Consider the Copernican Principle, the idea that we do not occupy a privileged position in the universe. As Fred Heeren of First Things says in an article here:
Many regard [the Copernican Principle] as a necessary axiom for the continued success of the scientific enterprise. The practice of science begins, we are told, with the assumption that we are typical, not exceptional. We can’t scientifically study a sampling of one, after all. Moreover, history suggests that Copernicus began an unstoppable progression: the world’s greatest modern thinkers proposed and then proved that the Earth is not the center of the universe, that the Sun is not the center, that our galaxy is not the center, and finally, that there is no center.
Copernicus gave us the theory to take the first step, and Galileo demonstrated its truth. Einstein gave us the theory to take the last steps, and Edwin Hubble’s observations of distant galaxies convinced the world.
Astronomer Robert Jastrow, founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute, calls Hubble’s achievement “the last great step in the revolution of thought regarding mankind’s place in the cosmos that had been initiated by Copernicus.” But today’s Copernican Principle proposes, not only that the universe does not revolve around the Earth, but that the universe does not revolve around us, either literally or figuratively.
But the Copernican Principle isn’t the only one contending to explain our position relative to the universe. Heeren goes on to explain:
In their classic book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler [write that the principle they prefer] is their Anthropic Principle, which doesn’t try to explain away our privileged place or time, but instead says that the features of the universe are constrained by the need to permit observers like us. The less delicate way to put this is to say that the universe appears to have been finely tuned in its fundamental force strengths, particle mass ratios, etc., for our benefit.
Most scientists dislike the direction the Anthropic Principle points them, not just because it implies God as an easy answer, but because, once again, it commits heresy against Copernican dogma. “It seems to me a sort of hubris to think that God made the universe just for us,” said cosmologist George Smoot. “It seems to me, I’d just make the universe full of life.”
Theoretical physicists such as Stephen Hawking have spent much of their energies looking for better explanations for the many anthropic “coincidences,” seeing red flags go up with each violation of the Copernican Principle. But surely there must be a deeper reason for choosing one principle over another. Hoping to learn it, I asked Stephen Hawking himself. What disturbs him most about the Anthropic Principle? “The human race is so insignificant,” he told me, “I find it difficult to believe the whole universe is a necessary precondition for our existence.”
In other words, the Earth may be so rare in the universe that we may be the only intelligent life in the entire place. The entire universe with all of its billions of galaxies may actually be the “necessary precondition” for our existence. And that is just too much for some to accept. The Copernican Principle is so much more palatable. It is so much easier to deal with. With Copernicus, we are not special, we are not the center, we are not important.
Unfortunately, the universe isn’t cooperating with this thesis. Instead, it is providing evidence that draws us to consider that we may in fact be very special indeed. Not only the center, but the climax of what the universe was wired — dare I say created — to produce.
And isn’t that difficult to accept?
But consider how all of Christianity is difficult to accept. Think about it. Christians believe in an eternal God that created all the billions and billions of galaxies, filled each with billions and billions of stars, and yet he supposedly cares about some grubby sin-infested creatures on some small and insignificant planet called Earth! Why should he care a bit about us? Why should such a powerful Creator want to have anything to do with us?
We aren’t all that smart. We aren’t all that good. We aren’t all that strong. We can’t fix our own problems. We pollute. We kill. We destroy.
And yet He loves us? You got to be crazy! What arrogance! What audacity! What shear hubris!
He is perfection beyond our wildest imaginations. He breathed His life into us and created us in His image. And what have we done to thank him?
We have taken what He has given us and squandered it on sinful lusts. We have grieved Him and brought shame upon Him. We have mocked Him, not listened to Him, rebelled against Him, and even
believed He is a hoax!
Why should He want to have ANYTHING to do with us? Really. It’s utterly insane!
And yet, like the father in the story of the prodigal son, He comes running to us when we return to Him. He throws a robe on us giving us dignity, He puts His ring on our finger bestowing on us the authority of His household, and He kisses us! He kills the fatted calf and throws a feast because He rejoices that we have come home to Him!
And yet, He sends his only Son — who is entirely one with Him — to die in our place so that we can live and not be separated from Him. The Son takes on our sin separating himself from the Father, so that we can be declared sinless.
And yet, He sends his own Spirit to comfort and help us, to pour his living waters into us bringing us His life, to show us the deep mysteries of the infinite God.
And yet, He chooses us to be His bride! He courts us and woos us. He waves his banner over us and gives us the new wine of His love. He speaks to us and calls us. He heals us and dances with us.
Over and over He reveals to us a love beyond comprehension, a heart that is set on us, a passion unparalleled in the universe, whispering our names and calling out to us.
Who could possibly believe in such a God? Who could dare to say such a God exists? Who could claim to be the object of His love, the very reason He created the entire universe? Who could even speak of such things without being considered a raving lunatic?
And yet, blindly, crazily, insanely — we believe.
Like Eric Liddle (as portrayed in the movie Chariots of Fire), our hearts run to such an incredible love, we throw back our heads in the wondrous sight of Him who is like no other, we become a curious spectacle in the sight of others with our hands flailing — and we feel the pleasure of our God!
It is amazing beyond belief. And yet we have heard His voice calling our name.
Listen. Listen for He whispers to you. And in that whisper you realize that Copernicus was wrong after all. We are far more at the center of some grand play than we ever dared dream. Amazing. Truly Amazing.