by Chris Price
If greatness of size is what matters, the universe is really important because the universe is incredibly expansive. There are approximately one hundred billion galaxies in the universe and a hundred billion stars in the Milky Way alone. Many stars have planets circling them and plenty of those planets are inhospitable to life. Earth, however, is thriving with sentient beings who believe in a creator who stands behind, interacts within, and sustains moment by moment the physical structure of the created order.
But didn’t belief in this God form and flourish at a time when people were ignorant about the mind-numbing size of our cosmic home? Now that we are cognizant of our relative insignificance in the universal landscape, how can we retain belief in a God who cares for us, who knows the number of hairs on our heads; a God who loves us and sent His Son to seek and save us?
This rhetoric has emotional force. So, how should we respond?
The Factual Error
C.S. Lewis was tireless in pointing out to fellow moderns that the learned ancients were very much aware of the enormous size of space. Over seventeen hundred years ago, Ptolemy, in what was the authoritative astronomical text of the Middle Ages, taught that “in relation to the distance of
the fixed stars the whole earth must be regarded as a point with no magnitude.”1 For the ancient theologian, the staggering size of space was indicative of the majesty and power of God, not an objection to His care and concern for His creatures.
Now, imagine we shrunk the universe down to a more manageable size, perhaps the square footage of our solar system. Could you conceive of a case against the creator being constructed along these lines? After all, if God is all-powerful why would He create such a small universe or planet? God has unlimited resources and time to produce something mind-blowingly enormous; why would He settle for a solar-system so small, or a universe so devoid of life?
The astronomer Hugh Ross points out that previous to the twentieth century there were other astronomers and philosophers who, despite the work of Ptolemy, did actually contend that the universe was too small to be the work of God. They contended that though the universe required some type of cosmic designer, He must not be very big or strong. “If God were all-powerful and infinite, surely, they reasoned he would have created an infinite universe or at least a much larger universe.”2
So, oddly enough, both the bigness of our universe and the believed smallness of our universe have been employed as arguments against God creating us and caring for us. The truth, of course, is that both a small universe or a large universe are easily compatible with theism.3 4 I will outline a few reasons for this conclusion…
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