The Rise of the Big-Bang Hypothesis (Age of the Earth Part 6)

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)(Part 5)

The 20th century will see the rise of two completely different paradigms for understanding the age of the earth: the big bang hypothesis and young-earth creationism. Actually, the time can be pinpointed even more closely. Both paradigms will ascend during the 1960’s.

In 1916 Albert Einstein presented a paper in which he applied his general theory of relativity to the universe as a whole. The results implied that the universe had a beginning—a conclusion that Einstein himself resisted. In the 1930’s, astronomer Edwin Hubble demonstrated that the universe appeared to be expanding. He noticed that the light from all neighboring galaxies is red-shifted, which indicates that those galaxies are rapidly moving away from us. The galaxies appear to be like dots on an expanding balloon. As the balloon fills with air, the surface becomes larger and the dots move farther and farther away from one another. Hubble concluded that something similar appears to be happening to all the galaxies. Evidence was building that the cosmos is not eternal. 40 questions creation evolution

In 1965 Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered that the universe is bathed in faint, background radiation. This radiation indicated that there was a universal fiery explosion that was calculated to have occurred 13.7 billion years ago. For most astronomers and astrophysicists, Penzias and Wilson’s discovery provided the crucial evidence which confirmed the big bang hypothesis. From the 1960’s on, the big bang theory has been the reigning paradigm within the scientific community.

In his book, God and the Astronomers, Robert Jastrow recounts how most physicists and astronomers initially were hostile to the big bang theory. In fact, the expression “big bang” was a term of derision coined by astronomer Fred Hoyle, who remained a lifelong proponent of eternalism. Astronomer Arthur Eddington declared in 1931, “[T]he notion of a beginning is repugnant to me.” Chemist Walter Nernst argued that adherence to eternalism was necessary when he wrote, “To deny the infinite duration of time would be to betray the very foundation of science.” Jastrow points out that such opposition was motivated by philosophical presuppositions rather than scientific evidence. He ends his book on the subject with the now well-known observation:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

Many who accept the big bang theory have not given up on eternalism. A number of cosmologists now suggest that our universe is part of a multiverse (i.e., reality is made up of an infinite number of universes, of which our universe is just one). We will look at the rise of young-earth creationism in the next post. (Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution.)

Cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Book Notice: ‘Anger’ in “Killjoys: The Seven Deadly Sins”

51hq8bhDM7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Jonah was an angry man. The reluctant prophet of Israel, sent to Nineveh, was so reluctant because he was so angry. Or, so says Jonathan Parnell who writes the chapter on anger in a new book, Killjoys: The Seven Deadly Sins (ed. Marshall Segal; Desiring God, 2015). As a way of highlighting the value of the book, I’ll take a few moments to highlight Parnell’s excellent essay.

After introducing the angry prophet, Parnell offers three descriptors of anger. 1) Anger is among the most widespread sins. It is so widespread because it was one of the first evidences of the fall in the world. Cain was angry before he killed his brother (see Gen 4:5). 2) Anger is the most deadly of the seven deadly sins. Jesus points to anger as murder for a good reason (see Matt 5:21–22). 3) Finally, anger is not always sin. God gets angry but never sins––he is slow to anger (see Ex 34:6). Therefore, there is such a thing as righteous anger.

With these descriptors in mind, especially the point that some anger is not sin, Parnell helps us diagnose the cause of anger. “What do you have to be angry about?” is the question that we must ask (p. 40). To this question, Parnell notes that love is the answer. That is, “What we have to be angry about can be reduced down to one issue: love.” (p. 41) We must analyze our loves if we want to understand and correct our anger. Parnell states well:

Anger is how we respond to whatever threatens someone or something we care about. How we perceive and respond to reality has to do with what we value. Anger is love in motion to protect the object of our love. If we want to know what we have to be angry about, we should look to the objects of our affection. And if we want to know when anger is sinful, we look for how our loves have become distorted (p. 41).

Not only, then, does anger reveal the disorder in our hearts, our “disordered loves” as Augustine called them, but it also reveals the stupidity in our hearts. Parnell comments,

Sinful anger, therefore, is inherently stupid. It happens when we misperceive reality as unacceptable, when we are so blinded by our self-consumed loves that we want to annihilate anything that doesn’t serve us. Sinful anger happens when, instead of imitating God we try to play God by assuming the right to draw the lines, defining what should or should not be. In sinful anger, we respond in a manner disproportionate to the facts, forcing everyone around us to interpret the world on our terms, based upon what we love most––which is too often the object in the mirror (p. 42).

For Christians anger must not only be understood but also healed. As Parnell states, “The end of our anger only comes by shalom in our souls––a recalibration of our greatest love and devotion.” In order to achieve this recalibration, Parnell gives three wise steps: analyze your anger early, feel ridiculous for your ridiculousness, and remember and imitate the (righteous) anger of God (pp. 43–47). As you can see, Jonathan Parnell proves a wise guide for us into the unseemly places of our hearts so that we might truly repent of our anger and find the “shalom in our souls” that only Christ can bring.

Parnell’s chapter is one of seven in Killjoys, a book highly recommended for its devotional and pastoral value.