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Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration Paperback – June 1, 2004
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About the Author
Paul Copan (Ph.D., Marquette University) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is the author or editor of various books, including The Rationality of Theism. William Lane Craig (Ph.D., University of Birmingham; D.Theol., University of Munich) is research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and author or editor of several books, including Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.
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I have a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion and have published several articles in peer-reviewed philosophy and religion journals. I found Craig and Copan’s Creation Out of Nothing to be a substantial work on many fronts. Although I do not share the authors’ evangelical theology, this book is not a work about personally held beliefs as much as Biblical studies, philosophy and science. They were not dogmatic. I wish they had referenced Robert Neville’s work on creation ex nihilo.
I read this book with the interpretive lens of how theistic thinkers might present the idea of creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) in general and looking at the Big Bang. The authors make a strong case that the Big Bang could be seen as a correlate in physics of the theological idea of creation out of nothing. They tend not to make absolute claims, but talk about plausibility. They make a strong case.
The first section of the book deals with Biblical materials. They admit creation out of nothing, in those words per se, is not prominent in the Biblical text. But they contrast Biblical cosmogony with Babylonian and Platonic views. The Biblical tradition portrays God as creating by word or will and not by pre-existing material. Creation ex nihilo does seem to develop quite naturally from the Biblical perspective.
There is a detailed section on post-Biblical Christian and Jewish writers.
Then follows an interesting section of the nature of “abstract objects.” These are Platonic Ideas, universals and mathematical entities. The authors contrast Platonism with the conceptualism of Augustine. This is a very philosophical section that lay readers may want to read quickly. But I think a theory of God as creator does have to address the existence of mathematicals and ideas.
The section on physics is good, and detailed. In particular, I benefited from the clear discussion of entropy. The authors make a strong and interesting argument that: current scientific cosmology could be seen as fulfilling the demands of creation out of nothing. Both of the authors are philosophers and theists, not physicists. But, in some ways, that makes the discussion better. Their perspective is one that is clear, incisive and well-argued.
After reading the book, it would be an understatement to say that the religious energy devoted to this effort has been energy poorly spent, as they all have been maximally confusing and mutually inconsistent -- but curiously always toeing the orthodox religious line.
In fact, after trying vainly to make sense out of all of this religious ambiguity, the reader will surely discover as I did, that there is at least one heavy-hitting high level religious advocate on every side of these discussions, including on the side that warns against trying to coordinate biblical interpretation with scientifically derived facts. Of all the topics that one would think are most critical to religious beliefs -- creation out of nothing -- the reader will also discover that there is no consensus, nor even a minimally consistent biblical view?
In other words, sadly, and after 166 pages, these religious scholars' arguments curiously all remained at right angles to each other? In the end, exactly nothing was resolved!
My own conclusion is that the "religionists way of proof," that is, proof "by the fiat of divine authority," may have inadvertently hoisted them by their own petard, and thus, may have left them hanging in the wind, way out on a slippery slope, one that like one of the roads leading away from Nob Hill in San Francisco, leans steeply and precipitously downwards.
It seems to me that the best of the many religious arguments put forth here, do little more than set up a spurious dichotomy between the cosmological facts of science (i.e., the Big Bang Theory), and the theological affirmation (or is it confirmation?) of it by God through jerry-rigged, and shaky after the fact established scripture-based truths (i.e. by the fiat of divine authority as read in the scripture).
However, having set up this spurious dichotomy, I believe Kwasi Wiredu's and Hans Swartz's warnings about "not too quickly identifying religious interpretations with the temporal scientific beginnings of the universe," is well advised and correlate well with my own views. For doing so, begs the very important question of what happens when the scientific facts and theories change, as invariably they will? Does God's authority then also change? Are scriptual references then to also be updated as was the case with most of this book? If they do, then does this not simply mean that God's authority will always be "playing catch-up" to the latest scientific theories?
Since the idea of scientific proof is just the opposite of religious proof -- that is to say, it does NOT just sit back and defend forever singularly established scientific facts, truths, or theories, but instead, it puts them all through the most rigorous of scientific tests: the test of falsification.
Like religionists, scientists too do start out with but one goal -- but it is the opposite of what religionists start out to do: Scientists try as much as they possibly can, to overthrow and thereby try to falsify their own theories. Only those that survive this most brutal and rigorous process of falsification, will survive as true well-tested theories.
What this means of course is that the Big Bang Theory is itself forever "an open-ended hypothesis" about the nature of creation -- not a once for all times scientific truth. The Big Bang theory therefore must forever be opened to future falsification. So far it survives because it has not yet failed a singular attempt to falsify it. And if in the future it should fail even one attempt at falsification, it will then be declared forever, an invalid theory. And the process simply begins all over again with a new trial hypothesis about the nature of creation.
Therefore, the religionists must be careful. If they hook their "creationist's wagons" up to the Big Bang Theory inadvertently, they are also hooking it up to the scientific method's mode of falsification. Now, do religionists really want to do that? I don't think so? Three stars
The Author go through first, the biblcial evidence of the Old Testament and then to the New Testament. They also travel the road of extra biblical evidence and then get into the philosophical arguements and they were quite good. I honestly got lost about the abstarct objects.( but this doesn't mean that this wasn't a well written chapter. It just mean I need more understanding in the world of philosophy, which I thought I had enough but I guess I don't) The scienctific was great. this is a great book but be prepared to be mentally engaged.