The Wisdom of Men
“Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5)
The world watched as NASA’s Perseverance Rover completed its seven month journey to Mars, entering the Martian atmosphere, descending and successfully landing on 18th February. Perseverance landed in a crater that scientists believe once held a lake, there being evidence of both an inflow and an outflow channel. The Rover is a motorised vehicle intended to travel across the surface of the planet. The purpose of the mission is to explore the planet, seeking for signs of past life. The Rover will collect rock and soil samples as well as testing oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.
Unmanned missions to Mars are not new, dating as they do back to the Soviet Union’s failed 1971 mission. NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission, which landed in 2012, collected a series of fascinating images of the Red Planet (Here). Perseverance is said to be an upgrade of Curiosity, carrying 19 cameras, microphones and a miniature helicopter, with an on-board camera powered by a solar panel. Ultimately, the mission is said to be a stepping stone towards human exploration of Mars. This NASA plans to achieve by 2033. The world’s richest man, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, has even more ambitious plans, aiming to land humans on Mars by 2026 to establish a small human colony focused on the establishment of manufacturing, food production and power plants. Eventually, Musk intends to establish cities on Mars by transporting 100 people at a time in a reusable starship.
Christians and Space Exploration
C.S. Lewis, the famous Twentieth Century Christian author, although by no means an evangelical, was asked the question, in a 1963 interview, “do you think there will be widespread travel in space?” Lewis responded, “I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can’t bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter.”
Whatever the rights and wrongs of his statement, Lewis correctly identified much of what we see today with modern space exploration. It appears to be an endeavour largely driven by man’s rebellion against God removing God from the equation. Secularists are desperate to find intelligent life on other planets, as a means of supposedly proving their evolutionary worldview. Charles Bolden, former Head of NASA, stated, “It’s highly improbable in the limitless vastness of the universe that we humans stand alone.” If life evolved on earth, according to their thinking, it must have evolved elsewhere, given the right conditions. It would be wrong, however, to suggest that it is the only motive held by those in the space industry. There is the ongoing pursuit of knowledge and scientific discovery, along with the basic human urge to explore. There are no doubt many believers working in the space industry today, although mention of God and of a created order does not seem to be something that is publicly emphasised or is readily promoted by the mainstream media.
By contrast to the widespread secularism in the space industry today, the earliest days of space exploration were not short of professing Christians and of Christian experience. While orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve in 1968, the crew of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders, during a television broadcast took turns reading the creation account from Genesis 1 for the world to hear. Less than a year later in 1969, prior to becoming the second man to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin was said to have observed the Lord’s Supper in the lunar module of Apollo 11, following the reading of John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” That is not to suggest that it was legitimate for Aldrin to conduct the Lord’s Supper, given that he was not an ordained minister. Furthermore, James Irwin, who walked on the moon in 1971 through Apollo 15, later expressed how his time in space gave him a profound sense of God’s presence, as he said, “I felt the power of God as I’d never felt it before.” He later said that, “Jesus walking on the earth is more important than man walking on the moon.”
Stewardship and Space Exploration
It is undoubtedly true that immense amounts of money have been spent over the years in space exploration. Exploring Mars is a costly undertaking with previous missions costing billions of dollars. The Perseverance mission alone is expected to cost $2.7 billion over the lifetime of the project. This raises justifiable concerns about the issue of stewardship. Even from a secular perspective, could these vast sums of money not be better spent here on, for instance, medical research to alleviate suffering, as well as the feeding, clothing and education of the needy? By way of balance, space exploration has been said to be a source of employment and economic stimulation, along with a means of scientific, technological and medical advancement.
The concept of stewardship, however, begins with creation as Adam and Eve were given dominion over the whole of creation, and tasked with the care of God’s earth. “God said to them, be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). The scriptures teach that the earth is unique in all of God’s creation, “Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). It is the scene of God’s redemptive plan in Christ, whereby “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) walked this very earth, fulfilled all righteousness, died for our sins, and “rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4). Moreover, the earth will also be the theatre of Christ’s second coming: “behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him” (Revelation 1:7).
The reality is that the vast sums of money spent on space exploration, generated either via taxation through the Federal Tax Budget in the case of NASA, or via private enterprise in the case of Elon Musk and other billionaires, ultimately belong to God and not to man. As the apostle Paul put it, “what do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). It is from God that we have received our existence and all that we have, including the very breath in our lungs. The question is whether or not we are Biblical stewards? Nobody can be a Biblical steward without first understanding and personally experiencing God’s saving work in Christ, carried out here on this earth.
In all of the recent media coverage of the journey and successful landing of the Perseverance Rover on Mars, the great minds of our time have been lauded for their wisdom, ingenuity and vision. Likewise, the billionaires of our day are also highly exalted by the masses for their entrepreneurial brilliance, allowing them to generate sufficient financial wealth to privately fund their own space explorations.
As fascinating as it is when we see these incredible images transmitted from the surface of Mars, and, as brilliant as these people undoubtedly are, we would do well to be reminded of the words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians who said, “your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). When we see the images and the beauty of God’s creation beyond this earth, let us not think primarily of the wisdom of the men and women involved in these endeavours, but of the power of God, who created not only this earth, but the vastness of all the lies beyond. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). Let us think of the uniqueness of this earth in all of God’s creation and of the uniqueness of Christ who walked this earth, the “one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
1 – In Psalm 115:16, the Psalmist declares that, “the heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the earth He has given to the children of men.” Does this verse bring into question the right of man to venture beyond the bounds of earth’s atmosphere at all? How would you respond?
2 – In the vision of Obadiah, we read the words, “though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord” (Obadiah v4). Do these words speak of the possibility of man colonising other planets, or does the immediate context not allow for such an interpretation?
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