Creation is Good (2)
“Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades,
Or loose the belt of Orion?
Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season?
Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you set their dominion over the earth?” Job 38.31-33
Everywhere the same
On clear winter nights, as I take our dogs out for the last time, I look upwards, a bit to the southeast, until I can discern the three stars that mark the belt of Orion, the Archer. As I study to discern all the stars outlining this constellation, I’m reminded of three things.
First is the scene from Men in Black,in which Zed insists that the “galaxy” cannot be on “Orion’s belt” because all that’s on Orion’s belt are stars. J can’t figure it out, but it will come to him soon enough that (a) Orion is a cat, and (b) his “belt” is what his alien master, fumbling with English, called his collar, and (c) not all galaxies have to be, well, galactic in size. Even miniature galaxies can be galaxies.
Fun, but not as important as the fact, second, that Orion has been known as such at least since the writing of the book of Job. The Greeks apparently first identified and named this constellation, and the Hebrew word for it is not Orion but כְּסִ֣יל(chsil), a word that is related to the idea of stupidity (Does this indicate what the Hebrews thought about Greek mythology?). What unites the two words into a single referent is the “belt” – the most readily identifiable indicator of the constellation Orion.
I muse on these observations, and, third, I marvel at the unity of the cosmos: How ancient Greeks and Hebrews made similar observations, but regarded them differently. How that cluster of stars remains unchanged to this day. How Orion could be such a familiar marker in the night sky that even pop culture could put it to good use in a comic story line. How we so easily take for granted the unity of time and the cosmos, the minds of people, and the continuity of past and present.
Then I hear the voice of the late Carl Sagan, saying, “The universe is everywhere the same.” By which he meant that the laws of physics are reliable and sure throughout the vast universe, creating a unity that holds the cosmos together, which, for those who inhabit it, is a very good thing. So true.
Except for one thing: There are no laws of physics uniting the cosmos.
The Word of His power
Jonathan Edwards reminds us that what secular scientists glibly refer to as the “laws of physics” are not actual laws, which must be as they are because of the unique characteristics of matter in its various forms. These “laws” are merely descriptions, like Orion and chsil, of what we may observe of the matter of the cosmos. They determine nothing, but describe much. Physicists explain that the cosmos holds together on the strength of four unifying forces – gravity, electro-magnetism, and the strong and weak force in the atom. These, in turn, spawn the “laws” that keep Orion’s stars in place relative to one another and the night sky, and the brains of humans working as they do from ancient times to the present.
“The laws of physics are everywhere the same,” Carl Sagan insisted, as a further explanation of his first dictum. It is a very good thing that the universe holds together, and that it is united by powers and forces that keep it from flying off in all directions, and us from falling off on our heads or disintegrating into nothingness.
But the power that holds the universe together, that power which is so very good, is a power over and above and throughout and yet different from and responsible for the “laws of physics.” As Jonathan Edwards correctly noted, “It is by the immediate influence of God upon things according to those constant methods which we call the laws of nature, that they are ever obedient to man’s will, or that he can use them at all” (An Humble Attempt). We can only do science, or make good use of the matter of the cosmos, because God continually and immediately upholds and unifies the cosmos by His Word of power, even our Lord Jesus Christ:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by HisSon, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of Hisglory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Hebrews 1.1-3)
Thus the entire, unified cosmos serves the good purposes of God:
Forever, O LORD,
Your word is settled in heaven.
Your faithfulness enduresto all generations;
You established the earth, and it abides.
They continue this day according to Your ordinances,
For all areYour servants. Psalm 119.89-91
Wherever we observe the unity of the cosmos, we see evidence of the divine unity, expressing God’s goodness into His creation. Unity is good, and the creation everywhere bristles with it. The ways of bees, ants, musk oxen, geese flying in a chevron, humans living together in communities, the movements of a classical concerto, the design of a building, the workings of far-flung corporate offices: Without unity in these and myriad of other creational forms, we would have chaos, confusion, disintegration, and disillusion. Nothing would work, and, in a short time, nothing would survive.
Unity is good, and the creation everywhere testifies of the unity within the divine Godhead and the importance of seeking unity in all we do. We can learn about the nature of unity and how to achieve and sustain it by studying the works of God in creation. This, after all, is what modern scientists do, even though they – unlike the founders of the scientific enterprise – refuse to acknowledge God as the ultimate force back of the unity and success of all scientific endeavor.
Let one star from Orion’s belt be missing of a clear evening, and I and everyone who watches such things, will become deeply troubled. Where unity is lacking – whether in our souls, marriages, business ventures, churches, communities, musical compositions, or the ecosystems of the world and the galaxies and constellations of the cosmos – we experience a kind of dissonance and disturbance that makes us want to restore unity, even if it means we must make some sacrifice on our part. Unity is good, because unity issues ultimately from God. As we grow to know and love God more, in His Word and His world, we will value unity as a form of good to be sought and maintained, even at great cost.
1. Right where you are at the moment, how many different forms of unity in the creation can you observe. Are these good? Why?
2. Secular science looks to chance as the explanation for the unity of the cosmos. Why is that an irrational idea? Why is the writer of Hebrews’ explanation so much more valid?
3. What makes for unity? That is, how is unity achieved? What is necessary for unity to exist at all? Should we be more conscientious about working for unity in our lives? Explain.
Next steps – Demonstration: Can you identify any areas in your life where greater unity would bring good to everyone involved? What can you do to start working for such unity?
T. M. Moore
What are you doing at 8:18 am? If you’re with Bruce Van Patter, you’re observing the goodness of God in your immediate surroundings. Take a look at Bruce’s column, and let your world come alive with goodness (click here).
Everything makes sense in life, and is good in its time and place. But only when we see things “under the heavens” rather than merely “under the sun.” Our book Comparatio shows you how Solomon struggled with this distinction, but ultimately returned to the place of seeing all goodness as of the Lord. To order a copy, click here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.