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The Flaw In The Universe

The Flaw In The Universe

Ever wonder why things never seem “right”? Ever think the universe is somehow not quite the organized, neatly working system that Science and Religion claim? Ever feel like life is futile? Science seems to be telling us that chaos is normal. Religion tells us that the gods can help us. Both seem wrong. How do we make sense of it all?

Galileo, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein would tell you that the universe is logically organized. Modern Quantum Mechanics tells us that the universe is somewhat random. Science is beginning to discover that the universe, at least from our perspective, does not always work as we expect. There’s an erratic outcome at times. We human beings struggle to bring the various elements of the world under our dominion; just as the Bible says. Genesis 1:28: Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (NKJV) Yet things don’t seem to work as we plan. Even as we sense that things are imperfect, we attempt to build Utopia. But it seems that our efforts are futile.

Consider that we build tools, machines, even robots, to assist in building our Utopia. Yet all our efforts are ultimately flawed. The pyramids are amazing because they are still standing. Frequently, archeologists are very pleased to find a piece of broken pottery. They use modern scanning equipment to study the places where buildings once stood. There’s plenty of ancient ruins but few over 2000 years old and useful in a practical way. Our past efforts are slowly disintegrating. We are intrinsically aware that our modern skyscrapers will one day fall. Everything we do will one day be gone, even the pyramids.

So where is our Utopia? Atlantis sank. The Roman Empire is gone, it decayed from within. Monarchs die; their greatest achievements being war. Communism crumbled into tyranny. The Republican (self-governing) Capitalism of today is also failing. No matter what we do, no matter how we progress, we seem thwarted. We conquer typhoid fever with sewers and automobiles only to create water and air pollution. We improve agriculture and are told our food now causes cancer, heart disease and other health issues. We improve our life expectancy from 50 to 80 years and suffer thirty years of arthritis. Utopia seems far away.

That’s because we can’t overcome the world. Science (Physics) has discovered that the universe, the Space-Time Reality we inhabitit, is somehow warped. There are no straight lines. Time is not consistent. Quantum Mechanics and the Relativity Theories are among the ideas that are beginning to reveal that the world is missing something. We are getting close to understanding that there is truly something ‘not quite right’ with our world. There’s something ‘bent’, ‘warped’, something deeply imperfect, some sort of irrationality in the universe. That same flaw, that irrationality, is evident in everyday life. It affects everyone and everything.

Life, it seems, is futile. From the viewpoint of many, but not all of us, it does seem to be futile. One can work very hard, still only a very few get “to the top”. Yet, even for those that do, it all seems futile. History is full of people at the top who were frustrated. The English king, Henry VIII, is a prime example. Howard Hughes is another. Can you think of anyone who found money and power to be fulfilling? Many lottery winners end in bankruptcy. When asked “How much is enough?” John D. Rockefeller is reported to have said, “Just a little bit more.” The Preacher in Ecclestiastes says, “All is vanity”. On reflection we might assume that the atheists may be right. God would not create an imperfect world. Yet the religions of the world tell us that the gods created this world and they demand that we obey them, or else… Making life even more futile. For try as we might, we are unable to obey their rules. Yet we do try.

As we struggle we long for Heaven. Some place where we can rest. Not from our physical labor, that is a gift from God that produces satisfying results…no…we want rest from the eternal struggle to create within the world a place where we can find happiness. We struggle to build some sort of utopia. That struggle is confused by the myriad voices telling us that they are selling the cure. We seek a place where we can control the outcomes; where our desires are fulfilled. We try so very hard to create our own utopia, a “Bali Ha’i” or “Shangri-La” where we can live in peace. But our efforts are futile. Somehow it seems that the closer we get to our desires the more it feels like Hell. That is the flaw in the universe. Quantum Mechanics says things change when we observe them. Relativity Physics tells us that time changes with speed (the faster we go the slower time moves) and that there are no straight lines (Space-Time is warped). Astronomy tells us that we move at varying speeds as we rotate and circle the Sun, the galaxy, clusters of galaxies and, ultimately, the universe. So as we whirl around the universe on our little planet, Science tells us that time is changed as we change speed; and though we appear to be traveling in circles, the actual lines are warped by the “fabric” of Space-Time. No wonder life is frustrating and futile. Reality is deceitful. Of course, Science has attempted theories (really explanations) as to how real it is. But when you step back and think about it you find that it appears to be more of a chaos than an ordered, planned reality. No wonder most scientists are agnostic or atheist. It really does, at least sometimes, feel like a sort of Hell. But is it really Hell? What is Hell? What is Heaven? And why do our efforts, no matter how successful we appear to others, feel futile to us? Let’s examine this from a different perspective:

The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis portrays heavenly judgment as the choice of each individual soul. Reading that helped me understand how Hell really works. The way Lewis describes it, God does not send anyone to Hell, instead, each of us decides. How this happens is very sad. In his book Lewis describes how a number of souls reject Heaven and exactly why they do so. The desire to prove oneself by being better–or just as good–as others is the core issue. It’s pride. The ancient Greeks would tell you that pride–hubris–is something the gods punish. However, our pride is often all we have. It is the means by which we produce the illusion that we are in control. It is the building blocks of our Shangri-La.

In the movies we observe some bad-dude saying “I’ll see you in Hell”. It is obvious that he is not interested in trying to be good. But it’s also obvious that he has made his choice. In reality, this person has given up. Since life is futile, why bother? Even so, this character is trying, in spite of all the futility, to maintain some sort of control over his life, even as he faces death. It’s the same for everyone. For the merchant the struggles to stay solvent can seem overwhelming. Yet another merchant struggles to find useful ways to invest his bounty of profits. Both live in fear, afraid of others taking control of their lives. We hear that bad-dude in the movie and we recognize that we frequently feel that way. It’s all about control. We want to believe as William Ernest Henley said in his poem, Invictus, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

Yet we are not really the masters of much. We can’t build Shangri-La. We can’t control the weather or other natural phenomena. So we must admit that the gods (or God) are in control these things. We pray to these gods that the hurricane turns away. We pray that the stock we just bought will show some growth. Maybe our lottery ticket will be some sort of winner. Or that the doctor will not diagnose something life-threatening. So we pray to whatever gods there may be: we ask these gods to fix things for us and in return we promise something for them. We have the pride, the arrogance, to suggest that we can bargain with the gods. As if they might need our help! It is pride which deludes us, leads us to think we can bargain with Deity.

In The Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus uses a Greek myth as a sort of parable for the futility of life. Sisyphus, for his sins, is condemned to attempt to position a boulder on the peak of a mountain. The peak is such that the boulder will always roll down the other side. Sisyphus has an impossible task. His efforts are ultimate futility. Camus sees the futility of Sisyphus as a parable for our own futile lives. Camus’ solution is rebellion. He offers that we can rebel against the gods who caused this futility. We can roll our boulder up the hill and attempt the futility of perching it on the peak. Then, for a moment, we can show those gods that we are, still, in rebellion. We can still claim to be the “captain of our soul”.

That is the problem. We can rebel all we want, but we can’t change the universe. Whatever we do, we find that we really can’t, as the song says, “do it my way”. That effort is futile. Because the universe has a fatal flaw. Albert Camus was right in that we seem to be very much like Sisyphus. We continually attempt to perch our rock on the peak of the mountain only to have it roll down the other side. And we continue to rebel. It’s absurd.

For Camus and many others it is obvious that God–or the gods–is unable to create a perfect world. We can deny the existence of God or rebel against Him. God, however, did create a perfect world. He was pleased with creation. He created creatures who, of their own free will, would care for it. These creatures, these people, sought Him for advice and assistance, walked with Him and, even though they were lesser creatures, they were His friends. Then they rebelled. They tried to be like God and thus they separated themselves from Him.

God is pure goodness He cannot abide evil. He expelled the creatures from His world because of their Sin. Yet God did not abandon His creatures. Even though they were separated, God still communicated with them. He sent prophets to tell the creatures how they could return to Him. God did not put the flaw in the universe: we did. He cannot abide evil so He put us and our flaw outside His world. Thus we live in a flawed world, one of our own choosing. A world corrupted by Sin, with no straight lines, where time is dependent on relative speed; a world where our efforts to make this world a Utopia always fail. We live in a world where we always need just a little bit more and happiness is an ephemeral thing. Camus is right in that the world seems absurd. But it’s not God’s fault; He did not cause the problem.

So Sisyphus places his boulder on his mountain peak and for just a moment the reality of the absurd, flawed world provokes a bitter laugh. His Sin resulted in his futile task. The gods have punished his pride. He can’t deny the gods or his rebellion. His doom is eternal. Camus thinks Sisyphus to be happy. But how can he be happy? He is alone, forced to futile labor in an absurd existence. I believe him to be forlorn, defeated and even angry.

That is frequently what I see in the world. Men and women who are living a deceit. They present to the world that they are happy, but they are far from happy. Separated from God they seek to replace His Love with the things of this world. Some accumulate wealth, some try to score points for good deeds, some want to make their name known throughout future history. All in an effort to force God to do as they desire. That, of course, is absurd. Yet it is the option they have chosen. Lewis has described this as Hell, the result of the divorce between good and evil.

There is another option. One that Camus ignores. When God expelled Adam and Eve from His Garden of Eden, they were not left to fend for themselves. God still communicated with them and their descendants. He even chose one of them to be the ancestor of His chosen people. He sent His prophets to these people so they could learn who He was. And, ultimately, He sent His Son to be the means of salvation for each of us. The Bible teaches that the kingdom of heaven is now. When we accept Jesus we enter the Kingdom. We enter eternal life now, before death. You don’t need Holy Scripture to know this. We know, in our deepest hearts, that we live either in the Kingdom Of Heaven or we live outside of it. Outside the Kingdom is a chaotic universe. Inside the Kingdom is a loving God who makes all things work for His purposes. And one day He will cause the “New Jerusalem” to descend upon the Earth, removing all the flaws in the universe. Until that happens the choice is ours to make.

True, even those who live inside The Kingdom sometimes find this life to be difficult and perplexing. But we understand why this is so. And we experience the power of God in that He does, over time, turn all things to good. Sisyphus (Each of us) can exercise his free will and repent. He can turn it all over to God. He can admit/confess his Sin—his imperfections, his pride. He can ask for forgiveness. Then he can enter the banquet hall in the kingdom, wearing the proper garments. He need do nothing else. Merely repent and believe on his Lord, Jesus.

Because God does forgive. He sent His Son to redeem us. He said we should, in repentance, believe in Him and ask for forgiveness. That means giving up all those false ideas that keep us in control. It means admitting guilt. It means humbling yourself before God. It also means entering the kingdom of heaven via The Way: believing in Jesus, gaining both eternal life and the joy of living. Life does not need to be futile. All that is required is believing and asking for forgiveness.

You only need to ask.

But you must ask in repentance.

And that’s the heart of the matter.

We want God on our terms.

Sisyphus Peak, New Zealand
Andrew Purdam / Flickr

Picture in Header: Sisyphus,  “Windmills & Rocks –A Pointless Quest” Confusions and Connections



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