Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with the vast expanse of the cosmos. I longed to see a glimpse of galaxies far, far away. I dreamed of boldly going where no man has gone before (or at least seeing through a telescope those places where no man would ever go unless faster-than-light travel becomes possible). I’ll admit it: I was and am a space/science nerd!
One of my current hobbies is to keep abreast of the current developments in the field of astrophysics. I like to stay informed of the current theories regarding things like black holes, event horizons, binary stars, supernovae, and planets in other solar systems. I even like the math/physics part of it, such as seeing Newton’s Laws and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity applied to such a grand scale.
One of the scientific developments of the past twenty years (about as long as I have been paying attention) has been the discovery that, based on all known laws and calculations, there doesn’t seem to be enough observable mass in the universe to explain how galaxies can hold together like they do. In fact, scientists say that we are only able to detect roughly 15.5% of the matter that they expect there should be based on their understanding of physics as well as their observations of cosmic behavior.
For example, in our solar system, we know that the inner planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars – orbit the sun faster than the outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. The closer the planet is to the sun, the faster the orbit. Scientists expect that same behavior to be true for galaxies, but that’s the problem. Stars farther from the center of the galaxy orbit the center (a black hole? — again, I’m fascinated) at the same rate as those closer to the center.
How can this be? Ever since this discovery, scientists have been stumped. They have postulated one primary answer to this mystery and they’ve called it “dark matter”. This undetectable “dark” matter is said to constitute 84.5% of the mass of the universe. This, they explain, is how large bodies like galaxies hold together.
While the idea of dark matter intrigues me, I happen to have another theory. I believe that Jesus is the “force” which holds the universe together. The Bible seems to agree with me: “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). Whether the agent of Jesus’ upholding is some still undetected substance called dark matter, or whether it’s some law of physics that is currently beyond our comprehension, or whether the universe is held together supernaturally, it’s ultimately Jesus who holds it together.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col 1:15-17)
It was the power of Christ that was responsible for the creation of all things, and it is the power of Christ which is responsible for its maintenance. Such a statement of faith is no more unreasonable than it is to guess at the existence of dark matter. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb 11:3). All of the observable evidence, whether scientific or supernatural, points to the existence of God. Regardless of our views of the existence of God, our beliefs about the origins and nature of the universe are statements of faith. Is it a confidence, a belief, in something we cannot see. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).
Dark matter has a cousin called dark energy. This undetectable force is said to be causing the expansion of the universe, which, again, is inexplicable to scientists otherwise. On the 2014 reboot of the show “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” expert astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson says that these names (dark matter & dark energy) are simply code words for our human ignorance. He expects that, in time, we will understand these things. More time is always the solution to scientific problems. He goes on to say that “it is better to admit our ignorance than to believe answers that might be wrong.” Among other things, he wants us to stop putting our faith in “non-provable” things such as religion. But isn’t he guilty of the very same thing as he puts his faith in the unseen facets of science? I love his scientific zeal, but I wish he’d abstain from trying to answer the bigger philosophical questions. Most of all, I wish he would meet and trust the Creator so that his scientific endeavors would be glorifying to God.
The power of Jesus, demonstrated by His upholding of the universe (and in other ways), might be unseen to human eyes, but it is not unknown to many. Christians know that Jesus Christ has invaded the natural realm, and was made manifest here on this very planet. We know it because God’s revealed Word tells us. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). We know it because the Spirit of God has taught us. We know it because we can see the evidence of that Spirit at work in our lives and in the universe.
I thank God for astrophysics. I thank God for science in general, such as the irreducible complexity of the cell, the beauty of DNA, and the precision of our finely-tuned and privileged location in the universe. I thank God for the grandeur of His handiwork. Most of all, I thank God that he has allowed me to begin to understand aspects of the Creator (Jesus) and the intricacies (science) of His creation.