How Big Is God?
[Editor’s Note: The following article was written by A.P. scientist Dr. May, who holds a B.S. degree in Physics from Angelo State University, as well as M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Astrophysics from the University of Alabama.]
As curious beings, we spend much time investigating the world around us and asking a multitude of questions. What role does man play on this incredible planet Earth? How are we to relate to our fellow man? Where can we explore that is deeper or higher? These questions and many others lead our thoughts to consider mankind’s place in the Universe. Humanity now numbers over seven billion living souls, and we exist together on a vast and diverse planet. The overwhelming immensity of the Universe leads to the question, “How big is God?”
This question really involves the relationship between two subjects: God and us. First, the concept of "big" enters the question from our amazement with how large His Creation really is, especially when compared to the scale of everyday items around us. As the focal point of God’s Creation, humanity physically occupies only a tiny enclave of space. Our planet orbits 93 million miles away from a single star, the Sun, which is so large that more than one million Earths could fit inside it. Yet our Sun is, at most, a medium sized star. The largest stars can fit over three billion of our Suns or 4 quadrillion Earths (that is a 4 followed by 15 zeros) inside their volumes (Levesque, et al., 2005). If our Sun was replaced by such a star, its size would encompass all the planetary orbits as far as Saturn.
Each year the Earth travels roughly 584 million miles as it orbits around the Sun at the incredible speed of 66,500 mph (“Earth Fact Sheet,” 2013). Our entire Solar System (Sun, Earth, planets and every other smaller object) is traveling together in an enormous orbit around the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Full of stars, gas, and dust, the Milky Way alone contains an estimated 100 billion stars, some smaller and some larger than our Sun but each one constituting a unique object with its own temperature, composition, and nature. Despite containing so many billions of stars, the Milky Way consists of far more empty space between objects. For instance, from our Sun to the very nearest star is a distance of 4.3 light years or 25.3 trillion miles (Tam, 1996). Even more incredible is the fact that despite our Milky Way galaxy being 100,000 light years in diameter or nearly 600 quadrillion miles (that is a 6 followed by 17 zeros), it is only a single, moderately sized galaxy in a Universe that contains, potentially, 100 billion other galaxies that are spaced so far apart that each one seems to be an island of stars in a vast sea of blackness.
When the question “How big is God?” is asked, we use the word “big” because we understand that all of these mind-boggling numbers, sizes, and distances must logically be the result of an even greater, more astounding Creator. The Bible tells us the following about His creative power:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Psalm 33:6).
“He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name” (Psalm 147:4).
“He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion” (Jeremiah 10:12).
“Come and see the works of God; He is awesome” (Psalm 66:5).
Concerning God’s very nature, though, the Bible tells us “God is spirit” (John 4:24) and that He is the “King eternal, immortal, invisible” (1 Timothy 1:17). These verses clearly tell us that God’s nature is spirit, and therefore He is not a star, nebula, galaxy, or physical person that we can see. God does not have a boundary, size, or extent (e.g., “big” or “small”). As such, “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).
Even further there are no physical objects or spatial sizes that can describe God in an accurate fashion. Despite their magnitude and beauty, no nebula or galaxy can compare to God. Even the Universe in its immensity does not define God’s nature. The Bible conveys this exact thought when it states, “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” (Isaiah 40:18). Being spirit, God is not contained within the Universe’s dimensions or measured by physical units. Instead He resides in eternity and exists in infinity. He fills “heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 23:24). Even though God is omnipresent (cf. 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7-10), filling the Universe and overseeing such an enormous Creation, He still inhabits the smallest and quietest of places. God is always present in our lives and will live in our hearts every day if we acknowledge Him and obey His will.
Levesque, Emily M. et al. (2005), “The Effective Temperature Scale of Galactic Red Supergiants: Cool, but Not As Cool As We Thought,” The Astrophysical Journal 628:973–985.
“Earth Fact Sheet” (2013), NASA, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/earthfact.html.
Tam, Kathryn (1996), “Distance to the Nearest Star,” http://hypertextbook.com/facts/KathrynTam.shtml.