Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty.
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
He stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.
He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
They flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.
He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.
The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the junipers.
The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
– (Psalm 104 1-18)
One evening eighteen years ago, before I gave up on television, my husband called me to our bedroom to check out the start of a PBS special. And a young astrophysicist said something that profoundly seized my mind. I remember that moment so vividly! This is the only thing that I can recall from 2005, other than fleeing Hurricane Katrina up the west coast of Florida and actually then ending up moving to Texas. It must have been early on a late-summer evening, from the way the light was falling in the room. Edward had called to me to come and check out what he was about to watch, so he was sitting comfortably against the headboard but I was perched just on the foot of our bed because I was ready to reject what was on offer and head right back to my office. A PBS special was beginning. They were running some beautiful pre-roll of the universe, and a young-sounding astrophysicist was about to speak. What he said was, “For some reason, mathematics can be used to study the universe.” I swear! He said, “For some reason.” And I was thunderstruck.
I have wondered during the intervening years whether I would have been as affected if he had not begun with that odd question. Remove his “for some reason,” and you have just a plain declarative sentence. But add it, and the listener’s own mind immediately wonders what that reason might be. I moved from perching on the end of the bed to sitting against the headboard myself. I watched that whole PBS special, although I cannot now recall the first thing about it. But those first three words the presenter had said were a revelation to me. Think about it! What reason could there be why we can use mathematics to study the universe? I for one was sure that I knew the reason, which was why I found that astrophysicist’s question to be so flat-out astounding. It felt like materialist science’s long-awaited concession that God has to be behind it! Because I had known since I was in high school that math is a human-invented science. So that young astrophysicist had just informed us that the universe also must be invented. And if humans didn’t invent it, then who did?
There are math-people and there are non-math people, and I am emphatically a non-math person. By the time I was in the second semester of Algebra II in high school, I had decided that this would be my final math course unless someone could convince me that I might need to use higher forms of math later on. And more and more I was coming to suspect that no higher math was likely to be useful in the legal career that I was planning, so one day I stayed after class and asked my Algebra II teacher whether math was a discovered or an invented science. That seemed to be a crucial question! But my teacher gave me an impatient look, as if I might be trying to trick her, and she told me that math was an invented science. I thought, “Aha! Well, forget that!” And I never took another math course. (Actually, I have more recently learned that my question was not as foolish as that teacher seemed to think it was.)
So there I was in 2005, all those many years later, hearing a bright young scientist wondering why math can be used to study the universe. And if math is invented, then so indeed must the entire universe be invented as well, which seemed to me, even eighteen years ago, to be a pretty good proof of the existence of God. And then I came across another excellent Hillfaith video which makes that point better than I ever could. In fact, math is everywhere in science, to the point where it almost feels safe to say that math is the language of science, every bit as much as math is the language of God. Math is the way in which God built reality, and certainly God could not have used math to build reality if God were not the ultimate mathematician. Coming to see God that way as an afterlife researcher, eventually I came to regret my rash decision not to take calculus in high school. I should at least have tried to understand what higher mathematical concepts were about! Yes, the sight of mathematical equations on a chalkboard still gives me hives and a headache combined. But if math really was God’s language, then for years I wished that I had at least tried to learn it.
But is math in fact God’s language? For a long time, I was sure that it was. And as I thought about it, I could envision God with what must have been multiple heavenly chalkboards, first working out the language that was going to become higher mathematics, and then using that language to work out reality. And you can imagine the God that I must have had in mind back then, with such a long beard that He would have had to repeatedly throw it over His shoulder to keep it out of His way. He had to invent mathematics first, and God could have done that easily. With chalkboards and not whiteboards. This was long before whiteboards! Big chalkboards, as befitted a gigantic God. I never imagined any of this concretely, but had I imagined it, this is what I would have had in mind.
And then, at about the time that I was giving up on television, I was coming to understand that my old vision of God was altogether wrong. Ditch the beard. Ditch the notion that God would need something ponderous like mathematics with which to create reality. By the turn of this century, most afterlife researchers were coming to realize that Max Planck’s insights of a century before had been right, and consciousness is primary. Indeed, consciousness is all that exists, and reality is fundamentally non-physical. The more deeply we moved into the study of consciousness as primary and pre-existing, the more obvious it seemed to all of us that no other understanding of reality is possible. The more we studied what the dead were telling us, and especially the more we listened to what non-physical beings and our own spirit guides were telling us, the more the words of the first quantum physicists made sense. We are swimming in nothing but Consciousness!
Dr. Planck said, “There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.” Physicist Sir James Jeans simply said, “The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.”
Well, of course! God had no need to dream up mathematics in order to create reality! God is in fact the highest aspect of Consciousness, the very essence of pure Mind, and God could simply think all of reality into existence and maintain it in existence micro-instant by micro-instant, simply by Mind alone. Sir James Jeans was right. And maintaining the universe simply as a thought would be so much easier for God by far than what is actually happening, which is this kind of show-your-work situation where all of reality is constructed according to mathematical principles, so it can therefore be studied by us mathematically. Which fact brings us back to that young astrophysicist’s question of eighteen years ago.
If God never needed to use mathematics as God’s own tool by which to create and maintain this universe, then why can mathematics be used to study the universe? Why is the reality that God thought up deliberately created and refined in such a way that it obeys mathematical laws? Ah. That is the real question! And I invite your proposed answer in the Comments section. As for me, I can think of only one answer. I think that God wants us to have the ability to think it all through with our own earth-limited minds, and to seek and then to find the Creator behind it all. God made reality not as something random and without meaning, but as a set of puzzles that you and I have the ability to solve. Mathematics. Higher mathematics. And then the universe, in all its manifold complexities. All of this could have been thought up and maintained by a less loving God in each micro-instant as an entirely random thought, and much more easily for God. But that has never been God’s plan!
Our frame-verse was first sung at least three thousand years ago. Most weeks’ frame verses are just related to the post in some way, and are meant to entertain you; but this verse is an integral part of this post’s message. A thousand years before the birth of Jesus on earth, people were already making sense of God’s wisdom in arranging reality so they could live supported and sustained by it, and also so they could seek, find, and to at least some extent begin to comprehend and find God’s love in it. And if you will read Psalm 104 while seeing its message as God’s earliest call to people as it was being received and understood, and as it was then being first sung back to God in love and joy, it can bring tears to your eyes.
The best evidence for the existence of God is the fact that you are alive and you are comprehending these words.
As a further case in point, we have been discussing the Origin of Life debate between materialist scientists and scientific free-thinkers. On that front, things are heating up! And since we have been following that debate in recent weeks, I think it might be fun to follow James Tour’s new challenge to materialist scientists. He is giving ten materialist research scientists sixty days to come up with just one of five definitive proofs that materialism has a meaningful approach to understanding the origin of life. And the materialists themselves are even invited to be their own judge! My goodness, how rigged in the materialists’ favor could Dr. Tour’s quite honorable new contest possibly be? I am confident that nevertheless there is no way that the materialist scientists can win Dr. Tour’s new contest. I have done considerable research into the origin-of-life problem, and even if a spark of life can be ignited in some random way – lightning is the most likely method – for life to be sustained even briefly would be such a complex process that for life ever to have arisen randomly and then been randomly sustained and developed to the point of turning into the complex life forms that we see all around us, and that indeed we are ourselves, is close to inconceivable. But it is going to be fun to watch these chosen materialist scientists try to win Dr. Tour’s bet. If, indeed, they even will be willing to try! Let’s hope that of the ten that he has challenged, at least a few will be as honorable as he is, and will try to provide even one of the many more than five elements that would be necessary to sustain and develop life past that first unlikely spark. I’ll keep you posted!
He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work, to their labor until evening.
How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all;the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever;may the Lord rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.
But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, my soul. Hallelujah! – (Psalm 104 19-35)