Things I’m Asked: How will the universe end?

The apostle Paul makes a bold claim. He says that the marvels of the cosmos and the ordered reality of life on Earth were designed to encourage us to reach out to God. He said that God created this order so that people, ‘would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us’ (Acts 17:27).

So … I invite you to reach out. I do so because all the evidence suggests that there will be an ending. You will physically end. And interestingly, so will our solar system. Scientists tell us that our sun will die in 4.5 billion years’ time. If you manage to escape to another solar system, you are not out of the woods, because the universe itself is due to die and fade away in what is known as “heat death”.

The British astrophysicist and theologian, David Wilkinson, writes about how non-Christian scientists are feeling about a world without hope. In his book, Christian Eschatology and the Physical Universe, he says: ‘This end of Universe in the heat death of futility raises a great deal of pessimism within the scientific community.’[i] Certainly, the 20th-century atheistic philosopher, Bertrand Russell, didn’t express much hope. He said:

The world which science presents for our belief is even more purposeless, and more void of meaning …all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction … and the whole temple of man’s achievements must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.[ii]

Science has uncovered the fact that time is linear. It has a beginning and an end. This reality forces us to face the reality of both our beginning (why we exist), and our ending (have we lived the purpose for which we were created?).

The British cosmologist, Paul Davies, echoes this sentiment and says: An ‘almost empty universe growing steadily more cold and dark for all eternity is profoundly depressing.’[iii]

The huge question each of us needs to answer is: Why does anything exist if it’s all just going to end? What on earth are we here for?

The Bible makes it clear that this is a question God expects us to ask. The apostle Paul says that it is reasonable for people to look at existence, ponder its meaning, and let it introduce them to the possibility of God (Romans 1:19-20).

Science has uncovered the fact that time is linear. It has a beginning and an end. This reality forces us to face the reality of both our beginning (why we exist), and our ending (have we lived the purpose for which we were created?). The option of lazily shrugging our shoulders and saying that everything is meaningless is not a stance that has much rational credence. There is simply too much order in the cosmos, with many of its forces tuned to the level of many trillionths of a degree so as to allow life, to believe that everything is meaningless. It is hard to believe that everything came from nothing, as a result of nothing, via a mechanism that has never been discovered and for which there is no precedent – and which fractures the law of ‘cause and effect’ that underpins all of science. To believe that, is I suspect, simply the wilful hubris of people not liking the idea of letting God be the leader of their lives.

Unless your “world view” has something sensible to say about your origins, your purpose, and your ending, then I respectfully suggest you have some honest thinking to do. Rather sadly, modern philosophy may not prove much help. This is because modern philosophers have generally adopted atheism as their foundational core belief. As a result, they are unable to give humankind any grounds for knowing its identity, meaning, truth, or hope. They can only offer silence when it comes to the big questions of life. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has resulted in philosophy’s relevance fading in the West.

Constrained by its atheistic prison, modern philosophy has only done two things: First: it has stopped asking questions about the big issues of identity, meaning and values, and has concentrated on bickering about the rules of logical thought. In other words, today’s philosophers have turned philosophy into a sterile academic mind game. And who cares about that! Second: because modern philosophy has concluded that life is meaningless and that there is no such thing as truth, nothing is inherently good or sacred. This, of course, gives modern philosophers the mandate to “do their own thing”. If you read modern philosophers such as Nietzsche, Sartre and Foucault, it is difficult to escape the conviction that they designed their philosophy to cater for their sexual addictions.

In the early 20th century, a reformed alcoholic, Arthur Stace, wrote the word, “Eternity”, over half a million times on Sydney footpaths. That one word embodied more useful philosophy than given by most modern philosophers. And the big question is: are you ready for it?

 

[i]    David Wilkinson , Christian Eschatology and the Physical Universe, (London: T&T CLARK, 2010), 21.

[ii]   Bertrand Russell, “The Free Man’s Worship,” The Independent Review 1 (Dec 1903), 415-424. Title of essay changed after 1910 to “A Free Man’s Worship.”

[iii]   Paul Davies, “Eternity: Who Needs it?” pp. 41-52 in The Far-Future Universe, George Ellis (ed.), (London: Templeton Foundation Press, 2002), 48.

Dr Nick Hawkes is a scientist, pastor, apologist, writer and broadcaster. He also describes himself as an absent-minded, slightly obsessive man who is pathetically weak due to cancer and chemo, who has experienced, and needs to experience, the grace of God each day.

Nick has written a book Soar above the Storm in which he draws on his experience of cancer to encourage anyone walking through a storm in life to find rest and hope in God. It offers a 40-day retreat to be refreshed and strengthened and find deep peace in God. Order it at Koorong.

He blogs and records podcasts at nickhawkes.net

Nick told his life story to Eternity https://www.eternitynews.com.au/good-news/deadly-storms-heroin-addicts-cancer-and-my-faith/