Astrophysicist Explains How Total Solar Eclipse Is an Opportunity to Share the Gospel

Solar eclipse
Women gaze up to view a partial solar eclipse outside the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego, California, October 23, 2014. |
Solar eclipse
Pupils of the Deutschherren school and their teachers use protective glasses to watch a partial solar eclipse in Frankfurt, Germany, March 20, 2015. |
Solar eclipse
A combination photograph shows the beginning (top L) to the end (top L to bottom R) of a total solar eclipse as seen from the beach of Ternate Island, Indonesia, March 9, 2016. |
Solar eclipse
Light from a solar eclipse is refracted through a telescope and cast on to a person's hand on the Ampera Bridge over the Musi River in Palembang, South Sumatra province, Indonesia. |
Solar eclipse
People watch and take pictures of the solar eclipse on a beach in Ternate, Indonesia. |
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The upcoming total solar eclipse that will travel across the entire contiguous United States will give Christians an opportunity to point people to the God of the Bible, says Jeff Zweerink, an astrophysicist and apologist with Reason to Believe.

Amid the speculations about divine judgement and the preparations some are making for what has been nicknamed the "Great American Solar Eclipse," Zweerink says he's enthusiastic about witnessing the event.

Zweerink, who earned his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Iowa State University, and is a project scientist at UCLA and research scholar for the apologetics ministry Reasons to Believe, told The Christian Post in a phone interview that he's been anticipating the eclipse for nearly 10 years, as it will be the first total solar eclipse he has ever seen.

"God has made a pretty spectacular creation for us to live in," Zweerink said, calling the upcoming celestial event "beautiful" and "awesome."

Because of how spectacular this is, and the fact that many people are wanting to talk about the total eclipse, it gives Christians who are well-versed or ones who've read a little bit about what is going on "an opportunity to talk to non-Christians about the Gospel and the Creation that God has made," he said.

"And Creation is remarkably reliable," Zweerink added.

Naturally occurring phenomena can be predicted and talked about thousands of years into the future as well as in the past because of its reliability.

"That's a very biblical principle," Zweerink said. "God's reliability in keeping His promises is likened to how Creation behaves."

Such remarkable order to the cosmos is anchored in God's character, he went on to explain, and it's His character that upholds creation so reliably.

"From a scientific perspective, the first big experimental test of Einstein's theory of general relativity explicitly codifies the idea that the laws of physics are constant throughout the universe."

"And if that were not the case," Zweerink continued, "we would not be able to do science and understand how far away are things, and how old are things, and how do they operate, how do galaxies form, and what are neutrons, stars, and black holes. We just couldn't do that because what we do here doesn't have any relation as to what goes on out in the universe."

This reliability and the ability to predict solar eclipses and how awesome they appear and what they communicate about how the world works is deeply connection to the God of the Bible. And Zweerink considers this a conversation starter with non-Christians who are interested in celestial phenomena.

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham, had a different take than Zweerink.

As CP reported on Tuesday, Lotz wrote that the massive interest and planned viewing parties of the Aug. 21 eclipse in prime sites reminded her of "the Babylonian King Belshazzar who threw a drunken feast the night the Medes and Persians crept under the city gate."

She said she felt "compelled to issue the warning once again" about possible judgment on America and said the upcoming phenomenon ought not be "celebratory," noting that Jewish rabbis have traditionally regarded solar eclipses as "warnings from God to Gentile nations."

When asked by CP what he makes of people's suggestions that the total solar eclipse could be a celestial warning sign from God, Zweerink said he would be "very skeptical" of assertions that the eclipse is tied to biblical prophecy, such as the End Times, for two reasons.

"One is that this [is happening] in the United States. And it seems like all the End Times stuff is centered around the nation of Israel and where God chose to work for most of what is described in the Bible," he said. "The other aspect of it is that these things happen all the time."

Many thousands of people are expected to travel to the 60- to 70-mile wide path of the eclipse, which will cut diagonally across the U.S. through 12 states spanning from Oregon to South Carolina. Most Americans live within a day's drive of this path, according to the Great American Eclipse website.

Total solar eclipses occur at least once every two years, Zweerink explained, and while spectacular to behold, there's nothing out of the ordinary about them.

"These have happened since the dawn of human civilization and they will happen until the end of humanity is here," he said, adding that the idea that the Aug. 21 eclipse is somehow a sign of the End Times "just doesn't resonate."

"This is a great opportunity for Christians to engage in conversations with people and to share the Gospel," he reiterated. "It's just a neat opportunity to go out and talk to people about the physics that goes on. The sun is so much larger than the moon, so much further away, but yet they take up the same size on the sky so that we can have solar eclipses like this to make the scientific measurements and actually, just see the beauty of it — I'm just excited about it."

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