Where the Science Ends

When it comes to the big questions about meaning and existence, we shouldn’t be guessing or hoping. The stakes are too high.

Where the Sidewalk Ends is Shel Silverstein’s delightful look at the world beyond the boring, paint-by-numbers life of the grownups. It’s sweet and silly, with whimsical poetry that dares to ponder the imponderable. What happens when a “hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean-buyer” gets to dream unhindered? What lies “over the sun and beyond the blue”? 

It might be fun to imagine such fantastical things, but Silverstein’s literary musings, outlandish as they are, do nothing to answer our big questions. 

Or do they? Because that is where my questions take me. What awaits us “over the sun”? And why do we think about it at all? 

I sought scientific answers to questions that begin where the science ends.

Early in life, my natural curiosity frustrated me. As the adopted son of missionaries, I grew up away from television (imagine!). We lived in a rural part of Ghana’s Upper West Region. This gave me an unusual look at the wide, wide world. My parents had a car and a motorcycle. None of my friends’ parents had anything more than a bicycle. Toys? I had a dozen or so, which was a dozen more than my friends had. 

About my troublesome curiosity though. Being an MK (that’s a missionary kid), I got a steady diet of Sunday-school stories and theology. This led my little mind to ask big questions—questions that good MKs weren’t supposed to ask. I didn’t like the answers I got. It seemed as though the grownups were saying, “Oh, isn’t that cute?” I did not think I was cute. I was deeply serious. 

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I had questions like “Who made God?” Or “How could there be a time when there was nothing?” Or the obvious flipside of that question: “If something was always there, how is that possible? Everything has a beginning!”

Mind you, I was asking these questions when I was four or five years old. Pity my poor parents!

My problem was that I sought scientific answers to questions that begin where the science ends. And that is precisely where our largest questions lie. Sooner or later, we have to go there. I went there sooner. Better now than when we die. 

My youthful mind needed a basic apologetic. This does not mean to be sorry for kicking your sister in the shins or feeding her crayons to the dog. Apologetics is simply a plausible defense of what we believe about theology—the study of (or the possibility of) God. When it comes to the big questions about meaning and existence, we shouldn’t be guessing or hoping. The stakes are too high. We need a rigorous and authentic approach to the questions beyond science. To ignore those huge questions is simply a form of denial.

But where are we to find the answers?