Stardust: A Finely Tuned Universe (Polkinghorne)

Hello Stardust,

In this post, I ask you to consider three points: 1) we are made from explosions of stars; 2) the universe may be finely tuned and intricately designed; 3) there is an intelligible structure of the universe, which makes prayer possible.

Here are some passages for you to consider, on these points, from an essay by John Polkinghorne, a physicist and theologian.

And for more, read: his essay, PolkinghorneSoFinelyTuned (originally published, 1996 Commonweal).

1. We are made from explosions of stars.

On Stardust:

“The stars have another tremendously important thing to do. The nuclear furnaces that burn inside the stars are the source of the chemical elements which are the raw materials of life.”


“If you’re made from stardust, there’s got to be some dust from stars around for you to be made of. You’ve got to have stellar explosions.”

That means that we share the essential substance with the rest of the galaxy. When I look up at the stars, I know that we are one.

2. Regarding a finely tuned universe, consider how chance interacts with purposeful design. For instance, if you meet your soul mate, is the meeting random or purposeful? Here is another articulation of the matter by Polkinghorne.


“John Leslie, a philosopher at Guelf University in Canada, writes about these questions. He has written the best book about the anthropic principle, called Universes. He’s a beguiling philosopher because he does his philosophy by telling stories, which is a very accessible way for those of us who are not professionally trained in philosophy to get the hang of it. He tells the following story. You are about to be executed. Your eyes are bandaged and you are tied to the stake. Twelve highly-trained sharpshooters have their rifles leveled at your heart. They pull the trigger, the shots ring out—you’ve survived! What do you do? Do you shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, that’s the way it is. No need to seek an explanation of this. That’s just the way it is.” Leslie rightly says that’s surely not a rational response to what’s going on. He suggests that there are only two rational explanations of that amazing incident. One is that many, many, many executions are taking place today and just by luck you happen to be the one in which they all miss. That’s a rational explanation. The other explanation is, of course, that the sharpshooters are on your side and they missed by choice. In other words there was a purpose at work of which you were unaware.


That parable translates well into thinking about a finely tuned and fruitful universe.”

3. Concerning prayer, prayer only makes sense if there’s some correspondence between our own minds or intelligence and the structure of the world. Otherwise, how could our own intentions, which we lift to God/the Spirit in prayer, have an impact on the world?  As Einstein said, “The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

For more on this them, see the Polkinghorne essay.

Eclipses: spiritual significance (links)

1. Atlantic Monthly Article: Eclipses and Religious Significance

This article offers a balanced perspective.

2. Here’s a good survey on the spiritual significance of eclipses in religious history:

Christianity Today on Eclipse

Note: Some predict doom and gloom. The eclipse today, they suppose, is a divine portent for judgment; they cite scriptures from Joshua, Joel, and Revelation.  As this article points out, however, today’s eclipse is a natural occurrence: “The events described in Joshua, Joel, and Revelation are not regular natural occurrences, they are special supernatural events.”

3. Bible Verses on Eclipses

See link above

4. Jewish Prophecies re: Eclipses

See link above — for your interest

The Flat Earth Hypothesis = Life without Rebirth

Gospel of John #27 : John 3:3-8 (passage is reproduced below)

Hello Lightworkers,

Side Question: Why is it that scientific knowledge makes progress while religious knowledge often stays in the dark ages – as if antiquated ideas are holy, never outmoded, and spiritual truths are incapable of being surpassed ? Or: are spiritual ideas actually eternal in a way that scientific ideas can never be? A puzzle.

Today’s puzzle bears on the concept of spiritual rebirth. Is rebirth by the Spirit an ancient and eternal truth or instead something new, which abrogates our customary religious ideas?

Main point: The single-birth hypothesis, I suggest, rivals the flat-earth hypothesis. The single -birth hypothesis posits that we have one lifetime to live, which is counted in years and measured according to space in three-dimensions. Thus, if one is elderly or middle aged, one has lived a long time temporally, having experienced lots of life (as if life were a finite substance), while one’s life is draining away, too, since one is closer to death than before.

Life is measured by time and by corporeal metaphors.

This single-life hypothesis, because it depends on sensory experience, resembles the flat-earth hypothesis.

Evidently, the flat-earth hypothesis – which has no theoretical basis – is making a come-back even while climate change is regarded by some as a hoax. Not everything true can be confirmed by our senses. The earth looks flat. But, the hypothesis of a flat earth is not coherent according to science.

For instance, the round-earth and heliocentric hypotheses, stipulating that the round earth revolves around the sun, allows scientists to explain biological life, and the role of our planet earth in the larger cosmos, while the flat-earth and earth-centric model of the universe lacks such explanatory power.

Take a look at this article. Flat Earth Hypothesis

Jesus confronts the single-life hypothesis in John 3. In order to see the Kingdom of God, Jesus says, you must be born again (also translated as: born from above). Yet, the concept of being born again contradicts our common sense.

In fact, as Nicodemus (Jesus’s dialogue partner) objects, “How can someone enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be reborn?” Nicodemus measures life according to time and space. Jesus replies that many things that are real are in fact invisible in origins and destination. Like the wind, so the Spirit (which gives rebirth) leaves a sensory trace (one can hear the wind blow) yet its causality and direction cannot be perceived by the senses.

If you suppose that life is invisible in its essence, spiritual by its nature, and a continually renewable resource (rather than a limited and finite quantity), then one may be born again (or: born from above). Just as a round-earth and heliocentric model explains the relationship of the earth to the larger cosmos, so the hypothesis of spiritual rebirth explains facts about life in the spirit, including: forgiveness, miracle, and love.

Such spiritual realities are not well accounted for by a single-birth hypothesis. If we love according to the amount of life that a person exhibits, then it would follow from the single-birth hypothesis that there would be less to love as a person’s biological life moved towards its expiration date.

Spiritual life follows principles and laws that confound sensory experience and logic.

John 3:3-8
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Spiritual Self-Assurance

#26 John 2: 22-25

Hello Lightworkers,

In the Gospel of John, Jerusalem is the place of controversy while Galilee is more likely to be populated by Jesus’s disciples and friends. Accordingly in John 2, there is a contrast between Cana — where Jesus trusts his mother to serve him as he does a “sign” by converting water to wine — and Jerusalem, where Jesus finds false-friends.

In Cana, Jesus has performed his first miracle while just afterwards in Jerusalem, Jesus engages in controversy at the Temple. He makes a cryptic prophecy. If the Temple should be destroyed (as it was to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE), then Jesus’s own body will be the new Temple, a prophecy that his disciples unravel in retrospect after Jesus is raised.

The last verses of chapter 2 contain a puzzling comment by the narrator, which serves to distinguish the few (his disciples) who understand Jesus’s prophecy about the Temple and the many who simply put their faith in Jesus’s “signs,” i.e. his miracles. Jesus does not entrust himself to those who favor his “signs.” Jesus requires no testimony from human beings, even while he is able to see into the hearts of all.

Jesus models spiritual self-assurance.

When we are self-confident and grounded in the Spirit, we are protected and self- aware. Because our self-assurance is rooted in a divine source, we are not vulnerable to the fluctuating opinions of others, based on our popularity or impressive deeds. A certain  insight or intuition about humanity is the byproduct, too, of spiritual maturity. We can sense danger and the motives of others.  Yet, because of being divinely protected, we do not hold back from speaking out in favor of justice as the occasion demands.

Question: When are you spiritually self- assured and protected? If you were grounded in the Spirit, how would you live? Which fears would fall away?

Passage: John 2:22-25

22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Jesus and Violence


Sicily mosaic Jesus and the money changers

John 2:15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned thei

Introduction- Theological Significance: 

In this post, I reflect on the depictions of violence in the Gospel of John, specifically in the scene where Jesus drives out the personnel of the Jewish temple, an incident that in all the Gospels provokes his arrest. I am adding this introduction in order to frame the event theologically.

Historically, the Gospels give evidence about the charges brought against Jesus. The temple incident causes suspicion since Jesus protests the injustices of the institutions of his day. Theologically, if we believe the Christian teaching that Jesus takes on the sufferings and sins of human beings in order to relieve and forgive them, then Jesus Christ is innocent and without crime himself. However, he is put to death as a criminal, both on political grounds (by the Roman governor) and on religious ground (by the temple priesthood).

In this light, theologically, Jesus Christ takes the side of the criminal and the person unjustly accused.  Jesus experiences the associated burdens of this plight.  Those who are guilty of crimes — large or small — and those who are unjustly accused or persecuted may both find a friend and advocate in Jesus Christ so long as one takes full responsibility for one’s life and deeds and offers genuine repentance and amendment in turn.

Now, onto the post where I raise questions about depictions of violence in this scene.

Gospel of John #25

The one who preaches “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) also advises, “the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one,” while proclaiming, “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.” (Luke 22: 36, 38; Matthew 10: 34).

How shall we understand Jesus’s references to violence in the Gospels? Certainly, It could be that Jesus is simply predicting social disruption as a consequence of the Gospel or that he is advising self-defense rather than overt aggression. In the incident where Jesus drives out the money-changers, John’s Gospel accentuates the assertiveness of Jesus — or violence–as compared with the other gospels.

Only John gives Jesus a whip for driving out the Temple personnel, an implement exhibits the acrimony between Jesus and the religious establishment in this Gospel.  Just as Jesus throws people out of the Temple, so later in the Gospel those who confess Jesus (being his disciples) are thrown out of the Jewish synagogue. The controversies between the Jesus movement and the Jewish establishment in the Gospel of John, are fierce and polarized.

As to the whip, many critics claim (on the basis of the Greek word used) that the kind of whip cited, here, is meant only for animals. This kind of whip drives out cattle (the sheep and the oxen) but it is not intended for human beings. The grammar, say these critics, makes this point plain. Other critics maintain that the whip is symbolic of divine rage against the Temple’s corruption. This symbolism does not imply, as a matter of historical fact, that Jesus threatened actual harm. Still other critics minimize the actual damage that this whip could have caused by arguing that the Greek word for whip, in this context, indicates a scourge of small cords. Such a diminutive implement could not have done great damage.

The scene may have been constructed so as to fulfill prophecies from the Old Testament as to God’s righteous judgment. As Malachi 3:1 describes, with the advent of the expected Messiah (who is Jesus Christ according to this Gospel), the Lord will descend upon the Temple to make it a holy and worthy place for the divine to dwell. In doing so, the money changers had to be driven away not because their business was illegitimate but, presumably, because they charged exorbitant interest rates.

The money changers had the job of converting the coins offered by pilgrims (from many lands) into a Jewish currency for use at the temple. Thus, any law-abiding Jew who came to perform worship at the Jerusalem Temple would have no choice but to pay the fees set by the moneychangers. Some social and economic critique is likely implied by Jesus’s challenge.

Even granted the various theological rationale, which makes apologies for and defenses of Jesus, it is quite striking that the Gospels record an act of overt assault by Jesus. This assault would be fair grounds for suspicion by the religious authorities.

The Gospels employ symbolism. Symbolically, the assault on the temple indicates a prophetic protest against injustice. In deriving a message of faith from the Gospel, it should not be supposed that violence or direct assault are encouraged or warranted. Jesus teaches the commandments of God. He preaches that even anger in the heart should be overcome since anger is the seed of violence.

In summary, while the Gospels offer a picture as to why Jesus might have been controversial — based on prophetic protests of this kind — we ought to balance the teachings throughout. Peace and non-violence are at the center of the message of Jesus Christ.


One Holy Place

Gospel of John #24

John 2:13-12 (text is reproduced below)

Hello Lightworkers,

Think about some beloved place, where you go for prayer, or a sacred building. Maybe you feel God’s presence everywhere — or the Spirit’s presence — so that all of creation is saturated by the holy.  But, when you are at this one place — whether it be outside (on a mountain top or in a forest) or inside (in a church, mosque, Temple, or at an altar of your own) — you are in touch with the Spirit in a special way.

Your heart is calm and peaceful. Your mind is concentrated. It is easy for you to contemplate your life, to forgive others, and to be inspired to take new and beneficial actions.

Based on a vision, Joseph Rael – aka Beautiful Painted Arrow – constructed numerous peace chambers of optimal acoustic design, which are portals to the divine. (See link: Peace Chambers) Some believe that certain places in the USA —  like Mount Shasta or the vortexes in Sedona — are gateways likewise.

What if there were no holy places on earth? Either in nature or man-made?

In this passage from John (see below 2:13-22), Jesus drives money changers out of the Jewish Temple, using a whip. This incident, which is found in all four gospels, is often called the “cleansing of the Temple,” a title that reflects a bias in favor of Jesus over against the religious establishment  (note, however, that in the Gospels, the word “cleansing” does not appear).

What does Jesus oppose here? Commercial exchanges in the Temple, which corrupt its holiness? Or does Jesus strike at the very existence of the Jewish Temple itself as mediator between God and  the people in Judaism? Could it be that Jesus objects to the whole notion of there being a “holy place” – a building or portal to the divine – on earth?

The Gospel of John may contemplate that Jesus attacks not the Temple itself but instead the centrality of the Jerusalem Temple – and its priesthood – for worship. Accordingly, although Jesus himself is a Jew, the Jerusalem authorities nickname him a demon-possessed “Samaritan,” an ethnic slur which casts aspersions upon his religious rectitude.

For the Samaritans (who were also Jews) Mt Gerizim rather than Jerusalem housed their beloved shrine. Yet, in John 4, Jesus predicts that people will worship God neither in Jerusalem nor on Mt Gerizim but instead “in spirit and in truth”.

Jesus may object to the notion that there may be holy places and buildings, which mediate the divine presence. OR he may be critiquing the sectarian politics of his day, which created competition and tension among different sites that were sacred to different religious and ethnic groups. Today, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is fraught even still by conflicting cultic claims (among Jews, Christians, and Muslims).

Question: Where is a holy place for you? What does worship in “spirit and truth” mean?


John 2:13-12 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.