The eternal, infinite God
One way to get a sense of how small we are is to take a ship across the Pacific Ocean. After seeing nothing but water in all directions day after day after day, you start to feel pretty small. In the middle of the ocean at night, there is no man-made light pollution, and you can see more stars than any city dweller that has never been to truly dark places could imagine would be visible from earth with the naked eye. A look at how vast space is goes even further to heighten our awareness of how physically small we are compared to such vastness. Yet these two examples only show a small part of their vastness. To think that the ocean not only goes far beyond the horizon but also several miles down is amazing. Then to ponder that what we see in the sky at night is just a tiny part of the visible universe is truly mind-numbing.
The ideas of eternity and infinity are beyond our scope of comprehension because they are outside the scope of our experience. Webster’s Dictionary defines eternity as “infinite time
lasting throughout eternity, the state after death: immortality, a seemingly endless or immeasurable time”. It defines infinity as “unlimited extent of time, space, or quantity”. Mathematicians, physicists, philosophers, and cosmologists have struggled with these concepts and their paradoxes for hundreds of years. They do not agree on what they mean or if they even exist. They use words of measurement such as how big or how long to try to describe them, but the whole point is that they are beyond measuring. They are without end. For example, if the universe is infinite, then it does not have a size. This appears to be the case based on some observations. The universe appears “flat”. No matter which direction we look there is uniformity of the distribution of matter. The James Webb telescope is showing astronomers that galaxies that are very far away look just like relatively nearby ones. They are also not bunched up near and apparent end of space. This seems to indicate that the universe is infinite and that perhaps space itself is expanding. Yet if that is the case, what is it expanding into? The part of the universe we can see may be only a tiny fraction of what there is. We don’t know what we don’t know. How much do we know of what there is to know? We don’t know. 16th Century Italian Cosmologist Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake by the Catholics for proposing that the universe is infinite. The uniformity of the cosmic background radiation indicates the universe is flat in energy as well as matter and not as old as secularists say. Red shift is what happens to the light from objects that are moving away from us, like the noise from a train changes after it passes us and moves away instead of toward us. The red shift in starlight shows those objects are moving away. However, we cannot be too sure about these kinds of things. We are always learning new things. Sometimes they disprove what we thought we knew. Far measurements like this are only so accurate. We only know how things appear from our very limited perspective in time and space.
In some ways eternity and infinity are synonymous. They both mean without end. Usually, we think of eternity as time without end, and infinity as space without end. Mathematicians look at infinity through numbers, but they have to use words that represent concepts rooted in our finite experience. They represent infinity with a symbol that looks like a sideways eight. You can’t count infinity, because then it wouldn’t be infinity. It would then be measurable and finite. The various theorems and paradoxes cannot be thoroughly examined here, but you can look them up. The number “tree 3” is incomprehensibly huge, but it is still a number. Irrational numbers such as pi and the square root of two go on and on, but we cannot carry them out forever. The mathemeticians use descriptions like the infinite hotel, also called Hilbert’s paradox, to try to explain it. They try to reduce infinity to pairing like numbers together, but that attempt also has its limits and paradoxes. The Banach Tarski paradox says you can cut a ball into as few as five pieces and reassemble them into two identical balls of the same size. Scientists use a circle inside of a circle with the same center point to show that both circles have the same uncountable number of points going out from the center point to them to illustrate pairing. However, the two circles are not identical in every way. The larger circle has a bigger diameter, circumference, and area. So, they are not simply exactly the same. They only have similarities. Pairing numbers to apparently simplify infinity has similar problems. 2 is not 4, even if you pair them. George Cantor posited that that there are different kinds of mathematical infinity that could be described through putting numbers into sets.
Physicists grapple with the same dilemmas. Einstein described the theory of general relativity with his famous equation “E=MC2”. His theory seems strange to us because it deals with speeds and distances we do not experience. His theory is also called the space/time continuum. Astronomers do not agree if the universe is finite or infinite, also called closed or open. They refer to black holes, but really the little we do “know” about them is almost all theoretical. Are they portals to another dimension? We don’t know. What happens inside one? We don’t know. Another scientific theory that seems strange to us because it also deals with a scale we do not experience in life in is quantum mechanics. It deals with the subatomic world. We usually think of infinity as “big”, but it can also be “small”. For example, there is no limit to how many times you can divide a number or a line. You can just keep adding more zeros after the decimal point without end. This is called Zene’s paradox. Max Planck is considered the father of quantum mechanics. He came up with the Planck length, which is a subatomic measurement so small it is incomprehensible.
In 1980, Benoit Mandelbrot was working at IBM to help them with some computer engineering. He made a computerized visual representation of a complex mathematical formula which showed a pattern that is irreducible. It keeps perpetuating itself smaller and smaller with no end. It reflects upon mathematics in the Fibonacci sequence and pi. This pattern is also observable in many places in nature. It is called the golden ratio and can be seen in geometry, art, architecture, music, and even proportions of human anatomy as famously expressed in Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawing called “The Vitruvian Man”.
Philosophers also struggle with the concept of infinity. Ancient Greek philosophers found the idea so difficult and riddled with impossible paradoxes that they concluded it was either evil or belonged to the divine alone. Some suggest that if the universe is infinite, there may be multiverses or even infinite universes. Some say there may be infinite copies of everything including ourselves. However, that leads to even more paradoxes and dilemmas, not only for philosophers and scientists, but for those who believe in God and the Bible. The law of biogenesis says life can only come from other life. Information theory says information can only come from an intelligent source. First cause theory or the Kalam Cosmological Argument says every effect has a cause which must all be traced back to a first cause which can only be God. Plato, Aristotle, and Parmenides all put forth this idea. Kalam was a Muslim philosophy. Without God as the First Cause, the multiverse theory leads to endless possibilities with no governing rules or measurements. This would make learning about it scientifically impossible. The big bang theory does not truly satisfy the question of origins because it does not explain the origin or matter and energy, let alone the origins of life, intelligence, information, consciousness, laws, order, morals, and many other things. It also has its own scientific problems. Some try to correlate the big bang with Genesis 1, but they are very different in critical ways. The order of creation in Genesis 1 different than the order of creation in the big bang, but more importantly the attempt to put the big bang into the Bible is just another attempt to compromise the Bible with atheistic evolution rather than confront the issue.
Uniformitarianism is the idea that present processes and rates have always been the same. It is not uniformity, such as matter is uniformly distributed throughout the universe. Uniformitarianism is essential to the theory of evolution because the idea of millions and billions of years is also. If processes and rates have not been the same for all those years, how can we come to any scientific conclusions about the distant past which we cannot observe in the present? The idea of uniformitarianism is credited to James Hutton and popularized by Charles Lyell, the man credited with the idea of a geological column. The geological column does not exist in entirety anywhere on earth, and Lyell was poisoned by an anti-Biblical agenda. He wrote in a letter to George Poulett Scrope on June 14, 1830 that his motive was to “free the science from Moses”. In that same letter he said that he should treat the Koran more tenderly.
There are two main problems with uniformitarianism. One is that the evidence we observe in the present does not confirm this idea. The other is that the evidence we observe in the present does not confirm millions and billions of years. It is only the way evolutionists interpret the evidence to support their worldview to try to convince themselves and others the evidence shows millions of years. This is too lengthy a topic for this article, but there is much evidence the earth has not existed for billions of years. Just one example is the dating methods. They are based on several errant assumptions. They assume that the processes and rates have been uniform for billions of years even though the evidence shows they have not been. They assume they know where the “clock” they are reading started at. They also assume that the sample they are dating was left completely untampered with for millions or billions of years by any outside force such as erosion or leaching. These errors show up constantly in conflicting dates. You can take the same sample, break it into two pieces, test the two pieces, and get two wildly different dates, even using the same dating method. This happens all the time. You won’t see that in any mainstream headlines. Perhaps the most famous dating method is carbon 14. However, it has all of these flaws and more, and it can only measure to about 100,000 years because after that that carbon 14 will be decayed away.
Just as the theory of evolution errs in supposing uniformitarianism on the past of the earth, secular astronomers and cosmologists also err in trying impose it on the universe. In fact, in some ways the error is even worse because the time and space are so much greater, and our knowledge and ability to observe are so much less.
A great flaw with a secular approach to considering eternity and infinity is that human understanding is limited and flawed. When we attempt to leave God out of the conversation, all we are left with is the sinful, darkened mind of man. God gave us intellect, but when we try to use it to deny and ignore Him, it leads down a path of confusion and hopelessness (Rom 1:18-32, Rom 8, 1Cor 1-2). Pride leads to a fall (Prov 16:18, Prov 29:23). Man on his own is much better at making a fool of himself than showing his ability to function without God (Prov 13:16, Prov 28:26, Rom 1:22). The very ideas of eternity and infinity show this. Man’s attempts to understand them fall woefully short, contain impossible paradoxes, use ideas from limited time and space to try to describe them, and lead to dark conclusions of hopelessness and meaninglessness. To counter this, they who attempt this follow the typical tactic of rescuing devices. They say they can find hope and meaning in this life without God, but really they are just trying to convince themselves that they can successfully be their own Lord and Savior despite all the evidence to the contrary.
The only way to have what understanding we can have of the eternal and infinite in this life is by knowing God, who is eternal and infinite. The fool asks the question, “If God created everything, then who created God?” God could not be God is He is created, because then there would be someone before and greater than Him. Perhaps the false idols of paganism could fit this description, but not the one, true God of the Bible. He did not come into being. He always was, and always will be (Ex 3:14, Rev 1:8). He is eternal going both backward and forward. He is the first cause. Angels and man will continue to exist eternally going forward, but they did not exist eternally going backward (Ps 104:4, Jude 6). Both were made by God came into existence in time and space (Gen 1-2, Ps 104:4). Whether in the kingdom of God or not, both will continue eternally (Mt 25:41, Jn 5:28-29, 2Pet 2:4, Rev 20:11-15). That is why it is so important to have God in charge of our worldview and not ourselves. It not only impacts this life, but the one to come which will not end, whether in eternal life or eternal damnation.
God inhabits eternity (Deut 33:27, Is 57:15, 1Tim 1:17). That means eternity is God’s permanent address. That is where He lives. He exists outside time and space, yet He manifests Himself in time and space (Jn 1:1-14). He is infinite (1Ki 8:27, Ps 139:7-10, Jer 23:24, Is 66:1). We cannot comprehend that because our experience is so rooted in time. God created time and the means by which we measure it (Gen 1). Scientists and philosophers discuss what time is and what it means. Einstein’s theory of general relativity says that time is just a perception which depends on the perspective of the one experiencing it. The closer one travels toward the speed of light, the more time slows down. The closer one is to an object like a black hole, the more time slows down. Perhaps there are some spiritual insights into eternity and infinity in some scientific concepts. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (Rom 1:20).” However, man will never get true understand of the spiritual through the carnal mind. Discounting the spiritual and immaterial, and attempting to understand all things through a strictly naturalistic worldview is hugely inadequate. Is pain immaterial? Is consciousness immaterial? Is morality material? The spiritual and immaterial were first. They are first in order and first in importance. Then came the natural and material (Gen 1:1-2). The material is not eternal, only the spiritual (2Cor 4:18). If you can see it, it will not last forever. The invisible things will last. Faith is what links us to the spiritual, eternal, and infinite (Ps 8:3-6). Only faith gives meaning to our place in space and time (Heb 11:1-6).
God created natural light (Gen 1:3 & 14-18), and He is the true spiritual light (Jn 1:9-10, Jn 8:12, Jn 9:5, 1Jn 1:5). Darkness is irrelevant to Him (Ex 14:20-24, Jud 12:22, 2Sam 22:10-12, 1Ki 8:12, Job 34:12, Ps 18:10, Ps 97:2, Ps 139:11-12, Is 42:7, Is 45:7). A key to measuring time and space is light. God created the sun, moon, and stars; and one of the reasons was for measuring time (Gen 1:14-18). Atheists try to discredit the Bible and the age it prescribes to the earth and the universe by saying that starlight cannot travel such great distances in such short a time. However, there are several scientific theories that could explain how that could happen. Also, Genesis 1 makes it clear that God created everything in a mature, fully developed state. God created tree that make seeds, not seeds that made trees. He made chickens that lay eggs, not eggs that hatched into chickens. That answers the silly old question, “What came first, the chicken of the egg?”. Atheistic evolution also has its own starlight problems such as red shift.
God is all in all (Ex 3:14, 1Cor 15:28, Eph 1:23). He is the first and the last (Rev 1:11 & 17, Rev 2:8, Rev 22:13). He is first in order and importance (Jn 1:1, Col 1:18, Rev 1:8 & 11, Rev 3:14, Rev 21:6, Rev 22:13). He is the head of all things (Mt 21:42, 1Cor 11:3-4, Eph 1:22, Eph 4:15, Col 1:18, Col 2:10 & 19, 1Pet 2:7). When God says these things about Himself, it is not out of pride. It is impossible for God to be proud, for He is not a limited man who can overestimate himself. God is more than we could ever understand or handle being exposed to (Ex 33:20). He and He alone makes sense of eternity and infinity, for He alone is eternal and infinite. He alone brings hope and meaning to our seemingly insignificant place in the grand scheme of things. We will not be annihilated when we die. We will continue to exist. Our decisions and actions in this life have eternal consequences. Our short life in this world has meaning now as well because of the value He placed on us. Jesus said one soul is worth more than the whole world (Mt 16:26). It is impossible to put an exact amount on how much money it would take to buy the world, but Jesus placed such a high value on our eternal souls which He made in His image that He humbled Himself, came to earth in human form, suffered a horrible death, and shed His blood to save us from our sins (Jn 3:16, Phil 2:5-11). If we believe in Him, obey the gospel, and follow His word, we can know Him in this life and live with Him in eternity (Acts 2:38-39, Acts 8:12-17, Acts 10:43-48, Acts 19:1-6).