Where is God in the universe?


Question & Answer

Q: By Andy Alexis

I  read Bishop Spong’s fine book “Unbelievable”; in one chapter, he talks about advances in science (such as the size of the universe) that have forced us to reconsider the tenets of our faith that were codified before those things were understood.

I also read Neil Degrasse Tyson’s most recent book: he says the universe is estimated to be 90 billion light-years across and contains 100 billion galaxies.

My question: where is God in the universe? Is God bigger than the universe? How can God be both so big but small enough for us to have a chance of comprehension?
A: By Rev. Lauren Van Ham
Dear Andy,

Thank you! Your provocative questions encourage our minds and our hearts to bend toward one another; a great spiritual practice for us all. In my understanding, this is the holy ground where theology, social transformation, and astro-physics (no kidding) happens.

We know that science and academics diligently strive for proof, statistically-significant data, peer-reviewed checks and balances, and empirical evidence. In many places, this effort is needed and valuable. It also erodes ancient wisdom held by indigenous minds, other species and even sacred texts explaining astronomy, geology, and botany in ways that science might initially dismiss. Within in our intuition, our star-gazing, or sunset watching, we stumble upon truths. The revelations offered in our dreams, song-writing and poetry often point us toward a deep-knowing that our imaginations have been holding for the moment when we would be ready to appreciate them.

Herein lies the answer. God is everywhere in the universe because God IS the universe. The singularity (Big Bang, or Flaring Forth), was God (Godhead) and the indwelling of God. Meister Eckhart, the 12th century mystic, wrote, “God’s darkness is a superessential darkness. A mystery behind mystery, a mystery within mystery that no light has ever penetrated.”

Today, we know our universe (God) has been expanding for 13.7 billion years. All that has been, is and will be is born of this one source. As you’ve mentioned, depending on the day, this awareness can feel awe-inspiring, gigantic and pretty impersonal until….

Until we recall that God is IN all of it. Carl Sagan said, “We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” As co-creators with God (cosmos), it suddenly becomes very personal. All of it. My encounter with the crow in the grass is intimacy with Creation. The deep sigh I feel when I hold my friend’s child close is a brush with Divinity. The uplift or relief that overtakes me when I leave the street to enter the hallowed hush of the cathedral, is God’s whisper reminding me that I am safe, whole, and loved. Our acts of love, engagement, and curiosity are precisely how God sees God…and continues to expand.

And so, Andy, in this creative tension between the vast and micro, I want to offer a closing suggestion: your reading list is inspiring. If you’re not already in a book group, please form one! When small circles gather to create space and reflection for questions like yours, social transformation happens. May we all bow to the Mystery and celebrate our co-creative responsibility with reverence and wonder.

~ Rev. Lauren Van Ham

About the Author
Lauren Van Ham was born and raised beneath the big sky of the Midwest; Lauren holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, Naropa University and The Chaplaincy Institute.  Following her ordination in 1999, Lauren served as an interfaith chaplain in both healthcare (adolescent psychiatry and palliative care), and corporate settings (organizational development and employee wellness). Her passion and training in the fine arts, spirituality and Earth’s teachings has supported her specialization in eco-ministry, grief and loss, and sacred activism.  Lauren’s work with Green Sangha (a Bay Area-based non-profit) is featured in Renewal, a documentary celebrating the efforts of environmental activism taking place in religious America.  Her essay, “Way of the Eco-Chaplain” appears in the collection, Ways of the Spirit: Voices of Women.  Lauren tends a private spiritual direction practice and serves as Dean for The Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, CA.

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