A scientist shows us how to look out the backyard window and describe a magnificent old oak tree as a Querus (Latin name), while the songwriter and poet Rich Mullins speaks of an oak in spring (in his song “The Color Green”) as a creature who “lifts up his arms in a blessing for people being born again.” And then there’s Tolkien, who turns trees into people and calls them Ents…
We need our vision rekindled by writers . . . who looked at the world and understood that it has something to tell us about ultimate reality. We need words to reenchant the world, partly because we have inherited a disenchanted way of seeing. We live in a culture shaped by materialism, by the belief that the physical world has no spiritual meaning and can be entirely explained by the language of science. Even if we believe that God is the creator of the cosmos, we tend more and more to describe it in terms of atoms and inches and measurements rather than in the language of mystery. Like Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the character who embodies what C. S. Lewis considered the worst habits of the modern world, we could easily describe a star just as “a huge ball of flaming gas.”
Like Eustace, we need the sparkle-eyed correction of the much wiser Koriakin, who quickly replies, “That is not what a star is but only what it is make of.”
…We need . . . to liven our wonder because . . . we live with so many distractions—so many things to buy, so many places to go—that we barely have time to sleep, let alone stop long enough to recognize that the smallest moments of the everyday day are rich in beauty, steeped in God’s creative presence.
When Yo-Yo Ma visited an ailing Steve Jobs and played Bach
on his Stradivarius cello, Jobs reared up and said, “Your playing
is the best argument I’ve ever heard for the existence of God,
because I don’t really believe a human alone can do this.”
Beauty touches something deep within us. It captivates and delights us. It is consoling, stunning, intriguing, inspiring, exhilarating. We recognize it. It arrests our attention.
But beauty is elusive.
We are unable to analyze, categorize or place beauty together with all the other topics that we study. Our attempts to describe it fail miserably; our definitions fall short. The greatest philosophers acknowledge that the best we can do is to recognize it when it is there. Beauty will not be explained or contained.It is real, it is wonderful—but it defies analysis.
Something similar happens with God.
Humans have an innate sense that he is there, but we cannot reduce him to a formula or an equation. We can worship or reject him, but we cannot fully explain him. It is a mistake to ask scientists to prove or disprove his existence. He does not reside within their field of study—and good science recognizes its limitations.
“The secret of beauty lies, not in its chemical analysis, but in another mysterious reality,” writes J. Warner Wallace. Science cannot explain why a certain combination of pigments on a canvas is beautiful. And it is incapable of unraveling the mystery of God. When science finishes explaining everything it will have explained nothing.
Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
Wonder does not exist on the basis of rational explanations. It simply doesn’t work that way. It shows up unexpectedly and gives itself to those who are ready to be astonished. We are not about to figure out beauty and much less God—the source of all beauty—but they demand our attention. To ignore them is to be blind.
And to be fully alive involves responding to the awe-inspiring reality of both.
Ever heard of the Fibonacci sequence? It is a sequence of numbers where each one is the sum of the previous two numbers. The sequence runs 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on. What’s fascinating about the Fibonacci sequence is that when you make squares the size of the numbers, it creates a beautiful spiral image.
The “Fibonacci spiral” is found everywhere. It is to be seen in plant leaves, pine cones, seashells, pineapples, ferns, daisies, artichokes, sunflowers and even galaxies. It’s in the arrangement of seeds on flowers. It’s in starfish. It’s in the cochlea of your inner ear, which is not simply a spiraled shape, it’s the actual Fibonacci spiral, with the exact number sequence. There is a mysterious intricate embedded order, intelligence and design in nature. What is behind this mind-boggling sophisticated artistry?
We are told that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Similarly, extraordinary design requires an extraordinary designer. You are free to believe that all of this magnificence is simply the result of unplanned fortuitous collisions of molecules—a belief that requires faith of an extraordinary caliber. Or you can accept a more sensible explanation—this artwork is the work of an Artist, the work of a wise and skilled Creator. But please don’t parrot the nonsense that theists are people of blind faith. Blind faith is exercised remarkably well by skeptics.
In the sentiment of beauty we feel the purposiveness
and intelligibility of everything that surrounds us,
while in the sentiment of the sublime we seem to see
beyond the world, to something overwhelming and
inexpressible in which it is somehow grounded.