As prophecy goes, the glory of God is intelligence. (It’s a tenet of the LDS faith that I’ll always embrace.) Surely, it is the greatest gift that deity and the universe have shared with humanity. We could never be at one with God without it. It makes it possible for us to do wondrous things with the other incomparable gift, which is the earth. We know for sure that we are our solar system’s only creatures so endowed.
But obviously intelligence is a two-edged sword, a fact inherent in the gift. It can be, and is, used as easily for evil as for good. Such is the nature of free agency.
There are religions that tempt us to think we can have it both ways, Christianity among them. We can screw up our lives and still, by faith and grace, claim a richer eternity. Yet hard proof of this doesn’t exist. It never has. Isn’t it in thinking we can have it both ways that we doom the world? The colossal irony of today’s world finds us swimming in medical breakthroughs, exploding science, and mind-boggling technology that could make it possible to keep humanity and earth living in harmony for thousands of years. What is the human flaw that keeps us dragging our tails in ignorance and superstition?
Might the tail and the flaw have a common wrapper: Ego?
There’s a word in the Old Testament that captures both the blessing and the uncertainty combined in humanity and intelligence. It’s at the heart of Genesis: dominion.
Those who see it as God’s license to us to do with the earth and the other living things as we please don’t understand the word itself. The fulness of dominion is lost when license shrinks or tramples responsibility. Yet we see it trampled every day in nearly all walks of life, including organized religion. Too easily we excuse bad behavior by telling ourselves that “life isn’t fair.”
Properly exercised, dominion is about justice and fairness. It’s about leadership. When the Father of the Old Testament is talking about dominion “over,” He’s talking about responsibility “for.” He’s talking about leadership. He wanted his people to lead righteously. He expected it.
Properly exercised, It could bring humanity an eternity of its own making. A hundred millennia? A thousand millennia? Now that would be a history worth writing about! That way, we could begin to think we were making the most of what the universe has given us.
The opportunity to do just that lies in science, in our ability to find and exercise the spiritual unity of science and faith. God having shared with us the creative power of intelligence, all the wonders of the universe should be discernible to us, should our race endure long enough to subdue superstition and ignorance.
Faith can surely help it happen. To start, it must stop fighting science. With every rumpus organized religion has made over scientific discovery, over the centuries, it has always been religion that got the bloody nose. Actually, it has been the churches that fought science, not faith.
Fighting science has been a path to fame and fortune for churches, notably those with ministers and followers whose brains are boxed in the Bible.
At best, faith and science seek the same thing: knowledge. Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Without it, dreams of justice and fairness, of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, will remain more dream than reality.
So, in their underlying affinity – the love of truth – faith and science share the power to save the world, to replace self-interest and despotism in their myriad forms with peaceful progress and an eternity of humanity’s own making. Isn’t that what God intended in arming us with his glory? If we fail, the fault surely is ours. Not God’s.
The universe shows us ever more clearly that evolution is God’s way. Left to work its own wonders, the earth continues to heal and to blossom. Anyone who visits the National Preserve that shows us the aftermath of the eruption of Mount St. Helens cannot fail to see this power of the earth at work. The earth itself is showing us that our way to eternity lies in evolution, in evolving sustainable ways of life that should be universally available to all nations and embraced by all tribes.
Conservation must soon trump consumption and corruption. The exploitation so common to capitalism and consumer economics must yield to accountability. They must spread wealth more than concentrate it. Otherwise, capitalism becomes the snake that swallows itself.
People must learn to live more fully by living more simply, by finding the edification that comes of replacing reckless material appetites and bad habits with deeper self-discovery, the learning by which we evolve an ever better, more selfless human race.
Science can lead the way, if faith enables us to care truly as much for neighbor as for self. Such is the real meaning of dominion.
Frank Mensel – August, 2012