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A Scientific Approach to God

December 9, AD 2016 13 Comments

It is said that the most popular theory for the beginning of time and space is the Big Bang. This is the theory which states that 13.8 billion years ago, “everything in the Cosmos started out as a single point in space. In an instant, everything expanded outward from that location, forming the energy, atoms and eventually the stars and galaxies we see today.” An impressive theory, one that can easily be reconciled with the Creation Narratives of Christianity. However, there are many who renounce the account of God creating the universe, choosing various other viewpoints, even random chance, as the reason why there is something rather than nothing.

Msgr Georges Lemaître

Monsignor Georges Lemaître, a Roman Catholic priest, is credited with conceiving and advancing the Big Bang theory in 1927. This was at a time when many scientists believed that the universe was infinite, and therefore most had trouble accepting Monsignor Lemaître’s proposal. However, after Edwin Hubble reported in 1929 his observations that far galaxies are continuing to move further away from us, scientists began to accept the theory. This included Stephen Hawking, whose work in the 1960s helped to further the understanding that the universe has a beginning.

A sensible decision — if we observe that galaxies in space are moving away from each other, then it would make perfect sense that they were at one time very close together. Moreover, it would be correct to infer that there was some force that caused the galaxies to separate and expand.

While science is a great tool in discerning and discovering aspects of reality, it cannot be deemed the sole arbiter of what is real and what is not. To say that God did not have a role in the beginning of time and space is an unscientific claim. I state that there is much more proof for God than there is for the idea of a Godless beginning of everything.

First, we can scientifically observe the world around us and see that in no other circumstance does something cause itself. Nothing else seems to just happen without something bringing it about. To say that the Big Bang caused itself would then be an exception in which we allow for a self-caused entity to exist.

Earth

If one wanted to turn the tables, so to say, on Christians and our God, we see that the definition of God is that He is not created, therefore not a self-caused, but an infinite Being. We believe this as it has been revealed to us through Divine Revelation and not from mere observation. Furthermore, we do not believe this as sole individuals or as part of a cult, but as members of an institution with rich foundational Tradition, which brings me to my next point.

If we look at the evidence for our Faith that has been handed down over the millennia, we can rest assured that when we assert that the Creation of Life and the World by an all-loving God is reality, we are in good standing and good company. The Church itself has 2,000 years of teachings and further clarifications from many respectable, intelligent people. If one does the work, one will find logical conclusions and insights within these teachings.

Furthermore, much like Christ performed miracles to affirm His teaching, so too do we find many miracles through the history of the Church to affirm our Faith. Two of the strongest are the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe (still on display in Mexico City) and the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano (still on display in Lanciano, Italy). While many can assume these two phenomena, both studied and tested, are false and easily ignore them, that does not prove them to be false. In fact, in many of its investigations of miracles, the Church has asked atheist scientists to study them in order to receive unbiased conclusions.

While these miracles and testimonies are indeed extraordinary, there is still more for the Christian in our Faith. In fact, not only can we know more about our Faith and come to know of God’s power, but we are also able to know God Himself, growing closer to Him and experiencing His power each day. Just like it is possible for one to buy a really expensive telescope and witness for themselves the drifting of the planets to believe in the Big Bang, it is also possible for one to know for themselves that God exists.

However, before God proves Himself to us, we need to prove ourselves to Him. Throughout the Gospels, the miracles that Christ performs on behalf of the sick, the blind, the deaf are for those who show great faith in Him. The hemorrhaging woman who touches His cloak, the paralyzed man lowered through the roof by his friends, and the Centurion whose slave was also in need of healing all went before Jesus with faith. While God too is the source of this Faith, we must use our free will to accept His Revelation and whatever He has planned for us. Additionally, it is interesting to note that all of these men and women manifested their Faith to Jesus in a big way.

It might not have been as comfortable as it seems for these people to go before Christ in front of others, humbly show their weaknesses and ask for healing. In a way, they needed to leave their comfort zones in order to experience Jesus in this way. So too must we be stretched at times in order to experience God. Furthermore, we must go humbly, seeking Him on His terms. We cannot reduce God into an organism that we can fully know and study exhaustively. If we could, He would not be God.

In a way, the origin of the universe is an interesting analogy for God. Today, we can study and learn more about it, but we cannot fully identify nor comprehend how or why the universe began, with the unique role of Earth in supporting life. Nor can we know God fully. However, with the testimonies we find in the Church over the past 2,000 years, along with the Jewish foundations on which these accounts are based, as well as our own experience of God in our daily ever-enriched lives, we can study and learn more about God, while not fully comprehending Him.

In our study and growth in relationship with the Almighty, there are things we can actively do to both prove ourselves to Him and know God and our Faith more.

First, we can read some of the following books:

  1. Practical Theology by Dr. Peter Kreeft
  2. Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science by Stacy Trasancos
  3. Pints with Aquinas by Matt Fradd
  4. Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed
  5. Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church by H. W. Crocker III

Second, we can practice these devotions

  1. The Rosary
  2. The Daily Office (even just the morning prayer)
  3. Mass more than just on Sundays (even every day is possible)
  4. Routine Adoration
  5. Scheduled prayer time
  6. Daily Bible or Gospel Meditation
  7. Join/start a Prayer group that involves any of the above devotions or the books listed.

Our Faith is much more than a viewpoint, opinion, or theory of life. It is even more than a way of life, because it is Life itself. These books and practices are ways for us to encounter this Life that raises us up both now and at the end of our lives. Our Faith is bursting with much more and I would love to see in the comments anything else you would recommend for myself and others to encounter God and grow more in our Faith.

___

Image: AllThingsCatholic; NASA.

About the Author:

Thomas Clements is a High School and Middle School Theology Teacher. He graduated with an B.A. in Theology from Southern Catholic College and received an M.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. On the side he has recorded a CD and performs music at various colleges, churches, and conferences. He lives with his wife and 3 children in Atlanta, GA.
  • Docent

    A better and more authoritative/scientifically sound source of information regarding the proper role of science in its relationship to theology can be found in many of the works by the renowned physicist/theologian Fr. Stanley J. Jaki (1924 – 2009).

    Jaki and Lemaître before him Never made the silly mistake of declaring or even suggesting that the Big Bang is the beginning of time and space, yet many people continue to misread and/or misunderstand Lemaître’s cosmic egg theory. This even included Pope Pius XII who had to be corrected by Lemaître.

    Creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) cannot be scientifically measured, and so the scientific theory of the Big Bang can never, ever “easily be reconciled with the Creation Narratives of Christianity” as is unfortunately claimed to be the case by Mr. Clements.

    “For both philosophical and scientific reasons the Big Bang cannot be taken for a demonstration of an “in the beginning,” for an absolute start.” (from Jaki’s “Questions on Science and Religion,” p. 62)

    This brief quote is taken from the superb chapter 5 entitled “In One Big Bang?” In this chapter as well as in chapter 4 (“In the Beginning?”) and chapter 6 (“Out of Nothing?”), Fr. Jaki completely demolishes the false attempts to wed science and theology regarding God’s creatio ex nihilo.

    So in the list of “First, we can read some of the following books,” the following books by Fr. Jaki should be at the top and/or replace some of the suggested ones, and then the mistakes set forth by Mr. Clements that can mislead others will be less likely to occur and be published:

    1. “Questions on Science and Religion”
    2. “The Limits of a Limitless Science”

    • Thomas

      Thank you, Docent, for your comments and book recommendations. I think you misunderstand my thoughts here. Am I correct in my reading of your post that you are stating the theory of the Big Bang and the truth of God’s creation of the world ex nihilo are not to be confused as the same, because ex nihilo refers to everything being created from nothing and something was required for the Big Bang to occur. If so, than I completely agree and think my article does not suggest the opposite. I simply stated that the Creation narratives are not contradicted by the Big Bang theory. But, I think that is an important part of this issue to keep in mind, so thank you for allowing for the clarification. Genesis 1and 2 are not written as a science text today would be and more point to the truth that God is the one who created. However, there are some viewpoints of these chapters that allow for a certain harmony to be kept with the Big Bang as well as the theory of evolution.

      • Docent

        Hi, Thomas:

        So long as you make the mistake of linking the Big Bang with creation in any way as you have done by claiming the theory can “easily be reconciled with the Creation Narratives of Christianity,” you will continue to be way off the mark, and also repeat the same kinds of errors made by others in this regard.

        Also note that the creation narratives have nothing to do with the Big Bang theory and vice versa, and so Genesis 1 and 2 does not contain any viewpoints “that allow for a certain harmony to be kept with the Big Bang, which is simply the event that precipitated an expansion of the galaxies.”

        Pick up the books I recommended so you can better appreciate why your attempts to harmonize the Big Bang with creation are, as they say in the scientific community,…not even wrong. 🙂

        Good luck and God Bless!

        Docent

      • Thomas

        Docent,

        God bless you too!
        I do think there might be a misunderstanding here. By “reconcile” I only mean that the Creation Narratives are not opposed to the BB theory. One could see that the BB theory could easily fit into the Day/Age theory or the Gap theory of the Creation Narratives for example. While Genesis 1 and 2 do not explicitly mention the Big Bang, the Church has been open to such interpretations.

        I think the recent Popes starting with Pope Pius XII all have been in line with this thinking.

      • Docent

        Alas, Thomas, you are still off the mark. Instead of me trying to disabuse you any further of your faulty notions beyond this reply, please take the time to pick up the Jaki books I recommended, read them carefully, and then you should be able to see that there is no kind of reconciliation possible due to one event being metaphysical only and the other one being physical only, etc.

        As previously pointed out, Pope Pius XII backed away from such claims after Fr. LeMaitre corrected him. Another well-known scholar you may know by the name of Fr. George Rutler has also made references to the error by Pius XII and the corrections by LeMaitre. Rutler has also favorably referenced Jaki as well.

        Bottom line: The Creation Narratives involving Creatio ex nihilo have absolutely nothing to do with the Big Bang theory, and there is also no fitting any of the other theories you mention into Creatio ex nihilo. It’s actually irrational to do as you suggest based on the metaphysical meaning of nothing.

        Again, please pick up Fr. Jaki’s work to gain the insights you need so you will cease trying to wed things or make things reconcile or not be opposed, etc., that are in completely different realms.

        Go for the wisdom and the truth no matter where it leads. You can always write a follow-up, corrective article to also help others once you gain the corrected understanding.

      • Thomas

        Thank you, Docent. I think you’re still misunderstanding. All the theories I mention are in line with Church teaching. No one is saying that ex nihilo did not occur. However, the change that occurs after God created ex nihilo could be identified as the Big Bang. There is a great quote from another IT post from the Niceness Guy in which Gilson writes (citing Aquinas),

        We speak of creation whenever something which was not, begins to be. In other words, there is creation wherever a transition occurs from non-being to being, in other words from nothingness to being. Applying this notion to all existing things, we may say that creation, which is the emanation of all being, consists in the act whereby all things pass from non-being or nothingness to being [Summa Theologica I.44.1]. This is the meaning of the expression that God has created the world from nothing. But it is important to note that in this assertion the preposition “from” signifies in no way the material cause; it means simply a sequence. God has not created the world from nothing in the sense that He caused it to issue from nothing as from a sort of matter, but in the sense that, after the nothing, being appeared. ‘Creating from nothing,’ in short, means ‘not creating from something.’ This expression, far from putting any matter at the beginning of things, systematically excludes all conceivable matter, in the same way as when we say that someone is sad about nothing, we mean that his sadness has no cause.”

        Furthermore, my article is not meant to prove the BB theory. I merely thought that it was interesting that many self- proclaimed “scientists” try to use science to disprove the True Faith. However, science and the reality that it studies cannot exist without God.

        Peace in Christ,

        Thomas

      • Docent

        Okay. Hopefully just one more time….

        Like I previously mentioned, Thomas, it is actually you who continue to misunderstand, and there is absolutely no misunderstanding on my part.

        None of the theories you mention are in line with Creatio ex nihilo nor can such theories ever be so. Also, I did not claim you stated that ex nihilo did not occur, and so your reference here shows again your misunderstanding of the points I have made based in large part on the works of Fr. Jaki, Fr. LeMaitre, and others.

        Also, it is not even close to being the case that “the change that occurs after God created ex nihilo could be identified as the Big Bang.” This is now, sadly, becoming absurd in its lack of understanding and intellectual rigor. Note what you are claiming: Creatio ex nihilo occurs and then the change known as the Big Bang follows . This is sheer nonsense because it still assumes the Big Bang is some kind of first physical moment when it cannot be so identified, nor does it take into account the innumerable physical things that may have occurred prior to the Big Bang that are quite possible (in fact, our science is currently limited to looking back to some 380,000 years after the Big Bang is assumed to have occurred, so we cannot even see that event, let alone what may have preceded it). In essence, and despite other statements you may claim are to the contrary, you still present the Big Bang as a first moment right after Creatio ex nihilo, but this cannot be logically, scientifically, or theologically maintained.

        Once more, I implore you to check out the material directly on point by Fr. Jaki to see in more detail where you continue to make the same kinds of mistakes Fr. Jaki points out and clearly demonstrates are mistakes. Perhaps you are afraid to learn that you have been wrong all along, but if you are sincere in your pursuit of the truth as I want to believe you are, then pick up the material and read it thoroughly instead of responding to me with more false claims, etc. Then you should see why your ongoing attempts to harmonize that which cannot be harmonized should be jettisoned, and you can write a follow-up article advising your readers of your enhanced understanding.

        Next, your quote from Gilson referencing the Summa is also off the mark in terms of what you have attempted to do, but as a refresher for you, I hope it helps you better realize the errors of your positions via a better understanding of Creatio ex nihilo.

        Lastly, I didn’t accuse you or your article as “meant to prove the BB theory,” so once again, your reference here demonstrates more misunderstanding on your part. Still, as a theory properly understood as an explanation of the expansion of galaxies, the Big Bang theory is quite strong. But the notion that it could be identified as the change which follows Creatio ex nihilo is, as pointed out above, sheer nonsense.

      • Thomas

        Docent,

        Thank you for clarifying your points. It’s seems that this discussion is filled with misunderstanding. I see no problem with the bb theory and it agreeing with Scripture. If it did not, I hardly think that Fr. Lamaitre would have proposed it. I think that this might be a case of splitting hairs. My stance is and has always been:

        1. God created ex nihilo
        2. He may have or may have not used the Big Bang to do something after #1
        3. #1 and #2 do not contradict Scripture.

        I hope this is helpful, but fear that we are running in circles. Please feel free to respond, but I do not see a further post on my part to bear much fruit as this is my stance and I don’t see a solid reason to change it based on your opinions.

        To end, let us pray for one another and our loved ones that we both and all may come to grow closer to Christ whom we both aim to serve.

        Peace in Christ,

        Thomas

      • Docent

        Wow, Thomas. You clearly don’t understand while wrongly claiming a joint misunderstanding, and you have misrepresented Fr. LeMaitre in your response above, because he did absolutely nothing along the lines you claim he did. In fact, he made it clear to Pope Pius XII that the theory he proposed was purely scientific and has absolutely nothing to do with Scripture or Creatio ex nihilo (this is not just my opinion; check this out for yourself), but you just can’t accept the truth so, sadly, you misrepresent and project your own views into what Fr. LeMaitre did, taught, and said in order to prop up your position that is wrong, but you don’t have the wherewithal to admit it. It also seems apparent that you have no intention of reading the recommended materials by Fr. Jaki and others because you want to continue to promote your take on things despite their disrespect for the truth. Very sad, but also very telling.

        And in the classic disrespect of the truth by using a version of the relativist’s “it’s just your opinion against mine,” by claiming you “don’t see a solid reason to change it based on your opinions,” this purposely misrepresents my views that go well beyond just my opinions as I have clearly stated my superior sources (Jaki, LeMaitre, Rutler, Scripture, etc.) that have also addressed and definitively refuted the positions of all of the sources you wrongly maintain support your position.

        And it is also not a case of splitting hairs, but you merely want it to be this to maintain your false stance. You are, alas, way off the mark, but again, you just can’t accept it because you are enamored with what you believe is an insightful position despite it’s remarkable lack of truth and understanding.

        Regarding your numbered listing:

        1. Yes. My position as well.

        2. A silly point. God uses whatever He wants as He sees fit. This is meaningless regarding some of the false conclusions you have proposed.

        3. Correct, but your other conclusions contradict Creatio ex nihilo, and the fact remains that the Big Bang has absolutely nothing to do with Creatio ex nihilo. So long as you believe that the Big Bang has anything to do with Creatio ex nihilo, you will wallow in ignorance and perhaps lead others away from the truth by promoting such nonsense.

        I agree to end this exchange due in large part to a lack of sincerity on your part in the pursuit of the truth, but I will simply urge you one more time to man up and read the materials of Fr. Jaki that I recommended. No need to fear the truth, and if you do take the time to faithfully pursue the truth via the recommended readings, then you can make corrections to your false conclusions to manifest a newfound respect for the truth. Proudly hold onto your false conclusions and the truth will be of little value to you despite your protestations to the contrary.

        May the Holy Spirit grant you the courage to seek out the truth even if this means having to give up cherished but false beliefs in the process.

        God Bless!

        Docent

  • Michael G. Siddle

    The Big Bang did not and could not have happened as a point in space because space did not exist before the Big Bang. The Big Bang can only have occoured out of absolutely nothing. Anything else would presuppose a physical universe of some description pre dating the Big Bang.

    • Docent

      There is no way to determine at present if anything preceded the Big Bang, which is also a physical event, and it is also a major error to maintain that space did not exist before the Big Bang. As the great physicist/theologian Fr. Stanley Jaki points out in his “Questions on Science and Religion” (p. 62):

      “Had scientific cosmologists studied the history of the philosophy that supports the tenet of creation out of nothing, they also would have found something very germane to the proper use of the idea of a Big Bang. In that history only a minority held the view that it was possible to prove the beginning of time for the universe. The majority, with Aquinas in the van, held that such a demonstration was not possible, and that therefore one might know only from revelation that the past history of the universe was strictly finite and therefore had a temporal beginning. For such is the meaning of that often misunderstood phrase, ‘creation in time.’ Further, even the view held by the minority would not imply that it was possible to specify the moment in question as lying at such and such a distance back in the past. Those following the minority play with fire whenever they repeat with some scientific cosmologists that the universe was created about fifteen billion years ago. For both philosophical and scientific reasons the Big Bang cannot be taken for a demonstration of an ‘in the beginning,’ for an absolute start.”

  • sonny

    We can and should reflect on Religion and the Big Bank with their own specific vocabularies. It is safe to do so I feel. I can reflect on either Genesis or Cosmology clearer this way.

    • sonny

      I love both the Bible and Fr Jaki. I can now pray on the miracle of the sun because of Fr. Jaki. His explanation of the spinning sun rocks.