Too Easy an Answer?
But for either a self-professed
agnostic like Jastrow or for a believer, such an answer is unrevealing and even
superficial, for it simply cloaks our ignorance beneath a name and tells us
nothing further about God beyond the concept of an omnipotent Creator,
something not especially helpful for theologians.
Should theists accept that
moment of celestial fireworks as the whole work of the Creator, they are on
rather thin ice. Scientific theories,
especially cosmological views, are notoriously subject to change, and
cosmologists have taken it as a special challenge to eliminate the singularity
of point zero when space and time vanish as the universe becomes infinitely
dense. For example, Stephen Hawking
has proposed to treat time as one of the dimensions of the curved space - time
in that opening sequence. He
constructed a coordinate transformation that blended time into space and left a
closed surface without any singular origin and thus, curiously, a cosmos with a
pretty definite age but without a specific beginning! In his best selling book A
Brief History of Time, Hawking has written:
So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a
creator. But if the universe is really completely
self - contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither
beginning nor end: it would simply be.
What place, then, for a creator?"
It was this challenge, as
much as anything in the literature, that caused the organizers of this conference
to include on our agenda the question, Did the universe have a beginning?
I suppose the question has
two aspects. First, there is the
curiosity we all share as inquiring members of our species. We would really just like to know the
answer. Was Aristotle right in
declaring that the whole cosmos had been here forever? Or did the correct answer come from
Jerusalem? But from the theologians,
there is quite another question: Does it make any difference?
From a theistic perspective,
the answer to Hawking's question is that God is more than the omnipotence who,
in some other space - time dimension, decides when to push the mighty ON
switch. God is the Creator in the much larger sense
of designer and intender of the universe, the powerful creator with a plan and
an intention for the existence of the entire cosmos.
Over the past 500 years the
sacred landscape has seen revolutionary conceptual changes.
The stage on which mankind
struts in his brief, flickering moment is today set in a vast, ancient cosmos
without a center. Is it only sound and
fury, or are there profounder purposes to be gauged? These are timeless questions, as meaningful today as in classical
Athens. Is the universe designed? Is it made for mind? Are we alone? Theist, atheistic, existentialist alike can ponder them. Perhaps the pondering of these questions is the purpose of the universe. So, let us take these days of discourse
Contributed by: Dr. Owen Gingerich