POSTMODERN SCIENCE AND ESCHATOLOGY
In our journey through all the “hopes and fears” for the return of our Lord in our New Millennium (2000 A.D.), we must take note of radically changing views of Eschatology on our postmodern culture. Writing in 1993, Weinberg endorsed his earlier sentiments (see Weinberg, The First Three Minutes (London: Andre Deutsch, 1977, pp. 154ff.).
Much is made of Wisdom and the Cosmic Christ (eg. J.D.G. Dunn (London, S.C.M. Press, 1980, p. 167) eg. John 1.1-18; I Corinthians 8.5-6; Colossians 1.15-17; Hebrews 1.1-3a for the cosmic significance of Jesus by meaning of Wisdom Christology. In the book of Proverbs, “wisdom” is no more than a prudential concept (8.22-31). Wisdom is personified and related to God’s creative activity. The debate centers on two key words in verse 22; the Hebrew word acquired which can mean possessed, created, gave birth to, and in verse 30, the word master worker which can mean confidant or young child. But wisdom existed before the creation of the world and was with God when it was created (see Proverbs 3.19). Here wisdom is not personified but is an attribute of God (eg. Job 28.23-28). The wisdom Christology provides no basis for attributing cosmic significance to Christ, but the emphasis is on the creation of the world. The word and wisdom of God is always related to creation and eschatology.
There are two types of “secular” end of the world scenarios: (1) apocalyptic and (2) the cosmological. The apocalyptic one includes such things as a nuclear holocaust and the outcome of environmental stress we are putting on our planet (global warming, ozone depletion, a strike by a comet or asteroid. The cosmological ones are those that are the inevitable outcome of the working of the laws of nature, as far as we understand them. What are they?
There must be a distinction between end of the world and the end of the universe scenarios. Due to the Knowledge of high energy particle physics and the availability of computer simulations, astrophysicists have a good idea of how stars are structured (see esp. M. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box); genetics reveal that all reality starts with complex structures, not incremental development from simple to complex).
If the universe started with the “Big Bang” some 10 million years ago, what of the future? The answer to that depends on how much mass there is in the universe. The Second Law of Thermodynamics claims that heat flows irreversible from hotter bodies to colder ones. It was in 1856 that the German physicist H. von Helmholtz proposed the heat death of the universe on the basis of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. For the next 120 years the great majority of scientists took no more interest in eschatology than did the classical pagan sages; however, during the past 25 years there has been a growing interest among scientists in the eschatological implication of modern and postmodern cosmology. Why should this have happened? A major factor in responding to this question is the recognition of what is called “the Anthrophic Principle.” This is the fact that we live in a universe that seems spectacularly “fine tuned” for life (see esp. J. Leslie, Universe (London/New York: Routledge, 1989), p. 2; Stanley Jaki, Is There A Universe? (NY: Wetherfield Institute, 1993); John Polkinghorne, Reason and Reality (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991); William A. Demski, Intelligent Design (Inter-Varsity Press, 1999).
The “Anthrophic Principle” is a widely entertained form of the subjectivization of the cosmos. It prompted no effort to prove the existence of the cosmos. To assume the existence of the cosmos just because there are humans to observe it, should seem rank primitiveness as compared with the great philosophers from the geocentric age.
Disinterest in the logical need to prove the existence of the cosmos, which is the totality of all material things, is further encouragement when the cosmologists abolished the difference between being and non being or nothing.
The first form of the 20th century cosmic force came with the Steady State Theory. Steady State Theory is incapable of proof of the existence of the universe within the narrative/paradigm of that theory for at least the following reasons: (1) Nothing cannot be invested with the observability which must by definition be the hallmark of scientific proof. The existence of nothing, which is a scientific part of that theory’s definition of the cosmos, cannot be proven scientifically even if it implies the coming into existence of a small bit of matter as the hydrogen atom. (2) The forging of a proof of the existence of the universe is further undermined within that theory by that infinite amount of matter which it claims to generate. Such an amount does not possess countability, a property absolutely indispensable for the purpose of science. It cannot deal with such contradiction of terms as embodied in an actually realized infinite quantity (Stanley Jaki, Cosmos and Creation, (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1980) (academia consistently ignored Jaki’s work); see also his book God and Cosmologists, The Savior of Science and “Determinism and Reality” in The Great Books Today, 1990 (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannia, 1990, pp. 237-302) and J. Isham, “Creation of The Universe, a Quantum Process” R.J. Russell, et.al., eds., Physics, Philosophy and Theology, A Common Quest For Understanding (Vatican City, 1988). Nor can a proof of the existence of the universe be formulated with the inflationary theory. (3) This third principle is the modern cosmological theory wherein the universe disintegrates into countless universes. It becomes the dubious distinction of the proponents of that theory to bank on a cosmic scale, on a logical error or non-sequitur takes for a revolutionary insight. The error was incubated, hatched and spread by the Copenhagen integration of that splendid science which deserves Schrodinger’s encomium of it as “the Lord’s quantum mechanics.” (E. Schrodinger, What Is Life? (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1956)p. 83. Much literature on postmodern anti science contains a potpourri of Eastern mysticism, quantum mechanics, Kantianism, plus a vague philosophical vocabulary.)
Much discussion of this phenomena is grounded in mere function of the operational (See S. Jaki, Chance and Reality (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986). It is a non-sequitur to claim that if an interaction cannot be measured exactly it cannot take place exactly. This jump is from operational to ontological domain, is the essence of the philosophy which Heinsenberg and Bohr grafted onto what is usually called the principle of indeterminacy, but it is actually the principle of imprecision.
Once the non sequitur is accepted, no further objection can be made to the claim that the physicist can literally create matter; indeed the entire universe out of nothing. Since the ontological distance between human being and Being is infinite, it is no greater a feat to create an entire universe than to produce a mere fraction of the atomic nucleus out of nothing. As a mathematical formation, quantum mechanics is even more limited with respect to reality. No science can deliver real matter unless it is there in the first place. Nor can a universe be thought of as truly existent if the “nothing” is an essential ingredient of it. The Inflationary Theory is a statistical theory, it has to start with a statistically significant or a very large number of embryo universes whose number cannot be specified in advance.
This rational impasse is clear when statistical randomness is predicated about a set of physical loss governing the individual universes. There is no scientifically available data about another universe governed by a different law of gravitation by a different kind of Coulomb force, by constants different from those in our universe, or doubt the existence of a universe without physical constants, or with constants that vary randomly. There is no scientific ground for rational belief that all those universes spring forth from other laws, than the laws governing our universe. All species of Inflationary Theory of the universe turns the universe into a cosmic Humpty-Dumpty. This position cannot provide a coherent totality which is the universe. The unity of this universe cannot be the starting point of a statistical theory. The interpretation of probability as applied to a single electron remains as mysterious as ever (ibid., C.J. Islam, “Creation of the Universe as a Quantum” Process, p. 404) Our postmodern eschatological implications of cosmology is not that the existence of the universe has been a chief target of their scepticism. Does postmodern cosmology destroy our biblical concern for eschatological hope? S. Weinberg clearly states our plight--
“Unlike science, religious experience can suggest a meaning for our lives, apart for us to play in the cosmic drama of sin and redemption, and it holds out to us a promise of continuation after death. For just those reasons, the lesson of religious experience seems to me indelibly marked with the hope of wistful thinking.” (S. Weinberg Dreams of a Final Theory (London: Vintage, 1993), p. 204)
We are encouraged to live in dread and ultimate despair. Paul Davies is perhaps the most prolific writer on the implication of physics and cosmology for religious belief. In his work, God and The New Physics (Penguin Book, 1988), p. ix) he expressed the opinion that science offers a surer path to God than religion and that science has actually advanced to the point where what were formerly religious questions can be seriously tackled. He is impressed by the way the universe is “fine tuned for life” that he believes that there is a cosmic mind behind it and that this mind has a purpose for it. He says--
“The laws which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly to me that the purpose includes us.” (P. Davies, Superforce (London: Unwin Press, 1989), p. 243)
But Davies does not believe in a God who is personal, nor does he believe in personal immortality. His eschatological view is a cosmic version of “a cosmic loony bin.” Nor is Teilhard’s “Omega Point” help in our eschatological dilemma. Our biblical concern for God’s instruction concerning His creation and its cosmic culmination under His providential care cannot be constructively addressed by returning to our past preoccupation with millennial theories which are not in harmony with God’s revelation nor the most advanced scientific minds engaged in eschatological concern for His universe. Because of Him, we are not cosmic orphans which neither presents a means of existence nor grounds for believing in personal survival after death. “Because He lives, we shall live also.”
ESCHATOLOGY, SCIENCE AND POSTMODERNISM
In our postmodern maze there is a strong anti science current. H. Bertens makes a brilliant remark regarding our present situation: “The idea that the current crisis is representative has revealed to us that knowledge is impossible must be regarded with the strongest suspicions even though theoretically it makes perfect sense.” (Bertens, The Idea of The Postmodern: A History (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 241)
The paradox of postmodernism is the claim of the lack of grounded representation, not only in the humanities but in the hard sciences. Bertens claims that this is an “...impressions maneuver...that convinces none of these it should convince...one does not want to refute the proposition that knowledge is bound up with the knower, is therefore historically and culturally determined...and yet we seem to know things. There is one cognitive style, one set of procedural principles that holds the promise of leading us to unconditional knowledge. It is impossible to establish beyond theoretical doubt why these principles work but they would certainly seem to do so; it takes more than the poststructuralist turn to shake the scientific community’s belief that we indeed know about, say, the speed of light or the second law of thermodynamics, and for good reasons.” (ibid, 240)
The humanities in particular seem to think that Thomas Kuhn’s work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, second edition 1970), is thoroughly historically and culturally determined. There are major readings of the history of science which dispute Kuhn’s Sociology of Knowledge Thesis on which his thesis is based (eg. O. Gingerich, The Eyes of Heaven (NY: American Institute of Physics, 1993, pp. 193-204; and of course, all of Jaki and Polkinhorne’s works reject Kuhn’s thesis).
They argue that narrative displacement (paradigmatic revolutions) can be justified rationally and that the paradigms are cumulative, each absorbing and improving upon the one it replaces. In this way it can be claimed that scientific knowledge becomes increasingly trans-historical and trans-cultural. (Bertens, ibid., 240ff.)
Even so, there is enormous disenchantment with science and technology in our postmodern culture (see my essay, “Revisionist Postmodern Science” and “Goedel’s Refutation of Positivism.”) Lyotard defines the postmodern as “incredibility toward metanarrative” (J.F. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. xxiv) At this juncture we engage much postmodern science concern for eschatology, i.e., metanarrative (egs. Paul Davies and Steven Hawkings who provide a metanarrative from cosmology and Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould who provide a metanarrative from evolutionary biology.)
When we face the existential questions revised by the experience of injustice or suffering, postmodern science from a non theist humanist eschatology reveals how inescapable is the issue of Eschatology. This postmodern interest in eschatology presents Christians with both an opportunity and a challenge. The challenge is that Christian witness is presented in a way which engages the current debate. Science’s search for “Patterns” of the cosmos presents a fundamental opportunity. For example, how is the “new heaven and new earth” of Revelation 21.1 to be relative to postmodern concern for the cosmos, i.e., pattern in the universe. (see esp. Romans 1.10, 8.18-25; Colossians 1.15-20; I Corinthians 1.18ff; Revelation 21.1-2. Cosmic Christology is eschatological in nature, not Teilhard’s pantheistic Alpha/Omega points.
We are told that it is God’s plan for the fullness of time to gather up all things in Him (Christ). Christ is both Savior and agent in creation (II Corinthians 5.17). This cosmic image is not destruction and replacement but continuity and transformation. Ultimately, in Christ’s resurrection there is cosmic continuity and transformation. John Polkinghorne is a major voice in our international debate between science and Christian theology. “The new cosmic creature is a creature ex vetire rather than another act of creation ex nihilo (See Polkinghorne, Science and Christian Belief (London, SPCK, 1994), p. 167) Here we engage eschatology from creation to consummation at the coming again of our Lord! When He appears Christians shall be like Him!!
Eschatology entails a world view and the unifying promises of God from alpha to omega in both the cosmos and His Church as the instrument to unify His creation for His glory. Eschatology and world view are fused because everyone has a world view which orders reality.
There are seven factors in all world views: (1) Perceiving the world; (2) Cognitive Processes-ways of thinking and seeing; (3) Linguistic Forms-ways of expressing; (4) Behavior Patterns-ways of acting; (5) Social Structures-ways of interacting; (6) Media Influence-ways of channelling the message; (7) Motivational Sources-ways of deciding. (James Sire, Discipleship of The Mind (Inter-Varsity Press, 1990 and The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog (3rd edition, IVP, 1997).
“Preach in All the World for a Witness Unto All Nations”
One of the signs in our postmodern media maze is that “we are witnessing the preaching of the Gospel on a global scale. It is one of the Signs that we are looking for as we approach the end of history.” (Billy Graham, Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse (pp. 218-219)
We are living East of Eden in these last days in which immorality and lawlessness are rampant (II Timothy 3.1-5; Matthew 24.5,6; 11-14). Famine and incurable disease have taken millions of lives (Matthew 24.7) Many claim that God’s restoration of national existence of Israel is a sign of the last days. The claims that the Church has replaced physical Israel (see my paper, “Paul’s Missionary Magnum Opus”, Romans 9-11) is totally rejected by premillennialists. Replacement theology has not been falsified by the rebirth of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948 (Deut. 30.3-6; Isaiah 11.11-12; 43.5-6; Jeremiah 16.14f; 23.3, 30.3; Ezekiel 1.17; 39.25-29; Hosea 3.4-5; 5.2; see my essay on “The Old Promise in the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31.31-34 and Hebrews 8-10”).
In II Peter 3.3 we read, “knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their lusts and saying ‘where is the promise of His coming?’ For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (See also Revelation 14.11; 20.6; 21.6; see esp. the works of Loraine Boettner, The Millennium (Presbyterian Reformed, 1958), a survey of major options; the author is Postmillennial; also H.N. Ridderbos, The Coming of The Kingdom (E.T. Presbyterian Reformed, 1968); and Charles Feinberg, Premillennialism or Amillennialism (second edition, Wheaton: van Kampen Press, 1954).
The phrase, “the last days” denotes the last epoch of human history, the period immediately after which human history ends (see Matt. 24; II Tim. 3.1-5; Matt. 24.7; Psalms 102.16). The widespread claim that Revelation 20.6 teaches that Christ will establish God’s kingdom when He returns, yet Revelation 20 says nothing of the kind. Neither Revelation 19 nor 20 describes an earthly physical presence of Jesus Christ but rather a heavenly physical reign of Jesus Christ over the earth, the inception of which Daniel prophesies in 7.13,14 and Peter describes in Acts 2.22-36. Christ’s mediational kingdom was received at His ascension. He will not receive it at His Second Advent which will usher in the eternal state (I Cor. 15.22-26). The “end” of human history occurs when Christ returns at which time Christ will have subordinated all of His enemies and finally the enemy of death. The glory of the kingdom is the eschatologically consummate glory of the image of God and men’s exercise of vice ruler domain to the glory of God (Meredith G. Kline, Images of The Spirit (Eerdmans, 1980); Dan G. McCarney, “Ecce Homo:” The Coming Kingdom as The Restoration of Human Vicegerency” Westminster Theological Journal 56 (1994), 1-21)
God’s Lordship confronts every dominion of creation; therefore cultural passivity is impossible. Through Christ all creation is in process of being redeemed (Romans 8.19-22). History will ultimately reveal the victory of the Kingdom as that Kingdom makes its presence known in history throughout the earth unto the glory of God.
Since Y2K was not a sign of either collapse of the culture or the coming of Christ, we wait in the power of promise--MARANATHA!!!
James D. Strauss
Lincoln, IL 62656