One the Second Day of creation week, God said,
“Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. (Genesis 1: 6-8)
The Hebrew word usually translated firmament ( raqia ) strongly suggests an originally super dense medium stretched out very thin (“like a tent”) on the second day of creation week. This means that what God created on Day One and Two was time, matter, energy, and space (the aether). These are the building blocks from which He constructed the universe evidently.
A careful examination of Biblical references to the terms “firmament,” “the heavens” and “the heavenly places” and how they are used will show that the Bible depicts the spiritual realm as more solid, more substantial, more permanent than the present, observable, material world. When God created the universe he created it “two-storied.” (Ref. 7) The spiritual realm is where the angels dwell. It is a so much more solid and substantial and permanent than our fading material world, that we can best describe ourselves as ghosts in a shadow-like world surrounded and embedded in the more substantial world of the spirit.
This view of heaven is beautifully portrayed by CS Lewis in his fictional study The Great Divorce . Thinking of heaven as more solid that the material world suggests the aether is intensely solid with objects in the physical world being akin to voids in the plenum of space. It is as if we had come full circle all the way back to Descartes!
If the vacuum is not no-thing , what is the aether made of? It can not be pure spirit or even “condensed spirit” or we would be flirting with pantheism, because God is a Spirit, the angels and men are created spirits and each of these is a “life-form.” The aether is not alive. The aether does appears to have real metric properties which can change as space is expanded or contracted, yet it appears to be a substance that is more a part of the created spiritual world than a tangible physical substance.
Is the aether the substrate, the boundary layer between our physical material world and the created world of the spirit (called in Scripture “the heavenly places”)? This is probably not an unreasonable working hypothesis.
The Bible does speak of God as “the ground of all being” in that He is not only “above” but also “below.” In a famous address to the philosophers of Athens in the First Century, the Apostle Paul confronted them with a challenge to their existing polytheism,
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one [man, ie, Adam] every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for `In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, [Jesus] and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31)
Let us take a small leap of faith at this point. Assuming the universe is indeed “two storied” and not “one storied” as the Bible teaches, then surrounding us there exists a real and “substantial” spiritual world. Our material world is in fact embedded in the spiritual. The two realms are coupled, and the Source of all things is in the spiritual world,
“By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear .” (Hebrews 11:3)
“…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ” (2 Cor. 4:18)
“Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end.” (Psalm 102:25-27)
Since, as we have already seen, Colossians and Hebrews credit Jesus with holding all things together and with sustaining the entire universe “with His mighty word of power,” then it is possible that the apparent vast reservoir modern scientists perceive as being an inherent, resident power potential of the vacuum—a property of “empty space” itself has its source in the Upper Story of the universe. That is, it is the power of God Himself we now feebly glimpse, or “see through the glass darkly.” This power is seen at the boundary between two worlds, the physical and spiritual.
From behind the curtains of our present world, God supplies not only force but it would seem He also supplies also vast amounts of energy to sustain the Creation. In more ways than one we owe not only only lives but the moment by moment sustenance of the physical universe to His energetic involvement, both now discernible in the conceptual understanding modern physics has given us. Knowing the Creator personally gives us every reason to feel secure and to stand in awe of Almighty God who has by no means left us alone in the cosmos–it’s very existence is a direct expression of His power and His will.
Surely therefore we must stand in awe of our great God and Creator, along with the Psalmist who wrote,
“O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it; for his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!” (Psalm 95:1-7)
References and Notes
1. A History of the Theories of the Aether and Electricity, by Sir Edmund Whittaker. Dover Publications, New York, 1989. 2 Volumes.
2. Thomas G. Barnes, Space Medium ,. Geo/Space research Foundation, El Paso, 1986. The mysterious properties of the aether as a medium are discussed in this excellent book by a well known Christian physicist.
3. The Classical Vacuum, by Timothy H. Boyer, Sci. Am. (August 1985) is a very good review of the history of the vacuum in classical physics.
4. Is the vacuum really empty?, by Walter Greiner and Joseph Hamilton, Am. Sci. Mar-Apr. 1980.
5. A detailed discussion of modern views of the aether, pro and con are to be found in a book by Ken Seto, Model Mechanics: A New Interpretation of Nature. KHS Publishing, PO Box 275, Englewood, OH 45322-0275, 1-800-519-0149 (USA Only). For a comparison of different views of the aether see Two Views on the Aether, by Ken Seto . Ross Tessian has recently proposed some fascinating new views of the aether which have been gathered from various newsgroups for the reader’s convenience. Fort a brief summary and additional references see Amara Gaps, Ether: What is it? Various models of space-time are well described in The Speed of Light – A Limit on Principle? (By Laro Schatzer, Swiss Physicist)
6. Physicist Dr. Hal E. Putoff, formerly of SRI International and the University of Texas at Austin, writes and speaks eloquently on the topic of the Vacuum and Zero-Point Energy.See “Quantum Vacuum Fluctuations: A New Rosetta Stone of Physics?” , Everything for Nothing , and The Energetic Vacuum: Implications For Energy Research.
Putoff and others note that the “vacuum” is a vast reservoir of seething energy out of which particles are being formed and annihilated constantly. The energy potentials in the vacuum are staggering, but most of the time the forces involved balance each other out. However Putoff notes that energy from the vacuum may be flowing into every atom in the universe from the vacuum at a rate that balances the energy radiated away by electrons, because electrons orbiting atomic nuclei are supposed to radiate in classical theory. (For more on ZPE see for instance, A Foundation for the Unification of Physics , by Paul Stowe)
6. Professor Rupert Sheldrake, former director of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Cambridge University, was recently featured in an interview along with the former Dominican priest, Matthew Fox conducted by Richard Scheinn, Religion and Ethics Writer for the San Jose Mercury News (Ref. 4-6.) In the course of the discussion Sheldrake said the following,
The whole of nature and all the universe is supposed to have come forth from what we call the vacuum, or the vacuum state. It’s not just empty space, as you would form by sucking everything out of a vessel. The vacuum in quantum theory is a plenitude of potentiality from which virtual particles are emanating all the time spontaneously, and then being absorbed back.
The vacuum state underlies everything in the universe, and is the ground of all being. If you say to modern cosmologists, “How did the whole universe come from nothing, with the Big Bang?” they tend to talk in terms of a fluctuation in the vacuum. But by “in the vacuum” they don’t mean total emptiness. They mean such overflowing fullness, that just a fluctuation in it can give rise to an entire universe. The vacuum is this primal, undifferentiated potentiality, and it corresponds rather closely to the Godhead.
Now, as you say, there’s also dark matter, which is not the vacuum state. Dark matter is more differentiated than the vacuum and is supposed to have a kind of existence which is invisible to us, but is reflected in its gravitational force. Ninety to 99 percent of the universe is supposed to be made up of it. And this is what I compare to the discovery of the cosmic unconscious.
Because just as our conscious minds are now recognized to be part of a vastly larger unconscious mental system, so the visible and detectable universe that science has been studying all these years, turns, out to be floating on a sea of dark matter, which is like the cosmic unconscious…
Sheldrake’s thoughts could be easily construed to suggest that he adheres to a Hindu or similar pantheistic world view. In pantheism, everything is God or an extension of God.God is all that there is. See the San Jose (California) Mercury News, October 14, 1995. San Jose Mercury News and Rupert Sheldrake, The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and of God, Park Street Press, One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767, 1994. Sheldrake is clearly fascinated with Christianity, and New Age religion in general, breaking with the prevailing secular humanism in the academic world.
This is an excellent book and highly recommended. Also, his Seven Experiments That Could Change the World: A Do-It Yourself Guide to Revolutionary Science, by Rupert Sheldrake, Riverhead Books, New York, 1995. The author is a former research fellow at the Royal Society and former directory of studies in biochemistry and cell biology at Cambridge University. Chapter Six is a discussion of the possible variability of the “Fundamental Constants.” His statistical analyses are not in-depth, however he raises important fundamental questions concerning the constants of physics.
7. Theologian and philosopher Frances Schaeffer several decades ago provided us with a brilliant analysis of the changes in Western Civilization in the past two hundred years.Schaeffer showed that the older world view held to a “two-storied” universe, but that modern, modern man now believes the universe has only one story. In other words, prior to the Darwinian revolution and the period known as the Enlightenment, “everyone” assumed there was both a material universe and a spiritual universe.
This tacit assumption that God and His angels were in the heavens, and man was on the earth—was reflected in music, art, literature, philosophy and theology pretty much throughout the western world.Gradually this world view was replaced, step by step, with the present views of secular humanism and scientific naturalism.
The universe is now believed to have only one story.That is, the spiritual world does not exist or is irrelevant. God probably does not exist, or if he does, He does not interact in any way with the universe today. At most He was possibly a “First Cause” but beyond that need not be considered. The physical world is all there is and man will eventually be able to explain everything on a purely naturalistic basis.
Of course, in our time this view is mostly encastled in the leading universities and think tanks. The general public continues to hold to “archaic” religious views. In fact an increasing number of respected scientists is calling for a re-examination of atheistic materialism in favor of a non-Christian but definitely spiritual world-view, commonly called “the New Age Philosophy.” See also, T he Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian World view , Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois 1982.
8. As shown in a separate essays, The Limits of Science , and What is Revelation from God? , science is limited to investigations within the material, physical world. For information on the realities of the spiritual world, we depend upon “revelation.” It is God who gives us clear information about this realm. Contrasting the best of human wisdom and scientific information, with the revelation that comes from God to all who trust Jesus Christ as Lord, Paul says the following,
“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,’ God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.
The unspiritual [natural] man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (2 Cor. 2:6-16)
A fourth great passage concerning Jesus and His place in creation is found in Revelation Chapter 1,
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
Here Jesus is called “the Alpha and Omega,” “the First and the Last.” Not only is Jesus the Son of God to be found at the beginning of history, He also stands at the end of history and at the end of every life. He is the Judge of all, and He is the heir of all things.
Truth from science must in the long run must agree with Biblical revelation, if the Bible is true. If the Bible “says what it means and means what it says” (to quote Chuck Missler) then it is Jesus who holds the universe in his hands. Our moment-by-moment existence depends on His gracious sustenance of every electron, every atom, every molecule and every spiritual entity as well.
What Holds The Universe? by Lambert Dolphin www.ldolphin.org/cohere.shtml