The more science understands life, the more philosophy seems to have figured out universal ideas and the more that psychology and sociology consistently explain human behavior the more we will be tempted to believe that God really has just wound up the world, like a clock, and let it tick-tock until it’s finished. We often think about the setbacks that we encounter in our lives and we struggle with how challenging they are, but much less often do we entertain thoughts of how challenging advancements and progress can be.
When we think we can explain something we tend to file that thing in a different category than “divine.” Suddenly it is merely “natural.” And while there is nothing wrong with something being “natural,” there is quite a bit wrong with our understanding of natural things being divorced from the hand of divinity. Suddenly God can seem a bit more distant because we know that amoxicillin exits. Suddenly the God who told the seas how far they could go is really just the God who created the moon that gives us our tides.
Suddenly the power and intimacy and love and security that used to belong solely to God has been, in our estimation, incorporated by the ho-hum, everyday, not-all-that-impressive-anymore company of nature. Certainly we would never say this out loud, but think about how many times you take the tylenol before you’ve said the first word of prayer.
But this does not, and cannot , change the fact that God is still everything He has ever been. Do you understand photosynthesis? Great. Do you know how to make it rain, where the lakes came from in the first place, or why in the world water evaporates at all? Probably not. And your ignorance of those things is for the better. For the better because mystery and wonder walk hand-in-hand with faith and pursuit. And rest assured that just because we’ve all been caught up in pursuits that involve less and less of God, that doesn’t mean He’s changed.
The further you and I think we’ve distanced ourselves from God the truth of the matter is that we are no farther now than we were ten or ten thousand years ago. Just because we understand the science behind lighting and thunder doesn’t mean God no longer speaks. Science does not possess a mute button for the voice of Lord. He comes near to us. He does incredible things for us and in us. He often treats us in ways that we don’t deserve because He loves us.
Though He may seem so sometimes, God is never distant. He has decided that we are important enough to die for and special enough to grant eternal life to. In Philip Yancey’s book, The Question That Never Goes Away, he offer a remarkable quote from a friend of his who was struggling through the heinous process of chemotherapy treatments, part of which sums up my thought here:
the God of human history and its long prehistory; the God of the 7 billion rejoicing, suffering, hoping, aching people on our planet, nonetheless meets us personally, listens to what we say, is interested in who we are and is passionate about what we might become, and walks alongside us in the chances and challenges of life. It’s outrageous, and improbable, and true.