If you’ve been around on the internet for a while, either on social media or on discussion forums, you may have seen this quote floating around:
CHRISTIANITY, the belief that a God created a universe 13.79 billion yrs old, 93 billion light years in diameter, consisting of over 200 billion galaxies, each containing an average of 200 billion stars, only to have a personal relationship with you
This is usually posted by edgy internet atheists (as opposed to the good, thoughtful kind, of whom there are many) who haven’t done their research on what the Bible says, or really thought about it that much. It’s meant to be derisive, and is aimed at promoting skepticism. The problem with it is…that it’s true.
It’s one of the most amazing things about the Christian faith. In fact, I remember when this went viral on Twitter last year, as a huge number of Christians jumped on it and started retweeting it. It went viral, but for all of the wrong reasons – at least compared to how the original poster wanted!
Funnily enough the Tweet is still pinned on the guy’s page, so I don’t think he quite got how it turned on him.
For the record, I hate when people debate religion online, especially on Twitter, so I’m not into ripping people. I just thought this was a funny example of uninformed arrogance gone wrong.
You see, the guy is totally right. The truth of Christianity is so good, so mind-bendingly amazing that it literally seems unbelievable.
I mean, take a look at this photo:
What you’re seeing is a picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. According to the Hubble website, there are around 5,500 Galaxies in the picture on the left. The amazing thing is, that’s a tiny, tiny fragment of the night sky we see. See the picture of the moon on the right? The photo on the left was taken from that tiny box labled “XDF”. That’s barely a centimetre of the night sky we can see when standing on the ground.
If that doesn’t make you feel small, look at this.
This is a representation of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. Think of all of the stars you can see in the night sky. If you live somewhere like the South of Scotland, that might mean you mostly just see clouds. In that case, here’s what the night sky sometimes looks like in other parts of the world:
Most of the stars you see in the above picture – or the stars any human can see at any point – are contained in the tiny, yellow circle in the image above*. There are around 100 to 400 billion stars in our Galaxy, but we can only see a tiny fraction of them.
*(Please note: the yellow circle picture isn’t totally accurate; the shape of our Galaxy means we don’t exactly see in a perfect circle like that, and we can actually see some of the brighter stars that are further away. We can even see the Andromeda Galaxy from Earth! The point is; what we see at night is a tiny representation of our Galaxy.)
Here’s the amazing thing, though. Our galaxy is tiny in the grand scheme of things. There are many, many Galaxies in the Universe, and ours is just one of them.
In recent years, scientists have been able to take some amazing photos of outer space. To help get a sense of how big and awesome space is, here are a few of my favourites. Please note, most of these are artistic representations of the pictures taken!
These are what’s known as the Pillars of Creation. They look pretty, but they’re basically giant clouds of space dust. They’re pretty big: If we were to travel at the speed of light (670,616,629mph, which is currently impossible for us) it would take us 4-5 years to travel from the top to the bottom. Not that it matters – it would take us 7,000 years to get to them!
This is a small star cluster known as NGC 602. It’s one of our closest Galactic Neighbours – one of the closest Galaxies to our Milky Way. Well, when I say “closest” that’s relative – it would take us 200,000 years to get there travelling at the speed of light (remember, 670,616,629mph). Considering how vast it is, it’s actually pretty small – it would only take us 200 years to travel the length of it at light speed. Tiny!
This image comes from the Veil Nebula. If you’d like to visit it, you’d better not hold your breath. It’s so far away that if the disciples had light speed travel when Jesus walked the earth, they’d still be another 100 years away from getting there. What you can see in this photo is a supernova, which basically is what we call an exploded star. Pretty, isn’t it?
The Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest major galaxy to our Milky Way. I say nearest – again, it would take us 2.5 million years to travel there at light speed. Think about that. 2.5 million years travelling at 670,616,629 miles an hour. Mental. The Andromeda Galaxy can be seen from Earth, and it contains roughly 1 trillion stars – that’s double the number of stars in our Milky Way (and remember – we can only see a tiny portion of the stars in our galaxy at night!)
Space is amazing, and huge. The sun is big, but it’s just one star. There are around 400 billion stars in our galaxy. There are 1 Trillion stars in the Andromeda Galaxy. That might seem like a lot, but those are just two galaxies. Scientists believe there are around 100 Billion Galaxies in the observable Universe (yes, “observable” – the universe is so big we don’t even know how big it is yet).
Quite simply, the Universe is just too big for most of us to comprehend.
If you’re starting to feel very small, good. You should. We are a tiny, tiny spec of dust in the grand vastness of space. The Universe is so uncomprehendingly massive that you can start to see why our atheist friend found it so bewildering that the God who made it would know and love us personally. It truly is amazing; almost unbelievable.
The funny thing is that the Bible seems to think so too.
Yesterday I was reading from Psalm 8, and came across one of my favourite passages in the whole of Scripture:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 8:3-4 (ESV)
The Bible doesn’t deny that this almost sounds too good to be true! The Psalmist above didn’t know all that we know today, but he knew enough about the stars and the heavens to know that they were vast. In Psalm 8, the Psalmist marvels that the God of the Universe knows us and cares for us.
In Psalm 8, the Psalmist reflects that the same God…
…who threw billions upon billions of stars into space…
…who knows the name of every planet, star, solar system, galaxy, galaxy cluster, supercluster…
…who creates supernovae and cosmic wonders too vast for us to comprehend and too far for us to see – simply for his own enjoyment…
…who smashes the plates of the earth together to create mountains, volcanoes and seas…
…who commands the winds, the rain, and who knows every wave as it passes above the surface of the ocean…
…who causes roars of lightning and flashes of thunder to terrify and amaze us, who paints the most beautiful sunsets filled with the most vibrant colours in the night sky and who gives us the ability to enjoy and appreciate them…
…who gives life to billions upon billions of people, who gave us the ability to feel joy, happiness, love and wonder, who made us creative like he is, who created sex, pleasure, friendship and human companionship…
…who willingly came to Earth to be born as a helpless child nursing at his mother’s breast, who grew up to be spat on, mocked, beaten and executed by the very men he created…
…who died so that we might live, who forgives us our wrongs a thousand, million times over…
This God invites us to talk with him in prayer, to hear him in his Word, to cry out to him in our troubles, to praise him in our joy and to trust in him for all of our needs.
He invites us to know him, to love him, to lean on him, surrender to him and trust in him.
There is no problem too big or small for him to handle, no human too far gone to experience his love, and no evil that can escape his justice.
The message of Christianity may seem too good to be true, but that’s entierly because it is just so good.
In the grand scheme of things, we are tiny. But the God of the Universe is huge, and he is mindful of and cares for little old us.
So let the world laugh all they want. The God of the Universe is big enough to handle it.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to comment and share on social media/with your friends!
Also, if you’re an astronomer and noticed any glaring mistakes in my deliberate simplification, please let me know!