We are living in a golden age of science, technology, and discovery. In the last hundred years, we split the atom and mapped the human genome. We invented TVs, PCs, GPS, Wi-Fi, and AI; microwave ovens and mobile phones; rockets and robots. We detected gravitational waves and inferred the existence of dark matter. We sent twenty-four men to the moon—and spacecraft to the far reaches of our solar system. We even sent two NASA probes—Voyager 1 and Voyager 2—beyond the confines of our solar system; they are, right now, speeding through interstellar space.
We’ve gotten good at this stuff, and we’re only getting better. And it’s made us a bit arrogant.
Our “universe is a machine governed by principles or laws,” declared Stephen Hawking, acclaimed cosmologist of Cambridge— and those laws “can be understood by the human mind.” Somewhere back there, way before this golden age even got going, we humans started believing that, by exploring and observing and experimenting and by engaging our brains and thinking rationally, there’s nothing we can’t grasp, nothing we can’t accomplish, given enough time.
But there’s a problem. None of this figure-it-out-ability works if what we’re trying to grasp is God. You see, while he is present in this physical world—he is in the here and now—he also exists outside it, beyond it, above and below it.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says our Father God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8). His greatness, his riches, his understanding, and his judgments are “unsearchable”; his ways are “inscrutable” (Ps. 145:3; Isa. 40:28; Rom. 11:33; Eph. 3:8). His love “surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). The “skies—the entire cosmos!—can’t begin to contain him” (2 Chron. 2:6).
God will never fit into Hawking’s machine.
How could he? How could the Creator of our mind-bogglingly massive and ever-expanding universe be so small? He is infinite, eternal. He had no beginning; he will have no end.
And so, for us, God will always be a mystery. A wonderful, gigantic, sacred mystery.
And that kind of mystery is different from a run-of-the-mill mystery. A sacred mystery, taught Richard Rohr, is not that which is “unknowable” but rather that which is “inexhaustible.” He meant that the more we discover of God, the more there will be to discover—forever.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9).