One of the blessings of country life in the South is walking outside, with some sweet tea, diet Dr. Pepper or ice cold water on a warm s
ummer evening, when the sun has left the sky and there is no city light to dim the night lights. Stand out on the porch andwatch the moon and stars display the glory of the Creator. We truly see the “heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1) and sit and wonder “what is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalms 8:4). But the truth is everything which is created, was created to bring glory to God and that includes you and me.
When some people have looked up to the stars they have become inquisitive of the truths of God in Astronomy. Abraham Kuyper, a brilliant Christian thinker says “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” If Abraham Kuyper is right, and he is, then we should expect there would arise people who discover the truths of God across all disciplines, including astronomy. If we took a survey through history we would discover many great astronomers who professed to be Christian. Astronomers who would look to the stars and discover the truths of God in astronomy. I would like to briefly highlight three men and their contribution to the discipline of astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 to 1543), Johannes Kepler (1571 to 1630) and Galileo Galilei (1564 to 1642).
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 to 1543)
Copernicus lived in an era when the popular belief was a geocentric or Ptolemaic system of the universe. The geocentric system stated the Earth was the orbital center of all the celestial bodies. One of the issues with this model was that on occasion some of the planets would seem to travel backwards in the night sky, which astronomers call retrograde motion. Ptolemy developed a complicated system to explain the retrograde motion, which many felt too complicated.
In the early 1500’s Copernicus passed around a book to some of his friends, which presented a heliocentric view of the universe. Copernicus presented the sun, not the Earth was the center of the universe and the celestial bodies orbited around the sun. He believed his theory, correctly explained the retrograde motion of the planets in the sky. Of course his view was radical for his time, so it was rejected. The foundation of his model was right, but he still held to the idea that planets moved in perfect circles. It wasn’t until Kepler (1571-1630) came along and discovered the missing piece to the puzzle.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Johannes Kepler was given a task by Tycho Brahe, Kepler was his assistant, the task was to try to understand the orbit of Mars. It is said that Kepler and Brahe did not get along and the assignment was given to Kepler because it was difficult and time consuming, little did Brahe know through this assignment Kepler would have a breakthrough. Kepler firmly believed in the Copernican system, but struggled with figuring out the orbiting patterns because he was working of the idea that the planets orbited in circles.
Kepler was forced to realize the truth of the data he was collecting. The truth was that planets did not orbit in circles but in ellipses. Using the rest of Brahe’s data, Kepler would develop the Three Laws of Planetary Motion. In the early 1600’s Kepler heard about Galileo’s discoveries and became an apologist for Galileo through writings and studies.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Galileo’s work was pivotal for modern astronomy. While he sometimes gets credited for inventing the telescope that Dutch spectacle makers made. He may not invented the telescope, but Galileo was the first to use the telescope to study the heavens. His use of the telescope opened a brand new world, for astronomers and for us. His observations revolutionized how the people in his era understood the solar system. One of the main objections to the heliocentric model was that the earth cannot orbit the sun while the moon is orbiting the Earth. Those who believed in the geocentric model said the earth would leave the moon behind. Galileo’s use of the telescope laid that theory to rest. His findings validated the heliocentric model of the universe.
Unfortunately Galileo’s work was rejected by the Roman Catholic Church and he was persecuted by them. Which should provide us in the 21st century a valuable lesson. If the God of the Bible created and sustains this vast universe, then there is nothing in this universe which can prove he doesn’t exist. When reputable scientific research is put forward we should examine the data and if it calls into question some of our “beliefs” maybe it is our understanding which is faulty. All truth is God’s truth, and will ultimately point to him, even if we don’t understand at this moment.
Until next time
Soli Deo Gloria
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