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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Gospel in the Stars

A few years ago, D. James Kennedy, a well-known television preacher promoted and popularized a nineteenth century book, The Gospel in the Stars, by Joseph Seiss. The thesis of the book is that God has left a testimony to the gospel of Christ in the names of the constellations and certain prominent stars. For example, Virgo is the Virgin Mary. Orion is Christ. According to some legends, Orion died when he stepped on a scorpion, which parallels the seed of the woman (Christ) stepping on the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Every detail of the ancient myths is mined for symbols of gospel truths. This idea rests on bad theology, bad astronomy and bad history.

Bad theology
The gospel in its simplest form is that Jesus Christ, the God-man, died for our sins; that he rose again in the same body in which He died; that He is coming back again; and that all who put their trust in Him will be saved (1 Corinthians 15; Romans 10:8-13). The New Testament is quite clear that this message is only available in words—whether written or spoken (Romans 10:14-15). What do the heavens proclaim? Not the gospel, but the glory, beauty and power of God (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). That is all.

Bad astronomy
The Gospel in the Stars assumes, without a shred of evidence, that the classical names of the constellations in western civilization accurately retain the names of those star groupings given by God to Adam and Eve. The tortured philological connections offered to support this thesis are a bunch of baloney. Furthermore, why should our constellation names be privileged over those of the Chinese or the American Indians. If the stars are supposed to make the gospel accessible to all peoples, why don’t all peoples recognize the same star groupings and have the same names for them.

Bad history
I can state this very simply. There is no historical evidence that anybody, anywhere, at any time ever figured out the gospel of Christ simply by looking up at the stars. Nor did anyone before the time of Christ figure out the gospel by pondering the classical myths associated with the constellations.

Anything good?
It is certainly possible to use the stars and the myths associated with them to illustrate spiritual truths. After all, the New Testament uses farming, athletic competitions and business transactions to illustrate spiritual principles. But that is very different from insisting that the constellations are a divinely appointed means for conveying gospel truth.