The uncaused first cause

Tulane physicist Frank J. Tipler tosses off an interesting variation, using contemporary mathematics and physics, of a classic proof of God’s existence. Then he criticizes the relativism of many of his colleagues:

Last week I was on a university panel formed to debate the issue of science and religion. My argument was the same one I’ve been making for years: given the known laws of physics — in particular, general relativity (Einstein’s theory of gravity) and quantum mechanics — we have no choice but to conclude that God exists.

I defined “God” as the “uncaused first cause,” which is the definition used by St. Thomas Aquinas in his “second way” (Aquinas’ second of five proofs of God’s existence). Aquinas took his proof from Moses Maimonides, who in turn took it from the Kalam Muslim theologians. That is, these leading theologians of the three leading monotheist religions all defined “God” the same way, so I thought this would be an acceptable definition. Knowing what is meant by the word “God,” we can now use physics to see if there is indeed “God” out there.

There is. The laws of physics tell us that the universe began about 14 billion years ago at the initial (or big bang) singularity. What is this “singularity”? Looking at its properties, one sees that it is the uncaused first cause. Something that is the cause of all causes, but Himself without a cause. Given the laws of physics, the existence of the initial singularity follows necessarily from the mathematics. Now of course we cannot be certain that the laws of physics are correct. We learn about nature via experiment, and new experiments may tell us tomorrow that general relativity and quantum mechanics are just limits of more fundamental laws, which do not possess an initial singularity. . . .

Given these laws of physics, the singularity is certain. It is certain because His existence follows of necessity, from the mathematical analysis of the equations of relativity and quantum mechanics. Given the laws of physics, the existence of the singularity is as certain as 2 + 2 = 4.

I made this point on the panel. No one challenged the laws. No one challenged my calculations. What they challenged was my statement that 2 + 2 = 4!

Dr. Tipler goes on to critique the now common contention that arithmetic is arbitrary and relates it all to what Orwell talks about in 1984, claiming that the scientific elite are bending truth in a quest for power, citing Climategate as an example.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.cumberlandisland.blogspot.com Adrian Keister

    Interesting post. However, though I firmly believe that the God of the Bible exists, I do not accept Dr. Tipler’s proof as a necessary inference. The laws of physics Dr. Tipler uses to make these calculations make an assumption: that extrapolation back into time that far is possible. What if God created the earth much more recently, but with the appearance of age? Adam most likely did not look a few seconds old when he was created, since he was given the task of naming the animals.

    I will invoke a different mathematics: the mathematics of semi-group theory. Among other things, semi-group theory proves the following: imagine a system beginning at state A, which then evolves through state B and arrives at state C. Furthermore, imagine a parallel system that merely starts at state B and evolves to state C. If you are in one of these systems, and you are at state C, there is no possible way to distinguish between these two systems. That is, without a written history or eyewitness account, you cannot, by looking at state C, deduce that state A must have been where the system started. Hence, you cannot disprove the apparent age theory.

    In reality, while any theory can address the problem of origins, there are no experiments to correspond. Hence, the problem of origins is entirely outside the realm of science.

  • http://www.cumberlandisland.blogspot.com Adrian Keister

    Interesting post. However, though I firmly believe that the God of the Bible exists, I do not accept Dr. Tipler’s proof as a necessary inference. The laws of physics Dr. Tipler uses to make these calculations make an assumption: that extrapolation back into time that far is possible. What if God created the earth much more recently, but with the appearance of age? Adam most likely did not look a few seconds old when he was created, since he was given the task of naming the animals.

    I will invoke a different mathematics: the mathematics of semi-group theory. Among other things, semi-group theory proves the following: imagine a system beginning at state A, which then evolves through state B and arrives at state C. Furthermore, imagine a parallel system that merely starts at state B and evolves to state C. If you are in one of these systems, and you are at state C, there is no possible way to distinguish between these two systems. That is, without a written history or eyewitness account, you cannot, by looking at state C, deduce that state A must have been where the system started. Hence, you cannot disprove the apparent age theory.

    In reality, while any theory can address the problem of origins, there are no experiments to correspond. Hence, the problem of origins is entirely outside the realm of science.

  • Dan Kempin

    “Our Initial Singularity, which art in general relativity and quantum mechanics . . .” Well, maybe just for use in the contemporary science service.

    Your phrase “bending truth in quest for power” has struck me. It seems that there must be a great sermon about “bent truth.” That’s a good one. I’ll be thinking about it. Thanks.

  • Dan Kempin

    “Our Initial Singularity, which art in general relativity and quantum mechanics . . .” Well, maybe just for use in the contemporary science service.

    Your phrase “bending truth in quest for power” has struck me. It seems that there must be a great sermon about “bent truth.” That’s a good one. I’ll be thinking about it. Thanks.

  • Carl Vehse

    Frank Tipler also has published a book, The Physics of Christianity, and has his own website where one can read the first chapter. In it Tipler claims “Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable science.” In his book Tipler explain how Christian doctrine, e.g., the Trinity, Christ’s incarnation, the Virgin birth (Jesus was an “XX male”), miracles, Jesus’ Resurrection, Real Presence (and testing for it), and the Last Day (circa 2050), are consistent with the laws of physics. Tipler claims that by 2032 everyone will be a Christian.

    Tipler also discusses the Shroud of Turin and the Ovledo cloth.

    I enjoyed his (and Barrow’s) Anthropic Cosmological Principle, but Physics of Christianity is a stretch.

  • Carl Vehse

    Frank Tipler also has published a book, The Physics of Christianity, and has his own website where one can read the first chapter. In it Tipler claims “Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable science.” In his book Tipler explain how Christian doctrine, e.g., the Trinity, Christ’s incarnation, the Virgin birth (Jesus was an “XX male”), miracles, Jesus’ Resurrection, Real Presence (and testing for it), and the Last Day (circa 2050), are consistent with the laws of physics. Tipler claims that by 2032 everyone will be a Christian.

    Tipler also discusses the Shroud of Turin and the Ovledo cloth.

    I enjoyed his (and Barrow’s) Anthropic Cosmological Principle, but Physics of Christianity is a stretch.

  • JackReacher

    Related to “bending truth” and climate gate:

    “Climategate: Science Is Dying”
    Daniel Henninger – Wall Street Journal
    http://tinyurl.com/yc9grs5

    I enjoyed Henninger’s phrase: “close-enough” science.

  • JackReacher

    Related to “bending truth” and climate gate:

    “Climategate: Science Is Dying”
    Daniel Henninger – Wall Street Journal
    http://tinyurl.com/yc9grs5

    I enjoyed Henninger’s phrase: “close-enough” science.

  • WebMonk

    Adrian,
    You’re right in your statement that if God had created the universe at “point B”, with a full and complete appearance of age (ie. having developed from “point A”) down to the smallest detail, there would be no way to prove it wasn’t the case.

    However, that starts to cause a problem, at least to me. God would be perpetuating a massive hoax on everything around us. The stars in the sky wouldn’t actually be doing what they appear to be doing, the galaxies wouldn’t actually be affecting each other through gravity, the craters on the Moon wouldn’t actually be from meteor impacts, etc, etc, etc.

    All those things would perfectly look like they were from “point A” (or the history of the universe while going from “A” to “B”), but they would actually have been made with merely the appearance of that.

    It’s one thing to say God made Adam full grown to work the garden. It’s another thing entirely to say God formed the craters on the moon just to look like they came from meteor impacts over eons of time. The first is God’s work to make a man ready to accomplish the tasks God has for him. The second is God fooling our senses down to the smallest details.

  • WebMonk

    Adrian,
    You’re right in your statement that if God had created the universe at “point B”, with a full and complete appearance of age (ie. having developed from “point A”) down to the smallest detail, there would be no way to prove it wasn’t the case.

    However, that starts to cause a problem, at least to me. God would be perpetuating a massive hoax on everything around us. The stars in the sky wouldn’t actually be doing what they appear to be doing, the galaxies wouldn’t actually be affecting each other through gravity, the craters on the Moon wouldn’t actually be from meteor impacts, etc, etc, etc.

    All those things would perfectly look like they were from “point A” (or the history of the universe while going from “A” to “B”), but they would actually have been made with merely the appearance of that.

    It’s one thing to say God made Adam full grown to work the garden. It’s another thing entirely to say God formed the craters on the moon just to look like they came from meteor impacts over eons of time. The first is God’s work to make a man ready to accomplish the tasks God has for him. The second is God fooling our senses down to the smallest details.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    I’ve heard that it’s true that 2+2=5 for very large values of 2.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    I’ve heard that it’s true that 2+2=5 for very large values of 2.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Of course, following Godel, we can’t prove 2 + 2 = 4 in the first place. (OK, the incompleteness theorem denies us the necessary axioms to do so….).

    And that is my problem with “proving” Christianity, or any other religion, or irreligion in the first place, using science/math.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Of course, following Godel, we can’t prove 2 + 2 = 4 in the first place. (OK, the incompleteness theorem denies us the necessary axioms to do so….).

    And that is my problem with “proving” Christianity, or any other religion, or irreligion in the first place, using science/math.

  • DonS

    Webmonk @ 5: I have no desire to get into a lengthy discussion about this issue, as we simply cannot know. But I also cannot rule out the possibility of the universe having an apparent age which is different than its actual age. It’s not necessarily because God wanted to perpetrate a hoax. The universe had to be in a sufficiently mature state to support life on earth. So, God set it in motion in that state. We’re the ones doing the extrapolating back billions of years, assuming that physical laws we have observed for hundreds of years have remained immutable for billions of years. God didn’t teach us that, or ever imply it. And our reasons for extrapolating often have more to do with trying to find an origins explanation which denies that God played a role, so that we don’t have to be accountable to Him. We turn from the Truth to believe a lie.

  • DonS

    Webmonk @ 5: I have no desire to get into a lengthy discussion about this issue, as we simply cannot know. But I also cannot rule out the possibility of the universe having an apparent age which is different than its actual age. It’s not necessarily because God wanted to perpetrate a hoax. The universe had to be in a sufficiently mature state to support life on earth. So, God set it in motion in that state. We’re the ones doing the extrapolating back billions of years, assuming that physical laws we have observed for hundreds of years have remained immutable for billions of years. God didn’t teach us that, or ever imply it. And our reasons for extrapolating often have more to do with trying to find an origins explanation which denies that God played a role, so that we don’t have to be accountable to Him. We turn from the Truth to believe a lie.

  • Bruce Gee

    “Your phrase “bending truth in quest for power” has struck me. It seems that there must be a great sermon about “bent truth.” That’s a good one. I’ll be thinking about it. Thanks.”

    You might also check out CS Lewis’ space trilogy, where the “bent” ones were the evil creatures.

    Fortunately, “a bent reed he will not break”, so there is possible redemption even among the evil scientists! :)

  • Bruce Gee

    “Your phrase “bending truth in quest for power” has struck me. It seems that there must be a great sermon about “bent truth.” That’s a good one. I’ll be thinking about it. Thanks.”

    You might also check out CS Lewis’ space trilogy, where the “bent” ones were the evil creatures.

    Fortunately, “a bent reed he will not break”, so there is possible redemption even among the evil scientists! :)

  • Peter Leavitt

    The quest for a “scientific” proof of God is a chimera that philosophers and scientists, however worthy, shall never prove. While we may through natural law reasoning, come to reasonable conclusions regarding ethics and empirical science, it is futile to “prove” the existence of God. We know God fundamentally as a matter of faith and intuition, not through logic or reason.

    Prof. Tipler exaggerates the power of scientific reason that merely deals with the natural world, just as did Darwin.

  • Peter Leavitt

    The quest for a “scientific” proof of God is a chimera that philosophers and scientists, however worthy, shall never prove. While we may through natural law reasoning, come to reasonable conclusions regarding ethics and empirical science, it is futile to “prove” the existence of God. We know God fundamentally as a matter of faith and intuition, not through logic or reason.

    Prof. Tipler exaggerates the power of scientific reason that merely deals with the natural world, just as did Darwin.

  • WebMonk

    DonS, yes, creating a universe which is mature enough to support life is very much on par with creating Adam mature enough to accomplish his purposes. I wouldn’t have any problem with that if that’s what the universe looked like.

    However, that’s not what is seen. What would carefully fabricated craters on the back side of the moon (and other planets) have to do with creating a universe that can support man? Likewise, we look into space and see galaxies that are millions of light years apart that look like they are warping each other with their gravity. (the effects of gravity take millions of years to travel the distance, and then thousands/millions of years to cause their effects)

    The details we see are not tied in any way to creating a universe that is capable of supporting man.

    Answers In Genesis has several articles that say essentially what I’m saying – God causing the universe merely to appear “old” would be deception not consistent with His nature.

    You might want to peruse those articles for a more in depth examination of the topic than what I would put here. Hopefully you wouldn’t consider them trying to “find an origins explanation which denies that God played a role”.

    AiG’s current explanation is that the universe “out there” really is billions of years old, but Earth (and “local” area) is around 6000 years old.

  • WebMonk

    DonS, yes, creating a universe which is mature enough to support life is very much on par with creating Adam mature enough to accomplish his purposes. I wouldn’t have any problem with that if that’s what the universe looked like.

    However, that’s not what is seen. What would carefully fabricated craters on the back side of the moon (and other planets) have to do with creating a universe that can support man? Likewise, we look into space and see galaxies that are millions of light years apart that look like they are warping each other with their gravity. (the effects of gravity take millions of years to travel the distance, and then thousands/millions of years to cause their effects)

    The details we see are not tied in any way to creating a universe that is capable of supporting man.

    Answers In Genesis has several articles that say essentially what I’m saying – God causing the universe merely to appear “old” would be deception not consistent with His nature.

    You might want to peruse those articles for a more in depth examination of the topic than what I would put here. Hopefully you wouldn’t consider them trying to “find an origins explanation which denies that God played a role”.

    AiG’s current explanation is that the universe “out there” really is billions of years old, but Earth (and “local” area) is around 6000 years old.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    I looked at that first chapter. He is dispensationalist in his views (world will end in 50 years, blah blah blah). This is important because their is a strong link between the fundamentalist rationalism of those “branches of Christianity”, and the kind of rationalism that believes science as a religion.

    By this I mean that they believe that science can provide Absolute truth. Even someone with a passing interest knows that theories and explanations are transitory. Some evolove (like Darwinianism, pun intended), some go out of fashion (steady-state Universe)etc. Cosmology (differentiated from Astronomy)is a young science, and as such has the potential to change / evolve a lot. To base your faith on rationalism working on transitory theories to me seems extremely perilous.

    Furthermore, finding “rational causes” for miracles etc to me seems to have an inate need to have reason triumph over faith. Dr Tipler is in the same boat as our friend Dawkins. He just imagines that he can explain God by physics. This is as delusional as Dawkins trying to explain God away by Science.

    I might sound a bit over the top here, but I feel extremely strongly about it.

    Some scientists really, really need to read some philosophy. Even Nietzsche will do – his arguments, for the little that I have read them, though coming to the wrong conclusion, will shake their little rational paradises. Or maybe Kierkegaard ;) .

    Even considering the logical and philosophical ramifications of Godel and his incompleteness theorems could shake them – I know, that’s what got me started on my journey out of this same Rational Fundamentalism.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    I looked at that first chapter. He is dispensationalist in his views (world will end in 50 years, blah blah blah). This is important because their is a strong link between the fundamentalist rationalism of those “branches of Christianity”, and the kind of rationalism that believes science as a religion.

    By this I mean that they believe that science can provide Absolute truth. Even someone with a passing interest knows that theories and explanations are transitory. Some evolove (like Darwinianism, pun intended), some go out of fashion (steady-state Universe)etc. Cosmology (differentiated from Astronomy)is a young science, and as such has the potential to change / evolve a lot. To base your faith on rationalism working on transitory theories to me seems extremely perilous.

    Furthermore, finding “rational causes” for miracles etc to me seems to have an inate need to have reason triumph over faith. Dr Tipler is in the same boat as our friend Dawkins. He just imagines that he can explain God by physics. This is as delusional as Dawkins trying to explain God away by Science.

    I might sound a bit over the top here, but I feel extremely strongly about it.

    Some scientists really, really need to read some philosophy. Even Nietzsche will do – his arguments, for the little that I have read them, though coming to the wrong conclusion, will shake their little rational paradises. Or maybe Kierkegaard ;) .

    Even considering the logical and philosophical ramifications of Godel and his incompleteness theorems could shake them – I know, that’s what got me started on my journey out of this same Rational Fundamentalism.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Webmonk: AIG’s explanations are best tossed out. As a geologist, I have not come across a single argument with geological merit. I’ve also done geochronology for a number of years. They shwo fundamental inabilities to understand even the basic tenets of that science. I am sceptical about a lot of dates myself, based on experimental experience, but that is because of methodology, data selection, and even data “tracking”. But I cannot say that of all dates. Dates coming out of U-Pb SHRIMP dating on zircons has been remarkably consistent. I myself have seen very good Ar-Ar dates.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Webmonk: AIG’s explanations are best tossed out. As a geologist, I have not come across a single argument with geological merit. I’ve also done geochronology for a number of years. They shwo fundamental inabilities to understand even the basic tenets of that science. I am sceptical about a lot of dates myself, based on experimental experience, but that is because of methodology, data selection, and even data “tracking”. But I cannot say that of all dates. Dates coming out of U-Pb SHRIMP dating on zircons has been remarkably consistent. I myself have seen very good Ar-Ar dates.

  • WebMonk

    Scylding, I VERY much agree with you, only I generally look at their astronomical statements rather than their geological statements to come to that conclusion. I’m learning bits of geology as time goes on with Paul Garner and Kevin N’s sites.

    However, I was pointing toward a group which I think DonS considers to have some authority on the subject, and showing that they agree with me on this issue.

  • WebMonk

    Scylding, I VERY much agree with you, only I generally look at their astronomical statements rather than their geological statements to come to that conclusion. I’m learning bits of geology as time goes on with Paul Garner and Kevin N’s sites.

    However, I was pointing toward a group which I think DonS considers to have some authority on the subject, and showing that they agree with me on this issue.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Ah, then we are on the same page.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Ah, then we are on the same page.

  • GEZ

    2 + 2 =/= 4 in MOD 3.

  • GEZ

    2 + 2 =/= 4 in MOD 3.

  • DonS

    Webmonk @ 11 and 14: Now wait a second. I was all set to buy into your explanation and then I see that you are patronizing me with a source that you yourself discredit, but think I might accept. Should I be insulted by that? :-)

    Look, I’m not really a big AIG fan, nor do I spend a great deal of time studying these issues. Why? Because I believe they are not definitively knowable. I think it is a waste of time to try to “fit the science with the Scripture”. The Scripture is what it is and it is Truth. Whether or not it allows for a several billion year old earth I don’t know. Until I know better, I read “day” to mean “day”. It’s easier that way. But what bothers me is scientists who claim to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what happened billions of years ago, or what is going to happen decades or centuries from now, based on extrapolations of data collected during this present moment in time. By doing that, we constrain God to the physical world of order which He Himself created, and pre-dates, and also to the dimension of time. When we extrapolate, we necessarily assume, and when we assume, we introduce potential error. So, I appreciate people like Ken Ham and AIG who present feasible alternatives and say, hey look, it doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly the way the establishment scientists like to say it is.

  • DonS

    Webmonk @ 11 and 14: Now wait a second. I was all set to buy into your explanation and then I see that you are patronizing me with a source that you yourself discredit, but think I might accept. Should I be insulted by that? :-)

    Look, I’m not really a big AIG fan, nor do I spend a great deal of time studying these issues. Why? Because I believe they are not definitively knowable. I think it is a waste of time to try to “fit the science with the Scripture”. The Scripture is what it is and it is Truth. Whether or not it allows for a several billion year old earth I don’t know. Until I know better, I read “day” to mean “day”. It’s easier that way. But what bothers me is scientists who claim to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what happened billions of years ago, or what is going to happen decades or centuries from now, based on extrapolations of data collected during this present moment in time. By doing that, we constrain God to the physical world of order which He Himself created, and pre-dates, and also to the dimension of time. When we extrapolate, we necessarily assume, and when we assume, we introduce potential error. So, I appreciate people like Ken Ham and AIG who present feasible alternatives and say, hey look, it doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly the way the establishment scientists like to say it is.

  • Dan Kempin

    Bruce, #9,

    Bent Truth. A bent reed.

    That’s a great gospel handle.

    GEZ, #16, Are you speaking in mathematical tongues?

  • Dan Kempin

    Bruce, #9,

    Bent Truth. A bent reed.

    That’s a great gospel handle.

    GEZ, #16, Are you speaking in mathematical tongues?

  • WebMonk

    DonS, there’s a huge difference between predictions of the state of the universe 0.000001 seconds after the big bang (based on current theories of quantum physics, string theory, general relativity, etc) and looking at the state of the universe for the last few billion years.

    The first is admitted to be very tenuous, though most interviews certainly try to sound as if all the questions have been undoubtedly answered with confidence.

    The second is extremely basic science, of which the type of measurements and calculations being done aren’t more sophisticated than comparing how bright two different stars are, and measuring really small angles.

    If the arguments for billions of years were actually based on the former, then I would have no problem saying that people might just be doing fancy speculations.

    However, what we actually see is really basic (though precise) stuff. It’s not obscure extrapolations or theories based on theories based on theories.

    Yes, God certainly could have faked everything down to things so basic as what we see with telescope pictures. There are pictures of things which don’t require any theories or fancy extrapolation to understand that they are showing things that take millions and billions of years to happen.

    Sure, God could have maufactured pictures of two galaxies which have passed through each other, ripping each other apart and scattering each other all over the place. He could have carefully arranged each star and bit of gas so that it merely looks like they collided and have passed through each other. He could have created the other images that merely look like two galaxies are stretching each other out of shape as they pass by each other.

    These aren’t difficult things to understand, and if God generated the light from them just 6000 years ago, then I think that causes some big problems involving God deceiving people.

    I don’t have a problem with God creating things that we misunderstand right now, but looking through a telescope at two galaxies that have crashed through each other (a process that would take millions of years) is WAY outside the purview of “misunderstanding” and all the way over to what would be a fraud.

  • WebMonk

    DonS, there’s a huge difference between predictions of the state of the universe 0.000001 seconds after the big bang (based on current theories of quantum physics, string theory, general relativity, etc) and looking at the state of the universe for the last few billion years.

    The first is admitted to be very tenuous, though most interviews certainly try to sound as if all the questions have been undoubtedly answered with confidence.

    The second is extremely basic science, of which the type of measurements and calculations being done aren’t more sophisticated than comparing how bright two different stars are, and measuring really small angles.

    If the arguments for billions of years were actually based on the former, then I would have no problem saying that people might just be doing fancy speculations.

    However, what we actually see is really basic (though precise) stuff. It’s not obscure extrapolations or theories based on theories based on theories.

    Yes, God certainly could have faked everything down to things so basic as what we see with telescope pictures. There are pictures of things which don’t require any theories or fancy extrapolation to understand that they are showing things that take millions and billions of years to happen.

    Sure, God could have maufactured pictures of two galaxies which have passed through each other, ripping each other apart and scattering each other all over the place. He could have carefully arranged each star and bit of gas so that it merely looks like they collided and have passed through each other. He could have created the other images that merely look like two galaxies are stretching each other out of shape as they pass by each other.

    These aren’t difficult things to understand, and if God generated the light from them just 6000 years ago, then I think that causes some big problems involving God deceiving people.

    I don’t have a problem with God creating things that we misunderstand right now, but looking through a telescope at two galaxies that have crashed through each other (a process that would take millions of years) is WAY outside the purview of “misunderstanding” and all the way over to what would be a fraud.

  • DonS

    Webmonk: I guess I don’t fully grasp your point. It seems to me that, even if it is only basic science, you are still extrapolating. You are making an assumption that physical laws have always been as they appear to be now, all the way back to the origins of the universe. Then, you make a second huge assumption, which is that the universe,at the time of creation, was brand, spanking new, with the universe being at its most possible contracted state, and with all of the stars having just been lighted. I don’t know how you can possibly KNOW that this was the case, though you seem to be absolutely sure of it.

    Fraud involves intent. You are assuming that, if God created a universe that was already fully functional, with pre-existing light already streaming through the various galaxies, this would somehow be fakery. Why? Are we entitled to assume that He created a brand new universe, set it in motion, and then stepped back and waited for it to “mature” to a point where it could support human life on earth, billions of years later? Maybe He did it that way (I don’t rule it out), but it seems to me that the audacious assumptions we make are our own problem, not His.

  • DonS

    Webmonk: I guess I don’t fully grasp your point. It seems to me that, even if it is only basic science, you are still extrapolating. You are making an assumption that physical laws have always been as they appear to be now, all the way back to the origins of the universe. Then, you make a second huge assumption, which is that the universe,at the time of creation, was brand, spanking new, with the universe being at its most possible contracted state, and with all of the stars having just been lighted. I don’t know how you can possibly KNOW that this was the case, though you seem to be absolutely sure of it.

    Fraud involves intent. You are assuming that, if God created a universe that was already fully functional, with pre-existing light already streaming through the various galaxies, this would somehow be fakery. Why? Are we entitled to assume that He created a brand new universe, set it in motion, and then stepped back and waited for it to “mature” to a point where it could support human life on earth, billions of years later? Maybe He did it that way (I don’t rule it out), but it seems to me that the audacious assumptions we make are our own problem, not His.

  • WebMonk

    Yes, fraud involves intent – creating two galaxies that look exactly like they have spent a million years smashing through each other, and then creating the light beams in transit so we could see it, is something that I consider to be fraudulent. We would be seeing something that gives every possible appearance of age, but which doesn’t actually have age.

    You’re right that I’m extrapolating here. But, the level of extrapolation is along the lines of extrapolating that when I hear the door close downstairs in my house and my wife calls out “I’m home,” that God didn’t just generate all those sounds and my wife is actually still out on an errand.

    Could God have generated all the light beams, effects of gravity, and affected galaxies? Sure.

    My problem is that this is God creating something that gives every possible appearance of being one thing while it is actually something completely and radically different. That no matter how much we study what God made, that there is no way to find out what actually exists.

    To use the wife/door analogy – a scientist in my house would listen to the sounds of the door and her voice, listen to the sounds of her footsteps, watch the light waves of her walk in the door and hang up her coat, can investigate the winds that came in the open door, can test the air for scents of her perfume, etc. They can’t actually touch her since that would be analogous to actually being at the beginning to watch the big bang, but they can do just about everything else.

    Is it a reasonable extrapolation to say my wife actually walked in the door? Yes. What would I think if I found out God had created all those things but that my wife was actually in the car 30 minutes away? Deception!!

    He could create galaxies that appear just like they crashed through each other, could create all the meteor impacts on the back side of the moon and age them, could create the CMB, could make the galaxies stretch like they’re pulling on each other, put binary stars in relationships with each other just like they’ve been sharing matter for millions of years, etc.

    But then, we find out that all those things were generated through fiat, like the observations of my wife would have been. That starts to cause some major concerns to me about deception.

    That God “spends” time and energy to create the universe and Earth billions of years ago (something no more or less difficult or convenient to Him than creating it as we currently observe it 6000 years ago) is far more believable than that God committed a massive deception.

  • WebMonk

    Yes, fraud involves intent – creating two galaxies that look exactly like they have spent a million years smashing through each other, and then creating the light beams in transit so we could see it, is something that I consider to be fraudulent. We would be seeing something that gives every possible appearance of age, but which doesn’t actually have age.

    You’re right that I’m extrapolating here. But, the level of extrapolation is along the lines of extrapolating that when I hear the door close downstairs in my house and my wife calls out “I’m home,” that God didn’t just generate all those sounds and my wife is actually still out on an errand.

    Could God have generated all the light beams, effects of gravity, and affected galaxies? Sure.

    My problem is that this is God creating something that gives every possible appearance of being one thing while it is actually something completely and radically different. That no matter how much we study what God made, that there is no way to find out what actually exists.

    To use the wife/door analogy – a scientist in my house would listen to the sounds of the door and her voice, listen to the sounds of her footsteps, watch the light waves of her walk in the door and hang up her coat, can investigate the winds that came in the open door, can test the air for scents of her perfume, etc. They can’t actually touch her since that would be analogous to actually being at the beginning to watch the big bang, but they can do just about everything else.

    Is it a reasonable extrapolation to say my wife actually walked in the door? Yes. What would I think if I found out God had created all those things but that my wife was actually in the car 30 minutes away? Deception!!

    He could create galaxies that appear just like they crashed through each other, could create all the meteor impacts on the back side of the moon and age them, could create the CMB, could make the galaxies stretch like they’re pulling on each other, put binary stars in relationships with each other just like they’ve been sharing matter for millions of years, etc.

    But then, we find out that all those things were generated through fiat, like the observations of my wife would have been. That starts to cause some major concerns to me about deception.

    That God “spends” time and energy to create the universe and Earth billions of years ago (something no more or less difficult or convenient to Him than creating it as we currently observe it 6000 years ago) is far more believable than that God committed a massive deception.

  • Carl Vehse

    Closer to home than colliding galaxies are the Oklo natural nuclear reactors in Gabon, West Africa.

  • Carl Vehse

    Closer to home than colliding galaxies are the Oklo natural nuclear reactors in Gabon, West Africa.

  • DonS

    Webmonk @ 21:

    Well, I guess if we are going to fling charges of deception against God, we may as well throw in the one about inspiring the author of Genesis to describe creation as occurring in seven days, when it actually took billions of years. That one has caused a lot more problems than the one about the colliding galaxies, wouldn’t you agree?

    Seriously, at the time of creation, I don’t think God would have been particularly concerned about how Webmonk would view things billions (or thousands) of years later. Your statement: “That no matter how much we study what God made, that there is no way to find out what actually exists” doesn’t make sense to me. We can clearly find out what actually exists, and we can have assurance that the physical laws of the universe will remain in effect until the old earth and the old heaven are destroyed. The only thing we cannot do, with certainty, is discover the detailed origin of the universe, or what its level of “maturity” was at the time it was created. There are too many unknowns, too many required assumptions, whether we acknowledge them or not. There is a scriptural account of creation, and apparently, we are to be satisfied with that until we know more in the next life. We can speculate, as many have done, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But when we get to the point where we are saying “my speculation must certainly be right, or else God is a fraud”, then I think we have crossed the line, and probably need to re-evaluate, at the least, our arrogance.

    I acknowledge that all of the seven days of creation may not be literal. God is not constrained by time — He is a timeless Being. But, there is some reason He chose to describe the process of creation as a seven day process. It may have been to instill the idea of a day of rest in His people. It may have been in order to hang a framework and a sense of order on the process, so that finite humans could understand it better. Or, it may have been …. because it took seven days :-)

  • DonS

    Webmonk @ 21:

    Well, I guess if we are going to fling charges of deception against God, we may as well throw in the one about inspiring the author of Genesis to describe creation as occurring in seven days, when it actually took billions of years. That one has caused a lot more problems than the one about the colliding galaxies, wouldn’t you agree?

    Seriously, at the time of creation, I don’t think God would have been particularly concerned about how Webmonk would view things billions (or thousands) of years later. Your statement: “That no matter how much we study what God made, that there is no way to find out what actually exists” doesn’t make sense to me. We can clearly find out what actually exists, and we can have assurance that the physical laws of the universe will remain in effect until the old earth and the old heaven are destroyed. The only thing we cannot do, with certainty, is discover the detailed origin of the universe, or what its level of “maturity” was at the time it was created. There are too many unknowns, too many required assumptions, whether we acknowledge them or not. There is a scriptural account of creation, and apparently, we are to be satisfied with that until we know more in the next life. We can speculate, as many have done, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But when we get to the point where we are saying “my speculation must certainly be right, or else God is a fraud”, then I think we have crossed the line, and probably need to re-evaluate, at the least, our arrogance.

    I acknowledge that all of the seven days of creation may not be literal. God is not constrained by time — He is a timeless Being. But, there is some reason He chose to describe the process of creation as a seven day process. It may have been to instill the idea of a day of rest in His people. It may have been in order to hang a framework and a sense of order on the process, so that finite humans could understand it better. Or, it may have been …. because it took seven days :-)

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    If creation is only a few thousand years old, but the stars and galaxies are millions and billions of light years away, then do they really exist? Maybe God made no stars at all, but just the light in transit. Certainly, the the stars and galaxies themselves need not exist to effect the illusion that they do.

    Anyway, interesting discussion. What to do when our understanding of scripture conflicts with our understanding of observed reality? One or the other is a flawed understanding.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    If creation is only a few thousand years old, but the stars and galaxies are millions and billions of light years away, then do they really exist? Maybe God made no stars at all, but just the light in transit. Certainly, the the stars and galaxies themselves need not exist to effect the illusion that they do.

    Anyway, interesting discussion. What to do when our understanding of scripture conflicts with our understanding of observed reality? One or the other is a flawed understanding.

  • http://www.cumberlandisland.blogspot.com Adrian Keister

    I agree with DonS at #23. If God created the universe, then He is a Being so far above us that surely He is not answerable to us. We are answerable to Him; which, of course, is what this is all about (often, anyway). The idea of us charging God with deception is rather like a pot saying to the potter, “Why have you made me thus?”

  • http://www.cumberlandisland.blogspot.com Adrian Keister

    I agree with DonS at #23. If God created the universe, then He is a Being so far above us that surely He is not answerable to us. We are answerable to Him; which, of course, is what this is all about (often, anyway). The idea of us charging God with deception is rather like a pot saying to the potter, “Why have you made me thus?”

  • WebMonk

    DonS, does the Andromeda galaxy actually exist, or is it just a long line of photons that God put in motion?

    Every possible indication we have points toward it actually existing. Every possible indication I have is that my wife exists when she walks in the door. But do it and she REALLY exist, or are they just light/sound constructs that God made?

    If we go with what you seem to be promoting, it is fundamentally impossible to know if there are actually galaxies out there or even if the Milky Way galaxy exists.

    Can I PROVE that those things exist, and that God didn’t just create all the photons streaming toward earth? No. God is more than capable of creating a flawless representation of whatever He wants. For that matter, I can’t actually prove that there are stars in the sky, because God is more than capable of creating streams of photons from non-existent stars.

    You said, “We can clearly find out what actually exists,”

    Really?

    How can we find out whether or not Proxima Centauri (closest star) exists? By telescopes seeing the star? No, because God might have just created all the radiation from it in transit, and the star doesn’t actually exist. Centauri A and B? The Milky Way? Andromeda? All the same answer.

    If God just went around creating light rays toward Earth, there’s no way to actually know what is out there. God would have given us a flawless deception that there are stars out there, but nothing like that actually exists. That’s a massive, completely impenetrable deception. Something that is completely foreign to God.

    It’s not that He has no right to do it – I’m not asking ‘Why have you made me thus’ – but rather saying God doing that is completely against what He is like. If God wanted to do that, I certainly wouldn’t complain, but everything God has revealed about Himself shows that He would not do something like that. God unveils truth, hides some things, and doesn’t tell other things. What He doesn’t do is deceive all of humanity about the fundamental nature of the universe.

    Even AiG, ICR, CRS, etc, recognize this and instead of just saying that God created the light rays on their way, are searching for some way that the universe can be billions of years old while the earth is only 6000. They use multiple miracles scattered all over the place, ignore lots and lots of things, twist still more things, but what they don’t do is say that God just created light pictures instead of actually creating the stars and the galaxies which have done what we can see them doing.

    As far as deception in Genesis 1, I think I mentioned I don’t have problems with people misunderstanding what God has said. If people have misunderstood what was intended to be communicated, oh well. Lutherans have warped the understanding of what Baptism is. Calvinists have twisted the concept of Election. The RCC has flipped the understanding of Justification on its head. Millions of people have a false understanding of Genesis 1.

    Was God deceptive when he inspired Paul to write about Election even though people have warped their understanding? No. Did Jesus deceive when He spoke the promises which people take to support a HealthAndWealth concept of God? No. Did God lie when He inspired the words of Genesis 1 even though people have taken it to indicate a 6-24 Creation? No.

  • WebMonk

    DonS, does the Andromeda galaxy actually exist, or is it just a long line of photons that God put in motion?

    Every possible indication we have points toward it actually existing. Every possible indication I have is that my wife exists when she walks in the door. But do it and she REALLY exist, or are they just light/sound constructs that God made?

    If we go with what you seem to be promoting, it is fundamentally impossible to know if there are actually galaxies out there or even if the Milky Way galaxy exists.

    Can I PROVE that those things exist, and that God didn’t just create all the photons streaming toward earth? No. God is more than capable of creating a flawless representation of whatever He wants. For that matter, I can’t actually prove that there are stars in the sky, because God is more than capable of creating streams of photons from non-existent stars.

    You said, “We can clearly find out what actually exists,”

    Really?

    How can we find out whether or not Proxima Centauri (closest star) exists? By telescopes seeing the star? No, because God might have just created all the radiation from it in transit, and the star doesn’t actually exist. Centauri A and B? The Milky Way? Andromeda? All the same answer.

    If God just went around creating light rays toward Earth, there’s no way to actually know what is out there. God would have given us a flawless deception that there are stars out there, but nothing like that actually exists. That’s a massive, completely impenetrable deception. Something that is completely foreign to God.

    It’s not that He has no right to do it – I’m not asking ‘Why have you made me thus’ – but rather saying God doing that is completely against what He is like. If God wanted to do that, I certainly wouldn’t complain, but everything God has revealed about Himself shows that He would not do something like that. God unveils truth, hides some things, and doesn’t tell other things. What He doesn’t do is deceive all of humanity about the fundamental nature of the universe.

    Even AiG, ICR, CRS, etc, recognize this and instead of just saying that God created the light rays on their way, are searching for some way that the universe can be billions of years old while the earth is only 6000. They use multiple miracles scattered all over the place, ignore lots and lots of things, twist still more things, but what they don’t do is say that God just created light pictures instead of actually creating the stars and the galaxies which have done what we can see them doing.

    As far as deception in Genesis 1, I think I mentioned I don’t have problems with people misunderstanding what God has said. If people have misunderstood what was intended to be communicated, oh well. Lutherans have warped the understanding of what Baptism is. Calvinists have twisted the concept of Election. The RCC has flipped the understanding of Justification on its head. Millions of people have a false understanding of Genesis 1.

    Was God deceptive when he inspired Paul to write about Election even though people have warped their understanding? No. Did Jesus deceive when He spoke the promises which people take to support a HealthAndWealth concept of God? No. Did God lie when He inspired the words of Genesis 1 even though people have taken it to indicate a 6-24 Creation? No.

  • DonS

    Webmonk @ 26:

    “As far as deception in Genesis 1, I think I mentioned I don’t have problems with people misunderstanding what God has said.”

    I agree with you. But I believe that’s the way you need to look at the universe as well. God is communicating with us through the general revelation of His creation, just as He does through the specific revelation of His Word. It’s an incomplete picture, because we cannot possibly understand the infinite depth and power of almighty God, particularly when we ourselves are confined to the space-time continuum. So, it’s not that He is deceiving us, it’s that we are not fully understanding Him. And the way that we veil things the most for ourselves is when we get overly dogmatic about what we physically observe in this temporal world, and lose sight of the fact (no pun intended) that we cannot see 99.9% of the magnitude of His creation because of our own limitations.

    Practically speaking, in order to live our daily lives we need to understand our universe as we perceive it. And God has graciously given us a world governed by immutable physical laws so that we can do so. Thus,we know that there is a light source for the light that we observe. I don’t believe that God just created light rays, and no source, nor do I discount the possibility that He may have just created the light sources, and then let the passage of time bring the light through a distance such that it is visible to earth’s occupants. But, I am also not going to dogmatically declare that a literal seven day creation is impossible, because of what my faulty and limited senses perceive. There are other possibilities which could make that Genesis passage literally true. One of them is that God created the universe “in motion”, rather than “at inception”. Such creation would not be for the purpose of deception, but rather for the purpose of creating an instantaneously functional universe. Why not? And why would that be deception, any more than a passage stating that creation was a seven day event, if it really wasn’t, at least in earth days? It is we, who have a sinful nature which aggregates and assigns far more power and wisdom to the human race than it merits or deserves, particularly in its fallen state, who fancy ourselves smart enough to reason out the things that God has not told us, and then declare them inviolable fact. And it is these “scientific” theories of origin, which tend to trumpet the differences between them and the Word of God in Genesis, which have caused far more to fall away from the faith than observed wrinkles in galaxies light years away.

  • DonS

    Webmonk @ 26:

    “As far as deception in Genesis 1, I think I mentioned I don’t have problems with people misunderstanding what God has said.”

    I agree with you. But I believe that’s the way you need to look at the universe as well. God is communicating with us through the general revelation of His creation, just as He does through the specific revelation of His Word. It’s an incomplete picture, because we cannot possibly understand the infinite depth and power of almighty God, particularly when we ourselves are confined to the space-time continuum. So, it’s not that He is deceiving us, it’s that we are not fully understanding Him. And the way that we veil things the most for ourselves is when we get overly dogmatic about what we physically observe in this temporal world, and lose sight of the fact (no pun intended) that we cannot see 99.9% of the magnitude of His creation because of our own limitations.

    Practically speaking, in order to live our daily lives we need to understand our universe as we perceive it. And God has graciously given us a world governed by immutable physical laws so that we can do so. Thus,we know that there is a light source for the light that we observe. I don’t believe that God just created light rays, and no source, nor do I discount the possibility that He may have just created the light sources, and then let the passage of time bring the light through a distance such that it is visible to earth’s occupants. But, I am also not going to dogmatically declare that a literal seven day creation is impossible, because of what my faulty and limited senses perceive. There are other possibilities which could make that Genesis passage literally true. One of them is that God created the universe “in motion”, rather than “at inception”. Such creation would not be for the purpose of deception, but rather for the purpose of creating an instantaneously functional universe. Why not? And why would that be deception, any more than a passage stating that creation was a seven day event, if it really wasn’t, at least in earth days? It is we, who have a sinful nature which aggregates and assigns far more power and wisdom to the human race than it merits or deserves, particularly in its fallen state, who fancy ourselves smart enough to reason out the things that God has not told us, and then declare them inviolable fact. And it is these “scientific” theories of origin, which tend to trumpet the differences between them and the Word of God in Genesis, which have caused far more to fall away from the faith than observed wrinkles in galaxies light years away.

  • WebMonk

    I see what you are saying about misunderstanding what we see in Creation, but I don’t think it quite holds up in a detailed view.

    We can argue about the meaning of Genesis, Baptism, Election, etc. If I understand you, we can also argue about whether or not the universe indicates billions of years or was just made “mature”. So we shouldn’t be dogmatic about the age of the universe.

    But, could we argue about whether when Jesus said “no one comes to the Father, but through me,” He actually meant He just had some ideas about what God is like?

    An argument over that isn’t an “incomplete picture”, a misunderstanding, or anything like that. We can say Jesus was wrong (or that He didn’t actually say that), but we can’t reasonably say he meant something so different if he really did say that.

    We can say we are seeing the universe completely wrongly (analogous to saying Jesus didn’t actually say that statement), BUT if we accept that we are seeing the universe correctly (accept that Jesus did say that phrase) we can’t reasonably argue God made the light beams in transit (can’t reasonably say Jesus only meant he had some ideas about God).

    It’s not just wrinkles in galaxies, though that’s an easily understood example. It’s the entire body of observations in astronomy – from the makeup of the solar winds to the meteor impacts on the moon, the orbits of planets to effects of gravity on light, the type of dust on the moon to the existence of gravity waves, the ratios of elements to the shapes of galaxies, the emissions of monatomic atoms in deep space to supergiant stars. The list goes on and on and on – thousands of unrelated types of observations all pointing extremely clearly toward an ancient universe.

    Yes, it is an “extrapolation” to say the universe is billions of years old based on what we see, but the extrapolation is so firmly grounded that it’s similar to extrapolating Jesus meant He is the only way to eternal life with God based on what He said in John 14:6.

    We can realize Is. 11:12 doesn’t intend to say the earth has four corners or edges because of our observation of the world. In the same way, we can realize Gen 1 doesn’t intend to place a 6000 year age on the universe because of our observation of the universe. Genesis 1 may be intending to say lots of things, but we can rule out at least one that that it is NOT intending to say.

    The certainty about a spherical earth and an older-than-6000-years universe are comparable.

    I realize you might not see the evidence of the universe’s ancient age as almost as solid as the earth’s spherical nature, and there’s certainly nothing I could possibly bring up on a blog to convince you otherwise, nevertheless the level of very basic observations that indicate an old earth is nearly as compelling as the observations which show we have a spherical earth.

    If we can say with any sort of certainty that Is. 11:12 isn’t intended to say Earth has corners or edges because we can test and see the Earth is a sphere, we can also say with the same sort of certainty that Gen 1 isn’t intended to say the Universe was made only 6000 years ago.

    And if anyone replies saying “the earth really isn’t a perfect sphere” I swear I’ll reach through the Internet and strangle them! :-D

  • WebMonk

    I see what you are saying about misunderstanding what we see in Creation, but I don’t think it quite holds up in a detailed view.

    We can argue about the meaning of Genesis, Baptism, Election, etc. If I understand you, we can also argue about whether or not the universe indicates billions of years or was just made “mature”. So we shouldn’t be dogmatic about the age of the universe.

    But, could we argue about whether when Jesus said “no one comes to the Father, but through me,” He actually meant He just had some ideas about what God is like?

    An argument over that isn’t an “incomplete picture”, a misunderstanding, or anything like that. We can say Jesus was wrong (or that He didn’t actually say that), but we can’t reasonably say he meant something so different if he really did say that.

    We can say we are seeing the universe completely wrongly (analogous to saying Jesus didn’t actually say that statement), BUT if we accept that we are seeing the universe correctly (accept that Jesus did say that phrase) we can’t reasonably argue God made the light beams in transit (can’t reasonably say Jesus only meant he had some ideas about God).

    It’s not just wrinkles in galaxies, though that’s an easily understood example. It’s the entire body of observations in astronomy – from the makeup of the solar winds to the meteor impacts on the moon, the orbits of planets to effects of gravity on light, the type of dust on the moon to the existence of gravity waves, the ratios of elements to the shapes of galaxies, the emissions of monatomic atoms in deep space to supergiant stars. The list goes on and on and on – thousands of unrelated types of observations all pointing extremely clearly toward an ancient universe.

    Yes, it is an “extrapolation” to say the universe is billions of years old based on what we see, but the extrapolation is so firmly grounded that it’s similar to extrapolating Jesus meant He is the only way to eternal life with God based on what He said in John 14:6.

    We can realize Is. 11:12 doesn’t intend to say the earth has four corners or edges because of our observation of the world. In the same way, we can realize Gen 1 doesn’t intend to place a 6000 year age on the universe because of our observation of the universe. Genesis 1 may be intending to say lots of things, but we can rule out at least one that that it is NOT intending to say.

    The certainty about a spherical earth and an older-than-6000-years universe are comparable.

    I realize you might not see the evidence of the universe’s ancient age as almost as solid as the earth’s spherical nature, and there’s certainly nothing I could possibly bring up on a blog to convince you otherwise, nevertheless the level of very basic observations that indicate an old earth is nearly as compelling as the observations which show we have a spherical earth.

    If we can say with any sort of certainty that Is. 11:12 isn’t intended to say Earth has corners or edges because we can test and see the Earth is a sphere, we can also say with the same sort of certainty that Gen 1 isn’t intended to say the Universe was made only 6000 years ago.

    And if anyone replies saying “the earth really isn’t a perfect sphere” I swear I’ll reach through the Internet and strangle them! :-D

  • DonS

    Well, Webmonk, it’s probably not a PERFECT sphere. (-:

    Seriously, I don’t see how we can analogize the basic gospel message to historical narrative, such as the account of the creation of the world. The Bible makes it clear that the Gospel is a simple message, capable of being understood, at a saving level, by all humans. So, while we cannot fully comprehend the nature of God in our present state, we can certainly grasp that our only means of salvation is through Christ’s sacrifice and His atoning grace.

    Now, as to Isaiah, of course, Isaiah 40:22 discusses the “circle of the earth”. So, let’s just say that the prophet was hedging his bets on the configuration of the earth :-) .

    “Yes, it is an “extrapolation” to say the universe is billions of years old based on what we see, but the extrapolation is so firmly grounded that it’s similar to extrapolating Jesus meant He is the only way to eternal life with God based on what He said in John 14:6.”

    OK, let me just assume that you didn’t really mean to say that you are just as sure that the universe is billions of years old as you are that Jesus meant He is the only way to eternal life with God. The Hope of Christ is our only certainty in this life, other than the inevitability of our physical death, would you not agree? And syncretism is heresy. That is firmly established.

    To clarify, I am an agnostic about the concept of a young or old earth. It’s, frankly, not that important to me, because it really doesn’t affect any of our current science, or our lives. As I mentioned above, it is clear that God has blessed us with a world in which we can rely on our senses and observations to accomplish things based on science, such as space travel and exploration, geological surveys for the purpose of extracting minerals, and the like, regardless of our opinion of the age of the universe. But, what I hate about old universe science is how it has been used as a drumbeat, and misleadingly so, to destroy the faith of many in the absolute truth of the Bible. I hate that scientists are, as a group, so atheistic/agnostic. It is a reflection of man’s desire to not be accountable to God. And many will spend eternity apart from Him as a result.

    This has been a good discussion, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

  • DonS

    Well, Webmonk, it’s probably not a PERFECT sphere. (-:

    Seriously, I don’t see how we can analogize the basic gospel message to historical narrative, such as the account of the creation of the world. The Bible makes it clear that the Gospel is a simple message, capable of being understood, at a saving level, by all humans. So, while we cannot fully comprehend the nature of God in our present state, we can certainly grasp that our only means of salvation is through Christ’s sacrifice and His atoning grace.

    Now, as to Isaiah, of course, Isaiah 40:22 discusses the “circle of the earth”. So, let’s just say that the prophet was hedging his bets on the configuration of the earth :-) .

    “Yes, it is an “extrapolation” to say the universe is billions of years old based on what we see, but the extrapolation is so firmly grounded that it’s similar to extrapolating Jesus meant He is the only way to eternal life with God based on what He said in John 14:6.”

    OK, let me just assume that you didn’t really mean to say that you are just as sure that the universe is billions of years old as you are that Jesus meant He is the only way to eternal life with God. The Hope of Christ is our only certainty in this life, other than the inevitability of our physical death, would you not agree? And syncretism is heresy. That is firmly established.

    To clarify, I am an agnostic about the concept of a young or old earth. It’s, frankly, not that important to me, because it really doesn’t affect any of our current science, or our lives. As I mentioned above, it is clear that God has blessed us with a world in which we can rely on our senses and observations to accomplish things based on science, such as space travel and exploration, geological surveys for the purpose of extracting minerals, and the like, regardless of our opinion of the age of the universe. But, what I hate about old universe science is how it has been used as a drumbeat, and misleadingly so, to destroy the faith of many in the absolute truth of the Bible. I hate that scientists are, as a group, so atheistic/agnostic. It is a reflection of man’s desire to not be accountable to God. And many will spend eternity apart from Him as a result.

    This has been a good discussion, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

  • WebMonk

    Am I as sure the universe is billions of years old as I am that Jesus is the one and only way of salvation? No, but it’s not all that far of a difference. That’s how strong the evidence of an ancient universe is.

    I think part of the issue behind the discussion is the different views of the information available. You mention that it is clear God has blessed us with a world in which we can rely on our senses and observations to accomplish things based on science. That’s my point – everything God has made in the universe (astronomically related, since that’s our area of conversation) points toward an ancient universe as clearly as science points toward the earth going around the sun. Yes, God could have made everything merely look old, just like He could just make things look like Earth is orbiting the Sun, rather than the other way around.

    That’s what I mean by deception and fraud – if God suddenly somehow revealed that the earth is stationary and the Sun and universe revolve around us, and that all of our telescopes and satellites were actually being fooled by an intricate hologram-like system …. I can’t realistically imagine that. In the same way and for many of the same reasons, I can’t realistically imagine the universe out there being only 6000 years old.

    Lots of things aren’t really related to the age of the universe, and so the vast majority of people can blithely go through life not caring one way or the other.

    I can appreciate your frustration with how an ancient universe may have harmed people’s faith. (though most surveys carried out by any group but AiG consistently show the age of the universe being a non-issue for the majority of people who leave Christianity. There are people who leave for those reasons, but they’re a minority)

    My response is that it’s a shame that those people were taught such a warped interpretation of Genesis and that their faith was so heavily founded on something other than the Gospel that when they are exposed to basic facts about the world that their faith crumbles.

    An Internet “friend” I’ve argued with a few times insists that Dr. Dino tapes have strengthened his faith because they showed him that scientists were basing the moon lander on an old-universe assumption that should have left hundreds of feet of dust on the moon instead of the inches we actually see. Aha! Evil scientists proven wrong!!! Bible proven right!!!!!!

    Never mind the fact that Hovind was merely perpetuating an urban myth. This guy says his faith in God was restored by this ‘fact’ Hovind taught – a false fact!

    Studies of scientists show they are not considerably more secular than the population at large. The idea of atheist and agnostic scientists is accurate – because the general population is atheist and agnostic.

    How many scientists might come to trust in God if only so many Christians would stop twisting the Bible out of whack to support falsities?! How many young people might not reject Christianity when they find out that “core” teachings of their churches are false?!

    I don’t know, but as Christians we must always pursue truth. We can’t be afraid that some fact we run across might challenge our faith. (I’m not aiming this at you, DonS, just a general statement.)

  • WebMonk

    Am I as sure the universe is billions of years old as I am that Jesus is the one and only way of salvation? No, but it’s not all that far of a difference. That’s how strong the evidence of an ancient universe is.

    I think part of the issue behind the discussion is the different views of the information available. You mention that it is clear God has blessed us with a world in which we can rely on our senses and observations to accomplish things based on science. That’s my point – everything God has made in the universe (astronomically related, since that’s our area of conversation) points toward an ancient universe as clearly as science points toward the earth going around the sun. Yes, God could have made everything merely look old, just like He could just make things look like Earth is orbiting the Sun, rather than the other way around.

    That’s what I mean by deception and fraud – if God suddenly somehow revealed that the earth is stationary and the Sun and universe revolve around us, and that all of our telescopes and satellites were actually being fooled by an intricate hologram-like system …. I can’t realistically imagine that. In the same way and for many of the same reasons, I can’t realistically imagine the universe out there being only 6000 years old.

    Lots of things aren’t really related to the age of the universe, and so the vast majority of people can blithely go through life not caring one way or the other.

    I can appreciate your frustration with how an ancient universe may have harmed people’s faith. (though most surveys carried out by any group but AiG consistently show the age of the universe being a non-issue for the majority of people who leave Christianity. There are people who leave for those reasons, but they’re a minority)

    My response is that it’s a shame that those people were taught such a warped interpretation of Genesis and that their faith was so heavily founded on something other than the Gospel that when they are exposed to basic facts about the world that their faith crumbles.

    An Internet “friend” I’ve argued with a few times insists that Dr. Dino tapes have strengthened his faith because they showed him that scientists were basing the moon lander on an old-universe assumption that should have left hundreds of feet of dust on the moon instead of the inches we actually see. Aha! Evil scientists proven wrong!!! Bible proven right!!!!!!

    Never mind the fact that Hovind was merely perpetuating an urban myth. This guy says his faith in God was restored by this ‘fact’ Hovind taught – a false fact!

    Studies of scientists show they are not considerably more secular than the population at large. The idea of atheist and agnostic scientists is accurate – because the general population is atheist and agnostic.

    How many scientists might come to trust in God if only so many Christians would stop twisting the Bible out of whack to support falsities?! How many young people might not reject Christianity when they find out that “core” teachings of their churches are false?!

    I don’t know, but as Christians we must always pursue truth. We can’t be afraid that some fact we run across might challenge our faith. (I’m not aiming this at you, DonS, just a general statement.)


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