We all remember that little rhyme, memorized in grade school - 'In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.' What we could not perhaps understand, as we recited that rhyme as children, was that Columbus was not just setting off on an adventure at sea as many others did before him. He was setting off under a completely new banner of faith.
Columbus believed that he would, in fact, not fall off the earth, as was commonly believed at the time. He believed there was more beyond and he was driven to discover it. We all know the outcome. Columbus and his crew survived, discovered a new land and returned to tell about it. I thought about Columbus and the many other explorers the other day, as I watched a video produced by a secular organization. The scientists on the video, who spoke about what they were discovering in the solar system, were in some ways, just like Columbus. They were driven to discover what lay beyond.
The video, called The Privileged Planet, explains how, for many centuries, man believed the earth was unique in the universe. But, as exploration of the stars moved from a pastime to a science, it began to seem that the earth was, in fact, only a small dot like billions of others. Laymen and scientists alike began to believe there had to be millions more out there, just like earth. They began listening to the stars, hoping to hear something that would tell them there was life out there. They studied solar systems and black holes and stars that appear like tiny pinpricks to the human eye. They sent exploratory devices to land on far-away planets, looking for evidence of life. They have discovered much that has been useful.
They discovered, much to their astonishment, that the earth, in fact, does appear to be one of a kind. None other is placed within a solar system in such a way that it can sustain life. As the astronomers began to understand the finely-tuned balance of the system and our planet's place in it, they deduced that the chances of another planet like earth existing are astronomically remote. Their deductions begged a series of questions. The question, why, is perhaps the most obvious. Why is our planet so unique? Why is it situated so perfectly that it can sustain life? Why is it situated so perfectly that the living creatures on its surface can observe and marvel at the universe around them?
Why, indeed.The Apostle Paul enlightens us in Romans - "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)
God has done it all so that we might recognize Him and glorify Him. Our drive to discover, to learn, to understand the world around us and the world within us, originates in God's desire to be glorified and to be known.
Look at the stars tonight, if you can. Or look at the snow falling from the clouds above, or the rain pouring down. Think about the incredible patterns that make those normal yet awesome natural occurrences possible. Think about our round globe, unique in the universe. And ask yourself, Why?