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#149 Man’s Worth and the Size of the Universe

February 22, 2010

Mr. Craig. My name is jenny. 29yrs old. I've been born again for approxamently 5yrs. I've never doubted gods existence previous to my relationship to him. Just didn't hv enough info either way. Through the joy and minimal proof {compaired to the surmounting evidence} I now have, I know for sure he is who he says he is. But I'm also aware of our constant ups and downs we go through which are necessary in our walk. My question is this. I recently read Lee Strobels 3bk series "the case for... I'm currently reading ...a creator". Fantastic! But I'm stuggling with god greatness, ability... its strange bc I always knew he loved his creation b4 and now that I hv a glimps of the proof of his creating the universe I'm almost feeling so small so insignificant that its hard for me now to understand how he can love us. I'm just looking to b able to tie the 2 together... Him, as creator of us incy wincy tiny spectacles and him, as our loving father who loves us as much as he says he does. I know he loves us and I know how great he is as our creator. Its hard for me to think of one and not minimize the other. Can u help? I'm sure u ran into this at some point. This is a first for me.

Thanks jenny

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Dr. craig’s response


Thanks for your question, Jenny! I had to smile when I read your unique description of human beings as "incy wincy tiny spectacles"—sounded like very tiny eyeglasses!

Seriously, your question is a good one and one that occurred to the biblical writers, too. The Psalmist said,

When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which thou hast established;
what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him? (Ps. 8.3-4)

The advent of modern astronomy during the twentieth century has reinforced man's unimaginable tininess in comparison with the universe. When the Psalmist looked up at the stars and sensed his own insignificance, he had no idea that all he could see was just stars within our own galaxy and that beyond, invisible to the naked eye at unfathomable distances, lie billions and billions of other galaxies.

As a non-Christian teenager with a keen interest in astronomy, I understood the utter insignificance of man, physically speaking. That's why, when Sandy Tiffan (see Question #62) told me, "God loves you, Bill," I was so completely taken aback, just staggered by the thought. That God could love me, that worm on a speck of solar dust called the planet Earth, was so startling and wonderful a thought that I had to search it out. I have come to the view that the seeming triviality of man, far from supporting atheism, as Frank Zindler alleged in our debate at Willow Creek, only serves to magnify God's amazing love and condescension and to underscore the Christian doctrine of man as the imago dei (image of God).

You see, the Bible teaches that human beings are God's image here on Earth (Gen. 1.26). Not physically, of course, since God has no body; but we are His representatives on this planet and have been given stewardship of it. That entails that like God we are persons, self-conscious moral agents, and therefore set apart from all the rest of the physical order. As persons we have not merely extrinsic value but intrinsic value (see Question #137, number 5). What that means, as the great historian of philosophy Frederick Copleston remarked, is that one single human being is worth more than the entire material universe put together. What a staggering thought! And yet it is clearly true, since dust, radiation, dark energy, luminous matter, and so on, have no intrinsic moral worth. On atheism, I think it's plausible that that's all we are, too, and so equally devoid of value. But on biblical theism, a thing's physical size is just no measure at all of its moral worth.

So the Psalmist can go on to say,

Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
and dost crown him with glory and honor.
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet. (Ps. 8.5-6)

Since we are God's image, we as persons are finite reflections of God Himself.

The French philosopher Blaise Pascal advised that we must be careful to balance man's weakness and wretchedness with his greatness, lest we lead people to despair. Pascal noted that although physically the universe swallows me up like a gnat, nevertheless by thought I comprehend the universe. This, too, is a ramification of our being God's image.

Add to the mix the fact that God mounted the rescue operation of the incarnation to save us from our own moral folly and ruin, and God's love becomes all the more amazing. Every human being is a person for whom Christ died and therefore inestimably valuable. So when we think of how physically insignificant we are, this should issue in praise to God. As the hymn writer says,

O, Lord, my God,
When I, in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed!

And when I think that God,
His son not sparing, sent him to die,
I scarce can take it in; that on the cross,
My burdens gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin,

Then sings my soul, my savior, God, to thee,
"How great thou art! How great thou art!"
Then sings my soul, my savior, God, to thee,
"How great thou art! How great thou art!"

A person with a grasp of modern astronomy can sing this hymn with even greater meaning and appreciation precisely because of that knowledge. The incarnation and cross make sense in light of the doctrine of the imago dei.

So, Jenny, you are not insignificant. You are God's image and therefore more valuable and more important than all the rest of the physical universe, a person, moreover, whom God loves so much that He took on flesh and bled and died to save you.

- William Lane Craig