Onward Christian Socialist
By Terry Wynn
"Solar systems, void of meaning,
Freeze the spirit into stone;
Always our researches lead us
To the ultimate Unknown:
Faith must die, or come full circle
To its source in God alone."
Fred Pratt Green (1903 - )
WHO LIT THE BIG BANGER?
I've always been fascinated by science and astronomy. On the bookshelves that passed as a Library in St. Nathaniel's Junior School and Moss Lane Secondary Modern, I must have read every book they had on astronomy. The universe fascinated me; it still does. I suppose that was why I spent so much time trying to figure out infinity, time and creation. No wonder I used to scare myself witless.
Even today, I follow the subject as it appears in the pages of the press. In mid-1992, the ripples from the big bang made the headlines to such an extent that everyone was left in awe, but not really understanding what it was all about.
What all the recent discoveries have done for me, is to strengthen my faith. I don't know whether there was a big bang or not. If there was, and if the latest findings are correct, then everything emanated from something much smaller than a pinhead that exploded.
When we were kids, the best fireworks were bangers. Light the blue touch-paper, stand back and B-A-N-G! Brilliant! Now this thing smaller than a pinhead must have been some banger to do what it did, after all it became the universe.
So who ignited the pinhead?
What isn't answered is where did the pinhead come from, what caused the bang and why did it bang? As matter hurtled through space (where did space come from?) elements such as hydrogen, helium and oxygen were created. How? When did time begin, before or after the pinhead? At some point during the hurtling, or when the hurtling stopped, our sun began to give off our solar system. The planets cooled and life began on Earth.
What I can't accept is that it's one long chain of coincidences and chance. For instance, was the pinhead explosion just a coincidence? The formation of all the elements in the universe, the universe itself and the forces of gravity; were they more mere coincidences? The fact that the Earth, were it nearer or further from the sun, could not sustain life; is that a coincidence? The gravitational pull on Earth is such that we aren't squat-like, or bouncing in our strides; is that a coincidence? The atmospheric make-up of the earth means that with a couple of percent more oxygen it would be a fireball; a couple of percent less it would not sustain life; is that a coincidence? Is life on Earth in all its shapes and forms just a coincidence? And, finally, are these wonderful creations, men and women with their abilities to feel emotions such as love and hate, are they mere outcomes of chance in all of this? I can't accept it because it doesn't make sense to do so.
Not one single person on this planet can ever be seen as a paltry bit of creation. If you take everything that went into the making of you personally, you represent a huge investment on God's part. Billions of years of evolution repaid to start with. God couldn't make you, just you, without making a whole world as well. The person who is reading this is a point of an enormous pyramid, a giant interlocking system of atmosphere and tide and sun and moon - all conspiring to produce that life-bearing blob that became you. Each one of us is an extraordinary work of nature.
In a society where we are often depersonalized, it's good to know that you are important and known to God as an individual. You are not a naked ape, or a handful of dust; you are not an evolutionary accident, or a speck of a cinder in outer space; you are not a sixteen-digit number on a computer card. What you are is a child of God's creation.
When both my children were born, the feeling of being a father was beyond description. The creation of every single living thing on earth is a miracle in itself to me. Flowers, plants, animals, even insects, always leave me wondering how it occurs. Of course we know what happens from pollination or fertilization to life. We can study it through microscopes; science can alter life-forms, but itís the how and why that remains the mystery.
Some will say it's the forces of nature at work. What does that mean? Is God's creative ability divorced from nature? Is it okay for atheists to believe in nature but not in God? Where are the answers to the how and why in a blank statement that only talks of nature?
Critics of the above will say I've set out what I can't accept regarding creation; what about saying what I can accept and what I can believe.
First of all, I don't ridicule the big bang theory, even though some scientists do. It could be right and if it is, I believe God was instrumental in it. My faith is in a God of creation who is in all aspects of the universe, who was before time began, who is and who will continue to be. I don't envisage an bearded old man sitting in the clouds, in fact I have no idea what God or Heaven is like. I do believe that the universe operates to a set of rules, just as scientists do. In my case itís God's power that sets the rules.
Years ago a long standing Labour Party member said to me, "I don't trust anybody in the Labour Party", which took me aback somewhat. There I was an idealistic newcomer to the party of solidarity and comradeship who assumed we were all comrades working together for a common aim. I didn't assume his attitude was right, but I never forgot his words and over the years I began to realize what he meant and why he said it. As a Labour MEP colleague said to me, "I have plenty of acquaintances in politics but I don't need the fingers on one hand to count my friends." Suspicion and mistrust are part and parcel of political life.
On the other hand, faith is all about trust. I trust God that he is real and in his Heaven (wherever that may be). This is what the atheists, and probably agnostics, ridicule and cannot accept. Yet all of us put our trust in people or systems, so why not in God? I believe that the aircraft I fly in have competent crews and are in good order. I trust them. I believe the headache tablets I take will not harm me; I trust the process that produced them. Ah! but if we really wanted to we could check on all the aspects of these two examples - we can see them.
Okay, let me try another tack. If you had a bicycle or a motor bike and you stood it upright when it was stationary, you would need to keep hold of it to stop it falling over. Tilt it to any angle and it still needs physical support to prevent it hitting the deck as the force of gravity pulls it over. Now get on and begin to ride it. Why does a two-wheeled vehicle stay upright when the wheels are turning, why can it take corners at obscure angles and return upright as long as it is moving? Forget balance. Itís all to do with the gyroscopic effect. The gyroscope that kids play with do exactly the same, the space rockets that take off from Cape Canaveral are kept upright by gyroscopes.
Simply why does a wheel stay upright when it turns (at speed); what else works against the gravitational pull of the earth like this? We know the power and ability of the gyroscopic effect, we trust it, but we can't explain it. In this case we can see it, but can't explain it. Gravity itself is a wonder, not only the Earth's gravitational pull but throughout the universe; we can't see gravity but we know it works and know its effects; especially if we fall off something.
I believe that electricity can create light, drive motors, kill people; I can't see electricity but I experience its effect. I know that I can love people with great emotion; I can't see love but I experience its effect.
I can't see God but I experience Him and I know His love and His effect on many people.
And how do I trust Him that Heaven is an okay place? Well I would hate the thought of spending eternity sitting on a cloud, plucking a harp, chatting to cherubs. I wouldn't even begin to try to describe this intangible, incomprehensible dimension. What I do believe is that this present world is a great creation but Heaven is better. It is fundamental to Christian belief, after all Jesus promised it for all of us. I don't accept that this life is the best. Are the criteria for having lived a full and successful life measured by material possessions? Does owning a home, car, video or satellite dish mean that life has been a success?
Is this what we were created for, to keep Barretts, Toyota, Sony and Rupert Murdoch in business? God help us if it is!
In 1982, long before the days of glasnost and perestroika, Doris, David, Joanne and I went to the USSR on a Thomson's package holiday. We arrived on the Aeroflot flight at Moscow Airport and our family was virtually the first off the plane. As we approached passport control our choice was easy, we went for the shortest queue that only had two people before us. However, just as in supermarket queues, all the others began to move faster than ours. In fact ours didn't move for about twenty minutes until finally the two Germans in front of us were given the all-clear.
Our family passport meant I was seen as being acceptable and allowed through. Next came Doris. The passport photograph showed straight hair. Unfortunately the holiday perm could not convince the overzealous official that is was the same person. When he was finally convinced, we breathed a sigh of relief, only for this to be replaced by horror when the same official did not believe fourteen-year-old, curly-haired, boyish- faced David was a boy or that Joanne, she of denims, short hair and twelve years was a girl. We thought it was a joke at first, but it began to be a nightmare. When we finally got all four of us through, the other queues had vanished.
The next nightmare came when we couldn't get through customs after first being in a queue that just didn't move at all, then being confronted with an armed guard as we tried to make some progress. When we finally did reach customs, the woman in front of us had a box full of jewellery, every piece having to be recorded and itemized. Our bags were thoroughly searched, at which point I looked around and realized I did not recognise a single face from the flight. We were on our own. The whole process had taken a couple of hours and at any time if we could have said, "Let's go home", I'm sure we would have done. We were apprehensive, if not scared, certainly fed up and feeling very lost. At which point the Thomsonís representative came into view as we left customs. There she stood in her red blazer with her red attachť case. She was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. She smiled and said, "The Wynn family? We've been waiting for you." I just wanted to hug her.
I tell that because that's how I envisage heaven. Life for a lot of people is a journey of troubles, worries, heartaches and pain but, at the end of it, there is a welcome relief from all of that. To say that heaven is a Thomson's rep makes sense to me if to no one else. Heaven is the end of the journey where God opens His loving, welcoming arms to you, where the torments of life are now in the past. In fact, it's quite heavenly.
I believe it's like that because I trust God, the same God who created the universe, Earth and Heaven, even if it all came from a pinhead.
A good two years after I'd first written the beginning of this chapter, I chanced upon a paperback book that I almost didn't buy because it looked too pricey. (I know that sounds mean for an MEP but £7.99 for 152 pages did seem a bit much.) I did buy it and almost jumped for joy when I had read it. It's called "God, The Big Bang and Stephen Hawking". An Exploration into Origins.Ē It was written by David Wilkinson, who has a Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is also a Methodist Minister, who as well as having a degree in theology, also has a brilliant first degree in physics.
You could imagine my reaction as I read the first paragraph of the preface: "Does the universe have a beginning? And if it had a beginning, then what was its cause? Did God start it all off and, if he did, can we know? These are the types of questions that fascinate both schoolchildren and university lecturers. Many people are intrigued by origins and, in particular the origin of the universe."
It is a terrific book and for me was putting real flesh onto the bones that I have touched on at the start of this chapter. For example, when he touches on one of the unanswered questions of the Big Bang, that is, why the universe is so finely tuned in so many respects. If, after the Big Bang, the rate of expansion had been too high, then the universe would not have formed stars and galaxies. For this it needed gravity and if the gravitational force had been too high, then the Big Bang would have become a Big Crunch within microseconds. It means that as the universe expanded the expansion force was in perfect balance with the gravitational force.
The same with carbon-based life, it is determined by subtle balances among the forces of nature. As David Wilkinson says, "These balances have led to a remarkable phenomenon of the last two decades: many scientists, in studying the origin of the universe, cannot leave God alone. This is not just because many scientists are, in fact, believing Christians, it is that the nature of the universe itself seems to raise the God question." He goes on to give examples and evidence of this phenomenon in such a readable way that I couldn't put the book down and soon had my £7.99 worth by the time I'd read the foreword.
Some will analyse all that and say it contains nothing concrete, it's just fanciful, wishful thinking; it doesn't give the answers that someone may be seeking. Well then, look to science and tangible matters, read David Wilkinson's book but believe me when I say that for me it's far from fanciful or wishful thinking and many who call themselves Christians feel the same.
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