What Holds the Universe Together?by Lambert Dolphin
(This article is excerpted from Lambert Dolphin’s original article which can be found here. This article is posted by permission.)
Several separate passages in the New Testament make reference to the creation of the universe. John's gospel speaks of an earlier state of existence than is described in Verse 1 of Genesis,
In the beginning was the Word, [logos] and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; [before creation] all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father...No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. (John 1: 1-17)
This passage of the New Testament teaches that Jesus was eternally existent with God the Father prior to the creation of all things. Further, this Word, the Son of God, was and is fully God in his own right. At a point late in the history of mankind the Son of God became a man and was born into the human race in order to solve the problem of death and to repair a broken universe. (See Philippians Chapter 2, and Hebrews Chapter 2).
Chapter One of Paul's Epistle to the Colossians gives a further description of the role of Jesus in creation which is consistent with John:
[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born [prototokos] of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities [i.e., hierarchical angelic powers]---all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
The Holy Spirit, in giving us this inspired passage of Scripture, now explains that all things (both visible and invisible) in the entire universe were created through this same Jesus, the Eternal Word. We may think of the universe and its intricate design as being conceived in the mind of the Father then spoken into existence by the Son (who makes the invisible, visible). The Holy Spirit is the One who energizes and supplies life to the creation, not only at the time of creation but also moment by moment after that.
We are also told that all things were created for Jesus. He is "the heir of all things." That means that we are house guests in Someone Else's universe. There is a future accountability to be given by all of us---history is headed somewhere and at the end of road stands Jesus to whom all power and authority has already been given:
Jesus said, "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment." (John 5:22-29)
One of the key words in the Colossians passage above ("...and in Christ all things hold together") is the Greek word sunistemi which means "to stand-together," "to be compacted together," "to cohere," "to be constituted with." This passage can be applied to the structure of the atom, for example. The nucleus of every atom is held together by what physicists call "weak" and "strong" forces. (Physicists today are familiar with four basic forces in the natural world: gravity, electrical forces, a "strong," and a "weak" nuclear force which act at very short ranges. The first two forces decrease in strength inversely with the square of the distance between two objects. Recently two additional close-range, weak gravitational forces have been suggested. These are thought to be quantum mechanical corrections to Newton's Law of Gravitation.)
The nucleus of the atom contains positively-charged and neutral particles--to use a simplistic model. Mutual electrostatic repulsion between the like-positive protons would drive the nucleus apart if it were not for the "strong force" which binds the nucleus together.
The third New Testament passage which talks about atomic structure and physics is 2 Peter:
"But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise and the elements (atoms) will be dissolved with fire and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10)
The Greek word translated "elements" in this passage from Colossians is stoicheion which means the building blocks of the universe, or "the ordered arrangement of things." It can also mean the "atomic elements." The word translated "dissolved" is literally (in Greek) luo, meaning "unloosed." This suggests a further, future letting-go of the nuclear binding force that holds the nucleus together. This passage strongly suggests that the active power of God is behind the mysterious strong force that holds every atomic nucleus together. If this is so, all the other fundamental forces of nature are likewise forces that originate with Christ and His sustaining direction of the old creation.
If this is a correct view, were God to merely relax His grasp on the universe every atom would come apart "by fire" (that is, by nuclear fire). God dynamically sustains the universe, including the atoms themselves. They are "stable" only because force from the spiritual realm is being supplied into the physical nuclear binding fields. Whatever we may think of God and physics, the Bible leaves us with no room to doubt that God does care about the sparrow that falls to the ground, the widow, the orphan, and the homeless. He does not lose track of His children and watches over them with infinite, patient, intimate Fatherly care. He sustains the universe by His mighty word of power. He also alters the status quo and, in response to prayer, frequently changes the course of entire nations.
Another important claim of scripture about the old creation is that God is the present Sustainer of the universe. That is, He is not uninvolved, remote, detached and impersonal, leaving things to run by themselves by any means. Among secular scientists today there are many who acknowledge that God exists. But He is usually considered as only a First Cause---the One who brought the universe into existence and set it into motion. But most of these same scientists assume God was not involved after the initial act of creation. This is contrary to clear statements in the Bible that God is very much involved in every event that takes place in the on-going history of the entire universe:
"In many separate revelations---each of which set forth a portion of the Truth---and in different ways God spoke of old to [our] forefathers in and by the prophets, [But] in the last of these days He has spoken to us in [the person of a] Son, Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time---[that is] [He made, produced, built, operated, and arranged them in order]. He is the sole expression of the glory of God---[the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine],---and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God's] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power..." (Hebrews 1:2-3) (Amplified Bible).
Again, the fact that Jesus is presently sustaining the universe from the realm of the spiritual raises the question whether there are inputs of energy as well as force into our physical world which ultimately show up as energy added "from the outside" of our physical world considered as a closed system. This is discussed in the next section.
Is Empty Space Empty?Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) taught that the physical world was made up of four elements: air, earth, fire and water. Tying these all together so that the "elements" intercommunicated was a "subtle" medium, a fifth element: the aether--later to be known as the vacuum. (The Latin root vacuus means "empty"). In a sense the aether was the substratum of the material world. The Greeks believed that "nature abhors a vacuum" so they could not imagine space as being totally empty.
Rene Descartes (1596-1640) championed the theory that the aether was a plenum, from the Greek word meaning "full." Because it was so difficult for the scientists of that era to understand "action at a distance," Descartes imagined that a very dense medium of very small particles pervaded everything. This medium was capable of transmitting force from one object to another by collisions. The aether "particles" were in constant motion and there were no spaces between the particles. In a sense the aether was more solid than matter, yet invisible. Descartes universe was purely a "mechanical universe" and his theories were soon superseded.
Galileo's former secretary, Evangelista Torricelli filled a long glass tube with mercury in 1644. Inverting the tube into a dish of mercury he observed that the mercury dropped some 30 inches at the closed upper end of the tube, thereby creating what was obviously a vacuum. Blaise Pascal (1623 -1662) took this work even further and soon everyone was convinced that the vacuum of space was empty after all.
If light were corpuscular in nature as some believed, it was not difficult to image light "particles" (we now call them photons) could traverse a pure vacuum without the necessity of a real medium pervading all of space. But other experiments soon began to show that light was a wave phenomenon. Of course waves could be travel through the plenum aether by collisions, however at the time only compressional waves were imagined. [Sound waves or seismic waves are compressional in nature, for instance, but light waves proved to be transverse]. In parallel with all these growing controversies, the velocity of light was finally measured by Olaf Roemer in 1675 and found to be finite, although the values he obtained were a few percent higher than the present value, 299,792.4358 km/sec.
By the time of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) the aether was believed by many scientists to be "luminiferous." That is, the aether was said to be more fluid than solid, though it was elastic, and therefore it was a medium which would support waves. James Clerk Maxwell (1839 - 1879) enjoyed great success when he found a set of equations which beautifully described how light waves could travel through such a luminiferous aether. He showed that light waves are composed of oscillating electric and magnetic vectors in an x-y plane for a wave traveling in the z-direction. For a waves to exist at all, it is natural to suppose that there is some sort of supporting medium. Such a medium must possess elasticity (a spring-like property) and also inertia, (a mass-like like property). In fact, the velocity of a wave in any medium is equal to the square root of the stiffness divided by the density of the medium.
In the case of electromagnetic waves (gamma rays, x-rays, radio waves, heat, and light of various wavelengths), Maxwell found that the aether possessed an electric-field scaling parameter, called "dielectric permittivity," and a magnetic-field scaling parameter, called permeability, such that the velocity of light was equal to one over the square root of permeability times permittivity. In support of the notion that the aether was a real medium it was observed that empty space behaved like a transmission line with a "characteristic impedance" of 377 ohms, (which is the ratio of permeability to permittivity for "free space.")
This new theory also explained how light slows down in glass, in gases, in water--because media other than the vacuum had a different permeability and permittivity. The aether was once again thought of as a very real medium which could be stretched or compressed--it had resilience or compliance, and inertia. Yet no known physical substance had a stiffness to mass density ratio anywhere near 9 x 10,16 which was required of the aether as a medium. The aether appeared to possess elasticity but negligible inertia.
The idea that some kind of aether medium existed prevailed until 1887 when Michelson and Morley utilized the Michelson interferometer in an attempt to detect the relative motion of the earth and the aether--the aether must be viscous and should be dragged along at least partially with the earth. According to 19th Century preconceptions the velocity of the earth going around the sun should be about 30 km/sec. Yet when the measurements were made no motion of the earth relative to the ether could be detected at all. In other words, the aether apparently did not exist. Until Einstein's Theory of Relativity was published in 1905 the negative result of the M-M experiment baffled scientists.
Einstein showed that the velocity of light has the same value in all reference frames, whatever their velocity may be relative to other frames. From this point modern physics took off in the direction of Special and General Relatively Theory, and Quantum Mechanics. For many scientists the notion that an actual aether medium existed was simply discarded. Yet the apparent non-existence of an aether raised many problems and the M-M experiment is not the end of the story. (For one possible explanation of the negative results of the M-M experiment see The Sagnac Effect) The whole history of the aether is fascinating and complex (Ref. 1-5).
To return to basics, if all the air molecules are pumped out of a chamber, the chamber still contains residual radiation (electromagnetic noise from stars, x-rays, and heat radiation). Even before quantum mechanics, it was shown by classical radiation theory that if the temperature of the container is lowered to absolute zero, there remains a residual amount of thermal energy that can not by any means be removed. This residual energy in an empty container at absolute zero, was named "zero-point energy."
Suddenly the once-empty vacuum was seen as a seething sea of potential energy. (Ref. 6, 7) Physicist Dr. Hal E. Putoff, notes 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 to zero.
Zero Point energy, he says, "is the energy of empty space. There were arguments starting way back at the time of the Greeks about whether space is really empty or isn't it. Democritus thought that it was empty and that is how you have room for the atoms to bump around. You had Aristotle coming along saying no, I think space is full of something because we have waves of heat energy and they must travel in something. That argument went back and forth but finally when quantum theory was developed, it became absolutely clear that space, if you look at in a microscopic scale, is more like the base of a waterfall with a lot of frothy, seething activity going on, rather than just something like a placid, empty space. In fact John Wheeler likes to point out that in the volume of a coffee cup, for example, in empty space, there is enough energy to evaporate all of the world's oceans. This is, by the way, not a fringe concept. It is a basic underlying concept in modern quantum theory."
Putoff continues, "When the idea of the hydrogen atom was first put forward in the form that you often see it on textbook covers, where it looks like a tiny little solar system with the electron planet circling the nuclear sun, one of the questions at the time was: why doesn't the electron simply radiate its energy away and spiral into the nucleus, in a way similar to the way our satellites have certain losses and spiral into the planet? At the time, the answer was simply, well it is just the magic of quantum theory, it doesn't obey classical rules, and for some reason hydrogen atoms are like little perpetual motion machines. But in fact, from the standpoint of the zero point energy approach, we now recognize - and the calculation has been done, in fact I published on it myself - we show that indeed you expect an electron in a hydrogen atom to radiate its energy away, but it picks up energy from the background zero point energy and therefore is sustained by it. What that means in terms of physics is that is shows why atoms can be seen as perpetual motion machines, it is just that they always have an energy input from the background to make up for the losses."
Australian Astronomer Barry Setterfield has, in the past year, picked up on this theory of the vacuum to explain the red shift of light from distant galaxies. (Arizona astronomer William Tifft's research has recently shown that red-lifted light from the stars is quantized, and this also needed to be explained). Setterfield's new model takes into account the statistical evidence that the velocity of light is not a fixed constant--c has evidently decreased in time by a large factor since creation. Setterfield's new cosmology concludes that the universe is not expanding at all, (as the Big Bang model has long supposed) but is static (it has a fixed diameter), and that the original energy input of outside energy on Day Two of creation--when God stretched out the firmament to its maximum expanse--accounts for the red-shift and the subsequent velocity of light decrease.
Setterfield has also provided a rough calculation at the rate at which "outside" energy from the "vacuum" would have to be fed into the universe per square meter per second if Hal Putoff is correct and electrons orbiting the nucleus do radiate energy after all. The compensatory energy that must be constantly supplied from the vacuum is a staggering 1.071 X 10117 kilowatts per square meter! (In scientific notion that is 10 followed by 117 zeroes, kilowatts per square meter).
It is an old tenant of philosophy that ex nihilo nihil fit--out of nothing nothing comes. To imagine that vast amounts of energy flow into our physical universe from nowhere, from empty space, out of the "vacuum" at first appears impossible. To save the day we must resort either to magic or we must seek some rational explanation in Biblical revelation. (Ref. 8) The latter is not hard to do.
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 C.S. 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, i.e., 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)