who made god

This tag is associated with 4 posts

Resource Review: “RTB Live! ‘Beyond the Cosmos’ with Hugh Ross”

Reasons to Believe is a science-faith think tank that seeks to show that Christianity is a profound source of knowledge. They come out with a number of resources from podcasts to articles to books. One such resource is their “RTB Live!” video series which explores a number of topics on science and Christianity by varied lecturers. I recently had the opportunity to watch “Beyond the Cosmos” which is the third in the series.

Hugh Ross presents this lecture which largely focuses on integrating science and Christian doctrine. He prefaces his comments by letting the audience know that he’s not necessarily suggesting that the ideas he presents are the way things happened, but rather that they show that certain Christian doctrines are possible in light of scientific findings.

God, according to Christianity, is “transcendental.” Ross refers to this as “transdimensional.” He begins his presentation by saying that given that God is beyond the dimensions, a number of interesting scientific findings about dimensions can show how God could bring about certain actions.

Ross discusses the Biblical portrait of God as both transcendent and immanent. God is beyond the universe, but is “everywhere within the universe” and capable of interacting with God. He outlines a number of Bible verses to show these doctrinal truths.

He then moves on to general relativity. General relativity has been confirmed to an amazing degree by big bang cosmology as well as other evidence. Rather than going into detail on this section–which should be familiar to those interested in such a topic–the rest of this review will focus upon the theological implications Ross draws out from current cosmology.

One of the central questions people ask is “If God created the cosmos, who made God?” Ross notes “everybody asks that question!” However, he argues that “these spacetime theorems give us an answer to that question… What these theorems tell us is that there is cause and effect going on before the universe comes into existence.” Ross argues that these cause and effects are due to a causal agent which is itself outside of space and time.

Because God is not confined to linear time, Ross argues, God has access to “at least a plane of time.” It’s hard to convey Ross’ argument here because he utilizes a drawing to depict what he’s saying. But basically if one sees two timelines running independently, they are on the same plane. God could see this plane and therefore interact with all the timelines.

Ross goes on to use a very interesting illustration of “Mr. and Mrs. Flat.” He uses paper cutouts of a male and a female that are two dimensional figures. Now because they are 2D, they exist on a plane. But God, being transcendental, could, in a sense, “poke a finger” through that plane and God would be experienced as a circle (the finger). God could also poke three fingers through the plane and be experienced as three circles. Furthermore, God could see Mr. and Mrs. Flat in their entirety, even though they would appear as straight lines to each other.

This thought illustration was intended to show how God, having access to all dimensions–indeed, being beyond them–could interact with all of spacetime and know what’s happening.

Similarly, because God has access to limitless dimensionality, He could listen to every single prayer on earth by utilizing each point in a “timeline” as an infinite timeline running perpindicular to that moment of time. Thus, God could spend infinite time listening to each prayer.

The atonement is often raised as an objection to Christianity because some ask how God could pay for the sins of the whole world by just suffering for a few hours on a cross. Ross points out that, just as God can expand any single moment of time into an infinite timeline to listen to prayer, so too could Christ have suffered on the cross for a potentially infinite period of time.

Reasons to Believe, as an organization, strives to show that the Christian faith can be put to the test. Ross pointed out several testable predictions that their model brings to the table:

  1. Evidence for a single cosmic beginning will increase.
  2. Evidence for finite past time will grow.
  3. Evidence for general relativity describing cosmic beginnings will increase.
  4. The grip of spacetime theories will become more “relentless”.
  5. The case for a transcendent creator will grow stronger.
  6. The evidence for other miraculous events will increase.

These 6 testable predictions are not strictly hypotheses that could be used in a lab and some criticism from skeptics could come at Ross from this angle. However, it seems clear in the context of the video that Ross was painting in broad strokes here. From his writings, one could see that he parses these 6 predictions into much more precise hypotheses.There are a number of other theological issues Ross touches upon, and as someone who is constantly involved in grappling with these questions, I couldn’t help but have my mind expanded and think on how some of these ideas could affect my perception of Christianity. There do seem to be a number of ways that science can provide possibilities for several Christian doctrines.
Finally, it would be remiss to review a resource like this without commenting on the visuals presented by Ross. There weren’t any extremely flashy slides or demonstrations. Rather, Ross used a whiteboard to illustrate a few things and brought a few objects (some balls, Mr. and Mrs. Flat, etc.) to demonstrate some points. What was interesting was the way he used them. In particular, the aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. Flat was very interesting.

The video was extremely thought-provoking and certainly would be a good watch for a study group on science and religion. As someone who specializes more in the realm of philosophy, I would say that a few of Ross’ ideas have larger implications than is illustrated in the video. For example, it seemed as though the way Ross described God’s interactions in time would entail something like William Lane Craig’s view that God is timeless sans creation and temporal subsequent to Creation. However, from some of Ross’ writings, I am fairly sure he holds that God is in fact “still” timeless (a view I share). Thus, one would have to take the views he puts forth here as perhaps more speculation than reality. Such a discussion over whether God is timeless or in time was beyond the scope of the video, but I think the video could be used to bring up discussions like it.

Overall I enjoyed the video very much. As usual, Hugh Ross was a thought-provoking speaker whose ability to combine his knowledge of astrophysics with theology is often startling. The video would be perfect for a small group and could go hand-in-hand with Ross’ book of the same name (Beyond the Cosmos). Furthermore, the video could be used for a higher-level apologetics group in order to discuss some implications for God and time or science and faith. It is highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I was given this DVD to review by Reasons to Believe. I was not asked for a positive review, nor was I asked to focus upon any particular content. My thanks go to RTB for the video. 

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Multiverse Created Itself” and “Who made God after all?” -The Kalam Cosmological Argument

The most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing. -Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, 135.

Is this so reasonable? Is it true that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing? The Kalam Cosmological Argument is one of the most compelling arguments for theism. The broad opposition to the Kalam (or, more specifically, to its implications) from atheists has lead to some sophisticated arguments (like those of Graham Oppy or J.L Mackie), but it has also lead to some pretty poor arguments. Below, several objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument have been outlined, along with rebuttals of varying lengths.

The Multiverse?

Some have objected to the Kalam by raising the possibility of a multiverse. They say that this counters the Kalam because it’s possible that our universe is one of nearly infinite past universes, generated as another “bubble” among untold trillions of other bubble universes. There should be one glaring difficulty with this objection that most can see immediately: “Whence the multiverse?” If the multiverse is proposed as eternal, then every objection about actual infinites applies to the multiverse. Not only that, but the multiverse itself would have to account for entropy. How is it that all the energy in this (nearly) infinite multiverse has not been used if it has existed for all eternity?

Ways around these difficulties have been proposed. For example, regarding entropy, some have argued that perhaps different laws of nature apply to the multiverse as a whole. Clearly, this is an extremely ad hoc theory that is really only invented to try to get around the argument. Once we’re allowed to modify reality to our every whim, we could indeed create anything we like–including (nearly) infinite universes.

Another problem with the multiverse objection is that we have startlingly little evidence for such a hypothesis. While there are many hypothetical scientists proposing bubble universes and the like, it’s shocking to read just how little evidence there really is for such a hypothesis.

Finally, even were there an infinite multiverse–as some have proposed due to string theory–this would not avoid an absolute beginning for the entirety of the multiverse. Bruce Gordon points out that the standard inflationary models still use inflation with a finite duration, which would entail that regardless of the number of universes which exist, there would still have to be an absolute beginning to the multiverse (Gordon, cited below, 86-87).

Perhaps, however, this multiverse (or the universe) is finite, but it created itself. There are a number of proposals suggesting just that.

The Universe Created Itself

I don’t think I can do much better than Edgar Andrews did over at his blog when he asks “Could a universe create itself?” He points out that the difficulty with each scenario proposed in which the universe creates itself is that it presupposes the existence of either matter, energy, or the laws of nature–the very things which this objection is supposed to answer. Andrews writes,

 Stephen Hawking [who recently proposed the universe created itself] falls into this dilemma by claiming that the universe was created as a result of quantum mechanical fluctuations (in a vacuum) which became stabilized by gravitational forces [Hawking pp. 131-135; Hawking review]. He thus requires the laws of quantum mechanics and of gravity to have pre-existed the universe… But what is the law of gravity but a description of the way materialbodies interact — either with one another or with the space-time continuum? To claim that such a law existed in the absence of matter, energy, space or time stretches credulity and is incapable of demonstration. Only ‘mind of God’ and ‘non-material blueprint’ arguments remain and these are theological not scientific.

Similarly, suppose we took the claim of Smith (above) seriously–that the universe created itself from nothing. Does this even make sense? William Lane Craig writes, “…if prior to the existence of the universe, there was absolutely nothing–no God, no space, no time–how could the universe possibly have come to exist?” This is an extremely important question for the atheist to answer. Most often, however, atheists have instead changed the meaning of “nothing” to mean quantum vacuum or some other physical reality. This is hardly “nothing” that would have existed before the universe. Before the universe, there was no space, no time, no anything.

Edgar Andrews points out the confusion that some atheist philosophers and physicists perpetuate with this conflation of “nothing”:

[Victor Stenger] begins by utterly confusing the pre-creation ‘nothing’ that lies outside of space-time with the ‘nothing’ of a vacuum within space-time. Next, without making it clear which ‘nothing’ he is talking about, he claims that ‘the transition from nothing to something is a natural one, not requiring any agent.’ (Andrews, 97, cited below).

The problem isn’t solved when one lends it the idea of a multiverse, either. Oscillating universe models still imply a finite beginning (Gordon, 86ff). The idea that an infinite number of universes caused each other in a causal loop does no better–it leads only to a vicious regress. Ultimately, such proposals must be rejected for what they are–fiction.

Who Caused God?

Another trite response to the Kalam is the classic “Well fine, you say the universe is caused, well who caused God?” line. Here the atheist commits a number of classic blunders, to steal the phrase from “The Princess Bride.”

First, as in all scientific (and otherwise) inquiry, once one has reached the best possible explanation for an event, one has reached the end of the inquiry. An inference to the best explanation does not require an explanation of that explanation. There’s a reason that scientific inquiry can appeal to laws: they best explain how the world works.

Second, the first part of the Kalam is that “Everything which begins to exist has a cause” not  “Everything is caused.” The atheist has merely misread or misinterpreted this principle. Should the atheist want to press the second point–that everything is caused, they have already conceded the weaker principle (that everything which begins has a cause), and they must further argue for a much stronger metaphysical claim. I leave it to the atheist to establish this claim.

“But,” the atheist may object, “you’re just denying the antecedent!” Not quite. I’m not saying that God didn’t begin, therefore God was uncaused–rather, I’m arguing that because God did not begin, this argument does not apply to God. There could be other arguments made to establish that God is caused, but to do so would require, as I pointed out, arguing for the metaphysical principle that “everything is caused.” Again, I leave the atheist to make this argument.

Conclusion

While many objections to the Kalam might be made in good faith, it is clear upon examination that they all fall far short of defeating the argument. The Kalam Cosmological Argument succeeds in its goal: to show that the universe is caused. What is this cause? That’s a question we must all consider with fear and trembling.

Links

Those interested in a broad outline of the Kalam Cosmological Argument can read my post on the topic.

For a discussion of one both Richard Dawkins’ and Graham Oppy’s objections to the Kalam, read Dawkins and Oppy vs. Theism: Defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Sources:

Edgar Andrews, “Could a universe create itself?”

Edgar Andrews, Who Made God (Darlington, England: EP books, 2009). Reviewed here.

Bruce Gordon, “Inflationary Cosmology and the String Multiverse” in New Proofs for the Existence of God by Robert Spitzer (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2010).

William Lane Craig and Paul Copan, Creation Out of Nothing (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 9/16

Yes the picture is another pun. I know, I know.

Infatuation with the “New” a Defense of the Old– Ever catch yourself latching onto something just because it’s the latest thing on the block? You’re not alone. But there’s something to be said for this infatuation of the “new.” Check out this excellent post on the topic.

The Dead Sea Scrolls- Biblical Archaeology– the 32nd in a series of posts at Theosophical Reuminations by Jason Dulle on… you guessed it, Biblical Archaeology. Really a phenomenal series. I can’t stress enough how much I think readers should check out the whole thing.

Imaginative Apologetics: A Reflective and Analytical Review– You won’t often see links to book reviews on my recommended posts, but I think this is a very interesting review. I have not read the book, but it seems the basic premise is that we must use our imaginations when it comes to a defense of the faith. Really interesting read.

Could a universe create itself?– There is some confusion among astronomers and physicists of late. Stephen Hawking proposed the universe could create itself. Lawrence Krauss argued in his debate with William Lane Craig that “nothing” has potential to create. Edgar Andrews, author of the book Who Made God? (my review here) addresses these arguments clearly and succinctly. Highly recommended.

The Essence of Every False Religion– No Apologies Allowed is one of my favorite apologetics websites. Most often, comics are featured–with a video here and there. They all give me food for thought. After checking out this link/comic, check out the rest of the site!

Christian Responses to 9/11– a list of Christian Apologetics Bloggers’ responses to 9/11.

Book Review: “Who Made God?” by Edgar Andrews

Who Made God? by Edgar Andrews offers a witty, heady read for Christians looking to interact with some of the most recent scientific theories. Targeted at Christians who have been befuddled by the latest scientific theories, interested skeptics who want to see if Christianity has anything to say about science, or Christian apologists looking to bolster their scientific knowledge, the book is a resounding success.

Interestingly, Andrews gets the title of the book out of the way quickly. Andrews argues against the common atheistic retort, “Well if God made everything, who made God?” He writes, “Because cause and effect is only proven for the physical world, we can no longer insist that cause and effect are relevant when it comes to the origin of a spiritual entity like God.” I am not sure about the strength of this response. It seems to potentially put God outside the rules of logic, something of which most theists are very wary. A more convincing response, in my opinion, is to simply point out that the concept of God includes necessity. Theistic arguments are designed to show just this–that God is the uncaused ground of being.

Who Made God, however, quickly jumps into stride and doesn’t look back. Andrews lucidly argues that while science can describe events and put them to the test, it cannot explain things in the sense of a comprehensive explanation. Science, for example, “doesn’t tell us why there is [a force of gravity]” (30).

Without slowing down Andrews jumps into a clear explanation of String Theory and its attempts to be a “theory of everything.” Even were science to unify into a theory of everything, however, Andrews point would still stand. The theory would offer descriptions of how things happen, but it wouldn’t explain why the theory itself worked. He also offers a few critiques of string theory, such as the counter-intuitive nature of the theory (48).

Andrews continues on, offering God as a “hypothesis.” He argues that “the methodology of science” can be applied to God (58-59). He argues that Victor Stenger’s God: the failed hypothesis fails on a number of levels. Stenger claims that God “should be detectable: (1) by scientific ‘models’; (2) by scientific measurements… (3) by scientific ‘methods'” (67). Against this, Andrews points out that Stenger is trying to exclude God from existence by “having it both ways.” Stenger argues that God should be detectable, but cannot be because the measurements of science are restricted to the physical. Obviously, this begs the question against theism.

Andrews also addresses nothing, by which I mean the redefinition of “nothing” into “something” often done by atheists (see the debate between Lawrence Krauss and William Lane Craig). He points out that they often use “nothing” to reference vacuum and/or empty space or dark matter. But this is either deliberately misleading or just incomprehensible (97ff). As the atheists who say this often admit themselves, this “empty” space is hardly “nothing.” It is full of energy. But beyond space, beyond the existence of our universe, outside of space and time–that is what is meant by “nothing” (105).

The God hypothesis is vindicated when it comes to the evidence from astronomy and physics. The low entropy state of our universe (117-118), along with its origin (98ff) both point to a creator. Andrews moves on to argue that the origin of the laws of nature must also point to the God hypothesis (138-153). He then goes on to argue that our biological origins, the information found in cells, and the diversity of life have their best explanation with God. To cover these arguments fully would double the size of this review, but I found these arguments just as exciting as the rest of Who Made God. A sampling: proteins and DNA must have information in order to function correctly (181ff); origin of life theories can only be explained with the God hypothesis (196ff);  evolution is nonfalsifiable (214-216); natural selection is a tautology (219-220); junk DNA isn’t junk (234ff); mutations really only help within dynamic populations and cannot lead to new species (230ff [through 240]). Andrews isn’t finished there, however, he tackles arguments for and against mind/body dualism (250ff).

Another strength of Who Made God is the format. There is a summary of each chapter prior to its contents, along with definitions of important terms. Humor is found throughout the work as the author tells funny stories or makes witty comments about the arguments. These aspects increase the readability of the book to a great degree.

This is not to say the book is without faults. Andrews’ treatment of the Ontological Argument was a bit abrupt. I’ve written on the argument before (see my posts here and here). Andrews’ critiques don’t apply to the most current versions of the argument. The most commonly used ontological argument is the modal version developed by Alvin Plantinga and others. This version of the argument doesn’t appeal to human ideas, but to modal necessity and possibility. To his credit, Andrews does point out that some philosophers find the argument compelling.

Another issue with Who Made God is the sometimes unconventional use of philosophical terms. For example, Andrews defines “phenomenology” as “The way phenomena… manifest themselves” (27). Phenomenology, however, is most commonly used (in philosophy) as the study of consciousness. Outside of philosophy, it generally refers to conscious experience or sense experience, not so much about the phenomena themselves. While the definition is not wrong, it caused some confuse, and may confuse other readers familiar with the other, more conventional uses. Another uncommon definition was given for “Monism.” Most often, the term refers to the idea that all of reality is one [i.e. it is all material, or all immaterial]. Andrews definition makes sense in context (he defines it as “The idea that mind is nothing more than the brain at work” [257] but that definition in philosophy of mind is more often used for “reductionism” which Andrews defines differently as well).

However, neither of these negatives outweigh the significant positives found throughout Who Made God. You know that I’m nitpicking when my main critique focuses on a couple unconventional definitions, particularly when Andrews uses valid definitions that simplify the terminology for the reader.

Edgar Andrews’ Who Made God is unique among the slew of apologetics books written at a popular level in that it offers a nearly comprehensive argument for Christianity based upon various scientific theories. Despite a few small flaws, I unreservedly recommend this book to all Christians looking to increase their knowledge of biology, physics, and astronomy. Andrews clearly and succinctly explains several scientific theories in terms which are easy to understand, while also showing the relevance for the “God hypothesis.” Readers will come away convinced that when it comes to science, their faith stands on firm ground. Books with scopes this broad most often shine their lights upon lots of topics and illumine none. Readers will find that Who Made God illumines nearly every topic it touches, bringing new insight and clarity into often confusing issues.

Source: Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? (Darlington, England: EP books, 2009).

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy free of charge by EP books. My thanks to both Edgar Andrews and EP books.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,804 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason