Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Dr. William (Bill) Hendricks was Professor of Theology when I was a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California. Of all my teachers over the years Bill was at once the most down-to-earth and the most profound. I am deeply in debt to the man. Once I told him, "You are dangerous." He replied, "That's Goooood." I said, "No, I meant I want to believe everything you say." He said, "That's Baaaaaad."

Of Solar Systems and Insects

"In the beginning God created . . ." The Bible begins with that simple phrase. In fact, everything began with that simple phrase. The skeptic says, "Prove it." The believer says, "Disprove it."

Science and faith both ask big questions. When did God create the world? We don't know; we weren't there. Nobody was there. Only God. Someone said of a very elderly man, "He is as old as dirt." We all are! Yet with the birth of every child, we are as new as today.

"How did God create the world?" is much in the popular mind. Scientists have various answers. People of faith quickly admit ignorance. Would it really help to know? We cannot start over. What is here is here. An acrimonious argument once ended when one person seemed to have all the "How" answers and the other challenged: "Okay, then make dirt."

For centuries, theologians have discussed the "Why." Why something rather than nothing? The best theological answer seems to be "Because God wanted to." Got a better one?

"Where" is obvious: Here, there, everywhere. I once heard an old farmer reply when a county clerk asked for his birth certificate, "I'm here, ain't I?" The farmer's answer did not solve the legal problem, but his conclusion was indisputable.

Two eloquent examples of creation—one big, one small: First, nearly everyone far enough from city lights can locate the galaxy we call the Milky Way; our own. Did you know it is 100,000 light years from planet earth? A light year is, of course, the distance light travels in one year. A light year in miles is roughly 5,878 plus nine zeroes. This means that starry band we see is 587,800 plus 12 zeroes away. God created it. And if, as some think, the universe is expanding, as one theologian-scientist put it: "God is out there pulling it toward God's self."

But God is not just "out there." He is right here in the small things. In April 2002, scientists identified a new order of insects—the first in more than 85 years. Would it help to know the insect's name? Mantophasmatodea. That's 16 letters long—as long as the insect. Live examples were found in Namibia in Africa. The discovery is variously described as a living fossil or like coming upon a saber tooth tiger. God is in the details: The insect is about the size of a paperclip.

These minute examples imbue an old hymn with new meaning: "All things bright and beautiful, all things great and small, all things wise and wonderful: our Father made them all."
That is the size of it:
great and small, huge and tiny.
"In the beginning God created. . . ."
Thanks be to God!


Eric said...

Love the deep thoughts. Be careful with your numbers.

We are IN the Milky Way. It is a disk about 100,000 to 120,000 light years in diameter. So parts of it are relatively close -- our Sun is 8 light-minutes away, otherwise nearest star is 4 light years away. Other parts are very far, up to 100,000 light years away.

On the other hand, Andromeda, the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way, can also be easily seen on a dark night. It is 2.5 million light years away.

Don the Baptist said...

Talk to my dead prof; he wrote it.