And the Trees Clap Their Hands
164 Pages

And the Trees Clap Their Hands


164 Pages


Ever since Newton, people - including Christians - have considered matter to be strictly mechanical, uninformed by any "spirit" and without sentience. Such a view, says Virginia Owens, "demotes to mere metaphor" all the natural imagery of Scripture that calls for creation to participate in the praise of its maker.
Now, however, contemporary physical theory offers us an expanded view of the cosmos, which suggests that it is indeed sentient and informed with knowledge. For Christians, Virginia Owens argues in this book, the cosmos bears witness to the Incarnation itself.
Owens offers a brief history and exploration of physics, interwoven with vivid and provocative perceptions of the physical world (reminiscent of the writings of Annie Dillard). The heavens really do proclaim the glory of God, Owens insists. "The prophet's figure of trees clapping their hands is a living reality."
"And the Trees Clap Their Hands" will appeal to all general readers who are interested in the relationship between faith and our understanding of the physical world.



Published by
Published 04 February 2005
Reads 0
EAN13 9781725213258
Language English
Document size 23 MB

Legal information: rental price per page €. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.


And the Trees
Clap Their Hands
Faith, Perception,
and the New Physics
Virginia Stem Owens
Wipf and Stock Publishers 199 W 8th Ave, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401 And the Trees Clap Their Hands Faith, Perception, and the New Physics By Owens, Virginia S. Copyright©1983 by Owens, Virginia Stem ISBN: 1-59752-083-7 Publication date 2/4/2005 Previously published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983
This book is the report of a spy, God’s spy (the metaphor is Shakespeare’s) searching out our land for evidence of what is really going on here. The report is essential reading for all who inhabit our twenty-first century version of planet earth. The spy’s name is Virginia Stem Owens, a distinguished ancestor of that company, led by Joshua and Caleb, that slipped into Canaan as spies. The minority report that she brings to us, in contrast to the majority consensus on Canaan (“a land that eateth up the inhabitants…there we saw the giants…we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight”), is that it is an “exceedingly good land…which floweth with milk and honey.” Her report is an elegant refutation of the widespread assumption of the day that a great gulf is fixed between the world of science and the world of religion. In the last several hundred years considerable hostility and mutual suspicion have developed back and forth across the gulf. The surprising thing is the consensus that has emerged among the men and women who inhabit the two worlds: most of them are convinced that the gulf is unbridgeable, a true abyss. Believing Christians are certain that they have nothing in common with the people who live on the far side of the abyss, the country of science. And for their part, unbelieving scientists look across the “great gulf fixed” (Lk. 16:26) with something like scorn tempered with condescension. Oddly, the consensus isn’t disturbed by the observation that in the course of actual living, believer and unbeliever buy sausages at the same meat market, drive an identical model of car, work side by side in the same factory, root for the same baseball team, vote for the same politician, attend the same
university, and read, write and speak the same language. Does it never occur to these estranged populations that they both get wet in the same rainstorm, both age at the same rate, both procreate in the same way? Who “put asunder” (Mk. 10:9) facts and faith, the secular and the sacred? And why are the two populations so unprotesting? Why do so many of us from both sides of the abyss put up with it? Virginia Stem Owens, for one, isn’t putting up with it. She doesn’t for a minute believe that there is an abyss; this whole business of an abyss between sacred and secular, between the stuff of the universe and the God of the universe, is a barefaced lie. It is a very clever lie. It has to be to take in both sides; believer and unbeliever alike swallow the lie whole. This widespread acceptance of the identical lie by people who hold such diverse world-views is strong evidence that it has its origin with the devil, the father of lies: “…for the devil is a liar and a conjuror too, and if you don’t watch out he’ll conjure you.” Not everyone is gullible. A considerable representation from both sides of this mythical, non-existent abyss gives witness “…that if we can know anything at all about the world, it is that everything is related to everything else. Truth cannot be compartmentalized. The implications of this are yet to be felt by a society that insists science and spirituality are separate disciplines to be pursued in separate facilities so that one may not contaminate the other.” The compelling aspect of this spy report is the mass of steadily accumulating evidence from the scientific community that provides irrefutable witness on the indivisibility of everything that we see and don’t see. Everything “out there” in cheese and atoms, trees and butterflies, is connected with everything that is “in here” in spirit and mind, emotions and will. She marshals witnesses from the world of the “new physics,” Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg, Michael Polanyi and Max Planck, David Bohm and John Bell, and puts them in conversation with the likes of Jonathan Edwards and Owen Barfield, St. Paul and St. Augustine, John Donne and George Herbert, Anne Morrow Lindbergh and the Hesychasts on Mt. Athos. It turns out there is no abyss. They are all, from their different stations whether laboratory or oratory, theological
library or high-energy accelerator, sonnet or cathode-ray gun, carrying on a civilized and sometimes devout conversation. If we could arrange and take notes on a conversation between the quintessential American theologian, Jonathan Edwards, and Albert Einstein, the icon of modern physicists, we would come away with something very much like this book, summarized in Jesus’ words,Watch, therefore. “The enormous task is to keep your eyes open, your wick trimmed, your powder dry. Even when the bridegroom tarries…. There are no two ways about it. You’ve got your eyes open or you don’t. You’re watching at midnight or you’re not.” The report is not a polemic. It is more like aesthetics, spying out the forms and features of truth, goodness, and beauty that are everywhere present in faces and fossils, in quark and quotidian alike, but routinely overlooked by many of us who, in Isaiah’s words (quoted by both Jesus and Paul—things were no better in biblical days!), walk daily in a world of wonder but don’t see a thing, don’t hear a thing, don’t understand a thing. It is understandable that secular unbelievers, brought up in an unbelief system fashioned in scientific laboratories, are either unaware or dismissive of the witness of Christian believers. But it is nothing less than astonishing that Christian believers should deny or belittle the enormous significance of matter, of flesh, the material and the physical. For the looming centerpiece of Christian truth is that God became flesh, a human person, and lived a thoroughly human, physical, historical existence among us. Creation and Incarnation are the foundation of the Christian Gospel. But obvious as it is, given the prevalence and insistence of the myth-makers, most of us need reminding of the thoroughly earthy conditions in which God has chosen to work out his salvation.
Eugene H. Peterson Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology Regent College, Vancouver, B.C. December 2004