If you’re looking for a diversion from the Olympics this weekend, you may want to follow the landing of Curiosity, an interplanetary rover scheduled to land on Mars in the early morning hours (EST) of Monday. With much of NASA’s space program scaled back in recent years, this adventure is noteworthy as a sign that the U.S. has not yet abandoned its exploration of outer space.
Space is the closest thing we have to expressing the infinity of God. In the last few decades, opinions about the relationship between science and God have become more intricate and diverse, with ideas ranging from a perspective that science definitely proves God exists, to those who say it proves God does not exist.
And there is big money available to those who successfully meld the science-supports-God perspective. Each year, the Templeton Foundation awards a $1.5 million prize to the scientist and theologian who has done most to link God with science; just yesterday, it was announced that the 2012 winner was the Dalai Lama. (A more multi-dimensional example of an award receipient, perhaps, is the 2002 winner, John Polkinghorne, a physicist turned Episcopalian priest.)
Some years ago, I attended a writer’s workshop led by Madeleine L’Engle, the writer most known for her young adult fiction books such as A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Her stories reflect a marriage of science and religion that goes beyond space and time, blending elements of fantasy and child’s play with life in the real world.
In her opening talk at the workshop, L’Engle talked about taking a walk after dark with her grandson, in the fields surrounding her home in the Connecticut hills. She spoke of looking up at the sky, laid out with its brillance of stars, and feeling deep within her the sense of God existing throughout the vast universe — a feeling many of us have had in looking at the nighttime sky. Her telling of this experience, however, brought it to life in a new way for me, and ignited a desire to see God beyond the boundaries that had shaped my theology to that point. I fell in love anew with the God of the universe.
Sending an interplanetary rover to Mars is not a divine experience, per se. But it is a reminder — not unlike the Olympics — of the divine beauty in pushing the boundaries of our human limitations, of space and time. In the unending cosmos of our world, God can be found wherever we choose to look.