The Talking Pew: An Atheist Who Dearly Loves God’s Universe

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

I have an atheist friend who loves (yes, he uses the word love) the complexity he sees in the universe, on Earth and, for that matter, in his own physical and emotional self.

My athiest friend sees the complexity of DNA at work when he looks into a flower like this orchid

Like many atheists, my friend has his own basis for faith – he believes in the scientific method. A big admirer of the process of evolution, he’s blown away by the ever increasing complexity of the universe in general and life on earth in particular.

Today’s readings echo the complexity that so touches my friend’s atheist heart.

As I see it, from Genesis to the Psalms, from Mark to the Acts of the Apostles, God’s action in the world, like the evolution of the species, seems to become ever more complex.

In the beginning (and I do like it when a Bible starts off with that great temblor of a phrase, “In the beginning . . . ” My brand new Common English Bible has opted for, “When God began to create the heavens and the earth . . . ” That sentence doesn’t do much for me. Leading dependent clause, weak verb – it doesn’t sound terribly momentous. But more about the very interesting CEB another day). Back to topic –

In the beginning, God stirs the air over the waters.

Later, in Psalm 29, God’s voice causes Lebanon to skip like a calf.

In Mark, God’s breath descends upon the beloved Son and redirects human history.

And in Acts – God’s wiliest trick of all – the Holy Spirit empowers a handful of very human Ephesians.

The natural world and human civilization continue to change day by day. Is God still breathing on us and our fast-paced world?

© 2011 text and photo BF Newhall

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless
void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept
over the face of the waters.” — Genesis 1:1-2

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedar trees;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.
– Psalm 29:5-6

“In those days Jesus came from  Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son,  the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’”    – Mark 1:9-11

“ . . . Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples . . . When Paul had laid his hands on them, the
Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied – altogether there were about twelve of them.” – Acts 19:1,6-7

LECTIONARY: Lectionary, Epiphany 1, RCL-B:

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11


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© 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Barbara Falconer Newhall. and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog's author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that full and clear credit is given to Barbara Falconer Newhall and with appropriate and specifc direction to the original content. Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA. The Psalms are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. Material originally published and copyrighted by the Oakland Tribune is posted here by permission. WordPress theme adapted from Thematic Theme Framework