Can Science & Religion Coexist? Scripture & the Incomparable Beauty of Webb Telescope Images

Can Science & Religion Coexist? Scripture & the Incomparable Beauty of Webb Telescope Images September 5, 2022

Several years ago, Harvard University posted an article on its website called “Can Science, Religion Coexist in Peace?”

In a fast-paced scientific and technological world, the article remains relevant despite having been written 15 years ago. It’s available to read on Harvard’s website at https://news.harvard.edu as of Labor Day 2022.

The post captured my attention at a time when the new James Webb Telescope is sending data that scientists are using to produce extraordinary images of the universe.

The telescope promises to change our understanding of the universe, according to numerous experts.

What Is God’s “Beautiful Violence”?

As I look at the images from a layman’s perspective, I realize that I’m seeing billions of years into the past, and I’m fascinated.

God is revealing the beautiful violence in which he created everything I know in a universe I barely understand. The words “beautiful” and “violence” are usually at odds with one another, but they come together for me in this instance.

The Webb images reveal remnants of an explosion that — if we accept the big bang theory — has reverberated for billions upon billions of years and is still going strong.

It’s beyond the scope of anything that any human mind can comprehend, but it tells me that God’s universe is great and its creator is even greater.

These thoughts do not make me feel insignificant as much as they remind me of God’s omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence.

There is no power greater than God’s, as the Webb telescope is showing me. God is the Creator and knower of all things. He exists in every part of the universe and beyond assuming that “beyond” exists, and my Christian beliefs say he wants a relationship with me.

Did It or Didn’t It?

The Harvard article began with a phrase that caught my attention because of the Webb telescope: “Almost 14 billion years after the big bang….”

The phrase assumes that the big bang is a scientific fact. It happened 14 billion years ago, according to the article and most scientists.

But did it?

A few days before I read the Harvard post, I read an article on https://mindmatters.ai that said data from the James Webb Telescope is raising some questions about the big bang theory. Namely, did it occur much earlier than the generally accepted 14 billion years or did it occur at all?

Surprises from Webb

These questions apparently upset some astronomers because the big bang theory is the generally accepted explanation for our universe’s origin.

The article quotes physicist and independent researcher Eric J. Lerner as saying that Webb is revealing a “surprisingly” large number of galaxies that are “surprisingly smooth, surprisingly small and surprisingly old.”

The images are “repeatedly contradicting” the big bang theory, the article said.

It raises the question of whether the universe has always existed, but then seems to accept that it began at some point. The post concludes by saying the Webb telescope “has raised as many questions as it has provided answers.”

The Mind Matters website comes to us courtesy of the Discovery Institute in Seattle. It features articles and podcasts on issues related to human and artificial intelligence.

Who’s Correct?

Numerous astronomers and astrophysicists disagree with Lerner, according to a post titled “Explained: The Deal with Eric Lerner Saying the Big Bang Didn’t Happen” on www.science.thewire.in.

The website’s sources are universities, research centers and research and development companies.

This article states that these experts consider Lerner’s claims to be “particularly dubious,” “infamous,” “thin on proof” and “supported by inconsistent arguments.” No equivocation here!

Non-scientists can hardly render an expert opinion on the dispute, but for what it’s worth, which isn’t much, I tend to agree with scientists who support the big bang theory.

“Cosmos,” Hubble & Webb

As I mentioned, I’m no expert on astronomy or science. I took the mandatory general science, biology and chemistry classes in high school and college, but science was of little interest to me until the original “Star Trek” television series aired.

I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but it interested me as well as a generation of future astronomers.

For scientifically correct information, I turned to Carl Sagan. His 1980 “Cosmos” television series fascinated me, and I read several of his books.

He did something that science teachers and textbooks were unable to do. He explained this particular science in ways that I captured my imagination.

Today, my interest in astronomy manifests itself in my fascination with Hubble and Webb telescope images.

So What?

My occasional forays into astronomy tell me that science does not have all the answers. Even widely accepted scientific theories such as the big bang are open to question.

But science and religion both have a place in the world.

Science teaches us facts about the world around us, as experts understand the facts. The Bible isn’t a textbook on science. It reveals the world to us in a different way. It introduces us to our Creator; teaches us about faith, salvation and our relationship with God; and tells us how to live.

“In the Beginning”

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and (was) void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light:’ and there was light.” So says the writer of Genesis 1:1-3.

Verses 4-5 continue the narrative: “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

In the following days, Genesis says that God separated the firmament from the waters and called the firmament heaven. He gathered the waters and allowed dry land to appear; created grass and trees, seasons and years; made two great lights, the sun and the moon, as well as the stars; brought forth living creatures on land and in the water; and created humans in his image. On the seventh day, the scripture says that God rested.

God’s Timelessness

Do I believe that God is a “he”? No. I merely use the “he” pronoun for the sake of convenience. Do I believe God is an old man with long white hair and a white beard? No. I believe he’s a spiritual being rather than a physical one, although he can take a physical form as Christ did.

Do I believe that God created the world in seven 24-hour days? No. Science says that our universe developed over billions of years, and it seems to have the evidence to support it.

The Bible tells me that the 24-hour earth day didn’t exist until God created it, and science tells me that earth days are specific to our planet.

God is timeless. He is not constrained by human beings’ concept of time.

Can Science & Religion Co-exist?

Do I believe that the world evolved? Yes. We have evidence of evolution all around us. However, I also believe that humans are different from other living beings in that we have languages and cultures, religions and souls.

Can science and religion coexist? The Harvard article concludes they can. I tend to agree, but only if people on opposing sides of the argument stop vilifying one another and start communicating in respectful ways.

Astronomers have yet to prove the big bang theory, and Christians cannot prove the existence of God. With the absence of proof, we are left with faith – faith in science and/or faith in God.

A New Window to the Universe

The James Webb Telescope gives us a new window into God’s universe. Scientists will gather data and learn new things. Non-Christians will marvel at the amazing universe in which we live. Christians will glorify the incomparable beauty of God’s handiwork.

I will do all of the above, but I also will see my Creator in the Webb images.


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