Daily Archives: August 18, 2023

Cosmogenesis et al. vs The Universal Christ

From very early times mankind has wondered about the origin and nature of the universe and our place in it. Many theories have also emerged over the years about the origin of life and where it can be found. Let’s examine some of these theories.
Early man looked at the movements of the sun, the moon, and the other stars and planets and concluded that the Earth was at the center of the universe and these all revolved around it. They believed the Earth was essentially flat and if you could travel to the extreme edge of it, you would fall off. This belief was challenged once sailing ships which ventured far enough from shore were observed to sink below the horizon only to rise and reappear as they returned to shore. Gradually the belief grew that the Earth was a sphere like the heavenly bodies observed. Thie evolved to the point that, in 1492 A.D., Christopher Columbus set sail towards the west to find a route to India which lay east of Europe, discovering the American continent instead. Then in September 1522 a remnant of the crew of Ferdinand Magellan, although he had died along the way, completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth, proving conclusively that Earth was a sphere.

The next big change came in the middle 1500’s A.D. when the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus proposed that the planets, including Earth. have the Sun as the fixed point around which they orbit. This representation of the heavens is usually called the heliocentric, or “Sun-centered,” system. Needless to say, the idea that Earth was not the center of the universe caused great consternation in religious circles and fostered a surge in scientific investigation of the nature of the universe.
Sir Isaac Newton, an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, theologian, and author, was a key figure in the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment that followed. In his pioneering book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), first published in 1687, he formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that formed the dominant scientific viewpoint for centuries. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the mechanical worldview developed from the work of Newton, René Descartes and Francis Bacon, saw the universe as a great machine put in place and set in motion by God, the master technician, which ran itself with a precision such that the movement of its parts could be calculated with great precision.

Then Albert Einstein published his theory of special relativity (e=mc 2) in 1905, which described the relationship energy and matter. Ten years later (in 1915) he published his general theory of relativity, which postulated that gravity might not be a force like the other physical forces, but a result of spacetime’s curvature. Einstein’s field equations, published in 1916, predicted the expansion of the universe, but he initially believed that the universe as a whole did not change, thinking he had made a mistake somehow in his equations. By 1922 Russian mathematician Alexander Friedman had shown Einstein’s equations allowed three different solutions, one of which was the model of the universe expanding through time, and he tried to convince Einstein of this. But direct evidence of this theory was needed, which came when observational cosmologist Edwin Hubble observed through the telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory in California that the cosmological red shift showed the universe was expanding at a calculable rate. It was Georges Lemaître then, the Belgian mathematical cosmologist, who in 1931 invented the theory that the cosmos was expanding from a powerful explosion at the beginning of time, i.e., the Big Bang theory. Working backwards from the current state of the universe, scientists have theorized this all began roughly 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered to be the age of the universe.

So, the universe was once again seen as a vast machine with predictable movement of its parts, as previously envisioned by Isaac Newton, René Descartes and Francis Bacon, except this time it was dynamically expanding, rather than remaining static. This theory worked quite well on the macroscopic level with large objects which could be observed, and which could have their characteristics and movements precisely calculated. The study of quantum mechanics, however, beginning around 1900 and progressing throughout the 20th century, deals with microscopic or subatomic particles, and it began to change our understanding of the nature of the universe.

Quantum mechanics differs from classical physics in which energy, momentum, angular momentum, and other quantities have discrete values which can be accurately measured. In quantum physics, objects have characteristics of both particles and waves (wave–particle duality); and there are limits to how accurately the value of a physical quantity can be predicted. Superstring theory, which emerged in the 1980s, added the suggestion that the microscopic landscape is suffused with tiny strings whose vibrational patterns orchestrate the evolution of the cosmos, which appears to resolve the conflict between general relativity and quantum mechanics. It also suggested the existence of additional dimensions beyond the four we are familiar with, bringing the total up from four to ten or eleven, possibly including more than one dimension of time. One thing is absolutely clear from all these discoveries. There is much more to the physical universe than meets the naked eye.

So much for the current status of an evolving universe. Although we now believe we know how and when the universe began, the question remains: What set off the Big Bang that started it all and why? Many scientists have realized that the way in which the universe has evolved had to be exactly as it has been in order for the unfolding of life on the Earth, the only place in the universe where we have found it so far. Based on what science has discovered, three main schools of thought have formed. Each of these agree that the expansion of the universe is extraordinarily elegant. The first focused on the idea of a multiverse of many different universes, one of which (ours) evolved exactly as needed to produce life. The second suggested it was all somehow by design, But whose? And the third focused on the inner ordering dynamics of the universe, without saying how that came about.

There is no way we on Earth can verify the existence of other universes than the one in which we reside, so let’s stick with the other two approaches. The design approach requires an entity with the ability to not only conceive, but also execute, the design. Christians believe that entity is God, but many others dismiss the idea that God exists. We’ll return to that later. The third approach suggests the universe has a mind of its own. Let’s explore that idea a bit. Many authors have written about this. Eckhart Tolle, for instance, a German-born spiritual teacher and self-help author, in his extensive writings, offers a very contemporary synthesis of Eastern spiritual teaching. He claims there is no ultimate distinction humans, God, and Jesus. He urges us to keep in touch with the deepest source of our Being, a term he uses to describe the universal essence he says we all share. When asked if he was talking about God, he replied: ‘The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse…The word Being explains nothing, but nor does God…Nobody can claim exclusive possession of Being”.

Carl Sagan, the American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, science communicator, author, and professor, said: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”
And: “The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding… They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival”. And as to human life he said” “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” He makes no effort to explain how and why the cosmos came into existence, only that it does and that as it evolved it produced life.

In his book “Cosmogenesis; An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe” Brian Thomas Swimme begins by saying he wanted to discover “the mathematical structures of a cosmic primordial intelligence that knew we were coming.” Scientific discoveries over the last four and a half centuries, he says “have enabled us to discover our cosmic genesis, which can be summarized as: the universe began fourteen billion years ago with the emergence of elementary particles in the form of primordial plasma, which quickly morphed into atoms of hydrogen, helium, and lithium; a hundred million years later, galaxies began to appear and in one of these, the Milky Way, minerals arranged themselves into living cells that constructed advanced life, including evergreen trees, coral reefs, and the vertebrate nervous systems that humans used to discover this entire sequence of universe development.” His conclusion is that the universe began structuring itself from the beginning with the objective of creating life in an environment that was perfectly suited to harbor and maintain it. And he seems to imply that the universe did this of its own accord.

On the other hand, design scientists, such as William Dembski, pursue the idea that the universe is just right for life because an outside divine agent has designed things that way, which is in keeping with Isaac Newton’s belief. They regard the design approach to be philosophically superior because it provides an actual explanation of why the universe is the way it is, going beyond the bare fact that it is. For those of us who believe in God, the Bible offers much to support this theory. To start with , the first book of the Bible tells us that in the beginning of time, God created the universe, sun, moon, stars, the planets, and then all living things, including human beings made in his own image and likeness. And these were placed on Earth, one of the planets, in an environment that was perfect to nourish and sustain them. That is still true today, in spite of all our misbegotten efforts to deface and destroy it. And it will remain so until God replaces it with a new and better Earth, in spite of our fears of nuclear annihilation.

To answer the questions of the origin of the universe and particularly of life, the Apostle John wrote:
“From the first he {Christ} was the Word, and the Word was in relation with God and was God.
This Word was from the first in relation with God.
All things came into existence through him, and without him nothing was.
What came into existence in him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
(John 1:1-4 The Bible in Basic English)

So although Jesus in the form of human flesh was born and lived, died, and rose again during a specific period of time, Christ was present in the beginning.
Jesus himself said: Truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I am.
(John 8:58 The Bible in Basic English)

In his book, “The Universal Christ” Richard Rohr says:
“The revelation of the risen Christ as ubiquitous and eternal was clear affirmed in the Scriptures (Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, John 1, Hebrews 1) and in the early church when the euphoria of the Christian faith was still creative and expanding’.
But, he says:
“When the Western church separated from the East in the Great Schism of 1054, we gradually lost this profound understanding of how God has been liberating and loving all that is.”
He continues:
‘A cosmic notion of Christ competes with and excludes no one, but includes everyone and everything (Acts 10:15, 34) and allows Jesus Christ to finally be a God figure worthy of the entire universe.”
“Everything visible”, Rohr says, “without exception, is the outpouring of God.”
And “God loves things by uniting with them, not be excluding them.”
Rohr goes on to say:
‘What I am calling in this book an incarnational worldview is the profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally ‘every thing’ and ‘every one”.

This agrees somewhat with what Eckhart Tolle, Carl Sagan and Brian Thomas Swimme postulated, but instead of an amorphous Universe, Rohr says this is the very person of God in Christ. So what is God’s purpose in creating all this? The Apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus:
“God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: He purposes in His sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in Him.” (Ephesians 1:9, 10 J B Phillips translation)

So the universe and everything in it, including us, was brought in being through Christ and will culminate in Christ. That is the whole story, pure and simple.