Credentials of a creator

As I pointed out in chapter 6, the Bible consistently identifies God as the one who ‘created the heavens and the earth'. This identification runs like a refrain through both the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps the best known example is St Paul's speech to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers on Mars Hill (the Areopagus) in Athens, recorded for us in Acts 17:22-31. It warrants repetition in full: 

‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very

religious; for as I was passing through and considering the

objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this

inscription: "to the unknown God". Therefore, the One

whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to

you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since

He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples

made with hands. Nor is He worshipped with men's

hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to

all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one

blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the

earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and

the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek

the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and

find Him — though He is not far from each one of us;

for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also

some of your own poets have said, "For we are also His

offspring." Therefore, since we are the offspring of God,

we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold

or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's

devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked,

but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because

He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world

in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He

has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the

dead.' 

Clearly, there is much more here than we need in discussing the origin of the universe but we shall have cause to return to Paul's statement later in the book, so it does no harm to put the whole thing in context here. The claim of immediate interest is, of course, that ‘God ... made the world and everything in it ... [and] is Lord of heaven and earth'.

It might seem unkind to compare Paul's trenchant theology of two thousand years ago with the waffle of today's atheists, but I'll do it just the same. Victor Stenger's alternative credo runs as follows: ‘In short, the natural state of affairs is something [by which he means the universe] rather than nothing. An empty universe requires supernatural intervention — not a full one. Only by the constant action of an agent outside the universe, such as God, could a state of nothingness be maintained. The fact that we have something is just what we would expect if there is no God.'(Victor Stenger, God, the Failed Hypothesis, New York, Prometheus Books, 2007, p. 133). This is philosophical (not to mention scientific) candyfloss — in terms of substance, Paul wins hands down. But quite apart from that, Dr Stenger fails to recognize the inanity of his ‘scientific' reasoning.

He begins by utterly confusing the pre-creation ‘nothing' that lies outside of space-time with the ‘nothing' of a vacuum within space-time. Next, without making it clear which ‘nothing' he is talking about, he claims that ‘the transition from nothing to something is a natural one, not requiring any agent'. He then argues that ‘nothing' would be evidence for God's existence but the existence of ‘something' requires the non-existence of God.