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WORLDVIEW: The stars in their courses

EDITOR’S NOTE: An audio version of this column is available here.

SAN JOSE DE QUERO, Peru (BP)–I agree with the philosophers who say it takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in God, the Author of creation.

The willing suspension of logic required to accept the notion that the universe in all its vastness emerged on its own, that life is a cosmic coincidence, that love is a chemical reaction, that the poetry of the Psalms and the music of Bach sprang from the primordial ooze, far exceeds the mustard seed of faith needed for religious belief.

This conviction was reconfirmed during a recent mission trip to Peru. Our church volunteer team left hazy and crowded Lima, the pollution-shrouded capital city, and drove high into the Andes Mountains. The haze faded into thin blue air, revealing soaring peaks and plunging valleys. Our destination: several towns more than 12,000 feet above sea level, populated by the Wanka Quechua, an indigenous people thirsty for the Gospel.

I’ll share what happened on the ground another time. For now, I want to focus on what happened in the sky.

As opaque darkness fell each evening, we climbed the stairs to the roof of our village hostel to shiver in the ice-clear air — and behold the stars. Not the wan collection most of us see when we look into the washed-out skies above our modern cities, but the blazing heavenly host David saw as he watched over his father’s flocks by night.

Having lived most of my life in cities — which relentlessly throw light into the skies and cover the glory there — only a few times have I seen the stars as they were intended to be seen. My wife and two teenage children, who accompanied me to Peru, had never seen them in their full majesty.

We beheld not scores but thousands of stars wheeling through the sky. Perched on our observation deck far out on one of its spiral arms, we even saw the great cloud of the Milky Way — 100,000 light years across.

Later this year, NASA astronauts plan to fly the fifth and final repair mission to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble already has shown us more of the visible universe than we ever imagined seeing — billions of light years worth of galaxies and celestial bodies. It also confirmed the existence of massive black holes in the center of large galaxies.

If the repairs succeed, Hubble will “explore the ‘cosmic web’ of galaxies and intergalactic gas that make up the large-scale structure of the universe and reveal much more about how and when distant stars and planets were formed,” reports The Washington Post.

Even if it peers to the very edge of creation, could the refurbished Hubble “prove” the existence of God? Of course not. He is the Creator, not the created. He transcends the physical universe — with the exception of the moment He chose to enter it as a man for our sake. He demands our faith in His unseen but universal presence.

Still, the stars make a compelling case for the existence of the One who set them on their courses. David certainly thought so. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands,” he wrote in Psalm 19.

If you ever have the chance to behold the stars — really behold them — take it. Then, declare the glory of God who made them.
Erich Bridges is senior writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.

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  • Erich Bridges