Reasons to Believe

Temporality beyond Time: What the Creation Reveals

Any discussion about God, time, and eternity is limited by inconsistent and incomplete definitions of time and temporality.

Published as “Time and the Physics of Sin” in What God Knows: Time and the Question of Divine Knowledge, edited by Harry Lee Poe and J. Stanley Mattson (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2005, 121–136).

 
Introduction
 
            Any discussion about God, time, and eternity is limited by inconsistent and incomplete definitions of time and temporality. These limitations arise from the fact that all humanity’s temporal experiences are confined to a single time dimension in which time can neither be stopped nor reversed. No mere human can get outside of our time dimension to observe objectively all its properties and, thus, arrive at a complete definition.
 
            People can only experience temporal phenomena (cause and effect, emotions, relationships, reasoning, prayer, and all other mental and spiritual activities) along the single time dimension that makes up the space-time manifold (or surface) of the universe. Thus, a person easily falls into the trap of equating “temporality” with “time.” They are not exactly the same, and the Bible corrects this mistake.
 
            The Bible (uniquely among all other “holy” books) teaches that when God created the universe He created not just matter and energy but space and time as well. This fact is affirmed in the context of modern cosmology, which says the beginning of the universe is the beginning of length, width, height, and time (plus six other space dimensions that stopped expanding when the universe was only a fraction of a second old). According to Romans 8 and Revelation 20-22, the universe will end—and be replaced—when God’s purposes for it have been fulfilled. In other words, the Bible claims that the time dimension in which we experience all temporal phenomena had a definite beginning and will have a definite ending.
 
            From this biblical perspective, temporal phenomena are not limited to the time dimension along which the physical universe unfolds. Scripture reveals that the persons of the Godhead related to one another before the beginning of time and exercised causality before time’s beginning. For example, God caused the creation ex nihilo of the entire physical universe (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 11:3); God conferred grace (2 Timothy 1:9); and God prepared hope (Titus 1:2) even before creating time. The Bible also says that after the universe—after time as we know it—ceases to exist, redeemed humans will still relate to God, to one another and to angels in a far more expansive, fulfilling, and rewarding way than is possible in cosmic time. Our capacity for creative expression and for all manner of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual activities will be greatly expanded in His “new creation.” No longer will our temporal capacities and experiences be confined to a single time dimension.[1]
 
            Mathematics can be helpful in demonstrating that temporal phenomena cannot, in principle, be limited to the universe’s time dimension. Just as spatial boundaries are superceded as one moves from a single space dimension to two, to three, etc., so, also temporal limitations are hurdled as one moves from a single time dimension to two, to three, etc. Illustrations of extradimensional capacities and phenomena appear in chapter seven of Beyond the Cosmos, which was included in the syllabus presented at the conference.[2] 
 
            The crucial point is that God’s existence transcends the dimensions of space and time. According to the Bible, He can create and remove space-time dimensions at will. Therefore, God’s “temporal” capacities and activities may take place trans-dimensionally, or in some other way only roughly equivalent to extradimensionality. But at least we can contemplate the reality extradimensions (or their equivalent) open up.
 
            As an astronomer and a Christian, I am delighted to report that the latest cosmological research supports the biblical notion that time had a beginning and that temporal phenomena, as science defines them, preceded the beginning of cosmic time. As the following pages present, astrophysics now attests that the biblical worldview of God, time, and eternity matches not just a preponderance of evidence, but a body of evidence that takes observers beyond all reasonable doubt.
 
Cosmology and Scripture Agree on Time’s Origin
 
            More than three thousand years before any scientist or scholar developed a viable, testable, cosmological model, authors of the Bible wrote about the fundamentals of what today is called the big bang theory. Several dozen variants of the big bang are currently in contention, but all of them include these three foundational concepts: 1) a “singularity” beginning—a unified beginning of matter, energy, space, and time; 2) continual expansion of the cosmos from the creation event; and 3) progressive cooling as time and expansion continue.
                     
            Many Bible verses describe the singular beginning,[3] but the most familiar is Genesis 1:1 (AV), which says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word for “created” (bāra’) means, in this context, “to bring into existence something brand‑new, something that didn't exist before.”[4] And the expression for “the heavens and the earth” (shāmayim ’eres) refers to all matter and energy and even the space‑time dimensions along which matter and energy are distributed.[5] Hebrews 11:3 records that the universe we can detect was made from that which we cannot detect. John 1, Colossians 1, and numerous other passages offer more detailed accounts of the big bang “singularity.”
 
            Meanwhile, the space‑time theorems of general relativity establish that if the universe has mass and if general relativity indeed holds true, a cosmic beginning—not just of matter and energy, but also of space and time—is inescapable. (Note that the space‑time theorems have now been generalized to include all the inflationary big bang models, not just the original standard big bang model.[6])
 
            According to Oxford's Roger Penrose, general relativity currently ranks as the most exhaustively tested and proven principle in all of physics.[7] So, if the universe contains mass (a bathroom scale convinces most skeptics that it does) and if general relativity is reliable (which it is), one can say with some certainty that the big bang beginning, or cosmic singularity, correctly depicts physical reality.[8]
 
            This evidence for cosmic creation testifies specifically to the existence of a transcendent Creator, one who exists beyond the boundaries of matter, energy, space, and time. It also speaks of a Creator who fine-tunes the universe in order for life, and specifically human life, to exist. The gods of other religions seemingly create from within space and time. The God of the Bible creates from outside cosmic space and time. Both the science and the Scriptures declare that space and time, not just matter and energy, had their beginning in the finite past.
 
            The Bible says even more about the continual expansion of the universe than it does about the beginning. Five different Old Testament authors—Job, King David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah—write about this characteristic expansion.[9]
 
            The psalmist makes the point that the universe has expanded like an unfurling tent. I like to point out that the physical reality of the tent is the surface of the tent. Likewise, cosmologists recognize that matter and energy are distributed along the four expanding dimensions that comprise the surface of the universe.[10] (Six of the initial ten dimensions unfurled to only 10-35 meters).
 
            Job in particular makes the point that God alone is responsible for stretching out the heavens. Job’s words receive potent confirmation in recent research. First, a paper by Lawrence Krauss[11] predicts the establishment of two factors governing the expansion of the universe: mass density which (due to gravity) would tend to slow down the expansion; and the space energy density, which would tend to speed it up.
 
            Krauss claims that this discovery represents “the most extreme fine‑tuning problem known in physics.” By “problem” he means that in order to explain the possibility of the existence of physical life at any time in the history of the universe, the value of the mass density of the universe (the gravity factor governing the expansion) must be fine-tuned to better than 1 part in 1060.  And the space energy density would need to be fine‑tuned to better than 1 part in 10120.[12] This number represents the most fine-tuning known in physics.
 
Of the many (40+ to date) different characteristics of the universe known to require fine‑tuning for the possibility of life’s eventual existence, these two—the (gravity-determining) mass density and the space energy density—top the list as those with the greatest measurable fine‑tuning.[13]So when Job says that God alone stretches out the heavens, he points to a Creator of unimaginably great power and attention to detail. Apparently, human beings are intended to exist.
 
As for the universe’s getting colder and colder, several verses in the Bible address the phenomenon, at least in an indirect way.  [14] Probably the most explicit one is Jeremiah 33:25, which declares the fixity of the physical laws that rule the creation. Romans 8 adds that the law of decay is something the entire creation must endure until "the adoption of sons." Until the redemption of God's people and the new creation, the entire universe is subjected to this law of decay, an apparent (to a physicist especially) reference to the second law of thermodynamics, which is intimately tied to the four fundamentall forces of physics.
 
            Through these and many other passages, Scripture suggests that the laws of physics are fixed laws. The deduction is as follows: If the physical laws are fixed, thermodynamics are fixed. According to thermodynamics, an expanding chamber always cools with expansion. Compress the chamber, and the temperature of the air in that chamber heats up. Automobile engines operate by this principle. And it applies to everything in the universe. Given the constancy of physics and universality of thermodynamics, the Bible affirms (indirectly but surely) the continual cooling of the universe as it expands.
                       
Cosmology and Scripture Agree on Time’s End
 
Robert Russell and John Polkinghorne have already addressed in this conference a significant and perplexing problem with this big bang scenario: it exposes humanity to what seems an unfortunate doom. Having established that the big bang theory is a thoroughly biblical concept, we must acknowledge with Russell and Polkinghorne that we’re stuck with either a freezing or a fiery end.
 
            This dreadful problem is addressed in some detail in a paper by Lawrence Krauss and Glen Starkman published in The Astrophysical Journal—perhaps the most philosophical piece ever to appear in that esteemed periodical.[15]
 
            Krauss and Starkman begin by reviewing the solidity of recent cosmological findings—first, that the universe contains sufficient mass to bring about (under gravity’s influence) a slowing of its rate of expansion; and second, that a factor called the “space energy density” currently dominates the mass density in governing the expansion of the universe.   
 
            Most people are familiar with the workings of mass and gravity: Under gravity’s effect, two massive bodies tend to attract one another, and the closer they are to each other the more powerfully they attract. As the universe emerged from an infinitesimal volume and expanded very rapidly from the creation event, its mass worked powerfully to slow down the expansion. But as the universe has continued to expand and age, the effectiveness of the mass in slowing down the expansion has progressively diminished. So as the universe grows older, and hence bigger, gravity has a weaker and weaker (slowing) effect on the expansion.
 
            The space energy density effect is much harder to grasp. If it had not been verified by a variety of independent experiments, it might seem too strange to be true. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this effect would be to compare (or contrast) it to an elastic band. The space energy density is roughly opposite to the workings of an elastic band. The more an elastic band stretches, the more energy it gains to propel its contraction. By contrast, the more the space-time fabric of the universe stretches, the more energy it gains to propel its expansion.     
  
            Thus, the behavior produced by the space energy density is opposite to that which comes from the mass density (and gravity): When the universe is young and relatively small, the gravity factor is strong in slowing expansion and the space energy density factor is weak in its capacity to propel expansion. But as the universe gets older and bigger, more and more energy becomes available (as described by the space energy density term) to generate expansion.
 
            Astronomers have now confirmed in some detail that the cosmic transition from a slowing expansion to an accelerating expansion occurred roughly 7 billion years ago.[16] In other words, for the past nearly 7 billion years, the universe has been picking up speed rather than slowing in its expansion.
 
            The paper by Krauss and Starkman looks at the consequences for life in an ever‑expanding, and ever more rapidly expanding universe. Accelerated expansion is particularly bad news for observational astronomers. Already the universe is expanding so rapidly that the most distant objects in the universe are moving outward at nearly the velocity of light, which means they are on the verge of becoming invisible to astronomers using earth-based telescopes.
 
            As the universe continues to age and to expand with increasing rapidity, more and more objects will be moving away from earth at velocities greater than light’s and thus will become invisible to astronomers.[17] How discouraging for an astronomer today, but even more so for astronomers of the future! Even with the aid of space telescopes powerful enough to “see” to the theoretical limits of the universe, astronomers will discover (thanks to the space energy density term) that those theoretical limits are beginning to close in on their view. If the sun and earth endured, the sun would someday be moving away from earth more rapidly than the velocity of light, and then earth would no longer receive the sun’s heat or light. However, the sun will exhaust all its nuclear fuel long before this happens.
 
            The situation grows worse yet. As the expansion continues and accelerates, star formation will cease. The bits and pieces of matter that coalesce (by gravity) to make stars will someday fly apart from each other at such a rapid rate that this condensation can no longer occur. Furthermore, because existing stars have a finite life span (at most about a 100 billion years—our star, about 9 billion years) the universe will eventually become devoid of luminous stars. And without luminous stars, life is impossible.
 
            In fact, heat flow will eventually diminish to such a degree that metabolism will cease. Proteins will be unable to fold, and the heat flow from hot bodies to cold bodies will become so feeble that metabolic reactions will no longer take place. With that, all physical life must die, and, therefore, all physical consciousness will end.
 
As Krauss and Starkman declare, an accelerating cosmic expansion inevitably dooms all life in the universe, whether life on planet Earth or life elsewhere.[18] This article most likely ranks as the most depressing paper published to date in the The Astrophysical Journal. It acknowledges no hope, no destiny, only despair and doom for the cosmos.
 
            The Bible presents—in one respect—the same view of humanity’s future. The world and the universe will not endure. Both Old and New Testament passages refer to a time when all the heavens and the earth (echoing Genesis 1:1) will be “rolled up like a scroll” (Isaiah 34:4) and everything will be “removed from its place” (Revelation 6:14). In the words of Jesus, as recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels, “heaven and earth will pass away.”[19] John’s unique vantage point (in Revelation) provides a preview of the moment when Jesus’ words are fulfilled.
 
The biblical story does not end there, however. It ends with a resounding affirmation of humanity’s hope. Graciously, in His awareness of our tendency to doubt and disbelieve, God has given twenty-first-century peoples a tangible, scientifically testable basis for believing that hope, purpose, and destiny are real. Evidence points not only to a reality beyond the cosmos, but to a personal, purposeful, caring Creator and Savior.
 
Cosmology Offers a Basis for Hope beyond Time
                       
To understand the basis for hope beyond time, one must begin by considering the miraculous timing of astronomers’ arrival on the cosmic scene. If they had come much earlier, there would have been less for them to observe, for the objects that comprise the universe have developed and taken shape over the billions of years since the creation event. In an earlier era, there would have been fewer clues to help them discern the wondrous features of the cosmos. The human era just happens to be the best time in cosmic history to be an astronomer. 
 
What is more, the place earth occupies in the heavens also happens to be the optimal location for observing the universe. A team of University of Alabama astronomers led by William Keel have spent more than fifteen years examining the location of our solar system relative to other possible observing sites both within the Milky Way Galaxy and without. Their research demonstrates that nearly anywhere else earth might be situated, the view to the galaxy, not to mention the rest of the universe, would be seriously blocked.
 
            Where are most of the stars in a galaxy? They are in the globular clusters, the spiral arms, or the central galactic bulge. In all of these locations, astronomical research would be obstructed or prevented altogether by the proximity of stars, including the supergiant variety. Earth’s star, the sun, finds itself between two spiral arms and far distant from any globular cluster. The fact that the Milky Way holds 150 globular clusters, yet none close to earth, underscores the point. Then there is the fact that earth resides about halfway out from the center of the galaxy—in a zone that makes possible a clear view of the galaxy and of the rest of the universe.
 
Furthermore, that exact distance from the center enables Earth (and its solar system) the rare privilege of remaining between two spiral arms. Since the spiral structure of a galaxy rotates at a different rate from that of the stars as they orbit the center of the galaxy, most stars are overtaken and obscured, sooner or later, by the spiral arms. Earth, however, resides at the one distance, called the “corotation distance,” where this overtaking does not occur.[20]
 
            This stability of location is critical not just for cosmic observations but also for the possibility of human existence. Earth needs 3.5 billion years of bacterial life—abundant and dominant bacterial life—for subsequent human life to be possible. But, for bacterial life to survive that long, the planet’s star must stay between those two spiral arms. If the star goes in and out of the spiral arms, the radiation there and the light from nearby supergiant stars can exterminate the essential bacteria.
 
            Earth’s galaxy also enjoys a special location—special with respect to the requirements for human life, that is. The Milky Way belongs to the Local Group. This group includes only about two dozen members (most galaxy clusters contain thousands), and only two are large: the Milky Way and the Andromeda. And the group is well dispersed (in other words, the galaxies are relatively far apart compared to those in other groups). Also, the Local Group resides in the extreme outer fringe of the Virgo supercluster of galaxies. All these particulars of location are significant. Most galaxies, even 13+ billion years after the creation event, remain relatively close together. In most cases neighboring galaxies are so close as to obstruct an observer’s view of the night sky. In a galaxy near the center of the Virgo supercluster, an observer there might be able to observe his own galaxy and maybe two or three others, but the window to the rest of the universe would be blocked.
         
The location, as well as the time, of human existence allows a view to the entirety of the universe out to the theoretical limits. This incredible fact leads one to ask, “Is it just a coincidence, or does it seem that Someone deliberately provided this unique window on the heavens?”
 
Scripture Reveals God’s Purpose for Space and Time
 
            The psalmist offers this answer: God intended that the heavens would declare His glory—and much more.[21] For that declaration to be received, its recipients must occupy the just-right time at the just-right place. A powerful statement comes from the fact that we do.
 
            A similar indication emerges from “the anthropic principle,”—that the universe seems to be conspicuously designed for human life—a perspective that has been discussed in the science literature since 1961. Princeton's Robert Dicke first made note that certain fundamental forces of physics, in particular gravity and electromagnetism, must be exquisitely fine‑tuned for life to be possible.[22] Dicke’s work provided the basis for calculating that the ratio of the electromagnetic force to the gravitational force requires fine-tuning to within 1 part in 10 thousand trillion trillion trillion for life to be possible at any time in the history of the universe.[23] The list of finely-tuned, life-essential cosmic features is both long (40+) and growing.
 
            Researchers across a wide spectrum of disciplines and theologies openly acknowledge the validity of the anthropic principle.[24] Those who have done the most research concur that it seems “the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.”[25] Physicist Paul Davies writes, “The evidence for design is overwhelming.”[26]     
                  
            During the 1980s British cosmologist Brandon Carter extended the principle even further, calling his findings “the anthropic principle inequality.” Time is the key element. Carter first noted the fact that to get human beings on the cosmic scene in as little as 14 billion years requires virtually perfect orchestration of multiple cosmic factors.[27] Left to ordinary (undirected) physics, life’s components would likely take much longer to develop, if they ever developed at all.
 
            Three “fortuitous” events in cosmic history gave life a strategic and timely helping hand. First, a type I supernova exploded adjacent to the sun’s birthplace (gaseous nebula) 4.5 billion years ago. Second, and almost simultaneously, a type II supernova exploded nearby. Not one but two different supernovae events occurred at just the right time and in just the right location to provide for life’s needs—an enrichment of heavy elements. If either supernova had exploded too close to the solar nebula, the forming Sun would have been destroyed. But if either had exploded too far away, the nebula would have acquired too few heavy elements to make human life possible in the tight time frame of 4.5 billion years. The word “tight” applies since the kinds, quantities, and convergence of heavy elements produced by these two supernovae would be unexpected in a universe as young as only 9 to 10 billion years (at that time).[28]
 
            Third, a mars‑sized body collided with the emerging earth some 4.47 billion years ago. Astronomers now affirm (theoretically and observationally) both the timing and the angle of the collision (neither a glancing blow nor a head-on collision, but something in between). The net result of this event was the removal of the earth's primordial, heavy atmosphere and subsequent replacement with a much thinner atmosphere perfectly suitable for advanced life. In addition, earth was enriched with heavy elements, including uranium and thorium, and a moon (formed from the debris cloud) of sufficient size to stabilize earth’s rotation axis for a long time at its (perfect-for-life) 23.5 degrees. Many more benefits accrued from this collision than cannot be elucidated within the scope of this paper.[29]
 
            Nevertheless, these three amazingly timed and tuned events—some dare say miraculous events—were crucial to the possibility of humans’ arrival on the cosmic scene, especially in as short a time as 13-14 billion years.
 
Carter takes his calculations further yet. He asks, “Once human beings are here, how long can they last in the cosmic environment?” Looking at all the special features life requires of the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe, and at the variability of those factors through time, Carter projected that the window of time for the existence of advanced life is only a few million years wide, at most.[30] Famed physicists Tippler and Barrow, in their seven-hundred-page book on the anthropic principle, propose a recalculation of Carter's figures. Based on various planetary environmental conditions they deduce that the window of time for human survival or, more specifically, for human civilization, cannot be longer than a few tens of thousands of years.[31]
 
            Multiple complex factors affect the brevity of that window, some more restrictive than others. The carbonate‑silicate cycle is one factor. This cycle balances the abundances of carbon, sulphur, and carbon dioxide in the environment—a balancing act made remarkably challenging by the increasing brightness of the Sun throughout life’s history on earth. The Sun is brighter today by seventeen to eighteen percent than when bacteria first appeared on the earth roughly 3.8 billion years ago.[32] So far, this increase has been balanced by the removal of carbon dioxide, water, and methane from the atmosphere and the conversion of these gases through the agency of life forms into carbonates, sand, coal, natural gas, and oil.[33]
 
            However, as atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to decrease in abundance, green plants will no longer have enough to sustain their photosynthetic reactions. And when the green plants die, everything else dies in succession, with human life among the first to go. Such findings corroborate the narrowness Carter, Tippler, and Barrow have hypothesized.
 
                While Hollywood fuels people’s worries about a deadly asteroid striking the earth (an event that recurs every few million years), a more imminent danger lurks in the possibility of a nearby supernova blast. Some 30,000 years ago when the Vela supernova erupted about a thousand light years away, its radiation exterminated several algae species.[34] If, for example, the star Sirius, just eight light years away, were to go supernova, the entire human race would be in “serious” trouble, as one astronomer put it. Not even cockroaches would survive such an event.
 
            As odd as this may seem, human extinction may be hastened most significantly by such mixed blessings as technology and affluence. The more advanced and affluent a society becomes the fewer children that society produces and the longer people postpone having children. The longer people wait to have children, the more negative mutations they (the fathers, especially) pass on to the next generation.
 
            In the last hundred years, growing affluence and technology have resulted in men’s having children about seven or eight years later, on the average, than they did 150 years ago. In this period, the negative mutation rate has escalated dramatically. Attempts to measure this increase place it at three negative mutations per person per generation.[35] Extrapolating into the future, one sees a bleak forecast for the human species’ survivability.
 
            Affluence and technology also allow individuals who would have died in childhood, under former circumstances, to survive into their reproductive years. Thus, individuals with high numbers of deleterious mutations have greater opportunity to pass those mutations along. In a recent private conversation, economist Michael Phillips speculated, based on “the affluence problem” alone, earth’s population could drop to as few as 1 billion people by the year 2100. His back-of-the-envelope forecast is based on income and birthrate statistics. In nations where average (adult) annual income exceeds $20,000 per person, the reproductive rate is only 0.7 children per adult. Again, extrapolation makes the problem apparent.
 
            The key point Carter seeks to drive home, a point with which my reason concurs, is this: If it takes nearly 14 billion years (at a minimum) to prepare a home for humanity, and if the window for human existence is only a few tens of thousands or even a few millions of years wide, one cannot escape the impression that the human species carries a high value.
 
            This impression emerges as an echo of ordinary human experience. People tend to invest most lavishly on the individuals and relationships they value most. In my own case, for example, my love for my sons motivates me, as thrifty as my Scottish heritage makes me, to spend time, money, and other resources on what means a great deal to them—even if I know their interests and needs may change in a few years.
 
            The extreme inequality between the time required to provide a home for humanity and the brevity of humanity’s existence plausibly suggests that the Creator of the universe and of human life intended that human beings come into existence and that He cares a great deal for them.
 
            Unique drives of humans seem to corroborate that sense of “intended” existence. In addition to the powerful survival instinct they share with all sentient life, people manifest a unique drive to discover and fulfill their destiny. A sense of hope enables them to survive even horrific circumstances, and a sense of purpose enables them to thrive. For some people, these drives intensify with age, but in others they are evident from youth. And at almost any age, a person may be driven more powerfully by this sense of purpose than even by the instinct to survive. Familiar examples would be Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Mother Theresa, whose devotion to others superceded their instinct for self-preservation.    
                
Where do these drives come from? Researchers found no evidence of them in humans’ supposed ancestors, the primate species, including the bipedal hominids. People’s otherwise inexplicable, often self-sacrificial yearnings make sense only in the context of creation, specifically in the context of a personal Creator’s plans, purposes, and participation on behalf of human life.
 
            My studies in physics provide me with yet another compelling evidence for the reality of the loving Creator and of human destiny both in and beyond cosmic time. That evidence may be described as the optimization of physical constants and laws to bring about the ultimate expression of God’s love, which involves allowing and then conquering the possibility of evil.
 
            A close and careful look at the gross features of the universe, at the characteristics of space and time, at the laws of thermodynamics and at the constants of physics, reveals that all were designed and implemented for the physical and spiritual benefit of humanity—given the inevitability of original sin.[36]
 
            When Adam and Eve rebelled against God's authority (Genesis 3) and introduced evil to the human race, God explained to them what the consequences, or “curse,” would be. One could argue that He simultaneously preserved the hope of humanity.
 
            Sin’s consequences were, among other things, troublesome work and grievous pain.[37] In some sense, the work and pain humanity suffers is generally proportional to the expression of spiritual autonomy, or rebellion. God commanded the first humans (Genesis 2:15)—and all humanity through them—to “tend” not just the Garden He planted, but then to manage wisely the resources of the whole wide, wild earth (Genesis 1:28-30). In humans’ relationships with each other and with the environment, more sin means more suffering. The more the human race expresses pride, selfishness, and greed, and the less it depends upon God for humility, love, and wisdom, the more damage it inflicts. The damage to society and to the planet results in suffering of all kinds. The desire to avoid troublesome work and grievous pain provides some motivation to refrain from sin and evil.    
                   .
            Given the realities of human (sin-marred) nature, one begins to see the temporal and spatial limits of the cosmos as divine blessings. Because time, as humans experience it, is one-dimensional, irreversible, and unstoppable, time imposes a limit on the quantity and degree of evil any human can perpetrate against others. Though time may also limit the quantity of good a person can do, the early era of human history, during which lifespans were considerably longer, indicates which direction—toward good or evil—the balance tips. Extended lifespans led humanity to the brink of extinction, to the necessity of a cleansing cataclysm, the Genesis flood.
 
            More recent examples of this point appear glaringly in the lives of such despots as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Saddam Hussein, to mention just a few. Apart from the limits of time—and space—these individuals would have wreaked even more havoc and harm than they did. Each had known plans to do so.
 
            This observation would seem to turn us back to the dark despair articulated by Krauss and Starkman. It leads one to ask, “Will these limits always be necessary?”
 
Conclusion: Scripture Reveals God’s Plans for Temporality Beyond Time
 
Science attests what Scripture reveals—that something or, more accurately, Someone really does exist beyond matter, energy, space, and time. Hope, purpose, and human destiny are all connected to that greater reality. The Bible presents a “two‑creation” reality, a conception utterly unique to Christianity. While other religious systems may promise some kind of heaven or alternate reality, that “paradise” falls pitifully short of what Scripture describes as “the new creation.” Even what Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden before they sinned falls short of what God has in store for His people.
 
            Rather than promising the restoration of paradise, or Eden, the Bible promises deliverance from an earthly home, however wonderful it may seem. If one looks at space, time, and physics in the Garden of Eden, one sees the confinement of humanity, a set of limitations that is removed in the new creation, just as the Tree of Life was removed from the old.
 
            The two-creation scenario offers a refreshing vantage point from which to view the past, present, and future of God’s relationship with humanity. The Bible reveals a universe and earth meticulously prepared for life, and for human life in particular, over the course of its long history. When the preparations were complete, God created Adam and placed him in a paradisaical Garden, instructed him concerning his responsibilities, and created a helper for him. Then God allowed Satan to enter that Garden. The sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent God could have barred Satan from entering, but He did not—though He knew exactly what would happen.
 
            God knew the humans would be enticed by evil, that they would fail the obedience test. But His plan was in place. Through the power of the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, the “second Adam,” He atoned for sin, breaking through the boundaries of matter, energy, space, and time. The Holy Spirit began a new work in humans (those who accept God’s gift of redemption), to deliver them from the grip of evil and move them toward the full-blown expression of His power and love.
Even now the new creation is being prepared for those humans who, as the Spirit enables them, exchange their propensity to sin and even their best efforts against sin, for God’s gift of righteousness by faith. When time’s purpose is fulfilled, when time has allowed all the people of God’s choosing to choose Him, the court of the Great White Throne will convene. In that moment of final judgment, God permanently binds up evil, separates it from His people, and brings them into His presence—into what He describes as an entirely new creation.
 
            The preview He gives shows how new and different it must be. Its physics are different. Its dimensionality is different. Its “geography” is different. Its “temporality” is different. God makes it different to set redeemed humans free from cosmic relational limits. God will be with us and we with Him in a completely new way that exceeds, as the apostle Paul says, what anyone can even “think or imagine.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
 
            In other words, no human mind can fully appreciate what the second creation will be. The first creation is perfectly designed to prepare us, through God’s redeeming work, for the creation that is yet to come. The new creation allows us to live beyond cosmic limits in the presence of God. The new creation holds incomparable splendor, joy, beauty, love and light. With a view to or from this future, our space-and-time-bound existence will seem—no longer paradoxically—infinitesimally brief and yet eternally significant.
 
            C. S. Lewis offers this glimpse from the last page of the last book in The Chronicles of Narnia: “And for us this is the end of all the stories. . . . But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world . . . had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”[38]

Subjects: Universe Design

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. Read more about Dr. Hugh Ross.

References:

  1. For an extensive discussion, see Hugh Ross, “Extra-Dimensionality and the New Creation,” Beyond the Cosmos: What Recent Discoveries in Astrophysics Reveal About the Glory and Love of God, rev. ed. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1999), 217-28.
  2. Hugh Ross, Beyond the Cosmos, 73-79.
  3. Genesis 1:1, Psalm 148:5, Isaiah 45:18, Hebrews 11:3, Genesis 2:3, Isaiah 40:26, John 1:3, Genesis 2:4, Isaiah 42:5, Colossians 1:15-17.
  4. Hugh Ross and John Rea, “Big Bang—The Bible Taught It First!” Facts for Faith, 3 (2000), 28-29.
  5. As Bruce Waltke explained in his Kenneth S. Kantzer Lectures in Systematic Theology given January 8–10, 1991, at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, the Hebrew words shāmayim and 'eres when placed together form a compound word that, like the English compound word butterfly, takes on a meaning of its own.
  6. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God, 3d ed. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001), 102.
  7. Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 230. “This makes Einstein’s general relativity, in this particular sense, the most accurately tested theory known to science!”
  8. Stephen W. Hawking and Roger Penrose, “The Singularities of Gravitational Collapse and Cosmology,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A 314, no. 1519 (1970): 529-48, abstract available from http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=1970RSPSA.314..529H&db_key=AST&high=3f1c1fc06718016; (accessed January 23, 2004).
  9. Job 9:8, Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 48:13, Jeremiah 51:15, Psalm 104:2, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 51:13, Zechariah 12:1, Isaiah 40:22, Isaiah 45:12, Jeremiah 10:12.
  10. The four expanding dimensions are length, width, height, and time.
  11. Lawrence M. Krauss, “The End of the Age Problem, and the Case for a Cosmological Constant Revisited,” Astrophysical Journal 50l (1998): 461.
  12. Krauss, “End of the Age Problem,” 465.
  13. Hugh Ross, “Fine-Tuning for Life in the Universe,” Reasons To Believe, available at http://www.reasons.org/fine-tuning-life-universe-dec-2004 (accessed February 26, 2004).
  14. Genesis 1:1-2; Ecclesiastes 1:3-15; Romans 8:18-23; Genesis 2:5-6; Jeremiah 33:25; Revelation 21:1 to 22:5.
  15. Lawrence M. Krauss and Gelnn D. Starkman, “Life, the Universe, and Nothing: Life and Death in an Ever-Expanding Universe,” Astrophysical Journal 531 (2000): 22-30.
  16. Ruth A. Daly and S. G. Djorgovski, “A Model-Independent Determination of the Expansion and Acceleration Rates of the Universe as a Function of Redshift and Constraints on Dark Energy,” Astrophysical Journal 597 (2003): 9-20.
  17. Einstein’s theory of special relativity states that nothing can be accelerated past the velocity of light in the absence of the space energy density factor. There is no limit to how rapidly the space energy density (also called dark energy) factor can accelerate the growth of the surface of the universe.
  18. Krauss and Starkman “Life in the Universe,” 29.
  19. Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33.
  20. Yu N. Mushurov and I. A. Zenina, “Yes, the Sun is Located Near the Corotation Circle,” Astronomy & Astrophysics 341 (1999): 81-85; J.R.D. Lépine, I.A. Acharova, and Yu. N. Mishurov, “Corotation, Stellar Wandering, and Fine Structure of the Galactic Abundance Pattern,” Astrophysical Journal 589 (2003): 210-16; Peter Hoppe et al., “Type II Supernova Matter in a Silicon Carbide Grain from the Murchison Meteorite,” Science 272 (1996): 1314-16. Yu N. Mishurov, J.R.D. Lepine, and I.A. Acharova, “Corotation: Its Influence on the Chemical Abundance Pattern of the Galaxy,” Astrophysical Journal Letters 571 (2003): L113-15.
  21. Psalm 19:1-4; Psalm 50:6; Psalm 97:6.
  22. Robert H. Dicke, “Dirac’s Cosmology and Mach’s Principle,” Nature 192 (1961): 440.
  23. Hugh Ross, Creator and the Cosmos, 96.
  24. Ibid., 157-160.
  25. Freeman Dyson, “Energy in the Universe,” Scientific American 224 (1971): 59.
  26. Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature’s Creative Ability to Order the Universe (New York: Simon & Schuster, Touchstone, 1988), 203.
  27. Brandon Carter, “The Anthropic Principle and Its Implications for Biological Evolution,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 370 (1983): 347-60.
  28. S. Sahijpal et al., “A Stellar Origin for the Short-Lived Nuclides in the Early Solar System,” Nature 391 (1998): 559-61; G. J. Wasserburg, R. Gallino, and M. Busso, “A Test of the Supernova Trigger Hypothesis with 60Fe and 26Al,” Astrophysical Journal Letters 500 (1998): L189-93; Peter Hoppe et al., “Type II Supernova Matter in a Silicon Carbide Grain from the Murchison Meteorite,” Science 272 (1996): 1314-16.
  29. Neil F. Comins, What if the Moon Didn’t Exist? Voyages to Earths That Might Have Been (New York: HarperCollins: 1993), 2-8; H. E. Newsom and S. R. Taylor, “Geochemical Implications of the Formation of the Moon by a Single Giant Impact,” Nature 338 (1989): 29-34; Jack J. Lissauer, “It’s Not Easy to Make the Moon,” Nature 389 (1997): 327-28; Sigeru Ida, Robin M. Canup, and Glen R. Stewart, “Lunar Accretion from an Impact-Generated Disk,” Nature 389 (1997): 353-57.
  30. Brandon Carter, “Anthropic Principle,” 347-60; also see John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 566.
  31. Barrow and Tipler, Anthropic Cosmological Principle, 556-70.
  32. Juliana Sackmann and Arnold I. Boothroyd, “Our Sun v. A Bright Young Sun Consistent with Helioseismology and Warm Temperatures on Ancient Earth and Mars,” Astrophysical Journal 583 (2003): 1024-39.
  33. For a discussion of this process, see Hugh Ross, “The Faint Sun Paradox,” Facts for Faith, 3 (2002), 28-33; also see “The Faint Sun Paradox,” Reasons To Believe, available at http://www.reasons.org/cosmic-design/faint-sun-paradox-0 (accessed February 27, 2004).
  34. Robert G. Brakenridge, “Terrestrial Paleoenvironmental Effects of a Late Quaternary-Age Supernova,” Icarus 46 (1981), 81-93.
  35. James F. Crow, “The Odds of Losing at Genetic Roulette,” Nature 397 (1999): 293.
  36. Hugh Ross, “Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity,” Facts for Faith, 1 (2002), 24-30; also see “Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity,” Reasons To Believe, available at http://www.reasons.org/scientists/anthropic-principle-precise-plan-humanity (accessed February 27, 2004).
  37. The Genesis text in which God describes the greatly increased pain of childbearing may refer not just to physical pain but also to a pain beyond the physical realm—a pain that impacts mothers and fathers. That pain comes from knowing in advance that one’s precious children have free will and a sin nature that will surely be expressed and that one’s children will unavoidably be impacted by others’ sin. This is a dreadful realization, a pang more severe, according to my wife, than any bodily birth pang.
  38. C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: MacMillan, 1956), 173-74.