GLOBAL AND ECUMENICAL IN SCOPE
CANADIAN IN PERSPECTIVE
Wayne A. Holst, Editor
My E-Mail Address:
Colleagues List Web Site
This week's Special Item is a book about science and spirituality.
Because I am not ready to evaluate the book, I am cheating a bit by including a review from the Amazon.ca website.
I hope you deem it helpful - as I hope you will find other parts
of this weekly letter to you.
Hopefully, next week, I will be a better steward of my time.
Book Notice -
A GOD THAT COULD BE REAL:
Spirituality, Science and the
Future of Our Planet,
by Nancy Ellen Abrams
Beacon Press. Paperback. 2016.
200 pages. $19.82 CAD.
ISBN # 978-0807073391.
A paradigm-shifting blend of science, religion, and philosophy for agnostic, spiritual-but-not-religious, and scientifically minded readers
Many people are fed up with the way traditional religion alienates them: too easily it can perpetuate conflict, vilify science, and undermine reason. Nancy Abrams, a philosopher of science, lawyer, and lifelong atheist, is among them. And yet, when she turned to the recovery community to face a personal struggle, she found that imagining a higher power gave her a new freedom. Intellectually, this was quite surprising.
Meanwhile her husband, famed astrophysicist Joel Primack, was helping create a new theory of the universe based on dark matter and dark energy, and Abrams was collaborating with him on two books that put the new scientific picture into a social and political context. She wondered, “Could anything actually exist in this strange new universe that is worthy of the name ‘God?’”
In A God That Could Be Real, Abrams explores a radically new way of thinking about God. She dismantles several common assumptions about God and shows why an omniscient, omnipotent God that created the universe and plans what happens is incompatible with science—but that this doesn’t preclude a God that can comfort and empower us.
Moving away from traditional arguments for God, Abrams finds something worthy of the name “God” in the new science of emergence: just as a complex ant hill emerges from the collective behavior of individually clueless ants, and just as the global economy emerges from the interactions of billions of individuals’ choices, God, she argues, is an “emergent phenomenon” that arises from the staggering complexity of humanity’s collective aspirations and is in dialogue with every individual. This God did not create the universe—it created the meaning of the universe. It’s not universal—it’s planetary. It can’t change the world, but it helps us change the world. A God that could be real, Abrams shows us, is what humanity needs to inspire us to collectively cooperate to protect our warming planet and create a long-term civilization.
Nancy Ellen Abrams is coauthor with Joel R. Primack, of The View from the Center of the Universe and The New Universe and the Human Future.
I have decided not to add my thoughts about this book because of
time constraints this week, and also because I do not feel adequate at this point to give it an honest appraisal.
However, a scientist-friend suggested I consider the book, and I plan to do so. In the meantime, I am offering a review made available on the
Amazon.ca website and hope you might consider it, since Bishop Desmond Tutu lends his support at the end of this selection.
Reviewed on the Amazon.ca site by "the Dean Family" -
This is a difficult book to review. It is also a hard book to get through.
The subject matter is both lofty and dense. If you are going to do more
than skim it, you will probably have to read parts, put it aside, chew on it, and then return for another session. And if it is difficult to read and review,
I can only imagine how terrifically much harder it must have been to write! For the effort alone, I would give it four stars. What a task to take on: to set out not only to define what God is, based on (the author's grasp of) the most recent scientific understanding of the nature of the universe -- and then to infuse this with her personal experience of a Higher Power encountered through her 12-Step program!
I found this read (and find, since I am not finished with it) to be stimulating, exasperating, disturbing, overwhelming, inspirational, headache-making, breakthrough, bewildering and finally (even grudgingly), elucidating.
I will say first, in case I lose you along the way, if you are serious in your contemplation of the nature of God, you will want to read Nancy Abrams' book.
To begin, it helps to look at the roots on which the book grew. There are many, but four I find fundamental to understanding:
One: Nancy Abrams is the wife of cosmologist Joel Primack, one of the
promulgators of the theory that our universe is not composed primarily of atoms, as you and I were taught, but instead, of invisible and mysterious "cold dark matter" and "dark energy." Together, these two form the "double dark" theory, that, according to Nancy, are "the foundation of the modern picture of the universe." Her idea of God had to fit, first and foremost, with that and the current take on the laws of physics and thermodynamics.
Two: when Nancy was 15, she told her rabbi, "God didn't create us; we
created God." While she explains how she came to refine that immature
idea, nevertheless, that the seed grew into her ultimate theory.
Three: Ms. Abrams was a successful intellectual, lawyer, and philosopher. Yet she developed an eating disorder that eventually drove her to a 12-Step Program (which, you may know, began when two alcoholics banded together in their attempt to remain sober. It was part of the Christian temperance movement of the 20th Century, and grew into a worldwide spiritual program of recovery for addicts of many kinds). Nancy believes that her Higher Power, or God, has a reality outside herself. God is not merely a projection, as many philosophers and theologians have said, of the better part of human nature. Nancy found a God who, unlike the title of her book, not only "Could Be Real" but Is.
The fourth key to Ms. Abrams' concept of God is the Theory (or phenomenon) of "emergence." Cells have individual life, but when billions are gathered together in a certain form, what emerges is greater than the sum of the parts: it is (or can be) a human being. Humans themselves have individual life, but when millions focus their efforts in certain ways, other realities emerge. One might be called "the stock market," which exists and has definite rules and characteristics. Another is "the media," and so on.
Therefore, Ms. Abrams tells us, God is an emergent phenomenon. He (or it) is not the omnipotent, omnipresent Creator of all things that many religions claim. Instead, she says, God is an emergent reality from humanity. However, God is not just a projection. God is a reality humans can know, pray to, hear, and embrace. Millions upon millions of the world's inhabitants would reject Nancy Abrams' version of God, of course. In some cultures today, she could be executed for blasphemy.
In more tolerant, reasonable systems, she would still be branded a heretic, or dismissed as a kook. The first possibility is a lot of what is wrong with our world today - a narrow and violent view of existence that would return humanity to some new version of the Dark Ages. Even the last two would do this deep thinker a disservice. I have thought about the nature of God and reality a lot in my life, but I approach the spiritual being and force that powers a universe with more of a sense of humility and awe, and the sense that the tiny human speck of awareness I am should not and cannot define a God within and behind all things. I am forced to admit, I have never approached the idea of God with Ms. Abrams' rigor, or depth of research.
Reading her book has required me to question everything I held true about both science and God. I am not saying in the end that I agree with all or even most of what the author is so boldly willing to declare.
I stand with Desmond Tutu, who wrote one of the forewords to her book. "I do not agree with everything that Nancy Abrams says about the scientific understanding of God," the Archbishop writes. But "..The God I believe in...wants us to keep learning and discovering and exploring every inch...of creation.... This book will help you clarify your own personal understanding of God.... I recommend it highly to all, religious or secular, believer or atheist, who are ready to explore honestly their understanding of the divine in our beautiful, expanding universe."
Amen, brother Tutu. And bravo, Nancy Abrams.
Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
May 13th, 2017
Please announce this event on Colleagues List. Thanks.
"God and Godly Consequences"
A theological Symposium presented by Touchstone Journal
June 1st, 2017
St. Andrew's United Church
117 Bloor Street East, Toronto
Free of charge
Touchstone invites you to a rousing symposium focusing
on the theme of the doctrine of God and the implications
of that doctrine (e.g. providence, theodicy, prayer).
Who is this God of whom we speak?
Is this God active in the world – and how?
All are welcome to attend! Laypersons, ministry personnel,
academics, and students will all find this to be a congenial
and stimulating afternoon of presentations and conversation.
There is no admission fee, but we would be grateful to know
if you plan to attend so that our preparations for snacks and
seating will be suitable.
To register for the symposium as an attendee, please email
Rob Fennell at email@example.com
For more information and to see the symposium paper titles
and schedule, go to: http://touchstonecanada.ca
Angus Reid Institute Surveys
May 17th, 2017
" Most Canadians Say Spirituality is Significant in Their Lives,
Half Say Religion Important in Helping Them Make Life Decisions"
May 12th, 2017
"Changing Our Relationship With Housing"
May 15th, 2017
"Taking the Unitarian-Universalist
Diversity Crisis Seriously"
Personal Web Log,
May 17th, 20127
"Don't Know, Know, Don't Need to Know"
Personal Web Site,
May 15th, 2017
"Coming Full Circle -
From Storybooks to Spirituality"
THE CHANGING FACE OF CANADA
From 150 Years Ago Until Today
May 15th, 2017
LUTHER'S CONTRIBUTION TO LITERACY
At the 500th Reformation Anniversary
Religion News Service,
May 16th, 2017
HALF OF BRITISH POPULATION
CLAIMS NO RELIGION
A Quarter of Those
Raised in Church Have Left It
May 14th, 2017
MANY CONSERVATIVE U.S.
EVANGELICALS LOVE TRUMP
Why? It's the Prosperity Gospel
May 17th, 2017
"Black Clergy Decry Trump Policies"
Religion News Service
May 15th, 2017
FIVE IMPORTANT WAYS
EVANGELISM IS SHIFTNG
In Our Post-Christian World
Christian Week Online
May 15th, 2017
ON THE RISE IN INDIA
Religious Nationalism a Caustic Mix
May 18th, 2017
DANCING FOR FERTILITY
IN THE NORTHERN PHILIPPINES
Spiritual Devotees Seek Offspring
Religion News Service,
May 17th, 2017
A CALL TO ECUMENISM IN KOREA
Korea's Churches are Challenged
to Work Together More Closely
May 19th, 2017
EVEN IN CANADA CONSERVATIVE
CHURCHES ARE GROWING
This is Also True for Mainline Churches
With Evangelical Theology
April 21st, 2017
OP-EDITORIAL COMMENT ON RACISM IN CANADA
Look twice before judging an Indigenous person
Globe and Mail, May19th, 2017
“Everything we think we know is contained in the stories we tell ourselves. The paradigm we occupy, our reality, is merely the confluence of multiple histories. One of those stories is the lazy, dirty, drunken Indian story. It has been around since first contact. We were told it during the colonial period. It was repeated to us during the residential-school era and is repeated today in the media. … The story doesn’t just impact non-aboriginal people."
"It is heard and understood by aboriginal peoples as well. It affects how we see the world. … I have to challenge myself over and over again in order to see what is actually in front of my face. Anyone who claims not to be racist – who doesn’t check their stories with every encounter – fails themselves as well as others. We owe it to ourselves to look twice. It’s a matter of respect.”
– Harold Johnson, Indigenous lawyer and writer
WISDOM OF THE WEEK
From the Bruderhof Online
Motherhood is not only biological maternity. It is spiritual maternity.
There are hundreds of people all around who are desperately looking
for a mother. A number of people have come to me to tell me about
their problems. I listen to them. And I love them. And I say very little.
But they know that I care for them. In this sense,
I have become their mother.
- Alice von Hildebrand
Worry about making a living, or not making a living, is a snare.
In actuality, it is the snare. No external power, no actual circumstance,
can trap a person. If we choose to be our own providence, then we will
go quite ingenuously into our own trap, the wealthy as well as the poor.
If we want to entrench ourselves in our own plot of ground that is not
under God’s care, then we are living, though we do not acknowledge
it, in a prison
- Søren Kierkegaard
Without your wounds where would your power be?…The very angels
themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on
earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love’s
service, only the wounded soldiers can serve.
- Thornton Wilder
There once was a time when Thoreau wrote, “I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”
By the power vested in everything living, let us keep to that faith. I’m a scientist who thinks it wise to enter the doors of creation not with a lion tamer’s whip and chair, but with the reverence humankind has
traditionally summoned for entering places of worship: a temple, a mosque, or a cathedral. A sacred grove, as ancient as time.
- Barbara Kingsolver
Many believe that they need company at any cost, and certainly if a thing is desired at any cost, it will be obtained at all costs. We need to remember and to teach our children that solitude can be a much-to-be-desired condition.
Not only is it acceptable to be alone, at times it is positively to be wished for. It is in the interludes between being in company that we talk to ourselves. In the silence we listen to ourselves. Then we ask questions of ourselves. We describe ourselves, and in the quietude we may even hear the voice of God.
- Maya Angelou
Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it, by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great.
Because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
And you can be that servant.
- Martin Luther King Jr.
MOMENT IN TIME
Globe and Mail,
May 15th, 2017
Jefferson Davis heads to Montreal
May 15, 1867: Jefferson Davis served as president of the Confederate
States of America from 1861 to 1865, until the collapse of the confederacy with the end of the Civil War. Captured by Northern troops, he was jailed for two years in Fort Monroe in Virginia, then released in mid-May, 1867, after posting bail of $100,000 (U.S.). He travelled by steamer to New York, then headed to Montreal, where his family was living.
Canada had welcomed many Confederate supporters, and Davis was
treated as a celebrity, despite his association with slavery and the disastrous effort to make the U.S. South independent. The Globe described Davis as “the redoubtable chieftain of the late rebellion,” but also decried his “violent arrogance.” Black Americans, who Davis had “wished to consign to perpetual bondage,” now stood on a “better political footing than he and his active coadjutors in the rebellion,” the paper noted. Richard Blackwell
ON THIS DAY
"T.E. Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia Dies in England"
"Israel Declares Itself an Independent State In Palestine"
CLOSING THOUGHT - Lynn Nottage
"Replace judgment with curiosity"
For Those Interested -
ST.DAVID'S SPIRITUAL TRAVELERS EVENT, 2017
South Africa has been chosen as our destination!
We plan a nineteen-day tour that combines a focus
on spirituality, social justice, culture, and nature,
and it will run October 21st thru November 8th.
A beautiful brochure with trip cost, itinerary, and
many helpful travel hints has been published.
Our optimal group size for maximum trip meaning
and value is 28-29 persons.
To date, twenty-six persons have put down deposits
to claim a special saving.
WE ARE CLOSE TO REACHING OUR DEPARTURE GOAL.
YOU CAN STILL REGISTER. After we have 29 deposits
you will be added to a waiting list and still join us
in the event someone has to drop out.
We have installed a South Africa Spiritual Travelers
discussion list group to begin building community
amongst the participants, and to share news and
We hope to name a tour reporter who will report
back home each day's activities so everyone can
enjoy the experience, if not directly, then indirectly.
Six months from now we leave for South Africa!
Contact Rostad Tours: http://tinyurl.com/hucsaf7
Follow these notices for weekly updates.