Yesterday morning, there was something special about the way the sunlight filtered through our windows. It cast long, narrow rectangles of light on the carpet and sofa, and it was underneath this warmth that I read Cohen and Sophie a few stories from the Bible. Ellie was sitting on the floor chewing on plastic fish, Jacob was taking advantage of his once-an-eon-sleep-in-morning, and Cohen and Sophia sat nestled against me as I read.
“I want to read all the Jesus stories,” Sophie told me, hugging her knees to her chest. So we did. We read about a Jesus who assuaged the sea in the midst of a storm and a Jesus who turned a few fish into a feast for thousands. We read about a Jesus who healed blindness with muddied spit, leprosy with a careful command, and death with an impassioned prayer. Cohen and Soph sat in the sunlight with me, their mouths agape in silence and wonder, as they listened to stories about a God-Man who apparently had the knowledge of how to to turn water into wine, sickness into health, and Nothing into Something. These were the stories of a man who proved again and again he clearly had the power to manipulate molecules.
Fast-forward to tonight. Ellie was asleep in bed and Cohen and Sophie had just changed into their pajamas. Jacob prepared some popcorn on the stove and we huddled under blankets together to watch the premiere of The Cosmos, an eagerly-anticipated scientific documentary that explores the origins of both humanity and the universe. We were about thirty seconds into the opening “space-flight” montage when the expected barrage of questions began.
Cohen started with simple inquiries, like “Is that Mars?” and “How big is Jupiter?” These questions steadily evolved into the deeper inquests: “So how did the Big Bang theory make everything?” and “How did all that stuff come from something so small?” and finally, “Are they talking about Adam and Eve?” (in reference to the narrator’s description of the first human beings.)
I remained tongue-tied. Because how—oh how– do we reconcile the stories of our faith with the knowledge of objective scientific truths?
While I remained speechless, Jacob fielded answers to most of the questions, and for this I am deeply grateful. Because the mystic in me wanted to launch into a lecture and somehow have my five year old understand the marked distinctions between Story Truth and Literal Truth and how I believe the former provides us with far more meaning than the latter.
Instead, Jacob answered in simple, straight-forward language, and miraculously (ha! funny choice of words for this topic) provided Cohen with the truth we believe without leaving him utterly confused.
Let me give you a concrete example: At one point Cohen asked, “How did Jesus know about space?” and Jacob responded, casually munching on his popcorn, “Jesus probably knew about space, but he probably didn’t really care about it much. He came to teach us how to love each other, and space doesn’t really tell us how to love each other.”
Oh—what peace and progress could be made if we only all could understand this. How do we reconcile the stories of our faith with the knowledge of objective scientific truths? Perhaps they do not need to be reconciled.
Flash back to the stories I read to my children in that special sunlight yesterday morning. Yes—we were reading about a Man who clearly had authority over the physical laws of nature. But astonishingly, he appeared to perform supernatural acts in an attempt to get people to believe in a far more important message: That the Kingdom of Heaven is available to every single person—religious or irreligious—by abiding in Him. You see— there were other stories we read yesterday embedded within those supernatural accounts—stories of a Man who was far more concerned with stretching souls as opposed to manipulating molecules. We read about the crazy compassion of a father who forgives his lost son, a shepherd who relentlessly pursues his lost sheep, and a Savior who committed himself to being surrounded by sinners.
The Jesus I’m confronted with in the Bible appears to be far more concerned with the Why of existence as opposed to the How. And I’m pretty captivated with Him because I am far more interested in this Why as well. Science can effectively surmise how life originated and how life will continue, but my faith tells me why I’m here.
My heart rests easier knowing that I do not have to continually pit Science’s story and Jesus’ story against one another. Because—yes Cohen—Jesus was far more concerned with teaching us how to love each other than he was with Space.