Speaking of the formation of stars and solar systems, astronomer Carl Sagan once wrote,
All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.
(The Cosmic Connection, p. 189-190)
Later, he would refine that thought for the first episode of Cosmos, a 1980 miniseries he hosted:
The cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
For someone who believes that human life is a product of millions of years of evolution, it’s a compelling narrative—that our existence isn’t just a happy accident, but the universe becoming self-aware, understanding and experiencing itself through us.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist who hosted the follow-up series to Sagan’s Cosmos, would later echo the same thought in his 2017 book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry:
What we do know, and what we can assert without further hesitation, is that the universe had a beginning. The universe continues to evolve. And yes, every one of our body’s atoms is traceable to the big bang and to the thermonuclear furnaces within high-mass stars that exploded more than five billion years ago. We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out—and we have only just begun.
There’s a certain beauty to that whole train of thought: The building blocks of our existence were forged in the hearts of stars that erupted from the birth of the universe. We are the universe—coming alive, coming to understand itself.
But it’s the wrong train of thought, isn’t it? As poetic as it sounds, it falls woefully short of capturing the true beauty of what’s going on here.
Yes, if God created the universe through the mechanism of the Big Bang—and the current scientific evidence, as we understand it, suggests that He did—then maybe we are stardust.
But that’s not all we are. That’s so far from all we are.
Family, you and I were shaped by the hands that made the stars.
When God took the dust of the ground and formed the very first man—when He took a rib from that man and made a woman—He wasn’t enabling the universe to know itself.
He was creating life in His image—an entire race of beings, men and women, who were made to look like Him, who were infused with the potential to become like Him. When He made the sun and the stars and set them in “the firmament of the heavens” (Genesis 1:17), He was merely setting the stage. These great thermonuclear furnaces—these astronomical spheres of whirling plasma and incomprehensible circumference—they were set in place as a backdrop to the main event.
The stars are a trifle. A mesmerizing, beautiful trifle, an awe-inspiring wonder of the universe—but a trifle all the same. Nothing else in the creation week gets the introduction God gives the human race:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
It’s not a spotlight we’ve earned or deserved—it’s a spotlight God chose to shine. He made humans uniquely in His image because He wants to expand His family.
Understand the enormity of that.
No other creature has that potential. The stars that fill the night sky certainly don’t. That ought to lead us to ask the same questions David asked:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
God’s creation is filled with wonders—testaments to His infinite creativity and wisdom, His “invisible attributes” on display for us to see (Romans 1:20). Eliphaz asked, “Is not God in the height of heaven? And see the highest stars, how lofty they are!” (Job 22:12). And yet none of those wonders have the potential future that God offers to human beings—the potential to live on into eternity as His children, in His image.
You are not the universe coming to know itself.
You are more than a curious byproduct of the Big Bang.
You are a child of God, shaped by the hands that made the stars—and one day, you’ll outshine even the brightest of them.
That’s so much better than stardust.
Until next time,