In 1953 British author J. B. Philips published a book that became very popular among thoughtful believers, entitled, Your God is Too Small. Phillips was impressed with what the science of his day was revealing about “the terrifying vastness of the universe.” In the opening paragraph of the book, he explained his purpose:
“The trouble with many people today is they have not found a God big enough for modern needs. While their experience of life has grown in a score of directions, and their mental horizons have expanded to a point of bewilderment by world events and by scientific discoveries, their ideas of God have remained largely static. . . . .
“It is not our intention to build up merely a bigger and better God, who may be just as much an artificiality as any of the galaxy we have discarded. What we are going to try to do is to open the windows of the mind and spirit — to put it crudely, to enlarge the aperture through which the light of the true God may shine.”
Well, if that’s what Phillips felt in 1953, the photos coming back from the James Webb Space Telescope should really knock our socks off. The above photo is an example of the astounding images scientists have been receiving and are busy analyzing. This strange pattern of stars and clouds and eerie lights has been traveling through space since early in the history of the universe; we are looking at a visual display that has taken billions of years to get to us.
And yet we stubbornly refuse to expand our view of a God who can embrace his entire universe. We still insist on seeing him as a tiny caricature of himself, a manageable, predictable God who fits into our tiny lives. Even in our worship, we have trouble visualizing him as interested in anything but us and our limited world. The idea that he might be just as focused on something happening in a remote corner of a galaxy seen as a small dot in the photo above is something we can’t wrap our minds around. We speak of him as the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe, but can we really picture that? And if we feebly begin to shape this image of his awesomeness and immensity in our minds, can we still imagine that he cares about us, our little daily dilemmas and dramas?
Now my head is spinning. In 1953 Phillips cautioned us, “Your God is too small.” Here in 2022, with even more astounding information about the immensity and complexity of his Creation, we need to remind ourselves, “Your God is waaaaaay too small.”
OK, that was a nice trip; now let’s come back to our more comfortable God, the one we’re familiar with from our childhood prayers, the one we keep asking to get in step with our plans for our nano-lives.*
Or we can accept the challenge J.B. Phillips gave seven decades ago and seek to “enlarge the aperture through which the light of the true God may shine” into our tiny consciousness.
— Pastor George Van Alstine
* Nano is a unit prefix meaning “one billionth,” denoting a factor of 10−9 or 0.000000001. It is frequently encountered in science and electronics for prefixing units of time and length. In this context, it means our lives are infinitesimally small.