March 13, 2015

The Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds

We are unsure who wrote the original version of the Nicene Creed. The Coptic Church traditionally believes it was written by Pope Athanasius of Alexandria. It could also have been the local creed of Christians in Caesarea, or perhaps it was a baptismal creed recorded by Eusebius. In any event, it was adopted to forge a uniform statement of belief among early Christians at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. At that point in time, some Christian groups had chosen to believe that although Jesus was divine, he had been created by God. Called the Arian controversy, this meant that Jesus was not co-equal with God. The clergy who attended the First Council of Nicaea were determined to make a firm statement of faith that would reflect their views.

In order to put the Arian controversy to rest, the original version of the Nicene Creed made it very clear that Jesus was of the same substance as God and the Holy Spirit.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth];
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
And in the Holy Ghost.

- Source: Wikipedia

The First Council of Constantinople adopted a different version of the Nicene Creed in 381 A.D. The longer version which follows is now generally recognized as the formally adopted Nicene Creed. A literal translation of the original Greek text with Western liturgical changes emphasizes the power of God, and that God is three persons (The Holy Trinity): there is God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Ghost (Spirit).

We believe (I believe) in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. (God of God) light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end. And (I believe) in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We confess (I confess) one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for (I look for) the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen."

- Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia

A third statement of beliefs can be found in the Apostles’ Creed that apparently originated in the second or third century. Although similar in text to the Nicene Creed, the basis of the Apostles’ Creed was the theology of the Canonical Gospels. Broadly accepted in the West, it avoids any explicit statements about the divinity of Jesus. Its use can be found in Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregational churches. The English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) adopted a formal English version in 1988:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Neither version of the Nicene Creed, nor the Apostles’ Creed, can be found in the Bible as integral texts. One can, however, find passages in the Bible to support the convictions expressed by these statements of belief. Early Church fathers brought these passages together as an interpretation of the theology found in the Bible. The phrase “who for us men” has been the source of some controversy, because it appears to mean women and children are not able to receive salvation. Alternative versions of the Nicene Creed use the term “for us and for our salvation” in order to avoid this controversy. There is also some doubt whether or not Jesus descended into hell after his crucifixion. It is thought, by many, that Jesus arose to be with God after his crucifixion. He then reappeared on the third day to console and inspire his followers. These are among the metaphysical points that philosophers, theologians, and academics love to argue about.

Prepared by the International Consultation on English Texts, this version is used by many mainline communions in the United States and other English-speaking countries.

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. Who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

There are fragmentary references to the concept of a trinity in the scriptures and early church fathers apparently brought these together to express the meaning of the scripture in a form that would support their beliefs. As adopted in 381 A.D, the Nicene Creed became widely is accepted by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and many Protestant churches as a statement of Christian faith.

The Apostles’ Creed is more likely to be used in Western Christian Churches. Some evangelical and other Christian congregations consider the Nicene Creed to be helpful, but not authoritative – a designation they reserve for the Bible. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with some other Christian congregations, reject some of the statements in the Nicene Creed.

Paul the Apostle believed Jesus existed before his conception and should be referred to as Lord (God). But it would appear Paul did not think of God in a Trinitarian sense. The source and creation of the Nicene Creeds and the emphasis on the Trinity can be discovered by analyzing the history of the early Church.

Arius (c. 250 – 336), who was a cleric in Alexandria, Egypt, taught that Jesus was not co-eternal with his father and is therefore distinct from the Father. Arius also argued that Jesus was created at a specific point in time. This belief is different from the concept of Sabellianism (or modalism) which characterizes the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as being three aspects of one God, rather than three different persons. If the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are different aspects of the same God, then it was an aspect of God who was born a man, suffered on the cross and experienced resurrection. Arianism was based on the Gospel of John 14:28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." and Colossians 1:15 where Paul proclaims —"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." Popular during the 300s, the teachings of Arius (Arianism) were deemed heretical by the First Council of Nicaea (325). Although Arius was exonerated in 335, he was again pronounced a heretic at the Ecumenical First Council of Constantinople in 381. Arianism virtually disappeared as a principle by the late 600s.

Constantine (c. 272? – 337). Much of this debate and activity was influenced by Emperor Constantine (also known as Constantine the Great, or Saint Constantine) who was the supreme civil leader and authority of the Roman Empire from 306 to 337 A.D. He was acutely aware there was a growing interest in Christianity within the Empire. Constantine’s first edict about the Christians has been lost. His second edict in 313 A.D. granted them the freedom of religious worship and the recognition of the State. In his political role he also summoned the bishops of the western provinces to Arelate (Arles) in A.D. 314, where they attempted to resolve a split that had occurred within the church in Africa called Donatist schism.

Constantine reasoned that if Christians were unified in their beliefs, then Christianity could act as a religious force to unify the far flung regions of his domain. Constantine surveyed the political landscape and determined Athanism had stronger support. In order to bring theological order to Christianity, Constantine needed to eliminate competing visions of doctrine (and constant bickering among the bishops). Constantine therefore welcomed the development of the Nicene Creed as a unified statement of beliefs. The bishops who gathered together in 325 at Nicaea were able to agree on the nature and relationship of Jesus as the son of God, establish a common date for the celebration of Easter, and issue the first unified profession of Christian faith. The use of peaceful (if sometimes contentious) debate to resolve theological issues shows us one side of Constantine’s nature. On the other hand, he often used brutal methods to enforce these agreements against anyone (including Christians) who didn’t like them.

Flavius Valentinianus (c. 371 – 392), also known as Valentinian II, was Roman Emperor of the Western Roman Empire from A.D. 375 to 392.  Valentinian II was influenced by his Arian mother, the Empress Justina, to oppose the Nicean party. This, of course, infuriated Aurelius Ambrosius (Saint Ambrose) who was archbishop of Milan and a supporter of Nicene Christianity.

Theodosius I (c. 347 – 395), who is also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. After the death of Valentinian II in 392, Theodosius became the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. The cohesive forces which had held the Roman Empire together were in decline. The Roman top down slave labor economic model was being replaced by a feudal system of economic and social organization. Feudalism brought with it a long period of intellectual rigidity, and the emergence of the Catholic Church as the primary source of doctrinal belief. In order to promote the religious cohesion of his domain, Theodosius made Nicene Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire in 380 (the edict of Thessalonica), defeated any opposition to his decision, and ordered the destruction of several pagan temples.

Constantine had organized the First Council of Nicaea in 325. But a lesser known Council at Rimini in 359 supported the Arian position, and a Council of Constantinople in 360 tried to make a compromise between Arian and the Athanistic views. But bickering continued. In 381, it became clear the early Church was still embroiled in heated debate over the nature of Christ (known as Christology). Opinions ranged from those who believed he was human; to a substantial number of Christians who wanted to believe Jesus was entirely divine. The most persistent confrontation was between Athanism which viewed the Father and the son as being one and eternal; and the Arian view that the Father and the son are similar, but that the Father created the son and is therefore greater.

It was Emperor Theodosius I who was compelled to call the bishops together for the Council of Constantinople in 381. He again firmly supported the Nicene view of Christ, and rejected the Arian position. A new version of the Nicene Creed was crafted to ensure there was no doubt that Jesus, the Father, and The Holy Ghost was of one “substance”. He supported the Athanism (Nicene) view even though, ironically, he was baptized on his deathbed by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia.

It should also be pointed out that neither a local council at Constantinople in 382, nor the third ecumenical council at Ephesus in 431, mention the revised version of the Nicene Creed. Instead, the Ephesus council reiterated the original 325 version of the creed in their denouncement of Nestorianism.

Explicit mention of the 381 A. D. version first appears in the records of the fourth ecumenical council at Chalcedon in 451 A.D. The Council of Chalcedon issued the view that Christ is a being of two natures, one human and one divine - “united with neither confusion nor division.” Called the doctrine of hypostatic union, Chalcedonian orthodoxy is still the official conviction in many Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Justinian I (c. 482 – 565) known as Justinian the Great, was a Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. He tried to restore the Roman Empire by reconquering former Roman territory from Italy to the Atlantic. His generals succeeded in taking the Vandal Kingdom of North Africa, Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy (including Rome), and most of southern Iberia (Spania). Justinian I regulated everything, both in religion and in law. He firmly believed the unity of the Empire was interdependent with the unconditional unity of Christianity. His solution was to strictly enforce orthodox Nicean Christology. He established Roman state control over all doctrine, theological opinion, and details of worship. Justinian I established Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem as primary centers of Imperial Church leadership. Unfortunately for Justinian, the restored Empire soon began to crumble, weakened by a terrifying outbreak of bubonic plague in the early 540s, and outright rejection of the Emperor’s authority.

Muslim conquests, beginning in the 600s, converted most of North Africa, the Middle East, parts of Eastern Europe, and Spain to Islam, further weakening the Byzantine Empire. Churches of the Oriental Orthodoxy seceded from the Byzantine State Church. Because of the fragmented structure of feudalism, Churches within Europe were likely to be loyal to local rulers. When Charlemagne was crowned as Emperor of the Romans by his ally Pope Leo III in 800 A.D, the split between the western and eastern churches became irrevocable. The Great Schism resulted in the mutual excommunication of both Roman and Constantinople Popes in 1054 A.D.

Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) provided a systematic Christology to resolve existing issues, and assert the Christ’s human attributes were perfect in every possible way. He believed Jesus was divine and not just a human male. Jesus did, however, have a (rational) human soul and hence there was a duality of divine and human characteristics that existed simultaneously in his human body. Aquinas wrote that God had a three part nature: God the Father, God the Son as knowledge of self (God is aware of himself), and the Holy Spirit which is the love that binds God’s self-knowledge and God. The perception is, therefore, of three persons perfectly united and perfectly interrelated within the essence of God. Aquinas believed God assumed the nature of man so that man might become God.

Some evangelical Christians reject the Nicene Creed, not for its content, but simply because it is not found in the Bible. Sola Scriptura ("by Scripture alone") is the doctrine that the Bible is the final authority on all matters of belief. Only those doctrines found directly within the scriptures, or can be indirectly discovered by using logical deduction from the scriptures, are valid Christian beliefs.

Surveys of American adults indicate many do not believe (or know) the content of the Nicene Creed. When Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University conducted a poll of 1007 adults and asked the question: "Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?” 54 percent said no, 35 percent replied yes, and the rest were undecided. On the other hand, 90 percent of American adults believe in God or a Supreme Being, 65 percent are absolutely certain God exists, 72 percent believe in an afterlife in which they will have "some sort of consciousness," 63 percent are absolutely certain Jesus died and physically arose from the dead, and 60 percent believe Mary was a virgin mother. It would appear that roughly half of all people who have attended church recently believe in a personal physical resurrection. This percentage drops to 25 percent for non-church goers.

- Source: Most Americans doubt the resurrection of the body. Scripps Howard News Service, Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll, 2006

The scriptures never reveal the Trinity as a theological concept. Instead the roles of Jesus and God are clearly separate and distinct. Jesus prays to God and calls Him father. For example, there is only one “true God” described in John 17:1-26 when Jesus the son is praying to God the Father. In John 20:17 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” In John 14: 27-28 Jesus says Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, ‘I go away and come again unto you.’ If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice because I said, ‘I go unto the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.” In John 7:33 Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me.” And In Matthew 27:46 Jesus cried with a loud voice, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" just as he was dying on the cross.

There are other examples of a clear distinction between Jesus as a man, and God as the Father. It is troubling (for some) this distinction would appear to contradict the concept that Jesus is God, or of the same substance as God. What should we believe? Our basic problem is that the Bible is a very large text. It is possible to prove most anything by quoting separate passages out of context (as we have done here). And then there is this eternal question: Is Jesus God?

Every organization, including political, religious, or corporate entities, needs to have a statement of purpose in order to focus member or employee activity on a set of common objectives. These statements frequently include ethical and procedural references, and emphasize what members or employees are expected to believe. The early church was no different. Christian doctrine was not clearly established. Theological controversies were common and often divisive. Christianity needed a universally accepted creed in order to establish the bedrock upon which the church could build its theology. Church elders would have been compelled to proclaim a core set of beliefs in order to unify local congregations, and there must have been many different statements of belief by the time the first council was held in Nicaea. One must concede, however, the circumstances of these councils were primarily motivated by political considerations. The Roman Emperors were struggling to maintain social and political cohesion among far flung and often contentious subject domains. Uniform religious beliefs and practices were (and still are) an integral component of social order.

The Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds were created in response to the need for a uniform statement of Christian beliefs. As we may expect, they mirror contemporary fourth-century theology concerning the nature of God, Jesus, and the elements of faith. They have been the source of continuing debate and occasionally derisive comment – even in the 21st century. Some of the concepts are difficult to understand (and believe). For example, it is hard to accept the idea Jesus is God when he so obviously was born and lived his life as a man. In addition, the relationship of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit continue to be the source of controversy. One can reasonably ask: Was it necessary for Jesus to be (called) a God in order to give him the status of a legitimate King (Pontifex Maximus – Latin for "Greatest Pontiff") who could be superior to the pagan gods of Rome? And is a virgin birth a necessary requisite for Jesus to be born a King? Detractors sometimes refer to these beliefs as a mix of pagan and ancient Greek mythology.

For most Christians, both Creeds continue to express the core of Christian theology. We must never lose the moral compass Jesus brought to us. The Nicene Creed is very relevant for those Christians who choose to believe Jesus is an incarnation of God on earth in human form, and the Apostles’ Creed continues to provide a statement of faith for Christians who like to think of Jesus as being a divine human. Both Creeds affirm there is only one God who is maker of heaven and earth, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilot, and on the third day after his death He arose to be with his father. These statements of faith have provided comfort and confidence for millions of Christians, and they will continue to do so.

As Christians we should be willing to recognize and respect other systems of spiritual faith. Those who seek a closer relationship with God (by whatever name that is familiar to them) may choose to follow the testaments of other theologies (Buddhist or Hindu, for example). In addition, we must recognize and respect the fact that belief systems are not static. The accumulation of human knowledge will always act to transform theology and philosophy.

Twenty-first century Christians may choose to have alternative beliefs about the nature of God, the importance of spiritual connection in prayer and meditation, and the divinity of Jesus Christ. We may choose to believe God is an unseen - but ever present - spiritual force with whom we are able to connect through meditation and prayer, and we may be more comfortable with the concept God is actually a unity of Father, Mother and Holy Spirit. Given the historical circumstances, it is logical to believe Jesus was born a human, was influenced by the presence of God throughout his entire life, thought of God as a father (who art in heaven), and became one with the conscious power (energy) of God through prayer and meditation – a path we seek to follow.

No matter what one may choose to believe, in the end we are drawn to meditate on the spirit behind these theological beliefs. We are created as individuals. The beliefs of one may not be right for another. We are, each one of us, challenged to find our own way to God. As my father has said, “Seek and Ye shall find.” If we want to find God, and his son, we must look for them through prayer and meditation.

It is worth the effort.


February 21, 2015

Was Jesus the Son of God?

Virgin Birth

For most Christians, the birth of Christ to a Virgin Mary is a wonderfully uplifting and spiritually thrilling story. It represents the excitement of new life, the promise of renewed confidence, and a living proof of God’s love. It is perfectly logical. If God can create heaven and earth, he certainly can create a pregnancy.

But there are doubts about Matthew’s story.

It is only found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. The concept of a virgin birth does not appear in Mark, considered by scholars to be the first Gospel to be written, nor does it appear in John, which focuses on the theology of Christ’s mission. In the older Masoretic text Mary is simply referred to as a “young woman”. Paul tells us Jesus was “born of a woman” (not a virgin), and “born under the law” (that means Paul believed the birth of Jesus complied with contemporary Jewish custom and was the result of natural human copulation). The original text of Isaiah uses the word ‘almah” to describe a young woman who might or might not be a virgin. A later Greek version of the New Testament translated the word almah into parthenos, the Greek word for "virgin". We may never know the source or purpose of this translation.

Matthew’s story creates a conundrum. If the quasi biological son of God comes into our physical universe, lives here for 33 years, suffers the humiliation and suffering of crucifixion, and proves his superiority by resurrection, then what does that prove? It proves that the son of God can go back to heaven. It does not prove that man can enter the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, if a loving God adopts Jesus the man and brings him back to life through the miracle of resurrection, then one cannot deny the truth and resounding power of his message. It proves there is a path to heaven for ordinary mortals.

Then there is the biological argument. Sorry guys, the female egg is more important than a male sperm in the process of creation. Embryos develop from a single cell called a zygote, which is created when the sperm fuses with an egg. Human male sperm contributes 23 chromosomes (packets of genetic material), including the chromosome that will determine the sex of the baby, its centrioles, and a half nucleus. The female egg contributes Bottom of Formmost of the organelles, 23 chromosomes, half the nucleus, and the material to support the development of the zygote into a fetus.

This raises two interesting speculative questions:

  1.        If God wanted to create a son within the womb of a human woman, would he implant the egg, the sperm, or both?
  2.        If God wanted to make sure Mary would give birth to a perfect son, why wouldn’t he implant a perfectly formed fetus into Mary’s womb?
If God furnishes the sperm, he can ensure the result will be a male, but he cannot by this action guarantee a perfect fetus. If God provides the egg, he can make sure the elements are there to support the creation of a healthy zygote, but he still cannot be sure conception will lead to a perfect fetus. The only way God can guarantee perfection is to implant a healthy fetus into Mary’s womb.

And two more questions:

  1.        Is Matthew’s fertilization thesis driven by the contemporary cultural demand that a powerful king must have a virgin mother and a God for a father?  
  2.        And what was God’s objective?
Matthew was definitely a man on a mission. His devotion and love of Christ resonates throughout his text. He wants us to believe and he did a marvelous job. The story of the virgin birth has been the inspirational source for several million prayers, lines of text, and sermons; thousands of paintings and graphic representations; and hundreds of songs and poems. The concept of a virgin birth has become a fundamental construct of traditional Christian theology.

Despite this success however, there remains the nagging suspicion that Matthew created the story of the Virgin Birth in order to elevate Jesus above other kings and emperors.  We have to admit this was a very common practice in ancient Rome. The intent was to extoll the superiority of a ruler over the value of the rabble in a highly structured class system. Should we believe Jesus would have been appalled by the sweeping claims of Matthew’s narrative?

The Adoption Thesis

We can choose to believe the story of a virgin birth. By eliminating the confusion of Mathew’s claim Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, it is perfectly credible. However, there is an alternative description of his birth. Called the adoption thesis, it tells us Jesus became so close to God, the Holy Spirit felt compelled to “adopt” him as a son. It is both a credible and natural explanation of his life. We must remember, the term “begotten son”, which implies physical fatherhood, was an invention of early Church fathers. Jesus never said he was the son of God in the physical sense. Instead he made the point God is our spiritual father (who art in heaven), and the creator of all life.

The New Testament fails to describe anything about the life of Jesus from the time he was 12 or 13 to the beginning of his ministry at age ~ 30. Called the unknown years, the silent years, or the missing years, there has been considerable speculation about what happened to him during this period. Did he travel? Did he work in another country? Did he study other religions? Or was he, as the Bible appears to tell us, a simple carpenter all his adult life? And if this is the case, what were the events that changed this ordinary carpenter into God’s passionate messenger?

It does not seem probable his god/man status could be kept a secret for 30 years through all the adventures of childhood, the challenges of being a pre-teen, growing up as a teenager, and then becoming a recognized member of the community. Are we to believe he was oblivious to the lure of hormone driven sex or the temptation to use his powers in a fit of human frustration? Or is it more logical Jesus lived the life of a mortal boy, grew up to be a man, matured intellectually, gained in wisdom, and then developed a very close relationship with God?

We do not acquire the passion of personal commitment as the result of a sterile intellectual exercise. A genuine compassion for others is seldom the result of an indifferent analysis of human circumstances. We become passionate about our mission and compassionate in our understanding of human character by experiencing both in our one-on-one encounters with family, friends, and community. If we are the sum of all our experiences, then our attitudes and energies will be shaped by our participation in this thing we call human life.

God had a simple objective. He wanted to create a man who would carry His message to humanity. By guiding and watching over Jesus throughout his childhood and adult life, God brought forth a man of vision and integrity.  We can believe Jesus was both passionate about his mission and compassionate toward others because he led a very human life with all its joys, sorrows, triumphs, and tragedies. His ministry was that of a man who had experienced the breadth of human life. He had an absolute empathy for the people of Judea. He became the man who would carry God’s message to humanity.

The Connection

We will never know if God caused Mary to become pregnant or if Jesus was simply a man who developed an extraordinary relationship with God. Whether by birth or adoption, we do know God regarded Jesus as his son. God made Jesus his messenger to humanity, and gave him unusual powers. Jesus became an independent, charismatic, passionate and very intelligent man who was comfortable in almost any gathering. His disciples obviously viewed him as a leader. His character was not that of a recluse. He had a strong and commanding persona. His demeanor, teaching, and beliefs obviously placed him next to God.

In Chapter 2, Consciousness and Connection, we examined how it is possible to make a spiritual connection with God. Jesus the man made this connection when he conversed with the Holy Father. The depth of the connection surpasses anything most humans ever hope to achieve.

Whether one chooses to believe the traditional story of a virgin birth, or feels more comfortable with the adoption thesis, we know there is only one God, a remarkable divine person, who reveals himself in many ways, including as father, son and Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascended to the Kingdom of God for the last time, he became one with the Holy Spirit in both form and intellect. Thereafter, Jesus was God and God was Jesus. But he is not lost to us. As many have experienced, one can summon the presence of Jesus in human form through earnest prayer. The Holy Spirit is able to reveal himself as Jesus, a prophet, a deceased friend or relative, a respected person, and even as a spiritual force whose presence we are able to sense but not see. We need only to seek a spiritual union with the divine. God will respond with wisdom, love and compassion.

February 15, 2015

Creation: What Really Happened?

This process of creation and destruction suggests
time has no beginning or end.


According to scientific theory, the initial state of the universe was a singularity. Then came what has been called “The Big Bang”. Our universe was created when a small, highly compressed, very hot object exploded 13.8 billion years ago. Subsequent events account for the formation of our universe.

Should we reject this hypothetical explanation of creation on the basis it is illogical?

There are, in the Christian Bible and other sacred texts, various explanations of creation. However, they were inevitably framed by the contemporary knowledge of our universe and nature that existed over 2500 years ago.

Are these explanations any more logical than scientific theory?

If, as many believe, human knowledge of the Cosmos and our universe has been frequently inspired by God’s wisdom, then does it not seem logical that we can – and should – base our perception of creation on contemporary 21st century knowledge? Or should we reject God’s effort to inspire us with a greater comprehension of our creation?

Perhaps it is time to consider our obligation.
If God wants to speak to us, we should listen.



We need to distinguish between the Cosmos and a universe. As Carl Sagan, astronomer and astral chemist put it: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” When we speak of the Cosmos, we are referring to something that is larger and more complex than a single universe. By contrast, a universe is “all that exists within a single set of space time dimensions.” The Cosmos includes multiple universes, each in its own space time dimension. The Cosmos, by these two definitions, embraces everything there was, is and will be. It includes multiple universes of differing size and characteristics. Each universe is a separate reality. The laws that govern the activity of energy, matter and mass differ from one universe to the next. The characteristics of a specific universe may influence the characteristics of one or more other universes. And if there are physical universes, there may also be parallel non-physical universes.


The Big Bang

According to popular theory, the initial state of our known universe was a singularity. Nothing existed. No matter. No energy. No gas. No life. Space was either an empty void, or did not exist. Cosmologists believe our physical universe was created when a small, highly compressed, very hot, object exploded over 13 billion years ago. This event is called “The Big Bang”.

After the “Big Bang”, it took about 300,000 years for atoms of hydrogen and helium to form. Light was released. As the universe continued to expand, primordial matter began to appear. The creation of these components was followed by the formation of larger structures that would eventually become galaxies. These events also spawned the physical chemical elements of the universe as well as the elements of organic chemistry.

That’s what cosmologists and most of the scientific community accept as fact. The idea that the universe was created by God has been firmly, sometimes vociferously, rejected. The U. S. National Academy of Sciences has stated “creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science.” Even the Supreme Court of the United States, in the 1987 case of Edwards v. Aguillard, determined this explanation of creation was correct.

But there are problems with the “Big Bang” explanation. This theory describes what happened, but does not explain the pre-existing condition that gave birth to the “explosion”. It is an interesting theory; and a credible theory. But it is incomplete. Here is a sample of the enigmas which challenge this explanation:

·       Although there are several theories, physicists and cosmologists have been unable to explain why temperature and matter are uniform from one end of the universe to the other. In addition, they are puzzled by the fact that the universe appears to be expanding faster and faster. Do these two problems suggest perhaps science does not know all there is to know about the creation of the universe?
·       Science has been unable to explain the existence of alternative forms of energy and matter. What is the strange kind of energy named quintessence that permeates the entire universe? What is “Dark Matter” and why does it exist? What is “Dark Energy” and what does it do? The existence of these phenomena can only be inferred by observation. They have not, as yet, been tested directly by the methods of science. Could they be a veil in the space time continuum between our universe and a different universe?
·       Most of the time, we humans can only experience four dimensions: the spatial dimensions of up/down, right/left, backward/forward, and the fourth dimension of time. Does that limitation obscure the reality of additional dimensions of both space and time? We have been able to “discover” phenomena which are invisible to our natural senses. They exist. We “found” them when we had the right tools.
·       Organic matter exists everywhere in the Cosmos. All life – plant and animal – has a common heritage and is composed of the same elements of organic chemistry. The structural similarity of most animal life on our planet suggests a cohesive force that laid out the rules of development. Proponents of unthinking evolution believe life is the result of a random process that combined just the right combinations of several million bits of matter and energy at just the right time and in precisely the right order. But could life be the result of deliberate design? Does that seem more logical?
·       When science carefully examines the facts of living organisms, it becomes evident that life – as we know it – would not exist on our planet if the laws of nature were slightly different. Called the anthropic principle, it is clear the characteristics of our planet are “just right” to support human life. Our planet, for example, is just the right distance from our sun. Any closer and the earth would be too hot. Any further away, and it would be too cold to support life. Was there an intelligent conscious intention to set our planet just the right distance from the sun?
·       A rock cannot create a rock. A rock cannot create life. A rock cannot think. Yet, our physical universe would not exist without the process of creation, and the act of creation infers the existence of consciousness. Does the existence of consciousness require intelligence?
·       Some astrophysicists are willing to consider the possibility time and space are infinite. One scientific theory of what happened before the “Big Bang” is this: There are multiple inflating bubbles in an infinitely large metaverse (Cosmos) which has no beginning and no end. If two bubbles collide, inflation would occur resulting in a singularity (Big Bang) in (possibly) both universes. But this thesis raises other questions about space, time and other dimensions.

There are many more unanswered questions. Possible answers come from cosmology, physics, and quantum mechanics. But the firm belief that our universe started with a “Big Bang” appears to be less credible.

The “Big Bang” theory for the origin
of energy, matter life or species
is not science
because it is not fully testable by the methods of science.

On the other hand, many intellectuals have refused to even consider if there is a way to test the theory that God is the creator of the Cosmos.

What a shame.


Multiple Universes

Scientists are more comfortable when they are dealing with the physical. Consequently, science has focused on discovering the characteristics and laws of our physical universe. Or perhaps one could more accurately say: the characteristics and laws of our perceived physical universe. This of course presents us with a conundrum: What if everything in our perceived universe is NOT physical? What if the reality we can perceive is influenced by realities we cannot detect? Would we reject their existence because they do not appear to be in our physical reality?

The scientific method relies on physical proof in order to confirm theory. Proof depends on human observation, mathematical calculation, or measurements using increasingly sophisticated instruments. Empirical science excludes non-physical (or spiritual) information because it is not thought to be rational. But as we make new discoveries, we are finding science cannot continue its exploration of reality unless it is willing to deal with unconventional non-physical theory. Wisdom, intelligence, and consciousness, for example, are obviously not materialistic. It is irrational to believe the natural universe created itself. It is becoming irrational to believe all physical phenomena exist only in the universe which we can easily experience.

Sound far out? The theory and discovery of atomic structure can be traced back to Democritus ~ 442 B.C., Coulomb ~ 1785, John Dalton ~ 1803, J.J. Thomson ~ 1898, and many other scientists who were exploring the phenomena of our reality. Until early in the 20th century, most humans denied the existence of the atom. No one could see atoms, so therefore they did not exist. Public awareness of atomic theory began to emerge in the 1930s. It became a subject of great interest in 1945. Atomic theory has now become accepted fact, and has progressed way beyond anything anyone – including the original proponents – could have imagined 130 years ago. And why did scientists discover the atom?

Because: they looked for the atom.

We want to believe we live in an observable Cosmos. But if we want to be intellectually honest, we must ask ourselves a key question:

If we are unable to “sense” other universes in our Cosmos,
does that merely demonstrate
we do not have the ability to sense other universes?

And does the failure of observation really prove they do not exist?


The Black Hole Creation Hypothesis

Theories of multiple universes, multiple dimensions, and energy in forms we have yet to recognize (let alone understand) pose an interesting challenge. Can they be linked to explain the origins of our perceived physical universe? The answer is yes. Quantum theory and the Multiverse Hypothesis suggest there is more than one universe in our Cosmos. We need only add one more observed phenomenon:

- Black holes.

Our black hole creation hypothesis starts with the probability there are multiple universes in the Cosmos. Each one is unique in time and space. Then we add contemporary astronomical observation.

Cosmologists have observed “Black Holes” in the universe whose gravitational pull is so strong that even light cannot escape being pulled down into a seemingly limitless vortex. But where do the black holes go? Do they eject the accumulated energy, light, and matter back into our universe? Or do they create a new singularity in another universe? Is it possible there are “white” holes at the opposite end of (some) black holes? Could they be the physical counterpart of (some) black holes? Does the stuff of a universe travel through the vortex of a black hole and reemerge into a different universe? If white holes exist as opposite ends of some black holes, then more than one physical universe is possible.

Will science always reject the possibility our universe was created when an incredibly large black hole developed in another universe? Did all the original source material for our universe come from another universe? A white hole that expels into a different universe would need a huge source of “stuff” from the parent universe, and the transfer would take millions of years. A source black hole may be unstable. Is it not logical the white hole from whence our universe came eventually collapsed and disappeared? Or is it out there, waiting to be discovered?

It would appear this is a better explanation of the sequence of subsequent events and the huge volume of “material” that constitutes our perceived universe. It would also appear current scientific theories about gravity and light, the fundamental building blocks of matter, and the characteristics of energy we have developed would not need “drastic” alteration. Only the source of the “big bang” is different. Furthermore, in another dimension, the speed of light may not be a limitation of distance traveled per unit of time, and the laws that govern how things work may also be different. That means the “genetic” makeup of the original flow from another universe could have been quite different from its evolved current state in our perceived universe.

The creation, expansion, function, and collapse of black and white holes appear to be a natural and continuing process of our Cosmos. These cosmological events may occur in many different universes.

As difficult as it is for western intellectual philosophy to understand,
this process of creation and destruction also suggests
 time has no beginning or end.

There was no “beginning” in the sense the “stuff” of our universe never existed before creation. It was simply located in another universe. Our universe was created by a black hole “event” which transferred matter and energy into our universe from a different universe. We may not understand all the mechanics, but the process of discovery promises to be exciting.

Is it possible that during this century, science will confirm the existence of multiple universes? In order to discuss the beginning of our universe, do we need a theory which combines General Relativity with quantum theory? Will the role of black holes in the process of creation and destruction of individual universes become a challenge for future scientific study?

This hypothesis is certain to be the genesis of many thoughtful discussions (and occasionally rancorous debates).


What about Tradition?

One cannot deny the immense size and complexity of our perceived universe, nor is there any rational reason for doubting it is very, very old.

So: what about the traditional Christian views of creation?

These views were made in good faith by men who were doing their evaluations based on then-current knowledge about our universe (the Heavens). There was no way for them to have a more sophisticated understanding of astrophysics, nor would they have been able to comprehend the meaning of a more complex explanation of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae, black holes, and so on. And even if they had known everything there is to know about creation and the structure of our universe, the general population would have thought they were crazy. So a simple explanation best served the then current extents of sophistication, knowledge and theology. God was the source of inspiration, but God wisely explained the universe to our ancestors in terms they could understand.

With God’s help (including moments of divine inspiration), we have gradually developed more sophisticated tools to examine, measure, and understand our physical surroundings. With this progress has come a series of hypothetical ideas to explain how our universe was created. God will continue to reveal the truth of our physical and non-physical reality as we pursue our exploration of the universe.

We should always be open to new discovery.