The "Hand of God" (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill)

The “Hand of God” (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill)

A recent web headline reads “’Hand of God’ Spotted by NASA Space Telescope (Photo)” (http://www.space.com/24225-hand-of-god-photo-nasa-telescope.html). The picture from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, truly is a beautiful, awe-inspiring image that hauntingly suggests a great hand levitating balls of light. Of course, it is not really a hand, let alone the hand of God. Nor, for that matter is this a newly discovered object. NASA’s Chandra x-ray telescope imaged the same object over 4 years ago, producing a very similar picture. I found Chandra’s image so inspiring I have had it on the home page of my website for the past few years – http://www.mysteryandawe.com/. This “Hand of God”, like the famous “Horse Head Nebula” or the “Man in the Moon” is an example of pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon of perceiving familiar shapes in random or vague images.

For me, this image brings to mind Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God.” I do not in any way mean to suggest that this or any other scientific discovery will prove God’s existence. Not at all! As Hebrews 11:3 declares, it is “by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” But for me, and for so many other people of faith, the awe-inspiring beauty and wonder of the universe, revealed by science, speaks so powerfully of the glory of God.

On a closing note, I would recommend a wonderful sermon by Frederick Buechner – “Message in the Stars” in his book The Magnificent Defeat. In it he imagines what might happen if the stars were to spell out I REALLY EXIST or GOD IS, then helps us see why perhaps God does not choose to prove God’s existence.

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