Venus and the Deceitfulness of Sin
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
Genesis 3:6: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
The solar system includes the sun and the objects which orbit it. Among these objects are eight planets. There used to be nine planets but scientists have decided that Pluto no longer qualifies. The closest planet to the sun is Mercury. It can be seen with our eyes, but it takes some practice and can only be seen a certain times. The second planet, which we will be talking about more, is Venus. It is also known as the evening and morning star. The Earth is the third planet from the sun. I trust you are quite familiar with Earth. Next comes Mars. It is easily noticed by its red colour. Next is Jupiter, the largest planet. It is larger than all the other planets put together. It has a whitish colour but is not as bright as Venus. Saturn is the planet farthest from the sun which can be seen with just the human eye. It has a golden colour like the colour of ripe wheat which is why Saturn is known as the god of the harvest. Uranus and Neptune come last. They are both bluish and can only be seen with telescopes.
After the sun and moon, Venus is the brightest object in the sky. It dazzles the eye with its brilliant white light, whether it is visible in the morning or evening sky. Venus can be especially beautiful when it is near the moon. Venus’ size, nearly the same as Earth’s, and proximity, as the closest planet to Earth, puts it just at the cusp of the human eye’s ability to discern it not as a point of light but as having size. Those who have particularly acute vision have claimed to see the slowly changing phases of Venus. This optical challenge is part of the allure of observing Venus.
It is understandable how such a bright, beautiful, purely shining object would be named after the Roman goddess of beauty. The Greeks called this planet Aphrodite, also their goddess of love and beauty. I doubt this love is the “agape” love with which we are familiar from the New Testament but is likely an ignoble form of attraction with which the Greek culture was intimately familiar. Agape love is affection, good-will and a willingness to help when someone is in need. It is the love which Christians have for fellow Christians.
It is a rare astronomical event for Venus to pass between the Earth and the sun. Years ago these were very important events because by observing Venus pass in front of the sun, scientists could learn more about the path which Venus and the Earth take around the sun. In 1761, a Russian scientist used a telescope to observe Venus’ transit across the sun’s face. He wanted to measure Venus’ diameter. He experienced a little difficulty, however, when he noticed the edges of Venus’ disk were not sharp and crisp, but fuzzy. He quickly realized this meant Venus had an atmosphere!
About the same time, a noted French scientist developed an idea called the nebular hypothesis. He proposed that the planets formed out of rings of gas left over from the formation of the solar system. The rings furthest from the sun cooled first, with the inner planets forming later. The belief among astronomers was that Mars was a planet past its prime, Earth was in the prime of life and Venus is what Earth was like many aeons ago.
The late 1800s saw the rise of a scientific theory called “pluralism,” the belief in the existence of life on an infinite number of habitable planets throughout the universe. This coincided with the period when Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution caught the public’s interest. The conclusion of the scientific community was that, if organisms could develop and evolve on Earth, then why not on other planets? Venus, with its atmosphere (assumed to have oxygen) and nearness to the warmth of the sun, was thought a prime candidate for the development of life. Coupled with the idea of the nebular hypotheses, Venus was thought to be a swampy world, covered with dripping vegetation which flourished in a steamy climate in which some form of life was evolving. Venus was imagined to be a tropical paradise. A book I recently read about the planets, Lives of the Planets, titles the chapter from which this information was taken, “The Greenhouse in the Sky: Venus.”
The reality of this dazzlingly beautiful planet is in great contrast to what was once imagined. The first hint came in the 1920s when scientists began to study the light reflected by Venus to determine the chemicals its atmosphere contained. Scientists were surprised to find very little water vapour there (meaning Venus was not a swampy, prehistoric Earth) but they did find an abundance of carbon dioxide, a gas which would trap the heat of the nearby sun and could possibly make the planet very warm.
Then, in 1956, astronomers turned their radio telescopes toward Venus. They found that Venus was emitting great amounts of microwave radiation, a clue that the surface of Venus was very, very hot. In December of 1962, a space probe launched by the United States, Mariner 2, flew by Venus. Here is a summary of the probes findings: “In fact, the results showed that the surface of Venus is not just hot, it is as hot as the interior of a self-cleaning oven ... [There are] no global oceans, no swamps, no giant tree ferns, no enormous insects, and no amphibian-like creatures crawling their way toward sentience.”
Venus, despite its gorgeous appearance, is no Garden of Eden. The Soviet Union sent several probes to Venus’ surface in the 1960s and 1970s. These probes were built to withstand temperatures of 500° Celsius and atmospheric pressures equal to being 3,000 feet underwater. Soviet scientists were amazed their probes functioned for about an hour because they were designed to work for thirty minutes. Venus, once thought to be lush and verdant, was actually a caustic, extremely hot, pressure cooker. Looks can be deceiving.
Now we’ll go back to Genesis 3. Eve saw the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Its fruit was not foul smelling, nor was it corrupted with rot and worms. While holding it in her hand, the fruit did not ooze through her fingers in some sloppy, rotten mess. She saw fruit which had every appearance of being good. Her eyes were pleased with what she saw. To take and eat would make her wise. The fruit was alluring and desirable.
That is the story of sin. Satan presents the world of sin to us in ways which appeal to us. Satan also knows that different temptations will be alluring to different people. What is tempting to one might hold no appeal at all to another. Yet it is the same in essence. Sin looks good to our weak flesh. To enter into its pleasures would bring us happiness and joy. Satan would have us believe that.
These things can happen in our school. We are tempted to treat someone in a way which we know is unkind. We can think of things to say which we know would hurt the other person. However, by doing these things we feel we can make ourselves look better. We can show how bold we are. We can make others laugh at someone as we put them down.
However, what are the spiritual effects of sin? Adam and Eve learned only too well. The happiness promised by Satan never materialized. Instead, Adam and Eve now fled in shame from God’s face. They couldn’t enjoy His holy company as they previously had. They found they weren’t happy at all, and we must remember that, as yet, Adam and Eve had not learned that their Creator was the God of redemption. They were miserable as they wondered what God would do with them.
The next time we see Venus as the beautiful, glorious morning or evening star and are reminded of the goddess of love and beauty, keep in mind what lurks beneath her clouds. She is not what she appears to be. As we struggle daily with our sinful flesh, we must keep in mind the alluring nature of sin and temptation. What appears to be so inviting and pleasant, is actually very caustic for the soul. Give thanks to the God of our redemption in Jesus Christ who gives wisdom to His people to save them from the deceitfulness of sin.