One of my favorite magazines is National Geographic, which may seem kind of odd coming from someone who holds a worldview quite different from that of the award-winning publication.
But while National Geographic may be void of explicit Christian or even theistic commentary, each month it does a stellar job in showcasing the wonders of God through its pictures, illustrations and text – even if the editors and writers don’t realize it.
God wants us to marvel at His creation, but in the irony of ironies, it’s often the naturalists who spend the most time doing it. Too often we Christians distance ourselves from science, viewing it perhaps as boring or even at war with Scripture.
The biblical writers didn’t see it that way. In fact, if you look at only one aspect of science – astronomy – the writers of the Old and New Testaments spent a great deal of time thinking about it. The Bible mentions stars more than 40 times, such as: “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Psalm 147:4). Or this one: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6).
In case you haven’t heard, this month we’ll get our first-ever look at Pluto, that tiny body in our solar system that was discovered in 1930 but is so far away that it merely looks like a speck of light through telescopes. If you’re of a certain age, it was the ninth planet for decades and decades before (wrongly) being demoted to “dwarf planet” status.
NASA in 2006 launched a piano-sized spacecraft called New Horizons, which has taken nine years to trek 3 billion miles even though it is traveling at 38,000 mph. National Geographic writers, though, shouldn’t be the only ones fascinated with this mission. God’s people should be at the forefront. In fact, if Abraham, King David and even the Apostle Paul were alive, I think they would be gathering around computer screens, waiting for the latest images of Pluto to display.
Here are three lessons about God we can learn from the New Horizons mission – and can teach our children:
1. The universe is massive – and so is God. When New Horizons sends us a transmission traveling at the speed of light, it will take nearly five hours to reach us – simply because it’s so far away. But in the grand scheme of the universe, that’s, well, nothing. We all learned in school that we’re part of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is comprised of 100 billion stars and is 100,000 light years across. But again, that’s nothing, too. That’s because there are an estimated 100 billion galaxies! The universe’s size is hard to fathom, but it’s something that every scientist – from creation scientists at Answers In Genesis to secular scientists at Ivy League schools – acknowledges. God made such a massive universe for one reason: to give us a sense of His glory. Because as big as the universe is, God is bigger. And as big as God is, He still loves you and me. (Recommended resource: Louie Giglio’s “Indescribable.”)
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2. The universe is marvelous – and so is God. When the Psalmist looked skyward in a pitch-black Middle Eastern sky, he was taken aback by the beauty of it – thousands and thousands of stars, more than anyone could count. And just like you and me on a dark country night, the more he looked, the more stars he could see. He was so moved by it all that he penned the famous verse: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The sky is so beautiful at night that it seemingly shouts to anyone paying attention: There is a God! In fact, that’s exactly what the Psalmist said of the heavens: “Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19).
Here’s something to ponder: If the heavens declare the glory of God, and if we are now seeing more of the heavens than did the biblical writers (thanks to telescopes and spacecraft), then we are now seeing more of God’s glory than they did. Consider this: Why did God make Pluto? He created it for His glory – but no one has ever seen it until now. It’s as if He painted a wonderful masterpiece, stored it in the basement of an art gallery, and decided to bring it out in the year 2015 so you and I could take a peak. Only a marvelous God would do something like that.
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3. Mankind is amazing – but only because of God. Genesis tells us we’re the pinnacle of God’s creation and the only beings to bear the image of God. Unlike animals, we can reason, we can build, we can construct. Those roads and skyscrapers and ocean liners? Dolphins and monkeys didn’t build them. The same goes for rocket engines and rocket ships and spacecraft. And that mission to Pluto? It’s far more complex than aiming a rocket at a point in the sky and lighting a fuse. That’s because everything in space is moving. If we simply aimed a rocket at Pluto in 2006, it wouldn’t have been there by the time it arrived. So we calculated where Pluto would be nine years later. We aimed at a point in the sky. Except it’s even more even complicated than that. No, we first sent New Horizons to Jupiter, to give New Horizons a “gravity boost” to Pluto. It’s what one skater does to another ice skater when they “fling” the person across the rink.
So, in summary, we aimed at a point in the sky where Jupiter would be, and then used a crazy ice skating trick to get a piano-sized spacecraft to another point in the sky – where Pluto would be. Only an infinitely amazing God could create an intelligent being to do something like that.
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes college football, midnight debuts of Star Wars movies and pretty much any 80s group that involved big, wild-looking hair. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public). Also, check out my video section.