"In the course of trying to make sense of space and time and now space-time I am conscious of needing a particular virtue. In a chapter in a recent book I wrote, Where Is Knowing Going? (Georgetown University Press, 2009), I examined the virtue of hospitality. The more hospitality I can give space-time, the more its otherness enlarges my consciousness. Hospitality challenges and enriches. I liken the process to the need to have the space of a 'commons' in the front of my consciousness where otherness or the stranger can enter and have its say or strut its stuff. The other can be persons or ideas or worldviews or horizons or other faiths. Here and now it is space-time that I am trying to invite into my commons, but its otherness is proving to be very ornery. I initially thought I could give it a home in me. Now I find I am the one needing to find my home in it. It is bringing me into its reality. The more I learn about it, the more I am tempted to pull up the oars of my mind and settle back into floating on the same old, same old that was familiar.
"Making room for otherness is an achievement. And the more radically other the other is, the more one needs help to make room for it. Some otherness is more comfortable to invite into one's space and entertain than others. I began trying to be a good host of space-time, but found I am being invited to be its guest, hence having to obey its now-you-see-it-now-you-don't peculiarities. I started off walking into the data but soon had the feeling of tumbling. It's humbling how small one's humanity can feel within this vast and endless space-time we are finding in this strange universe. Nevertheless, we humans are able to give it something it can't give itself: i.e., names. So rather than being rendered mute, the challenge is to name. Gerard Manley Hopkins observed that nature can 'only be'; it has 'no tongue to plea, no heart to feel' (see his poem 'Ribblesdale'). Physics and mathematics and astronomy and cosmology have all been exercises in finding and naming — as every discipline does — and will continue to be.
"Since nature has no tongue, we need ours to name our relation to it in all of its parts. We humans are part of nature — in fact, emergents from within it. And nature seems to function as a unified whole without our intervention or our being able to understand how it does. Since believers are part of it, it behooves us to stay as literate as we can about it. It also behooves us to do our part to add to and not subtract from its incredibly complex operations.
"Finding myself to be space-time's guest, the help I find I need for this task of naming is faith — faith in two senses. One is faith in science, its quest, its questions, its ability to hatch theories and test and empirically ground its hypotheses in ever-unfolding data. The other is faith in God who made space-time and equips minds to become capacious enough to take in this bulky otherness. The gift of faith enables believing, just as the gift of hope enables hoping, and love loving, and intelligence comes up with answers to questions. These gifts are key to helping meaning grow, here the meaning of the data of science to grow into a consonance with the realm of transcendent meaning and interiority. Faith generates the capacity to enfold the new into the old, and vice versa. In this case it's the ability to take in the coordinates of nature's space-time and do so in such a way that faith itself is transmogrified, and humans can continue on with the challenge of believing without seeing."