Looking beyond André Kuipers

God shows Himself in a scientifically evolving western society

In 2012 the Dutch astronaut André Kuipers brought space closer to us during his stay in the International Space Station (ISS). Although ‘astro-André’ hasn’t been known to be(come) religious, I notice something about him. His language, the tone of speech about earth is so exuberant. In his photographic book (André Kuipers Expeditie 30/31) he summarizes all the beauty, saying: ‘Our Earth is so indescribably and variously beautiful…Everyone should see how beautiful it is.’ Of course he knows about all the misery, all the pollution.

Apparently you instantly forget when you see the bigger picture with all diversity and in the context of other celestial bodies. Splendour splashes out of every page. At the end you’re not only jealous of the astronaut but also impressed. Why? Can’t I see the splendour is gone when I step out of my house and step into…poo? Why are people all around the world so involved with space travel? Why does Earth from above leave every astronaut touched with emotion, practically singing when they see our planet as a whole?

The sun rises sixteen times a day
‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth… When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38v4a & v7)? From verse 1 the Bible sings praise about our creation, Genesis. ‘God saw that it was good’ is the refrain of every day of creation. From the beginning it’s clear nothing can stop the praise of creation to her Creator. By saying this I don’t mean to put a religious mark on the enthusiastic astronaut. It’s just that it seems similar: our almost intuitive enthusiasm and the Biblical witnessing of Earths existence.

Don’t blame me for linking Kuipers’ speech to the Bible’s. In the astronaut’s book it says: ‘The sun rises and sets sixteen times a day’ (picture 01/06/2012). That is quite a strange sentence. Are we talking about one day or sixteen days? There are also ‘strange’ sentences like that in Genesis. It’s only on the fourth day that the celestial bodies were created. Sorry, what kind of days are that?! But just as everybody gets Andrés intentions, every believer knows what Genesis is saying. The light God made on day one, is  ahead of our light on day four, like Gods eternal existence that encloses our life forever.

The glory of your name
Some Christians say God is more and more lost. Without contradiction, I think it’s more important to trust God to be the Creator that is essentially bound, connected to our existence. He wanted creation! Not only the great,  but also the smallest of things. Think of the particle accelerator CERN, in Switzerland. This mega-device was supposed to show the evidence of Higgs-particles, or God particles. Some say these particles are so elementary, they thought there would be another Big Bang during research.  Hence, God-particles. But in truth, the name is meant as a curse, for it’s *cursing* hard to find them.

Why don’t you curse your own inability and call God upon this elementary research. Why fear our existence is in danger? Even the smallest things can get a knock on the door from God. I think Robbert Dijkgraaf, professor at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, AS) said it well in the first episode of the famous Dutch television program DWDD[1] University on May 17th. He summarized the 13.7 billion years our universe is said to be, in one hour on screen. On the one hand, Dijkgraaf said we as humans don’t matter much. But on the other hand: we can discover this, research it and present it. This wondering about our God-like being and realizing we are futile: Psalm8 in today’s language. Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth, all of the universe and all of our research!

Created to Your liking
What do we do with the increasing disbelief, but also with the clear signs of Gods unwillingness to be pushed around in our society? Acknowledging but nevertheless dishonouring our Creator is known to be of all ages (Romans 1:19-21). How do Christians handle the tension? The church father Augustine (354-430) once exclaimed: ‘You are more inner dan my deepest inner, and higher than my highest high’ (Confessiones III, vi, 11.) This is a most splendid confession for 2012, when we discover the great universe and smallest particles (CERN) God has created. But this quote about God wasn’t the conclusion.

Talking about and apologetic discussing the existence of God is therefore very important. At the same time God wants something else. Augustine learned about the intimate ánd exalted Lord (Psalm 139) through the ‘weak’ mediator, the incarnation of the scripture Jesus Christ (Confessiones VII xviii, 24.) For a long time it was too ridiculous for Augustine to believe that God would be so humble. It didn’t fit his (philosophical) frame of reference. A lot of remarkable experiences, discussions with others and most of all prayer and reading the Bible brought him to acknowledge that God had sought and found him in Christ. ‘To you Lord, we are created – restless is our heart until it finds rest in You’ – this is how Augustine starts his Confessiones (I,1.)

God created us with a (sense of) direction. Not towards our planet or home town. The direction is God Himself (John 17:3)! That we gaze upon the greatest and smallest of our existence confirms our origin and direction. Augustine teaches us the greatest barrier to give in to this direction is within ourselves. Witnessing and testifying this never starts with the shortcomings of others, but it starts with deep admiration of Gods patience with you.

Calvary and our climate
God’s grace in Christ is visible in 2012. Back to André Kuipers, he is not only lyrical about our planet. From space it’s so clear how volatile our planet is and how radical pollution is. Something must be done! How far from our care is the all consuming love of God (John 3:16)? God who transcends us on all sides (Augustine) has given us in Jesus Christ our vulnerable, perishable life. The cross – pre-eminently a symbol of Christianity – shows us. He who has created all is also the one who reconciles (Collossians 1:15-20).

With Augustine we say we can’t figure it out. All right, but how do we shape our worries about the climate? The United Nations climate conferences, this year in Doha, give increasing cynical reactions. Just as ‘climate prophets’ say the point of no return is coming. Increasing knowledge, development and possibilities seem to go hand in hand with crises hanging above our heads. Is that the Redeemer knocking the doors of our heart? In the middle of day darkness washed over Jesus (Matthew 27:45). God made the agenda for the first climate conference right there and then. Calvary is Gods anger about His perishing creation. But most of all Gods profound will to redeem her, permanently, in magnificent glory (Revelation 21:1).

That’s why we end with worship. While creation cries out with pain (Romans 8:22) the church prays: ‘Amen, come, Lord Jesus’(Revelations 22:21).

[1] De Wereld Draait Door (DWDD, ‘the world goes on’).

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