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January 2015

Comfort... Even in Deep Space

I have always been fascinated by space, particularly deep space. There is something about its vastness that boggles my mind and makes me wonder. To me, space is both beautiful and terrifying. Did you know that there is no sound in space? That's creepy... Did you know that there are stars in our universe that absolutely dwarf our sun? Have you ever read about black holes? There are a lot of interesting and unbelievable things in our universe.

(Spoiler alert) 

Just this past weekend I watched a science fiction movie about exploring deep space. It was called "Europa Report." I enjoyed the movie; however, I enjoyed it because of the questions it raised and the way that it dealt with mortality. As would be expected in this type of movie, there are many moments of great tension. One such moment finds the crew challenged to make a tough life-or-death decision. They debate sending one of the explorers out onto Europa (one of Jupiter's stars) to get a core sample from the planet. The risk is high as it is extremely dangerous on the planet's surface. Several members of the crew believed that no one could survive outside of the space ship. On the other hand, the crew realizes that the potential for scientific advancement is huge. Regarding this decision, one of the characters says: "compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known, what does your life actually matter." In other words, in the grand scheme of things, we are pretty little and not extremely valuable. I thought this was an incredibly bold statement that challenges the value of our very lives. It is a statement that prioritizes knowledge and makes it a god. 

Interestingly enough, the movie also presents a view that is in stark contrast with the previous one. At one point during their travel to Jupiter, members of the crew have to repair some damage to the exterior of the ship. In order to do that they have to suit up in all their astronaut gear, leave the ship and enter outer space. Of course things go awry and one of the astronauts is unable to get back into the ship. As he floats away into the deep, empty darkness of deep space (super creepy...) he says, presumably to his son: "I thought I was trying to do something great for mankind, I always said it was worth the risk... forgive me." Basically, he was implying that he was wrong and he should have stayed home to be with his son. This character, as he faced certain death, re-evaluated his beliefs and found them lacking. The pursuit of knowledge is not the highest calling, he should have enjoyed a long life with his wife and son.   

Finally, as the situation on Europa turns for the worst, and the fate of the crew is clear: they are going to die on Europa, one of the astronauts says "pointless, it is all pointless." As he stares death in the face, he doesn't see any real value in knowledge, or find any comfort in science. I believe he experiences a profound emptiness at that moment. Faced with death, he discovers all that he believed to be valuable--the pursuit of knowledge, science, discovery--is pointless and has no meaning.

Although the questions asked and discovers made by the crew traveling to Europa are interesting and create an intense and enjoyable movie, I quickly realized that we, as Christians, have an important perspective on the topics of knowledge and mortality as well. Knowledge is good, but as we read in Proverbs "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).  Furthermore, Christianity does not prioritize knowledge over life.  God places such enormous value on life.  We know this because He was willing to send his only Son, Jesus, to earth to be crucified so that we could be saved. In fact, with each and every life on earth, eternity is at stake.  And here, in eternity, we see a stark difference between our two competing views of mortality and death. In the movie, the crew members believed death was the end.  We know that it is only the beginning.  As each crew-member confronted death they often felt hopeless and struggled to grasp the point of it all. We, as believers, have hope in death.  As Paul says: "for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." While we are most-likely not going to be travelling to Jupiter, or facing the challenges that the crew faced; I hope that when our lives face obstacles and even death, can find meaning and hope in our God and His Son our Lord and Saviour.     

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