What is a star?

A star is a luminous ball of gas, mostly hydrogen and helium, held together by its own gravity. Nuclear fusion reactions in its core support the star against gravity and produce photons and heat, as well as small amounts of heavier elements. The Sun is the closest star to Earth. This is a simple definition of a star. But it’s wrong.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, Eustace Scrubb makes a faulty statement about stars.

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

[Ramandu replies,]

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

What does that mean? I think Lewis is trying to show us, that in the modern age we live in, we have resorted to only speaking about things empirically, because that’s all we can say about them, lest we invoke God. To be fair, that’s all science can do, but the question asked is not a scientific one, it’a a philosophical one, or better yet, a theological one.

We need to remember to speak theologically about things. A star is made of gas, but that gas is a beautiful display of God’s power, immensity, and creativity.