Humanity has thrown around the words “infinite” and “eternal” for ages. Due to our perspective we have held about as much regard for the words as we do for “beautiful” or “intelligent”. We have casually used the words for both the Creator as well as creation. With little more than our own lives and the world we live in for context we have felt comfortable with both the words and their use because telling God that we believe He is bigger than we are or that His influence is greater than the Earth or the sky we see above us is really not a stretch. Such thoughts keep God close and our ability to personalize Him is only slightly more challenged than the efforts of the ancient Greeks or Romans or Norsemen. We have become comfortable with that. So much so we try to use our primitive understanding as a definition of God and resist anything that would try to change that.
Enter modern science and the context of the words begin, whether we like it or not, to change dramatically! Now grains of sand can no longer be seen as merely ‘small’. Now we can move our understanding and perceptions into more precise and intricate building blocks only to find that each has more confounding components. We think of microbes, then molecules, atoms, quantum particles and maybe that is only the beginning. A measurement that is larger than mankind’s thoughts of infinity seems to fill our understanding of just one grain of sand as it sparkles on our fingertip. And then we look outward …
The context of us and the world we live in stretches. The scale of things quickly reduces us to the imperceptible; hardly larger than the atoms hidden beneath us. The distance just keeps stretching: our planet, the moon and its orbit, our place in the solar system circling our sun, the outer reaches of our solar system, our ‘local’ neighborhood of stars, our galaxy, the ‘local’ neighborhood of galaxies, our galactic cluster, the cluster of clusters, stretching fields and spheres of superclusters finally filling a universe that is reaching beyond our ability to see or guess at. Then astronomers and physicists guess anyway, “Why just one? Maybe there are more universes beyond our own and maybe clusters of universes and superclusters of clusters and …”
Is it any wonder that ‘modern’ man looks inward and then outward and says, “Wow! Infinity is REALLY big! Eternity is must be REALLY long!” at which point they have a new context for the words. Infinity becomes TOO big for our provincial idea of God to handle. “How can the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob encompass the entirety of infinity? How can I believe (if He IS that big) that He can still take notice of me and my small life?”
We find ourselves in the midst of a paradigm shift of the spirit and we wonder, “How can it be?”
It helps a little to realize that Infinity hasn’t changed, only our conceptions of it. Our old conceptions limited our understanding of how the words applied to God but our old conceptions didn’t change who or what God is. As our understanding of the infinite changes we have to remember that our understanding of God has to change as well. While the questions get bigger as our understanding expands it doesn’t change that it has always been an infinite and eternal God that has heard our prayers. The difference now is how much more wondrous that has become.
Oh Lord, my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art*
It’s okay to ask, “How can this be?” We have always asked that. It is also okay to stand in awe when no answer is forthcoming.
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?”**