I just finished (yesterday) watching the new Cosmos series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I really like this entire series. I plan to watch it several more times. It does a good job of tying into the original series, done by Carl Sagan.
I watched that original series as it came out in 1980 on PBS on Sunday nights. (I was preaching at the time, and I would preach shorter sermons so I could get home in time to watch the new episode.) Tyson is not the poet Sagan was, and by poet, I don’t mean rhyming schemes; I mean that Sagan delivered stirring messages, like the Pale Blue Dot which is still a stirring piece.
I realize that the Pale Blue Dot is old news. But it is new every time I see it. I’ve seen this many times and am still moved by it. It is among my favorite messages of all time given by anyone. It gives perspective and engenders sober responsibility. Here is an “updated” version of the video portion with the original sound track by Sagan. It is very moving.
(Here is the original version of the Pale Blue Dot, with the exact same voice track, and the original music:
I recommend this video not despite the line, but because of it, when Sagan says
“In all this vastness,
there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere
to save us from ourselves.”
Whatever he intended by this line, I cannot say. But Sagan was no atheist. He said so bluntly in an interview:
“I am not an atheist. An atheist is someone who has compelling evidence that there is no Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. I am not that wise . . .
And in another:
“but neither do I consider there to be anything approaching adequate evidence for such a god. Why are you in such a hurry to make up your mind? Why not simply wait until there is compelling evidence?”
He was not an atheist (no matter how much some want him to have been). Just as clearly, he was not a believer in God (everywhere he spoke, this was abundantly clear, including numerous YouTube videos). So, his statement was not meant in any spiritual sense.
But I am not interested in pursuing that. What I am interested in is his line “there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere.” In the context of his message, he is speaking to the need for human responsibility. And in that call, all can join–believer and nonbeliever alike.
It is true that we could miss the point and begin trying to refute his statement by quoting texts about God as our help. Let’s be clear, the scriptures laud that God exists, and that he is in control of all there is (Gen 1-2; Psa 8; 59:13; Dan 5:21; and many, many more; I am not disputing this here), and that God will help me or us (Exod 18:4; 2 Sam 23:5; Ps 22:19; 27:9; 33:20 35:2; 40:17; 42:5; 42:11; 43:5; 44:26 59:4; 63:7; 70:5; 94:17; 121:1; 121:2; 124:8 Sir 24:22). But none of these (or other similar texts) are claims that God will save us in the clear physical sense Sagan was presenting. As a matter of fact, the scriptures are full of the idea—and we all know this by mere experience—that God has always allowed human beings to get into all of the trouble they are intent on getting into. The salvation we are promised through faith in Jesus Christ is not a promise that God will step in and make people responsible, or solve our viciousness against each other. Or keep us from going bankrupt. Or from losing our home. Or our jobs. Or our families. Nor is there any promise that he will stop all of our wars. Or corruption. Or destruction. Or crime. Or hatred. Prayer, hope, trust, and faith are all extremely important concepts, but they do not somehow countermand justice (which is rightness)—i.e., responsibility.
Actually, Sagan was not stating anything in this respect that is not also supported in the scriptures. As human beings, we need to be responsible! Sagan’s point was about human responsibility in taking care of where we live. How can we not say “yes” to that?
According to the scriptures, God has always allowed people to be idiots, whether religious or not. But God has called us, as human beings who follow God, not to be.
The new series (in my opinion) lacks that stirring voice and presence of Sagan. Even so, the new series with Tyson is still a must watch. Especially for Christians. I’ll say more about that next time.