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a) t=0

To what extent is t=0 relevant to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo? Responses have ranged widely from direct relevance to complete irrelevance.

i) Direct relevance: For some, the scientific discovery of an absolute beginning of all things (including time) provides empirical confirmation, perhaps even proof, of divine creation. This was the position taken by Pope Pius XII in 1951 in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.See Ernan McMullin, "How should cosmology relate to theology?" in The Sciences and Theology in the Twentieth Century, A. R. Peacocke, ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1981), p. 17-57.... In 1978 Robert Jastrow, then head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, spoke metaphorically about scientists who, after climbing the arduous mountain of cosmology, came to the summit only to find theologians there already.Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), p. 115-116.The idea that t=0 provides strong, even convincing, support for belief in God is frequently advanced by conservative and evangelical Christians.Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Grestest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God (Colorado Springs: NavPress Publishing Group, 1993).A more nuanced argument showing the theological importance of there being a beginning of the universe and the “consonance” between theology and Big Bang cosmology on this point was developed by Peters in a number of writings.Ted Peters, "On Creating the Cosmos," in Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding, ed. Robert J. Russell, William R. Stoeger, S.J. and George V. Coyne, S.J. (Vatican...Peters combines this with ‘temporal holism’, an insistence that the prefection of creation lies in the future, not the past, particularly in its eschatological fulfillmentTed Peters, God as Trinity: Relationality and Temporality in the Divine Life (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), esp. p. 163-70.(see Part 2/E/3 below). A very sophisticated argument for the temporal finitude of the universe based on t=0, as well as on an argument that rejects the possibility that the universe is also actually infinite in size, has been developed by William Craig, partially through an explicit debate with atheist Quentin SmithWilliam Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). More recently, Phil Clayton has suggested that contemporary cosmology affords a clear case of divine activity.Philip Clayton, God and Contemporary Science (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 190. For a helpful summary of Clayton’s interpretation of creation and sustenance, see p. 158-160....

t=0 also has served to inspire the construction of an alternative, and very successful, cosmology. In the 1940s, Fred Hoyle, an outspoken atheist, together with colleagues Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold, constructed a cosmology that would have no temporal beginning or end. Their “steady state cosmology” depicted the universe as eternally old and expanding exponentially forever. For two decades, the Big Bang and the steady state models seemed equally viable given the empirical evidence then available. By the mid 1960s, however, the Big Bang model was vindicated, at least in most scientists’ minds, by the discovery of the microwave background radiation and the successful prediction of the cosmological abundances of hydrogen and helium in the 1960's.The ‘demise’ of steady state cosmology may well be premature, since a number of cosmologists continue to construct models whose roots can be traced back to Hoyle’s early work. See for example...What is important here, however, is Hoyle’s motivation in developing the steady state cosmology. One reason, although probably only secondary, was his concern that Big Bang cosmology seemed, at least in the public mind, to support Christianity.According to Helge Kragh, "There can be little doubt that the discussions among Hoyle, Gold, and Bondi, which led to a tentative formulation of the steady-state theory in 1947, were colored negatively... Of course, any such proposal --- steady state or Big Bang --- must be tested strictly by the scientific community; the role of t=0 and its religious overtones is restricted to the ‘context of discovery’ and excluded from the ‘context of justification.’ Nevertheless it demonstrates that very fruitful ideas can come from ‘extra scientific’ disciplines, such as philosophy and theology, and lead even if indirectly to scientific theories with testable consequences (see Part 3, B below).A similar example comes from the early development of GR. Initially Einstein actually changed the field equations to allow for a universe that did not change in time by adding to it the famous ‘cosmological...

ii) Complete irrelevance: Nor surprisingly, those who view theology and science as totally separate fields find no relevance in t=0.Two particularly interesting examples include Georges Lemaitre cited above, and Langdon Gilkey in his very earlier writing Langdon Gilkey, Maker of Heaven and Earth: The Christian Doctrine of Creation...What may seem surprising is that several of the most important scholars in the theology and science interaction agree that when it comes this specific issue. Here, creatio ex nihilo is seen as an entirely philosophical argument regarding contingency for which specific empirical evidence is irrelevant. The contingency of the universe consists in its sheer existence, and is entirely independent of the question of its temporal beginning. Arthur Peacocke,A. R. Peacocke, Creation and the World of Science: The Bampton Lectures, 1979 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), p. 78-79.John Polkinghorne,John C. Polkinghorne, The Faith of a Physicist: Reflections of a Bottom-up Thinker, Theology and the Sciences Series (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 1994), Ch. 4, esp. p. 73.and Bill Stoeger,William R. Stoeger, S.J., "Contemporary Cosmology and Its Implications for the Science-Religion Dialogue," in Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding, ed. Robert J....take this position, as do process theologians who eschew creatio ex nihilo in general. Ian Barbour did so in his earlier writingsIan G. Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion (New York: Harper & Row, 1971 (originally published in 1966 by Prentice-Hall)), esp. 366-68. For an analysis of Barbour’s dependence on Gilkey and...but has since shifted to the third option (iii). Recently, Steven Baldner and William Carroll have defended this position on the basis of Thomistic metaphysics.William E. Carroll, "Big Bang Cosmology, Quantum Tunneling from Nothing, and Creation," Laval Theologique et Philosophique 44.1(February 1998). See also Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas on Creation, ed....

iii) Indirect relevance: There are a variety of positions that one can take between the two extremes of direct relevancy and complete irrelevancy. Those assuming what I call the ‘indirect relevance’ approach include Ian Barbour (in his recent work),Barbour’s recent position has shifted from what it was in the 1960s, when in the context of two rival models (steady state and Big Bang) he stressed the neutrality of theology to such specific aspects...Walter Hearne,David Price, John L. Wiester and Walter R. Hearn, Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy: A View from the American Scientific Affiliation (Ipswich: American Scientific Affiliation, 1986), 24-28.Ernan McMullin,Ernan McMullin, "How Should Cosmology Relate to Theology?" in The Sciences and Theology in the Twentieth Century, ed. A. R. Peacocke (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), esp. p....Nancey Murphy and George Ellis,Nancey Murphy and George F. Ellis, On the Moral Nature of the Universe: Theology, Cosmology, and Ethics, Theology and the Sciences Series (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1996), Ch. 3.Ted Peters,Ted Peters, "Cosmos as Creation," in Cosmos as Creation: Theology and Science in Consonance, ed. Ted Peters (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989), 45-114. Thomas M. Ross,Thomas M. Ross, "Einstein AndTheology," CTNS Bulletin 7.3, no. Summer (1987). Howard van Till,(ref) and Mark Worthing.Worthing gives a particularly careful analysis of the many issues related here. See Mark W. Worthing, God, Creation, and Contemporary Physics, Theology and the Sciences Series (Minneapolis: Fortress Press,...I have suggested that the contingency of the universe can be categorized in three ways: global contingency, local contingency and nomological contingency, and each of these, in turn, can be differentiated further.Robert John Russell, "Cosmology, Creation, and Contingency," in Cosmos as Creation: Theology and Science in Consonance, ed. Ted Peters (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989), 177-210; Russell, "Finite...Global contingency includes both the existence of the universe as such (which I call its ‘global ontological contingency’) as well as contingent theoretical or empirical aspects of the universe as a whole (its ‘global existential contingency’). t=0 would come under the latter; it is a form of past temporal finitude, and this is a form of temporal finitude, and this of finitude, and thus finally of global existential contingency. Thus its existence and its beginning relate to different strands of global contingency.The contingency of the universe can then play a role in theology: it is a ‘prediction’ of systematic theology (i.e., the datum of the world’s contingency is ‘explained’ in terms...

I also stress that the infinities in size and future of the flat and open models argue against contingency. Drawing on McFague’s approach of metaphorical theology, I extended McMullin’s term, ‘consonance’, and suggested that if t=0 is ‘consonant’ with creation theology then these infinities are ‘dissonant’ with both creation and eschatology.We will return to the challenge of cosmology and eschatology below, Section 2-E/3.Finally, by embedding t=0 within philosophical theology, we have a method by which the conversation can continue when scientific cosmologies change, as they already have with the development of inflationary and quantum cosmologies (below).

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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