Neil DeGrasse Tyson, as host of NOVA’s Science Now series, wears a funny vest and says profound things. Isn’t that kind of what a pastor does? Wears a funny robe and tries to say profound things from the pulpit? At the very end of every NOVA show, Tyson, science’s preeminent televangelist, puts on a vest covered with constellations and galaxies and gives a cosmic perspective on what the show has explored. I think this is a good practice for a lot of things, especially church work. Often, when we try to think about the vastness of God, we can’t do it. We can’t get a cosmic perspective because we get stuck on ourselves, our community, our problems, our world, our whatever. We want to break the infinite nature of God’s love into manageable pieces. This helps us get a foothold on that vastness, but we should never forget to stare out into space for a cosmic perspective, too.
What could be more cosmic than predestination? It is such a weird issue to get perspective on these days that we simplify it. We often find ourselves thinking about predestination as solely a doctrine of who is in and who is out. But when we broaden out to a cosmic perspective on predestination, when we expand our consideration rather than contract it, this doctrine actually makes more sense. Think of predestination in terms of its pseudonym: election. Of all the beyond infinite things God could have chosen to do, God elected, God chose, to be in relationship with humans, with us, with our world. God could have chosen to focus on microorganisms on Pluto, or nothing at all, or something we can’t even begin to fathom. God could have spent eternity building sand castles out of space dust. And yet, God chose us, all of us. Predestination is about God’s realm, which is infinitely more infinite than ours already seems.
So it isn’t that God chose some people and not others. It isn’t: Christians=in and Everyone else=out. The power and mystery of predestination is that we exist at all. That God breathed life into us humans at all. Our very creation in God’s image is a sign of our election by God. The term “God’s chosen people” isn’t a divisive or exclusionary term. It is a miraculous term and one that nobody, if we are following our convictions about God as creator to their logical conclusions, can claim solely for themselves. If we believe that God created all things – life, earth, galaxies, black holes, dark matter, turtles, rocks, humans, hydrogen atoms – then we can’t say we are any more special than the Andromeda Galaxy or the Orien Nebula or a Muslim or a humanist or the Higgs Boson. God chose to create those things and people too.
Christians have a certain relationship with God that may differ from God’s relationship with a bunch of stars or a bunch of other people. But if we really trust God, then we have to understand that God is in relationship with everything – including us, but not especially us. We can’t be jealous! Predestination is about God’s realm, which is infinitely more infinite than ours already seems.
And that’s the cosmic perspective.
ALEX WIRTH is an ordained teaching elder doing building maintenance and social justice work at Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago. He buys vinyl albums more than mp3s, tries to ride his bike more than drive a car, make/bake things more than buy them, and generally stick to a punk rock, do-it-yourself mindset like Jesus did.