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Infinite God or Infinite Universe

The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19)

On January 1st the New Horizons spacecraft visited and took pictures of an object called Ultima Thule, the farthest object ever explored, about four billion miles from Earth. It is only about 20 miles across and shaped like a bowling pin. New Horizons has been traveling for 13 years and was designed to examine the outermost edge of our solar system including Pluto and the Kuiper belt. Then New Horizons will go on to plunge into the seemingly infinite abyss beyond.

Atheist philosophers tend to believe that the universe is eternal and infinite, and thus there’s no need for a Creator-God. On the other hand we “God-believers” generally prefer to think of the Universe as finite and created by an infinite-eternal God. But it bothers some of us that the universe is so big. Every time the human race builds greater telescopes we see more galaxies and stars by the millions. The distances involved are so immense that some of the light we see from those objects has been traveling toward us for about 14 billion years. The official says, “This is the extent of the ‘observable universe,’ but the entire universe is probably much larger. It could even extend infinitely in all directions.” It’s hard to wrap my mind around that suggestion.

On the other hand, well accepted scientific theory says the Universe is still expanding from a single little point back about 13.7 billion years ago when it all zapped into being in the “big bang.” That is how the official NASA website describes what happened. There was a beginning. Okay, why does that matter?

Long ago Christians finally accepted that we are not the center of the Universe. But I have to ask why God would put our puny little earth in motion around our unremarkable sun and then scatter an uncountable number of greater stars and galaxies around. Those overwhelming celestial facts bother me, and perhaps you, too. I have three ideas that help relieve my uneasy feeling that it doesn’t make sense for God to bother with such a minor planet. Here are my three very finite and provisional explanations.

First: C.S. Lewis speculated that we may not be alone in the Universe and God is carrying out experiments in other areas where creatures may have not yet fallen into sin and evil ways, or any other variation on the human story. His novel, Perelandra explores that idea. So maybe there are others out there somewhere, but we just don’t need to know about them.

Second: I like Einstein’s suggestion that all of space/time is bent, like a giant donut or a beach ball. In that case, the light of distant galaxies is really coming around a super-galactic curve, so what seems so far away is really just around the corner in a funny mind-bending way. This doesn’t help much, but it’s fun to consider this form of a finite Universe.

Third, my personal take: If the Universe was really a lot smaller, perhaps only the size of our milky way, what would that say about God? It might imply that God has limits, like our galaxy. On the other hand, if the mysterious Sovereign God is infinite in power, love, and glory, why wouldn’t God want to make something appropriately challenging? So, yes, we can have both an infinite God creating and managing an infinite Universe. And we can let Psalm 19 express our praise.

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;

no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

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