May 2007 Anglican Newsletter
Keith argues that a belief in God does contradict science but that science is an illustration of God.
Two apparently unrelated things have overlapped in my thinking recently. Firstly, I have been privileged to be part of a choir making a small tour, singing in Churches in Andalucia. We were honoured to be allowed to sing our last concert in La Mezquita in Cordoba - the largest mosque/Church in the world. Secondly, I am reading a book about Templars and their incredible secret which will, if and when discovered and revealed, free mankind from the tyranny of religion and enable us, finally, to abolish wars and live in peace and tranquility.
I am an unashamed romantic and love all these (ridiculous!) stories - I am a Dan Brown fan, so long as I am allowed to laugh at it all, just as I am a Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings fan. I am less enamoured of the fanatical atheists, such as Professor Dawkins. His belief in unbelief is quite staggering in its leap of faith - that logic can start from an absolute, rather than a premise - the logic upon which he claims to base everything he says. In fact, scientific logic can only take us so far. The Twentieth Century saw an incredible advance by physicists in the understanding and analysis of particle physics. As they search and search for the ultimate building block of nature - the indivisible particle which underlays everything else, it seems to be increasingly evident that there could be a long, long way to go. But whatever they discover, if they do find what all scientists eventually agree is the smallest and most primitive particle there can be, the question still remains as to where IT came from and how it got there and - the biggest question of all, which science never answers - WHY?
We look back and back into time and try to identify the starting point of creation, the current fashion (which I buy, of course) being the Big Bang, and we get closer and closer to 'seeing' and understanding what happens - currently, so I understand, the physicists have analysed everything back to incredibly small fractions of a millisecond after the event itself. Fascinating stuff. But will we ever get back to the point of time itself? Even if we do, it leaves open the same question - what happened just before, when there was nothing? What does 'nothing' mean? If we have a word for it, it must mean something! What was the cause of the Big Bang? And again, of course, WHY?
I am trying to suggest that whatever Professor Dawkins and his colleagues may say, however strong their logic (which IS very strong!), they still cannot answer the fundamental questions, which religions do attempt to answer, which religions promise can be answered. A belief in God does not contradict science; science is an illustration of God. St Augustine, some seventeen centuries or so ago said, without the benefit of modern science - 'Miracles do not happen in contradiction to nature, but only in contradiction to that which is known to us in nature.'
What has all this to do with La Mezquita in Cordoba? Well, firstly, the building is a miracle in itself, whether or not you believe it to be a house of God. It started out as a Roman temple and was then for 300 or 400 years a Visigothic Church. The remains of these buildings are mostly buried and there is no evidence of them in the current structure overground, but the fact remains that this is what the site was used for before the Moors arrived. They then commenced the construction over a lengthy period of time of the increasingly enlarged mosque - La Mezquita. This was an open plan building supported by 1,000 marble pillars, with visibility from all sides to the others. It also seems that the acoustics were extraordinary, with the columns transferring sound as readily as the gaps between them facilitated visibility. As we sang, we were very conscious of the extraordinarily good acoustics. This enormous mosque could hold 40,000 people - in a city of 500,000, at a time when the total population of England was not much more than 2 million.
In time, the Moors were driven out and Cordoba became a Christian city. Instead of demolishing the mosque, they built a Church in its middle. That original Church is now visible only as a floor plan. But they went on to build a larger renaissance and baroque Cathedral next to it. What we have today is an enormous building, which is externally (at street level) substantially as it was, when it was a mosque. Inside, one strolls, marveling, through the forest of quiet shady columns until stumbling into an explosion of light and of ornate architecture in its depths.
This gives me so much hope for mankind. This centuries old building, erected on foundations which are over 2,000 years old has been a continuous and continuing song of praise to the Creator God, using scientific technologies, which we would not believe people so long ago could understand and harness. In Moorish times, the city of Cordoba allowed Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together in harmony and peace. Even though the Christian conquerors of Spain saw themselves as Crusaders driving out the infidel, yet they could not bring themselves to destroy this temple to God and learned how to use it for their own purposes, making only small changes to the visible exterior. No doubt they were regarded by many as vandals at the time, but the result is unique and marvelous.
If you are beginning to find the wonders of nature, such as the Grand Canyon, a little too much, a bit old hat, then try visiting Cordoba to find this wonder of Man, inspired by God. Just as no politician could have invented the British Constitution, so no scientist/architect could have designed this cathedral. Its logic is entirely Godly and God-given.
Licensed Lay Minister