Now and then, we come across a book that is so unique and useful that we want to share it with our friends. We publish a review of such books in our quarterly journal. Just recently, we found a book titled Reflections on the Existence of God by Richard Simmons III.
Simmons is exceptionally well-read and has accumulated a massive number of stellar quotes from people in various disciplines on the existence of God. Well documented and credited, these quotations are incredibly useful. If you are like me, you frequently know someone has said what you are trying to say, but they have said it better. A classic example in Simmon’s book is a quote of Henry Bosch from the Encyclopedia of 7,700 illustrations:
“Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only three. Yet the influence of Christ’s three-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who are among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. Jesus painted no pictures, yet some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci received their inspiration from Him. Jesus wrote no poetry, but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music, still, Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Mendelsohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the hymns, symphonies, and oratories they composed in His praise. Every sphere of human greatness has been enriched by this humble carpenter of Nazareth.”
An author like Simmons brings things to us that we would otherwise have missed. As we ponder the words of great writers, our faith in Jesus grows. We are fed and encouraged by the words of those whose creativity of expression is greater than ours.
Reflections on the Existence of God is available from Amazon. We have used other quotes from this book HERE and HERE.
On March 27 we posted an article about Dr. John Lennox, and yesterday we talked about Galileo. Today we have a quote from John Lennox on Galileo.
Dr. Lennox is Professor of Mathematics emeritus at the University of Oxford and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. In his book God’s Undertaker, he told about how Galileo, as a Bible believer, advanced a better scientific understanding that went against not only the churchmen but also the philosophers of his day. They were disciples of Aristotle and interpreted the Bible to fit an Aristotelian view of the universe. Referring to the refusal of the authorities to accept Galileo’s more scientific perspective, Lennox has a warning for today:
“Philosophers and scientists today also have a need of humility in light of facts, even if those facts are being pointed out to them by a believer in God. Lack of belief in God is no more a guarantee of scientific orthodoxy than is belief in God. What is clear, in Galileo’s time and ours, is that criticism of a reigning scientific paradigm is fraught with risk, no matter who is engaged in it.”
We could also point out that from the time of Aristotle until Einstein, the prevailing view of science was that the universe was eternal. That was even though Genesis, the first book of the Bible written long before Aristotle, clearly says there was a beginning. Even Einstein was reluctant to accept the fact of a beginning, and other scientists refused to accept it for many years. Today, Dr. Lennox and others point out the many problems with Darwinian evolution. Meanwhile, the science establishment continues to accept it by faith ignoring the obvious problems shown by mathematics and the fossil record.
The problem which the religious and philosophical establishment had with the heliocentric system was their interpretation of the Bible and devotion to Aristotle. The problem some scientists today have with accepting an intelligent cause for life is their rejection of the Bible and devotion to Darwinism. Another quote from John Lennox on Galileo and religious leaders is, “The important lesson is that we should be humble enough to distinguish between what the Bible says and our interpretations of it.” In other words, both sides must follow the facts wherever they lead, free from devotion to HUMAN doctrines.
People on both sides have their minds made up. Debates have been conducted more for scoring points than for seeking the truth. The supposed conflict between science and faith is often caused by either bad science or bad theology–or both.
Scientists who say the physical universe is “all there is or was or ever will be” have contributed to the problem because that is a statement of faith, not science. The conflict between science and faith has also been caused by theologians who tell us to “put on your Bible glasses” and ignore the plain facts of science.
The truth is that the Bible doesn’t tell us how old the universe is. The truth is also that 14 billion years is not long enough for all life on this planet to have evolved without any intelligent direction. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. It does not tell us how. Science can tell us how God formed the elements in the stars, but it can’t tell us how all matter/energy and space/time came from nothing. Science also cannot tell us how lifeless chemicals became complex, living cells.
Centuries ago some theologians wrongly believed that planet Earth was the center of the universe, but they were only following what earlier scientists had believed. The theologians interpreted the Bible to say something that it didn’t say, and it was hard for them to give up their mistaken idea. It was also hard for the scientists to accept the fact that the Earth revolved around the Sun. It was scientists who were also Christian believers who first pushed the idea of a heliocentric system in spite of the disapproval of the established church leaders.
Three thousand years ago Moses recorded in Genesis 1:1 that the universe had a beginning. From the time of Aristotle, science insisted that the universe was eternal. Not until the early twentieth century did science begin to get a clue that there was a beginning. Then it was hard for scientists to give up their mistaken idea. The truth of a beginning was finally confirmed near the end of the twentieth century and reconfirmed in the twenty-first century.
The universe had a beginning. For over two thousand years from the time of Aristotle until the twentieth century, the accepted view was that the universe was eternal. It took much of the twentieth century for the evidence to compel scientists to concede that there was a beginning to the cosmos. Finally, in the twenty-first century, it was fully confirmed by observations in space. A thousand years before Aristotle, Moses wrote, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Some scientists are still trying to get around the problem of a beginning with the No-Boundary Proposal.
Why was science reluctant to accept the fact that the universe is not eternal? The simple reason is what that implies and the questions that it creates. If the universe had a beginning, that implies that there is something beyond the material world that we observe. The big question then becomes, “What (or Who) brought everything into being?” This leads to the questions, “Why are we here?” and “What is our purpose?” Those are questions that science is afraid to handle. Indeed, those are questions that science cannot handle.
If there was a beginning, there must have been a beginner…a Creator. That Creator, whether personal or impersonal, would have existed “before the beginning.” Science now suggests that the beginning, or the “Big Bang” as it was derisively dubbed by atheist astronomer Fred Hoyle, was not only the starting point for matter and energy, but also for space and time. It was even the starting point for the laws of physics. So how can science explain the beginning? Brilliant scientists have been working on that problem and some have settled on the No-Boundary Proposal.
Last Sunday on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s National Geographic Channel TV show StarTalk, Stephen Hawking said that he knows the answer. Hawking is probably the world’s best-known living physicist and cosmologist. The heart of Hawking’s proposal of what came before the beginning is the No-boundary Proposal. This proposal, according to Hawking, is that before the Big Bang, time was “bent.” According to Hawking’s earlier statements, if we could go back before the Big Bang, we would find that time (and I presume space and matter/energy), “was always reaching closer to nothing but didn’t become nothing.” In other words, there never was a point where something was produced from nothing. There was never nothing. It just seems that way from our perspective. (*You can see the further explanation by Stephen Hawking on the StarTalk show below.)
In a previous lecture, Hawking stated: “Events before the Big Bang are simply not defined because there’s no way one could measure what happened at them. Since events before the big bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the big bang.” This seems to me like a clever way of getting out of speculating on what caused the beginning. It is like saying that the beginning was going on forever and so the beginning never really had a beginning.
*These are Hawking’s words in his interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, “According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, space and time together form a space-time continuum or manifold which is not flat but curved by the matter and energy in it. I adopt a Euclidean approach to quantum gravity to describe the beginning of the universe. In this, ordinary real time is replaced by imaginary time which behaves like a fourth direction of space. In the Euclidean approach, the history of the universe in imaginary time is a four-dimensional, curved surface like the surface of the Earth but with two more dimensions. Jim Hartle and I proposed a “no-boundary” condition. The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary. In order terms, the Euclidean space-time is a closed surface without end, like the surface of the Earth. One can regard imaginary and real time as beginning at the South Pole which is a smooth point of space-time where the normal laws of physics hold. There is nothing south of the South Pole, so there was nothing around before the big bang.”
We live in an expanding universe. For thousands of years, from Aristotle to Einstein, scientists thought that the universe was eternal. Einstein’s equations proposed in his general theory of relativity in 1915 seemed to indicate that the universe was not stable. Einstein thought it was a mistake and tried to correct for the “error” by creating a variable called the “cosmological constant.” The only error was the cosmological constant, and Einstein later called it “the biggest blunder of my life.”
Later in the 1920s, Edwin Hubble found strong evidence that the universe was expanding. That evidence was further confirmed in 1964 when radio astronomers accidentally discovered the cosmic microwave background. It was finally confirmed by space-based experiments in the twenty-first century.
The rate of expansion of the universe based on experiments was established and is known as the Hubble constant. On February 22, 2018, a new survey of the expansion rate was released. This scientific paper was based on the most precise measurements of the universe’s expansion rate using the Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists are surprised to discover that the expansion rate is faster than they thought. This new information may require some re-evaluation of the scientific understanding of the universe.
This is not the first time a re-evaluation was needed. Evidence of an expanding universe indicates that it had a beginning. If you trace the expansion backward through time, you can see that at one point the entire universe would have been compacted into a single point. The evidence of the expansion shows that the universe had a beginning when that expansion began. Since the expansion is accelerating, that means that the universe will never contract back and start over. Therefore, the universe is not eternal. It had a beginning, and it will have an end.