Re: clarification request from Re: Van Till's Ultimate Gap

From: George Murphy (
Date: Sun Sep 07 2003 - 06:50:18 EDT

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    Howard J. Van Till wrote:
    > >From: George Murphy <>
    > > Cosmologists would normally say that with any sort of cyclic model like the
    > > recent one of Steinhardt & Turok, our "world" (or "universe") has always
    > > existed in the
    > > sense that there has been some continuity of matter/energy or something
    > > from one cycle
    > > to another. This is really no more than is done in saying that our
    > > world/universe is the
    > > same one that passed through a fireball stage ~14 x 10^9 years ago. This
    > would be
    > > distinguished from the various ideas of parallel worlds such as Everett &c.
    > >
    > > So which scenario does Griffin have in mind? If it's the first type then
    > it's a
    > > stretch to contrast his picture with the idea that "our world" has existed
    > > eternally.
    > > In an important sense it has. Even if our world is periodically returned
    > > to a chaotic
    > > condition of some sort, there is still something that persists between cycles.
    > George,
    > Thanks for the commentary. Your question points to the need for Griffin to
    > be in closer contact with cosmologists so that some of his theological
    > concerns (rooted in theology's long interaction with the Greek philosophical
    > tradition) could be informed by what is happening in cosmological theorizing
    > today. As I recall, Griffin has in mind something different from a cyclic
    > model -- more like a radical, God-devised transformation from "something" to
    > "something else," without the same kind of continuity that cyclic models
    > presume.
    > [skip a bit]
    > > Perhaps my claim that there must be a continuity of _something_ between
    > cycles,
    > > & thus that we must speak of the same world existing, will be challenged.
    > > But consider
    > > the alternative. If there is absolutely no continuity between cycles then
    > > at the end of
    > > a cycle the previous world must cease to exist, & the new world must be
    > created ex
    > > nihilo. & Griffin doesn't want that.
    > Right. That's why I used the word "transformation" as an alternative to
    > "creation ex nihilo."

            Trans-form means literally to change the form of something - with the
    implication that "something" remains.

            Griffin wants to have it both ways, to reject both creatio ex nihilo and the
    eternity of our world. & quite apart from my own theological position, I don't see how
    you can do both in a meaningful way.

            But I'd also add that focusing on the question of whether or not our world (or
    the WORLD) has had a temporal beginning deflects attention from the basic theological
    question. As we touched on in discussing Aquinas, it would be possible (not worrying
    for a moment about biblical texts) to say that the universe has always existed in
    eternal dependence on God alone, & call that creatio ex nihilo. But process theology
    (unless it's radically reworked) can't do that. For process thought individual
    phenomena are not determined by God alone, & that certainly must be true for
    the entire universe. The rejection of creatio ex nihilo goes deeper than a denial that
    the universe had a beginning of time.


    George L. Murphy

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