The First Frontier

Michael Metzger

Want to make the world a better place? Brad King says space travel is the way to go. Visit Mars. But he forgets that others have already taken this trip.

Brad King is CEO of Orbion Space Technology. He wants to improve life on earth. He says it requires proving the existence of extraterrestrial life (“astrobiology”). Visiting Mars might yield advancements in pharmaceuticals, just as GPS (originally developed to track satellites) guides people to their morning latte. King calls space exploration the final frontier.

It’s not. Read C. S. Lewis’ Out Of The Silent Planet. Mars is not the final frontier. It’s the first.

Out Of The Silent Planet is the story of a man named Ransom. Kidnapped and taken to Mars, he discovers that all he had read about “Space” (“the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness”) is an illusion. Until he went further up, he “had not known” that “Space” is “a blasphemous libel.”

To libel is to denigrate. The Enlightenment denigrated the universe. “Space” is a vast, empty void illuminated by only stars. So we have NASA (National Aeronautic Space Administration). Or photographer Galen Rowell saying Earthrise hints at our insignificance in the vastness of space.

But isn’t this wrangling over words? Hardly. God created using wise words (Prov.3:19). Wise words have a meaningful connection to reality. If I say, “Jesus is a Son of God,” you’d say Nope. He’s the Son of God. You’d say my words have lost a meaningful connection to reality.

Lucifer fell because he broke the meaningful connection between words and reality. “I will make myself the Most High” (Ezek.28 & Isa.14). Nope. We do the same. We use words like gospel and discipleship. But they’re disconnected from reality. Recognizing it requires going further up.

Medieval art depicts this. When Dante passes the third heaven, he’s outside the cosmos. He sees Heaven. So he sees further in, to the heavens and the earth. The Apostle Paul also went further up. After coming to faith, he spent three years in Arabia (Gal.1:17). He was “taken up to the third heaven” (II Cor.12:2-4). Paul then saw further in, to the heavens and the earth.

Dallas Willard felt that few believers have taken this trip. Much of what we teach has no meaningful connection to reality. He should know. Willard was a pastor at one time. But he went further up. He saw how Western Christianity is “living in a bubble of historical illusion.”[1]

Brad King doesn’t. But he’s made in God’s image. So he wants to make the world a better place. I’m all for that, but space travel (as he imagines it) is not the way to go. “There’s no way into the sky,” warned Lewis.

By and by Man will try

To get out into the sky

Sailing far beyond the air

From Down and Here to Up and There.

Stars and sky, sky and stars

Make us feel the prison bars.

 

Suppose it done. Now we ride.

Closed in steel, up there, outside;

Through our port-holes see the vast

Heaven-scape go rushing past.

Shall we? All that meets the eye

Is sky and stars, stars and sky.

 

Points of light with black between

Hang like a painted scene

Motionless, no nearer there

Than on Earth, everywhere

Equidistant from our ship.

Heaven has given us the slip.

 

Hush, be still. Outer space

Is a concept, not a place.

Try no more. Where we are

Never can be sky or star.

From prison, in a prison, we fly;

There’s no way into the sky.[2]

 

There is, however, a way into the heavens. Next week you’ll discover it. I’ll tell you about a friend who’s not sure anymore why he goes to church.

In the meantime, check out the latest Clapham podcast: https://claphaminstitute.podbean.com/

 

[1] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (HarperCollins, 1998), 214.

[2] C. S. Lewis, “Cradle-Song Based on a Theme from Nicholas of Cusa,” Times Literary Supplement,

June 11, 1954, 375, rpt. as “Science-Fiction Cradlesong” in Lewis, Poems, ed. Walter Hooper (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967), 57-58.

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3 thoughts on “The First Frontier”

  1. Mike,
    This is the first time I have used this “Leave a Reply”.

    I am a supporter of America’s space program. When we landed on the moon, the USA was at the pinnacle of our positive influence around the globe. We had won the space race had proven that democracy is superior to communism.

    With that said, I am also a supporter of solving today’s problems here on earth. Sometimes when we “shoot for the moon”, we loose sight and focus on the here and now.

    You and I have talked about the systemic problem of generational poverty.
    Let’s continue to work together to make a dent on this challenge.

    Corky

  2. GPS was never designed to guide satellites, and in fact it cannot guide satellites.

    It operates from satellites, originally to guide the US Army’s movements.

  3. I am excited about this topic. What an intriguing poem! I can’t wait for the next piece! Cosmology excites the imagination – alas it is too bad that the same sense of adventure seems so lacking to go “in” to the heavens and the earth.

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