About 2 weeks ago, while checking out the portfolio of a random web design firm, I ran across the website of an organization that was offering a free DVD which they claimed provided proof that evolution is wrong and that creationism is right. Unable to resist, I quickly surrendered my email and mailing address, and within 2 weeks (wow, what service!) I received my free DVD. Brimming over with excitement, I quickly abandoned my evening with family and popped it in the DVD player. I cranked the speakers to 11, grabbed a stiff glass of Diet Coke (on the rocks), and curled into my oversized leather couch, my eyes and ears prepared for outstanding revelations.

It turned out, to my immediate dismay, that this DVD was of a lecture series delivered by Kent Hovind, better known as Dr. Dino. For those who are familiar with Hovinds arguments, I need say little more. For those who are unfamiliar, imagine arguing with someone whose main line of debate is mischaracterizations, over-generalizations, and deflection through cheesy jokes, insults, and terrible clip-art-ridden power-point shows. Enough said.

As I watched and listened to the 129 minutes of Mr. Hovinds lecture, some things became immediately clear:

1.) He offered no actual scientific proof for his claims, even though the claim of the video was exactly this.

2.) The entire discussion was based upon an attempt to characterize cosmological and biological theories of evolution as atheistic, humanistic propaganda.

3.) The main lines of his arguments revolved around trying to make evolutionists look foolish. However, in doing so, he did not interact with any critical, scholarly material, but rather based his discussion upon popular notions of evolutionary theory, outdated 2nd grade biology textbooks, and other insignificant sources.

4.) Similar to no. 1, at no time did Hovan offer a critical theory that would explain an alternative perspective for origins. Basically, his argument boiled down to, The KJV Bible says this, I have to interpret it according certain hermeneutical paradigms, and thats the end of the story.

ANYWAY…I do not wish to devote this post to all of the horrible misrepresentations, inaccuracies, etc. of Hovinds lectures, nor of his methodology. Rather, I would like to focus on a very interesting comment that he made. Noting this comment, I would like to revisit some of the considerations I pursued in my previous post on Materialist Conceptions of Origins, as well as tie in some of the thinking I have been doing in regard to considerations of human language in speaking about the divine. So without further ado….

Let me set the stage: Hovind was relating a story of a time when he conversed with a Berkeley professor during a plane ride. In this conversation, Hovind questioned the professor on several issues relating to evolution, and boastingly related that the professor was unable to sufficiently answer the questions. One question in particular grabbed my attention. Hovind questioned the professor as to the origin of the universe. Not surprisingly, the professor suggested that all matter and energy in the universe could be reduced, chronologically, to a singularity, an infinitely small and dense point. Undeterred, Hovind pressed further and asked, So where did the singularity [universe] come from? Unable to respond, Hovind offered that all matter and energy [universe] came from God in precisely the way that the book of Genesis relates (according to his interpretive paradigm of this passage, that is).

I would like to focus on this phrase, Where did the universe come from? According to Hovind, the fact that the big bang cosmologist cannot successfully answer this question overturns big bang cosmology, or, at the very least, requires that the big bang adherent posit the eternal existence of the universe, which would, of course, suggest a thoroughgoing materialist cosmology. Furthermore, Hovind asserts that because the universe has to come from somewhere, the only reasonable answer can be that it came from God.

Although he would vehemently deny it, I would assert that Hovinds offering succombs to exactly the same criticism (of materialism), at least if one outlines his cosmology on the basis of his line of questioning outline above.

Lets examine his question:

Where did the universe come from?

Although this seems to be a reasonably straightforward question, the linguistic structuring of this question mitigates against it technically adhering to a Christian cosmology.

But first, consider this: Christians affirm the ex nihilo, out of nothingness, origin of all that exists and which is "other than" God. In light of this, a Christian cosmology specifically denies any conception that the universe is uncreated and eternal (per Aristotle and most cosmological assumptions until the last 200 years). The universe did not exist as chaos that was organized by God, nor was it a soup of eternally existing matter that was arranged in particular structures. The nothingness out of which creation was created does not have ontological existence, as if it is simply empty space (for space is not really empty). Additionally, a Christian cosmology rejects that creation is merely an emanation of the being of God. Rather, the universe really is other than God, even though its existence and preservation is dependent upon God.

Now, back to the question:

Where did the universe come from?

If we affirm a Christian cosmology of creation ex nihilo, this question is perspicuously contradictory. Consider the word where. By utilizing the normal understanding of the word where, one is referring to a spatial reality. For example, if I ask, Where is the pencil, ones answer will have a proximal value as its referential, i.e., "the pencil is on the desk." Even if one responds with an admission of ignorance (I dont know where the pencil is"), this is still a proximally qualified answer, for one is not denying the existence of the pencil in its location, but rather merely knowledge of what this location might be. And even a denial of the existence of the pencil is proximally qualified, for the "not-anywhere-ness" of the pencil is necessarily referential to the "where-ness" of that context in which the pencil does not exist.

If we apply these considerations to the question posed by Hovind, we see how a materialist conception of the origins of the universe comes into play. After all, if we affirm that the universe (matter and energy) came from somewhere, we must posit the existence of another reality that is commensurate with the nature of the universe wherein it is appropriate that the latter should come from the former. In that referring to this reality as God would violate the Christian cosmological principle of creation ex nihilo, one is merely moving the origin of the universe back to another material reality from which the known universe originated.

Let me get at this another way. If one says that the universe came from God, one is speaking on the level of space/time. As already noted, in order to determine the whereness and fromness of a particular reality (whether it be a pencil, a refrigerator, an abstract thought, or even a non-existent object [which is categorically impossible, linguistically]), one must appeal to the spatial/temporal context in which these realities occur. But if we say that creation came from God, we are doing the unthinkable. By delineating the origin and mechanism of creation on the basis of spatial referents (where, from), we are expanding the spatial/temporal context of creation upon the divine and eternal nature of God. Therefore, in saying this very simple phrase, "the universe came from God," we are philosophically operating under the assumption that not only are the parameters of space/time the proper

paradigm through which to describe the origin and mechanism of Gods relationship to the creation, but we are actually positing the existence of these paradigms over and against the existence of God, requiring that the infinite and eternal God operate within these parameters (which conclusion, obviously, negates the actuality of Gods infinitude and eternality).

With these considerations in mind, I realize that very few people-and probably no one, actuallywhen they respond to the question, Where did the universe come from with the answer, God, consciously affirm the conclusions I have outlined above. However, this is not my point. What I am getting at is the way in which our language lies to us, often without anyone actually realizing it, revealing unconscious philosophical presuppositions that, if explicitly stated, we would vehemently eschew. As with Hovind, he obviously detests a naturalistic explanation of the origin of the universe. However, given the language which he deploys, and coupled with his insistence upon the mechanisms of creation mentioned in Genesis (which are themselves naturalistic), his conclusions are hardly different in consequence from those which he rejects (other than being unrelated to any of the naturalistic evidence that is available).


It is difficult to conclude this kind of examination, for the issuecontrary to what human nature desirescannot be definitively resolved. Regardless of what mechanisms we use to describe the origins of the universe, the earth, or ourselves, our language will consistently force us into speaking in terms of spatiality/temporality, and our speech will be riddled with contingent, causally demarcated words and phrases. Therefore, we must always use caution in how we utilize language about God and the relationship between the divine being and that which is created and other.

Specifically, I would propose that the question, Where did the universe come from, is unanswerable, both for the big bang cosmologist and the creationist. Human language is simply incapable of describing creation ex nihilo in a propositional way that will avoid running aground
on the rocks of materialism that I have described above.

Should we then simply leave off talking about "origins" completely? No, I do not suggest that we should. Rather, we should simply hold to faith-affirmation of the power and creativity of the divine Creator. While this runs contrary to the desire of human nature to identify a material source and cause for creation, mystery is better than blasphemy. Moreover, we should honestly and actively engage our senses in the universe in which we live. If we conclude that evolutionary theory best describes the way in which our universe developed, let us rejoice in it. As Gods creative activity in the universe cannot be reduced or located within any particular set of causal mechanisms, the field is wide open and all bets are off as to "how" the creative work of God can be displayed (as if the conclusion were up to us to begin with) within the universe in which we live.