Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today is an exception. It’s Bill Tinsley, described as the newspaper’s religion editor. That’s sufficient for full name treatment. Hey — he also served as interim pastor for First Baptist, Conroe, Texas, so we’ll refer to him as rev. Excerpts from his letter — it’s actually a column — will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!
Exoplanet is a new word for me, but scientists are beside themselves. Apparently the term has been around a long time, just not in my vocabulary.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The rev doesn’t read very widely. We’ve been using the expression “extra-solar planet” for decades, but “exoplanet” seems to have become the accepted term. The rev then uses his recently obtained knowledge to explain why “scientists are beside themselves”:
[W]hat scientists are really excited about are earth-like planets, those that orbit in the “habitable” zone of sun-like stars, the so-called “Goldilocks zone.” Twenty-one of Kepler’s planets fit this category and there could be 11 billion habitable Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone!
That estimate seems a wee bit excessive, but let’s read on:
Elen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA Headquarters in Washington said, “This gives us hope that somewhere out there we can eventually discover another Earth.”
The rev takes that a bit too literally. He says:
Just imagine, there could be other planets filled with beauty: oceans with waves breaking upon the shore, trees and forests, rivers and snow-capped mountains, clouds drifting across the sky, birds and beasts and living things.
He then turns to the only other source of information about planets that he knows:
C. S. Lewis posed this possibility in his science fiction novel, “Out of the Silent Planet.” But Lewis went a step further. He proposed that these “habitable” planets in the universe were different in one respect. They were planets without sin. Only on Earth, he suggested, did sin exist and, as a result, it had become the “silent planet” cut off from all the rest of creation. It is an interesting proposition.
What does that have to do with anything astronomers are working on? The rev continues:
Imagine again, a planet like the earth filled with life, including human life, where sin does not exist. A planet like our own where there is no corruption, where no one lies, or steals, no deceit, no suspicion, no fear. A place where there is no violence. Everyone looks out for the welfare of others. Love rules.
That’s difficult for us to imagine, but it’s no problem for the rev:
[T]he Bible assures us there is such a place as we have imagined, not in our galaxy or in our sphere of time and space. It exists in another dimension, eis aionos, or “into the age,” as Jesus said. “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
Your Curmudgeon doesn’t know Greek, but the phrase we found was “eis aiona,” and it has a different meaning. But that’s not important. What’s the rev saying — that the Kepler space observatory should start searching for such a planet? No, not quite. The rev’s final paragraph says:
Revelation describes this place: [several scripture quotes, ending with:] “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:4-8).
Okay, dear reader, that’s today’s astronomy lesson. You’re either going to the rev’s planet, somewhere not in our galaxy, or else it’s the lake of fire!
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