Every believer has his or her own doubt instigator. For some, it's the problem of pain. How can there be a good God when there is so much indescribable suffering in the world? The problem of pain has made me question God's character, but never his existence.
For others, it's God's intangibility: "I can't see, hear, taste, touch, or sense God's presence, therefore he must not exist." But that doesn't really get to me, either. I'm willing to accept that there is a dimension to life that is inaccessible through the five senses.
No, for me, it's science that causes an attosecond of doubt. What we're learning about creation through astronomy and physics leaves me shaking in my boots. This past July, scientists presented evidence for a particle called the Higgs boson, or the "God particle." In simple terms, the Higgs boson lends credence to the Big Bang theory because it explains why particles have mass—and why, in turn, we exist. Without the Higgs boson, the universe would have energy but no mass.
Some scientists claim that the discovery is a severe blow to religion. One Cambridge professor said the Higgs boson was "another nail in the coffin of religion"; Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University argued that the Higgs boson "posits a new story of our creation" independent of a supernatural creator. The Higgs boson, scientists argue, tells us how something came from nothing.
One month later, on August 5, NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars with the hopes that it could provide evidence that the Red Planet once—or possibly still—harbored life. Some claim that, contrary to what the Vatican says, life on Mars will similarly disprove the Jewish and Christian creation narrative and thus, all religions as well.
And this month, the Dark Energy Camera, a 570-megapixel digital telescopic camera positioned on an arid Chilean mountaintop, took its first photos of deep space. Each photo can capture up to 100,000 galaxies that are up to 8 billion miles away. Over the next five years, the camera will photograph no less than 300 million galaxies.
Since the 1920s, scientists have known that the universe is expanding, but most assumed that gravity would slow this expansion and eventually cause the universe to collapse or contract. But in the 1990s, researchers determined that the universe isn't slowing, it's expanding. For this to be possible, another force had to be counteracting gravity and pushing apart the cosmos. Imagine putting several dots on a deflated balloon. As you filled up the balloon with air, those dots would spread further apart.
Scientists called this enigmatic force "Dark Energy." The first photos of the Dark Energy camera coincide with the release of a new study that concludes that the likelihood of the existence of dark energy is 99.996 percent. Some apologists have pointed out there are several important theological implications regarding the reality of dark energy, including the fact that the Bible has predicted that the universe was expanding, for more than 20 times in the Old Testament, we read that God is hfn (stretching out) the heavens.
Which brings me to my faith crises. When I contemplate what science is teaching us about the vastness of the universe, I'm confronted with the uncomfortable fact that the God in my head-the one I pray to every night-definitely does not exist. Belief in an intelligent agent who created the cosmos is reasonable enough, but as astrophysicist Hugh Ross noted, "the immensity of the cosmos made me doubt that a Creator of such awesome magnitude had communicated—in words—to mere humans on this tiny speck called Earth."
But before you call the theology police, let me explain. Consider what astronomy has taught us about creation. William P. Blair, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, scaled the awesome distances of the universe for "normal" people. He says, "imagine the distance from the earth to the sun (93 million miles, or about 8 light minutes) is compressed to the thickness of a typical sheet of paper. On this scale, the "edge" of the Universe … is not reached until the stack of paper is 31 million miles high." We don't know what (or Who) is beyond the universe, but we know it's expanding at an ever-increasing rate!
Two things occur to me when I consider these staggering distances. First, that image of God in my mind isn't big enough to create something so incredibly awesome. To paraphrase J. B. Phillips, my God is "too small." Creation is correcting my theology—if only I will let it.
Why is this so important? A. W. Tozer said that what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us, because our worship of Him and the tenor of our spiritual life cannot rise above our concept of God. Perhaps that's why we truly trust Him with so little in our lives. When I consider what astrophysics teaches us about creation, and subsequently what kind of Being must be behind it, Isaiah starts to make a whole lot more sense. "Woe is me!" he cries out. "For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King!"
Second, when I consider the size of the universe, it's hard to imagine why a being who is able to create something of such magnitude would concern himself about creatures so seemingly insignificant as humans. Compared to the universe, earth itself—not to mention individual human beings—is less than a grain of sand. Why would he trouble himself to not only communicate with us, but send his son to die for us? "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers-the moon and stars you set in place, what is man," asks the Psalmist, "that you are mindful of him?" Truly, who are we that such a Being would communicate with us?
So I'm a little afraid of astrophysics—not because it persuades me towards atheism, but because it challenges the small ideas I have about God. Creation corrects my theology, as Romans tells us, "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made."
We Christians in the West are a bit skittish about new scientific discoveries, and rightfully so. From the French Enlightenment right down to Scopes, reason, progress, and science have all been pitted against Christianity. This has made us either reticent to assert anything with great confidence, or else defensive and dismissive of all scientific inquiries. But the Higgs boson discovery and others like it actually reveal more closely the truth of the Christian story. As more discoveries like this are made, may we confidently approach them with trust in the authority of Scripture, remembering that "to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it" (Deut. 10:14).