Science and the Bible:
Cosmos and Creator
by Mark Eastman, M.D.
They have been called the two greatest questions that face mankind:
Does God exist, and if He does, what is His nature?
Since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, the answers to these questions have been sought by examining the nature of the universe and its life forms. In the 20th century more evidence has accumulated to answer these questions than at any time in history.
In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul made a remarkable statement regarding the relationship between our understanding of the universe and the existence and attributes of God.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
According to Paul, not only is the existence of God inexcusably evident, but the invisible attributes of God can also be discerned with an examination of creation.
By the turn of the 20th century many of the laws of physics had been described so successfully that many felt that all that remained was to confirm these laws to a few more decimal places. So successful were Isaac Newton's descriptive laws of motion and gravitation and Maxwell's laws of electromagnetism, that anomalies were often ignored or unrecognized by the physics community. However, when Albert Einstein published the first of his relativity theories in 1905, he shocked the physics community with a staggering new view of space, time, matter and energy. Though he did not know it at the time, his theories provided dramatic insights into the attributes of the Creator of the cosmos.
Among other things, what Einstein's theories revealed was that the flow of time and the structure of space were relative to the velocity, mass and acceleration of the observers. That is, their observed values were not fixed: they were relative.
For thousands of years scientists and philosophers believed that time was nothing more than an abstract notion, conceived in the minds of men, and used to describe the change seen in the physical world. Time, it was believed, was not a thing, it was a mental contrivance. Einstein showed that this was wrong. Time, Einstein showed, was "plastic." That is, it is a physical property of the universe, and that the observed rate that time flows depends on the physical conditions present at the measuring device.
In brief, Einstein's special and general theories of Relativity, now confirmed to at least 15 decimal places, predicted that when a clock travels at high velocity it slows down relative to an another clock whose position is fixed. The same slowing effect is seen when a clock is accelerated or is advanced toward an increasing gravitational field. In addition, Einstein showed that space and time are tightly coupled; so much so that physicists now refer to space-time when speaking of these components. But this was just the beginning.
Several years after Einstein's theories were published, astronomer Willem de Sitter found a mathematical error in Einstein's equations. When corrected, he found a startling mathematical prediction buried within his equations: The universe was finite! Space-time, matter, and energy had a beginning.
In his book, It's About Time, popular author and physicist Paul Davies remarks on this incredible discovery.
Modern scientific cosmology is the most ambitious enterprise of all to emerge from Einstein's work. When scientists began to explore the implications of Einstein's time for the universe as a whole, they made one of the most important discoveries in the history of human thought: that time, and hence all of physical reality, must have had a definite origin in the past. If time is flexible and mutable, as Einstein demonstrated, then it is possible for time to come into existence-and also to pass away again; there can be a beginning and an end to time.1
I recently had an opportunity to speak on the origin of life at a major public university in Southern California. In attendance were a number of professors who are self-described agnostics. During the question period, one of the professors admitted that the evidence is compelling that the universe was indeed finite. He said that while he could not believe in God (because he couldn't see Him, or study Him scientifically) he said he did believe that someday scientists would discover a law that would explain the origin and order of the universe and its life forms.
After pointing out that he had just expressed faith - the belief in things unseen, but hoped for - I asked him if he believed that the laws of physics, which work in our space-time domain, also had a beginning. He was forced to concede that they did because they would have no place to act before the space-time domain existed.
The final blow came when I asked him if he then believed that some "law" of physics could explain the origin of the laws of physics! He saw the point: The laws of physics cannot be the cause of the laws of physics! The cause of the universe and its laws must be must be independent of the space-time domain, exactly as the Bible claimed 3,500 years earlier!
Paul's statement regarding the attributes of God being discerned by an examination of the nature of the universe is quite staggering, considering the state of scientific knowledge in the first century A.D. At that time it was commonly believed that the universe was eternal. In the face of that commonly held bias, the Bible clearly taught that the universe was finite, and the Creator is independent of time and space-exactly as 20th century cosmology suggests.
In the Beginning God created the heavens an the earth... -Genesis 1:1
...&God, (v.9) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.
-2 Timothy 1:8-9 NKJ
...in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.
- Titus 1:2 NKJ
The finiteness of space-time not only points to a Creator who is independent of the cosmos, but it also gives us insight into the minimum resume of such a Being.
The Uncaused Cause
In my discussion with the agnostic professors, I asked them to give me the caveat, for the sake of my next argument, that God did indeed exist. They agreed. I then asked them what would be the minimum "resume" of such a Being. Remarkably, they were quite insightful in their deductions. They quickly recognized that such a Being would not only have to be independent of space-time, but must also be incredibly powerful, incredibly intelligent and able to act unencumbered, simultaneously inside and outside the time domain. Remarkably, without recognizing it, they had described the resume of the Creator as revealed in the Biblical text!
Among other things, the law of cause and effect asserts that a cause is always greater than its effect. Applied to the cosmos it means that the Creator must be more powerful than all the energy stored in all the stars in all the galaxies in the entire universe. Physicists believe that there are at least 1080 particles in the universe. Einstein's famous equation, E=mc2 indicates that the energy stored in the mass of the universe is equal to the mass times the speed of light squared! From this perspective, the Creator must be an all-powerful, omnipotent Being. This very attribute is credited to God throughout the Bible's text.
Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?
In my discussion with the professors, even they admitted that all the chemists, molecular biologists, and physicists in the world combined have been unable to create a DNA molecule from raw elements; hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, etc. Moreover, molecular biologists admit that living cells are metabolic machines which are vastly more complicated than any machine made by mankind. They agreed in principle that the nature of these cellular "machines" would require a Being possessing unfathomable intelligence. Such a Being would be, from our limited perspective, an all-knowing, omniscient Creator. Throughout the Bible's text God is described in such terms. For example, in Jeremiah 1:5, God's omniscience is illustrated in his foreknowledge of the prophet even before he was born:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.
The infinite knowledge of God2 is proclaimed in 1 John 3:20 and in Psalm 147:5:
For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
-1 John 3:20
Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite.
Finally, if our space-time domain is the direct creation of God, then once He created the cosmos, in order to organize and uphold the galaxies, solar system and its life forms, the Creator must be able to act simultaneously, inside and outside the space time domain. This attribute we call omnipresence. This too is an attribute that is ascribed to God throughout the Bible's text.3
Am I a God near at hand," says the LORD, "And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?" says the LORD; "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the LORD.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.
God: A Force?
At the end of my discussion, one of the professors asked, "Why did God create us in the first place?" I couldn't believe my ears! To answer this question we needed to deal with another attribute that I believe is also a minimum attribute of God: Personhood. Although Albert Einstein eventually came to a belief in a Creator, he did not believe in a personal God. This was primarily because he believed that a benevolent God would not allow so much evil and suffering in the world. But is this reasonable? I don't believe so.
As expected, at the end of the evening, like Einstein before them, the professors expressed the most common objection to the existence of a personal God: the problem of evil. Like so many skeptics today, they framed the question: "If God exists, if God is a personal Being, if God loves me, then why does he allow evil?" The answer to this question can also be discerned by an examination of "the things that are made."
The answer is so startling and so beautiful and so important because it ties together not only the nature of God and the nature of mankind, but it also provides the answer to the ultimate questions in life: The answers to my origin, meaning, morality and destiny! For this discussion, stay tuned next month.
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- Paul Davies, It's About Time, Touchstone Books/Simon and Schuster, 1995, pg. 17.
- Also Isa 42:9; Heb 4:12-13; Rom 8:29.
- Also Deut 4:39; 1 Kgs 8:27; 2 Chr 2:6; Ps 139:3,5-10.
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Dr. Mark Eastman