An interesting new year 7 January, 2009

When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what are we that you should keep us in mind, men and women that you care for us?

A question often asked (rhetorically) by modern sceptics is how the Maker of such a vast universe could be as concerned as the Bible claims with one tiny planet and one tiny species among so many. The question was answered by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Silmarillion, when he writes in his Elvish creation myth the Ainulindale (bearing in mind the Ainur are the Angelic spirits and Arda is the Earth):

Now the Chidren of Iluvatar are Elves and Men, the Firstborn and the Followers. And amid all the splendours of the World, its vast halls and spaces, and its wheeling fires, Iluvatar chose a place for their habitation in the Deeps of Time and in the midst of the innumerable stars. And this habitation might seem a little thing to those who consider only the majesty of the Ainur, and not their terrible sharpness; as who should take the whole field of Arda for the foundation of a pillar and so raise it until the cone of its summit were more bitter than a needle; or who consider only the immeasurable vastness of the World, which still the Ainur are shaping, and not the minute precision to which they shape all things therein.”

If you go to the magazine section and click on ‘current issue‘ you will see a draft of the cover and list of contents based around the theme of divine praise. The printing of the issue has been delayed, but to make up for that, I am paying some attention to the renovation of various sections of this web-site. We continue to place important new papers in the Articles section, including links to articles in other journals that you may find of interest. The Apologetics section (‘Christianity Q&A‘) and the one on Catholic social teaching (‘Sane Economy‘) will receive special attention and be extensively revised during the year. In the Spirituality section (‘Mystagogy‘) I have recently added a series of meditations on the Rosary. The Books section will gradually be expanded as new publications come along, and readers can already find there additional materials, background reading, and further research that could not be included in the printed books themselves, as well as copies of reviews and helpful links. Other sections will continue to be updated – including, of course, the main Links section.

Our ONLINE COMMUNITY serves as a space for discussion of current events as well as publications and conferences. This online facility can be really useful for maintaining contact with people of similar interests and for sharing ideas and scholarship. There is a brand-new section called Questioning Faith where you can ask difficult questions.

Though the financial recession and tensions in the Middle East will dominate headlines for a while, this also promises to be a year in which there is a lot of talk about science. February marks the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, and November the 150th of ‘The Origin of Species’. It is also the 400th year since Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens. The summer may see the Large Hadron Collider turned on at last – colliding particles together at close to the speed of light just to see what will happen. We are looking out for good popular science links and articles to add to the site, to help our readers follow these events and reflect on the relationship between their faith and the discoveries of science.

The “Atheist Bus”. The newspapers have been reporting on the placing by atheists (including Richard Dawkins of Oxford) of a message on the sides of buses around Britain: There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. It was the advertising standards authority that insisted on the “probably”, thus at a stroke converting the atheist bus into an agnostic bus, and planting the seeds of worry in the minds of many who had not given God’s existence a second thought for many years. How can you relax and enjoy life if it is conveying you inexorably to a possible confrontation with the God you have been denying?

The astute Catholic commentator Sandro Magister has rightly picked up on a recent address by Benedict XVI on the intelligent structure of the universe – mathematics not as a proof but as a pointer to the existence of God. “The great Galileo said that God wrote the book of nature in the form of the language of mathematics… It seems to me almost incredible that an invention of the human mind and the structure of the universe coincide… In this sense it really seems to me that mathematics – in which as such God cannot appear – shows us the intelligent structure of the universe… Only because our mathematics is reliable is technology reliable. Our knowledge, which is at last making it possible to work with the energies of nature, supposes the reliable and intelligent structure of matter.” You can read the full article here.

Of course, very few people read the Pope. A more direct approach would be to send round an alternative message on the buses. Something like this, perhaps: There might be a God. Why does that worry you?