Not only does religion and science disagree about how the universe began, or how life emerged, but they also disagree on how it will all end. Since most of the debate has focused on creation and evolution I would like to address the “end times.”
Currently, astrophysicists tell us that because the universe is expanding (with increased speed) and its stars will eventually burn up all their fuel, everything will run down and we will be left with a cold, dismal, and lonely universe.
Christian doctrine offers a more positive and hopeful view. The Christian concept of the end times (eschatology) is that the Lord God will return and create a “new heaven and new earth.”
Cosmology and eschatology are at odds. Is there any room for a rational dialog between the two?
I believe there is. However, we cannot expect that there will be any success in such a profound endeavor without institutions crumbling – both scientific and religious. In other words, success will require a major shake up and paradigm shift. Everyone’s ox may get gored in the process.
But be brave. History has shown us that both science and religion has already undergone many paradigm shifts. What is needed requires bold new information and insights into the true nature of the ultimate reality, offering a framework broad enough that will permit science and religion to adopt a similar and unified worldview.
There are signs that this is happening – even if both sides of the issue may be unaware of it. For instance, science is quickly coming to a dead end in trying to explain the richness of the universe, its order, and mathematical rationality from reductionism or by any physical principles. The singularity of Big Bang theory and the probability waves of quantum physics points to a non-physical beginning of the universe.
If the God of heaven created the world, then it certainly had its beginning in a non-physical realm. Unfortunately, religion offers no further rational insight into this process other than God “wished it” and “made it so.” Science needs more than faith to work with, it wants LAWS. This is especially important concerning the physics involved that would both improve the current cosmological model and back up the theological premise that God will eventually reconstitute the universe so that humans can escape the tyranny of time and live in eternal happiness.
After studying these issues for more then three decades I have come to the conclusion that science must change many of its assumptions about physics, and, religion must change many of its assumptions about theology. So I will seem heretical to the standard beliefs of both truth systems. But the Lord God will make all things “anew.”
Since science will always maintain that the burden of proof must fall on religion, then that is where I shall start. In John 1:1-3 of the New Testament, it is claimed that all things created in the universe were created from the “Word.” Theologically speaking, the Word of God is the same thing as Sacred Scripture. Therefore, for this biblical statement to make any scientific sense, the Holy Word must somehow contain similar dynamics, laws, and patterning principles of the universe within the very architecture of its narratives.
This is the position that scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg took in his systematic interpretation (exegesis) of Scripture. He believed that the Holy Word was a multidimensional document. This has immediate signification for scientists working on string theory, who propose that the universe consists of higher dimensions, called hyperspace.
The big difference between Swedenborg’s approach to the multidimensional nature of reality portrayed by Scripture and that of the current scientific models is that his model ascends from physical qualities to non-physical qualities. In current physics, everything stays physical – no matter how many new dimensions are added.
This is also of significance to scientists who are working with the idea that time and space has emerged from a pre-geometric condition, whereby dynamics and topological features are abstracted from their involvement with time and space.
Swedenborg claimed that through the science of correspondences, the narratives of Scripture could be transformed into their non-physical and psycho-spiritual equivalent.
Therefore, when you apply these rules of abstraction to Scripture, the biblical phrase that the Lord will “create a new heaven and a new earth” has nothing to do with cosmology. It represents our rebirth or spiritual re-creation. That is, the Lord’s return will not be a physical event but a spiritual one that will take place in our hearts and minds. A new heaven and new earth represents a profound change that will take place within one’s inner and outer realities (our spirit and its manifestations in the physical world).
So, will the physical universe still fizzle out despite humanity’s eventual success in becoming more spiritually focused? I would ask scientists to look into whether there is a way to determine if more stars are being born then are burning out. If more stars are being born than are dying, then this would suggest that the universe is growing, and that God is making more space and matter (from an Infinite prolific principle).
Of course, there is much, much more material that could be shared concerning this topic but it goes well beyond the scope of this humble post. This material includes how scientific laws can be found in the stories of Scripture, such as top-down causality, quantum discontinuity, spacetime structure, and what kind of dynamics are involved in our salvation and eternal life. If these ideas intrigue you, they will be flushed out in my next book, Proving God.
I will keep you posted concerning its completion on this blog.