And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:17)
Is the number of stars definite or indefinite? I recently posted that question my Facebook status, and I was completely unprepared for the firestorm of controversy that seemingly innocuous question would raise. The question, to me, seems simple enough. I have identified a subject – the number of stars – and offered an either-or response.
One person responding to the question suggested that the number of stars is indefinite. Certainly from man’s perspective that is true. There is no way for us to ever know the exact number of stars. There are billions of galaxies in our known universe, and each is composed of billions .of stars. Such numbers are staggering. And then there is that outside possibility that new stars are being “born” regularly. That has never been observed, and it is based solely on very questionable evolutionary theories – more on that later.
But from God’s perspective, the number of stars is definite. The psalmist says, “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names” (Psalm 147:4). The Hebrew word translated “telleth” (tells) is mânâh and it means to “weigh out, to allot, or to enumerate” and so could be translated as “to number.” By this we know that God keeps a complete inventory of the stars. He “calls” them – Hebrew qârâ’, which means “to call out to” or “to address” each individual star by name. Well, one might say, God could still be creating stars, and He would still know the number each time He creates a new one. That is also true. Jesus says that the very hairs of my head are numbered (Matthew 10:30). God knows exactly how many hairs on my head I started with, the maximum count I had at my zenith, the number of hairs I have lost and He knows my current count now. So, whether God has created new stars since the beginning of creation, or whether the number has remained static since creation, to God, the number is always definite.
One perceptive individual responded “Yes!” In other words, he was saying it’s both. I wrongly responded “No. It has to be one or the other.” But after thinking about it, he was more right than anyone, considering what I have just explained above. To man, the number is indefinite, but to God the number is definite.
But, as these “conversations” tend to go sometimes, it quickly degenerated into a discussion about whether God was still actively creating or not. Since the subject is “stars” I would suggest that the answer is no; God is not actively creating new stars, or anything else for that matter. I see all those red flags going up right now! Before you burn me at the stake as a heretic, hear me out. I base this on two very basic verses in Genesis. As we read the creation account in Genesis one, we see that at the end of almost every day, God’s assessment of the process was as that “it was good.” This is true of every day of creation except for the second day where earth was, for lack of a better term, a big mud ball; it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough to be called “good” by God. At any rate, we get the feeling that God was pleased with His creative work. Then when the sixth day of creation was completed “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). “Very good” (Heb. ṭôb me‘ôd) meaning vehemently good. Such an assessment coming from a perfectly good Creator implies that it could not be made better than this; it cannot be improved upon. So, when God “made the stars also” (Genesis 1:15), the number of them was perfect by His assessment. Furthermore, we read in Genesis 2:2 that “on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” That He “ended his work” translates the Hebrew word kâlâh, which means “to cease” or “to be finished.” This too seems to have a note of finality – it’s done! In addition to that, it says that “He rested.” God was not tired and in need of a break! The Hebrew word used here is shâbath, which also means to “desist from exertion.” What I get from this, is that when God finished His creative work, He set in motion the laws of physics and nature that maintain the current state of the universe in stasis. This is alluded to in our opening verse (Colossians 1:17): “by [Jesus] all things consist,” i.e., “hold together.” The Greek word translated “consist” is the compound word sunistaō from sun meaning together and histēmi meaning “to stand” or “to abide.” We see that it is God – Jesus – Who is keeping everything from flying apart! We see God’s promise to keep things together following the Flood. God promised, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22); in other words, things will continue as God designed.
There is a danger in seeing this from a deistic perspective and concluding that God, like a divine clock maker just got it all wound up and let it go without further involvement. That would be a very wrong conclusion considering the record of God’s involvement in the affairs of man that are contained in Scripture. Does this mean that God no longer creates? The answer is both yes and no. God is no longer creating the “stuff” of the universe; the first law of thermodynamics confirms that. But He has not stopped creating altogether. Each time a baby is conceived, God has created a whole new soul. God’s involvement in the development of a baby in the womb is beautifully described by the psalmist in Psalm 139:14-16:
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
Jesus performed creative acts during His earthly ministry. He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). He healed a boy of a fever by reversing the effect of the first law of thermodynamics (John 4:46-54). He healed a paralytic and restored the atrophied muscles to his legs (John 5:1-9). He fed the 5000 (men, not counting women and children) from just two fish and five buns (John 6:1-14). He walked on water suspending the laws of physics that would cause Him to sink (John 6:16-21). He healed a man who had been blind since birth (John 9:1-7). He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44). All these He did by just His word. And His greatest creation miracle of all is when He gives new life to the walking dead by the regeneration of the “new birth” (John 3:3; John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Not only does God continue to create in this way, but He will one day create a New Heaven and a New Earth (Revelation 21:1). But new stars, for now, I don’t think so.
For more on star creation listen to Ken Ham’s commentary on the subject: Star Formation – Can it Happen? Also, Answers in Genesis has a couple of short articles on the subject:
4 responses to “Is the Number of Stars Definite or Indefinite?”
Love the post. Having Scriptures presenting both perspectives makes this question so clear!
BTW, one tiny idea to add to the picture of God and His creative act: Stasis doesn’t mean the universe is stationary. That “stretching” of the heavens is still going on. Most of the occurrences of the term are in the present not just the past. At the same time, stars aren’t living things given the command to reproduce, so your essential argument remains unchanged. 🙂
Good point. I should have made that clearer. By “stasis” I meant that nothing new is being added. Thanks for the added insight! 🙂
Pastor Ernesto, I must admit there is a lot of good knowledge in this post and I enjoy learning this very much. There was a time in my life I would have really gotten into it the looking up of the words in Hebrew and Greek: But the boyish poet in me wants to have some fun with the naming of the stars. I can see a young boy talking to God about the names of the stars. The young boy asking God if he could rename them. Would it be wrong of me to write such a playful story or poem? For I know there may be no Biblical basics for such make believe, could it cause harm? Hope I have not opened a can of worms! God Bless, James
Hi James! Thank you for your comment. Just for the record, I am not a pastor, although If God called me to such a task, I would not hesitate.
Your idea for a poem sounds very interesting. I don’t think there would be anything wrong with using your God-given abilities in that way. The only way you could cause any harm would be if you wrote anything that was contrary to Scripture. There are many things about God revealed to us in Scripture — all the things that we “should” know and need to know about God — but there are probably more things about God that we do not know. I don’t think there is anything wrong with imagining about those unknowns. When it becomes wrong is when you start presenting those things as fact — then you have a problem. I look forward to reading your poem! 🙂