JOPLIN, Mo. —
The most potent challenges to religious faith in the millennium are subjective. During the last century, the world flirted with secular ideologies, including communism and fascism. All of them failed as substitutes for religion.
Although there are still no attractive alternatives to religion, men and women of good faith can suffer from a sense of their aloneness in the universe and their awareness of how badly people treat one another.
I continue to be impressed that people who suffer tragedy rarely blame or deny God for their misfortunes. Instead, they typically thank God that their losses were not worse, and ask his help in rebuilding the lives he gave them.
Before Copernicus, the universe seemed to be just large enough to display the grandeur of God, and just compact enough to make people feel at home at its center. When we discovered that the universe does not revolve around us, that fact alone seemed to diminish our importance in God’s scheme.
In recent memory we landed on the moon and sent probes through the solar system in efforts to explore the universe. Instead of confirming human genius, these successful adventures left many people bewildered by the vast emptiness of space and fearful of the fires of countless stars and the annihilating power of black holes.
Despite Albert Einstein’s reassurance to the contrary, many of our contemporaries suspect that relativity has made everything relative. Where can we find God in endless space? And where is our privileged place in God’s creation if there are other intelligent beings in the universe?
There was a time not so long ago when people truly feared God Ñ not only his punishment, but his power and majesty. Religious confidence relies on a creator who made the sun, the moon, the stars and even black holes. Our God does not seek to frighten us with these immensities, but only to astound us with his sense of adventure. God plays on the largest stage and on the grandest scale.
Many of us are appalled by the apparent waste in nature Ñ so much life, and over so soon. From God’s point of view, this is simply abundance. Life springs from death, and life goes on. People might feel more comfortable playing roles in a one-set drawing-room comedy; instead, we find ourselves every day in a titanic spectacle with a cast of billions.
That fact can be unsettling unless we consider the reliability of our divine director and set designer. From God’s point of view, no man, woman or child plays a bit part in the drama of life. Rather, each of us enjoys top billing.
As a young child, I was frightened by bridges and skyscrapers, and intimidated by adults and strangers. It is only natural for children to feel small and helpless, because that is what they are. But as adults we can learn to appreciate the immensity of God’s imagination and even to relish the unexpected as a foretaste of the endless adventure that our eternity will be in the company of our creator.
DAVID YOUNT is the author of 14 books. He answers readers at P.O. Box 2758, Woodbridge, VA 22195 and dyount31@ verizon.net.