by Samantha Tidball
My husband is a scientist and I am a youth minister. I am constantly reminded by comments from others that this is a unique combination of careers in a marriage. It seems as though most people in science are married to other scientists and most people in ministry are married to other ministers. However, I love breaking the mold because my husband and I get to work together to help others see how God is intimately woven into creation. We get to share how God uses science to continue to create the world. We love celebrating these discoveries and emphasizing how God is in science instead of God vs science.
We have been watching and loving a TV series called Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on Fox. This series is a follow-up to the PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage that was hosted by Dr. Carl Sagan in 1980. The new version of the show is hosted by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson who, as a college student, was influenced by Dr. Sagan. The purpose of this series, according to one of the main producers, Seth MacFarlane, is to help bring the knowledge of academic science to the general public.
The show has received much criticism from Christians who believe in young earth creationism. As a Christian accepting evolution and old earth creationism, I did not experience “atheist brainwashing” suggested by some fundamentalist critics. In fact I had a worshipful experience encountering Holy Spirit-filled moments while learning about how God created our universe. Watching the Cosmos series was like getting to unfold the blueprints of how God created and is still active in the universe. Here are five ways that I saw God throughout the series.
1. God is infinite!
The first episode, “Standing Up in the Milky Way” gives us glimpse of how we are just one of thousands of galaxies and how each galaxy contains billions of suns and countless worlds. The cosmos is a network of 100 billion galaxies! My mind is blown at how unknowingly big the universe is yet God created humans and desires a relationship with us.
2. Humans are very dependent beings.
I was humbly reminded throughout the series how incredible it is that life exists at all on Earth. Humans have life because we are the perfect distance from the sun allowing us to thrive. Our earth is tilted at the perfect angle and our atmosphere is made up of such components that allow life to be sustained. These facts are affirming in my belief of a Creator.
3. God is active and is still creating.
In episode four, Dr. Tyson says, “There is no fixed place; all nature is always in motion.” God never stopped creating. Our world is constantly in motion just as our Creator is active in our lives.
4. We know very little.
Even though many discoveries have been made, we still know very little about the universe. After watching the series, I now have more questions about how the universe works than before I started watching.
5. God desires for us to be co-creators and delights in our discoveries.
My favorite part of Cosmos was learning about the stories of scientists throughout history. God allows mankind to take part in experiencing who God is through making discoveries.
Although I was inspired by most of the series, there were a few moments I had to practice discernment. I disagreed with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s atheist and/or humanist tones in a few lines of his rhetoric. He expressed in episode three, “We are like abandoned babies dropped off at a door step without a note of who we are, where we came from or how our universe came to be. With no idea how to end our cosmic isolation, we had to figure it out all for ourselves.” I believe we were created with purpose and are intimately connected with the Creator. God revealed Himself to us throughout history but mostly through Christ. Therefore, we are far from the metaphor of abandoned babies left at a door step.
Dr. Tyson also expressed in episode three, “Newton’s laws of gravity and motion revealed how the sun held distant worlds captive. His laws swept away the need for a master clockmaker to explain the precision and beauty of the solar system. Gravity is the clockmaker.” This one line was extremely unnecessary and seems to me as though Dr. Tyson has made science into a god. Knowing how the scientific laws work only increases my awareness of how a Creator or master clockmaker must be in charge of it all.
Even though there are a few lines and some underlying tones I disagreed with, I still was able to experience God through this series. As a youth minister in a teaching role, it is essential to teach youth to use discernment when taking in any kind of media or education. Students must learn to do their own research or as Neil deGrasse Tyson encourages, “Question everything and test ideas and observations.” Educated independent thinking is essential for faith development and scientific discoveries. The Church should not be afraid or defensive toward the Cosmos series. Instead the Church should be open to discussion and help others experience God through it.
Samantha Tidball is a graduate of the Center for Youth Ministry Training.