The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) made remarkable technological progress in the immensely complex space mission it carried out recently — Chandrayaan 2. The expedition brought together an orbiter, lander and rover with the objective of exploring the south pole of the Moon. In a single mission, ISRO aimed at studying all the areas of the Moon, including the exosphere, the surface as well as the sub-surface. According to space scientists, there is a great possibility of finding water in the permanently shadowed areas in the Lunar south pole.
Progress like this in science and technology makes us proud and, in the right sense, it ought to! We are able to travel to another cosmic body, document our findings, and augment our understanding of the solar system. Moreover, this mission could act as a springboard for further space missions by inspiring a future generation of explorers and scientists.
However, there are deeper truths we need to be mindful of when we look at an expedition like Chandrayaan 2 — or any scientific discovery, for that matter. There are some far-reaching conclusions we can arrive at by analysing the objectives of Chandrayaan 2, whether the scientific community is aware of them or not. Stated differently, we can understand several fundamental realities, which go beyond the findings on the moon, when we dissect the often-overlooked theological underpinnings of such explorations. There are at least a couple of them that need to be brought to the fore.
Firstly, it is important to realise that the pursuit of truth is inseparable from the task of theology. All truth claims are based on presuppositions about fundamental realities. If someone were to regard a particular feature of reality as necessary, then he has automatically granted it the status of being ultimate. And if something is ultimately necessary, it arguably has acquired a divine status. Inescapably, something in a person’s worldview is going to function as his god. In other words, every discussion of truth will end up being a deliberation about some kind of theology, however implicit, unvoiced or ignored.
All truth claims are based on presuppositions about fundamental realities. In other words, every discussion of truth will end up being… about some kind of theology, however implicit or ignored
To appreciate this better, one needs to ask a more fundamental question — what is the definition of truth? Truth is that which corresponds with reality. It is the opposite of falsehood. The ensuing question is, “Where does truth come from?” It comes from God. It is a mirror of His being. Christian theology boldly asserts that truth, goodness, and beauty cannot be known apart from YHWH, their author. Only an eternal, transcendent and sovereign God could create this universe in the way that it is to make it knowable and understandable. The attempt to find an ultimate hermeneutical device other than God results in continual frustration and failure. Only YHWH is able to create, sustain and disclose the nature of everything that exists.
The Bible also affirms the omniscience of God, which means that He does not learn nor is dependent on any information that He Himself did not create and sustain. God knows everything. On the other hand, human beings have a very limited and incomplete knowledge. We are totally dependent upon various tools of discovery — like Chandrayaan 2 — and must admit that the tools of discovery too are gifts from God. Across generations, humans, through scientific or other discoveries, have sought to uncover knowledge, theorise about it, systematise it, and apply it. Ours is an epistemology of receipt.
On a purely naturalistic worldview, a scientist with his limited knowledge and resources, can never come to any conclusions with certainty even with massive amounts of data. Without the God revealed in the Bible, the unbeliever is faced with numerous troubling questions. In his book Cosmos, the naturalist and astronomer Carl Sagan wrote, “The cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there will be.” If Sagan’s assertion is true — that nothing exists other than the physical properties of the cosmos — then one must eliminate anything in his worldview that cannot be considered as material.
But this poses a huge problem for Sagan and other naturalists. Why? Because they believe in scientific laws. But is a law material or physical in nature? No. So, the naturalist is at a loss for how to account for the emergence of immaterial properties from material properties. In the worldview where the universe arose in a naturalistic way, how can being arise from non-being, order from disorder, and a world of cause and effect without the ultimate first cause? Such things are only possible in the world that God created. In summary, without the existence of God, Chandrayaan 2 would be a vain attempt in understanding the universe.
We are totally dependent upon various tools of discovery — like Chandrayaan 2 — and must admit that these too are gifts from God
The second truth that needs to be highlighted is closely connected to the first: the nature of the created order makes knowledge possible. Psalm 19:1-4 say, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
The entire created order, and therefore all of knowledge, points back to the Creator (“The heavens declare the glory of God”). Every aspect of the universe reveals this particular knowledge. There is no part or aspect of the universe that does not attest to the work of God. The discoveries of Chandrayaan 2 also “proclaim the work of His hands”. And an exploration like that must humble scientists and us and move us to faith in God rather than make us take pride in the prowess of the human mind.
The Chandrayaan 2 mission can be successful only because God wants the truth to be known, and truth can be known through the tools He Himself has blessed us with. The enormity and diversity of the universe must humble us and prod us to come to terms with the fact that only the self-disclosing God of the Bible can reveal things to us through various means. Augustine said it well, “All truth is God’s truth.” Truth is a gift. It is discovered but, most importantly, it is received.
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