Not Big Enough To Be Small

I probably spend too much time on social media. In this regard, I know that I am not alone.

Through my hours of scrolling, I have come across this atheist meme a few times:

“CHRISTIANITY: Belief that one God created a universe 13.79 billion years old, 93 billion light years in diameter (1 light year = approx. 6 trillion miles), consisting of 200 billion galaxies, each containing and average of 200 billion stars, only to have a personal relationship with you.”

Personally, I love the Christian response to this, which is simply to say: “Yes!”

But I wanted to focus on the mindset from which this meme was made. There seems to be a real lack of understanding by the atheist about the bigness of God.

The thought behind the meme is this: if God is real, He created a very large and very old universe. And you, puny human, are so infinitesimally small in relationship to the largeness of that universe, that you could not be significant to God.

However, this betrays the atheistic understanding of a very small-minded God. For a mind that can pay attention to smallness is one that is better than one that cannot. The Mona Lisa is one of the world’s most famous paintings for a reason. Leonardo DaVinci was able to put into it such small and precise details which cause the illusion of motion and the enigmatic smile. If Leonardo was unable to focus on such small details, the painting would not be the masterpiece that it is. I love The Lord of the Rings movies for many reasons. But one of the great things about the film makers was that they focused on getting all the little details, down to the embroidery design on dresses, to make the movie come alive. Their minds were larger because they could be focus on the smallness.

The atheist thinks of God as too small because the universe is too big for the atheist to grasp. And this largeness can be overwhelming. In fact, CS Lewis once wrote:

“It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations, there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realize for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.” (CS Lewis, Miracles)

Lewis’ point is that the immensity of the universe can fill us with a sense of insignificance before its immensity. But that sense is exactly the feeling we should always get from the immensity of God. The meme tries to shock Christians with a truth they have been experiencing for 2000 years.

But even beyond this, it is not simply a matter of thinking small but making yourself small.

One of the sad things that happens to us when we become “important” is that we begin to think that certain things are beneath us. How many famous celebrities and political figures flout the laws that we ordinary people must follow. Even in our own lives, we can see this. Notice how anyone behaves when they get even a modicum of power increase. How quickly do they begin bossing others around to the work that is beneath them.

In these cases, the mind becomes so inflated that it loses touch with reality. Once we think we are above the tasks that are required of us, we no longer think as God thinks.

God truly is above all. And yet He is the servant of all. He humbled Himself to be born in a stable in Bethlehem. He told His disciples, “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45).

Returning to The Lord of the Rings, another brilliant insight that JRR Tolkien had was that evil does not know how to use true humility. It never occurred to Sauron that his enemies would seek to destroy the One Ring rather than weaponize it. And he certainly never imagined that two small hobbits could be the instruments of that destruction. That was because Sauron did not have a mind big enough for the smallness of it.

But it is the opposite with Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus got down on his knees and washed the feet of His disciples. This was something so lowly even a Jewish slave would not do it. And the next day He let Himself be crucified on a tree, the most ignoble death imaginable. His enemies thought Him utterly vanquished. But that was because they did not have the mind of God. Like the modern atheists, they saw Christ’s smallness on the cross and saw only weakness. This is because they did not have a mind big enough to understand.

Of their minds and the minds of many atheists: they are not big enough to be small.

Copyright 2023, WL Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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