Seeing Darkly

You can’t see God. But don’t worry. You can’t see most of physical reality, either.

I’ve been reading a book called “The Elegant Universe” by Brian Greene about relativity, superstring theory and quantum physics. The first few chapters deal with Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity. Like most people, I have heard the many analogies about how to conceptualize the speed of light and how it warps time—the baseballs being thrown on a train, the spaceships flying past one another, etc.

I get the analogies well enough, but when it comes down to it, part of me just doesn’t buy it. The rational part of me understands that the theory’s logic and math are sound and have been proven experimentally. But the idea of gravity and speed warping time and space is just so far outside my everyday perceptions that the dumb skeptic in me can’t get on board.

The “smaller me” wants to live only in a Newtonian universe where objects move through time and space like clockwork. I can grasp that. I can sense the movement and inertia of objects. I can feel the gravity and visualize how a rocket needs speed to enter orbit. But tell me about a universe invisible to my perceptions where Newtonian physics no longer apply, and I’ll nod my head in wonder and be fascinated. But the “seeing is believing” part of me says, “Yeah, but…it can’t really be like that. You’re just playing with math.”

And yet, the evidence is conclusive. The universe is a far more complex and strange and beautiful place than our little minds can grasp.

Why, then, is it deemed irrational when believers claim the same thing, that this universe is far more beautiful and strange and wonderful than our everyday perceptions allow us to see? Why should it be so far fetched to have faith in God and hidden dimensions when it’s a scientific fact that more is going on here than any of us comprehend? 

Another stunning fact of science: The matter that we can see and detect with our instrumentation only amounts to 4% of the universe. The other 96% is mysterious stuff called “dark matter” and “dark energy”–“dark” simply because we know it’s there but can’t see it but can only detect its gravitational influence. It doesn’t reveal itself like normal matter.

I love science, but it takes more faith than I can muster to believe that the three pounds of meat in our skull is capable of comprehending Reality as it truly is. Paul tells us “for now we see through a glass, darkly”(1 Cor. 13:12). It takes humility to remember our minds are in a dimmed and darkened state compared to the perceptions we will enjoy someday.  

The book I’m reading has reminded me, just like the Bible, that there is a stark difference between what I see and what is really there. It’s an important lesson. I hope the scientists doing their important work remember the same thing.

Sheldon Lawrence is an award winning essayist and author of the recent novel “Hearts of the Fathers: A story of Heaven, Hell, and the hope of new life after life,” available here


Biblical Serendipity: The right verse at the right time

An interesting feature of spiritual autobiography throughout Christian history is the number of times someone, while grappling with a dilemma or pouring their heart out to God, feels inspired to open the Bible and read the first verse their eyes come to. Maybe the earliest and most notable of these moments is the story of St. Augustine’s conversion to Christianity as related in Confessions.  Having explored and experimented with the various philosophies of his day, he increasingly felt drawn to Christianity, becoming convinced it was God’s truth, but still unable to fully commit himself to the faith.

One day as Augustine paced in his garden at Milan, torn by indecision and inner turmoil, he heard a child’s voice say, “Tolle, lege. Tolle lege” Pick up and read. Pick up and read. Going to “the book of the apostle [Paul],” Augustine writes, “I seized it, opened it and in silence read the first passage on which my eyes lit: ‘Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts’ (Rom. 13: 13-14). Upon reading this passage, Augustine reports “All the shadow of doubts were dispelled” (153).

I think of this and other similar moments as a kind of divinely serendipitous reading. And it was with such moments in mind that I created With no advertising and zero promotion, the website is now used by thousands of Bible readers from around the world.

Obviously this serendipity doesn’t happen every time you open (or click) the Bible. Yet there are those times when you just know the passage you get is more than coincidence. Maybe it’s a feeling. Maybe the scripture is just too specific to your situation. I have had several such moments with Bibledice as well as the hard copy Bible. Many of these have been profound and personal, but I want to relate a lighthearted one here.

My wife and I had been arguing over ridiculous things—it was one of those days. I don’t mean to play the victim, but on this particular occasion I felt blindsided and couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I was getting raked over the coals. During a lull in the storm, I despairingly sat at the computer and thought I’d go to Bibledice and see if the Lord had any insight. I wondered if I would get some admonition like “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved his Church” (Eph. :25). I clicked the button and instead got this:

“It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.” Proverbs 21:9

I blinked, and then read it again. Then I laughed. It was like God and I were sharing an inside joke. It broke the gloom and lightened the mood. My wife also got a good laugh out of it and I don’t doubt that if she clicked for a scripture she might have gotten some proverb about a foolish man.

Obviously it would be easy to get carried away with reading too much meaning into every “roll” of biblebice. But I do believe some are messages meant for us specifically during specific times in life. I have received touching emails from users who attest to this fact. As Proverbs 16:33 says, “We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall” (New Living Translation).

Which brings me to my last point. Regular or even casual users of Bibledice have their Bibledice stories, moments when the right verse came at the right time. I would like to share some of your stories on this blog. You can remain anonymous, use initials, or full name as you wish. Please email your Bibledice story to

Thank you for supporting this site. Please check back with this blog for reflections on Bible passages as well as thoughts and explorations in my own spiritual journey.

Sheldon Lawrence