Mankind’s understanding of the cosmos has never been as developed as today. Yet for many centuries, misunderstanding prevented people from recognizing the real reason for its existence. The key lies in seeing that God has always been and always will be at the center of the universe.
When we look up to the stars above, what do we see? The hand of our God? Or do we miss the point?
The universe we are privileged to observe is meant to reveal the God of creation, the God of Abraham, the God of the Bible. It is meant to reveal to us our purpose and place in the plan of God. It is meant to point us to God. It is meant as one of the greatest helps to a relationship with Him.
King David looked up into the heavens and wrote this: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world” (Psalm 19:1-4, New Living Translation).
This passage is a perfect place to begin to develop a view of a God-centered universe. God created the universe to display His glory. Everywhere we turn our telescopes we see immense space and distance. We see astral bodies and systems that reveal more mystery. The more we see, the more we learn.
As Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin stepped down from the lunar lander to the surface of the moon, his words describing the barren moonscape were simply “magnificent desolation.”
That desolation doesn’t end at the moon. We see a universe full of great and expanding power. Some physicists have argued that at some point billions of years from now, the universe could reach a point of full expansion and collapse back upon itself, into another point and then begin another expansion, another “big bang.” Many others disagree, contending the universe will expand forever, with all cooling to absolute zero and material cohesion ceasing—the supposed heat death of the universe. Others envision mysterious dark energy ultimately ripping everything apart.
None of these predictions provides a comforting scenario, leaving us with only meaninglessness, loneliness and despair.
But if we see the universe through the lens of it being God-centered, we are drawn to God and gain great hope and understanding. Know this: The universe and human life will not end with a bang or a whimper! But we have to understand the universe from God’s perspective. When we do, we find meaning and we find hope.
Centuries of wrong perspective
Mankind has not seen the universe this way because the first human beings rejected revealed knowledge from God in the Garden of Eden, and their descendants went further astray. As people looked to the heavens they began to see and worship a false conception of God and even other gods—ultimately “the god of this age,” Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Cut off from the knowledge of the true God and deceived by Satan, people came to imagine among the stars a false pantheon of divine beings. Their deceived view of the cosmos was carried down in various forms through history. As the sun and stars rose and moved through the heavens, people thought they were witnessing stories of conflict, lust, love, jealousy and war being played out. Gods and goddesses, imbued with human frailties, supposedly acted out dramas in the heavens that impacted life on earth.
Farmers thought these events determined whether or not they would have a good crop. Women sought fertility by worshiping the bright morning star as a female goddess who would grant the blessing of childbirth. Kings sought divine wisdom from a combination of stars thought to represent their chief god.
This vivid imagination ruled the thinking of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and the rest of the world. They all looked to the skies and saw false gods, not the true God. It led to the development of astrology—foretelling and reading the future events of one’s life by the position of the stars in the heavens—which many still believe in today.
Through astrology man made his first great leap into a scheme for describing how unseen forces from the greatest distance of space and time, from the very depth of the heavens, shaped everyday life. Instead of seeing the glory of the true God in the heavens, man embraced a false system of religion that is still with us. Instead of seeing God at the center of the universe, man saw divinity in the universe itself and its various aspects.
Another mistake man made was concluding that the earth was the center of the universe and that everything revolved around it. As the ancients imagined it, each day the sun god rose in the east and rode his chariot across the skies into the west. At night, he traveled the underworld in a boat to appear once again at the dawn of a new day.
The stars were seen to rotate around the sky. Earth was seen as a platform within a domed universe with a canopy of stars strung across the ceiling. The sun went around the earth in its daily and yearly courses. This conception provided an orderly explanation for people that lasted for centuries.
They concluded that planet Earth was the center of everything. This became the accepted cosmological view. A Roman astronomer in Egypt named Ptolemy described how this worked, and his view was accepted as truth for around 1,500 years. This even became religious dogma among those who professed to be Christian believers in the God of the Bible. But they were wrong, of course. Earth is not the center of the universe, and Scripture never said that it was!
A scientific revolution
It was not until the 16th and 17th century that a group of scientists beginning with Nicolas Copernicus began to question the earth-centered view of the universe. With the invention of the telescope, man obtained a closer view of the stars and planets and came to see that the accepted wisdom was false. The earth moved. The planets moved around the sun, and they did so in different orbits and at different speeds. Some of the planets, like Jupiter, had their own moons revolving around them.
Events came to a head when Galileo was being brought before the Inquisition for his “heretical” ideas. The Roman Catholic Church could not accept this intrusion into accepted dogma. Yet before long the age-old error was glaring.
By the time Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton finished their groundbreaking work, man’s view of the heavens, what we call today outer space, was radically changed. Society came to realize that the earth is not the center of the universe but is one of the planets circling the sun.
Yet for a long while the sun was then regarded as the center of the universe. But of course the sun is not the center either. In fact it was later understood to be a small star among many billions of stars in a galaxy that is itself one of many billions of galaxies.
In the last century our knowledge about the universe has multiplied many times over. Today we know that the universe, which scientists have estimated to be some 14 billion years old, is so immense that man is not able to perceive its full size. From all observation, it continues to expand in every direction wherever we aim our telescopes. We discover black holes—collapsed stars that suck anything that comes near them, even light, into a bottomless vortex.
We ponder what these might yet reveal about the universe. And the more we discover, the more we realize how much we don’t know. Everything we discover about the cosmos is astounding. Yet in its immensity we find that it is mostly space—dark, empty, cold, lonely space.
Is man alone?
Let’s stop and think about the history we’ve reviewed. Ancient man concluded the earth was the center of the universe. He looked at the heavens and imagined a host of gods. The pagan world gave us a false view of the divine. The medieval world also erred in seeing the earth and man as the center of the universe. Although that world accepted a form of Christianity, it remained devoid of much biblical truth and had a terribly distorted spiritual view of both man and God.
Sadly, society today isn’t really that much closer to understanding the full truth about the universe, God or man. We have moved from belief in an earth-centered, man-centered universe to focus on one that is vast and empty and, in the eyes of many, without God. This is the “progress” scientists have given us! And man feels even more alone.
When the telescope shattered the view that the earth was the center of the universe, it was part of a revolution in knowledge that led to a modern scientific world where human reason has reigned supreme. But what came next? Enter the evolutionary theory that man is merely the highest form of life, that through mere chance, carbon-based life came into existence and that there was no involvement of God or any supernatural power.
Academic science becomes god, and man is just another animal, the one that evolved enough to be able to ask, Who am I? Man has moved from wrong cosmic understanding and wrong theology about God to a more distant view of God and even to outright rejection of God. Yet Romans 1:20 declares what is patently true: “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (NLT).
Before his death, the late physicist Steven Hawking concluded the universe did not need a Creator to get started. Instead, he argued, natural processes could have come together to begin the cosmos. God was not needed. All this increased knowledge about the cosmos, its origins and how it works has led many to a rejection of God.
Now the focus of many scientists is on finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, lasted for decades and returned nothing. Many years and billions of dollars and attention have returned zero evidence of any other intelligent physical life out there. This has led to the great question, “Where is everybody?”
The truth is that for all our searching, it appears life on earth is the only known form of carbon-based life. Could it be that human life on earth is the only intelligent physical life form in all the universe? Some scientists have concluded that this is indeed the case—not least because the mathematical odds for random chance producing a planet like ours capable of hosting life are infinitesimally small.
A new approach
We ought to see, then, that it is time for a new approach. It is time to admit the obvious—that the earth was formed by a Creator God who reveals Himself in the Bible as the One who “in the beginning . . . created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
As the same account goes on to show, the earth was created for man. From it God scooped a handful of dust to create man in His image. Earth was formed as a home for human beings made in the image of God—to be a place where a relationship between God and man and between fellow human beings could flourish and thrive.
The point we need to grasp is that the earth, our solar system, our universe and everything we can see and presently comprehend is God-centered. Not earth-centered, not human centered, but God-centered. The universe exists to fulfill God’s purpose and plan for mankind. For all the millennia of ignorance, superstition and defiant rejection of God, the focus has been on earth and man. For modern academic science, God is not in the universe. And many in the world give Him little thought. It’s all about man. And this leaves man empty, because from a human view, we are alone. Earth seems fragile and vulnerable in this vast cosmic danger zone.
Medieval thinkers persisted in an earth-centered view of the universe by badly misinterpreting Scripture. Now society’s academic leaders reject Scripture and shut out God. It’s time for a fresh, new appraisal. What does the Bible tell us? What does the universe tell us?
Psalm 19, quoted earlier, tells us. The universe is God-centered. It always has been and always will be. Man isn’t at the center of the universe, but man is at the center of God’s plan. We human beings can look up into the skies and, with the minds God gave us, ask questions about the origin and purpose of both the universe and ourselves.
In Psalm 8:3-5, King David observed, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (NLT).
Hebrews 2:1-10 quotes this same passage as a question and then answers it: God made man to be the crowning achievement of His creation. It is a God-centered universe with man as the only intelligent physical being able to ask questions about his origin and purpose.
Yes, we live in a God-centered universe. When we focus our mind on that key truth we will find the true meaning of not only the universe, but of human life. As Psalm 19 declares, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.” Man’s future glory can be found in that picture!