After 12/7/2011, this blog will no longer be updated, although content will remain. Please visit my new blog at Hidden Latitudes.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Google Sky Map, Copernicus, Galileo and Grace

   While recently foraging about for apps for my new Android phone, I came across Google's Sky Map. This fascinating application allows you to point your phone at a star in the sky and, using GPS data and an internal compass, it will label the star or constellation. Fascinating.
   But it got me thinking. What Sky Map does is create a virtual "dome" above you, and like a planetarium projector, it will produce a representation of the sky on that "dome." This is a very pre-Copernican way of looking at the sky.
   Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), as many of us know, was the Renaissance astronomer who first posited that the earth was not the center of the cosmos. He held off publishing this finding until months before his death, fearing both scientific and religious criticism. But the religious criticism was six decades in coming (reason: no Kindle), and it arrived with a vengeance due to the efforts of another smart fellow, Galileo Galilei, and his new and improved telescope, which allowed him to verify many of Copernicus's findings. It was Galileo who suffered for his integrity, found a heretic and confined to house arrest from 1634 until 1642, when he died at age 77.
   What does all of this interesting history have to do with grace? Perhaps this: it is very, very difficult for non-believers (and more than a few believers) to understand grace. And much of it has to do with pre-Copernican thinking. It seems more logical, more personal, and more comforting to understand our relationship with God as revolving around us. The main reason this is so is this is where we are. We see the world from our perspective, not any other. The night sky will look different when viewed from Jupiter, but we will never see it.
   Many people (maybe most) believe that what you do and what you are will make all the difference in how God accepts you. Blessings, heaven, health, all the good things, are the result of a zero-sum game: if you are more good than bad, you will get more good things than bad things. This is the spiritual equivalent of thinking the heavens revolve around the earth. It is old thinking. But again, it is easy to think this way, because this is our default viewpoint, and we are often too lazy or thoughtless to consider another.
   Grace teaches us that the spiritual universe revolves around God, that it is His pleasure and plan to allow us to play, plan and work (and even mess up) in his infinite creation. He has chosen us to be a part of it all. And it has nothing to do with our worthiness or goodness. It has everything to do with His goodness.
   Really, which would you rather have? A static spiritual world where everything revolves around you, yet is always tantalizingly just out of reach, and where your ability to move is severely limited? Or a dynamic world that is spinning at 1040 miles an hour on its own axis, while spinning around the sun at 18.5 miles a second, in a solar system whirling through space at 185 miles a second? A world where you're a valued, loved and needed part of it all. It's enough to make you dizzy.
   That's what grace is like.
   And those of us who have made this discovery should tell about it. We may be skittish, like Copernicus. We may be roughed up a bit (even by the church!), like Galileo.
   But we will be right, like them both.
Wayne S.

No comments: