An exploded star that resembles a giant hand provides opportunity to discuss theology and intelligent design.
Nobody is claiming that the nebula surrounding pulsar PSR B1509-58 is supernatural, even though it has been dubbed the “Hand of God” because of its vague resemblance to a human hand. Still, could it be argued that God had a “hand” in its creation indirectly?
Nebulae subject to nearby supernova blasts commonly have “fingers” of dust and gas eroded by the pressure. The image of the nebula taken by the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR was reported by Science Daily and Live Science. The latter explained,
The Hand of God is an example of pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon of perceiving familiar shapes in random or vague images. Other common forms of pareidolia include seeing animals or faces in clouds, or the man in the moon. Despite its supernatural appearance, the Hand of God was produced by natural astrophysical phenomena.
But this pareidolia was not named by religious leaders; it was named by secular astronomers who, for the most part, are naturalists, attributing the workings of the the cosmos to material causes. It would take a nutty person of any stripe to think God (if He exists) has human-like hands located in a small part of this vast universe. What, though, about seeing “the hand of God” as a metaphor for divine action in the origin and maintenance of the universe? Perhaps WND had the best take on that. The article refers to the many scientists from Isaac Newton onward who considered the universe as a manifestation of intelligent design. Arthur Robinson told WND, “Scientists during most of history have recognized that the vast natural beauty they are privileged to see and study could only have been the product of an awesome Creator.” In this sense, the hand of God that ordained the laws of physics is a hidden hand behind this nebula, just as it is for everything in the universe.
As for the claim that man can explain the universe by “natural astrophysical phenomena,” reality often challenges such confidence. Astronomers just found an object that defies description. Astrobiology Magazine wrestled with an observation that “may challenge traditional understandings about how planets and stars form.” It’s too small to be a star, but the two leading theories for planet formation – core accretion and disk instability – seem inadequate to explain it.
Even those who believe God had a “hand” in the origin of the universe need to confront the follow-on question: was the cosmic clockmaker a deistic God who wound it up and let it run on its own, or is He personally involved? Theistic evolutionists need to face all the problems we routinely point out in these pages with evolutionary theory, not the least of which is the origin of the human spirit, with its consciousness, conscience, and free will. Deny that those are creations from the direct “hand of God” after the stars were made, and you abandon all hope to know anything is true, including all of science.
The Bible uses the metaphor of the hand of God often. A hand is a symbol of action: the instrument of a personal will. While denying that God (who is a spirit) has human-like body parts, the Bible frequently speaks of God leading Israel with His strong right arm, holding His children in His hand, and crushing the wicked with His fist. It would make an interesting Bible study project to examine all the metaphorical references to the hand of God. In many places the hand of the Lord is associated with creation: e.g., Isaiah 41:20, “that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
At times, God did have literal human hands. In the many theophanies (human manifestations of God’s presence) of the Old Testament, God appeared in human form (the “Angel of the Lord”) to Adam, Abraham, and others. It was for their sake, not His, since He never ceases to be omnipresent and omnipotent. The last and most important of these was the birth of Jesus Christ, Creator of all, as a baby in a manger with tiny infant hands. As He grew throughout the stages of normal human life and development (to be tempted in all points as we are), He used His hands as a carpenter, as a teacher, and as a gentle shepherd to hold little children and touch the eyes of the blind. To become our merciful High Priest, He took nails in His hands, was crucified, buried and raised again for our salvation. “Doubting Thomas” beheld His nail-pierced hands, exclaiming, “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:27–28).
Now the hand of God, in Christ, knocks at the door of each person’s heart. “If any man opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking (Hebrews 12:25). Peter said, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (I Peter 5:6).
Though Jesus is not present bodily with us in this epoch, having ascended to the right hand of God the Father in heaven (I Peter 3:22), the hand of God can be manifest today through human hands (not that He is served by human hands, Acts 17:25). The human hand is a wonderfully designed tool that could not have evolved by natural processes. Its design proclaims clearly: God is not a distant deity, but a personal Being, involved in our lives, reaching out with abundant mercy and compassion toward the lost, ready to assist those who call upon Him. Our hands can be instruments of His will, sharing His mercy, compassion, and instruction to a world in desperate need of the hand of God.