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a) t=0 revisited

Given the speculative status of quantum cosmology, some scholars have kept the theological conversation focused on the standard Big Bang modelFor example, Murphy and Ellis, On the Moral Nature of the Universe.. Others, though, have asked what effects quantum cosmology might have on their theology of creation.

John Lucas has defended the temporality of God against the difficulties raised by special relativity and quantum cosmology.J. R. Lucas, "The Temporality of God," in Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. Robert J. Russell, Nancey C. Murphy and Chris J. Isham, Scientific...Ted Peters recognizes the “anti-theological” implications to his project by Hawking’s quantum cosmology, but draws on Chris Isham’s argument that even without an initial singularlity, God is present to and active in all events in the universeTed Peters, "The Trinity in and Beyond Time," in Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. Robert J. Russell, Nancey C. Murphy and Chris J. Isham,.... Wim Drees has argued that the challenge from special relativity to those arguing for God’s involvement in ‘flowing time’ is much more severe than anything raised by the lack of t=0 in quantum cosmology.Willem B. Drees, "A Case Against Temporal Critical Realism? Consequences of Quantum Cosmology for Theology," in Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action,...I have suggested that the Hawking/Hartle model reminds us that the concept of finitude need not entail a boundary, leading to new ways to describe the universe as God’s creation. It may well be that the finitude of the past of our universe at least, and not its also having an absolute beginning, will illuminate the real meaning of ontological contingency within the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. I would also emphasize that the ‘nothing’ (i.e., the superspace) out of which our universe arises in the Hartle/Hawking scenario is more like Platonic me on (‘relative nothing’) than it is like Platonic ouk on (‘absolute nothing’). Thus our universes arises out of a relative ‘nothing’ including, in some sense at least, quantum fields governed by the laws of physics (both of which are needed to give a ‘scientific’ account of the ‘quantum creation of the universe’). But the Christian view of creatio ex nihilo relies predominantly (i.e., for TillichPaul Tillich, Systematic Theology, 300 pp (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), 1:188, 253.) if not entirely (as most theologians insist) on the meaning of ‘nothingness’ as ouk on. In essence, neither the Hartle/Hawking creation scenario, or any other I know of, can claim to be ‘scientific’ and at the same time limit itself strictly to ouk on.Russell, "Finite Creation Without a Beginning," 319-29.A very similar argument has been developed in detail by Joseph M Zycinski.Joseph M. Zycinski, "Metaphysics and Epistemology in Stephen Hawking's Theory of the Creation of the Universe," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 31.2(June 1996). See also Willem B. Drees,...

Hawking, too, seems to draw on the ontological argument. In his Introduction to Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan writes about the ‘absence of God’ in his book, even if “the word God fills these pages.” Hawking may seek to know ‘the mind of God’, Sagan admits, but if there is no t=0 --- and Hawking himself has done away with it --- then there is “nothing for a Creator to do.”Hawking, A brief history of time, x.My response, of course, is that Sagan is attacking Enlightenment deism, not Christian theism. At times in the book Hawking seems to agree with Sagan,Hawking, A brief history of time. For example, cf. 140-141. Note, too: the word "God" does not appear in the index. More significantly, an interventionist version of divine action seems to be...but not at the end, for he also writes: “even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science ... cannot answer the question of why there should be a universe for the model to describe.”Hawking, A brief history of time, 174.

It is also possible to see, in the debates over approaches to quantum cosmology, the striking presence of ‘extra-scientific’ factors. A fascinating example occurs in comparing proposals by Roger Penrose and Hawking/Hartle. In Penrose’s view, our universe arises as an arbitrary quantum fluctuation in a homogeneous background superspace filled with quantum fields. But why should any point in superspace be singled out as creating a universe like ours; why isn’t there an infinity of universes varying in all ways possible --- which there is not. As Chris Isham puts it, the problem was “pre-empted” by Augustine’s response to the question of what God was doing before God made the universe. Augustine’s answer was that God did not create the universe in time, since the decision as to which point in time to create it would be arbitrary and would imply that God’s will is mutable. Instead Augustine claimed that God created time along with the creation of the universe. But as Isham points out, the same reasoning leads us to reject Penrose’s approach: it is thoroughly arbitrary to pick a creation point in superspace. The Hawking/Hartle model, on the other hand, circumvents the need for such a point. Thus “it is singularly striking that, sixteen centuries later, theoretical physicists have considered precisely the same subterfuge” to avoid questions like ‘before creation’.Isham, "Creation of the Universe.". See also Russell, "Finite Creation Without a Beginning," 318-9. and Drees, Beyond the big bang.I think this is a striking example of the potentially positive role theology could play in stimulating new insights and directions of inquiry within the natural sciences.Russell, "Finite Creation Without a Beginning," 319-29.

In short, then, inflation and quantum cosmology can point to the grandeur and mystery of God’s creativity and undercut our anthropocentrism by stressing a creation far beyond anything we could ever observe, one in which God relishes and delights in its sheer diversity. Still none of the scientific cosmologies explains why the “Universe” exists as such, leading us once again to the recognition of God as the ground of being.

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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