This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Dear Dr. Craig,
I am having difficulty bringing myself to earnestly believe in Christianity. I have believed in the past with the intensity of a zealot, but of late I look to the stars and find that I cannot bring myself to truly believe in Christ as God. I believe in God, and I rationally believe this God to be one, but I cannot believe that God could truly concern himself with us in this way, that He would dangle the heavens above our heads and deny us from reaching them. The earth is a speck in a galaxy that is naught but a speck in the void, a void we can never reach or explore. We are certainly not alone in the universe. How can I believe, not in a personal God, but in a God that is focused on humanity? It feels as though all is in flux, and that I am only riding the currents of society which is lain on subjective ground. All in this modern age is subjective, and if mankind is not alone in the universe then all that we are is subjective as well. If that makes sense. I was truly happy when I believed, and I truly want to. Belief in some vague 'deity' is no help to me however. I seek Christ but I am pulled away. What am I to do, Dr. Craig? You're a much smarter man than I am. Your thoughts on this could help me greatly.
My deepest thanks,
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
Tom, I resonate with how you feel. When I look at photographs revealing to us the incomprehensible immensity of the universe and our virtually infinitesimal tininess by comparison, I feel almost overwhelmed by our utter insignificance. A sort of vertigo sets in, with an attendant loss of confidence in human significance.
But it’s clear that this reaction to our physical size relative to the cosmos is purely emotional. Rationally, one of the implications of the study of the fine-tuning of the universe for embodied, conscious agents like ourselves is that the universe must be as old as it is in order for us to have evolved. For the heavy elements like carbon that compose our bodies need to be forged in the interior of the stars and then distributed throughout the cosmos by supernovae explosions in order to form planets where carbon-based life forms may come to exist. But now think: if the universe must be as old as it is, then, since it has been constantly expanding since its inception in the Big Bang, it must also be as big as it is. Thus, far from undercutting the significance of human life, the enormous size of the cosmos is actually a function of human life! Unbelievable! The very size of the cosmos which dwarfs us is actually testimony to the Creator’s care for us, to fine-tune a universe suitable for our existence.
Moreover, maybe we are not alone in the cosmos. That we are, indeed, alone in the universe may be the almost inevitable conclusion on naturalism, but on theism—which is implied by the origin and fine-tuning of the universe—it’s not at all improbable that the Creator has created embodied, conscious agents throughout the cosmos. If they, too, have fallen into sin, then God will have a plan for their salvation as well—who knows, perhaps even multiple incarnations of the cosmic Christ! If the second person of the Trinity can assume a human nature in addition to his divine nature, then why not also multiple natures? The vast and perhaps unbridgeable distances separating intelligent life forms may actually be a manifestation of God’s mercy. The record of homo sapiens on this planet is pretty appalling. It may be a really good thing that extraterrestrial life forms are safely sequestered from homo sapiens as we launch out into space, lest the contagion of our violence and evil spread.
Such moral considerations prompt an additional point: a thing’s moral worth is not measured by its physical size. I recall the great philosopher Frederick Copleston once commenting that a single human person is worth more than the entire physical universe put together. That is self-evidently true: a moral agent like a human person has intrinsic moral value, whereas mere matter and radiation, no matter how much of it, is morally neutral, having no intrinsic value. This point alone changes everything. One little girl or boy outranks the cosmos in terms of moral worth. So why shouldn’t God be concerned? What does size matter?
Moreover, why not take the enormity of the cosmos to redound to the majesty and greatness of the God who created it? I think of God like a cosmic artist extravagantly splashing His canvas with colors and shapes that may serve no practical purpose but are aesthetically beautiful. He isn’t playing with us by “dangl[ing] the heavens above our heads and deny[ing] us from reaching them.” No, He’s putting on a show! And as mankind probes the mysteries of the cosmos, we come to see more and more the beauty and grandeur of the mind which created it. We need not be able to achieve intergalactic space travel in order to study the depths of the cosmos scientifically and to learn its laws and marvels. Aren’t you glad all this is out there for us to probe? I am!
So I don’t see how the daunting size of the cosmos does anything rationally to undermine belief in the incarnation. Scripture has always emphasized what enormous act of condescension this was on Christ’s part, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2.6-8). That point is only driven home by what we’ve talked about.
Your final reflections, Tom, on the subjectivity of modern society are even more beside the point. You’re thinking like a naturalist, not like a theist, who has an objective basis for what we believe. I think you need to shake yourself loose of the non-rational, emotional way in which you’re reacting to the size of the cosmos and think rationally about it. Perhaps you need to review the evidence for Jesus and his resurrection. Then the size of the cosmos may actually lead you to praise and worship of God and Christ.