John Van Sloten, author of God Speaks Science, reflects on a conversation with a Mars Rover researcher
When I first realised that Jesus speaks “supernovae” it felt like a bit of a cosmic epiphany.
I was talking to a Mars Rover researcher who had just explained to me how all the elements that fill the periodic table came about through the death and resurrection of stars. “At first there were only three elements in the Universe,” she said. “Hydrogen, helium and a little lithium – not nearly enough for life, as we know it.”
“Heavier and more complex elements came about through the life and death of stars. Two kinds: low-mass stars and high-mass stars. When a low-mass star dies, the element carbon is produced. When a high-mass star starts to die, elements like oxygen, neon, magnesium and so on up the periodic table until you reach iron, are produced. Then, when a high-mass star explodes in a supernova, elements heavier than iron are made. The heavier elements that make us up are created in the end stages of a high-mass star’s life. It is only through the death of these stars that the elements for life are created.”
Of course! It makes perfect sense that a Universe made by a dying and resurrecting Jesus would embody this kind of dying and resurrecting wisdom. God’s way of saving the cosmos appears to echo God’s way of making it. And Jesus had everything to do with both.
Jesus mediated creation
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is the one through whom all things were made (Jn 1:1-3, Col 1:15-21, Heb 1:2).
So then, why was I taught that I could never know Jesus through general revelation (revelation that comes through creation)? If Jesus mediated creation in as real a way as he mediated salvation, then surely, we can know him through creation – through rocks, trees, skies and seas.
If Christ has everything to do with the creation of the cosmos, then every photo taken by the James Webb Space Telescope is a snapshot of his wisdom.
Theologian John Calvin saw creation through a Trinitarian lens – with God the Father as the wellspring of creation, Jesus as the wisdom that shaped all things and the Holy Spirit as the one who breathed it all to life.
Of course, the Bible is crucial for knowing Jesus. In the scriptures, the message of Christ is clearly proclaimed through words. But once we know Jesus through the Bible, we can recognise his wisdom in creation. Because I already knew about his dying and resurrecting nature in the Bible, I could recognise a similar pattern in creation.
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Jesus speaks through creation
Right now, there are an estimated 45 supernovae explosions per second in the known Universe and Jesus has everything to do with that.
Through the life-and-death cycle of stars, he makes more out of matter – more elements to fill the Universe via supernovae and more out of those elements via all that they came to be, including his very own human body. Jesus’ physical body was formed from the stardust he made.
Which is all pretty incredible. Everything that is, was a thought in the mind of Christ before it ever came to be (Abraham Kuyper).
So how can Jesus not be known through creation?
Even the Apostle Paul connects the creating and saving works of Christ:
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on Earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:16-17, 19-20)
Perhaps Jesus is speaking through creation more than we realise. Maybe it’s time we learn how to listen – to hear his voice via all things.
In this three part series, I hope to introduce a few thoughts on how the gift of science can help us engage Jesus through creation. It’s my belief that science is God’s greatest gift for reading his creation words.
John Van Sloten is a community theologian in Calgary, Canada and author of God Speaks Science.