|God & Nature Magazine||
Letter from the Editors
...from editor-in-chief Emily Ruppel Herrington:
Solar eclipses have been some of the most mysterious, memorable and accurately recorded natural events throughout human history. In the past month or so, I have been encouraged to find that in even in our highly distractible modern times, human beings continue to be captivated by once-in-a-lifetime astronomical news. No one I know wants to miss the total eclipse on August 21!
Infrequent, mathematically predictable events like solar eclipses and comets have played a significant role in the history of science. On May 29, 1919, for instance, Einstein and the physics world watched as proof for his general theory of relativity came in the form of starlight bending to Earth during a solar eclipse. The experimental hypothesis on that date was: if light does not always travel in a straight line, but is transformed by space-time, which is transformed by gravity, (as Einstein thought) then light from stars on the other side of the sun would nevertheless "fall" to Earth during the total eclipse, as the path of their light would be warped by the sun's gravitational field rather than being absorbed by it.
Proof can be poetic. I love that in this story, an event almost everyone could see plainly in their yard or from their window was also facilitating a novel scientific observation elsewhere.
In this edition of God & Nature magazine, authors explore questions of beauty, visibility, and invisibility in science, Christian faith, and the cosmos. Their thoughtful reflections and artwork have been a joy to assemble with our new managing editor, Ciara Reyes. Please join me in meeting and welcoming Ciara (pronounced "Sierra" like the mountains) to the ASA team!
...from Ciara Reyes, Managing Editor:
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the ASA community as the Managing Editor of God & Nature magazine. The subject of this issue in particular, Cosmology & Theology, is one of the most fascinating and exciting that I could imagine working on. Having previously attended an Astrobiology workshop in 2016 for emerging scholars at the Center for Theological Inquiry, I was delighted to revisit many of topics I was exposed to there, and to reconnect with scholars who led or participated in the workshop and feature their work in this issue. I hope that you will enjoy their contributions to this issue, just as much as Emily and I did reading and working with all of the talented artists, scholars and scientists who submitted their work. Below, I offer my own short reflection on the theme of this issue, exploring what I find beautiful, yet perplexing about the incarnation, and I conclude with an original song exploring the same.
“(Jesus) who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)
As someone who has at times struggled to have a proper balance of self-confidence — sometimes having too little and other times too much — I find myself fascinated by the incarnation — the narrative of a God who was made manifest in the human person of Jesus, and made himself “nothing” to become one of us.
In Psalms 144:3 the psalmist rhetorically asks the question, “what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?,” which seems to imply that there isn’t really much extraordinary about the human, or rather much about ourselves for which to be confident. Yet, even the human, as insignificant as the Psalmist considers himself and all of humanity to be, finds itself in the thoughts of God. In Psalms 103:4, the Psalmist reflects that God has compassion on human existence “remember(ing) that we are dust,” — perhaps, stardust?
While there appears to be nothing extraordinary about being human, at least according to the Psalmist, for me, there is something extraordinary about God becoming human. From the writings of Joshua Moritz, I am consciously aware that humans are not so unique — many characteristics and capacities we have are shared to different degrees and extents by other creatures in nature — even the combination of all our traits together is not enough to distinguish us from closely related species like Neanderthals, and certainly any expansive list of unique human abilities we could generate would end up excluding someone who lacked them.
I find it beautiful, yet perplexing the narrative of a God who out of mindfulness, thought it best to become one of us in the person of Jesus, to save and reconcile not just humans, but all of the cosmos. Puzzling, yet one of the most beautiful images in the Gospel — curiously, for me, I find it even more compelling than the cross.
In this song, I explore what I find beautiful, yet perplexing about the incarnation. How did God in the person of Jesus become one of us and enter our biological history? Was he too made of stardust? What about the miracles? I find beauty in a God who shared in the fearful and wonderful process of our biological story.
Emily Ruppel Herrington is a PhD candidate in communication and a master's student in bioethics at the University of Pittsburgh, with focus areas in rhetoric of science, STS, feminist theory, and oral history.
Prior to her doctoral work, Emily studied poetry at Bellarmine University in Louisville (B.A. '08) and science writing at MIT (M.S. '11). She has spent several years working as a professional writer and editor for academic and popular outlets; among them, God & Nature magazine is a favorite project.
Ciara Reyes is a scientist, singer-songwriter and freelance writer, who joined the God & Nature staff in June 2017 as Managing Editor. She has a Ph.D. in Cellular & Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan, and began training in theology at Vanderbilt Divinity in Fall 2016.