Category Archives: God’s Universe

When We (George Weigel and I) Consider Thy Heavens

I am glad to see the valuable and insightful Mr. George Weigel calling attention (on the insightful, valuable First Things.com) to the powerful (if inadvertent) ministry of the NASA folks at APOD. If only all our taxpayer dollars were spent this wisely.

Weigel’s post is entitled “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God.” If that sounds familiar, it is from the often-quoted Psalm 19.

As my faithful readers know, I have been following APOD for years.

As I have said, every new image I see paints a wider, deeper, and more wonderful picture of the universe our Lord has created. And the incomprehensible distance grows between this universe and its beginning in an infinitesimally small seed in the palm of God’s hand barely 14 billion years ago.

Every APOD is a proclamation of the greater glory of God. “When I consider Thy Heavens, the work of Thy hands…” (Psalm 8:3)

Here are some of my favorites (most recent first): Continue reading

Reasonable Steps to Jesus

(With a little help from some scientists.)

1.  Astronomers have determined that the universe began at a certain point in time (14.5 billion years ago, more or less).  It appears to have been created from nothing, paralleling Genesis. (See NASA and Goddard Institute for Space Studies founder Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers).

2.  The universe obeys certain strict physical and mathematical laws and structure, making it comprehensible to human minds.  This suggests an intelligence guiding its creation.

3. Paleontologists have determined that life began, indeed exploded on earth as soon as the planet’s surface had cooled sufficiently to sustain it, within the first billion years of earth’s existence. (See Stephen Jay Gould, A Wonderful Life).   This suggests a universe predisposed towards life.

4.  Human self-consciousness triggered an innate sense of right and wrong in the earliest humans. This moral sense or  “Natural Law”  suggests a lawgiver.  (See NIH and Human Genome Project Director Francis Collins, The Language of God).

5.  Before the earthly life of Jesus, no philosophy or religion had elevated love above all other virtues.  None had ever valued the poor over the rich, the weak over the strong, the childish over the wise, the humble over the proud, or mercy over strict justice.

This, along with the Gospel testimonies and the amazingly rapid growth of Christianity (spread worldwide in three centuries by missionaries rather than armies, as was Islam), suggests that Jesus was, if not divine, at the very least the most unique human or spiritual leader of all time.

The god that could create the world and make it humanly understandable would also be capable of revealing his nature to us, in both indirect and direct ways (miracles).

So there I found myself, in five simple steps, standing at the door of the Church.  The fact that it took me seven decades to take those steps speaks to my own stubborn slowness rather than the difficulty of the steps themselves.  Others, perhaps less clever than I, seem to reach the door, and pass through it, quickly and easily.  I am just grateful that I have been given the time I needed.

 

NOTES and Quotes:

Francis Collins wrote “The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. He can be worshipped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. His creation is majestic, awesome, intricate, and beautiful.”

He also wrote that “God must be an incredible physicist…There is this phenomenal fine-tuning of the universe that makes complexity and, therefore life, possible.”

Robert Jastrow wrote “Far from disproving the existence of God, astronomers may be finding more circumstantial evidence that God exists.”

Circumstantial evidence is exactly what scientists provide us with every day.  Witness testimony is what we get from believers.  Together, the case is made strong.

 

 

 

Who Is Our Neighbor? Andromeda !

Today’s featured APOD stunner is M31, the Andromeda Galaxy.  At a mere 2 million light years away from our own Milky Way, it is our nearest major galactic neighbor. (See Luke 10:29; “And who is my neighbor?”)

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

It is a cliché to express a sense of human littleness in the face of the unthinkably enormous scope of the universe.  But here, as in all things, one must retain a sense of perspective. For this unimaginable immensity is just the grown-up phase of a creation that once was small enough to fit in its creator’s hand (or yours, for that matter.) And we are fashioned in the image of that same creator.

A cliché that is both true and more useful: Biblical religion both humbles us (in the face of the majesty of God) and elevates us (for we are created in the image of that majestic God).  This balance of our smallness and our greatness is mirrored in face of our universe, so huge and yet once so small.

By contrast, as theologian Reinhold Niebuhr put it, “Both the majesty and the tragedy of human life exceed the dimension within which modern culture seeks to comprehend human existence.”

 

 

 

Reality

Another glimpse into the real universe, courtesy of NASA and their splendid site APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day).

I have to remind myself, while gazing on this beautiful galaxy, that I am looking at a real thing, and not a work of art.

Remember: a hundred billion stars, one of a hundred billion galaxies; and all beginning with something infinitesimally SMALL. Something that could fit in the hand of a child – the child Jesus’ hand. (Or, as Edward Oakes wrote, “Infinity dwindled to infancy”, but in reverse.)

If you are watching this on a touchscreen device (smartphone or pad), you can touch the screen with two fingers and then expand the picture. By doing so, you will see deeper and deeper into the Heart of Light (as opposed to the Heart of Darkness). It is dazzling, mesmerizing, overwhelmingly beautiful.

This was posted on May 15. Check the archives there (at apod.nasa.gov).

God bless NASA. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19).

 

The Needle Galaxy

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The Needle Galaxy, courtesy of NASA (apod.gov.nasa, archives).  Always remember: According to the scientists, there are at least a hundred billion galaxies, each made up of a hundred billion stars; and when it all began 14.5 billion years ago, it (the entire universe) was smaller than a mustard seed.  Fitting neatly in the palm of God’s hand.