As it should be

Reading: Psalm 19
A number of years ago I purchased a book containing four essays by British scientists on the relation of the Christian faith to scientific views of humanity and the universe.

One of the writers, Donald M MacKay, a Professor of Communication, introduced me to a concept he called, "the fallacy of nothing-buttery." He gives an illustration from ships signaling at sea.

When a man sends a message from ship to shore, in one sense all that is coming from the ship is a series of flashes of light; but the trained sailor who sits on the shore watching this light says, ‘I see a message ordering so and so to proceed somewhere’, or, ‘Look, they’re in trouble!’ Why does he say this? All he has seen is ‘nothing but’ flashes of light. The whole pattern of activity can be correctly labeled thus by a physicist, and described so completely that he is able to reproduce at any time exactly what the man on shore saw... (DM MacKay ed., Christianity in a Mechanistic Universe, IVF 1965, p. 57)

I am sure all of us have had experiences which have caused us to be so amazed - "Wow! Look at that!" It may have been some incredible scenery or a stunning sunset. Our description of its beauty has already gone far beyond the "nothing-buttery" of scientific explanations. It has struck us a beautiful, glorious.

As people of faith we go beyond that. What we see is a reminder of the glory of the Creator God. The experience rightly leads us to worship.

In Psalm 19, David sees the glorious work of God in the whole universe. The creation is speaking it out in a message which can be understood by anyone in the world.

Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet cosmonaut, came back from his space flight saying,"I have been out in space and I didn’t see any God out there." On the other hand, the first US astronauts worshipped God in space - the God they had already known and trusted here on Earth.

We were in Childers at the time of the first moon landing in July 1969. I recall visiting one of our senior church members at the time. She was quite sure the project would be a disaster - God never meant us to go up there! I tried to prepare her for what was about to happen. The physical laws - which are also God’s laws - would work equally in outer space and on the Moon as they do on Earth.

The tragedy is that by ignoring God we ignore the moral laws which are so important in human relationships - and for having the wisdom to use all our new knowledge and technology.

Having looked at the marvels in the heavens, David goes on to extol the perfection, trustworthiness, rightness, radiance and endurance of God’s moral principles (vv. 7-11). The dangers our society faces in recent decisions on embryonic stem cell research come from the desire of some scientists to experiment in the area of physical laws without reference to (or inhibition from) moral laws.

David concludes with the prayer, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer" (v. 14).

He isn’t opting out of responsibility for vigorous action by these words. He is looking at the motivation for his actions. There would be no "nothing-buttery" about him at all. Behind the glory of the created universe, he could see the glory of God himself. Behind all his own moral uprightness, he prayed the Lord would see right motivation and attitudes - and a solid dependence on him.

There is so much in human life and society that is not as it should be. But don’t get discouraged! Open your eyes to see the glory of God! Open your mind to receive his truth! Open your heart to receive the Son of God and to be transformed by the grace of God! Open your will to do his will day by day!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your glory fills the world, but we have been too blind to see. Your word has been here to persuade and guide us, but we have been too busy with our own human programmes. Jesus has come knocking to draw us to your love, but we have found no space to let him in. We have organised you out into the cold, and wonder why it gets so cold in here. Forgive us, Lord! Forgive us, Lord, and come! Come in today! Come in to stay! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thoughts on Apollo 11,
21 July 1969

(dedicated to Rangeville Space Pilots' Club)

From Earth to Moon! How wonderful!
Dear God, your laws are true!
And yet, we try to live on earth
as if we don't need you!

We know the laws of motion,
of gravity and the like,
and forget the Ten Commandments
and all the laws on life!

We thank you, God, that Jesus came
to bring us back to you
that we may know in everything,
dear God, your laws are true!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin BlueCare Devotions, 18 March 2003.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

Back to Sermons