A sound theology and a sound science will both recognize that the law of gravity and the Holy Spirit are one in the same principle. There isn’t a different spirit undergirding the physical than the spiritual. There’s one spirit that’s speaking through both the law of gravity and the Sermon on the Mount.
If we recognized that same Spirit is present in everything, in physical creation, in love, in beauty, in human creativity, and in human morality, we could hold more things together in a fruitful tension rather than putting them in opposition and having the different gifts of the God’s Spirit fight each other. What does this mean?
We have too many unhealthy dichotomies in our lives. Too often we find ourselves choosing between things that should not be in opposition to each other and are in the unhappy position of having to pick between two things which are both, in themselves, good. We live in a world in which, too often, the spiritual is set against the physical, morality is set against creativity, wisdom is set against education, commitment is set against sex, conscience is set against pleasure, and personal fidelity is set against creative and professional success.
Obviously there’s something wrong here. If one force, God’s Spirit, is the single source that animates all these things then clearly we should not be in a position of having to choose between them. Ideally we should be choosing both because the one, same Spirit undergirds both.
Is this true? Is the Holy Spirit both the source of gravity and the source of love? Yes. At least if the Scriptures are to be believed. They tell us that the Holy Spirit is both a physical and a spiritual force, the source of all physicality and of all spirituality all at the same time.
We first meet the person of the Holy Spirit in the opening line of the Bible: In the beginning there was a formless void and the Spirit of God hovered over the chaos. In the early chapters of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is presented as a physical force, a wind that comes from the very mouth of God and not only shapes and orders physical creation but is also the energy that lies at the base of everything, animate and inanimate alike: Take away your breath, and everything returns to dust.
The ancients believed there was a soul in everything and that soul, God’s breath, held everything together and gave it meaning. They believed this even though they did not understand, as we do today, the workings of the infra-atomic world: how the tiniest particles and energy waves already possess erotic electrical charges, how hydrogen seeks out oxygen, and how at the most elemental level of physical reality energies are already attracting and repelling each other just as people do. They could not explain these things scientifically as we can, but they recognized, just as we do, that there is already some form of “love” inside all things, however inanimate. They attributed all of this to God’s breath, a wind that comes from God’s mouth and ultimately animates rocks, water, animals, and human beings.
They understood that the same breath that animates and orders physical creation is also the source of all wisdom, harmony, peace, creativity, morality, and fidelity. God’s breath was understood to be as moral as it is physical, as unifying as it is creative, and as wise as it is daring. For them, the breath of God was one force and it did not contradict itself. The physical and the spiritual world were not set against each other. One Spirit was understood to be the source of both.
We need to understand things in the same way. We need to let the Holy Spirit, in all its fullness, animate our lives. What this means concretely is that we must not let ourselves be energized and driven too much by one part of the Spirit to the detriment of other parts of that same Spirit.
Thus, there shouldn’t be creativity in the absence of morality, education in the absence of wisdom, sex in the absence of commitment, pleasure in the absence of conscience, and artistic or professional achievement in the absence of personal fidelity. Not least, there shouldn’t be a good life for some in the absence of justice for everyone. Conversely, however, we need to be suspicious of ourselves when we are moral but not creative, when our wisdom fears critical education, when our spirituality has a problem with pleasure, and when our personal fidelity is over-defensive in the face of art and achievement. One Spirit is the author of all of these. Hence, we must be equally sensitive to each of them. Someone once quipped that a heresy is something that is nine-tenths true. That’s our problem with the Holy Spirit. We’re forever into partial truth when we don’t allow for a connection between the law of gravity and the Sermon on the Mount.