In chaos and nothingness

Programme note on the hymn In chaos and nothingness.

Since the mid-nineteenth century, our scientific understanding has developed enormously, from the vastness of cosmology to the minute weirdness of quantum physics, and from continental drift to evolutionary biology. Several people, sadly, still view such science as being somehow opposed to Christian understanding. By contrast, this hymn positively accepts modern science. It lays parallel the theological mystery of God and the scientific mystery of his creation, simply letting them resonate openly with each other, while trying to avoid the "God of the gaps" fallacy.

Verse 1 gives us the "Big Bang" explosion that created the universe. In its aftermath not only are the galaxies moving apart but, counter-intuitively, they are actually accelerating apart. "Dark energy" is the term given to this driving force.

Verse 2 draws us closer to our planet. It incorporates the enormous timespan of God's created earth, and the discovery of continental drift. Acknowledging the Holy Spirit's life-giving breath, it pays respect to Darwin's "On the origin of species" foundations of evolutionary biology.

Verse 3, picking up themes from Job, reminds us of mystery beyond our knowing. The phrase "played your dice" puts us alongside Einstein's own theological struggles. Other scientists, building on his work, realised that there is genuine randomness in the very fabric of the universe itself. Einstein found such fundamental randomness deeply troubling, famously expressing it as "God does not play dice with the universe". Yet science confirms such subatomic "dice-playing" randomness. Likewise biology reveals randomness in the evolution of life, which we, as Christians, sometimes struggle to set alongside our trust in a guiding God.

In verse 4, God's "unnameable Name" of the first verse is made known to us in Christ, the "Name above every name", through whom all things were created. He is at the heart of all this dynamic and lively tension, both in science and faith. God, who is invisible, beyond our knowing, has become visible, known to us in Christ.

More detailed notes are available at

Copyright © David Lee
Last updated: 21 April 2016