April 2, 2013
The observable universe is about 93 billion light years in diameter. According to NASA, “To obtain an idea of the size of a light-year, take the circumference of the earth (24,900 miles), lay it out in a straight line, multiply the length of the line by 7.5 (the corresponding distance is one light-second), then place 31.6 million similar lines end to end. The resulting distance is almost 6 trillion (6,000,000,000,000) miles!”
When we go to the other end of the size spectrum – to atoms – their almost infinite quantity presents us with a mathematical evaluation equally stunning: The federal Energy Department’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility says that an average adult is composed of “approximately 7*1027 atoms. That is, 7 followed by 27 zeros.”
For all practical purposes, the size of the universe and the number of atoms in a single body has this in common: Our universe, our world, and our physical beings are composed of units so enormous as to be pragmatically incalculable. From near-infinite smallness to near-infinite breadth, not to mention near-infinite numbers of stars and planets, the counts are so exhaustive as to be mind-numbing.
These things point to a central truth about the nature of God. To Him, size as we understand it is immaterial. He created the smallest sub-atomic particle as well as a universe so large that astronomers qualify it as “observable” and “non-observable.”
It’s important to realize that God does not live in the universe; He made it, and lives outside it. If He made it, our grasp of its immensity is not commensurate with His perspective but only our own, a grasp limited by human finitude. Such finitude is immeasurably miniscule compared to God’s.
Some critics of Christianity charge that the notion of God becoming a man is pretentious to the point of being laughable because who are we, on this tiny planet in a vast galaxy. ABC News reports that “of roughly 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, a new analysis of Kepler (Space Telescope) data shows that around 17 percent of them have Earth-sized planets orbiting them, meaning there could be as many as 17 billion Earth-sized worlds.”
Yet if we understand the insignificance of size to the God presented to us in the Bible, the location and circumference of the earth become irrelevant. The New Testament claims that God came to our planet in human form. He was Jesus of Nazareth, through Whom the Father created the world and sustains its existence (John 1:3, Hebrews 1:2), incarnate Deity, a first century laborer from a little town in a backwater province of the Roman Empire. This assertion would be ludicrous were not the evidence for it so convincing.
If we use our view of size as a means of defining value, the tallest and fattest person on earth is the most valuable and the littlest and thinnest is the least. How far this is from the biblical estimation of human value. According to Scripture, we were knit-together in our mothers’ wombs, and our “unformed bodies” are seen by the eye of God (Psalm 139). From conception onward, we are persons of such value that God superintends every moment of our growth.
A God like this – One who speaks the grandeur and complexity of the universe into being, Who composes DNA with hundreds of billions of atoms – is bound by neither the size of the created order nor the complexity of the human body. He intervenes daily in both, affirming the magnificence of His character and the tender care He has for those made in His image and likeness.