“There isn’t much direct evidence for you, you know.” I said. “I mean all we have are traces and clues.”
“Yes, whispers of my presence.”
“But, you whisper very quietly. It’s almost as if you’ve withdrawn from the world – many wonder if you were ever here in the first place.”
“Withdrawn? No,” he said “Hidden. Yes.”
“I am deeply present in all of creation. Without me and my active involvement, nothing could exist or continue to exist. Yet, to mankind, I am hidden. Our conscious bond, our daily, practical, intimate relationship is broken. So I am hidden from man.”
“But why?” I said. “Why not show yourself to the world? That would solve everything.”
“If that were so, it would be done immediately,” he said. “But doubt isn’t the problem, trust is.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will,” he said. We sat there like two old friends, the silence a companion of long standing. Then he spoke again. “You have all the proof you need.”
“That’s the point. Traces and clues but nothing concrete that we can point to as a definitive proof that you are there.”
1. From Nothing to Something
Until recently, most people believed that the universe was infinite and held the potential for life everywhere. The laws of mechanics developed by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726) dominated the thinking of the majority of scientists and philosophers and with good reason. Great strides were made in our understanding of the world and the processes that made up how our complex existence functioned. But beyond Sir Isaac Newton, following close on his work and bringing it to its logical and philosophical conclusion, was one of the most influential thinkers of all time, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).
He believed that the origin of the universe was unknowable and, in any event, unimportant. What mattered was that the universe was infinite. He believed that the universe always had life-favorable conditions, even though life on our world developed more recently. Since the universe was, for him, infinitely old and also infinitely large, without boundaries or end, the possibility existed that life could result naturally by random chance. This belief in a static, infinite universe is the foundation of Darwinian evolutionism and rational Atheism.
It is this view of the world that has, over the last two centuries, radically changed how people understand life and reality. It is easy to understand why that was the case. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross sums it up this way:
The view of an infinite cosmos in which these changes were rooted received greater and greater theoretical and observational support. As stronger optics carried astronomers deeper into the heavens, all they could see was more of the same kinds of stars and nebulae (gas clouds) they had already seen up close. Thousands of stars and a few dozen nebulae became billions of stars and millions of nebulae. It seemed endless. Astronomers and laypeople alike were boggled by the immensity of it all.
But then an engineer, and part time physicist, named Albert Einstein (1879-1955), discovered relativity and the first accurate measurements of the velocity of light were made and a revolution began. One key concept about the universe that came from the equations of general relativity shows that the universe is both expanding and slowing down at the same time.
Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), a well-known astronomer, measured forty different galaxies and proved in 1929 that the galaxies were indeed expanding away from each other. He was also able to determine the velocity of that expansion. It wasn’t until 1992 that the final elements in the Big Bang theory were confirmed.
The closest analogy that we have to explain the phenomena of a universe that is both expanding and slowing down is an explosion, hence, the name the “Big Bang” theory. In any event, the fact of expansion and deceleration, worked backwards, will eventually result in a beginning point.
It is not just movement but movement away from each other that is the key to understanding that, in the past, the universe had an ever decreasing size to the point of “singularity.” However that singularity is understood, it is now an accepted scientific belief that there was a beginning point to the universe in terms of energy, matter, space and even to time itself.
There was nothing and then, there was something.
“Tell me about these traces and clues and traces of clues,” he said.
“Well, many people believe that creation itself is evidence of something more, something transcendent, maybe even divine.”
“Yes, but even outside of the Bible, people have come to that conclusion.”
“Well, that makes sense,” he said. “Creation was the first book I wrote but most have lost the ability to read it properly.”
I said nothing and the night was filled with the sound of chicadees at work.
“It was a birthday present, you know.”
“A birthday present?”
“Yes, for Adam….and for you. For each one of you on the day of your birth.”
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you, I guess.”
“Yes, not knowing what to say seems to be the appropriate response,” he said, “especially given what you’ve done with it.” A holy sigh slipped into the night.
He was right. I didn’t know what to say but, after a moment, I continued anyway.
“The sheer beauty and grandeur of the world we live in seems to speak of something more, perhaps somebody, behind it all.”
“Beauty and grandeur?” he said. “It doesn’t sound very scientific.”
“Maybe not, but science isn’t everything.”
“Really? Do you really believe that?”
“I don’t know. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. The world was a lot simpler, more mysterious and awe inspiring, before Copernicus.”
“Copernicus? The polish astronomer?” he said. “He did some good work in biology as well as astronomy. Why do you blame him?”
“He was right, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, he was.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
“Well, before Copernicus, we believed that the earth was the center of a universe you created and that everything existed for our benefit and your glory.”
“Well, that’s true, too.”
“But after Copernicus, science systematically explained how the world worked and the laws that govern it and we found out that we were just a ball of dirt caught in the grip of a star much larger than our planet in the midst of a vast universe seemingly without end.”
“But that’s true too. Without the “just” part.”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“You are not just a ball of dirt. You are my children.” He stood up and walked over to the tree, looking up into the night. Then he turned toward me and said, “Perhaps you needed to learn the difference between understanding the world, the way I have created it, and jumping to conclusions about who was behind it all and the role that humans play in the drama of the cosmos.”
“Yes, I see what you mean,” I said. “Understanding that there are laws of nature doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lawmaker….and a law-sustainer.”
“Law-sustainer,” he said. “I like that. Is that even a word?” He started to laugh and I smiled along with him. Then he got serious again.
“Now it appears that your scientific method has brought you in recent years to the far reaches of the universe as well as the intricacies of the smallest atom. And what did you find there?”
“Science has discovered eternity,” I said.
“Discovered eternity. That sounds exciting. What do you mean?”
“We discovered time before time and space outside of our three dimensions at the very beginning of the universe.”
“Impressive. I want to hear more.” He looked out at the expanse of the stars. “I was hoping that mankind would also discover eternity in their own hearts. That would be a discovery that could change everything.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I kept quiet. But he wasn’t finished.
“What else did your scientists discover recently?” he asked.
“Apparently, there is very strong scientific evidence for intelligent design in creation and the belief that the entire universe was created for the purpose of sustaining human life on earth.”
“Amazing,” he said. “So we are back, full circle, to Copernicus. Now mankind realizes again that the universe is about them and that everything exists for your benefit and my glory.”
It was a statement not a question.
“In the meantime,” he said quietly, “you lost hundreds of years in doubt and unbelief and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people lost their faith in me.”
I could not answer. I didn’t know what to say.
“You were right,” he said after a moment. “Science isn’t everything.”
2. The Discovery of Eternity
One of the key aspects of the Big Bang theory is the discovery of eternity.
Not everyone would use that language of course, but the facts are still irrefutable. There was nothing and then, there was something. When we say that there was “nothing”, we are stating that energy and matter did not exist. Therefore, space and time did not exist. By space, we refer to the universal experience of height, length and depth – our three dimensional experience. By time, we refer to that dimension in which cause-and-effect take place, in which the laws of physics are at work, and which continues at a set pace and is not reversible.
Of course, we are talking about time and space in the real world of observable phenomena and experience.
In essence, general relativity theory refers only to matter and energy and postulates that the universe began in an explosion of energy producing matter with the resulting formation of galaxies and planets. Then, in the late 1960´s, came the space-time theorem of general relativity. Astrophysicist, Hugh Ross, explains what happened.
In a series of papers appearing from 1966 to 1970, three British astrophysicists, Stephen Hawking, George Ellis, and Roger Penrose, extended the solution of the equations of general relativity to include space and time. The result was called the space-time theorem of general relativity. This theorem demonstrated that if general relativity is valid for the universe, then, under very general conditions, space and time must have originated in the same cosmic bang that brought matter and energy into existence. In Hawking´s words, time itself must have a beginning.
The validity of the space-time theorem is directly related to the validity of the principles of general relativity as proposed by Einstein. He, himself, proposed tests that would either validate his theories or not. Other tests have been added and much work has been done to validate the theory of general relativity with observational evidence. Tests began within the context of the gravity fields of our solar system and were found to be consistent with Einstein’s theory.
But what about further into space? Perhaps general relativity might not apply in much stronger gravitational fields such as a binary pulsar. But, by 1992, these concerns were also laid to rest. The shrinking of errors and the confirmation of multiple tests reduced the possibility of inaccuracy in the general relativity equations practically to nil.
If time and space, matter and energy all had a beginning, what started it all? Quantum physicists and particle theory scientists may want to study the dynamics of that initial split second of released energy in what we call the Big Bang, but what about “before”? What was before the Big Bang? What caused the Big Bang? Was it a spontaneous event of chance? How so?
Even blind chance must have something to work with, some power (energy), some thing (matter), which if it existed pre-Big Bang, must be outside of our concept and experience of time and space.
That is the key to our dilemma. There must be another dimension of time and of space, another source of power (or energy) that can create matter. Whether that source of energy, existing in another dimension of space and time, is a person or simply an amoral, unthinking, force of pre-nature, still needs to be determined.
The implication is that the universe, as we experience it, did not actually come from “nothing” but rather “something.” Better said, our universe, with its four dimensions of time and space and it’s interaction of matter and energy, was certainly created out of “nothing” but it was created by “something.” Something was there.
At the same time, that “something” is by definition and in relation to us, transcendent (existing outside of our space-time continuum and not made up of any matter or energy that we are familiar with or that exists in our universe). It can also, logically, be called the “creator” or, if you like, the “causer” (or First Cause) of our universe.
Whether this is merely an extra-dimensional “force” or a “personal being” of some sort, can be determined by a study of the incredible precision necessary in the releasing of the energies and forces at the beginning of time so that life, especially human life, became possible in the universe that was created.
Noted journalist and former atheist, Lee Strobel, sums up the scientific evidence this way:
“The Big Bang was actually a highly ordered event… An infinitesimal difference in the rate of the universe’s initial expansion, the strength of gravity or the weak force, or dozens of other constants and quantities would have created a life-prohibiting rather than a life-sustaining universe.”
Even Einstein believed in “the presence of a superior reasoning power” present at that initial moment of time. He believed that this transcendent cause was intelligent and creative but not necessarily personal. Not for scientific reasons, as he himself readily admited, but rather because he simply could not accept the personal God of the Bible in a world full of pain, suffering and evil. He could not resolve, philosophically, the paradox of God’s predestination and man’s free choice. However we resolve the secular or religious problem of evil or the paradox of free choice, there seems to be no rational argument to hold that a being who is both intelligent and creative is not also personal.
Einstein did not live to see the incredible accumulation of scientific evidence that strongly indicates that the universe was created with the purpose of providing a habitat for human life. Intelligence and care in the initial moments of the universe have been supplemented with incredible design and other, subsequent “out of nothing” creative moments as the universe expanded, as our solar system was formed and, especially, as our planet became populated with life.
Creation may have begun with the Big Bang but it did not end there. The out of nothing creational “days” apparently continued until the dawn of human life on earth.
In other words, subsequent scientific inquiry has shown that the Big Bang event did not merely set in motion certain “evolutionary” processes that resulted in life the way we experience it today. There were, apparently, other “out of nothing” creative moments that were vital to the development of life as we know it. Eternity was at work.
“I think you have something more than traces and clues,” he said.
“Maybe so,” I said. “At first glance it would seem to indicate your presence rather strongly. But many scientists simply don’t want to go there and they come up with all sorts of other explanations.”
“Really? Like what?”
“Well, it started with Einstein’s repulsive force, which simply didn’t stand up to scrutiny and then the steady state universe or “continual creation” theory and even the “bouncing universe” idea where the universe reduces to zero volume and then bounces back.”
“What makes it bounce?”
“Exactly. It puts you right back to the question of a creator, or bouncer, I suppose. But anyway, those were mostly attempts before the final elements of the Big Bang theory were confirmed in 1992. Now it seems that most people are maintaining a “wait and see” attitude.”
“What are they waiting to see?”
“I think that they are hoping to find a unified field theory that can describe exactly what happened in that first split second when you released your power.”
“What have they come up with so far?”
“Well,” I said. “The four main elements of physics were present in that first split second. The strong and weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force and gravity.”
“Ok, how does that help us?”
“Well, they are trying to get down to a singular, elemental source of power and then, I suppose, try to figure out where that came from.”
“That sounds interesting. How far have they gotten?”
“It seems that everything comes down to gravity. One of our greatest scientists is now saying that gravity is a necessary, and therefore eternal, force in the universe.”
“That seems like a leap in logic. How did he get from “after” the Big Bang to “before”?
“Exactly,” I said. “But we don’t have anything else and gravity is a non-personal force of nature that we can live with. It’s better than the alternative….” I looked at him quickly. “I didn’t mean for me….I…I…meant for the world….for the scientists and philosophers….and not everybody agrees….I mean…about gravity being eternal and everything….”
“I understand.” He was quiet for a long moment. “I don’t really have a problem with gravity being eternal,” he said finally. “I have a problem with gravity being non-personal.”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t I tell you in my book already thousands of years ago that I was the one holding all things together by the power of my word?”
I was stunned. Yes, it was true. I didn’t know what to say.
He looked at me for a long moment, the shadow of a smile on his face. Then he continued. “Yes, I know. That last step is a big one. It takes faith.”
“So it isn’t doubt that is so much the problem as faith….as trust?”
“Exactly. The question is why they don’t trust me. That is harder to get a handle on but let’s go back to the beginning. I still have a few questions for you.”
“Ok, fire away.”
“Let’s assume, for the moment, that gravity is the foundational, elemental force that creates or generates all the rest. And let’s agree that rationally, you can’t say that gravity is eternal just because it is a handy non-threatening solution.”
“Granted, on both fronts.”
“The question is, how do they go from “after” to “before”? Gravity needs something to hold together, some matter. And gravity, by definition is an expression of energy. Didn’t you say that everything can be reduced to nothing or are you saying that everything can be reduced to a singularity that cannot be reduced? If so, how will that help them figure out what happened “before” the power was released?”
“I don’t think they really know. They are just hoping for some kind of breakthrough,” I said. “But if they can stop at a singularity based on the laws of physics, they will.”
“It sounds like they have a lot of faith that science will come up with something.”
“One thing is for sure,” I said. “The shoe is on the other foot now. Science is not so sure of itself anymore. There is no scientific reason to stop at the singularity, even if they are right that gravity is the foundational source of energy in the universe. In order to stop there they have to abandon science and retreat to philosophy and cosmology and they know it. Scientists seem to be more careful these days about making sweeping conclusions about their view of the world.”
“Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is,” I said. “Their predisposition against the supernatural has been put to the test and more scientists are making a distinction between their science, their philosophy and their metaphysics.”
“Beyond physics. About you, and the origin of the universe, and whether or not we have a purpose or meaning. All of the big questions in life.”
“So everything is as it should be then?”
“Well, not quite. There’s still the other side of the picture.”
“You mean there’s more?”
“Well, just the design and intelligence that the world seems to have. It seems hard to believe in the kind of evolutionary chance that could result in the world as we see it and experience it.”
“Only if there is no God. If you speak up, they would be completely discredited.”
“But I did speak up.” He paused. “What more could I say?”
I shook my head. It was hard to accept. But he was right.
“So, again, it is not a question of doubt in my existence,” he said, “or knowledge about me but one of trust. Just as it was at the beginning.”
His teaching was gentle, but insistent.
3. Intelligence, Creativity, Design
One of the assumptions of the last two and a half centuries has been that the universe was infinite in size and that it always existed. That has now been shown to be incorrect. Our generation has discovered how to measure the cosmos and probe the deepest mysteries of the universe.
The other assumption made by the Kantian worldview is that the basic building blocks of life have always been available and that the universe, and our world specifically, had enough time to allow random chance to assemble those building blocks in such a way as to naturally cause life to develop. There are two sets of evidence that have come to light that make this assumption fail.
On the one hand, the relatively recent origin of the universe, measured in billions rather than trillions of years, does not leave enough time for random chance to function even if the right ingredients for life were readily available.
On the other hand, molecular science, as well as astronomy and physics, has discovered a complex world of molecules, atoms, nucleons and electrons that are so finely tuned that even a small variation in a complex web of parameters would make life impossible in our universe (or on our earth).
Lee Strobel makes the comment that “In the past thirty-five years, scientists have been stunned to discover how life in the universe is astoundingly balanced on a razor’s edge.” This idea that the universe “possesses narrowly defined characteristics that permit the possibility of a habitat for humans” is called the Anthropic Principle.
Of course, it could just be coincidence but the statistical level of possibility (blind chance) is so astronomical that it is patently difficult to quantify it. The popular approach, used by many rational atheists today, is to assume that blind chance has indeed happened since we are here after all.
This is, of course, to abandon a rational approach to a naturalistic explanation for the world as it is observed and experienced. A rational approach would attempt to attach all truth statements to the observable reality of our world.
A dependence on blind chance to account for the “cause” of the universe is as much a faith statement as a belief in a personal God – without even accounting for the inescapable indications of intelligence, creativity and design. In fact, it could be argued that it is “blind faith” that makes “blind chance” the cause of life in the universe. Blind to the overwhelming evidence of intelligence, creativity and design which indicates a transcendent personality at work. Yes, that also requires faith, but faith based on real world evidence.
Cosmologists Bernard Carr and Martin Rees state that “nature does exhibit remarkable coincidences and these do warrant some explanation.” Bernard Carr, in another article, gives a further thought that is worth mentioning. He says:
“One would have to conclude either that the features of the universe invoked in support of the Anthropic Principle are only coincidences or that the universe was indeed tailor-made for life. I will leave it to the theologians to ascertain the identity of the tailor!”
If these “remarkable coincidences” are truly a sign of intelligence, creativity and design with the purpose of supporting life, especially human life, on earth, the obvious question would be – why? And if there is a purpose, there must be a “who” behind that purpose. There can be no intelligence, creativity or design without a personal being to exercise those attributes. All of our experience over thousands of years of recorded history has never encountered, not even once, not even in machines, the attributes of intelligence, creativity and design without also personality, and, in this case, a transcendent personality.
But perhaps that is already a step of faith that is beyond most people’s ability to take. Suffice it to say that the burden of proof is now on the other side of the equation and we now live in a post-positivist world in which the minimum expectation for intellectual honesty would be some form of theistic agnosticism.
Atheism and all forms of Pantheism and the worldviews depending on them, are now scientifically suspect. Theism, especially biblical theism, fits the scientific evidence most closely and is therefore rational even if, for many, not conclusive.
That is, to say the least, an interesting place to be.
“There is the argument,” I said, “from the appearance of life on our planet and the exact circumstances that had to appear for it to exist. For many people, that is a clue to intelligent design but for others it is merely an impersonal act of chance in an amoral world. It has no meaning and no purpose, though we are thankful that it happened.”
“It sounds depressing,” he said.
“It is. If we exist by chance, then there is no purpose and without purpose there is no meaning to life. But it is a circular argument as well. Life exists. We are here. It’s an amazing one-in-a-billion chance, a truly long shot but the proof is in the pudding. We are here after all, so it must have happened.”
“Obviously, it happened,” he said dryly. “The question is how it happened. They must have theories about that too, I suppose.”
“Yes, of course, but nothing approaching certainty or proof.”
“That doesn’t sound like much to build a life on.”
“It’s all they have and I’m not sure that any of them really want to take a close look at the alternative,” I said. “After all, as soon as they admit that you are there, they have to ask the next question.”
“What’s the next question?” he asked, turning to look at me.
“The obvious question is, what do you want? If you are God and you are there, you are also in charge. You are the Creator, after all. If you are in charge, you could ask us to do things we don’t want to do.”
“Exactly,” he said. “They don’t trust me.”
4. The Origin of Life
If the remarkable coincidences that make up the parameters or context for life on our world are amazing, the actual development of life is infinitely more so. The discussion on the parameters for life fundamentally assumes that if life is to exist (which it obviously does) there are necessary ingredients and processes that the world and the universe must have to sustain that life.
Now we take a further step and ask how life itself began, given the incredible context of “remarkable coincidences” that make sustaining life possible. Did some unknown, transcendent being (not confined to time or space) start the universe and then leave life to come into being through natural processes?
Can Darwinian evolutionism be saved by the Anthropic Principle with only a minimal deistic acknowledgement of the transcendent at the beginning? Apparently not.
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross explains:
“For the universe and the solar system we noted some characteristics that must be fine tuned to better than one part in 10(37) for life to be possible. But, the fine tunings necessary to build an independent, functioning organism require precision crafting such as people have never before imagined, precision to one part in a number so big that it would fill thousands of books to write out.”
The first problem that biologists face, when it comes to the origin of life, is the issue of the time scale. There simply isn’t enough time available “for natural processes to perform the necessary assembly.” Life is recent and unexpected on earth despite conditions that would sustain that life. In fact, some of the very atmospheric conditions that are necessary to sustain life are not the right conditions necessary for life to start to develop naturally without any intelligent intervention.
It isn’t just the development of a basic living entity from non-living building blocks (as difficult, if not impossible, as that may be), but also the assembly of those basic living entities into a living organism. The incredible amount of specific information contained in every living cell and the vast array of options that need to be decided for the step-by-step construction of each cell are far beyond anything that Mr. Darwin could imagine in his time, long before the advent of molecular biology.
Lee Strobel puts the issue of the origin of life into a succinct summary that is hard to refute.
“Darwinism can offer no credible theory for how life could have emerged naturally from nonliving chemicals. Earth’s early atmosphere would have blocked the development of the building blocks of life, and assembling even the most primitive living matter would be so outrageously difficult that it absolutely could not have been the product of unguided or random processes. On the contrary, the vast amount of specific information contained inside every living cell – encoded in the four-letter chemical alphabet of DNA – strongly confirms the existence of an Intelligent Designer who was behind the miraculous creation of life.”
No one doubts that there is some form of microevolution within a species but the basis for a macro-evolutionary origin to human life is at odds with the strong evidence for intelligent design in the creation of living organisms. The necessity for a DNA/RNA source for the development and assembly of any living organism and the obvious unavailability of such a key piece of the puzzle begs for a supernatural origin from the same transcendent being who both created the universe out of nothing and did so in such a way as to support and sustain human life. The “creation” of human DNA/RNA strands by an intelligent being is a necessary and logical condition for the existence of human life on our planet.
Of course, one could argue that, in light of the available information, it is best to remain agnostic and wait for more details to surface or for another explanation of the origins of life to come to light.
Perhaps in the context of scientific debate, that agnosticism would be the most intellectually honest approach, but in the context of life in general, many scientists and atheists are having a difficult time maintaining their former positivism and/or absolutism for a naturalistic explanation of the world.
God has made his presence known – scientifically.
“So, the intelligence and design of the universe gives men pause to think. Good. Anything else, son of Adam?”
“Well, human beings for one thing.”
“Yes, the crown of my creation. I did my best work on my son and daughter. It was very good.” He looked at me with those dark blue eyes which flashed with something fierce. “You think they came from monkeys?”
“Well, that’s the point isn’t it?” I said, with a tremble in my voice. “It is hard to believe. Where did intelligence come from, and personality and morality? Where did this self-awareness come from? Animals don’t have these qualities but man does. How did we bridge that gap?”
“I thought that Mr. Darwin and his followers had all the answers to those questions.”
“Not even close.” I said. “There are theories, of course, but nothing definitive. It always seems to be a bit of a circular argument. Because it exists, it must have evolved. Because it evolved, there is no God.”
“Apparently, the mind is now dimmer than I originally created it. Why not argue it the other way around? Because there is a God, man was created. Because he was created, he exists?”
“There is nothing more natural than the One who created the world,” he said. “But I take your point. Of course, if I created the world, then science is simply the discovery of what I put there. There is no argument between me and science. We are in perfect harmony. It is the scientists themselves who are the problem. They lack the humility of partial and incomplete knowledge.”
“That’s true,” I said, “but many scientists believe that you get in the way of good science.”
“Some people call it the “god of the gaps” problem.”
“Well, throughout history whenever mankind didn’t understand something, he would attribute it to you and settle it that way. It was not very conducive to the scientific process and basically kept mankind in the dark about a lot of things for centuries. Imagine where we could be today if the scientific method had been discovered much earlier?”
“So, by ascribing things to me, scientific progress was thwarted, perhaps even stopped at times.”
“And that’s bad because……”
“Well, science is good.” Isn’t it? “It has advanced civilization,” I said, “cured diseases, battled poverty, made life more comfortable for millions of people. Who knows what we will be able to do in the future?”
“Yes, science is good because it is the discovery of what I put into the creation I have made. But that is not the question. The question is whether science – without me in the picture – is good, or even possible, or even the point.”
The point? “What do you mean?” I said.
“In a world full of evil and suffering and death, science has provided some comfort but it has also obscured the essential issue. Science in the context of redemption can bring great healing but science without redemption is merely a band-aid on a festering wound – no, even worse, a band-aid claiming to be the cure.”
“Most scientists today are trying to stay away from the philosophical and metaphysical questions altogether.”
“Is that possible?” he said.
“Frankly, I’m not sure,” I said. “On the other hand, there are many scientists today that are Christians and they seem to be able to do very good work while still believing in you.”
“How do they do that exactly? Can they really be good scientists if they already know that I am the One who created everything?”
“Science describes the laws that govern the way things happen in the world and even in the universe but Christians believe that a description of how things work doesn’t mean that there is nobody behind it or involved in it.”
“Good. That’s a start in the right direction. Simply because I choose to act in consistent ways, so much so that they appear to be laws to you, that does not mean that I am not intrinsically involved in the very foundations of the world and how it interacts. How could it be otherwise?”
“That’s true,” I said, “once a person believes that you are there.”
“Exactly. It is the “who” not the “how” that is at issue. What was I supposed to say to mankind thousands of years ago? Explain creation through quantum physics and the difference between a classic singularity of general relativity and a quantum singularity? Even that doesn’t quite say it. The point is that they did not need to know the “how” but rather the “who” and that was what I told them. Even today, if I tried to explain the quantum dynamics of the split second after my power was released when I separated the forces of gravity from the strong and weak nuclear forces and the electromagnetic force with the necessary infinite precision so that life would result, or the creation of matter and the clumping of matter, exotic and ordinary, into galaxies and the solar system and earth itself and the life that it produced, how could you even hope to understand it all. A few of you, perhaps, but not most of you. The purpose of the world is not to understand it, as beautiful and helpful as that might be. The purpose of life is to have a relationship, a renewed relationship, with the “who” behind creation, the one who sustains creation and you within it. The one who created this world for you and you for this world. Without the “who,” the “how” is empty and hollow.”
“I see your point. Most people, even today, don’t understand scientific language.”
“That doesn’t mean it isn’t true, at least so far as it goes. Rather, it means that the focus and purpose of my message is different than what a scientist is looking for. He must make a distinction between his life and his work, between his process and his purpose. Only then can he have the humility to accept a reality beyond his ability to study or understand.”
“But what difference does it make?” I said. “It doesn’t affect their ability to study reality and determine the causes of things. A non-Christian scientist can come up with good science just as well as the Christian. In that sense, it makes no difference.”
“It may make no difference to science, but it does to the scientist.”
I shifted nervously in my seat.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” I said.
“It’s obvious that science has gone beyond describing how things work and explaining cause and effect. It has made statements about the origin of life, about the purpose and meaning of life, about the sufficiency of science as a way of looking at the world and fully describing reality. It has created a predisposition in many people against the supernatural, against me. Many have made science their god. It explains life to them without requiring anything in return.”
“Well,” I said carefully, “they certainly wouldn’t see it that way.”
“Of course not. They would call it intellectual honesty. But when science becomes the ground for philosophy and philosophy evaluates metaphysics and all three take the place of theology, there is no room for me and therefore science has become their god. It has become more than an issue of intellectual honesty. Agnosticism would be more honest even if it isn’t more accurate.”
“I am nothing more than an explanation?” He sighed. “And yet, they are saying something more, aren’t they?”
“Yes, most people have taken it a step further and claim that you are therefore not necessary to life. Natural explanations for life are enough.”
“That is a leap of faith.”
“They don’t see it that way.”
“Of course not. But the question remains whether that leap of faith is because they have honest questions about me or whether it is a way to protect themselves from the claims of a God who is there.”
“That is true for all of you, don’t you think? Perhaps it is time to reveal the scientist to himself. He may yet turn to me and be saved.”
“How will you do that, Lord?”
“I already have.”
5. “Scientific” Creationism
That is the greatest discovery of the last thirty to fifty years – the discovery of ourselves, our true motives, our real assumptions. No longer do we live in a world where the naturalistic, atheistic view of life is taken for granted. No longer can anyone merely assume that God is not there.
The “predisposition against the supernatural” has been exposed to scientific scrutiny and found wanting. Atheists are becoming agnostics and many have become theists, biblical theists, embracing the God of the Bible. Science is thinking more clearly, discerning between science itself, and the philosophy, and even theology, or metaphysics of the scientist.
In addition, a basic distinction is now maintained between “origin science” relating to theories on the origins of the universe and biological life, and “operational science” relating to the study of ongoing processes and the methods and procedures used in dealing with observable and repeatable events.
Testimony after testimony of biologists, physicists and astronomers, to name just a few, are now available stating that they, personally, are coming to the “supernatural” conclusion that science is now clearly pointing to. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross, for example, reports that:
“Allan Sandage, winner of the Crafoord prize in astronomy (equivalent to the Nobel prize), remarked, “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”
Up to this point, believers can only be pleased that God has seen fit to reveal the scientist to himself. But there is still a question for us to consider.
Leaving aside the scientific evidence for a moment, how does this all square with the Biblical witness to the creation of the world. This particular discussion is an internal one, specific to those who believe that the personal God revealed in the Bible is also the transcendent creator-being who began the cosmos.
Frankly, many Christians have not always seen the Big Bang Theory in such a positive light, believing (wrongly, it seems) that billions of years would still allow for an evolution of life along the lines of Darwinism. Others want nothing to do with any scientifically based theories (or even evidence) on the origins of life and hold fast to a literal understanding of creation in six days by the God of the Bible.
The question is whether or not you can have both.
The debate within Christian circles is often spoken of in terms of theistic evolution versus young earth creationism, but there is a middle position to consider as well called Progressive Creationism.
Theistic evolution is the view that:
“God created the universe and directly created the first living form. He established the process of evolution. In this view, mutations and natural selection are God’s method for producing His creation. God created matter in such a way that it has to evolve.
However, God also has had involvement in the evolutionary process at specific times, intervening to modify the process. God created the first human being by using an already existing being (one of the higher primates) and giving it a human soul.”
Young earth creationism, on the other hand, would take a more literal view of creation as presented in the Bible. It is described this way,
“God created the universe and all that is in it through direct action. This happened over a very short period of time, perhaps a calendar week. God did not use any indirect means or biological mechanisms to bring His creation into being, but used direct action or contact. In each of His acts of creation, God created the universe initially out of nothing (Gen. 1:1). From the universe he formed human beings and other parts of creation. Each species was created distinct from all others. God made man completely by a direct creative act and then created a woman also.”
Already you can see that the main difference is whether the emphasis is put on a literal reading of the biblical revelation first of all or on the scientific evidence (which is not conclusive on the issue of the origin of man).
The main issues seem to revolve around the age of the universe, recent or billions of years (but no longer infinite), the age of our world, recent or in terms of a few billion years old, as well as the process of creation as evolutionary or with direct theistic involvement or some combination of both.
Science supports the age of the universe in terms of around 14 billion years old, the world in terms of 4.5 billion years old and a combination of evolutionary and direct “out of nothing” creation events in the process of a long creation period. That would mean either theistic evolution (with supporters such as C.S. Lewis, Howard Van Till and Pierre Tielhard de Chardin) or progressive creationism (Norman L. Geisler, Robert C. Newman, and Charles Lyell) would fit the scientific evidence best.
Progressive Creationism can be described in this way:
“God created the universe and all that is in it directly. However, He did this at several points in time, separated by large time spans. When He brought new life forms into existence, He did not use existing matter; He created each from nothing. However, between these acts of creation, development took place within the species through the process of evolution (micro-evolution). God made man directly and completely.”
Although other Christian theories (such as Local Creation Theory, Day-Age Theory, Gap Theory and Pictorial Day Theory) of how to integrate the Biblical revelation with the new scientific evidence also exist, these three (Theistic Evolution, Progressive Creationism and Young Earth Creationism) are the most popular among Christians today.
But, one caution. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that the Young Earth Creationist view lacks scientific backing.
The second law of thermodynamics is often cited as evidence that the universe is decaying at a rate that only allows for thousands not billions of years. In addition the decay of the earth’s magnetic field also supports that view. There are also arguments from astronomy and geology as well as arguments against radiometric dating (carbon 14 dating).
Other scientists would disagree of course.
There is even the possibility of a recent creation of an “old” universe (Ideal-Time Theory). How else could God create the world? Adam was a certain age when he was created and his body must have some evidence of a “history” (with or without a bellybutton). In the same way, the stars could have been created recently, together with all of the light particles necessary between the stars and earth so that we could see them. How do you create a “young” mountain or a “young” tree, unless it is a seed?
Everything must have been created at some point in the process of aging and development. Rocks must have layers and trees must have had rings. There were some seedlings, some young saplings, some mature trees and some ancient oaks. This view would allow for an “old” earth, created recently, with fossil records of plant life and dinosaurs that may never have existed but are there as part of a necessary “backstory” to the creation of the earth.
But some see that as a question of integrity for God. Would that fit the character of God as we have come to know Him through the Bible, that He would leave evidences in the fossil records that may, in fact, lead many in the wrong direction with regards to the question of the origin of the universe and the beginnings of life.
Putting this into historical perspective, this “misleading” evidence in the fossil record has only come to light recently, over the past one hundred years or so. Therefore, it is only a problem for the modern age. Even so, it would not appear to be an issue of integrity but rather of the practicalities of creating life (and the earth itself) with a “history.” God is under no obligation to provide a scientific rationale for the manner in which he decided to create the world.
There is no doubt that science has done wonderful work in providing a rationale for believing that the personal God of the Bible is the transcendent creator-being that “caused” the universe.
As a scientific apologetic it is helpful in an age still dominated by rational atheism but there is a point at which the shoe must go on the other foot, so to speak. If we believe that the transcendent creator-being has revealed himself through his actions and message recorded in the Bible, then, logically, that revelation has stronger weight and clearer evidence for the creation event than any other source and must take priority over the scientific “evidence” (which, after all, is by nature partial and incomplete).
This is a new and startling source of information that must be given priority of place in so far as it speaks to the issue at hand. The real debate then is to decide what the Bible says, scientifically and theologically, and then, if possible, to make the scientific evidence fit that body of information.
In any event, these are the questions that Christians are asking in the wake of the amazing recent advancements of our understanding of the origins of life. There is a basic commitment by all Christians to the view that special revelation in scripture and the general revelation of nature are fully compatible even if our understanding of that compatibility is not complete.
Whether a person opts for theistic evolution, progressive creation or a young earth (or recent “old” earth) creationism, the landscape has radically changed and all three positions stand firmly against a rational atheistic and naturalistic position that no longer has the full weight of scientific evidence in their favor.
The concept of creation ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) has now been validated for the universe as a whole, as well as for the DNA/RNA necessary for specific life forms (including humans) to come into existence. Christianity is based on a creation ex nihilo by the personal God revealed in the Bible and there is now reasonable evidence to suggest that creation ex nihilo is the only scientific explanation available that fits the observable facts.
Scientific creationism (and, to a degree, theistic evolution but with certain reservations) has now become the new language of Christian belief in creation.