Space Travel and Theology

By: Landon Collins

A launch period is a collection of a days in which there is a specific time a rocket can launch in order to reach it’s intended target. Within that launch period is a launch window, which is a specific time frame within a day during the launch period time that a rocket can be launched in order to reach it’s intended target. This launch window can sometimes be as small as one second. This is why I’m not a rocket scientist. It seems that to get somewhere in outer space you can’t just hop in a space craft and hit the gas pedal anytime you feel like it. Who knew! Apparently, it’s really important to get the beginning right.

Recently I have been working my way through a book by Dr. James Fowler entitled Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. In it he describes the different stages of faith along a faith journey.  In Stage 1, the Intuitive-Projective stage, which ranges from 2-6 years old (and sometimes in adults new to faith), the imagination is key. “Children in Stage 1 combine fragments of stories and images given by their cultures into their own clusters of significant associations dealing with God and the sacred.”[1] Children take bits and pieces and turn them into their ultimate reality, a reality that can last for a long time. You can see how beginning with the appropriate bits and pieces is important. Dr. Ana-Maria Rizzuto argues “that despite our secularization and religious fragmentation, religious symbols and language are so widely present in this society that virtually no child reaches school age without having constructed-with or without religious instruction- an image or images of God.”[2]If this true, and I have no reason the think it isn’t, then it is extremely important that we by God’s grace do everything we can to help children construct an appropriate image of God from the very beginning.

I’m sure there are others, but two specific doctrines where I see significant implications of proper beginnings, are the doctrines of Grace and a fear of God.

In our faith development, we journey through a time (Stage 2) when we understand God to be a God of reciprocity. Essentially, this means that if we do good then God will be good to us, but if we are bad, then God will not like us. While this might be an appropriate developmental stage, it is one that cannot be lived in for long. For if we carry this idea of God for too long, we will never understand Paul’s words to the Ephesians and churches everywhere, when he says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)Many people live in stage 2 for their entire lives, at least when it comes to an understanding of Grace. In order to move on from stage two, we must be confronted with some contradictions. In the case of grace it would be the awareness of the contradiction between a God of reciprocity and our image of a God of love we were told about in the first stage of faith. This contradiction only exists if we begin in the appropriate place.

I have always wrestled with the idea of fearing God. It’s not because I don’t think we should fear God or that I disagree with proverbs 9:10 that says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I absolutely believe in an appropriate fear of the Lord, but I have wrestled with this idea because I know so many people who abide by it but begin in the wrong place. They too begin with a God of reciprocity which suggests that if they do the wrong thing then God will be angry. And you don’t want the creator of the universe to be angry with you. While they might not say it this way, I believe fear for some people is truly a fear that God will punish them. If we begin in the wrong place, we have an improper fear of God.

Psalm 66 begins with the psalmist speaking of the greatness of God and His wonders. Psalm 66:3 says, “Say to God, All You have done is wondrous and causes fear!”and 66:5 “Come and witness the True God’s endless works. His miraculous deeds done on behalf of humanity inspires fear.” (The Voice) When we begin with the idea that God’s works are wonderous and that God works for humanity then we can work towards an appropriate fear of God that I believe does lead to wisdom and life.  Beginning in with God’s wonders rather than God’s punishments makes all the difference in the world.

Beginnings are important in both space travel and theology. I don’t know much about space travel, but I do know a little about God. One of the things I know and trust, is that God isn’t limited to a certain trajectory or target based upon beginnings. I’m thankful God is big enough to handle wrong beginnings and inappropriate ideas. I’m grateful God is gracious enough to work in our lives when we don’t get off to the best start. I probably won’t ever go to the moon, but I do get to be in relationship with the One who created it.

[1]Fowler, James. Stages of Faith, pg. 128

[2]Folwer, James. Stages of Faith, pg 129

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