Book Commentary: Why The Universe Is The Way It Is
This is my first book commentary on the blog.
Several months back, I was given a copy of Why The Universe Is The Way It Is (Affiliate Link) by Hugh Ross from his organization Reasons To Believe. I recruited a friend to join me on my journey of reading it, and as I progressed through the book, I shared my commentary for each chapter on Facebook.
Now, I've concluded the book and have embedded all the posts I made here on one blog page for easy reading and sharing. Feel free to jump in and comment on any of the sections below, which are ordered by chapter.
1. Why Ask Why Questions?
There are numerous great insights in Chapter 1 of "Why The Universe Is The Way It is" but what resonates with me personally the most is this paragraph (in the attached image) about testing and keeping the good.
This motto, partners quite well with the audit stage we developed as part of #IDEMA during my time at Noodlehead Marketing.
When we test/audit we help ourselves and others understand what we believe and what the belief is founded on.
The end result is one of three options.
1 - We discard the belief
2 - We strengthen the belief
3 - We alter/change/update the belief
While we may be fearful to audit our beliefs, the end results are wonderful, although sometimes difficult.
2. Why Such A Vast Universe?
Reading Chapter 2 in "Why The Universe Is The Way It Is", the passage in this image resonated with me. It also reminded me of a simplistic way to categorize worldviews (religious and nonreligious belief systems).
Years ago, I explored the numerous worldviews. With so many belief systems we wonder how we can know what worldview is true. One step towards discovering the truth is by evaluating the types of worldviews there are. They tend to fall into one of the following three categories.
1 = Natural Only Wordlview - This would be a worldview that seeks to explain the universe through a naturalist lens. Those in this category reject even considering a supernatural or mystical explanation even when it would be a reasonable conclusion. When the two clash/contradict, the supernatural explanation is rejected. Examples include atheism, naturalism, and materialism.
2 = Supernatural Only Worldview - This would be a worldview that seeks to explain the universe through a supernatural or mystical lens. Those in this category would reject naturalistic explanations for the universe even when it was reasonable to do so. When the two clash/contradict, the tendency is to reject the natural explanation. Examples include the new age movement, Hinduism, and other eastern religions. The book snippet in this image seriously challenges Hindu and Buddhist belief systems.
3 = Hypernatural / Actual Worldview- This would be a worldview that seeks to explain the universe through the combination of a natural and/or supernatural understanding. An actualist would seek to find the truth of what "actually" happened and does not close the door to natural or supernatural explanations. They seek the most reasonable answer that harmonizes natural and supernatural explanations. When the two clash/contradict, the goal is to find harmony to get to the truth. Worldviews in this group would include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
3. Why Such An Old Universe?
Did you know that we (humanity) are not only in a finely tuned unique place (earth) in the universe but that we also live in a unique window of time within history? Much earlier or later and we'd have been blocked from knowing much of what we do know about the cosmos.
Until recently, I was unaware of this, how about you?
4. Why Such A Lonely Universe?
When we attempt to explain the origins of life naturalistically, it requires we grasp at straws to do so. There are interesting concepts and theories, but when matched with reality it is tough to make a sensible argument devoid of external agency.
Regardless of what worldview we hold, it is fascinating to know we are in the only location and timeframe in the universe when such creatures could survive and thrive as we do.
The fine-tuning of the universe even had famed Atheist Christopher Hitchens stopping to reflect on this self-admitted strong argument and its meaning in this clip here:
What do you think?
5. Why Such A Dark Universe?
While the enigma of our ideal location in time and place (fine tuning) in the universe is intriguing, I've found it difficult to appreciate and understand its significance. I've never experienced not living on earth so it's hard to know the contrast.
Movies like The Martian or Gravity can be helpful in understanding how these factors affect us in the real world, but they are fictional and limited in how we can personally connect.
So, what I've found to be the best way to appreciate this reality is to reflect on the "fine-tuning" I've experienced in my life. For me, it's overwhelming to think of the context I inherited as I entered this world, the times I've been protected from myself and others, the times of provision when I needed it most, and the redemption for the all the bad stuff along the way.
Have you ever taken time to reflect on your journey and all the factors that led you to this moment? If so, what patterns did you notice? What insights did you gain?
6. Why A Decaying Universe?
Is Our Life Really Just Meaningless?
Everything including the universe will decay and die. We die and everyone we love will die. While we may seek to find meaning in the midst of this reality, it’s a dark conclusion if this is all there is, to truly embrace and many choose not to. Despite this sobering evidence, an example of this denial is a secular humanism philosophy. It seeks to ignore this reality and live from what I’d consider unfounded hope.
So, why do we have the desires for these things in the first place? Are our mind and body playing a cruel joke on us?
I suggest there is something more out there. Something we owe to ourselves to at least open up to and explore.
We have nothing to lose and everything to gain...
7. Why A Realm Beyond This One?
It was interesting for me to learn how we are in an ideal time for the use of fossil fuels. Without this timing, the industrial revolution would not have happened and we would not have the fuel to power much of our current civilization.
In chapter 7 of Why The Universe Is The Way It Is, we also learn how earth's rotation axis, solar stability, solar luminosity, perfect eclipses, plate tectonics, all contributed to a providential time window idea for an industrial and technological human society.
8. Why This Particular Planet, Stars, Galaxy, & Universe?
In reading Chapter 8 (Why This Particular Set Of Planet, Star, Galaxy, & Universe?), this excerpt stuck out for me. I find it interesting that when we attempt to explain the universe through a natural lens only, we're taken to a point where we must appeal to the unknown and untestable. It seems regardless of the worldview we hold to, there is always something we must place our faith.
9. Why Believe The Bible?
The Bible is more than just a book of insights for our journey on this planet. It's a book that conveys the grandest story of them all and what role we play in that larger narrative.
The more I learn about the collections of writings we now call the Bible, the more amazed I become in its design and intentionality.
It's an incredible resource for us to explore as we live out our lives.
What do you think?
10. Why Not A Perfect Universe-- Now?
In chapter 10 of Why The Universe is the way it is, we explore God's 11 purposes of the universe. Number 7 was most intriguing for me as I pondered how He designed the laws of nature to specifically deal with our sin and depravity. Pretty neat stuff.
How about you? What purpose do you most resonate with?
11. Why These Physical Laws & Dimensions?
I remember the progression of going about life 'my way' which lead to a life of chaos, survival, and isolation. It was at that point when I looked down the road I would end up at if I did not change. It was an ugly ending across the board. It was then I surrendered to God saying my ways were not working, please show me yours.
Closing in on the end of Why The Universe Is The Way It Is, this passage stuck out for me.
When we go against the laws of God both spiritual and physical, life becomes more difficult and painful for us and those who love us.
12. Why Two Creations?
Andy Stanley said it well, "We're in the best possible journey for the best possible destination." God orchestrated the universe and our individual and collective journeys to accomplish his purposes. I find how he's gone about it as quite magnificent.
What do you think?
13. Why Is The New Creation Better?
In the final chapter, Hugh’ shares how heaven will be a magnificent place beyond imagination. It is difficult, if not impossible, to view and understand this world without the knowledge and hope of heaven and eternity. It would be similar to trying to understand difficult seasons of our life without the beauty of experiencing the fruit of pushing through the hardships.
God is not just in the business of saving people for heaven, he’s also invested in developing character in us. This journey is the just-right vehicle to accomplish both. In the final paragraph of the book, Hugh closes with an encouragement to stay focused on the vision as the trip is of value.
What do you think?
Appendix A - Biblical Basis For An Ancient Universe & Earth
When it comes to Christianity, there are a variety of perspectives on the creation of the universe, earth and life. While not heavily emphasized, because it’s importance is secondary, I grew up in a young earth creationist context. Reasons To Believe provided a compelling argument for an ancient earth and once my objections were addressed to my satisfaction, I embraced the idea. You can read the excerpt below and visit their website to learn more.
Appendix D - Creation Accounts In The Bible
I’ve linked to the Biblical creation accounts listed above, below.
- Genesis 1
- Genesis 2
- Genesis 3-5
- Genesis 6-9
- Genesis 10-11
- Job 9
- Job 34-41 (Where we got the name for our fourth child)
- Psalm 8
- Psalm 19
- Psalm 33
- Psalm 65
- Psalm 104
- Psalm 139
- Psalm 147-48
- Proverbs 8
- Ecclesiastes 1-2
- Ecclesiastes 3
- Ecclesiastes 8-12
- Isaiah 40-51
- Romans 1-8
- 1 Corinthians 15
- 2 Corinthians 4
- Hebrews 1
- Hebrews 4
- 2 Peter 3
- Revelation 19-20
- Revelation 21-22