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Towards a Biblical Cosmology
Cosmology deals with theories of what the universe is like - its form and structure. The popular conception today is based on versions of the Big Bang theory which are reasonably intelligible to the layman (those not involved in its academic study). That conception holds the universe to be a vast extent of nothingness populated with stars, galaxies, planets, clouds of gas and dust and puzzling objects like quasars, pulsars and gamma ray bursters. These bodies are extremely far from each other, but the universe is so enormous that there are thousands of millions of millions of them. The universe is expanding, and the further away a body is, the faster it is speeding away.
The version held by professional cosmologists bears little resemblance to reality, it is based on largely physics-free mathematics - "shuffling of equations" as Soddy so aptly put it. It has the universe finite but unbounded, it has itís centre everywhere and its boundary nowhere. In other ways it bears many similarities to the popular conception. Professional cosmologists consider their mathematics (centred on Einsteinís Relativity) to be impeccable, and therefore their theories to be valid. Professor Herbert Dingleís warning "in the language of mathematics we can tell lies as well as truths, and within the scope of mathematics itself there is no possible way of telling one from the other." is ignored.
The whole scheme is fraught with inconsistencies. The Editor of Nature has described the Big Bang as "thoroughly unsatisfactory" and noted that observations from the Hubble telescope "make a nonsense of the standard model". Leif Robinson has pointed out that there are "ever growing tidal waves of disparate information" (meaning observations which show the popular conception must be wrong).
The field of cosmology has gone off the rails by ignoring Eulerís warning:
"In our researches into the phenomena of the visible world we are subject to weaknesses and inconsistencies so humiliating that a Revelation was absolutely necessary to us; and we ought to avail ourselves of it with the most powerful veneration."
The Revelation Euler refers to, the Bible, has relatively little to say about cosmology, but what it does say is sufficient to build up a picture entirely different from the popular conception.
Relevant scriptures are found in Genesis Chapter 1, verses 1 to 19, Psalm 148, also Isaiah 42:5 and a few related verses.
This may well be a summary or heading with an elaboration to follow. Specific reasons for thinking that this is a heading include verses 8 and 10, of which more later.
A point to note is the word for "heaven", in Hebrew "shamayim", which is in the "dual". This is similar to the English "trousers" or "scissors" which refer to a single entity. Although we learn later in Scripture that there are three heavens it is not reasonable to think that verse one refers to two of them simply because shamayim is in the dual. No singular form is ever used.
The wisdom of the world claims that the first material was hydrogen. We see here, however, the first material specifically mentioned is water. The Big Bang cannot have water coming into existence until thousands of millions of years of nuclear reactions in stars and supernova explosions produce oxygen. It is also interesting to note that the only movement mentioned is that of the Spirit of God.
By the end of the first day we have two things specifically created. Water and light. There is no "light bearer" (the sun, moon and stars are created later), but somehow the light that God has created defines day and night. The period of a day, an alternation of this light and darkness (presumably the lack of this light), is a fundamental aspects of the creation which does not depend on the heavenly bodies which will be created later. This remains largely a mystery. Science has been unable to discover the nature of light or how it travels. The Scriptures suggest a strong spiritual connection (e.g. John 8:12).
The only tangible material mentioned is still water, but now we have a new entity, the firmament, created in the midst of the waters, making a separation between the waters below it and those above it. The name God gives to the firmament, Heaven, is the same "shamayim" as in verse 1. Since it is created on the second day this seems to lend support to the idea that verse one is a summary or heading.
So we see the waters below the firmament transformed into the earth more or less as we know it ready for the creation of vegetation on the third day. The fact that God makes dry land appear and calls it "Earth" on the third day is another indication that verse one is a heading. It is interesting to note that Jesusís first miracle was the transformation of water into something else (wine in this case).
The wisdom of this world cannot accept the earth being nearly in its present form, with land and sea, trees, grass and herbs before the creation of the sun moon and stars. Romans 1:22, 1Corinthians3:19 etc. warn us that the wisdom of this world is foolishness.
It appears that all of the astronomical bodies - sun, moon, stars were "set in" the firmament of the heaven which divides the waters below (now transformed into the earth) from the waters above. We can conclude that "the firmament of the heaven" corresponds to what is now usually called "space". We note that when God set the heavenly bodies in the firmament the first stated purposes was to "divide the day from the night" part of His first day creation. Presumably man does not have senses able to observe this fundamental property of the universe, and the sun, moon and stars are the means of making the day discernable to man. We are not told what happened to the waters above the firmament of the heaven, but by inference from Psalm 148 v 4:
We conclude that they are still there, apparently forming the boundary of the physical universe. Perhaps the explanation for the 3k background. We are confident that the physical universe is finite and does indeed have a boundary since Psalm 8 tells us:
Godís glory extends above the heavens His glory may be infinite and unbounded, the universe is not. It is bounded by the waters above, probably at a very low temperature, possibly frozen.
While not adding more to the overall picture of the universe there are a number of verses - Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 45:12, Isaiah 51:13, Jeremiah 10:12, Jeremiah 51:15 etc., which point to the Lord stretching out the heavens. No time scale is given, but it appears that it is not now continuing. This stretching could well have changed the physical properties of the firmament in ways dependent on the exact nature of the stretching process. Any attempts at deducing distances or ages by examining light coming from distant bodies would need to take account of this.
The cosmology suggested by these verses of Scripture is clearly very different from that usually accepted as standard. It will lead to a completely different interpretation of practically all astronomical observations.
As an example, when one makes long exposure photographs with a large telescope one sees many spots of light which are usually taken to be stars which are not visible to the naked eye because they are immensely far away. But if one accepts the model deduced from the above scriptures one might consider the possibility that they could be reflections of stars from the waters above. Long exposure photographs show fuzzy patches of light which can be resolved into individual specks of light. According to the standard model these are deduced to be groups of stars, island universes, or galaxies of millions of stars. On the other hand, if the waters above were frozen, with a crystalline texture, then perhaps such a fuzzy collection of specks of light might be multiple reflections. Extremely faint specks of light are taken as being stars extremely far away. Perhaps they could be interpreted instead as reflections of reflections.
One very important consequence of Biblical cosmology is the special position of the earth, which was formed on day three from the waters below. Standard cosmology assumes that the earth is in no way special, and in particular, it is not in a special position. Assuming that the earth is not special allows cosmologists to assume that conditions which exist here will exist everywhere. The laws of science which hold on and near the earth will hold everywhere. If the earth is just an ordinary location in the universe this assumption is reasonable. If the earth is special it is totally unreasonable. One very important assumption of standard cosmology is that the speed of light measured on or near the earth will be the speed of light everywhere. Since the speed of light appears to depend on the properties of the medium it travels through, then in Biblical cosmology there is no reason to assume that the speed of light is the same far from the earth.
To see the huge difference in the range of interpretations possible in standard compared to Biblical cosmology consider three well known phenomena.
A) The Pioneer anomaly.
Radio ranging signals of distant spacecraft suggest that the craft are closer to us than they should be. Radio signals appear to take less time than expected to return to earth. It has been proposed that the craft could be decelerating due to a force directed towards us. No satisfactory force has been found. Currently the favoured explanation is that there must be a gas leak from each of the spacecraft acting as a jet slowing it down. This was one of the first possibilities examined when the anomaly was discovered. It was discounted. It has been resurrected because all other attempted explanations seem to have failed. Biblical cosmology might offer the explanation that reduction in radio wave travel time would be observed if the speed of light increased at increasing distance from us. This could be a consequence of the stretching out process.
B) High Energy Cosmic Radiation.
Some cosmic particles bombard the earth with velocity so close to that of light that the energy needed to accelerate them would require the total annihilation a thousand uranium atoms. It has been proposed that they are accelerated by electric and magnetic fields in space acting as a cyclotron. This invokes enormous improbability, as noted by Frederic Soddy:- " The idea that these result by the purely chance interaction of stellar electric and magnetic fields, with double stars acting as a sort of astral cyclotron, seems to me as fanciful as the sorting demon of Maxwell that could upset the 2nd law of Thermodynamics..... For the cyclotron, in contradistinction to Maxwellís simple trap-door, is one of the most ingenious and cunning instruments ever conceived by the human brain." Another explanation, perhaps less fanciful, but also less popular, has particles repeatedly bouncing from one speeding cloud of ionized hydrogen to another.
If the properties of the firmament change in such a way that the speed of light is greater at greater distances from us, then another possibility presents itself. Cosmic particles with some reasonable fraction of the speed of light should be common. As they approach, maintaining speed, they will travel at an ever increasing fraction of the near-earth light speed.
C) Gamma Ray Bursts
There appear to be daily bursts of high energy gamma radiation. They are interpreted in the standard model as coming from explosions extremely far away. These explosions have the power of a whole galaxy exploding. Such a daily destruction of so much material strains credibility. Biblical cosmology could suggest other possibilities. When a particle at high velocity is injected into a medium in which the speed of light is less than its own speed, it is decelerated to the mediumís light velocity and the excess energy is given off as radiation (Cherenkov radiation). It would be expected that cosmic particles approaching the earth with a speed greater than the near-earth light speed would experience a similar braking effect and give off excess energy as radiation. Alternatively one could consider the possibly of impacts against the waters above.
Now these suggested explanations fitting Biblical cosmology may not be the correct ones, but I would suggest they are more reasonable and less far-fetched than the standard explanations. The cosmologists of this world would not even allow such possibilities to be considered.
A universally constant speed of light is an essential assumption for attempts to estimate astronomical distances on any model. Biblical cosmology would need details of the stretching our process. Scripture guarantees that nobody, believer or unbeliever, will be able to make the right assumptions to estimate the size of the universe.
Jeremiah 31 is an assurance to the house of Israel that their God will never reject them, even though he may chastise them for their sins. In verse 37 we read
If it were true that the laws of science as determined on earth hold throughout the universe, then man should have sound tools for measuring the heavens. This scripture suggests that man has no such tools - he will never be able to make the right assumptions to interpret his observations to give correct measurements of the heavens.
We have seen some of manís attempts to search out the foundations of the earth. In the hope of verifying the theoretical picture deduced from seismology several deep holes have been drilled. None of them could reach their design depth. Even in the few paltry kilometres that they were able to penetrate they found conditions very different from those expected.
We will never be able to search out the foundations of the earth.
We will never be able to measure the heavens.
We will only know certain things about the creation if we accept what we are told by its Creator.
That is the only way we will have any chance of devising a valid cosmology.
1. Some commentators have suggested the "heaven" here could be the non-material heaven of Godís dwelling. This interpretation suffers from three problems:
a): it is not the "natural" reading,
b): "measurement" makes sense only in terms of physical entities which have physical dimensions.
c): the searching out of the foundations of the earth which immediately follows and with which it is directly linked clearly refers to the physical creation.