Issue Date: June 25, 2007
Carl Sagan and the Bible
I read with interest your comments on "Science and Natural Theology" (C&EN, April 30, page 3). Like you, I think Carl Sagan was a captivating lecturer and great spokesperson for science.
Like him, I also am intrigued with the question, "Why didn't God use scripture to provide 'absolutely clear-cut evidence of his existence?'"
Unlike Sagan, however, it seems to me that God did just that. I do not find that the God of the Bible is either "too small" or the "god of a tiny world and not a god of a galaxy, much less a universe." Genesis 1:1 ("In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth") clearly states that the God of the Bible created the universe ex nihilo, from outside time and space. This is in harmony with the current Big Bang model of the origin of the universe.
Similarly, the apostle Paul writes about God making plans "before time began," a concept consistent with one that says a God existing apart from time and space started with the Big Bang. Considering they were written approximately 2,000 to 4,000 years ago, these are astounding statements consistent with what we now know. Other statements provide strong support for a God of enormous intellect and power. For example in Psalms, David stated that the thoughts of God outnumber the grains of sand. Similarly, Jesus said that the hairs on one's head are numbered (that is, known) and that the Creator knows when even a sparrow falls.
These and scores of other such statements throughout the Bible speak of an incredibly intelligent Creator who did leave evidence of his existence in Scripture, the God that Sagan sought who was capable of creating and tracking stars numbering "something like one followed by 23 zeros." Or so it seems to me.
John C. Drach
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Sagan missed the point in his consideration of the Bible. It was never intended to be a science textbook, but rather the record of God's loving relationship with people. In chronicling that relationship, there would be no reason to discuss the speed of light. Faith, being certain of what we hope for but cannot see, requires humility and the wisdom to understand that because God does not operate as we think we would if we had His position doesn't invalidate His perspective.
Sagan may have been a "captivating lecturer," but in attributing "fundamental misconceptions" about creation to God, he comes across like a six-year-old attributing cluelessness to his parents. Sagan and C&EN would do well to address issues of science, those things that can be observed, described, and predicted.
Michele Kosciusko Bremer
Thank you for your very interesting editorial, "Science and Natural Theology." Please allow me a few remarks on this topic.
The god Sagan was looking for is indeed too small to be the God of the Bible. In a metaphor that Sagan would have appreciated, Isaiah 55:8-9, states, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." The God of the Bible is indeed "far beyond" even the sharpest human intellect.
Sagan demands "absolutely clear-cut evidence of his existence." A perusal of the Gospels will confirm that Christ frequently encouraged use of the mind in regard to religious matters. Sagan's penetrating questions should thus be welcomed, but again, an all-wise Creator would not reveal Himself according to human requirements. However, the God of the Bible did reveal Himself most explicitly—Christ crucified, dead, and alive again on the third day. Many thousands of prophesies in the Old Testament were simultaneously fulfilled by this one man who was also God. All this happened about 2,000 years ago.
Christianity invites a critical appraisal of these facts by whatever means. The only requirement is that honesty should prevail. If the crucifixion, death, or resurrection of Christ is proved to be a fallacy, or even if reasonable doubt can be maintained, then Christianity and with it "Western religion" should cease to exist immediately and we should look elsewhere.
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