My name is Hugh Ross, and I am the president of Reasons to Believe, an adjunct faculty
member at Southern Evangelical Seminary, and the minister of apologetics at Sierra Madre Congregational Church. I have a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of British Columbia, a PhD in astronomy from the University of Toronto, and conducted five years of postdoctoral research on quasars and galaxies at the California Institute of Technology. I have authored or co-authored 16 books on apologetics. At this year’s National Conference on Christian Apologetics, my talk, Habitability for Redemption, will be a condensed version of one part of my latest book, Improbable Planet. Here is a summary:
Revelation 7:9 tells us that a countless number of human beings will be part of the redeemed host. Since the first century Greeks’ number system extended up to a billion, countless implies that billions of humans will be saved. What does it take for billions of humans to hear and respond to the gospel message? As I explain in my book, Improbable Planet, it takes a habitability index very different than the one in use by astrobiologists.
Astrobiologists consider a planet habitable if it resides the appropriate distance from its star where, at some moment in the planet’s history and at some location on the planet’s surface, the temperature might permit the existence of at least a small quantity of liquid water. By this definition of habitability, about 20 percent of all planets are habitable. The percentage drops dramatically below 0.01 percent, however, if one defines habitability as a planet that can possess liquid water on more than half its surface for more than half its history.
The water habitable zone, however, is just one of the known zones required for habitability. So far, the following nine have been discovered: water habitable zone; ultraviolet habitable zone; photosynthetic habitable zone; ozone habitable zone; planetary rotation rate habitable zone; planetary obliquity habitable zone; tidal habitable zone; astrosphere habitable zone; and electric field habitable zone.
For a planet to be truly habitable, all nine of these zones must overlap. Of the 3,400 planets that astronomers have discovered, only one exists where all nine zones overlap—Earth.
Habitability for Redeeming Billions of Humans
The requirements for habitability are exponentially more demanding to make possible the redemption of billions of humans. First, it requires a universe that is exactly the size, mass, and age as ours, with the same set of physical laws as ours. Second, the planet must be no larger and no smaller than Earth. The planet must have 3.8 billion years of continuous life history and continuous aggressive plate tectonic activity. Third, the planet’s star must be exactly halfway through its nuclear-burning history. Only when the Sun is 4.57 billion years old is its x-ray and ultraviolet radiation levels low enough not to threaten human existence, and its luminosity stable enough to permit a global high-technology civilization.
The Sun, like all nuclear-burning stars, gets brighter as it ages. The brightening of the Sun makes it virtually impossible for Earth to sustain life for 3.8 billion years. More challenging yet is that Earth must be experiencing an ice age cycle in order for billions of humans to live on Earth at one time. Only an ice age cycle where Earth oscillates between 10 and 23 percent ice coverage with a period of about 100,000 years is it possible, during a uniquely stable interglacial, to grow enough food to feed several billion humans.
To get any amount of ice on Earth this late in Earth’s history, given the brightness of the Sun, is miraculous. These five simultaneous, major, and unprecedented tectonic events made it possible:
- Near enclosure of the Arctic Sea by continental landmasses and large islands
- Separation of Antarctica from Australia and South America and its movement to the South Pole
- Joining together of North and South America by a land bridge
- Movement of Greenland northward by 1,200 miles and the uplift of its landmass by nearly 10,000 feet
- Separation of Indian subcontinent from Madagascar and its subsequent high velocity collision with Asia
Without these simultaneous tectonic events there now would be no ice over any part of Earth, nor any possibility of ice in the future, nor any possibility of human civilization, nor any possibility of billions of people hearing and responding to the gospel message.
These recent scientific discoveries of the extraordinary fine-tuning required for advanced life suggest that God designed every aspect of the universe, every event in its history, and every life-form that has ever existed to enable billions of humans in a very short period of time to hear and respond to the gospel. Indeed, the latest biblical and scientific research increasingly affirms this conclusion.
The Bible explicitly states (for example, 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2) and in many other texts implies that God’s works of redemption began before his works of creation. Every Bible passage on creation that is longer than a few verses consistently links the doctrine of creation to the doctrine of redemption. Thus, the Bible apparently claims that every one of God’s works of creation is for the purpose of bringing about the redemption of a countless number of human beings.
The story I tell in my new book Improbable Planet describes and documents the latest scientific findings demonstrating that the entire extent and history of the universe, our Milky Way Galaxy, our solar system, Earth, and all Earth’s life must be exactly the way it was and is for the redemption of a large population of humans to be possible. In the context of what is needed for God to efficiently, effectively, and quickly redeem billions of humans, nothing less than the miraculous handiwork of God at every moment, at every place, and in every life-form will do. As the psalmist declares, “The heavens proclaim his righteousness and all peoples see his glory,” (Psalm 97:6) and “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures,” (Psalm 104:24).
What I love most about the NCCA is the opportunity before and after the lectures to answer questions and to talk to people one-on-one and in small groups about new reasons to believe and how to present those reasons to bring unbelievers to faith in Christ. I look forward to meeting you and talking with you at the conference in October.