Two Ways to Truth
by Dr. Rodney Holder
Many of us have looked up at the night sky and felt a sense of awe and wonder before the universe. This experience made Revd Dr Rodney Holder, former Course Director at the Faraday Institute, want to be an astronomer from about the age of seven. Here, he reflects on his work as an astrophysicist and how that connects with his faith.
Nowadays, because there is so much light pollution in Britain, I most often get that feeling of awe and wonder when I’m on holiday. A few years ago my wife and I were in Croatia, staying in a small hamlet, and on balmy nights we sat out on our balcony and gazed up at the sky, counting shooting stars. On another holiday we were in Peru, high up in the Andes, when we saw the night sky of the Southern hemisphere in all its glory for the first time.
The writer of the Psalms must have had similar experiences. ‘When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?’ we read in Psalm 8. Although he had a much more limited view of the universe than we do now, he was awestruck. Even without a telescope he would have realised that there were millions of stars.
We have made immense strides since the Bible was written. For example, we now know that there are something like a hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe and that each galaxy contains about a hundred billion stars. And with the Hubble Space Telescope we can look back in time and see galaxies whose light has taken 13 billion years to reach us. Our sun is a very ordinary star situated on the edge of our own Milky Way galaxy. Even, so, the sun is a giant, million-mile diameter nuclear furnace radiating 400 trillion watts of power and continuing to do so over many billions of years. That’s some power station! These facts were unknown even 100 years ago.
It seems to me that our awe and wonder at the universe should be at least as great as, if not far greater than, that of the Biblical writers, since we know so much more about the universe than they did. That is why science only enhances my faith and never undermines it…
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