God and the History of the Universe
It is now ~12 years since I started my faith journey into religion, and ~7 years since I became a Christian. So far, I've sought to:
1. Inform myself and share my discoveries about scientific and Christian thought, specifically realizing that science and theology are necessarily compatible.
Understand for myself the whole sweep of the history of the universe and the place of humans in that history, and where and how God has been active, and still is active.
Realize that a rational Christian theology is fully compatible with contemporary science and can even offer some potentially useful perspectives on matters of concern to science that science itself has not been successful in explaining.
Conclude that there can be a worldview that integrates both science and theology.
So, now that I live under the guidance of this worldview, I have come to realize (for now as I continue to grow and learn about the reality of things) that the ultimate reason for the existence of our universe is God's desire to bring into existence creatures that can be the recipients of his love. God creates primarily by establishing the laws of nature that bring order to the universe and determine its workings, either directly or indirectly. The ordered cosmos and the laws that govern it exist through time because they are grounded in God. As God is everlasting, without beginning or end, so too, it seems likely, is the universe. This is true whether our universe is the only one that exists or whether other universes have existed, exist now, and/or will exist in the future. If the multiverse does exist, and if the fundamental laws of each universe are somewhat different from others and are in some way self-generated, as some scientists have suggested, the existence of these varieties of laws would be possible only by God's establishment of some overarching set of meta-laws that determines how these various natural laws for each universe have been produced and the possible forms these sets of laws can take. Natural laws do not arise spontaneously out of nothing; they need some prior laws that permit them to arise. So, throughout its history, God has been establishing universes filled with creatures upon which God has showered love.
In our universe, God created the laws of nature and has continued to hold them in being. God has worked within these laws to bring forth a whole host of different and ever more complex creatures: from subatomic particles to atoms to molecules to stars. Stars create in their cores all the elements necessary to make planets and then send these elements and more out into space at their explosive deaths. Over time, gravity has caused these elements to unite around some nascent, later-generation stars and form planets, some of which have had conditions necessary to promote the existence and flourishing of life. On these special planets (such as ours) the natural laws that God established caused the most primitive life-forms to come into existence. Single-celled life then evolved into simple multicellular life, and from there into progressively more complex forms of the plant, animal, and fungus kingdoms, including all the different phyla within each of them.
Within the animal kingdom, evolution, influenced by God at the level of individual creatures in their freedom, created a vast variety of more complex creatures, moving from one kind of being's dominance to the next in Earth's long history. In the waters, the earlier domination of plants and simple animals eventually made way for the rise of fish. These were followed by amphibians, which made the move to land and were the first dominant animal species there. Then reptiles came to dominate the land, seas, and air, and after them the mammals. Eventually primates arose among the mammals, some of which eventually evolved into human beings.
Throughout all of this process, God has been active. For all of the creatures that have ever lived, God has sought to work with each according to whatever freedom it possessed to find its greatest fulfillment (its "salvation"), as well as that of all others. God has also had another goal in the evolutionary process: the creation of intelligent, self-aware creatures capable of consciously discerning the existence of God's love, engaging in a loving relationship with God, and seeking to help fulfill God's loving intention for all other creatures. The natural laws that God established, either directly or indirectly, were set in such a way that the attainment of this goal would be the inevitable outcome (though one not wholly predictable in terms of the specific forms of such creatures) in numerous places in the universe. This is why the history of our universe has seen a movement from simplicity to complexity in its creatures, entailing a movement from lesser toward greater interiority, creativity, and freedom, which has permitted increasingly profound forms of relationship between God and the creatures. So, God has worked within this general process to bring about these desired ends by the power of his love, which is the attractive force of beauty, goodness, and truth, seeking to call forth a similar response of love from every creature, each according to its ability to do so, not only for God, but also for the other creatures in their lives.
In our humanity, the goal of creating beings capable of conscious awareness of God, and of entering into an intentional relationship with God, has been attained. Such relationships are the richest possible that God can have with finite creatures (at least on this planet). Those who do so engage in a conscious relationship with God are able then to align their purposes in the world with God's purposes: for us is to attain our full human potential, our full humanity, which is our highest goodness, truth, and beauty. Living such a life means that our preeminent goal is to love all others and to do so in each moment of every day, making other people’s lives (and other creatures’ lives) better in whatever ways we can.
This is how Christians understand Jesus to have lived. It is no easy task! Perhaps it is even finally impossible for us to do it completely, but we can at least do our best to live this way, and in so doing make the world and ourselves better. The proper function of the Christian, then, is to aid in the process of raising our typically subconscious experience of God's love into conscious awareness and then making explicit the nature of God's intentions for the world and for the life of each person. This is our highest calling as individuals and as a species: to partner with God in trying to make the world a place where there are no losers, but only winners.
To me, this is a beautiful worldview, one that satisfies the demands of logic and reason, what I know about science and theology, and my own experiences in life. It is a worldview that draws people to God, not out of fear or some self-centered desire, but simply as a response to God's love, a love that is good, true, and beautiful, and seeks nothing for itself, but everything for each of us. It calls for a world in which all people are so loved by all others that they feel valued, have their basic needs met, and find the personal fulfillment that loving and being loved in this way brings. Somewhat like the physicist who believes that the beauty of the mathematical equations means they must express a truth of nature, I find the Christian worldview to be deeply satisfying and too beautiful not to be true!