In the Headlines: What Have Astronomers Really Discovered?

I love the universe. I was an astronomy minor at university, and like a bug to light I’m drawn to all the latest star-science. And as you can guess, this is a dilemma. I’m a follower of Jesus—I love cosmology and believe in the most grandiose terms that God made the universe to declare His glory to anyone who can perceive it.

But astronomy is also a desperate science—one that seeks the eternal origin and fate of everything temporal. And that’s a room with no doors. God is an affront to science, but kill him and the only solution to the problem of “life, the universe and everything” is that it all burst from nothing and is hurtling into infinite discontinuity. From nothing to nothingness. At least for the moment we have ashes and dust. In the end, science says, there won’t even be dust. That dark conclusion means humanity is far more meaningless than it ever imagined.

But the show must go on, because humanity, scientists tell us, must discover life off the earth, and the non-science of God interferes with their enormous view of the universe. So they turn their desperate search toward new, potentially habitable worlds in the hope of staving off inevitable extinction, validating humanity’s existence and pinpointing our true bio-evolutionary origin. And perhaps along the way they will even meet intelligent life, which, if discovered, they believe, will render Jesus and the Bible obsolete. Happy day. There’s just one question left: And then?

No doors.

With the discovery of yet another “earth-like” planet in the habitable zone of a neighboring star, another journalist has hailed the death-knell of Christianity (other religions seem to be meritless targets to critics).

But no one found a habitable planet. What we’re hearing is common, frequent, journalistic embellishment based on wishful thinking. A planet was detected—in the habitable zone—of a star so distant it would take several hundred thousand years to travel there at our best achievable speed (aside from the innumerable and deadly challenges of theoretical interstellar space travel).

Are our telescopes that good? Yes. So is it possible the planet is earth-like? Yes. Are scientists sure of this? No. It’s a heavy world, meaning rocky like earth, not gaseous like Jupiter, and it’s in the “habitable zone”, orbiting its parent star about the same distance as earth does from the sun. Does it have oceans, an atmosphere or life? No one knows. Everything outside the mass of the planet and the orbital location is a best guess. Is it possible they found another earth? Yes. Is it probable? No. Just because Carl Sagan mused that if no other life existed in the universe it would amount to “an awful waste of space” doesn’t make it so. That was his wish, not his understanding.

The data tells us there are innumerable planets out there; it can even tell us their approximate mass, size and makeup—but little else—including the possibility of life. In the scientific community there’s a gross assumption that the biological evolution presumed to have occurred on earth also occurred elsewhere by the same mechanisms and for the same reasons. But in fact they have no idea—and until they can discern bugs or structures on a distant world, they have no way of knowing (aside from radio signals, which are so far entirely absent).

Journalistic embellishment is designed to sell news, and journalists also know that headlines alone can indoctrinate the masses, especially those who take no time to read the article (which is most people).

Is life “out there” possible? Why not. Is it probable? Who knows. And don’t forget—the same questions confront those who declare new evolutionary discoveries as though they had completely nailed down a nearly opaque past. While reported as fact, they are only expressing a best guess. Possible? Within the realm of scientific theory, yes. Probable? Impossible to say. Destructive to faith? Not at all—in fact there’s an almost comical irony here: to search for human meaning in a doomed universe is to demonstrate greater faith and hope than the religious people who offend their scientific sensibilities with their faith and hope.

Those people say there is a door—that the Landlord installed it a while back, and though most have tried to ignore it or block it up, and though few use it, it remains stubbornly wedged open.

Hope will not vanish as long as there’s a Door in the universe.

Which is why I love the Landlord.

—j

The Furnaces of Auschwitz: Where Was God?

(…and, yes, God rescued the Hebrew youths…)

“Others!”

A fascinating tale is told of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. The account might be legendary, but it is also wonderfully provocative. The story goes that around 1900 the General was preparing to send his annual Christmas greeting to all his Salvationists serving around the world. Since this had to be done by telegraph—which charged for each word sent—the whole process proved quite expensive. Times were tough that year, and it was calculated that there was only enough money available to wire a single word to each missionary. The one-word message the General chose to send simply said, “Others!”

I have found that when I set out to make my day good for me or do good things for myself, at the end of that day I ponder whether or not it was truly a good day. And as I reflect on my puzzling lack of fullness, I wonder why I am even concerned about it at all.

Ever felt like that?

But when I set out to make the day better for someone else, for “others”—an encouraging phone call or visit, a prayer for a friend, a kind word to a stranger, lending a helping hand with a chore or just holding a hand—when my day has been about others, I sleep well at night and never wonder whether or not the day was good. It was.

Life is always about others—we’re built that way despite all the selfie trends floating around this world. And others is what Jesus has always been about. Look at everything He did—it was always for someone else. You can even tell by His arrival on earth as a baby and by how much we cherish that thing we call the “Christmas Spirit”. God gave us Jesus and Jesus gave everything. But He also took a few things, too—our sins and our guilt, and He took the sting out of death. For others. For us. For you.

So, have Merry Christmas and remember to have a wonderful day—every day. Like Jesus.

“Others!”