I am not a Christian and had no kind of guided religious upbringing, though I have admittedly felt drawn towards Christianity at times. I never really thought about my origins or the reason for my being. However, lately I have been nearly consumed by those "big questions." The idea that the universe and our place in it as humans is random is a very lonely one. There are so many people I love dearly and the prospect of this life on Earth being the only one I have to share with them is overwhelmingly sad. Yet there seems to be little or no evidence for a soul or the existence of a consciousness independent of the body.
I have many questions, some of which are listed below:
If there is a God, and if He did indeed plan for the evolution of humans, at what point did that spark of divine consciousness come into existence?
The universe is vast and almost certainly contains other habitable planets– does God play a role in those creations as well?
Science has proved that matter can be spontaneously created by fluctuations in energy– where did energy, itself come from then? If all the current universe originates from the Big Bang, what preceded the Big Bang? A different universe?
If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?
What created God?
What makes human beings so special that we should assume another life after death awaits us? Or that there exists a God who would actually listen and respond to our prayers?
What about non-Christians, like me? What awaits us? What makes Christian philosophy any more viable than other world religions, current or past? Why is Christianity the right idea?
If human beings evolved from apes, isn’t’t it logical to assume that we, ourselves, will eventually evolve into an even more advanced species?
I do not mean to offend in any way with these questions. I am simply searching for answers in a wide number of places. I would appreciate any response you could give me.
The first question is one of the biggies. It is my opinion that Genesis 1-3 is more about what God did than it is about when he did it and perhaps even than how he did it. There are many different opinions here. Some say that all this happened just a few thousand years ago. Others, (myself included) take the "days" of Genesis One to be metaphorical. This is an accurate description of what God did, but the days represent to phases of God’s work in creating. I am guessing that your question is a deeper one. You are wondering what it means that God breathed life into us and breathed his spirit into us. What does it mean that we were created "in God’s image"? This is the essential question of the first chapters of Genesis.
What God declares in Genesis One is that his entire creation was good. It was, in fact, very good (Genesis 1:31). If you are going to get the big picture here, it is that God created everything. He created the universe out of nothing, and what he created was entirely good. His most special creation was human beings. I do not think the date of this event is as important as the fact that it happened. What happened is that God took an intelligent created species and put soul and spirit into those people. This is how I understand the statement in Genesis 1:27. God took a man and a woman whom he had created as physical beings and created him in His image. They now had a conscience, consciousness, spirit and soul. The physical things are not what is in the image of God. Exactly when did this happen? Was it homo erectus? Neandertal? Cro Magnon? To be honest, I am not exactly sure. I can look at human beings and see the result, however, and I am not sure the timing is the principal point of Genesis.
Whether or not there are other sentient beings on other planets, I am afraid, I do not know. The Bible does not help me to answer this question. I can apply human reason, as you are doing, and tell myself that surely in this ridiculously vast universe there are other places where God has created and sustained life and perhaps even created beings with a soul and spirit–in His image. Such reasoning is fine, but it cannot answer the question of whether it is in fact true. I am afraid we will have to settle for a certain amount of mystery on this one. Neither from science nor from the Bible can I determine the answer to this question.
I am not sure if your third question is a scientific one or a theological one. The theological answer is in Hebrews 1:3. God made what is visible out of what is invisible. The physical universe was created "out of nothing." We scientists (and I am a scientist) call this the Big Bang. How, scientifically, did this big bang happen? Scientists do not yet have a satisfactory explanation for why the big bang happened. I speculate that they never will. There is no scientific answer for why the universe exists, as its creation was a miraculous not a natural one. I am extremely skeptical of the attempts by certain people to use quantum mechanics to explain the existence of the universe. This is circular reasoning. Yes, it is true that particles are created out of the vacuum, but the vacuum is not nothing. There has to be a universe in place for the matter to be created out a vacuum into it. So, I can see the analogy between quantum fluctuations and creation of the universe, but not a scientific connection.
The universe is expanding into nothing. The question, "what lies outside our universe?" is a nonsense question. The physical universe is defined by itself. There is nothing "outside the universe" because all of existence is the universe. Now, there may very well be something outside the universe, but if this is so, it is, by definition, not possible for us to inquire directly about this, so such things ought to be left where they belong, to speculative philosophy/science.
We should NOT assume that life after death awaits. We should NOT assume that God exists. Rather we should investigate these things. Assuming a thing to be true does not make it true. Wishful thinking is a bad approach to life in general and certainly to religion and philosophy as well. If you find the idea of God attractive, that is fine, but you should proceed from there to investigate the idea, ask what signs to look for and then look for those signs. Romans 1:20 says that the existence of God is very clear from what has been created. I happen to agree. The evidence for creation is overwhelming. The Bible says that its scripture is inspired by God. I agree with this wholeheartedly as well because of the evidence. I am guessing that you have not investigated the evidence as thoroughly as I have. Let me suggest a couple of resources for you to do this. Forgive me for promoting my own books. One is Reasons for Belief and the other is Is There a God? Both are available at www.ipibooks.com There is a lot of material at my web site on this topic, to say the least. You should investigate the idea of God and the central claims of Christianity. I am attaching a little paper in which I do an extremely brief job of doing this. This document addresses the question of Christian philosophy. This is a big question–too big for me to do it in such a short e-mail.
I hope it is OK if I stop there. You have more questions I have not yet answered. Can you look at this and then distill your remaining questions into one or two. I will be happy to continue.
John Oakes, PhD