March 29, 2019

Cliff's Edge--Cosmic Frustration

Two trillion galaxies burnish the cosmos. That’s 2,000,000,000,000. One hundred billion stars comprise each galaxy. That’s 100,000,000,000. Two trillion galaxies, of 100 billion stars each, come to 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

Astronomers are discovering planets that orbit other stars, much like Earth, Venus, Jupiter, et. al. do ours. If every one of the 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 had planets orbiting them, we’d be in neuron-snapping numbers.

And, yes, the distances mock our minds as well. At 186,000 miles per second (about seven times around the earth per second), light takes hundreds, thousand, millions, even billions of years to reach many of these galaxies, some so wide that, zipping along at 186,000 miles per second, light would still need thousands of years to get from one side to the other.

Our nearest galactic neighbor, the Andromeda, is 2.5 million light years away. So at 186,000 miles per second, for 2.5 million years . . . well, you do the math.

This is just the known universe, what’s capturable with our telescopes and theories. If the universe is infinite, then our telescopes and theories will, eventually, fizzle out somewhere in the cosmos but, technically, be no closer to the edge than when they started. (If the universe is not infinite, what’s immediately outside its edge, what’s it made of, what’s its color, texture, how far does it extend, and what comes after?)

There’s a principle of existence: whatever conceives of, and creates something, must be greater than, and transcend, whatever it conceived and created. Picasso is greater than and transcends a Picasso. The God who conceived of and created our cosmos must be greater than that cosmos—and transcend it as well. Which leaves us in an epistemological pickle: if we can barely comprehend the cosmos, how could we its Creator?

Revelation, of course, teaches us things that our senses, piggybacked on reason, can’t, such as: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; and without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3). That is, the God who created all that was created, the 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars and everything else—did what? He “shrank down” became a human baby, lived in perfect obedience to the Father, and then, according to “His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began”(2 Tim. 1:9, NKJV) offered Himself as a divine-human sacrifice for the sins of a single species on one planet among the 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

How do we respond? This truth is so crushingly big, and we’re so infinitesimally small before it. Any response would seem insulting . . . like tossing pennies at Jeff Bezos. The idea of doing something to earn merit before the Creator of 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars spread across an infinite cosmos hanging on the cross knots up my nerves. When I expressed to a friend my frustration over how outrageously pathetic anything I could do would be before the reality of the Creator crucified, he responded: “All we can do is worship.”


Worship? What else? What else could we do? What else could ever be done?

“The cross of Christ,” wrote Ellen White, “will be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity. In Christ glorified they will behold Christ crucified. Never will it be forgotten that He whose power created and upheld the unnumbered worlds through the vast realms of space, the Beloved of God, the Majesty of heaven, He whom cherub and shining seraph delighted to adore—humbled Himself to uplift fallen [humanity]; that He bore the guilt and shame of sin, and the hiding of His Father's face, till the woes of a lost world broke His heart and crushed out His life on Calvary’s cross. That the Maker of all worlds, the Arbiter of all destinies, should lay aside His glory and humiliate Himself from love to [humanity] will ever excite the wonder and adoration of the universe.”

No kidding.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.