Christmas 2009: Light of the Universe
“The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.” –George Washington
When our children were young, Ann and I would help them comprehend how great God has always been and always will be, the Alpha and Omega, by using metaphors with tangible examples that they could grasp.
We wanted our children to understand that it is only the rare occasion, given the immensity of His universal plan, which affords us a perfectly clear view of God’s plan for each of us. But we also assured them of the Truth we had learned: that through faith, we always know that He will use our circumstances, however corrupted by our own free will, to guide us to where He wants us to be.
As our kids have grown older, each has demonstrated a substantial interest and aptitude for science. Thus, I was captivated recently when I came across this elucidation of God’s infinite domain from Dr. William Blair, an astrophysicist and research professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Blair wrote: “Today we know that galaxies are as common as blades of grass in a meadow. The Hubble Space Telescope recently completed a particularly deep (faint) census of a tiny ‘pencil beam’ extending far out into the Universe. This survey, called the ‘Hubble Deep Field,’ was targeted on a region of the sky that was nearly devoid of known objects, so as to be (hopefully) representative of conditions in the distant Universe. The resulting images are truly amazing. Strewn across this tiny piece of the sky are perhaps 1500 or more galaxies of all shapes, sizes, and colors! Because this survey pertains to such a small piece of the sky, the implications are staggering: if the region of sky demarked by the bowl of the Big Dipper were surveyed to the same depth, it would contain about 32 million galaxies! And the estimate for the entire visible Universe is that there are upwards of 40 BILLION galaxies, each containing tens to hundreds of billions of stars!”
To put the vastness of creation into perspective, Blair uses a sheet of paper: “Imagine that 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 nearest star (4.3 light years) is at a distance of 71 feet. The diameter of the Milky Way (100,000 light years) would require a 310 mile high stack of paper, while the distance to the Andromeda galaxy (at 2 million light years one of the most distant objects visible to the naked eye) would require a stack of paper more than 6000 miles high! On this scale, the ‘edge’ of the Universe, defined as the most distant known quasars some 10 billion light years hence, is not reached until the stack of paper is 31 million miles high – a third of the way to the sun on the real scale of things!”
Pondering this vastness is a humbling experience indeed.
Knowing quite a few professional physicists who are men and women of faith, I wrote Dr. Blair and asked him, “Are you a person of faith in God as our creator?” and, “If so, what does your analogy reveal about the creator of our universe?”
As to the first question, he answered, “Yes, I am.”
As to the second, he replied, “In short, ‘God created the heavens and the earth.’ Understanding more about the ‘heavens’ and the scale of the Universe only magnifies my personal impression of what it is that God has created. Having a personal connection to that same God is a defining aspect of my faith.”
According to Blair, who heads a NASA project looking into deep space, “Some people can look at the spirals of our galaxy and not see the hand of God, but I beg to differ.”
Of course, my children, like all of us who haven’t obscured knowledge of our Creator by the idolatry of self or materialism, strive for a more personal understanding of God. But how do we grasp such knowledge when the object of our desire is so far beyond mortal understanding – how do we find our way to Him?
The answer is obvious to all who have opened their eyes – just follow the Light.
And it is the dawn of the Truth and Light that we celebrate at Christmas, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. It is no coincidence that as the story of His birth is recounted, it is a star that guided wise men to his side.
In the Gospel of John (1:5), it is written, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
Now, a physicist will tell you that darkness doesn’t exist except for the absence of light, which isn’t to say that we can’t live in darkness: Given the degraded state of our nation, many among our countrymen have chosen to reside in moral darkness, or worse, have been abandoned there.
But Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Thus, if we want to see our Creator, we have only to turn toward the Truth and Light, and, as implicit in our motto: Veritas vos Liberabit – the Truth will set you Free (John 8:32).
As for my family and me, Dr. Blair and his family, and hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, Jesus Christ is the Light, our personal connection to our Creator. And he is that for anyone and everyone who will just turn toward Him.
The Gospels, which attest to the life of Jesus, reveal what we most need to know about God as our Creator, and His purpose for us.
We live in a world today that is no different from yesterday or tomorrow, in the sense that we have and will always have a deep desire to understand our Creator. Unfortunately, we tend to complicate the fulfillment of that desire by satiating it with all manner of false gods.
I am no stranger to false gods, which, ironically, helped me to distinguish between those idols and my authentic Creator, who endowed me with “certain unalienable rights.”
Our Founding Fathers understood that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” could not be sustained in the absence of Light, that our Creator endows these rights, not men.
According to George Washington, “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
John Adams wrote: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. … Statesmen may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.”
Benjamin Rush proclaimed, “[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”
Likewise, Gouverneur Morris wrote, “Religion is the only solid basis of good morals and Morals are the only possible Support of free governments. Therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.”
Samuel Adams added, “Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness. … Religion in a Family is at once its brightest Ornament and its best Security.”
Perhaps John Jay said it best: “The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.”
But as Benjamin Franklin noted, “How many observe Christ’s birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! ‘tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.”
Franklin’s observation is as true today as it was at the dawn of our great nation.
Fellow Patriots, during these dark days it is my fervent prayer that we, individually and as a nation, turn to the Light by, first and foremost, following God’s Commandments, by acknowledging that we are endowed by our Creator alone with life and liberty, and by restoring these rights for ourselves and for our posterity in accordance with His will.
On behalf of our staff and National Advisory Committee, may God bless and keep each of you.
Publisher’s Note: To our Patriot readers of faiths other than Christianity, we hope that this edition serves to deepen your understanding of our faith – and the faith of so many of our Founders. Permission to forward or reprint is granted.
As always, we take leave between Christmas and New Year’s to be with our families. Our next edition will be on Jan. 4, 2010.
We will send you a final update on The Patriot Fund next week. As of this morning, we still need $95,542 to make budget. If you have not already done so, please take a moment to support The Patriot’s Annual Fund today by making a contribution – however large or small. (If you prefer to support us by mail, please use our printable donor form.)
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