Book Review: ESCAPING THE BEGINNING? by Jeff Zweerink

“Escape games” are a thing now. People gather their clever, non-claustrophobic friends, sign the proper releases, and pay money to be locked in a room together. A variety of cryptic clues are scattered about to help the willing captives break codes, solve puzzles, and successfully complete challenging tasks that will bring them step-by-step closer to freedom before the clock runs out. Time is of the essence.

In astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink’s new book, Escaping the Beginning?, we find that a number of physicists and cosmologists are feverishly working out theoretical puzzles and experimental challenges to escape the philosophically and theologically confining implications of a Big Bang singularity. Time, and its beginning in particular, is the essence of their dilemma.

Concisely stated, scientific consensus affirms that our universe is exquisitely fine-tuned for complex life in such a way that an external cause agent outside of its multi-dimensional boundaries seems to be necessary for its initiation. As Zweerink’s old-earth-creationist colleague Hugh Ross has detailed in his fourth iteration of The Creator and the Cosmos (read review), this sounds a lot like the ex nihilo creation of all things as described in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Many atheist and agnostic scientists find this alignment to be unsettling and unacceptable, yet they cannot make an adequately supported scientific case to the contrary that will stick. But they are trying.

Zweerink provides solid historical backstory on both past and current models of how our universe came to be the way it is. Key scientific discoveries have overturned past theories and bolstered confidence in new ones. Oscillating models and steady state models have fallen by the wayside for the most part in favor of an expanding universe with a Big Bang beginning, but many questions still remain.

For example, the probability of a single universe arising naturalistically with such optimal conditions for advanced life (or even its required chemistry) is so miniscule that atheists are pretty much obligated to invoke the presence of a multiverse where any and all realities occur. But does the multiverse actually subvert a beginning? If so, under what conditions, and how can those conditions be proven? How might quantum effects during early cosmic inflation influence the development of a multiverse?

No less than Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss “speculate that a quantum law of gravity fluctuates our universe into existence.” (p. 169) In The Grand Design, “Hawking seems to show how to get a self-contained description of the universe with no beginning in time. In contrast, Krauss seems confident about how his model gets the universe from nothing, as seen from the subtitle of his book, A Universe from Nothing: Why there Is Something Rather Than Nothing.” (p. 144)

Make no mistake, more than the scientific record is at stake.  Zweerink notes that “[p]art of Hawking’s motivation was trying to remove the need for God to ‘light the blue touch paper and set the universe growing.'” (p. 140)  And regarding the work of Lawrence Krauss, avowed atheist Richard Dawkins is quoted as saying, “If On the Origin of Species was biology’s deadliest blow to supernaturalism, we may come to see A Universe from Nothing as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is devastating.” (p. 127)

Since our universe started out infinitesimally small, it seems reasonable to assume that quantum effects might have greatly impacted its development early on. Zweerink concurs that “[o]ne problem plaguing all attempts to address the beginning of the universe is that the conditions near the big bang singularity (usually) demand both general relativity and quantum mechanics. However, scientists do not yet have a proper quantum theory of gravity, although many different approximations exist. In order to truly answer the question, ‘Did the universe begin to exist?’ in an absolute way, we need the proper quantum theory of gravity.” (p. 41) Significantly, he later adds that “[e]very time in the past where cosmologists have developed a model without a beginning, subsequent experimental and theoretical research eventually narrowed the field to models with a beginning.” (p. 170)

Zweerink also points out that, in their grand conjectures, physicists often ascribe God-like qualities to the laws of physics. Might such laws be eternal, or could they somehow bring themselves into operation? Once in operation, could they have the capacity to create conscious beings who can speculate about their significance on an existential level? Alternatively, like Thomas Nagel in Mind and Cosmos, should we assume that consciousness infuses the fundamental fabric of the universe and that the laws of physics are conscious as well? Can such a notion be supported by the evidence? In a very literal sense, it may be that time will tell.

Escaping the Beginning? may be one of the most important books in science apologetics to date for it addresses a radical change in the science-faith dialogue. Space-time theorems of the late twentieth century will no longer provide the winning “slam dunk” in debates. Asking the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” will no longer be adequate to convince in academic circles. There will be push-back, but the scientifically savvy believer can still be prepared, ready to offer hope beyond a void of nothingness or a theory of everything.

This book is written with clear and precise language, and its simple diagrams are instructive. Well-stated key points and thought-provoking discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter. Although an historical overview of the science is provided, some college-level physics is required to firmly grasp some of the technical detail inherent to the state of the debate. Unfortunately, this means that cutting-edge arguments will be increasingly less accessible to the science layperson; only those working within increasingly specialized disciplines may be able to discern the significance and validity of data at the leading edge of advancing scientific thought. It is important for scientists of faith, like Zweerink, to remain actively engaged in research and to have a voice—so that more of us can benefit from, and engage in, informed discussion regarding those matters that matter most.


Jeff Zweerink is author of Escaping the Beginning? and a Senior Research Scholar at Reasons to Believe. He is also a project scientist at UCLA working on GAPS, a balloon experiment seeking to detect dark matter. Dr. Zweerink is coauthor on more than 30 papers published in peer-reviewed journals, such as Astrophysical Journal, Astroparticle Physics, and Astrobiology, as well as numerous conference proceedings.

Make your own tracks…
Blog Post: God and Time Theories by Hugh Ross | September 2, 2019
Blog Post: Dark Matter from Before the Big Bang by Jeff Zweerink | August 30, 2019
Blog Post: Gamma Ray Flares Constrain Beginning-of-Universe Speculations by Hugh Ross | August 12, 2019

Book Review: HUMANS 2.0 by Fazale R. Rana with Kenneth R. Samples

Human Beings 2.0It’s been said that there are some things that money can’t buy. But although money may not be able to buy good health, it can buy research. In Humans 2.0: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Perspectives on Transhumanism, biochemist Dr. Fazale R. Rana teams up with philosopher Kenneth R. Samples to examine the amazing research-driven advances that promise to forever change the practice of medicine and significantly improve your quality of life. In fact, some of these rapidly developing technologies may fundamentally alter the human experience — a prospect both hoped for by some and feared by others. 

Science and science fiction seem to be merging as we rapidly approach what has been termed the “transhumanism singularity” — a moment in time when humans will self-advance so radically that we will be defined differently as a species. The most radical of transhumanists seek nothing short of eternal life and are prepared to download their consciousnesses into a supercomputer if necessary to achieve it. The new lifestyle options and outlooks afforded by emerging technologies will not only impact individuals. Their mere availability will restructure societies and require laws to govern their implementation. 

These are game-changer technologies. 

The same biomedical manipulations that relieve suffering today might be used for more questionable purposes tomorrow. They are causing us to ask new questions of ourselves that we have never asked before:

  • Under what circumstances would you consider altering your own genetic code?
  • Would you consider replacing your own healthy limbs with artificial ones that would be stronger and more durable?
  • How might your lifestyle, values, and attitudes change if you could extend your life indefinitely?
  • Could you accept in good conscience the benefits of research advanced through the destruction of human embryos?
  • Who should have access to the benefits of these new technologies?

As they say, “The devil is in the details.” Humans 2.0 uniquely combines the perspective and expertise of a scientist with that of a philosopher to help the reader better discriminate between what can be done versus what should be done. Rana and Samples applaud the benefits of human ingenuity but also acknowledge the very human propensity to create new problems that are more destructive than those we solve. Careful to not project a dystopian future, they challenge people of faith to respond to novel technologies with both circumspection and hope. Small group studies will benefit from discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and the book’s numerous references to popular comic book superheroes will almost certainly provoke lively and enthusiastic conversations.

Topics such as gene-editing, computer-brain interfaces, anti-aging strategies, and even artificial wombs are explored with a fair degree of scientific rigor and detachment. If you are science-averse, you can skip ahead to other sections that parse out their social, ethical, and theological significance. There, transcendent principles of the Christian faith are shown to provide a balanced standard by which to promote good science and its proper implementation. Made in the image of God, humans are to subdue the resources of this world for the good of all. We must foresee potential problems and ascertain how to best regulate progress. We must safeguard those who are weak and defenseless. We must engineer in ways that heal, restore, and bring hope.

We must use our superpowers for good rather than evil.

This calls for wisdom. Let the reader taste and see if transhumanism is good. Sample the technologies. Take a few sips and decide if you are ready to drink from this fountain—and if so, at what cost?*

Quite surprisingly, the 1992 dark comedy Death Becomes Her offers some profound insight in this regard. The two main characters are vain, envious, and manipulative women. Their acquisition of immortality only makes them more brazen and insufferable. They can forgo many consequences of their selfish and unrestrained behaviors…but not all. Limitations imposed by the world around them continue to complicate their lives. And, indeed, they will live on forever but in a state that still permits increasing distortion and wretchedness.** Eventually they have only each each other to rely upon despite their mutual loathing. As mortals around them pass away, they linger in their misery and it ever grows. 

The bottom line? Mortality is not our primary problem. The truth is that we are stinkers. We are damaged goods, and no scientist can ever deliver us from the worst parts of ourselves. We need renewal of a different kind. Though the word “redemption” has fallen out of fashion, in our less-than-emotionally-healthy moments we know that we need it. We each need a transformation that goes beyond the physical, penetrating deep down into our soul and birthing a new spirit that can endure the test of time with grace and peace. Will transhumanism distract from a salvation more potent? Choose your savior wisely, for there are many places in the human heart that innovation cannot penetrate.

”…I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” Revelation 21:6

*Isaiah 55:1-2; Revelation 21:6
**The first couple was delivered from a similar fate by being driven away from the Tree of Life once they had been marred by sin. See Genesis 3:22-24.

Book Review: CLASSIC CHRISTIAN THINKERS: AN INTRODUCTION by Kenneth Richard Samples

In the 1989 comedy Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure, aspiring musicians Bill and Ted find themselves journeying through time in order to pass their final history exam and to secure the destiny of their future band “Wyld Stallyons.” Along the way, they collect and transport the following “historical personages” to 1988 San Dimas, California: Socrates, Genghis Khan, Joan of Ark (not Noah’s wife), Napoleon, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Billy the Kid, Sigmund Freud, and two random princesses. It’s fun to think about who you might have chosen. Who are a few key figures who have influenced how nations have risen, how kingdoms have fallen, how academic disciplines have been practiced, how musical genius has been defined?

In Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction, Kenneth Richard Samples has selected individuals of both profound thought and lasting impact who guided the formation of modern Christendom. These academics collectively made contributions to the sciences, literature, philosophy, as well as theology. They spoke on the weighty themes of theism, the nature of Christ, and the state of humanity. At critical times in history, they reflected deeply on the canon and sought to communicate orthodoxy in the midst of conflict and heresy. Samples’ selections? Irenaeus (c. 130-202 AD), Athanasius (296-373 AD), Augustine (354-430 AD), Anselm (1033-1109 AD), Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD), Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD), John Calvin (1509-1564 AD), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662 AD), and C.S. Lewis (1898-1963 AD).

Church history is not just a recounting of facts, dates, and personalities. It is about how real people authentically engaged the theological challenges of their time and left a lasting legacy by which we can bolster our own faith today. Their musings leave a historical record documenting some of the most influential Christian thought on key doctrines. A refreshingly irenic book, Classic Christian Thinkers focuses on those writers whose insights are often valued across Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant lines of demarcation while not ignoring or discrediting legitimate differences. Did these men get everything right? No. But they effectively communicated rightly about some of the most important and debated Biblical questions of their time.

There is nothing new under the Sun. We are not starting from scratch. There are those from whom we can learn. Let us not repeatedly fall into the same errors of past generations because we are living as intellectual paupers while drowning in a flood of ephemeral information. Samples showcases the lives of saints and scholars that many have forgotten yet who still have many relevant things to say. Perhaps therein lies the greatness of their works and why their writings have endured. They prove that thinking matters.

How has the Church changed over two millennia? How have doctrines concerning mysteries such as the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement developed over time? How has Christendom stayed the course? As noted in the subtitle, this book serves as only an introduction. May this survey inspire and encourage new thinkers, writers, philosophers, and apologists to read more classic works and be transformed by them for, in the end, orthodoxy informs praxis, and a life well-lived in Christ is perhaps the best apologetic argument of all.

Book Review: ALWAYS BE READY by Hugh Ross with Kathy Ross

Most people would characterize Hugh Ross as a scientist – and that he is. Typically, his books are saturated with scientific detail with many, many pages dedicated to the citation of referenced publications.

This book is different.

Indeed, he could not resist including a summary of what he considers to be the most important scientific evidences of the Christian faith; however, most of the book is about a side of Hugh Ross that gets less public attention. He is, in fact, a pastor, and in Always Be Ready we learn how he has applied the rigor of the scientific method (not just scientific facts) to his evangelistic efforts.

Remarkable stories result.

We find that Ross is an evangelist who was never evangelized. Rather it was science that introduced him to his loving Creator, and it was the Christian Bible that stood out among the world’s other holy books to woo him towards a consummating commitment to Jesus Christ. In addition, he is a communicator who overcame communication challenges associated with autism. The stories that emerge are nothing short of miraculous and many of them qualify as full-fledged adventures.

If the following questions pique your interest, then you will want to check out this new narrative:

  • What happened when the president of a school’s Atheist Club converted to Christianity one-the-spot during a science apologetics presentation?
  • Can door-to-door visitation be successful?
  • Is it too late to share Christ with someone in a coma?
  • How can a church respond to the presence of an adult bookstore in the neighborhood?
  • What questions regularly invite meaningful and respectful dialogue?
  • What role does hospitality play in apologetics?

At this point, a warning is warranted. Something happens to the reader of this book. You read along effortlessly for a while…then you begin to get a bit uneasy. You start to question, “Why do I not have amazing encounters like this on a regular basis?”

Ross gives some very practical advice about how to improve your own ministry to those around you in a winsome way. Some of his ideas and approaches might be new to you, but by the end of the book you realize that he does many things that are not new at all.

He believes that God is already at work in the lives of those he encounters.
He welcomes questions from skeptics.
He joins together with other Christians.
He uses his strengths and learns from his weaknesses.
He fasts and prays.
He simply takes 1 Peter 3:15 seriously.

Read this book if you are a skeptic of Christianity who wants to better understand its attraction. Read it if you are a Christian who wants to be simultaneously encouraged and challenged.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15


Hugh Ross shares stories from his new book at Reason to Believe’s AMP Conference 2018…

Book Review: 4th edition of THE CREATOR AND THE COSMOS by Dr. Hugh Ross

The Creator and the Cosmos by Dr. Hugh Ross

Terrorism. Tragedies. Fake news. Allegations. It’s time to avert your eyes from the anxiety-producing online commentary that drives you to distraction. Turn off your mobile. Sit back and wonder. Look at points of light in a dark, night sky. Was our universe – everything we see and know – inevitable? Is it by chance or by purpose that you consider this question? Reclaim control of your faculties, and contemplate your place in the cosmos.

A seven-year-old, budding astronomer named Hugh Ross looked to the night sky more than six decades ago and asked, “Are stars hot?” A prolonged pursuit for answers set him out on an academic quest, not only into space, but into the past and beyond. Dr. Ross’ newly released 4th edition of The Creator and the Cosmos is an ardent scientific defense of Big Bang cosmology and a call to consider its implications on a personal and spiritual level.

Like me, you may be surprised to learn that the Big Bang Theory requires a defense at this point. After all, it has not only been well vetted by the mainstream physics community, it has passed into the vernacular of popular culture via the title of a popular sit-com. Nevertheless, the most celebrated minds of science still endeavor to know exactly how our universe came to be, and they engage in vigorous debate to that end. After all, the how may imply a why.

The Big Bang is not just a tacit affirmation of “In the beginning…”; it is a theory that leads us to the possibility of a transcendent Creator via the scientific method rather than in spite of it. Its seemingly incontrovertible implications are both profound and unsettling to anyone who believes themselves to be well-ensconced within the fortress of philosophical naturalism. Once 20th-century scientists determined that the universe was inexorably expanding, they could then begin to retrace its early development. Ross reviews a litany of discoveries that permitted scientists to see further and further into the past with increasing clarity. Having retreated so far, they now find their backs up against a single point that defines the boundary of all that is known. Will they now turn and face that which is beyond? The realm that spawned a pluripotent singularity that differentiated into all the space, time, matter, and energy that we experience? A First Cause that set it all in motion?

Dr. Ross very effectively couples physics with Christian evangelism until, under the duress of the data, the intellectually honest skeptic must at least consider that something supernatural is afoot in the universe. This new iteration includes over 70 pages of new content, and the discussion questions at the end of each chapter invite readers to engage in intellectually and theologically rich discussions. Still have doubts at the end of the book? Check out the appendices and online compendium listing hundreds of finely tuned parameters for life. Or, alternatively, just proceed to 30 years’ worth of research compiled by Christian scholars at reasons.org.

Although this book specifically targets challenges to Big Bang cosmology, The Creator and the Cosmos offers abbreviated explanations on other related topics that receive further elaboration in Ross’ other works such as More Than a Theory, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, Beyond the Cosmos, and Improbable Planet. Dr. Hugh Ross is both the consummate scientist and the consummate evangelist, uniquely qualified to address questions at the intersection of science and faith. If any of the following questions pique your interest, you will want to add these books and others offered through the ministry of Reasons to Believe (RTB) to your reading list:

  • How do we know that the universe is expanding?
  • Does the quantum eternity theorem offer a viable alternative to a cosmic beginning?
  • Why might atoms never have existed, and why must life be carbon-based?
  • Why does our solar system’s location in the galaxy matter?
  • How does a comparison of Earth’s extinction rate with its speciation rate support a Biblical view of creation and pose problems for the macroevolutionary paradigm?
  • Why is a 13.8-billion-year-old universe insufficiently old to support naturalistic origin-of-life scenarios?
  • Why was it advantageous for the Holy Spirit to come to believers after Christ ascended from Earth?

The book is written from an old-earth creation perspective that does not support macroevolution. It primarily addresses the concerns of skeptical scientists as well as scientifically literate laypeople within the church. Young-earth creationists may want to venture out and examine this book or other RTB reads in order to explore the robust scientific support for the old-earth position as well as its moorings to an inerrant interpretation of Scripture as affirmed by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

While the SETI Institute still awaits transmissions from intelligent life beyond Earth, the stars have been speaking all along. It is from their language of light that physicists continue to decipher the story of the universe and how it relates to life here on Earth. Tonight, resist the seductive siren call of your cellular device. Look to heavens and be reminded of their enduring and ancient declarations: There is a Creator of the cosmos, and he is the Creator of you.