them, he tries to make sure that his mother and friends will be cared for after he is gone. In Jesus, God shows us what life can be like when we are not stuck in bad habits of relating to one another, not stuck in automatic routines that deny that we ourselves and the people we meet are beloved children of God, not stuck in knee jerk responses of lashing out when we feel attacked.
Within a few seconds of the big bang some fourteen billion years, all the matter and energy that would ever be created was brought into being. The ratio of hydrogen and helium was perfectly suited to combine into bigger atoms like oxygen and nitrogen and to one day result in life here on earth. The very fabric of the universe, the forces that hold atoms together, was finely tuned to make our lives possible. The same matter that makes up the stars in the heavens combined to make human beings: you and I are made of the same stuff that stars are made of. And if that isn’t miracle enough for you, God spoke again through the person of Jesus. Jesus was made of the same matter that we are; Jesus was made of the stuff of stars. In Jesus, we see how God would have us live, we see our God-given potential. We see what it means to be a child of God; what it means to be a child of the stars. That is the miracle, that is the good news, of this Christmas season. Amen.