Where Is God: Are the Gaps Shrinking?

For the faithful, without doubt, the Christian God has operated in the earthly realm. God generated the famous burning bush of Moses, parted the Red Sea, created the virgin birth of Christ, turned water into wine, converted fishes and loaves to feed thousands, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

That presence continues today. Today, for the faithful, God touches our earthly realm as his listens to our prayers, sends his Spirit to guide and purify us, inspires the bishops at ecumenical councils, and enables modern day saints to perform miracles.

But where is this God?

Before the ascendancy of modern science, the Christian God could be present “out there” in nature. Humanity’s understanding of science was sufficiently limited that we could picture our God as residing in the skies above, wielding the forces of nature for his purposes. Ample gaps existed in our science to allow the earthly attributes of God, and his presence in our earthly realm, to slip in without contradiction of science.

But the God of earthly prowess is running out of room to hide. Physics over the last century has drilled down to the infinitesimally small, and the sister science of astronomy has peered out to the extraordinary distant. The “out there” is shrinking.

So where is God? One might have thought we would run into him, if he was “out there” in the physical realm.

One Approach, Denial of God – This contradiction, this incongruity, between the professed earthly presence and intervention of God, and the increasing scope and reach of science, leads many to a denial of God. If one takes our hard sciences, and adds in sociology, psychology and anthropology, one can readily create a convincing logic that God isn’t a reality but rather a figment of collective human need and imagination.

Many prominent authors have written books to that effect.

Believers, the faithful, would reject that rejection, and despite any contradictions maintain a conviction in God. I accept that as reasonable, that at the person-on-the-street level, faith can operate as such. In the myriad of inconsistencies in life, we cannot expect everyone to resolve them all with absolute philosophical and theological rigor. It is permissible to just believe.

But for truth, for that which would supersede all else, we cannot overlook such contradictions. If God is to remain a possibility within truth we must resolve the increasing tension between our personified and intervening God, and the lack of any physical indication of his presence or the mechanism of his intervention.

Why work so conscientiously to maintain what some would consider a mirage. Very simply, within our history, within our culture, and within our conceptual realm, God stands as too central of an idea to simply abandon it without due diligence.

Of God and Concepts – The origins of most religions occurred before the scientific age. That timing stands as a key insight into our dilemma. God could reveal himself only within the conceptual framework of pre-scientific mankind. This limitation extended to other spiritual concepts. Souls, heavens, salvation, grace, all became cast within the terminology and idioms of the times.

Our quandary of the shrinking gaps for God may rest not so much in the essence of God, but in our images of that essence. God is ineffable (let us assume he exists, and if he exists most theology posits God as ineffable, at least within current human intellectual capabilities). As such, we can grasp God only by images and analogies, and difficulties with God could readily be in those images and analogies, not in the nature of God himself.

To explore that hypothesis, let’s think about how God would design the method and content of revelation to match what mankind could most readily understand. How would he market himself, in a good sense, i.e. without attempting to deceive while maximizing his message?

Now without being presumptuous, I would posit God would want to achieve the following in a revelation:

– Show knowledge or abilities beyond mankind’s
– Maintain credibility
– Demonstrate his munificence, divinity and perfection
– Fit within the culture of the time
– Impart new understandings

In prior times, converting water-to-wine (or just a story of converting water to wine) worked within those parameters. Nature in those times contained numerous mysteries; the forces of nature brought both good fortune and calamity with a certain degree of arbitrariness. Water-to-wine fit into the general unexplainable phenomena encompassing life in general.

Today, water-to-wine might work, but I could readily conceive this event becoming swallowed within modern culture. The miracle could be demoted to just another Wikipedia article, with categories of description, scientific explanations, historic context, socio-political impacts, press coverage and book deals, all highly referenced. Our modern culture tends to chew up such physically bounded “miraculous” events.

Current prophet – If a revelation were to occur in current times, God would likely not use images, messages and approaches relevant for a prior time. The criteria for his revelation, as listed in the bullets above, would remain the same, but that criteria would dictate different approaches.

So how would a current prophet implement the criteria above with a current approach? Let me lay out how such a prophet might operate.

The prophet would appear first in a deep African village, to a small group of people, but including one person who posts a video on the internet. The prophet would proclaim “all gods are in God.” He would show a tattoo and a talisman, and provide a dental impression, suitably encased for sanitary and preservation purposes, then disappear.

Few would notice. The prophet the next day would appear at a vastly different location, at a great telescope in South America, to another small group of people, again including one who posts a video on the internet. The prophet would write down detailed co-ordinates for locating a planet, and proclaim “you will find life.” He would show his tattoo, his talisman, and leave a dental impression.

The prophet on the third day would again appear at a new and different location, at CERN, in a room with no other occupants at the time. He would gain access to the computer systems, enter an algorithm and write “with this you find an essence for time.” He would leave a dental impression.

The next day, the scientists of CERN discover the entered algorithm, and trigger a local press story. No one, however, can find a trace of how this person arrived or left the building or location.

The prophet on the fourth day arrives in a Southeast Asian village. He asks the local doctor to take a sample of blood, shows his tattoo and talisman, and leaves the now familiar dental sample. The doctor records a short video, and posts it. The prophet proclaims that the blood contains “a cure and revelations.” The prophet’s story begins to break across the news media in sporadic reports. His dental impressions begin to be collected.

On the fifth day, the prophet appears at the Antarctic South Pole station. A video is taken, with shots of the tattoo and talisman, and the dental impression provided. He proclaims, “maintain diligence, as five years will be required.” The prophet takes a small container of radioactive material used for experiments, steps outside into the cold, breaks open the radioactive container and douses himself. He then walks off.

The prophet is never seen again. No evidence of his means of transportation is ever found. No evidence of his body or the radioactivity is found in the Antarctic snow. The dental impressions all match, and the DNA on the impressions is found to be human.

Five year later, the planet at the telescope coordinates is found to contain plant-like life, the algorithm at CERN uncovers tachyon-like particles that revolutionize the concepts of time, and the blood sample contains cures to diseases, and proteins that when decoded provide divine sayings.

Discussion – What is this story? It is not an attempt to supplant God. Rather, the story indicates that the apparent closing of the gaps where God can exist is a closing of the God of the concepts available in the historic time of that revelation. The story points to possibilities for divine presence and revelation tuned to present culture.

We think science has closed the gaps. But the story shows many gaps exist. Mankind does not know if or where other life exists, physics has incomplete understanding of time, and medical science can not address major illness.

Some are skeptical of the resurrection of Christ. That skepticism could be considered culturally supported since the movie Sherlock Holmes showed how a mere human villain pulled off his own apparent resurrection. But in this story, teleportation replaces resurrection, with dental records as authentication, and though not iron clad we would not readily dismiss the power and reality of a prophet employing such a means of travel.

Teleportation vs. miracles shows how cultural appropriateness enables the credibility of revelation. Two millennium ago, communication and travel occurred so slow that the teleportation of the story here would hardly have been noticed. Today, that is of course much changed. The teleportation here is documented through internet technology and authenticated by scientific means not available in prior times. It receives credibility since science itself is exploring teleportation. Finally, the teleportation is sufficiently astounding to make explanation of it as a trick, or within know physics, difficult.

In today’s media-hyped environment, a prophet with a long duration could get exposed, destroyed, disputed, elevated, exploited, politicized or otherwise unable to stay on point. This story has a prophet of five days, with the revelation, not the prophet, extending over time.

And miracles are replaced by information. Our scientific age is skeptical of physically bounded miracles. Our belief in science is so strong that many would pick the now constancy of science over an isolated localized miracle of a prophet, if the two conflicted. Thus, while a physical miracle creates a contradiction with science, a prophet offering information does not. Information and science are conciliatory, and the information revealed here extends science.

Is the teleportation a similar physical miracle that would be discounted? Possibly, but I would argue it is sufficiently broad, and sufficiently beyond standard magician material, to set itself apart.

Where is God? – If he exists he is somewhere, I know not where. So I have asked a question which I can not answer. But I have offered that the continuing advances of science, and the expanding reach of modern culture, do not of necessity squeeze the “where” of God into a smaller and smaller gap.