What Holds the Universe Together? | Is Empty Space Empty? | The Other Side of the Vacuum | When the Universe Became Fuzzy
Lambert Dolphin, Physicist
Is our universe expanding or static? If it is expanding, is there sufficient mass to cause it all to collapse back in upon itself under gravity's influence? If the universe is static and not now expanding, is it stable? What holds it all together--if anything?
These are questions gaining more attention these days as our knowledge data base in astronomy and astrophysics increases, and old theories are brought into question. There is much than can be said about these questions from the Biblical revelation.
Several separate passages in the New Testament make reference to the creation of the universe. For example, John's gospel speaks of an earlier state of existence than is described in Verse 1 of Genesis,
In the beginning was the Word, [logos] and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; [i.e., before creation] all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made." (John 1: 1-3)
This passage teaches that Jesus was eternally existent with God the Father prior to the creation of "all things." There was a time when our material and spiritual universe did not exist. It had a definite beginning. But before that God was. In fact, God is--because time itself was created by God.
Chapter One of Paul's Epistle to the Colossians gives a further description of the role of Jesus in creation, consistent with that of John's gospel,
[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born [prototokos] of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities [these words in Greek refer to the hierarchical angelic powers]---all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
The Holy Spirit, in giving us this inspired passage of Scripture, explains that all things (both visible and invisible) in the entire universe were created through this same Jesus, the eternal Word. We may think of the universe and its intricate design as being conceived of in the mind of the Father then spoken into existence by the Son (who makes the invisible, visible). The Holy Spirit is the One who energizes and supplies life to the creation, not only at the time of creation but also moment by moment after that.
We are also told that all things were created for Jesus. He is "the heir of all things." That means that we are house guests in Someone Else's universe! This implies a future accountability for all of us--history is headed somewhere--at the end of road stands Jesus to whom all power and authority has already been given (see John 5:22-29).
A. W. Tozer, Pastor at Moody Bible Church in Chicago some 50 years ago, once wrote of this as follows:
The teaching of the New Testament is that now, at this very moment, there is a Man in heaven appearing in the presence of God for us. He is as certainly a man as was Adam or Moses or Paul; he is a man glorified, but his glorification did not de-humanize him. Today he is a real man, of the race of mankind, bearing our lineaments and dimensions, a visible and audible man, whom any other man would recognize instantly as one of us.
But more than this, he is the heir of all things, Lord of all lords, head of the church, firstborn of the new creation. He is the way to God, the life of the believer, the hope of Israel, and the high priest of every true worshiper. He holds the keys of death and hell, and stands as advocate and surety for everyone who believes on him in truth. Salvation comes not by accepting the finished work, or deciding for Christ; it comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as his own and paid it, took our sins and died under them, and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ; nothing less will do.
One of the key words in the Colossians passage above ("...and in Christ all things hold together") is the Greek word sunistemi which means "to stand-together," "to be compacted together," "to cohere," "to be constituted with."
This passage can be applied to the structure of the atom, for example. The nucleus of every atom is held together by what physicists call "weak" and "strong" forces. [Physicists today are familiar with four basic forces in the natural world: gravity, and electrical forces, plus a "strong," and a "weak" nuclear force. The first two forces decrease in strength inversely with the square of the distance between two objects, the latter two forces act only at very short ranges].
The nucleus of the atom contains positively-charged and neutral particles--to use a very simplistic model. Mutual electrostatic repulsion between the like-positive protons would drive the nucleus apart if it were not for the "strong force" which binds the nucleus together. There is thus an active force imposed on the universe, which actively holds the very atoms of the material world together moment by moment, day by day, century by century. Similarly accelerated electrons circling the nucleus should quickly radiate all their energy away and fall into the nucleus unless there exists an invisible energy source to counteract this.
The third New Testament creation-related passage which talks about atomic structure and physics is found in the Apostle Peter's Second Epistle:
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise (rhoizedon, a rushing roar) and the elements (stoicheion , atoms) will be dissolved with fire and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10)
The Greek word translated "elements" in the above-mentioned passage from Colossians, and in 2 Peter also, is stoicheion which can mean "the building blocks of the universe," or "the ordered arrangement of things." It can also mean the "atomic elements." The word translated "dissolved" in 2 Peter 3:10 is literally (in Greek) luo, meaning "unloosed." This language suggests that there will come a time in the future when God lets go of the nuclear forces which holds the atom together. This passage like the one in Colossians strongly suggests that the active power of God is behind the mysterious strong force that holds every atomic nucleus together. If this is so, all the other fundamental forces of nature are likewise forces that originate with Christ and His sustaining direction of the old creation.
If God "sustains the universe by His mighty word of power," moment by moment, were He to merely relax His grasp on the universe--every atom would come apart "by fire" (that is, by nuclear fire). It is inescapable that the Bible claims that God dynamically sustains the universe, including the very atoms themselves. Atoms, it would seem, are "stable" only because force and energy are being supplied into their physical nuclear binding fields from "outside" the system.
Whatever we may think of God and physics, the Bible leaves us with no room to doubt that God does care about the sparrow that falls to the ground, the widow, the orphan, and the homeless. He does not lose track of His children and watches over them with infinite, patient, intimate Fatherly care. Not only does He sustains the universe by His mighty word of power, God also alters the status quo from time to time and, in response to prayer, frequently changes the course of entire nations. In a future day his intrusive re-intervention will be very radical indeed.
Another important claim of scripture about the old creation is that God is the present Sustainer of the universe. That is, He is not uninvolved, remote, detached and impersonal--leaving things to run by themselves by any means. Among secular scientists today there are many who acknowledge that God exists. But He is usually considered as only a First Cause--the One who brought the universe into existence and set it into motion. But most of these same scientists assume God was not involved after the initial act of creation. This is contrary to clear statements in the Bible that God is very much involved in every event that takes place in the on-going history of the entire universe. Causality links everything together, because God "works (Gr: energizes) all things according to the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11).
The opening verses of the Letter to the Hebrews give us another New Testament picture of God's role in the creation.
"In many separate revelations [each of which set forth a portion of the Truth] and in different ways God spoke of old to [our] forefathers in and by the prophets, [But] in the last of these days He has spoken to us in [the person of a] Son, Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time [He made, produced, built, operated, and arranged them in order]. Heb 1:3 He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God's] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high, Heb 1:4 [Taking a place and rank by which] He Himself became as much superior to angels as the glorious Name (title) which He has inherited is different from and more excellent than theirs." (Hebrews 1:1-4 Amplified Bible).
A fifth great New Testament passage concerning Jesus and His place in creation is found in Revelation Chapter 1,
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet...I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."
Here Jesus is called "the Alpha and Omega," "the First and the Last." Not only is Jesus the Son of God to be found at the beginning of history, He also stands at the end of history and at the end of every life. He is the Judge of all, and He is the heir of all things.
Truth from science must in the long run must agree with Biblical revelation--if the Bible is true. If the Bible "says what it means and means what it says" (to quote Chuck Missler) then it is Jesus who holds the universe in his hands just as the old American folk spiritual says. Our moment-by-moment existence depends on His gracious sustenance of every electron, every atom, every molecule and every spiritual entity as well. We are safe when we place our trust in Him, and put our whole lives into His hands!
Can we not then stand in awe of our great God and Creator, along with the Psalmist who wrote,
"O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it; for his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!" (Psalm 95:1-7)
In a subsequent article, God willing, we'll look further at this subject in a discussion of theories of the vacuum, and the interaction between the material creation and the invisible, intangible (but very real) spiritual world which God has also created around us and within which the material world is embedded.
by Lambert Dolphin, Physicist
Previously we reviewed passages in the New testament which give us information about God's creation of the universe. We learned that all created things in the material and in the spiritual realm were created through Jesus the eternal Son of God. Also, everything was created for Jesus--He is the heir of all things. Third, the moment-by-moment control of the universe is determined in minutest detail by God--down from the throne of God through the ranks of the angels and into the created order.
We also saw in our last study that active force fields applied from outside the known, physical universe are required to hold everything together in a stable configuration. This is succinctly stated by the Apostle Paul in Colossians, "In Christ all things cohere (are held together)."
This month we'll look at a related subject--the likelihood that external energy flows into our known universe from outside on a continual basis. This energy appears out of nowhere literally, that is from empty space--from "the vacuum."
Aristotle (384-322 BC) taught that the physical world was made up of four elements: air, earth, fire and water. Tying these all together (so that the "elements" intercommunicated) was a "subtle" medium, a fifth element--the aether--later to be known as the vacuum. (Latin: vacuus, empty). In a sense the aether was the substratum of the material world. The Greeks believed that "nature abhors a vacuum" so they could not imagine space as being totally empty.
The Greeks believed the stars were suspended from, or attached to, a rotating crystalline shell. When some of the "stars" (planets) were observed to be moving with respect to the "fixed" stars, a series of rotating crystal spheres was postulated. The earth was said to be fixed, immovable, and at the center of the cosmos. Not until the 16th Century were these Greek (Ptolemaic) ideas challenged by the Copernican revolution. Until Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) challenged the notion, the velocity of light was assumed by most everyone to be infinite, so the nature of the space between the earth and the crystal spheres was not of great concern. Rene Descartes (1596-1640) championed the theory that the aether was a plenum, from the Greek word meaning "full." Because it was so difficult for the scientists of that era to understand "action at a distance," Descartes imagined that a very dense medium of very small particles pervaded everything. This medium was capable of transmitting force from one object to another by collisions. The aether "particles" were in constant motion and there were no spaces between the particles. In a sense the aether was more solid than matter, yet invisible. Descartes's universe was purely a "mechanical universe" and his theories were soon superseded.
Galileo's former secretary, Evangelista Torricelli filled a long glass tube with mercury in 1644. Inverting the tube into a dish of mercury he observed that the mercury dropped some 30 inches at the closed upper end of the tube, thereby creating what was obviously a vacuum. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) took this work even further and soon everyone was convinced that the vacuum of space was empty after all.
If light were corpuscular in nature as some believed, it was not difficult to image light "particles" (we now call them photons) could traverse a pure vacuum without the necessity of a real medium pervading space. But other experiments soon began to show that light was a wave phenomenon. Of course waves could be travel through the plenum aether by collisions, however at the time only compressional waves were imagined. [Sound waves or seismic waves are compressional in nature, but light waves proved to be transverse]. In parallel with all these growing controversies, the velocity of light was finally measured by Olaf Roemer in 1675 and found to be finite, although the values he obtained were a few percent higher than the present value, 299,792.4358 km/sec.
By the time of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) the aether was believed by many to be luminiferous. That is, it was said to be more fluid than solid, but elastic, thus it was a medium which would support waves. James Clerk Maxwell (1839-1879) enjoyed great success when he found a set of equations which beautifully described how light waves could travel through such a luminiferous aether. For a waves to exist at all, it is natural to suppose that there is some sort of supporting medium. Such a medium must possess elasticity (a spring-like property) and also inertia, (a mass-like like property). In fact, the velocity of a wave in any medium is equal to the square root of the stiffness divided by the density of the medium.
In the case of electromagnetic waves (gamma rays, x-rays, radio waves, heat, and light of various wavelengths), Maxwell found that the aether possessed an electric-field scaling parameter, called "dielectric permittivity," and a magnetic-field scaling parameter, called magnetic permeability, such that the velocity of light was equal to one over the square root of permeability times permittivity. In support of the notion that the aether was a real medium it was observed that empty space behaved like a transmission line with a "characteristic impedance" of 377 ohms, (which is the ratio of permeability to permittivity for "free space.")
Maxwell's equations also explained how light slows down in glass, in gases, in water--because media other than the vacuum have differing permeabilities and permittivities. The aether was once again thought of as a very real medium which could be stretched or compressed--it had resilience or compliance, and inertia. Yet no known physical substance had a stiffness to mass density ratio anywhere near 9 x 1016 which was required of the aether as a medium. The aether appeared to possess elasticity but negligible inertia.
The idea that some kind of aether medium existed prevailed until 1887 when Michelson and Morley an interferometer in an attempt to detect the relative motion of the earth and the aether--the aether must be viscous and should be dragged along at least partially with the earth. According to 19th Century preconceptions, the velocity of the earth going around the sun should be about 30 km/sec. Yet when the measurements were made no motion of the earth relative to the ether could be detected at all. In other words, the aether apparently did not exist. Until Einstein's Theory of Relativity was published in 1905 the negative result of the M-M experiment baffled scientists.
Einstein showed that the velocity of light has the same value in all reference frames, whatever their velocity may be relative to other frames. From this point modern physics took off in the direction of Special and General Relatively Theory, and Quantum Mechanics. For many scientists the notion that an actual aether medium existed was simply discarded. Yet the apparent non-existence of an aether raised many problems---the M-M experiment was not the end of the story.
If all the air molecules are pumped out of a chamber, the chamber still contains residual radiation (electromagnetic noise from stars, x-rays, and heat radiation). Even before quantum mechanics, it was shown by classical radiation theory that if the temperature of the container is lowered to absolute zero, there remains a residual amount of thermal energy that can not by any means be removed. This residual energy in an empty container at absolute zero, was named "zero-point energy" (ZPE).
Contemporary Physicist Dr. Hal E. Putoff, notes that the "vacuum" is a vast reservoir of seething energy out of which particles are being formed and annihilated constantly. The energy potentials in the vacuum are staggering, but most of the time the forces involved balance each other out to zero. Zero Point Energy, he says,..."is the energy of empty space...finally when quantum theory was developed, it became absolutely clear that space, if you look at in a microscopic scale, is more like the base of a waterfall with a lot of frothy, seething activity going on, rather than just something like a placid, empty space...This is, by the way, not a fringe concept. It is a basic underlying concept in modern quantum theory."
Putoff continues, "When the idea of the hydrogen atom was first put forward...one of the questions at the time was: why doesn't the electron simply radiate its energy away and spiral into the nucleus, in a way similar to the way our satellites have certain losses and spiral into the planet? At the time, the answer was simply, well it is just the magic of quantum theory, it doesn't obey classical rules, and for some reason hydrogen atoms are like little perpetual motion machines. But in fact, from the standpoint of the zero point energy approach...indeed you expect an electron in a hydrogen atom to radiate its energy away, but it picks up energy from the background zero point energy and therefore is sustained by it. What that means in terms of physics is that is shows why atoms can be seen as perpetual motion machines, it is just that they always have an energy input from the background to make up for the losses."
Australian Astronomer Barry Setterfield has, in the past year, picked up on this latest theory of the vacuum to explain the red shift of light from distant galaxies. Arizona astronomer William Tifft's research has recently shown that red-lifted light from the stars is quantized--this turns out to be also related to ZPE. Setterfield's new model also takes into account the evidence that the velocity of light is not a fixed constant. Setterfield concludes that the universe is not expanding at all, (as the Big Bang model has long supposed) but is static (it has a fixed diameter). The original energy input of outside energy on Day Two of creation--when God stretched out the firmament to its maximum expanse--accounts for the red-shift and the subsequent velocity of light decrease.
Setterfield has also provided a rough calculation at the rate at which "outside" energy from the "vacuum" would have to be fed into the universe per square meter per second if Hal Putoff is correct and electrons orbiting the nucleus do radiate energy after all. The compensatory energy that must be constantly supplied from the vacuum is a staggering 1.071 X 10117 kilowatts per square meter! (In scientific notion that is 10 followed by 117 zeroes, kilowatts per square meter).
It is an old tenant of philosophy that ex nihilo nihil fit--out of nothing nothing comes. To imagine that vast amounts of energy flow into our physical universe from nowhere, from empty space, out of the "vacuum" at first appears impossible. To save the day we must resort either to magic or we must seek some rational explanation in Biblical revelation. The latter is not hard to do.
One the Second Day of creation week, God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. (Genesis 1:6-8)
The Hebrew word usually translated firmament (raqia) strongly suggests an originally super dense medium stretched out very thin ("like a tent") on the second day of creation week. This means that what God created on Day One and Two was time, matter, energy, and space (the aether). These are the building blocks from which He constructed the universe evidently.
A careful examination of Biblical references to the terms "firmament," "the heavens" and "the heavenly places" and how they are used will show that the Bible depicts the spiritual realm as more solid, more substantial, more permanent than the present, observable, material world. When God created the universe he created it "two-storied." The spiritual realm is where the angels dwell. It is a so much more solid and substantial and permanent than our fading material world, that we can best describe ourselves as ghosts in a shadow-like world surrounded and embedded in the more substantial world of the spirit. This view of heaven is beautifully portrayed by C.S. Lewis in his fictional study The Great Divorce. Thinking of heaven as more solid that the material world suggests the aether is intensely solid with objects in the physical world being akin to voids in the plenum of space. It is as if we had come full circle all the way back to Descartes!
If the vacuum is not no-thing, what is the aether made of? It can not be pure spirit or even "condensed spirit" or we would be flirting with pantheism, because God is a Spirit, the angels and men are created spirits and each of these is a "life-form." But the aether is not alive. The aether does appears to have real metric properties which can change as space is expanded or contracted--it appears to be a substance that is more a part of the created spiritual world that a tangible physical substance.
Is the aether the substrate, the boundary layer between our physical material world and the created world of the spirit (called in Scripture "the heavenly places")? This is probably not an unreasonable working hypothesis.
From behind the curtains of our present world, God supplies not only force but it would seem He also supplies also energy to sustain the Created order. In more ways than one we owe not only only lives but the moment by moment sustenance of the physical universe to His energetic involvement. Knowing the Creator personally gives us every reason to feel secure and to stand in awe of Almighty God who has by no means left us alone in the cosmos--it's very existence is a direct expression of his power and His will.
1. A History of the Theories of the Aether and Electricity, by Sir Edmund Whittaker. Dover Pub., NY, 1989.
2. Thomas G. Barnes, Space Medium,. Geo/Space research Fn, El Paso, 1986.
3. The Classical Vacuum, by Timothy H. Boyer, Sci. Am. (August 1985).
4. Is the vacuum really empty?, by Walter Greiner and Joseph Hamilton, Am. Sci. Mar-Apr. 1980.
5. The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Crossway Bks, Wheaton, IL 1982.
6. Evidence for a non-constant velocity of light and references to the nature of the vacuum and ZPE will be found on my Internet web pages at http://ldolphin.org/
7. INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRMAMENT, by Gerardus D. Bouw, Ph.D.
8. Aether Theories, by Mountain Man (PRF Brown)
9. An excellent technical resource on the Quantum Vacuum and the New Physics is The California Institute for Physics and Astrophysics (Palo Alto, Dr. Bernard Haisch)Addendum: Many scientists today are busy studying the vacuum--the "nothingness" of empty space. For a summary of Zero Point Energy see http://www.setterfield.org/zpe.htm. The energy in the vacuum is vastly greater than the energy equivalent of ordinary mass. Barry Setterfield notes, "The difference between the energy in 'empty' space and that same space with matter of any sort in it is negligible. This is because the energy in matter is so low compared to the energy in one cubic centimeter of free space. To give you some sort of feel for this, imagine the one hundred billion stars that make up our galaxy, each shining at a rate roughly equivalent to our sun, for one million years. This is approximately the energy in one cc of 'empty' space."
In C.S. Lewis' fictional story, The Great Divorce, describing a journey from the outskirts of hell to the outskirts of heaven, travelers newly arrived from earth below find they are not solid people at all. The grass hurts their feet and they are at first virtually transparent. Their heavenly welcoming committee members urge the newcomers to stay--since one grows more "solid" the longer one walks upward into the light of the heavenlies. That is, the spiritual realm is not only more energetic than the physical world, but more solid and substantial. In current thinking, the aether is the membrane which divides the material and from the physical. Obviously the aether is everywhere--the physical world is "embedded" in the spiritual. (added 2/19/04)
by Lambert Dolphin
An old southern spiritual says of God, "He's got the whole, wide world in His hands." This is perfectly sound theology--as we saw in our last two articles. Both force and energy from outside our material universe are apparently necessary to hold together, and to sustain, the cosmos in which we live. These active outside agents appear to emerge from the vacuum of empty space!
But the modern view of the vacuum is not that of emptiness and void. The vacuum seems to be a boundary layer, a substratum or interface, between the physical and the spiritual realms of creation. This month we'll consider what lies on the other side of the vacuum.
In a wonderful fictional account of what heaven may be like, C.S. Lewis takes the reader in The Great Divorce on an incredible journey in company with an unruly, boisterous assortment of miscreants who board an unusual bus in the outskirts of a dreary, cold, dark and dismal city. The bus soon ascends into the clouds and lands on a bright meadow at the top of high cliffs. To their dismay the visitors find they are actually semi-transparent--mere greasy smudges of smoke in the bright light of that lofty country. Common objects there are much more solid than the visitors are--the grass hurts their feet and water droplets pierce them like bullets. Coming down from towering mountains are streams of bright, "solid" people, clothed in garments of light. Their job is to persuade the visitors from below to stay and to grow more solid by walking with them higher into the mountains. Sadly most of the bus riders elect to return to their gloomy city, which we discover, lies on the outskirts of hell.
In writing this wonderful story, Lewis totally reverses our common view of life after death--and He is Biblically correct in doing so. For we are the ghosts of the universe and our present material world is shadowy, ephemeral and fading away. The "high countries" of heaven are permanent and more substantial than the world we now experience. Living "in heaven's bright land" requires that we become more solid and real than we are now--our present bodies are totally unsuited for the intensity of life we will be able to experience in heaven. Incidentally, these realities are perceived through the eyes of faith, and are not accessible to us from the limited methodology of science, "...we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. " (2 Cor. 4:18)
When a person enters into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ the Lord, he or she is made new in spirit and soul. In regenerated spirit and soul we can indeed experience the heavenly realm to some degree here and now. But our bodies are not, as yet, made new. And it is through the sense organs of these present bodies that we relate to the present physical, material world. To fully experience the lands of heaven we must receive wonderful new bodies "...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable...this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality." (1 Cor. 15:50-53, see also 2 Cor. 5:1-4)
"In the beginning created the heavens and the earth." These openings words of the Bible are equivalent to saying that God brought into existence "the entire universe." The creation includes both a material and a spiritual realms--that is, the universe is "two-storied." The term "heavens" (shamayim, plural) includes more than the clouds, the upper atmosphere, and interstellar space--it extends beyond to include an unseen dimension behind the vacuum. * The Apostle Paul in his own words tells about an experience he had when he was caught up into the third level of the heavens:
"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise ** and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter...And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated." (2 Cor. 12:2-8)
Although we can neither visibly see nor scientifically measure the spiritual world, this unseen dimension of the universe is of supreme importance. The notion of three vertical tiers to the heavens is however misleading--tending to imply that the spiritual dimension is "up" and far away--light-years beyond the farthest stars. We should think instead of matter and spirit intermingled together as an integrated whole. The physical world is a small region of heaven, embedded, as it were, in the vacuum. The cosmos is not really merely scaled in the vertical direction with hell at the bottom of the stack deep in the heart of the planet and heaven at the top inaccessibly high above the reach of space ships and telescopes. To think of heaven as above means that heavenly realities transcend the physical--the Creator is greater than His creation. Isaiah (57:15) says that God is "the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity;" who declares "...my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways...For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Other statements in scripture call attention to God's presence everywhere--this is called God's "imminence." When Paul the Apostle visited Athens, he spoke from Mars Hills to the citizens of that great city:
"Men of Athens...the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one (man, Adam) every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hopes that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being;' as even one of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'" (Acts 17:22-31)
It is the invisible dimension of the spiritual world where God himself dwells. The heavenlies are also inhabited by the "heavenly hosts," that is by "myriads" *** of angels. These beings were created and named one by one by God and appointed as "ministering spirits"; they have special bodies suited for the spiritual real which they inhabit. (see Heb. 1:7, 14; 1 Cor. 15:40) Our material world is embedded in the spiritual--this is the meaning of the vacuum as a plenum or substrate. Every day we sense and participate in, but can not see, happenings in the invisible world of the spirit, for instance in spiritual warfare we are part of God's armies in company with His angels. We are buffeted and influenced constantly by unseen events occurring in the heavenly places, (Eph. 6:12).
From the New Testament we learn that the entire physical creation, has its source and origin in unseen, invisible things: "...faith is the assurance (hupostasis = "to stand under", i.e., support, foundation) of things not seen...By faith we understand that the world (aionos = ages, or world) was created (katartizo = to fit, or render complete) by the word (rhemati = the oracles, sayings, or spoken utterances) of God, so that what is seen came into being out of that which is unseen." (Hebrews 11:3) However, the physical world, the material realm, is perfectly real and solid (not maya, or illusion, as Hinduism supposes), but it is the world of the fading, the transitory, the impermanent, and the perishable. The Biblical view is in some ways similar to the Greek (Platonic) idea of invisible ideas and archetypes which produces resulting forms in the physical world. But there are important differences of course in the Greek and Hebrew world-views. For one thing, something has gone wrong in the original material creation which produces death and decay, corruption and disintegration. There is also active evil present in the heavens. Evil in the universe has damaged the original close and harmonious coupling that once existed between the spiritual and material dimensions of existence. The old creation is fallen and God is preparing a new.
A number of references in scripture tell us that things built by God in the spiritual world are more durable, more real as it were, than their "shadowy" and temporary counterparts in the physical world. While on Mt. Sinai God told Moses to erect a Tabernacle and to equip it with an elaborate set of furnishings: an altar, a laver, a great lampstand, a table of incense, a table for the shewbread, plus the Ark of the Covenant. All had to be built exactly as prescribed in every detail: "...And see that you (Moses) make them (all these things) after the pattern for them which is being shown to you on the mountain." (Exodus 25:40) This passages shows that there exists a permanent temple in the heavenlies--the tabernacle of Moses was a mere copy. In this unseen temple, Jesus as our Great High Priest now serves: "...we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle which is set up, not by man, but by the Lord." (Hebrews 8:1-2)
During the last week of his life, when so much happened in the life of Jesus that large portions of the gospels focus on those tightly concatenated events, Jesus gathered His disciples for the last time to spoke many comforting words to them (in what is called "The Upper Room Discourse"--John 14-16) As part of His teaching Jesus announced plans for the building of a new habitation for all His people: "Let not your hearts be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:1-3) The "Father's house" is the universe we live in, the whole universe, both the visible and the invisible. Jesus taught that the universe could be compared to a house having many rooms, all made for sentient beings to live in. Like the homes we now live in, the various rooms in God's house serve various purposes. We typically have living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and a library or study in our homes today. The idea that the universe as like a house to live in is found elsewhere in the Bible. For example God says in Isaiah: "For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it); he did not create it a chaos, he formed it (to be inhabited!): I am the LORD, and there is no other." (Isaiah 45:18) "Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at my word." (Isaiah 66:1, 2)
Isaiah hints in the latter passage that God's house contains at least a living room chair and its accompanying footstool! The part of the universe we know about now consists of a throne (heaven) and a footstool (earth). We are left on our own to infer the real existence of kitchens, closets, banquet halls and libraries in the heavenly lands! For example, the library in God's house must surely contain books in multi-dimensional living color--books that contain in minute detail the history of the world as it really happened, all recorded by special angels (see Ezek. 9:2 for instance).
If then we are being prepared now to live in wonderful new bodies we also can look forward to dwelling in a splendid new house and city. Our place of honor there is something we can influence to a large extent, by our life-style choices here and now: "In a great house (the universe) there are not only vessels of gold and silver (people), but also of wood and of earthenware, and some for noble use and some for ignoble. If anyone purifies himself from what is ignoble (base), then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work." (2 Tim. 2:20-21)
What lies on the other side of the vacuum? "...this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen." (I Tim. 6:15-16) Many people around us are content to live only in the world of shadows, in the dimension of the temporary and the perishing--ignorant of the invisible bright world of the spirit which surrounds us. God's offer to all mankind today to journey to the High Countries is still open: "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let him who hears say, 'Come.' And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price." (Rev. 22:17)
* The New Testament calls this spiritual dimension the heavenly places, or the heavenlies [epouranios, from epi = above and ouranios, the heavens]. The English word "heaven" comes from a word meaning to lift up or to heave, referring to God's stretching out of space on the second day of creation.
** The Greek word is borrowed from ancient Persian for "a walled garden."
*** The Greek word for "ten thousand" is often used
to signify "countless numbers of."
Classical Physics reached its apex in Sir Isaac Newton's Day (1642-1727). The "Clockwork Universe" was so tightly linked together that the chains of cause and effect--which we called "determinism"--were obvious to everyone. God was in His heaven and watchfully controlled everything down to the smallest detail. The same universal laws of physics prevailed within the miniature universe of the atom, and beyond the furthermost star.
In 1801 Thomas Young reported his famous double-slit experiment with light beams. If light were corpuscular, photons directed at the slits should divide equally and exit the other side uniformly. Instead Young found interference patterns that clearly showed light was a wave phenomenon. Soon electric and magnetic fields were discovered and the propagation of light waves was accounted for eloquently by James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879). By the turn of this century it was clear that light and atomic particles behaved at times as if they were bunched-up wave packets, and at other times like rigid billiard balls.
An obscure clerk in a Swiss Patent office began to turn things upside down in 1905. The young Albert Einstein explained the photoelectric effect. Light shining on certain chemically coated services resulted in the emission of electrons, in numbers proportional to the light intensity but not at constant velocities. Einstein's paper came the same year that Max Planck (1858-1947) explained "blackbody" radiation--light emission from heated surfaces. Building on the work of Wein, Stefan, and Boltzmann, Planck's formula showed that the intensity of radiated light from a heated object involved quantum jumps within the atoms of the surface--and these were statistically distributed. His formula contained a new constant, Planck's constant, h. (6.6 x 10-24 joule-second).
The next surprise was that light photons, though massless, carried momentum and energy, and furthermore photon energy and momentum were quantized. When atoms emit photons, they do so only at discrete wavelengths. The energy of photons could be calculated from the simple formula, E = hf = hc/l. h is Planck's constant, c the velocity of light, f the frequency of the light or l the wavelength. Soon a mathematical model for atomic particles knows as "Quantum Mechanics" was developed. (1)This theory has been spectacularly successful but it has disturbed some theologians who see the probability-based calculations of QM as undermining the principle of determinism. Though quantum mechanics dismissed the notion of so-called "hidden variables" this does not mean that God has lost control of things. "Chance" is not an entity that does things-it is philosophically meaningless, for example, to say that "time plus chance" has brought our universe into being, or brought order out of chaos. (2) In spite of the complex probability-based models of QM, God still is in full control. (3)
Very upsetting discoveries have been made about photons (and now other particles) from quantum mechanics: apparently one particle is able to communicate information with another particle after the particles have been separated by time and distance-as much as 10 km in a recent experiment! (4) But this communication is "instantaneous"- or at least much faster than the speed of light. This leads to the hypothesis that two particles separated by time and space in our ordinary 4-dimensional world may be at the same point in hyperspace--they may be connected in a higher dimension. Similar weird and wonderful things seem to occur with gravitational forces: apparently all objects in the universe are "in touch" with each other instantly as far as gravity is concerned, yet ordinarily information signals can not travel from point A to point B faster than the speed of light. (5) At latest count at least 11 higher dimensions have been invoked in the mathematical models that attempt to tie together the Laws of Physics. (6)
Physicists like to keep things simple, to do as little work as possible, they follow "Occam's Razor" (7) and have a sense of elegance and beauty about nature-therefore simple theories are to be preferred to complex theories-and if possible a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) would be wonderful to discover. GUTs attempt to link together the four forces of physics, (7) and the fundamental constants, c, the velocity of light, e, the charge on the electron h, Planck's constant, and G, the gravitational constant. When one brings quantum mechanics into attempts to unify the laws of physics, Planck's constant is found to define the "fuzziness," or the "grain size" of the universe. Thus the smallest meaningful length is (Gh/c3)1/2 = 10-35 meters. The smallest time increment of time is the Planck time, 10-42 seconds (the time required for a photon traveling at c to traverse a distance equal to a Planck length), and the Planck mass, (hc/G2)1/2 = 1019 Gev, the smallest meaningful mass, and so on.
Quantum mechanics furthermore has revealed that attempts to make measurements, for instance on an atom, would disturb the atom such that precision in one measuring one parameter automatically meant fuzziness in another parameter. If one wanted to locate an electron's location accurately by means of a measuring apparatus, the apparatus disturbed the environment-precision in position measurement meant the electron's momentum became proportionally uncertain. The same was true for particle momentum and time and for angular momentum and spin angle as pairs of variables. Planck's famous Uncertainty Principle can be expressed as DpDx > h/4p or DE Dt > h/4p. (read: "the uncertainty in momentum times the uncertainty in position must be greater than or equal to Planck's constant h," etc.). The phenomenon is not unlike the work of a pollster who sets out to measure public opinion. If he is hasty, works rapidly, but alerts the public so that they become opinionated, and if his sampling methods are not careful, he will get results quickly, but his results will not likely be very representative of the true state of public sentiment on the topic. A second pollster who takes a longer time to collect his data, works quietly, and takes care so as not to alert people ahead of time, will get better results.
Recently QM has been applied to cosmology in attempts to unravel the early history of our universe-assuming the basic Big Bang model is correct-and assuming the speed of light is a fixed constant in time!
All of the above discussion is based on the assumption--since Einstein--that the speed of light, c, is indeed a fixed constant. However as we noted in our earlier Personal Update articles on the aether, the velocity of light, c, is determined by the properties of space and space may be a very real medium after all. When all of the available measurements of c are carefully studied--using the best possible methods of statistical analysis--the result is that the speed of light has apparently decreased in the past 300 years. The statistical confidence level that this is the case is at least 95%. (9)
Some have thought that a non-constant c would lead to an unstable universe, but so far no papers have been presented that show that changing c would disturb the basic operation or stability of the cosmos. In fact, several theoretical papers have suggested that the velocity of light after the second day of creation week--when God stretched out the aether--had an initial value about 5 x 108 times greater than the present value of 3 x 108 meters/sec. As far as this writer has been able to understand, changing c mostly affects the run rate of atomic clocks versus ordinary (Newtonian) dynamical time. While the universe appears to be 10-20 billion years old in atomic time, in reality it was all created only thousands of years ago in dynamical time.
We began this discussion by mentioning the relationship between Planck's constant, c, and the wavelength (or frequency) of photons emitted from orbital transitions within the atom namely, E = hf = hc/l. Astronomers measure wavelength of light from distant stars (not frequency) and wavelengths of stellar light are known to be invariant with time, as is the "fine-structure constant" a = e2/hc = 1/137. This means that hc is a fixed constant, invariant with time. But if c was much higher in the past then h was a much smaller number than it is now--h and c are inversely proportional. Therefore, the universe was less "fuzzy" in the beginning, quantum mechanical effects would have been negligible, and Planck length and time even smaller than they are now (they are already very small numbers)! The universe was more "certain" in the past, and more "orderly" than it is now! This increased uncertainty in the physical world is of course paralleled by the inexorable deterioration of the human condition due to sin as revealed in the Bible.
Of course a decrease in the value of Planck's constant by 10 orders of magnitude in the past pretty well shoots down Quantum Cosmology as a viable model. (There are many other reasons for discarding Big Bang cosmology anyway!) The laws of physics have been disrupted in the past by the fall of the angels and the fall of man as we have pointed out in this series. One can not take observations of the present universe for 50 or 100 years and extrapolate the results back to t = 0. This will give the wrong answer-the real history of our universe is not based on "uniformitarian" principles (2 Peter 3:4). The Big Bang model also ignores the many steps God took to create the raw material of our universe and to mold and fashion it or a unique period of time (144 hours) called "creation week." During creation week the universe-being uncompleted-was not yet set in motion, it was "Under Construction"-the Laws of effects went into effect for the first time after the Seventh Day. And, the original creation has been since drastically disrupted by cosmic forces of evil.
In any case the mysteries of our universe only deepen as we understand more and benefit from God's unfolding ("general") revelation hidden in nature, as well as by new light on his ("special") revelation given to us in Holy Writ.
O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
1. Six Roads from Newton: Great Discoveries in Physics, by Edward Speyer, (John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1994).
2. For more on the amazing world of chaos--where hidden patterns of order have been discovered see, Chaos: Making a New Science, by James Gleick, (Viking, New York, 1987), and also Can Order Come out of Chaos, by Henry M. Morris and John D. Morris, (Institute of Creation Research, San Diego, June 1997). Available at http://ldolphin.org/chaos.html
3. Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science & Cosmology by R. C. Sproul:, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1994 and Not By Chance: Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution, by Lee Spetner, Ph.D., The Judaica Press, Brooklyn, 1997.
4. Far Apart, Two Particles Respond Faster than Light, by Malcolm W. Browne, The New York Times, July 22, 1997, p. C1.
5. On the Speed of Gravity, by Tom Van Flandern, Galilean Electrodynamics, vol. 4., no. 2, March/April 1993. 141 Rhinecliff St. Arlington, MA 02174.
6. The New Physics, Paul Davies, Ed., Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 1989.
7. Occam's razor is a logical principle attributed to philosopher-theologian William of Occam (c. 1285-1349). The principle states that we should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything, or that we should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. This principle is often called the principle of parsimony.
8. The "strong" nuclear and "weak" nuclear forces operate at ranges of the order of the size of the nucleus, i.e., < 10-15 meters. The other important forces in physics are the electromagnetic force (between charged particles), and gravity. The latter two forces are active out to infinite distances between objects, but decrease as the inverse square of the distance. Gravity (attractive only) is weaker than electromagnetic forces (either attractive or repulsive), by a factor of 38 orders of magnitude (10-38)!
9. All of the available data on c, two statistical analyses and some preliminary explanations may be found at http://ldolphin.org/constc.shtml. Only those constants that have units of time in them are apparently changing. (The speed of light has units of distance divided by time. Planck's constant has units or work times time). The speed of light seems to have dropped precipitously until about the time of Abraham (c. 2150 BC) and then decreased slowly with an exponential tail down to the modern epoch.
Postscript: Since this article was written there has been much more published on this subject. Barry Setterfield says, "As it is presently structured, the Vc model has lengths remaining invariant during the process of declining c. An examination of the atomic constants making up the Planck length also gives that result. Planck time alters by 10 orders of magnitude as does atomic time and the rate of ticking of both of those clocks. The correction to actual orbital or dynamical time can be done from the redshift/distance relationship. Since redshift and the value of c are directly linked through the ZPE, and since astronomical distance and time are directly linked, the graph of redshift against distance is the same graph of c versus time. It is also the same as the rate of ticking of the atomic clock with orbital time since atomic clocks tick in sync with c. Thus the same graph has three functions - you only need rescale the axes." (August 22, 2002)
Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit ("Out of Nothing Nothing Comes")
Fascinating new book: The Book of Nothing: Vacuum, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe, by John D. Barrow, Vintage Books, Random House, New York, 2000.
Recent papers on the Vacuum by Barry Setterfield.
Added July 26, 2003.
What Holds the Universe Together?
Zero Point Energy
The Light Papers
Articles on Time
Added December 23, 2020.
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