A recent article in the Economist reports on the discovery of a planet about the size of the Earth orbiting a star called Alpha Centauri B. Plenty of planets have been discovered in the past two decades, but what made this one worth reporting on is its proximity: Alpha Centauri B is the third closest star in the universe to our own sun. If ever there were a chance of meeting extraterrestrial life outside our own solar system, this is the best one we’ve had so far.
Is there life on Mars? Or Alpha Centauri perhaps?
Of course, that “neighboring” star is about 25,662,600,000,000 miles away; a human spacecraft could get there by about this time next century. This puts it far outside the reach of human exploration (unless you put a baby on board a spacecraft and made sure he lived to be 100, and then could ensure he’d be fit enough to do anything worthwhile after 100 years of being cooped up in an interstellar metal container).
Interestingly, the Economist writer still holds out hope “that a sufficiently committed and luxuriantly financed group of scientists could send a probe there to take a closer look.” We couldn’t send a person, but we could maybe send a robot a century into outer space.
I read this article and couldn’t help reflecting on human finitude. We kick against our own limitations, look out longingly into the heavens and dream about subjugating the cosmos. We clutch after control of this world, the heavens, our own lives, each other. Yet, the more knowledge we obtain of the created Order, the more humble our position in the universe appears to be. We are but dust. Still we insist on puffing out our chests whenever we discover that which lies trillions of miles beyond our grasp.
Most of us can hardly fathom traveling to our own moon, which a few of our race have done. We can but dream of traveling beyond our own solar system to planets light years away. In the face of my own limitations, my thoughts are drawn to the One who holds “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18), who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).
Jesus is the Word through whom all things were made (John 1:3), who “stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in” (Isa. 40:22). Alpha Centauri B is a light fixture in Christ’s heavenly ceiling. Someday that mere light bulb will burn out along with its created satellites, yet the “word of our God remains forever” (Isa. 40:8).
To many, this is a terrible thought. Most of us would rather live out our days under the pretense that we posses some control of our world—and of our own lives. Christ’s gospel says, that, not only are we not in control, but we do not have to be. He, the Eternal God, has come to us in grace, not judgment. He has taken all judgment upon Himself in order to liberate us from fear. After all, perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
If ever there were a Being worthy of entrusting our lives to, it is Jesus. The heavens are His tent, the planets His footstool, the universe His playground. Alpha Centauri B may have no created life near it, but Christ is life and the One who fills all in all (Eph. 1:23). “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12).