To the Wonder

Waking up this morning, a thought hit me.  What is one of the reasons the new atheists bring against believing in God?  Well, they say that science explains things.  The ancients saw the sun rise and believed “the gods” made it happen because they couldn’t explain it.  With modern science, we now know that the sun revolves around the earth, from our perspective it appears to “rise and set” but really it is the earth rotating, etc. etc etc. blah blah blah.  We have no need to invoke “God” to explain it.  After all, the sun revolving around the earth is not that amazing, right?

By learning how it works, we’ve lost the wonder of it happening at all.  But it seems strange that it should have this effect.  We still get impressed by acts of incredible creativity even though we know the “science” that built it.  Elon Musk has the Falcon Heavy built and launched into space and everyone is in awe at the way the engines detach and land back at their original launch pad perfectly.  And we should be silenced by the impressiveness!  The genius to make that happen was…well, genius.  It’s amazing!

So why are we so amazed?  We know the Falcon Heavy was built with science and people can figure out how it works.  Yet it’s still impressive.  Can you imagine the record skip if, in the height of everyone shouting praise, Sam Harris said, “Why are you so impressed?  Science can explain how it all works.”  Our awe would shift from the Falcon Heavy to the sheer arrogance in our midst.

We’re impressed by manmade genius, but not divinely made genius.  (Someone like C.S. Lewis or Jordan Peterson could probably pull all sort of comparisons with the Tower of Babel here.)  Somehow learning the science behind why the sun rises and sets diminishes the wonder that it rises at all.  I think this lack of wonder is a main driving force behind the rejection of God.

G.K. Chesterton asked himself, “Where should I go now, if I leave the Catholic Church?”  His answer; “The best I could hope for would be to wander away into the woods and become…a pagan, in the mood to cry out that some particular mountain peak or flowering fruit tree was sacred and a thing to be worshipped.”[1]

In some respects, the ancient pagans were smarter than we moderns.  They at least saw the wonder of the created world and knew something had to be worshipped, either the thing itself or the thing that made it.  They at least had sense enough to look at the world and say, “Daaaaaang…….”

Chesterton also imagines God very much holding to the wonder we have lost.

sun-rise-umhlanga“The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”[2]

 

The new atheists are like Calvinists; they are dull, rationalistic, and without wonder.  They need everything explained which in turn makes everything, including themselves, boring.  God is eternally young and full of laughter.  Perhaps this is what Christ meant when he revealed, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

[1] “The Catholic Church and Conversion” chapter 4 “The World Inside Out”

[2] “Orthodoxy” chapter 4 “The Ethics of Elfland”

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2 thoughts on “To the Wonder

  1. The wonder of creation helps one appreciate the reality of God’s re-creation going on in the here and now, for example, meeting with and receiving and being changed by Christ in the Eucharist. I see Him who makes all things new, by first seeing the marvel of Him Who created and didn’t have to.

    • It feels as though wonder is not conducive to the modern world. Everything is so loud and flashy. Things move so fast one can’t stop to just ponder things. Wonder certainly doesn’t come naturally to me. I must often remind myself to stop and “look” and try to “see.”

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