Thursday, April 28, 2016

God's Joy in Creating

Our previous post spoke of human creativity as it reflects the Image of God. Humans experience joy in their creative activities of work or play. Multiple expressions of imagination, innovation, and originality produce joy in the men, women, and children possessing these creative traits. 

We now shift our focus to the realm of the Creator. Creative acts of God have been apparent from the original creation of time, space, matter, and energy established “In the Beginning” (Genesis 1:1). The initial creation act at the beginning of time—(“In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth,”)—was observed by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some time later the heavenly host of angelic beings joined the joyful celebration. God inquired of Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation…and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4,7 NIV). This majestic passage impels us to contemplate God’s joy in creating. The angels shouted for joy. We may ask, “What was God doing?” We imagine God’s joy was even greater.

In the second example, we propose God’s joy at the initial creation act extended to his establishment of several dozen known physical constants. These are the “rules of the game” for our universe—precise, fundamental, invariant quantities observed in nature. We cite light speed, the mass of an electron, and the gravitational constant as examples. A football game, a trip to the store, or more generally, coherent functioning of the physical universe, would be impossible without these constants. How effective would sports coaches be if required to introduce games to students without establishing game rules? Even worse, what if there were no rules? The possibility of a game is not in prospect. In a broader sense, universal chaos would result. As the Creator, God is author of physical constants.

After the physical universe was in place, God occasionally intervened in creative episodes. This intervention is not a subject for scientists practicing the popular methodological naturalism (MN) guideline even to consider offering within their explanatory proposals. For instance, even though scientists consider the origin of life on this planet unexplainable, they continue to search for naturalistic explanations in the spirit of their adherence to MN. Life origin hypotheses abound but coherent, satisfactory explanations do not exist. This subject is bathed in scientific mystery. Scripture, however, in its brief creation account in the first chapters of Genesis, points to significant interventional creative episodes. No creation event is more significant than the origin of life.

In his recent (2014) volume Navigating Genesis, Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe posits that “…Genesis 1:2 hints that God’s work of creating life on Earth began very early, even before the first day’s dramatic events. This verse tells us (in English) that ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’…..the Spirit’s ‘hovering’ over the waters, as stated in Genesis 1:2, refers to God bringing about life in Earth’s ocean—even before light shone through.” In the past our blog has described early Earth as “a water world” in the very early days of our planet’s existence as a solid body. In those eons even before light shone through to the Earth surface, bacterial, multicellular marine organisms became abundant on the water shrouded planet. The one-celled bacteria were morphologically simple, but biochemically complex. Bacterial fossils were precursors of today’s mineral resources and producers of the life-sustaining atmosphere we enjoy today. The very first life on Earth, therefore, was not really “simple” in the most noteworthy sense. Life is explained by a startling supernatural intervention in Earth’s oceans about nine billion years after the initial creation and about four billion years ago from the present day.

Did God express joy at this creation event initiating life on our Planet Earth? In keeping with the brevity of details in the scripture account of creation, we offer our sanctified opinion. Hugh Ross states the Hebrew word describing the Spirit of God hovering over the waters is suggestive of “…a female eagle stirring up her nest and “hovering” over her young.” The image of a caring parent protecting its young may be a prequel to observing and expressing joy at the supernaturally produced newly created life. The creation of life in a universe where life is not known to exist elsewhere is a cause for joy.

Is there a natural explanation for the sudden appearance of our universe from a tiny singularity? Does the presence of several dozen precisely-tuned physical constants point to a natural cause? May we explain the origin of life on this planet naturalistically? Many other questions arise concerning the natural vs the supernatural in planetary events both past and present. 





Monday, April 25, 2016

Joy in Creating

Creativity has been extensively studied in humans young and old. Educators readily identify creativity in their students. It is a trait also admired by parents in their children. Employers encourage creativity in virtually all dimensions of their employee’s job performance. There is a relationship between creativity and skill in any professional performance. For example, the most skillful performers in the arts, athletics, sales, manufacturing, or information technology must search for creative solutions to their work-related challenges. Without creative approaches to their work activity, they become mired in tedium.

Achievement in any professional field depends on creativity. Imagination, innovation, and originality characterize creativity. To a large degree these traits may be applied even in mundane tasks. The most creative people achieve more joy in their occupational endeavors. On a human level we create daily, whether at work or tending to our houses and gardens.

Human creative ability has been gifted to humanity by the God of Creation. God initially produced the physical matter of the universe out of which he fashioned human life. The Imago Dei, the Image of God, has been defined by many theologians. The Image of God has been described by theologian Kenneth Samples as (1) being representative of the qualities of God, (2) having interpersonal relational qualities, and (3) possessing functional qualities. We focus on the meaning of functional qualities: What a human being does and how he performs certain functions is an example of the outworking of the Imago Dei.

Genesis clarifies the function of humanity in one of the first divine scriptural mandates: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28 ESV). Also, “The Lord God took the man (Adam) and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” Gen. 2:15 (ESV). The first men and women on earth were instructed to care for the plants and plant products as well as the animals. Modern agriculturalists may identify with the overwhelming responsibility of caring for the plants and animals of the garden. We marvel at the creative responsibility of appropriately naming the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens.

In our sanctified imagination we may pose the possibility that the earliest humanity needed creativity in unimaginable ways in order to exercise dominion over the plants and animals of the earth and to use them effectively to supply mankind’s physical needs. If his tending of the plants and animals occurred before the dreadful effects of “the Fall,” we speculate that “working and keeping” the garden and its environs was an unbridled creative joy experience. Even if the effects of sin had already been established after an unknown time period, humanity still retained functional qualities of the Imago Dei. These qualities included the joy in creating—still available in our day.                



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Humanity's Divine Image

The Image of God is one of the deepest concepts in theology. If we are created by God, it follows that we reflect the Creator’s attributes. Humans possess special qualities which allow God himself to be made manifest in us. We have a natural, innate resemblance to God. At the level of genetics, we may draw an analogy. We possess physical resemblance to our parents. Sometimes our inherited body chemistry produces physical or behavioral traits. Personality traits are more complex. Factors of our physical inheritance are recognized and studied by geneticists.

With respect to non-physical human characteristics, we must search deeper for answers. The Image of God refers to a natural, innate resemblance to God the Creator as a rational spiritual being. Apart from passages like Gen. 1-2, Job 38:7, Psalm 104:26, and Proverbs 8:27-31 which speak of the delight God experiences in creating the physical universe and the creatures in our world, we infer that the Creator is a God who plays in the most respectful and reverent sense. These playful traits are inherited by the higher forms of living creatures he has created. His created beings play.

What are the dimensions of playing? This is a question for deep contemplation about the characteristics of the God of Creation. Does human playfulness mirror God’s playfulness? Or should it? Yes, the ability to play is one of God’s greatest gifts in coping with the realities of life. Play is meaningful. It possesses a quality of rational maturity. Play is governed by rules which make play more enjoyable. Violation of the rules ruins the joy of play. Rules exist to make play possible.

When God took delight in creating the physical world, he installed game rules. Even before living things were created on Earth, the physical creation was subject to physical constants. When the angelic hosts shouted for joy “…while the morning stars sang together…” (Job 38:7) at the laying of the universe’s cornerstone, they also may have delighted in the beauty of the “rules of the game” established by God for the operation of the universe:

Later, when the time arrived that the physical conditions of the earth could support life, especially human life, God again established rules. This time, the rules applied to human activities in every sphere of life. In terms of fulfillment of human happiness, God established humans capable of self-reflective rational thought processes. These are attributes of God gifted to humanity. We do not stretch the point by proposing that God enabled human play not only to provide enjoyment but also to provide a model for the positive role of rules. In this sense, we consider human talent for production of athletic contests, art, music, literature, professional work, and a host of other human activities to be joyful and productive play, reflections of the Image of God.

It is not accidental that children in the earliest months and years of life spend most of their conscious moments devising amusing play activities when they are not crying to be fed or indicating their need for bedtime. As they become older, the lessons they acquired from non-structured play and later, structured play, manifest traits of the image of God. The Creator of all things provides an interrelated set of human traits in his image, including playfulness, to provide fulfillment of human happiness.     


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Playful God

Our post title may provoke cries of “Inappropriate!” God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. We might ask, “How could such a God, Creator of the universe, be a playful God?” If we consider that humanity was created in the “Image of God,” and consider that humans are endowed with consciousness from a very young age, we may acknowledge that our Creator is a playful God. Let us consider a rationale for this proposal.

Scripture tells us in Genesis 1:26 that God said “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” The pronoun us is plural, an early indicator of a triune God. In John’s gospel, the Word was a unique name for Christ—in Greek, “logos.”  Before the time dimension of this universe was created, the Word, or the logos, or Jesus Christ, was with God and the Spirit, all acting as agents of reason. Consciousness has been implanted in humanity as a reflection, an image, of the triune God. Initial consciousness appears very early in the life of a child and has a component of playfulness acquired as a gift from the Creator.

For the past few years we have become more aware of the rapidity of the onset of consciousness in young children. Consciousness, the subject of much mystery among behavioral scientists, may be defined as awareness of one’s surroundings, producing a sense of oneself, our environment, and other people. A few weeks after birth, a well-developed consciousness manifests itself, to the delight of parents and grandparents. They smile. Later, they giggle. Very young children entertain themselves with playful antics. Reasoning skills and humor are not far behind. If we agree that these traits are manifestations of the image of God, we may reverently infer that playful traits of children originate in the playful traits of the Creator. Of course, we may consider other divine traits of the Creator, many of which he generously provides to his created beings.

A famous scripture passage occurs in Proverbs 8:27-31. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, these verses illustrate that God was playing, not working, when he created our world and its living things. Verse 30 says that wisdom, personified, was  “…filled with delight day after day, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” In Hebrew literature, Proverbs is poetry, a literary genre used to convey truth. Proverbs 8 is a specific type of poem called an encomium, a poem of praise. Personified  wisdom is “filled with delight” when she contemplates “rejoicing in God’s created world.” Creation was daily the subject of delight. The whole world and mankind were the subjects of delight.

Dr. Richard A. Baer, emeritus professor of Natural Resources, Cornell University, delivered a lecture in 2003 entitled “The God Who Plays.” Baer made a distinction between enjoyment and use. Baer claims our modern society is in danger of losing the balance between enjoyment and use. If we overstress work, success, achievement, development, manipulation, exploitation and control, we may be in danger of understressing play, recreation, delight, celebration, awareness, leisure, and enjoyment.

We must not become overly utilitarian and work oriented. We must not become overloaded with information: email, Facebook, twitter, and texting. We must learn to enjoy people, not mainly to use others for our personal ends. Gifts of food and beverage are to be used for enjoyment and nutrition, not used to escape or drown our troubles. God gives meaning to each discrete moment, not only at the conclusion of each activity. If our experience is too laden with leading a historically significant life instead of working to achieve the integrity of each moment, our goal orientation may be too highly developed. We could neglect the Westminster Confession’s first question: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer appropriately instructs us, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” At the university level we could be too dominated by the idea that “Knowledge is power.” We may attempt to dominate others.

In preparation for this post, I wrote to Dr. Baer. He responded with two profound statements: “Perhaps God at play may be the most serious creation theme of all. In his divine freedom he creates out of delight, not necessity.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Light and Time

As a science teacher one of my favorite curricular topics was astronomy. Some years I extended the unit beyond the time our teaching syllabus actually prescribed. Our supervisor understood that the interests and talents of individual staff members might supersede strict rigidity in applying curricular time allotments.

Time, space, distance, and speed were a few topics supporting my pedagogical offerings within the astronomy unit. Some students found these concepts fascinating; some did not. Almost all students, however, were enlivened by the hypothetical prospect that if we were located in distant space looking back at earth through a powerful telescope, we could observe past events as if they were occurring in the present. For example, if at this moment we were on a planet located in Andromeda galaxy, the nearest major galaxy outside our home Milky Way galaxy, we would observe events occurring on Earth 2 1/2 million years ago. Similarly, from our present location on Planet Earth, we now observe Andromeda galaxy as it was 2 1/2 million years ago.

In a sense, we look into the past when we observe light from any object. Light from the room in which we sit reaches us in a fraction of a millisecond. Our Earth, 240,000 miles distant from the moon, receives moonlight 1 1/2 seconds “old.” Sunlight reaches us in about eight minutes; we say it is eight light minutes away. The nearest star is four light years away because its light travels four years to reach us. As already noted, Andromeda is 2 1/2 million light years away. Light seconds, light minutes, and light years are units of distance. 

Light has a finite speed of approximately 300 million meters/sec (approx. 186,000 miles/sec). This speed of light in a vacuum is an unalterable physical constant—one of the many physical constants by which our orderly universe operates. It is an ultimate speed—a maximum speed limit of the universe—a fact related to Einstein’s proposal of special relativity. Time relates to light, however. It proceeds slower as we travel faster. Light speed is a constant enabling us, among other constants, to calculate cosmic distances. A changing light speed would create disorder in our cosmos as would fluctuations in any other physical constant.

Scientists such as Isaac Newton thought entities of time and space were absolute entities, not related or comparative to other things. Relativity, however, has superseded Newton’s laws when dealing with very massive objects, or concepts describing gravity fields or electromagnetic fields. For every day experiences Newton’s laws accurately described and predicted events. In Newton’s day these everyday experiences were not concerned with concepts such as the dilation of time or apparent changes in length and mass when objects were accelerated toward the speed of light. In Newton’s day various outcomes of relativity may have seemed like science fiction. Brilliant as he was, the idea of space-time curvature or gravity waves were beyond his understanding. His descriptions of reality were adequate for his time but are somewhat out of date in the 21st century.

The recent detection of gravity waves and the renewed emphasis on concepts such as the space-time fabric of the universe, to mention only two, give rise to fascination about cosmic operation. We are gaining additional knowledge of the universe and its secrets at an ever increasing pace, from the microcosmos to the macrocosmos. For believers in the God of Creation, our theistic beliefs intensify with each new discovery.

Recently I encountered a mysterious statement: “Nobody has a clue about the absolutely biggest questions.” Such statements could be interpreted in different ways: (1) The universe is inscrutable, even disorderly, or (2) The universe reveals the ordered planning and design of an omnipotent God. We trust our blog calls attention to the divine Designer of cosmic order.      


Friday, April 1, 2016

Time or Timeless

Our universe, 13.8 billion years of age, reveals a marvelous story of its existence. Within this age-span we possess the timeline of cosmological history. The earliest events following the initial creation have been understood and described surprisingly well. Likewise, events as they have evolved in the vast time since the universe’s infancy, have been chronicled. We use the term evolution advisedly. In this context evolution signifies progressive development of universal chemical composition, physical structure, and sequence of events. In these respects, evolution still proceeds in our day.

Secular and theistic scientists both acknowledge that the 13.8 billion year distant creation event marked the beginning of our time dimension as well as the beginning of the dimensions of space. The initial singularity was not emplaced in already existing dimensions of time and space. Time and space dimensions originated at the creation event.

We call the Big Bang “the creation event.” Our position derives from Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Scripture uses the term “heavens and the earth” to mean “all that exists.” This scripture passage affirms secular scientists’ characterization of this event as the beginning of the universe. Many secular scientists understand that a “beginning” suggests a “beginner.” They are not comfortable that the beginner may be construed as God. Scientists guided by methodological naturalism (MN) in their practice of science prefer not to connect the concept of God with their science.

Returning to the time concept, the Creator established time in this universe as linear and uni-directional. Most simply, however, people perceive time extends from past, to present, to future. God established the dimension of time in this universe to prepare for the arrival of life and much later, the arrival of human life.

God, as the Creator of the Universe and the Creator of time, has established his authorship and control of the dimension of time. He is able to operate in our universe with complete freedom, uninhibited by the dimensional restrictions humans possess. He is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. God has gifted humanity considerable freedom to operate in the creation, but without the unlimited characteristics mentioned. Man is time-lmited, able to operate in the present, but not in the past or future. As Creator, God is not limited by time as we are. Humans and all other living things, in contrast, are time-limited with respect to the duration of life. The universe itself is also time-limited in the sense that it has a beginning and an end.

The question occurs as to whether God operates in limitless dimensions of time unknown and inaccessible to us. Or is the Creator of all things able to operate without any time dimensions at all?  We ask, therefore, “Is God’s existence timeless?”

In 2011 we submitted several posts on time-related topics. We did not pretend to have definitive answers to all problems and questions on the topic of time. We hope our past and present discussion illuminates the nature of time issues and inspires us to further inquiry: