I recently took part in a minor, online debate over evidence for God’s existence that can be deduced from scientific, established facts concerning the absolute beginning of our universe through a cosmic event that is commonly referred to as the Big Bang. I do not pretend to be an expert in the slightest on cosmology or quantum physics, but I do like to engage the literature when I can, and it is not difficult to see that many modern physicists are seeking to evade the obvious, (theistic!) implications of an absolute beginning of space-time–which is exactly what the standard model of Big Bang cosmology points to. One such physicist is Lawrence Krauss, a self-professed (not to mention self-obsessed) atheist. His brilliance not withstanding, he is unquestionably evading and running from the logical ramifications associated with an absolute beginning to space-time in the finite past. First and foremost is the fact that if everything (matter, space and time) came into existence in the finite past, then it logically entails that the cause of the universe must transcend space, matter and time. Either that or the universe and all that it consists of popped into being, uncaused out of nothing–which is logically absurd! Krauss knows this and so his ploy is to jettison the ordinary meaning and usage of the word “nothing” (which literally means not ANYthing) and substitute it with his own meaning which more or less works out to mean: “SOMEthing that existed prior to EVERYthing and brought everything into existence–but it can’t be God!” The following exchange is with an atheist, we will call Colby, who is a fan of Lawrence Krauss and tried to defend his position against my initial charge that Krauss, though brilliant, fails to think through the core implications of BB theory and connect the dots that deductively fall out of an absolute beginning of space-time.
Me- The Theist: If Krauss wasn’t so pompous he would be more agreeable to listen to. His critics are correct that many of his comments are simply self-defeating and inane. Krauss absurdly declares that the universe came from nothing and then tries to qualify “nothing” as a multi-verse giving birth to our universe. But a multi-verse is not “nothing” it is a very big something! Nothing–philosophically and scientifically means “not ANYTHING.” But Krauss is too afraid to deal with this fact because it leaves him too naked and exposed to theologians/philosophers and the kalam cosmological argument. Sad to see a brilliant mind be so closed-minded out of fear.
Colby- The Atheist: We all agree it’s not the philosopher’s “nothing” that’s being discussed. Such a “nothing” logically can’t exist. This is why Krauss uses a more common definition which allows inspection by scientific methods. Philosophers may want to insist scientists use a philosophical definition, but they’re not really in a position to dictate scientific vocabulary.
Me-The Theist: You say, “such a nothing can’t logically exist.” The point is contemporary cosmology asserts that prior to the Big Bang literally NOTHING existed– as in NO THING existed. That is the brute fact of science Krauss is running from. What you should have said is that it is logically impossible and absurd to state from nothing everything came! For from nothing nothing comes. When scientists, not just philosophers, speak of NOTHING existing prior to the singularity they mean “not ANYthing.” There was no atoms, matter, no space, no time. There was literally nothing in existence that our universe could borrow from to create itself which is why Big Bang cosmology screams out for an explanation for how everything (our universe) came from nothing. How did non-being being bring forth being? How did non-existence bring forth all existence? The ONLY logical explanation is to say the cause of the universe was an immaterial, timeless, spaceless, eternal, self-energizing entity–which is pretty much a scientific definition of the properties of God. Krauss seeks to evade this and say our universe did indeed come from “nothing” but then qualifies nothing as a multi-verse spitting out universes. That is not nothing! That is something! It only pushes the question back further, “What is the cause of the multi-verse?” He is simply being coy and playing on people’s ignorance.
Colby- The Atheist: The BB theory does not address what did or did not exist prior to the BB. The calculations are only good from Planck time onward. Please provide a citation where the BB theory says what you say it says. As for “nothing”, you need to use the definition Krauss painstakenly outlined. You’re using a definition Krauss specifically said is not what he’s talking about.
Yes, we all agree the philosopher’s “nothing” is a ridiculous thing for “something” to arise out of. The confusion only arises when you insist on using a definition no scientist is using.
BTW, the “multiverse theory” is a mathematical calculation only. No one claims there’s evidence it represents reality. It’s an interesting possibility not ruled out by anything we currently know about physics. That’s all it is. Another nit-pick: No one claims the universe did come from “nothing”. The claim is what we know about the physics of the universe doesn’t preclude it. The universe may have come from nothing (as defined scientifically, not philosophically). That’s the scientific claim.
Me- The Theist: Thanks for the response Colby and may I wish you a Merry Christmas. I discern the problem to be quite simple. You say the BB theory doesn’t address what did or did not exist prior to the BB but only speaks to events starting from Planck time. However this is not fully accurate. Since it is widely held by cosmologists that the BB theory is a theory about THE BEGINNING of space, time, matter and energy coming into existence, there is a direct inference to be made that is quite obvious– i.e. prior to the singularity there was no space, time, matter or energy. In other words there was NOT ANYTHING. It is not simply a philosophical understanding of “nothing” as you keep insisting. Rather it is a commonplace scientific proposition in regards to “NO THING” existing prior to the cosmic singularity. How does this not rule out a physical cause? Krauss sought to avoid this fact by positing his special interpretation of nothing as being “SOMETHING that is greater than our universe” which caused our physical universe. I’m quite astonished that you would ask for a citation from a cosmologist who would state that prior to the the cosmic singularity there existed no space, time and matter (i.e. nothing) since the entire standard model of the theory itself rests upon that fact!! Can you provide one citation of any cosmologist (who holds to BB theory) who argues that space, time and matter existed PRIOR to the cosmic singularity? Moreover even in the non-standard models like the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem, Vilenkin himself admits that the universe and even the multiverse, needs an absolute beginning and cannot be past-eternal as Krauss tries to flirt with. Lastly Krauss appeals to his Many-Worlds Hypothesis to circumvent the fine-tuning mathematical improbability of our universe, but you are right in saying there is no evidence for it.Moreover as stated above it would not address the need for an initial cause to bring into being the physicality the multi-verse would entail. It just brings us back to the question of origins and how non-being can bring forth being, etc. As I said earlier, it seems quite reasonable to conclude that the cause of the universe must be an entity with the properties of being spaceless, timeless and immaterial. I don’t know of any candidates out there that fit that description except one 🙂
Colby- The Atheist: Merry Christmas to you too. Science can only tell us about things we can observe, or infer from what we observe. Since we can’t observe or calculate anything prior to the BB, Pre-BB cosmology cannot be part of the theory. Therefore, you’ll need explain why you think “the entire standard model of the theory itself rests upon that fact”.
I’m not following your logic on the need for a beginning. BGV refers to an expanding universe, and we don’t have any data to suggest a pre-BB universe is expanding. The standard model starts at the BB, and is silent on pre-BB cosmology.
*AT THIS POINT ANOTHER ATHEIST COMMENTER ENTERED THE DISCUSSION*
Alex- The Atheist: You stated, “Since it is widely held by cosmologists that the BB theory is a theory about THE BEGINNING of space, time, matter and energy coming into existence, there is a direct inference to be made that is quite obvious– i.e. prior to the singularity there was no space, time, matter or energy.”
No. Bing Bang theory deals only with already existing universe. And it is more likely that universe had a beginning than it existed forever but in any case it was not required a spaceless, timeless and immaterial mind or being. We simply don’t know and may never. But what we do know now is that it is possible for stuff to be created from nothing (vacuum) just by quantum fluctuations. It leads us to the most plausible hypothesis based on today’s knowledge of physics and cosmology about the origins of the universe (it is not dealt by Bing Bang once again), that universe could have begun its existence from nothing (time, space and matter created). Does it require multi-verse – we don’t know and may never know. Does it require a personal God who cares about humans and answers their prayers? Absolutely not. We can say with certainty that it is not what caused the universe to exist. Don’t let WLC to full you into his bullshit rhetoric, unless, of course, you don’t care about the truth but rather the beliefs that bring you comfort.
Me-The Theist: Very sorry for the delay in replying to you Alex. I’m just now seeing these follow-up comments from you and Colby. You stated: “Big Bang theory deals ONLY with an already existing universe.” This is not quite true. BB theory holds that at the singularity ALL space, time, matter and energy came into existence. Not just some matter– ALL matter. That is to say NOTHING that constitutes such properties existed prior to the singularity. Therefore the question is what was the efficient cause or material cause of the universe coming into being if no materials or particles existed prior to the singularity? It helps you none to reply (incorrectly) that BB theory ONLY deals with a post-existing universe–as if the efficient or material cause of the universe could have been some pre-existing material that was just floating around prior to the singularity. Moreover you, amongst a host of others, have become enamored with the oft repeated claim that quantum vacuums demonstrate that, as you put it, “stuff can be created from nothing.” Once again we are equivocating on the term “nothing.” A quantum vacuum is NOT NOTHING. It is something! A quantum vacuum is a particular arrangement of a pre-existing vacuum field that converts energy into particles that last for a very brief moment before collapsing back into the vacuum. It is an absurdly wild claim on the far fringe of speculation to assume that our entire universe has existed for the past 14 billion years akin to some virtual particle. At most QM can only suggest that virtual particles may be an exception to the general principle that events need direct causes. But it is not analogous at all to then suggest it is evidence that particles can COME INTO BEING out of literally nothing–and to think it analogous to the entire universe coming into being out of literally nothing is to completely extrapolate quantum mechanics in a very misleading way. This is exactly what Krauss purposely does and it is why he is increasingly being called out for misconstruing key definitions and facts by both scientists and philosophers.
All the best!
Me- The Theist: Thanks for the reply Colby. I apologize for not seeing/addressing your response earlier. I have addressed the crux of your remarks in my reply to Alex since you both take a similar line of thought in thinking BB theory has nothing to say about what existed prior to the singularity. This is incorrect. It really comes down to deductive logic. If BB theory states–and it DOES–that all space, matter, time and energy came into existence at a finite moment in the past, then it logically entails that NOTHING be defined as NOT ANYTHING contingent or constituted by space, time or matter. Moreover it logically entails that the cause of the universe must be timeless, immaterial, and spaceless. I am honestly confused as to why this is at minimum is not being conceded as a proper starting place.
Colby- The Atheist: You’ve simply repeated your earlier assertion. The BB model starts at Planck time. If you have scientific information to the contrary, then please cite it. You don’t need to look, however, since you already know this. Science cannot make claims about things which have not been observed and cannot be calculated. The earliest that can be calculated is Planck time (10^-43 seconds after the BB event). In order for anything to be calculated before this (the Planck epoch and before), we need a theory which combines relativistic gravity with quantum mechanics. We currently do not have such a theory. You’ll find no scientist which has published that they know what caused the BB, and you will also not find a published paper saying the BB had no cause.
I understand where you get what you’re saying, but you’re repeating the TV/press/lay description, not the scientific one. What the BB theory says is that “our universe” (the one created at the BB) did not exist before it existed, which should be quite obvious. Empty space, different laws of physics, and time may well have existed in some form. In fact, all speculation about what may have existed before the BB assumes something did exist. This is a necessary assumption since if we don’t assume “our” observed physics is holds pre-BB, what physics could we possibly use?
You stated, “All space, matter, time and energy came into existence at a finite moment in the past, then it logically entails that NOTHING be defined as NOT ANYTHING.”Your assumption does not logically follow. The only thing that logically follows is that “our space”, “our matter”, and “our energy” didn’t exist before “our universe” existed. We’d all agree this is true, I hope. When they say “all time, space, and matter”, they are talking about “our universe”, and not referring to anything which may or may not have existed prior to “our universe.”
You can look in Hawking’s many books to confirm this. As far back as “A Brief History of Time”, Hawking pointed this out, and he still holds this is true in his latest book. He has said that “since events before the BB have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang.”
Me- The Theist: Appreciate the follow-up. You state: “The only thing that logically follows is that “our space”, “our matter”, and “our energy” didn’t exist before “our universe” existed. We’d all agree this is true, I hope. When they say “all time, space, and matter”, they are talking about “our universe”, and not referring to anything which may or may not have existed prior to “our universe.”A couple comments are in order: Firstly you are taking it on absolute faith that there may have existed space and matter independent of and prior to our universe coming into existence. There is zero observable evidence as you note Hawking concedes. Therefore to hold this is a great leap of FAITH and places you outside the realm of science– given that science is a domain of knowledge that can only deal within a field of measurable, empirical data.Obviously our universe is the setting for all scientific inquiry and to try to stretch science outside our universe is to intentionally enter the realm of metaphysics and the supernatural. There is now nothing separating you and Hawking from the common theist.
You assume by faith there must have been some “thing” some entity with enormous causal powers that brought space, time and matter into existence. I agree. And we haven’t even talked about the fine-tuning of the universe which bears witness to the great intelligence this pre-existing cause of the universe inherently possessed.
Colby- The Atheist: Thank you for your reply: You wrote, “You are taking it on absolute faith that there may have existed space and matter independent of and prior to our universe coming into existence.”Not at all. I’m saying there’s no reason to rule it out. In my reply, you’ll note I said “may or may not have existed prior to our universe”. Nowhere do I assume something existed. “Our universe” is all we can talk about whether or notsomething existed prior. The only allowance is to say that something might have existed. Can you demonstrate otherwise? Are you assuming it’s not possible for something to exist before the BB? Since there are no scientific papers which state this, on what evidence-based criteria can you assume this? How do you know this?The BB theory does not assume something existed before the BB. The BB theory can only refer to things we can measure or infer from what we measure. Therefore, it cannot (and does not) say anything about the existence or non-existence of anything before the BB. This is why you’ve been corrected by two people. You’re assuming the BB theory talks about things science cannot address. It doesn’t, of course. It addresses the observed universe, (the one which began at the BB), and no more.
Hawking does not state there’s “zero observable evidence” in that piece (although you are correct that there is none). The point he made is: if anything did exist, it cannot have any effect on post-BB cosmology, thus can be ignored for all practical purposes, and specifically for all calculations of the known universe. This is what he said, and it’s what separates Hawking from a common theist, although I don’t see the need to bring up theology, as you did, in a discussion of science.
You’ve misrepresented the BB theory, probably without knowing it. When discussing science, it’s important to properly understand what the scientific claims are. When they are misrepresented, there can be no advancement in understanding.
Me- The Theist: Appreciate the reply again. I have not misrepresented BB theory whatsoever. What I have done is apply simple deductive reasoning to BB cosmology to conclude that even the suggestion that matter and energy existed prior to the cosmic singularity is a wild claim of pure FAITH that flies in the face of what we DO KNOW given BB theory. Again BB theory stipulates that ALL matter and energy came into existence at the singularity. No misrepresentation there. Therefore to even suggest that matter and energy MAY have existed BEFORE it existed is…absurd. You are right to state that BB theory can only scientifically track what occurs forward from that point of the singularity. But since BB theory holds that all matter came into existence at the singularity, we are certainly within our logical rights to rule out matter existing before it existed!You have yet to explain how this logical deduction is not warranted. It appears you just don’t want to concede the obvious. Instead you want to suspend judgement and say, “Well…we just don’t know what existed before the singularity because everything we know of came into existence at the singularity.” Fine. But given BB theory we can rule out a material cause. Moreover logic not only infers but demands the cause not only be immaterial, but spaceless, timeless and self-energizing.
Any candidates come to mind?
Lastly my initial comments were in regards to Krauss’s usage of the word “nothing” as being misleading. For him “nothing” must have been “something” that existed before the singularity and brought the universe into being. He equivocates time and again on the word “nothing.” That point still stands. In short Krauss is scared of a divine bogeyman which is why he rejects a priori any notion of nothing as “NOT ANYTHING.”
Have a great day.
Colby- The Atheist: Your deductive reasoning failed at the very start, with your misinterpretation of the scientific claim. Your misrepresentation is that the BB theory says anything at all about pre-BB cosmology, and you’ve been corrected on it several times. Why would you assume any scientific theory talks about things we cannot measure, observe, or calculate? Since the BB theory only talks about things we can observe of calculate, no faith is required.You stated, “Again BB theory stipulates that ALL matter and energy came into existence at the singularity.” Sure “all matter and energy” that we currently observe. That’s where your mistake is. Being we can’t observe or calculate anything before that, it naturally cannot address any pre-BB cosmology. No one says, for example, the BB had no cause. Since causes precede effects in every case we’ve seen, it’s not a leap of faith to conclude the BB had a cause. And, since cause and effect require time, time and space, in some form, certainly might have existed. If it didn’t, then the cause of the BB is completely different phenomenon than we’ve ever experienced. So, to assume there was no time, no matter, and no energy before the BB would be a leap of faith. It’s the unwarranted leap you’re taking.Logical deduction doesn’t work (and therefore isn’t warranted) when you misrepresent the scientific claim, as you have.
You stated,“But given BB theory we can rule out a material cause.”
Rethink your misunderstanding of the scientific claim, then using the actual scientific claim, demonstrate how science has ruled out a material cause. Yes, a cause not included in a universe that didn’t exist at the time, but “immaterial” isn’t indicated at all. There’s no evidence what may have existed before the BB was immaterial. How would you even demonstrate that? Can you demonstrate the pre-BB universe was materially different than the one we currently observe? Of course you can’t. You’d need to observe it before you could support a claim like that. As it stands, you’ve simply taken on faith that you know nothing existed. There are no scientific claims to that effect. So how do you come to know your assumption is fact?
Krauss defines “nothing” as empty space. As we’ve seen, no one claims space necessarily did not exist before the BB (except you). If the laws of the universe were the same before the BB, (and obviously there’s no evidence it wasn’t), then the universe “may have” come from nothing (empty space). You’ve ignored Krauss’ definition, and substituted your own. As I’ve already agreed, no one thinks anything can be created from the philosopher’s “nothing” of non-being. That’s not Krauss’ claim, however. You’ve equivocated.
Me- The Theist: Thank you again Colby for your attempts to defend your position on the grounds that I am misinformed on what BB theory holds and logically entails. But your arguments are groundless and betray the fact that you simply don’t want to deal with an ABSOLUTE beginning of a contingent universe.Though you spare no words in your last reply to circumvent the reasonable conclusions placed upon us by the standard Big Bang model, they simply don’t go away by repeating your mantra that we can’t scientifically know what the pre-BB universe looked like before our current universe came into existence.
For example you state, “To assume there was no time, no matter, and no energy before the BB would be a leap of faith.”
This is nonsense. We scientifically know BB theory points to an ABSOLUTE BEGINNING of space-time itself at the cosmic singularity! Therefore we have extremely good, scientific grounds to hold that the cause of this absolute beginning can’t be a material cause! To assume otherwise is indeed a leap of faith. So for example you ask, “Why would you assume any scientific theory talks about things we cannot measure, observe, or calculate? Since the BB theory only talks about things we can observe of calculate, no faith is required.”Since BB theory stipulates that all matter, space and time came into existence at the singularity, it is indeed a leap of faith on your part to then assume, by your own admission, there was…or even could have been space, matter and energy existing before the cosmic singularity! Of course we would agree (I hope) that we cannot have an infinite regress of past, contingent events. Therefore we need to posit an absolute beginning and first cause that is itself non-contingent, timeless, spaceless and immaterial.
The only candidate would be God in my estimation. Though a statement of faith in some sense–it is also a logical deduction given the fact that God BY DEFINITION is timeless, spaceless, immaterial. The only reason people like Krauss don’t want to face an absolute beginning to all that begins to exist, is because he would be forced to wrestle with real NOTHINGNESS before which there was literally not anything (non-being).
I find some people’s rejection of God as being the ultimate explanation for the origin of the universe is based on nothing more than a prejudicial disregard for an unpleasant caricature of God they have formed in their minds. And they see little to no reason to affirm their caricature of God as being the uncaused cause of the universe. But when one digs a little deeper it is all to obvious that the personal disdain these individuals have towards the God hypothesis does not lie in rationality but in preference. They don’t prefer to think of a cosmic, personal Being watching over the affairs of earth and whose existence lies sequestered and unaccessible to their scientific probing.
But what if we simply throw out the whole concept of God being a “personal Being.” Let’s just strip it down it down to bare facts and be honest about what we are facing. We are in need of a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused cause– are we not? Forget about calling it “God” and assigning personal attributes to it. Let’s just qualify it as an impersonal “thing.” Whatever that “thing” is we can rationally agree that it needs to be timeless, spaceless, immaterial and uncaused– that is to say an eternal, non-contingent “thing.” Can we not?
If we can’t agree that the first cause of a contingent universe must itself (LOGICALLY!) be a necessary entity bearing properties like cause-less, eternal, immaterial and spaceless–then science is in greater need for philosophy and logic than I ever imagined.
All the best Colby!
Colby- The Atheist: You wrote, “You simply don’t want to deal with an ABSOLUTE beginning of a contingent universe.” Neither of us can do more than speculate on this since there’s no data to analyze. Raw speculation based on no facts is not useful. Logic is useless without a factual basis. We don’t even know enough to say there was an absolute beginning or if the question even makes any sense (similar to the way “what’s north of the north pole” makes no sense).You wrote, “We scientifically know BB theory points to an ABSOLUTE BEGINNING of space-time itself at the cosmic singularity! You’ll have to show a scientific citation for this claim. It’s not true. The BB theory starts with what we know, not what you might imagine. What we know starts at Planck time and not a nanosecond before. Anything before that is raw speculation without data or any facts to go on. Your claim is speculative, and not based on any scientific claim. Feel free to find a scientific citation. Basing your conclusions on demonstrably false premises leads to incorrect results. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. Please don’t make this claim again until after you’ve shown it to be true. There’s no benefit in discussing conclusions based on false premises.The rest of you post is based on this false premise, so I’ll let you provide a scientific basis first, then, if you’re successful, we can address the implications. All the best to you as well.
Me- The Theist: Again thanks for the quick response. I’m surprised you try to qualify my assertion that the standard BB model entails the beginning of space-time itself as being a false premise and garbage. Not only are such comments not helpful, they are demonstrably false. You asked for a mainstream scientific citation that space-time cannot regress infinitely in the past and that the standard BB model points to an absolute beginning to our universe and space-time itself. It has a rich history so this is easily done:P.C.W. Davies:
“If we extrapolate [back into the past], we reach a point where all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe… For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself.”
(SEE:) Spacetime singularities in cosmology” in J.T. Fraser (ed.), The Study of Time III, pages 78-79.And again,
John Barrow and Frank Tipler:
“At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.” [SEE: John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 442.]And yet again,
“The universe began from a state of infinite density about one Hubble time ago. Space and time were created in that event and so was all the matter in the universe.” [SEE: J. Richard Gott III, James E. Gunn, David N. Schramm, and Beatrice M. Tinsley, “Will the Universe Expand Forever?” Scientific American [March 1976], p. 65]Now that that’s settled I will simply repeat the points that seem to have thus far been avoided. Given the standard BB model there is no sense in which there is an earlier space-time point, therefore it is nonsensical to even assume there was some other contingent something that existed prior to the initial singularity and our universe coming into existence. Moreover given that the standard BB model posits an absolute temporal beginning to the universe, it logically entails there was literally NOTHING that existed prior to the initial singularity–which leads to the question, why the universe began to exist at all!!!
It is difficult to see how your view doesn’t collapse into metaphysical absurdity when you, like Krauss, assume that something you want to qualify as “nothing” existed prior to everything–and by everything I mean space-time and all that that entails. This is a claim of pure faith.
An absolute, temporal beginning of time and the universe is inescapable. And the initial cosmic singularity inherent in the standard BB model is the greatest evidence we have that that is exactly what we are dealing with!
Of course it is a logical necessity that things which begin to exist (have temporal origins) must have causes and therefore there must have been a cause to space-time itself. I think we agree there. Therefore Krauss is right that SOMETHING had to cause our universe to come into existence because he too would concede that “from nothing, nothing comes” and being can’t come from non-being. But given the nature of space-time itself the cause that brought the universe into being must be a transcendent, metaphysical necessity that bears the properties of being timeless, immaterial and spaceless.
There is only one candidate. The mind of God confronts us inescapably.
I believe we are doomed to go in circles. You will no doubt repeat that we can’t ask questions about the nature or cause of the initial singularity because it is beyond scientific probing, and I will repeat that deductive reasoning clearly entails the cause of our universe coming into existence at a finite point in the past–prior to which there was literally nothing. As such the cause of our contingent universe must be a non-contingent, metaphysical necessity bearing the properties mentioned above.
I have enjoyed the discussion. In the end you are right that we both must reach a point where we are forced to speculate about that which is beyond the reach of our empirical measurements. In that sense we both are exercising a modicum of faith in seeking to explain the greatest of all events neither of us were there to witness.
And may I say God bless you 🙂
Matthew 7:6 Psalm 14:1
There is a danger to engaging in these types of intellectual discussions which are not really intellectual discussions, but a wrestling of heart attitudes. That danger is to the weaker believer. While you or I may be able to withstand the emotionally-intellectual (oxymoron, anyone?) nature of the atheist’s resistance to what are obvious truths to any individual who hasn’t set up an automatic defensive block based upon the need to disbelieve in God, a weaker believer may be more susceptible to their arguments and rationalizations.
When these “atheists” come to a point in their life that they privately discard the science nonsense for one single night and decide to simply think upon reality and the possibility of eternal consequences to their decisions (they all do), it won’t be your intellectual arguments that come to mind. Lift up Jesus and deny them the opportunity to spout mottos and cheerlead for like-minded fools. While you may feel as if you’re making progress, you may in fact be doing the exact opposite by allowing them the opportunity to exercise their erroneous beliefs.
Thanks for stopping by Andrew. I have to disagree with you if I’m understanding you rightly. I could be reading you wrong but it seems you are taking the position that apologetical engagement with atheists can serve no purpose in such a person on a journey towards faith. Moreover it seems you are suggesting that weak believers can lose their faith if they are exposed to a setting that allows atheists to spout their arguments. Well they already do that–it’s called university campuses. I have encountered far too many who lost their faith because their youth groups and churches chose merely to “lift up Jesus” and not give them the intellectual muscle they would need to withstand the withering onslaught they would later encounter in secular universities. That said I would agree with you that everything ultimately rests on pointing to Jesus and therefore comes down to an individuals response to the initiating work of the Holy Spirit in regards to the gospel. But sorry if I am misunderstanding your comments.
Thanks for sharing, Matt. I think there’s a misprint in your last line — does Colby think you’re calling yourself God?
I love the name of your blogsite, as there is such a tension in all the major truths. Today I was thinking on this — “if any man thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know — but whoever loves God is known BY God.” Or “knowledge puffs up — love builds up.” Or as my other friend Matt says — Jesus, the “vine”, is the “tree” (he argues it’s the same word) of Life. We may eat from the tree of Life or the tree of Knowledge. Or as I heard Augustine say today in “The City of God” — the root of the word “demon” is a Greek work for “knowledge” — and here’s where the tension comes in — who has more knowledge than Paul, Augustine, Jesus? Who speaks a single word w/o “knowledge”? So what IS our proper relationship to knowledge? SO this is not any easy issue — how to lift up Jesus, using “knowledge” rightly and not falling into any of the traps these our teachers warn us of?
I applaud your attempt here, was cheering for you as I read — especially on the recurrent theme I see in the current mode in scientific atheistic thought of rejecting philosophy as a basis for science, and telling philosophers to “get acquainted with the science first” as a way of saying “science undergirds philosophy” (and also saying, “we can assert any metaphysical claim we want, and you can’t examine it with philosophy”). Clearly philosophy (logic) must undergird “science” (knowing), or we have no science at all, only manipulable collections of facts. But a worldview that denies Mind (Logos) must subjugate philosophy to “fact,” it has no choice if it is to be consistent with its basic assumptions. And Fact becomes a wonderful fig leaf under which man can hide from Truth and imagine his own reality.
Let’s examine the two possibilities: Mind precedes Universe, Universe precedes Mind. We know the atheists’ conclusion: Universe (or “Multiverse”) precedes Mind. Prima facie, if the universe is a mindless tree, three inescapable conclusions follow (which intertwine and overlap):
1) it cannot produce the fruit of Mind — so there are no metaphysical minds anywhere (so our “thoughts” are useless in getting at truth, they are just the workings of bioloical machines), and …
2) all is pre-determined by the BB and there is no “free will” anywhere. Sam Harris just published on this. Thus, again, our thoughts are useless except as they drive the biological machine we are, and they have no connection to truth. Hawking and Krauss believes as they do b/c it was predetermined that they would, and the same is true for Colby and you. No one’s beliefs have anything to do with correctness (truth) in the abstract sense. And …
3) No observations can really be made in the universe, because observation requires a subject and an object, and a measuring stick (methods, formulas, etc) — subjects are absent in a universe with no minds. We are all objects, we are all pawns.
In summary, The Mindless Universe (where physics eventually produced brain, which produced by predetermined synapses the books we read and the blogsites we debate in) may allow for a lot of conversation, but it’s a non-starter for Truth.
But all these points are beyond consideration in “science” that is free of philosophy. Psalm 14:1 in action. But am I digressing into “knowledge”? I don’t know. What I do know, real knowledge is the relational knowledge of God and all that comes from it. Paul never foreswore logic, reason, etc. I think he meant, love God, receive His love, drink of Christ (the Logos), pour out whatever words and actions He leads us to pour out, lead a supernatural life. Never descend to the worldly, the “demonic” (the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge). Never trust your own learning. Trust only in Him. These may be some of the hand-holds we need to keep the right “theology in tension” on “knowledge.” The English word “knowledge” contains our Adam-KNEW-Eve “knowledge” of God and He of us that is Salvation — and it contains the kind that does nothing but puff up. We must explore further in the heart or our God and come out representing Jesus in our generation, letting our words flow purely from His Spring of Logos (This may lead to shorter online debates.)
Paradoxical? Hard to understand?
With that “tension” established, I will also say that I think Andrew’s comment is very wise. All the rub is in “lifting up Jesus” well. How do we that? Probably the common culture of “LIKE if you love Jesus!” and the cartoony Christian art emails we all pass around, and the pithy-but-ignorant Christian retorts we see on too many Youtube comments-sections, and the “Christian OWNS atheist” boasts we upload, and the many other attempts that are made on the internet, are usually not touching hearts of people like Colby. (Because they aren’t too supernatural). What does touch hearts? Ah, to answer that — we will have to press into the heart of our Teacher more and more. He answered questions more brilliantly than anyone ever did — he encountered many swine, never threw them pearls, always pricked their hearts. Each of his answers was a miracle — may God grant the same to us as we seek to represent Him.
Thanks for the great comments Tim–especially your insightful remarks on knowledge and mind preceding universe, etc. In a debate with Krauss WLC got Krauss to admit that on his view free-will is jettisoned and determinism becomes inescapable–which as you rightly note has no connection to truth. Each person believes what they believe simply on the basis it was determined for them. No one is actually weighing the odds or evaluating the pros and cons of any position and making an informed judgment. Personally I think WLC’s use of the cosmological argument is a great tool for cracking open the arrogance of “scientism” many find shelter behind. I have encountered people whose atheism collapsed around them in the face of WLC’s arguments and they are now believers. They attribute their initial pursuit of faith to WLC’s debates that dismantled intellectual barriers that were barring them even considering the merits of Christ on the false assumption that one must surrender thinking rightly (true intellect) in order to pick up faith. I think deception feeds off misinformation as much as it does blatant lies. Part of the task of every believer is weeding through such a field and discerning what should be pulled up and what should be left alone for the time being. Above all these journeys we take into the mind and heart of the unbeliever must be Spirit led with humility…and I don’t presume to be an example of that. I have much to learn 🙂
P.S. Thanks also for highlighting the typo in the last line!
I came across this related comment last night, from George MacDonald (Diary of an Old Soul, Dec. 18):
That man alone who does the Father’s works
Can be the Father’s son; yea, only he
Who sonlike can create, can ever be;
Who with God wills not, is no son, not free.
O Father, send the demon-doubt that lurks
Behind the hope, out into the abyss;
Who trusts in knowledge all its good shall miss.
Mm, I like your analogy from the parable of the wheat and tares — I’ll have to think more on that. Amen to everything you said – and I’ll look more into WLC, sounds very interesting!