Posts tagged Origins

Apologetic Wednesday: A Blog about Nothing

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If you will give me just a few minutes of your time, I would like to talk about nothing. Now, I know you may be thinking, “Well, if you are going to talk about nothing, then why are you talking about something?” But I don’t want to talk about something. If I wanted to talk about something, I could practically talk about anything, because everything that exists is something. Yet, I want to talk about nothing. That is, I want to talk about the concept of nothing, not say nothing, because clearly I am saying something! Confused? It sounds an awfully lot like the Abbott and Costello bit called “Who’s On First?” doesn’t it?

Early this year theoretical physicist, Lawrence Krauss, released a book entitled A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing. He attempts to promote the idea that the universe could have risen from nothing, thereby removing the need for a Creator or First Cause. Many people have been intrigued by the title. Krauss has garnered a lot of attention as of late. In fact, he has become ubiquitous, many who did not know his name now do. He even garnered an appearance on the Colbert Report, which was highly entertaining.

Prominent spokesperson for Atheism, Richard Dawkins, seems to think that Krauss’ work is the nail in the coffin of the Theist. He writes, “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If ‘On the Origin of Species’ was biology’s deadliest blow to super­naturalism, we may come to see ‘A Universe From Nothing’ as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is ­devastating.” I am unsure why Dawkins feels the need to dote on this title, because the book answers no such question.

The problem rests on that pesky, little word, “nothing.” Krauss asserts that the universe did arise from nothing, but the nothingness from which he says the universe came is the quantum vacuum. Do you see the problem? He has renamed something (the quantum vacuum) nothing, when clearly it is something.  The quantum vacuum is essentially empty space, but it is rife with energy, it also weighs something. So what we have here is still something. Krauss doesn’t answer the question of why there is something when there should be nothing. He merely steps the question back a step. He has not dealt with the fact that one must explain where matter, energy, and the physical laws that our universe operates under come from in the first place. He simply redefines the term “nothing” to fit with his own naturalistic presuppositions that there is no God.

So that leaves us with our original topic to discuss, nothing. What exactly is nothing? Aristotle mused that, “Nothing is what rocks dream about.” That is to say, nothing is a complete absence of anything. It is a term of universal negation. Physics cannot describe nothing, because nothing has zero properties to be described.

Christianity has always maintained that God created the universe Ex Nihilo, literally out of nothing. When it comes down to it, something has always existed. There is something that has always been out of necessity. Christians would say that this is God, whereas Krauss must appeal to a multi-verse (an infinite number of universes). Modern cosmology points to a specific beginning of the universe which seems best explained by an external, necessary agent, God.

So, as it is, the title of Krauss’ book is misleading, but I am sure it helped the book to move. He has done well with it, and it has offered him a greater degree of notoriety, to which I say kudos. Yet, it is possible that some laity will take his definition of “nothing” at face value when his nothing is really something.

As it turns out, nothing from nothing is still nothing, because nothing ever could.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” –Genesis 1:1

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Further Reading/Viewing:
William Lane Craig Vs. Lawrence Krauss Debate
New York Times Review of Krauss’ book by David Albert

Apologetic Wednesday: Three Big Questions

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When it comes to making sense of life, we want answers. We want answers to every question that we have. Why does life play out in certain ways? Why do things seem unfair at times? What do we make of suffering and pain? Thousands of questions have been posed in regards to human existence.

Often, a finger is wagged at Christianity for not being able to completely answer every question with full satisfaction. “If Christianity cannot answer every question down to the finest details, it must not be true” is a stance often taken by those skeptical of the claims Christianity makes. The truth is, no worldview is able to answer every question with complete confidence. We need to be cognizant of this fact, before unfairly demanding that Christianity answer every question while giving other worldviews a free pass.

It is my firm conviction, that Christianity has answered most of the big questions with great satisfaction. Some questions about life are incredibly complex, and we simply do not have the means to give an air tight explanation. We have to be content with not having all the answers for a season.

Christianity does answer the three big questions about life. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we headed? These three questions frame what it means to be human. We have here questions of origins, identity, and destiny.

Let us turn first to the question of origins? Where did we come from? Genesis 1:26 asserts, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” We are the result of a loving Being that chose to bring us into existence. We are not the result of blind, purposeless forces. We were created to be in relationship with God. We even bear His image. In a limited way, we possess some of His very characteristics.

Next, we must focus on our identity. Where does one find purpose in life? Jesus answers this question for us explicitly. We find in Mark 12, that a group of religious leaders seek to trap Jesus with a question that places him in a double bind. They ask, “Teacher, we know You are truthful and defer to no one, for You don’t show partialitybut teach truthfully the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxesto Caesar or not? Should we pay, or should we not pay?” The hope was that if Jesus said pay taxes, then the Jews would be extremely upset with Him, for they hated the overpowering Roman government. But, if Jesus said do not pay taxes; this would be viewed as an act of sedition against the Roman government. So in typical Jesus fashion, he answers their question with a question of His own.  He calls for someone to give Him a coin. He then asks, “Whose image and inscription is this?” “Caesar’s,” they said. Then Jesus told them, “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The coin bore Caesar’s image, so one should pay to Caesar that which bore his image. So what then belongs to God? Well, what bears the image of God? When we refer back to Genesis 1:26, we find that we are the image bearers of God. Therefore, we give God our very lives.

It is only through giving back to God what is God’s that we find our identity. When we make life about us, we never find complete happiness. We were not designed to serve ourselves. Our identity is wrapped up in serving He who created us. In serving Him, we will also serve those around us and take care of what He has bestowed upon us.

Let us last consider the question of destiny. Where are we headed? As we have said, all of mankind bears the image of God, yet when mankind chose to do things their own way instead of God’s, that image was tarnished. As Norman Geisler says, “The image of God has been effaced, but not erased.” Christianity teaches that there are two ultimate destinies, with Christ or apart from Christ. We get to choose where we want our destiny to be. Are we willing to concede that we are sinners that fall short of God’s glory and  turn toward Him or will we continue doing life our own way and living according to our twisted inner man? The choice is completely ours?

There are three big questions. Christianity offers three big answers. We were created by God. Our identity is wrapped up in whether or not we give ourselves to Him. Our destiny is determined by how we respond to His offer. We can embrace what Jesus did for us on the cross and turn toward God, or we can reject His offer to be called the sons and daughters of God.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: The Mystery of Stuff

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Today, for Apologetic Wednesday, we are in for a bit of a treat. We have a guest post by Greg West. He runs an apologetics hangout called “The Poached Egg.” The name of his site pays homage to C.S. Lewis.  I would encourage you to visit his site and follow him on twitter for a daily dose of thinking. Now sit back, put on your thinking cap, and enjoy his thoughts on “The Mystery of ‘Stuff’.”

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I’d like to take a few moments of your time to discuss the mystery of “stuff”. What is “stuff”? Was there always “stuff”? Where did “stuff” come from? Was there nothing before there was “stuff” or has “stuff” always existed? If “stuff” hasn’t always been around, did “stuff” just cause itself to suddenly be around, or was “stuff” somehow caused by something made of “non-stuff”?

Most of us humans think about these things, whether we are religious or not, because how all this stuff got here, and even more so, why is there even any stuff at all, is a huge question that has all kinds of implications about how we choose to live our lives. And by the way, by “stuff”, I mean the universe; time, space, matter, and energy–everything that makes up the universe and everything in it. Okay, from now on I’m just going to say: “stuff” without the quotation marks. I promise—“really” I do.

When I say that we as humans have a tendency to think about these things, it makes me wonder how and why, if humans have truly evolved from simpler life forms, should we have evolved to the point where we even think about these things in the first place?

I mean, my dog has stuff—and lots of it compared to a lot of other dogs. He has about a gazillion chew toys scattered all over the house, and whether my wife bought him stuff for his birthday, for Christmas, or just for being a generally good dog, I don’t think he gives a squirrel’s tail where all of his stuff, or any other stuff for that matter, came from. He’s happy just as long as he has some stuff–and even if he didn’t have any stuff of his own, I honestly don’t think it would affect his disposition much at all. Whether or not my dog (or any other animal) thinks about where stuff came from is beside the point because it’s a matter of fact that humans do. But I’m getting a bit off topic so let’s get back to the original topic and explore the question of where all this stuff (everything) came from. The question of why is there any stuff at all we’ll leave for another time.

First, let’s see what science has to say about all this stuff. Now, I am not a scientist, but I do have a brain, and I can at least think about scientific ideas and draw my own conclusions about them based upon the available evidence. There are lots of scientists out there with a lot of different ideas and opinions about how all this stuff got here—from multiple universes, to universes popping in and out of existence, to universes expanding and collapsing and giving birth to other universes, and so on.

But let’s see what one one of the top guys in the field, Alexander Vilenkin (Professor of Physics and Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University), a theoretical physicist who has been working in the field of cosmology for more than 25 years, has to say:

All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” (emphasis mine)

He has also been quoted saying,

“With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape; they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” (emphasis mine)

Even though Dr. Vilenkin is one of the top guys in his field, we would probably find no shortage of other equally smart people in the field that would disagree with him, so let’s take a look at all the possible options that explain the existence of stuff…

  • Option #1: There has always been stuff. Stuff has always existed. There was never a time when there was never any stuff in some form or another.
  • Option #2: Stuff caused itself to become stuff out of nothing.
  • Option #3: Nothing caused something, resulting in lots of stuff.
  • Option #4: Something non-stuff caused all the stuff to exist.

If there are any other options that I have failed to mention, please let me know because I would sincerely like to know what it is—but for now, please take a moment to ponder these four options, and while you do, feel free to imagine the theme from Final Jeopardy playing in your head. Are you done pondering yet? I can’t tell because I’m not actually here right now as I have written this in the not so distant past and am doing something else at the moment… but after you are done, please bear with me just a bit longer…

At first glance, each option seems as equally improbable as the others, but I would like to posit Option #4 as the most likely to be true. Option #4 is a conclusion drawn from what is known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the first premise of which is known as the Law of Causality. Before we further examine the cosmological argument, let me first explain what I mean by the “Law” of Causality. Something is deemed to be a scientific law when there is so much evidence in its support that it is virtually indisputable. Now that we’ve established that, let’s take a look at the cosmological argument.

  1. Stuff that begins to exist must have a cause for its existence (aka: The Law of Causality)
  2. Stuff began to exist
  3. Therefore, stuff has a cause

This argument makes a lot of sense to me. Why? Because anything and everything that anyone has ever observed that exists in nature has a cause. For instance: A geologist will tell you that a rock exists because… well, I’m not really sure. Go ask a geologist, look it up on Wikipedia, Google it or something, and you’ll get the idea.

I exist today because at some time my parents… uh…well… you know. Now, I realize that my own existence is the result of stuff that already existed (just like the afore mentioned rock), but eventually, whether you are a creationist, evolutionist, or anything in between, you have to get back to an ultimate uncaused first cause, otherwise you are left with an infinite regression, which is impossible, because an actual infinite past cannot exist (watch this video for a short explanation of why). This substantially lowers the likelihood of Option #1 as a probability and the Law of Causality eliminates Option #2 as being a likely explanation because, as already mentioned, nowhere in nature has anyone ever observed any stuff being the cause of its own existence, even if it came from preexisting stuff–I could never have willed myself into existence and neither could a rock.

When it comes to option #3, let’s try and imagine the concept of “nothing”. Things like space, gravity, quantum vacuums, singularities, the laws of physics, etc., are not “nothing”; they are all “stuff” that require a cause for their existence. If you are understandably having trouble with the concept of nothing, the best I’ve heard it described so far is that, “Nothing is what rocks dream about.” Waiting for nothing to cause something, for lack of a better analogy, would be like waiting for a pot of water to boil on the stove when you haven’t even put a pot of water on the stove.

The cosmological argument leads me to conclude that Option #4 is the most likely explanation for the existence of stuff because Options #1,#2, and #3 do not conform to what I know of, have experienced, or observed in reality. This is not absolute proof for the God of Christianity, but it is a very strong case for theism. Regardless of which of the available options you choose to believe, each of them require a step of faith–and I don’t mean faith in the biblical sense of “trust in God”, I mean faith as in “belief in something without proof.”

The case for Christianity is a cumulative one and is not based on any single piece of evidence. A part of that cumulative case is that the Judeo-Christian Bible describes God as exactly the kind of entity that would be required to be the first uncaused cause of all the stuff (see Option #4)—in other words, existing outside of time and space: immaterial (spirit, or “non-stuff”), and eternal (timeless–did not begin to exist).

Some hostile skeptics, those usually associated with the anti-theist crowd (which does not include all or even most skeptics), derogatorily refer to theism or Christianity as blind faith in a magic sky god, and compare it with believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, pink unicorns, or any other number of mythical creatures. We can politely respond to this by asking why belief in a creator God takes any more faith than believing in an eternally existing universe, a universe that somehow caused its own existence out of nothing, or a universe that nothing caused to exist; all of which go against what is known in nature. As far as I’m concerned, all of the options require what I would consider to be a miracle.

If this raises the question, “If God caused the universe then what caused God?”; It is not a valid question because being eternal, God did not begin to exist, and therefore does not require a cause for his existence. How can God be eternal? I have no idea. It’s a mystery—a much bigger mystery to me than the mystery of “stuff”.

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