Back before I was a Christian, folks would ask me why I didn’t believe in God. Science always figured prominently in my response. Scientists had explained much of what had been attributed to deity over the centuries; it seemed inevitable that in time everything would be accounted for scientifically.
But now . . . I can’t look at a picture like the one above without praising the God I believe created such awesome beauty.
Sunday morning before church I was reading about science (it’s what nerdy folks do at breakfast sometimes). I am a big fan of Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomyy” dispatches in Slate magazine. He does a great job of breaking down complex cosmological concepts in accessible language. But Slate Article it wasn’t Phil’s words that caught me, it was that picture.
That picture! The pockmarked crescent of Saturn’s moon, Dione, aglow in light reflected from the rings that cut through the center of the picture like a pinpoint laser beam. Behind Dione and the rings in the image captured by the Cassini spacecraft, you can just make out the gargantuan outline of Saturn, shadowed like a new moon.Can you imagine what it looks like from the surface of Dione, where no human has trod? The glowing rings cutting across the sky, Saturn darkly looming, another moon, Enceladus, shining under the arc of the rings . . .
Astrophysicists estimate Saturn was formed 4.5 billion years ago. The rings and moons are 4 billion years old. For all those billions and billions (I sound like Carl Sagan) of years, Dione’s beauty was there, unobserved by any human. But always seen – and I would presume to say enjoyed – by the One who created it.
IN THE BEGINNING, GOD CREATED. Mental gymnastics to reconcile Biblical poetry with science are such a waste of time. The more we understand about the vastness of the universe – both in space and in time – and about the wonders of the infinitesimal quantum spaces of matter – the greater my awe for God who stands outside of space and time while at the same time inhabiting and empowering everything.
Even me! God created everything that exists . . . and me. God “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13) with the same care with which God crafted the universe. Science can tell us about the processes that go on in the womb – the mechanics of the “knitting” – but one must look beyond (or through) the science to see the Knitter. Science can tell us about the forces that shaped the universe – how “God created” – but again we must look beyond or through those explanations to encounter the Creator.
I cannot look at that photo of Dione and Saturn’s rings without praise rising in my being. Yes, my perspective has significantly changed from my unChristian days, but I would argue my appreciation for what science reveals has been enhanced, not diminished, by coming to know the One who conceived, designed, and constructed the universe we know – and don’t know (yet). Like the view from Dione.