Window View thanks Fred Heeren for his permission to present this excerpt from his book (see details and web link at the end of this page).
Facts That Changed Three Minds
By Fred Heeren
The following is excerpted with this understanding: Fred Heeren is a science journalist who covers breaking science stories with the following goals: to get as close to the evidence as possible, to report it clearly, and to infect his readers with the joy of discovery. Heeren's writing has sometimes touched upon the dialogue between people of science and people of faith, showing that science and religion are separate realms. However, Heeren encourages people of faith to take the dates and data of science seriously. Heeren believes that people of faith should not try to scientifically prove God. After all, if science had such a power, what worth would faith have? Heeren says that science is powerless to coerce either belief or unbelief. But the sense of wonder it excites in people of all beliefs may inspire them to further investigations beyond science, in philosophical or religious realms.
It will perhaps be said that the conclusion to be drawn from these arguments from modern science, is that religion first became possible for a reasonable scientific man about the year 1927. - Sir Arthur Eddington
In 1917 traditional schools of thought had convinced three great thinkers that the Bible was untrue. In that year Albert Einstein published a paper interpreting his own general theory of relativity, making it conform to the unquestioned cosmology of his day: the static universe theory. Static universe cosmology claimed that the universe is infinite in age, thus relieving the scientific community of having to deal with questions about the ultimate origin of the cosmos. According to the consensus among astronomers, stars drifted about randomly, without apparent direction toward or away from us. The nebulae were gas clouds that belonged to our own galaxy. And the Milky Way Galaxy was the universe. Einstein was so convinced that these views were correct that he added what is now known as a cosmological ''fudge factor'' to his theory in order to make it fit this favored cosmology.1
In the same year, young American archaeologist William F. Albright was completing his indoctrination into German rationalistic criticism, including the Documentary Hypothesis, which taught that most of the Old Testament's ''history'' before the Israelite monarchy was simply legend invented about a thousand years after the supposed events. According to this approach, stories about patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could not have been preserved from as early as the Bronze Age. In 1918 Albright wrote an article about the mythical elements in the stories of the patriarchs, citing the Genesis 14 account of Abraham's military campaign. He concluded that the story was actually written as a political tract to rally support for the Jewish cause against the Persians, over a thousand years after the events portrayed.
And in 1917 C.S. Lewis, a young British army lieutenant fighting in World War I, turned from simple atheism to a harder-boiled atheism that would no longer brook any romantic delusions. Though his singular abilities in language, literature, and philosophy won him many honors in subsequent years at Oxford, his appreciation of all ''sentimental'' notions in the Greek and Latin literature he read was tempered by his materialistic world-view. Lewis's realism admitted nothing that could not be perceived by the senses. He did not yet have a doctorate to prove his training in a school of historical criticism, but he held what he believed to be the intellectual's position: that religious faith was only for uneducated, unthinking people.
During the 1920s, all three of these men had their minds changed by facts of their own discovery. In Einstein's case, the discovery had already been made back in 1915 when he had worked out his general relativity equations. And though he would not yet face the implications of his theory, other great thinkers—Eddington, Friedmann, de Sitter, and Lemaitre—all found that solving Einstein's field equations demanded that the universe could not be indefinitely old, but that it must have had a beginning. A universe with a beginning requires a Beginner, making it difficult to reconcile with atheism or pantheism, while pointing most naturally to a Creator that exists outside the universe.
The initial reaction of the scientific community was typified by Arthur Eddington's admission: ''Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me.'' Yet his own investigations into the new field of quantum physics had convinced him that the evidence for ''a universal Mind or Logos'' was so strong that it might tempt some to promote a scientifically-based faith to the exclusion of true faith. This is the context of his quote at the start of this section.
By 1927 astronomer Edwin Hubble had not only established that the nebulae contained individual stars and were themselves galaxies far outside our own galaxy, but that these galaxies were all retreating from us at high velocities. Though observable stars might be traveling in no particular direction, this turned out to be true only because they belonged to our own galaxy. Consistent redshifts in other galaxies showed them to be speeding away from us, and the most distant galaxies were retreating with the greatest velocity.
The universe was expanding and gradually decelerating, precisely as Einstein's general theory of relativity had predicted. The scientific community gradually made a 180-degree turn, from viewing the universe as infinitely old to a realization that an expanding universe required a beginning. Only after Einstein had seen Hubble's evidence for an expanding universe (and after he had looked through Hubble's 100-inch telescope for himself) did he formally renounce his cosmological ''fudge factor.'' Later he wrote that its addition to his equations had been ''the biggest blunder of my life.'' The evidence forced Einstein to admit something he once considered ''senseless'' and continued to find ''irritating.'' Obviously, the discoverer of this cosmic beginning had not been biased by any expectation of it. As a determinist and materialist, Einstein had hoped to show how the universe was self-contained, not dependent upon an outside cause.
In 1929, the same year that Hubble stirred up the scientific community by formally publishing his observations of an expanding universe, archaeologist William F. Albright discovered and excavated a line of mounds—Bronze Age cities—forming a route for a military campaign during Abraham's time just as described in Genesis 14. The cities along this route, later called ''The Way of the King,'' were no longer inhabited later, in the Iron Age. ''Experts'' had written that the entire region described had not yet been inhabited at all, and Albright admitted that he had formerly ''considered this extraordinary line of march as being the best proof of the essentially legendary character of the narrative.''
This was the beginning of many finds that eventually persuaded Albright, not only of the historicity of Genesis 14, but of the uselessness of the Documentary Hypothesis, a school of criticism that had been developed without benefit of archaeological support. Bronze Age inscriptions were found bearing the name ''Arriyuk,'' the name of the participant in the military campaign of Genesis 14; and more than this, specific names of Biblical people like Abraham, Eber, Laban, and others were found in inscriptions dating from pre-2000 B.C., demonstrating their common use in that period. Archaeological investigations further showed that Genesis described cultural practices and used technical terms that had to be dated to a time long before Moses. By 1956, Albright could write, ''There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition.''
Albright's story parallels the stories of a number of other archaeologists who were trained in schools of rationalistic criticism they later destroyed with their spades. For examples, see the account of William Ramsay, trained by the Tubingen school to believe in the late composition of the New Testament (in Volume 4)2, or the comments of Leonard Wooley, taught to believe that the Genesis flood story had been directly derived from the Babylonian legends (in Volume 3). 2
It was also in 1929 that C.S. Lewis, the renowned Oxford professor, had his atheism greatly shaken while listening to an atheist friend acknowledge evidence that pointed to the historicity of the gospel accounts: ''It almost looks as if it really happened once,'' his friend told him. Through a combination of events that year, Lewis was ''converted''—not to Christianity, but to belief in a Supreme Being. After narrowing his choices to Hinduism and Christianity, he began using his knowledge of languages and literature to make a study of the Bible, beginning with a daily reading of John's gospel in the original Greek. Lewis was amazed, later writing: ''I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this.''
At the same time that Einstein was peering through Hubble's telescope and formally admitting the implications of an expanding universe, Lewis was admitting the implications of gospel documents that had all the marks of authenticity. But Lewis went a step further than Einstein, passing from belief in a Superintellect to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, describing the experience, not as an emotional one, but saying, ''It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.''
When a mind is ready to receive them, nothing can change it like the facts. Perhaps each lifetime has its year when faith first becomes possible.
1 The ''fudge factor'' essentially held the universe in a static state with no expansion.
2 References to these volumes in Fred Heeren's series are in some cases pointing to works that are not yet published.
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With the help of today's foremost astronomers and cosmologists, Fred Heeren examines how their discoveries affect the big questions about creation, the fine-tuning of he universe, the likelihood of extraterrestrials, why we're here, and the nature of God...
This is a selected text from Mr. Heeren's book, Show Me God - What the Message from Space Is Telling Us About God. Wonders Volume 1. Excerpt is from pages vxi to xix. Fifth printing © 2000
Fred Heeren's Internet site: www.fredheeren.com