(aka Centrality and Uniqueness of Man)
(theology in relation to heliocentric theory, anthropic principle, and extraterrestrials)
(Weeks 2 & 3 of SBTS 28960)
A. Biblically, humans
1. have little about which to boast – either in attributes or physical makeup:
a. In many respects, humans are not different from animals. Humans
A) are made of dust (Gen. 2:7; 3:19; Psa. 103:14; Job 4:19), just as are animals (Gen. 1:20, 24).
B) are alive (e.g. Gen. 2:7), just as are animals (e.g. Gen. 1:20, 24).
C) have a soul (e.g. Gen. 2:7), just as do animals (e.g. Gen. 1:20, 24; Job 12:10) – e.g. each individual is unique; they have emotions (and more emotion than is necessary for survival).
b. Even when they are not compared to animals (i.e. in an absolute sense), humans
A) are as worms (Job. 25:6; Isa. 41:14), or as grasshoppers (Isa. 40:22).
B) are as fragile as leaves (Isa. 64:6), flowers (Job 14:2; Psa. 103:15-16; Isa. 40:6-7; Jam. 1:10; I Pet. 1:24), or grass (Pas. 90:5-6; 102:11; 103:15; Isa. 37:27; 40:6-7; 51:12; I Pet. 1:24) – certainly in comparison with eternity.
C) have no power over their own height (Mat. 6:27) or even the color of their hair (Mat. 5:36).
D) are mortal (at least after Adam’s sin):
1) Humans have no power over their own death (Eccl. 8:8)
2) Humans die, just like animals (Psa. 49:12; Eccl. 3:19-20).
3) Humans are always on the brink of death (Psa. 14:17)
4) Human life is brief (Job 14:1; Psa. 89:47; 90:10), passing quickly (Job 7:6; 9:25), being merely a handbreadth (Psa. 39:5), a shadow (I Chr. 29:15; Job 8:9; 14:2; Psa. 102:11; Eccl. 6:12), a gust of wind (Job 7:7), or a vapor (Jam. 4:14)
E) are spiritually bankrupt
1) human righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6)
2) human activity is vanity (Ecclesiastes)
3) all humans sin (e.g. Rom. 3:23) (whereas not all angels sin)
F) are dependent upon God and angels for survival.
c. For even the traits possessed by no other known physical beings (spirit) or in greater measure than all other known physical beings (e.g. aesthetic appreciation, creativity, reason, language) angels may possess the same traits in larger measure.
d. Man is insignificant in every way compared to God. God alone is eternal, creator of all things, infinite, and all-powerful. All other beings (including humans) came to being at some point in time, are created by God, finite, and have limited power.
2. are accorded special status by God
a. God created humans
A) last of the entire creation (Gen. 1)
B) as image of God (Gen. 1:26-28; 5:1) – and the Bible mentions nothing else with this status
C) as likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:6; I Cor. 11:7) – and the Bible mentions nothing else with this status
D) with both body (like animals; unlike angels) and spirit (like angels; unlike animals) – and the Bible mentions nothing else with this status
E) devoting more biblical text to the creation of humans than to the creation of anything else
b. God assigns unique authority to humans,
A) considering humans better than animals (Mat. 12:11-12; Luke 12:24, 27-28)
B) even though humans are a little lower than the angels (Psa. 8:4-5; Heb. 2:6-7), God created the angels to minister to humans (Heb. 1:14) and humans will judge the angels (I Cor. 6:3)
C) assigning humans dominion over His creation (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:2; Psa. 8:6; Heb. 2:7-8) – and the Bible mentions nothing else with this status
c. God has intentions for humans
A) God designs each human (e.g. Psa. 139:13-16; Eccl. 11:5; Isa. 44:2, 24; 49:1, 5).
B) God has plans for each human (e.g. Jer. 1:5; Rom. 8:29-30)
C) God’s kingdom appears to be solely for humans (e.g. John 14:2-3).
d. Satan focuses his efforts on humans (e.g. I Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:10)
e. God interferes in the creation for the sake of humans
A) God cursed the entire creation because of human sin (Gen. 3:14-19; Rom. 8:18-22) and not because of angelic sin (given that Satan had fallen before man’s sin and God didn’t curse the rest of creation for angelic sin)
B) God destroyed the earth and living things on the earth by a global Flood because of the sin of humans (Gen. 6-9).
C) God will release the entire creation from the curse at the glorification of humans (Rom. 8:18-22)
f. God’s intra-Godhead relationships are shared also with (and only with?) humans:
A) God takes notice of man (e.g. Psa. 8:4f; 115:12; Heb. 2:6)
B) God communes with humans (e.g. implied for Adam & Eve w/God in Gen. 3:8)
C) God loves humans (e.g. John 3:16; I Cor. 6:20; I Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 1:5)
g. God directly interacts with humans
A) God became man (rather than another organism) (John 1:1-3, 14; Rom. 8:3; Philippians 2:7; James 3:9)
B) The Holy Spirit indwells believers (e.g. I Cor. 3:16).
h. God offers to humans (and only to humans?… apparently not to angels)
A) forgiveness and salvation (I Pet. 1:12) – certainly not to angels.
B) adoption and all the riches of Christ (Heb. 1:5, 13)
C) power over sin (Rom. 6)
i. The Church
A) is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:25-28; Rev. 21:3)
B) is the body of Christ (e.g. I Cor. 12:27)
C) is the kingdom of Christ (Luke 17:21)
D) decisions are settled in heaven (e.g. Matt. 16:19)
j. God creates a new heaven and a new earth
A) having humans outliving the remainder of the physical creation
B) for relationship with humans forever (Isa. 65:17-25; 66:22; John 14:2-3; Rev. 21:1-7; 21:10-22:5)
3. are given attributes to allow them to fulfill their tasks:
a. To excel as image-bearers, humans were gifted with such things as
A) emotion (to image God’s love; to image God’s care; to image God’s anger in judgment; etc.)
B) communication (to image a communicating God; to teach about God)
C) creativity (to image a creative God)
D) reason (to image an all-knowing and wise God)
E) will (to image a God with will; to choose right and thereby glorify God)
F) spirit (to image God’s spirit; to worship God)
b. To excel in dominion, humans were gifted with such things as
A) intelligence (to understand the subjects and made good decisions in ruling)
B) manipulative ability (to rule effectively)
c. The properties unique to or superlative in humans are NOT why humans have image or dominion, nor why humans should have image or dominion. We are image and have dominion because God assigned to us that status. In fact,
A) Angels may not only possess all these ‘human’ properties, but may possess in greater measure than humans.
B) Many of these properties are not known/expressed in some humans (e.g. the very youngest; those with severe injuries; those with advanced disease; those severely retarded)
d. NOTE that, consistent with God’s special giftedness of humans, of all known species, humans
A) have most impacted/changed the physical world (e.g. consumption of fossil fuels; extinction & hybridization of other species; homes as artificial environments; roads & homes; course and source of water; soil fertility)
B) alone are capable of self- and earth-wide destruction (nuclear weapons; pollution; ozone depletion; climate-affecting greenhouse gases; water consumption)
4. may be physically central to the universe
a. The earth might have been created at or near the center of the universe. At the end of Day 1 of the Creation Week the earth existed covered by water (Gen. 1:2-5). God then called for a raqia in the ‘midst of the waters’ to separate the waters above the raqia from the waters below the raqia (Gen. 1:6-7). After labeling the raqia ‘heaven’ (Gen. 1:8) God placed the sun, moon, and stars ‘in the midst’ of the raqia of heaven (Gen. 1:16-17) and God created birds to fly ‘above the earth in the face of the raqia of heaven’ (Gen. 1:20). This suggests that the raqia is space – from the atmosphere (inner space) to all the universe we can see (outer space). If this is so, then it would seem that
A) there are ‘waters above’ the stars (evidenced as still extant in this position in Psalm 148)
B) there is an edge to the universe
C) the earth might be at or near the center of the universe (if the raqia is of uniform thickness around the earth)
b. Strong themes running throughout Scripture suggest that the Garden of Eden, Jerusalem, and the New Jerusalem might actually be located at the same position in the universe in three different worlds (pre-Flood, current, new earth). They each may have been central in their respective worlds and it seems aesthetically pleasing to suggest that they were also central to the entire universe at the time.
A) The Garden of Eden is central to four other lands (Gen. 2:10-14) – and perhaps to the whole planet (God might have Eden in a place from whence ‘filling the earth’ is most efficient)
B) God placed Jerusalem in a position to impact the people of the world with His salvation (the juncture of three continents and rather near the geographical center of the earth’s land masses)
C) The New Jerusalem implicitly seems central to the New Earth (Rev. 21:2).
5. are not alone in the universe, but may be the only physical, free-will, intelligent beings in the universe:
a. Humans are not alone in the universe (i.e. Extraterrestrial spirit beings do exist.)
A) The three persons of the Godhead are non-human intelligent beings, and one of them (the Word) became man (Jesus). Although God the Holy Spirit lives within believers on earth, God the Father and God the Son live in heaven, so God can be understood to be an extra-terrestrial spirit being.
B) The angels are non-human intelligent beings with the capacity to take human form, and their ‘home’ appears to be heaven, not earth, so angels are also extra-terrestrial spirit beings.
b. That extra-terrestrial, physical, free-will, intelligent beings (EPFIB) exist is possible, but unlikely:
A) There is no hint in Scripture of EPFIBs.
B) Man (on earth) seems to be central to the entire creation (including the astronomical creation):
1) The sun, moon, and stars were created ‘to be for signs and seasons and days and years’ (Gen. 1:14: implicitly for human time-keeping), and ‘to give light upon the earth’ (Gen. 1:15).
2) Although Gen. 1:26-28 explicitly gives humans dominion over the earth and its inhabitants (leaving room for other beings to have dominion over other planets in the universe), Psalm 8 seems to include the moon and the stars.
3) Although the earth (the abode of humans) was created on Day 1 of the Creation Week, the sun, the moon, and that stars (the abode of EPFIBs, if they ever existed) were not created until Day 4 of the Creation Week. This would give humans a higher status than any EPFIB.
4) The entire host of heaven is somehow given to human nations (Deu. 4:19)
5) The whole creation was cursed with pain and suffering and the whole creation anticipates human glorification, as that will release the entire creation from that curse (Rom. 8:19-22).
C) The existence of EPFIBs might require a rethinking of the doctrines of God and salvation:
1) Since man’s Fall brought a curse upon the entire creation (Rom. 8:18-22), EPFIBs and their physical environment would have been cursed as well. For such a judgment to be just on them, it would seem that the effects of this judgment would have had to have arrived at the EPFIB location just after they also sinned (which is possible, but unlikely);
2) Since the redeemer of the entire creation (including EPFIBs and their environment), the Son of God, came in human form, lived on earth as an example to humans, and died on earth (and died only once: Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26-28; 10:10), either
a) salvation was never offered to EPFIBs (which is possible in some understandings of election), or
b) the EPFIB savior came in the form of another being, lived as an example to another people, and died on another planet. This, again, is not impossible, but the EPFIB gospel would not be motivated by God’s love (for EPFIBs, anyway).
1. there is reason to believe that man is insignificant
a. humans have little about which to boast – either in attributes or physical makeup.
A) In many respects, humans are not greater than animals.
1) The human body is made of the same atoms as the bodies of animals.
2) Humans successively share characteristics with (and are thus classified as) eukaryotes, animals, chordates, vertebrates, mammals, primates, and apes, with a physical body extremely similar to that of the chimpanzee:
a) Our cells have nuclei (like other eukaryotes), our bodies develop from embryos (like other animals), our spines develop from a notochord (like other chordates), we have an internal spine (like other vertebrates), we have hair (like other mammals), we have an opposable thumb (like other primates), and we lack a tail (like other apes).
b) The DNA of humans and bonobo chimps is ~98% similar.
3) the human body is no more resilient than the body of other organisms (lifespan is neither the longest nor the shortest; tolerance of any given physical adversity is neither the greatest nor the least).
4) Humans don’t have the best senses of all organisms (seeing; hearing; tasting; touching; seeing); humans are not the fastest or the strongest organisms; humans are puny compared to the earth and the universe.
B) Even when not being compared to animals (i.e. in an absolute sense), humans are insignificant:
1) a human cannot change his/her own genetically-determined characteristics (e.g. height; hair color).
2) the current natural laws of the universe suggest that physical immortality (for humans, for any organism, for the universe itself) is impossible.
3) humans are dependent upon a host of earth-based organisms.
C) For the most ‘uniquely’ human traits (aesthetic appreciation, creativity, reason, language)
1) Most of them are possessed in smaller measure by animals. For example:
a) Aesthetic appreciation seems to be possessed in some small measure by crows which collect shiny things
b) Creativity and aesthetic appreciation seems to be possessed in some small measure by bower birds where the male wins the female by creating the nest most attractively adorned in blue.
c) Although the human brain is the most complex aggregation of matter known in the universe, reason seems to be measurable in a variety of animals (e.g. crows, porpoises, elephants).
d) Although humans are the only organisms with the physical capacity to speak, language seems evident in some small way in the ability of some chimps and gorillas to learn sign language.
e) Although the human brain/body ratio is the highest among organisms, newborn chimps have the same ratio.
b. If evolutionary theory is true, humans are even more insignificant. Humans
A) have been around for only about 1/1000 of earth history [vs. being around for all but five days of earth history]
B) arose by natural process [vs. being complex and created by divine command]
C) were not planned or intended, as evolution has no forethought or care
D) were derived from apes
c. Astronomically, man is insignificant
A) The universe does not appear to revolve about humans (i.e. vs. geocentricism):
1) Before Copernicus both science and the church embraced geocentricism
a) Scientifically, geocentricism was reasonable and well-evidenced:
(A) appearance data (the earth seems motionless; the sun, moon, and stars seem to rise, set, and revolve about us) [which is still true]
(B) The Bible refers to a motionless earth and moving astronomical bodies:
(1) The earth does not move / cannot be moved (Psalm 33:9; 93:1; 104:5)
(2) The sun/moon rises/sets (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 11:30; 24:13; I Samuel 23:4; Ecclesiastes 1:5)
(3) In Joshua 10:12-14, Joshua commanded the sun and moon (and not the earth) to stand still (vs. 12) and God responded (vs. 14) by stopping the sun and moon – not by stopping the earth (vs. 13).
[Since each of these are things that even a modern scientist would say, they are all good examples of phenomenonological language. Geocentricism was thus not a necessary conclusion from Scripture.]
(C) Aristotelian physics required that the earth be unmoving, spherical in shape, and located at the center of the universe:
(1) In Greek thought everything physical was made of one or more of 4 elements (fire, air, water, earth). This is a reasonable conclusion based upon observation. For example:
(a) touch the human body and it is solid (earth), and damage that solid too much and the human dies;
(b) puncture the human body and it bleeds (water), and take away too much of that water and the human dies;
(c) punch the human chest and breath comes out (air), and take away that air and the human dies;
(d) a living human is warmer than a cadaver, so something inside a living being is keeping it warm (fire),and take away that heat and the human dies.
(2) In Aristotelian physics, each of the elements tends to move vertically towards its most natural state (resting at a particular location). Again, this is a reasonable conclusion based upon observation. For example:
(a) fire rises above air (as hot air rises relative to cold air) and air sinks beneath fire
(b) air rises above water (as air bubbles rise in water) and water sinks beneath air (as raindrops fall through the air)
(c) water rises above earth (as springs of water rise) and earth sinks beneath water (as rocks sink in water)
(3) If the natural resting state of earth is at a point in the universe (circles – or points – being perfect forms in Greek thought, not lines or planes), then earth at that point will have formed itself into a sphere and be unmoving, and water (oceans) will lie upon it, and air (atmosphere) will lie upon that.
(4) Since astronomical objects do not move up and down, but around (the earth), Aristotle concluded that a different physics operates in the celestial world than the terrestrial world (i.e. celestial bodies are not made of the 4 elements; celestial substance tends to move in perfect circles around the terrestrial world with its 4 elements).
(D) A moving earth was contradicted by observational data:
(1) As Aristotle argued, if the earth was moving and if different stars are at different distances from the earth, then there should be relative motion among the stars, but such parallax was not observed [because stars are so much farther away than anyone expected parallax was not observed until the 19th Century].
(2) In Aristotelian physics, a moving planet (i.e. one not at the point of rest for the element earth) should not be able to hold onto an atmosphere or sustain a moon revolving about it.
b) By the time of Copernicus, a marriage of Aristotelian physics and Christian theology had been achieved (what I’ll call medieval physics):
(A) The celestial realm, being equated with the abode of God, was considered perfect. Therefore, celestial bodies were considered immutable, untainted, incorruptible.
(B) To explain the dimming and brightening and the retrograde motion of planets, but still to hold onto the concept of perfect (circular) motion) a very complex system of motion (circles on circles on circles) was conceived.
(C) The celestial bodies were often thought to be pushed around in their perfect circular paths by angels.
c) Copernicus and Galileo argued for heliocentricism against the church
(A) There were strengths in the Copernicus/Galileo claim:
(1) Copernicus’s claim slightly simplified the mathematics of planetary motion (i.e. Copernicus’ claim was more elegant)
(2) Galileo’s telescopic observations of the phases of Venus suggested Venus revolved about the sun rather than the earth
(3) Medieval physics was challenged:
(a) The perfection of the celestial realm was challenged by the appearance of a supernova and 2 comets, and by Galileo’s telescope discoveries of mountains on the moon and sunspots on the sun.
(b) Aristotle’s claim that the element ‘earth’ sinks to a single center was challenged by Galileo’s telescopic discovery of Jupiter’s 4 moons.
(4) The claim that a moving planet cannot carry its own moon was falsified by Galilieo’s telescopic discovery of Jupiter’s moons.
(B) There were weaknesses in the Copernicus/Galileo claim:
(1) Copernicus’s claim was only a slight simplification [NOTE: Johannes Kepler’s (later) suggestion that planets move in ellipses (rather than in perfect circles as suggested by Aristotle et al.) would greatly simplify the mathematics of astronomical motions, but Kepler was ignored by Galileo (probably because of Kepler’s mysticism) and by Vatican scientists (probably because of Kepler’s Protestantism)]
(2) It offered no improvement in the prediction of astronomical motions.
(3) It violated Aristotelian physics (e.g. it would place fire at the center)
(4) Tycho Brahe had suggested that whereas the Sun and the Moon revolved about the Earth, the remaining planets revolved about the sun. This theory explains everything the Copernicus/Galileo claim does while leaving the Earth motionless (thus remaining true to biblical and appearance data)
(5) There was still no observation of parallax and no explanation for how the earth could hold air if the earth moved.
(6) Biblical and appearance data for a motionless earth were hard to give up.
(7) Moving the earth from the center of the universe moved man from a central location and thus challenged the traditionally understood doctrine of man (human centrality).
(8) Reinterpreting the Bible verses which suggested a motionless earth and moving sun/moon challenged the traditionally understood doctrine of Scripture (authority; inerrancy) and God (truthfulness)
2) Later evidence would displace even the sun and our galaxy from centrality. Astronomy has successively displaced the earth from the center of the Solar System, the Solar System from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy from the center of the Local Cluster of galaxies, the Local Cluster from the local supercluster, etc.
3) Yet, without an absolute reference, no claim of centrality can actually be rejected.
B) The universe seems so deadly and the life-zone of the earth so miniscule and frail. To live in outer space is dangerous, and to do so we have to bring an artificial environment, which itself is dangerously prone to damage. The first pictures of the earth from outer space gave us a (disturbing) impression of the thinness of the atmosphere in which we live and the loneliness of our planet in outer space. The first close-ups of the moon and Mars emphasized the barrenness and coldness of the universe outside of our earth.
C) Humans are so very small in the universe. The vastness of the universe (e.g. billions of stars for every man, woman, and child on the earth)
2. The Anthropic Principle provides reason to believe that man is central to the creation. Since 1940, evidence has accumulated that the universe is finely-tuned for intelligent life that can observe and contemplate the universe. Scores of fine-tuning evidences are found in (a) the basic makeup of the universe; (b) the particular natural laws of the universe; (c) the physical constants of the universe; (d) the nature of certain elements; (e) the nature of certain molecules; (f) features of the Milky Way Galaxy; (g) features of our Solar System; and (h) features of Earth. The principle has even been used to successfully predict other features of the universe.
a. Most of the features seem to be necessary for the existence of life (or man or mind) – about of them necessary for life to exist at all and about half of them necessary for life to evolve. Some would say that these evidences mean nothing because the only way we could be here is if the universe was adequate for life. However, many universes could be imagined which have a broad range of life-compatible characteristics. The fact that this universe has such a narrow range of life-compatible characteristics seems particularly odd.
b. Some of the features are not necessary for the existence of life (or man or mind)
A) but which allow humans to understand the universe (Einstein: “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is its comprehensibility”)
1) The universe’s laws are simple enough for man to understand.
2) The universe’s order is simple, yet allows complexity (i.e. the universe’s order is elegant) , thus allowing man to understand the universe.
3) Natural laws can be understood in the space and time of a human lifetime.
4) The universe can be described by the human language of mathematics.
B) but which allow humans to observe the universe (e.g. The sun is located in a low-density portion of the galaxy which allows observation of the universe outside the galaxy.)
C) but which intrigue humans (e.g. the recurrence of the number 1040)
1) each anthropic principle feature is a coincidence. Together they generate a complex matrix of coincidences.
2) natural law is the ultimate generator of everything in the universe, including man.
B) The universe was designed with man in mind.
1) Fine design is not a necessary consequence of the biblical position. It is probably for that reason that the anthropic principle was not anticipated (or predicted) by creationists. It was proposed and developed for decades by unbelievers before creationists ever even seemed to take an interest.
2) Exquisite design is not inconsistent with a biblical position.
3) Given man’s centrality in God’s creation (biblically), biblical creation may be the only hypothesis which offers an adequate explanation for all anthropic principle features (not just those necessary for life, but also those which permit humans to observe and understand the universe, and also those which intrigue humans).
d. The anthropic principle evidences for the universe, Milky Way, Solar System, and Earth seem to suggest it is too statistically improbable for there to be another planet where intelligent life exists.
1. Biblically, humanity does not deserve the status of centrality, but is assigned that status by divine declaration. This is consistent with both
a. the rejection of the simple centrality of the earth in the universe as well as
b. anthropic principle evidences that the universe was created with man in mind.
2. Neither science nor biblical theology can definitely determine if the universe has a center, and if it does, where it is located. Biblically, there may be reason to believe that the Garden of Eden before the Flood, Jerusalem in the present, and the New Jerusalem in the future may be the one and the same location and the center of the universe, and science cannot deny this claim.
3. Both biblical and scientific data are most consistent with the absence of any physical extraterrestrial intelligences.