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We will begin a new semester this year as we focus on topics in theology and science. This time, we will cover Christopher Southgate’s The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil.
A clip from the movie “Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine.” Bishop Ambrose is depicted here embracing Augustine and later baptizing him.
This week, we will finish the rest of Book VIII – chapters 7 – 12 of Augustine’s Confessions.
In these final chapters, we encounter the monumental moment when Augustine finally devotes himself to the Christian faith as he recounts in great detail in these writings.
At the start of this book, Augustine had returned home to Thagaste only to be kicked out by his mother for his Manichaen beliefs and less so for his mistress. However, he was able to launch his career as a professor of rhetoric due to his patron, Romanianus, who had provided liberally towards his education. Augustine would stay with him after his mother had kicked him out.
Throughout my life I’ve experienced a wide range of beliefs: from Evangelical to agnostic, then to atheist, then a period of dabbling in Eastern religions, to Pentecostal, then to Presbyterian/Calvinist, and now, well, to where I am today let’s just say.
Once you think you have grasped a firm understanding of God, you come across something that catches you off-guard and makes you re-evaluate everything you’ve believed in. As St. Augustine once said, “God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand, you have failed.“
Over the recent years, as I have delved a bit more into the scientific underpinnings of God and theology, as well as my ruminations of the Bible, I’ve adopted more of a “non-interventionist” viewpoint of God.
“God does not play dice with the universe.”
– Albert Einstein
“Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”
– Niels Bohr, in reply to Einstein
In Gerald L. Schroeder’s book, The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom, he describes the blind forces of nature that lie behind much of human grief:
“An earthquake shakes a bridge from its foundation, dropping it onto a crowded bus passing beneath. A chance cosmic ray smashes into an ovum, produces a free radical which in its natural drive to establish electrical balance tears and mutates a chromosome. As a result, a crippled child is born. The same Creator that produces the beauty of a sunrise and the colors of a flower must be credited with these horrors as well.” (p. 168)
Last year, while I was attending classes at a city college, I would always pass by a cerebral palsy center. From time to time, I would see patients from that center lined up outside, mostly in their motorized wheelchairs, waiting to be assisted upon by their caretakers or be helped unto a transport truck.
For some reason, thoughts and questions would run through my head each time I would see these patients –
What if I were them? What made me so special that I was born normal – even though my mother had a complicated pregnancy with me, I came out relatively normal? But what about these patients afflicted with cerebral palsy? Was God directly involved in contributing to their physical and mental conditions? Or was it by pure, random chance, with no discernible reason whatsoever that they were in the condition that they were in? Didn’t God have the power to divert the cosmic ray from hitting the ovum and mutating the chromosome perhaps? Did he do that for me? Why me then and why them?
Or perhaps there’s just no reason or purpose whatsoever in all this.
It was by pure random, blind chance that I was born this way and not another.
And you can run a billion what-if scenarios in your head and ruminate what your life would’ve been like if you made this decision or that, etc.
Did we even have a choice to begin with?