Category: Columns

How to make a universe

This is the second in a two-part series on Stephen Hawking’s contention that science has resolved the need for God.

In the previous column, we examined the logical fallacies theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking employs in the Discovery Channel series, “Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design.”

Now, let’s turn our attention to how a universe is made. While Scripture tells us that God spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1:3-26; Ps. 33:9; Heb. 11:13), Hawking contends that nothing more than matter, energy, and space is needed to craft a universe.

But where did these ingredients come from? The Bible describes the creative act of God as ex nihilo — out of nothing. The eternally existing God created everything, visible and invisible, as an act of divine will.

Science tells quite a different tale than the biblical account, according to Hawking: “We can use the laws of nature to grasp the very origins of the universe and discover if the existence of God is the only way to explain it.”

A universe may materialize out of nothing through purely natural processes, he says. The laws of physics demand the existence of something called “negative energy.”

When the Big Bang produced vast amounts of positive energy, it also produced an equal amount of negative energy, says Hawking.

So, where is all the negative energy today? In space, he says. Space is a vast storehouse of negative energy, ensuring that all positive and negative energy adds up to zero.
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Stephen Hawking’s grand design

This is the first in a two-part series on Stephen Hawking’s contention that science has resolved the need for God.

Every so often, a renowned scientist captivates a global audience through a combination of brilliance, charisma, and an uncanny ability to communicate complex ideas in simple terms.

Carl Sagan comes immediately to mind. So does Neil deGrasse Tyson. And, of course, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, whose dazzling intellect and sense of humor, despite severe physical limitations, make him a popular author, speaker, and occasional guest star on television sit-coms.

So, when the Discovery Channel launched a mini-series, “Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design,” it captured the attention of millions around the world.

Narrated by English actor Benedict Cumberbatch, the series features numerous sound bites of Hawking, who is wracked by Lou Gehrig’s disease and speaks through a voice synthesizer. Hawking begins episode three, “Did God Create the Universe?” with this statement:

“I have no desire to tell anyone what to believe. But for me, asking if God exists is a valid question for science. After all, it is hard to think of a more important or fundamental mystery than what, or who, created and controls the universe.”

Fair enough. If the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1), and if God has revealed Himself to all people through His creation, leaving them with no excuse for rejecting Him (Rom. 1:20), then an exploration of the natural world should lead us to the conclusion that God exists.
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Is the Bible literally true?

Christians are sometimes asked if we believe the Bible is literally true.

After all, whether eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood is a plunge into cannibalism, or a figurative expression of full devotion, depends on how we understand the language of Scripture.

In one sense, we might say the Bible is divinely inspired literature through which God speaks to human beings in our own language. This naturally includes a range of literary devices, from narrative to hyperbole.

So, what does it mean to take the Bible “literally”?

It means applying a natural reading as the author or speaker intended, with a goal of grasping the writer’s message. This requires context and may include approximations, analogies, metaphors, quotations, parables, apocalyptic language, etc.

In contrast, taking the Bible “literalistically” means adhering to a rigid understanding of the primary meaning of words, without allowing for figurative language or a possible range of meanings.

An example may help clarify this. In John 10:9, Jesus states, “I am the door.” A literalistic rendering of this passage means that Jesus is calling himself an actual wooden piece of hardware, which either is absurd, or communicates a failed grasp of reality for the One who claims to be our only hope of everlasting life.

A literal understanding of this verse, however, considers the figurative language of Jesus’ words and the context in which He speaks. In other words, Jesus is the one true hope of everlasting life.
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Who are you to judge?

This is the last in a series of 10 excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.

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Jude describes certain false teachers as “merely natural, not having the Spirit” (v. 19). He seems to be stating plainly that these professing Christians are unbelievers. How can he make such a judgment?

Doesn’t Jesus say, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged” (Matt. 7:1)? Isn’t God the only one who may rightly search the hearts of people (Jer. 17:10)?

How can Jude possibly know that these interlopers are lost? Isn’t it possible they are merely deceived, or backslidden?

First, we should note that Jude describes these particular false teachers as “natural.” Literally, this means “animal-souled” and stands in contrast with “spiritual,” or “having the Spirit.” The apostle Paul describes the unbeliever as a “natural man” who “does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually” (1 Cor. 2:14).

Clearly, Jude and Paul are depicting people outside the kingdom of God. Jude’s use of the term psuchikos – soulish, sensual, animal-souled – describes them in sensual rather than spiritual terms.

As John MacArthur puts it, “His [Jude’s] materialistic description exposed them for who they really were – religious terrorists who lacked such internal qualities as a proper self-perception, the ability to reason, and a true knowledge of God. Even though the false teachers claimed a transcendental understanding of God, they did not know Him at all.”
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The prophecy of Enoch

This is the ninth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.

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Near the end of Jude’s epistle, he quotes a prophecy from Enoch: “Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment on all …” (vv. 14-15).

Nowhere in Scripture does Enoch’s prophecy appear, leading some to dispute the inspiration of Jude. After all, it is argued, if a writer inspired by the Holy Spirit shares an ancient prophecy about the end of days, why not select a prophecy that already has found its way into the canon?

However, there is good reason to accept the prophecy of Enoch as the very words of God.

The quotation is from the Book of Enoch, a pseudepigraphical work attributed to the great-grandfather of Noah. The book is not considered canonical by most religious groups, but it was familiar to Jewish Christians in the first century, and cited by second-century church fathers.

Specifically, Jude draws from Enoch 1:9, which reads, in part: “And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly …”

Jude’s quotation is similar but not identical. Perhaps this is because Jude cites a portion of the Book of Enoch the Spirit confirms as genuine, tightening up the language from its non-inspired source. As Edward Pentecost writes, “If Jude quoted the apocryphal book, he was affirming only the truth of that prophecy and not endorsing the book in its entirety.”
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