It was a momentous day for my friends and their entire family. Their son came home from war. He’s a naval aviator like my father seventy years ago, and had been deployed in the Persian Gulf for the last seven months. Our servicemen are exceptional people and they give me hope for our country. My contributions seem so small by comparison to the heroic deeds of these warriors which keep us safe.
Legend has it that the Gospeler, Luke, was a physician. Actually, I believe he was an internist at heart, though there would be no actual doctors of internal medicine for 1900 years. If you doubt my observation of Luke, read the first four verses of chapter one in his Gospel. What we do know about Luke is that he was a Christian and a traveling partner of Paul who referred to him as a physician.
One of the most famous stories in Western culture is the parable of the Lost Son recorded by Luke in the 15th chapter of his gospel account. Some know this story as that of the Prodigal Son who squanders his inheritance in riotous living, but finally realizes his error and “comes home.” Jesus tells this parable sequentially with two others: the parable of the Lost Sheep, where the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to seek his lost one, and the parable of the woman who lost one of her ten valuable coins and searches diligently before finding the lost one. As most know, the Prodigal’s father had two sons, one was faithful and one was not. However, the father must have kept looking for the lost son because he saw him in the distance, returning from that far country of lost souls.
After perhaps one of the worst weeks in politics, with disgusting verbiage that I would not deem worthy of the term rhetoric, I need a hopeful homecoming story. After listening to Trump and Cruz, I can now understand why it took a dozen years for Thomas Jefferson and John Adams to reconnect after the scandalous vituperations of their 1800 presidential contest. I pray there is redemption for America, even though it remains over the horizon from my view. In a sense we are all prodigals. I just hope our Father will still be searching the horizon for us if and when we come to our senses and turn for “home.”
Excluding those who renounce God and choose to live in the “far country,” the rest of us naturally attach human attributes to God, even though this is a fallacy. I recently wrote of Moses’ encounter with “The Great, I Am” at the burning bush. The message is clear, God is beyond our understanding, and that is as far as we can go. Or is it?
Science can’t take us to a place beyond our universe defined by three dimensions and time. None the less, quantum mechanics describes ten dimensions at the creation of the universe. To comprehend this is understandably difficult because we exist in a three dimensional reality aligned with time. I once wrote a paper imagining that heaven exists as a higher dimensional plane than our universe.
The movie Interstellar caused me to reconsider this notion of long ago. It’s my opinion that the movie is too long and the basic premise is hackneyed. However, the last thirty minutes artfully depict the relationship of our universe, seen through the eyes of the astronaut protagonist, and the alien sphere of a “fifth dimensional” reality (not to be confused with the Motown group!). For those who want more, read a review of the novel “Flatland” by Edwin A. Abbott in Wikipedia. The book itself is not worth your time.
In my opinion the take home message from Interstellar transcends arcane dimensional concepts, cinematic techno eye candy or an otherwise average science fiction yarn. In the story salvation is made possible by love. Love allowed the astronaut played by Matthew McConaughey to bridge interstellar space, alternative dimensions and time to communicate with his physicist daughter and send her the scientific solution to save the earth.
I’ve written previously about the theological virtues of faith, hope and love as articulated by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 13:13). Humans are imbued with the capacity to love and to reason. The Bible sees these as attributes shared with God. In antiquity a name was used to describe a person’s nature. Although we comprehend little of the mysterious and majestic, I Am, we do know about the human and divine concept of love which is transformative and transcendent.
These days what amazes me is that people renounce spiritual considerations as well as reason, noted in my recent essay “Dogma.” Furthermore, people worship false gods of government, money, power, fame and sex. The media, self-described elitists and intellectuals, as well as humanists, secularists and adherents of nominalism, call those with a faith perspective fools. The Christian writer Philip Yancey observed some years ago that our postmodern culture is the first in history attempting to live without a sense of the sacred. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone. And as our culture devolves the “remnant” must by necessity remain in the world, but as the early Christians did, we must not be of the world. We must adhere to faith and hope while trusting love to bridge the void.
Shakespeare once said, “Once a man, twice a child.” As I watch and care for my grandchildren, I see them become more and more independent. We grow up to be self sufficient and no longer need our parents’ daily care. Like the Prodigal we often wander off into the world to seek our fortune or be deceived. As a parent I know I must let my children go, hoping and praying they will find their way and someday come home.
By necessity we conceptualize God as a Father, even to the point of assigning “Him” white robes and a long white beard. I believe this is woefully inaccurate and incomplete. If we know anything about God, it is that God is love. And for some inexplicable reason He loves us and yearns for us to come home to Him just like the Prodigal. We should start the journey.