Is it Arrogant for Christians to Think God Created the Universe for Us?
nt] adjective1. Making claims or pretensions to superior importance of rights; overbearingly assuming, insolently proud; an arrogant public official.2. Characterized by or proceeding from arrogance, or a sense of superiority, self-importance, or entitlement: arrogant claims.
A few days ago, I was listening to a dialogue between Oxford Mathematician and Apologist John Lennox and atheist Lawrence M. Krauss entitled “Science, theUniverse and the God Question.” I call it a dialogue only because that was the goal of the program, “Unbelievable.” However, from the outset, Mr. Krauss adopted the condescending attitude that is common among those who ascribe to the views of the New Atheists which quickly drove the program into a more combative tone. The first words out of Mr. Krauss’ mouth were very combative. Here’s what was said:
Host (Justin Brierly): You’ve been involved more and more recently in discussing these issues. But I remember from what you said last week, what you’re really concerned about is not so much attacking religion belief, but making people understand what science is about what the universe is about. Is that correct?
Krauss: Yes, and also trying to be skeptical of people misrepresenting it. Yes, that’s exactly it. That’s the key thing that’s important to me. That’s what worth stressing. God isn’t important enough to spend any time worrying about, but the real universe is.
From there, Mr. Krauss continued his condescending attitude towards Christianity and Dr. Lennox speaking over Dr. Lennox whenever possible (with moments of pretense where he tried to make certain it was okay to speak after being politely chastised for speaking over Dr. Lennox). Despite the Justin Brierly’s efforts to keep the conversation more of a discussion than a debate, Krauss was normally quite rude. He also made outrageous statements like “religion and faith are the enemy of knowledge.”
What caught my attention during the conversation is when Mr. Krauss contended that Christians are “arrogant” because they believe that the universe was created for them. Specifically, the conversation (of sorts) progressed with:
Lennox: Well, I think that remarkable quality of it, that we find ourselves to be persons being capable of purposes, is very consistent with the idea that behind this universe there is an intelligent God who has purposed it in the sense that he’s caused it to be and that the whole thing exists in order for us to explore the very universe we find ourselves in. And also, Lawrence asks me what its highest purpose is; its highest purpose is that we in the end should not only do science but be able to have a relationship with the God that created it all. Now, that seems to me to be perfectly consistent….
Krauss (interrupting, as usual): It seems to me to be incredibly arrogant to assume that God created the universe for us. Moreover, to argue that it is…
Lennox: Why is it arrogant?
Krauss (continuing): … in the sense that God is very, very inefficient that he had to create a hundred billion galaxies just so we can exist.
Later, the host, Justin Brierly, revisited the issue. After playing a cut from the DVD being released by Krauss, he asked the following to Dr. Lennox:
Brierly: When you look at the massive size of the universe, we are a tiny little pale blue dot (as Carl Sagan put it, I think) on the edge of the Milky Way, isn’t it incredibly arrogant to believe that God all of this is here because we were purposed by God?
Lennox: It would be if we had no direction as to the fact that that is the case. Let me first take the scientific side. That if it is necessary to have all this great size and great length of time to produce human beings on a planet, the only group of beings that we know that can actually do science and be aware of this wonderful cosmic environment which we are, then that in itself to my mind would be an indicator of how important we are if it takes all this. But of course, Justin, I have another source of information. And I take seriously….Lawrence said at the beginning that all religions are inconsistent with science, I think that is a sweeping assertion that is false in the Christian case.
Krauss interrupted Lennox (as usual) and a short conversation occurred between the two regarding Jonah and miracles. But then Lennox continued:
Lennox: …I’m not surprised that [God] has revealed something about Himself and what he has revealed is that human beings are unique, they’re made in his image. And that gives them an infinite value. I am not impressed by arguments that say size, time and so on are measures of value. We value some things that are extremely tiny and extremely small. A diamond is much smaller than a lump of coal, but I think people tend to value diamonds more. So, the question is do we have any information as to the status of our universe and I believe that the status as revealed in the Bible is that the universe has been created as a home for human beings made in God’s image. And that changes the whole scene for me and I see nothing in science that’s inconsistent with that.
Krauss: First of all, so therefore, you’re assuming that there’s not life elsewhere in the universe (continues unintelligibly)?
Lennox: No, I’m not assuming that at all. False,
Krauss: …That are not in the image of your God or whichever god that happens to be.
Lennox: False deduction
Krauss: Okay, So, God, then, as you would put It, created the universe for all life forms. Is that a more sensible statement than the one you made about humans?
Lennox: No it isn’t a more sensible statement. We are ignorant about other life forms. I’m as ignorant as you are. We are told….
Krauss: Are they just an accessory? Are they just an accessory and really we’re at the heart of it and they’re just happen to be innocent bystanders or did God create the universe of them to?
Lennox: Well, clearly… let me just go back to the Christian position which is that this is not necessarily the only world there is and there are beings other than humans, there are angel and so on…
Krauss: Let’s forget about angels. Let’s say there are intelligent life forms elsewhere in the universe….
Lennox: Yes, about which we know nothing, so I can make no judgment…
Krauss: But, okay, that’s right. But I just ask the question. So, if we discovered intelligent life would that mean that you’d give up your belief or that God created the universe for those people as well…those being as well?
Lennox: I would not be give up my belief, I would be fascinated.
Krauss: that’s the problem. You wouldn’t give up your belief in spite of any evidence. That’s the whole problem.
The argument is not new or unique to Krauss. I have heard it before in many forms. The idea that the Christian position is somehow arrogant is reflected in the two parts above. It is either that the universe is so incredibly large that it seems impossible that God would create all of the stars, planets, galaxies, quasars and whatnot merely to put man on a little planet in a little solar system in the outskirts of a galaxy that isn’t even that impressive of a galaxy (all things considered). To believe that all of this immensity was created just for us seems to be putting an importance on human beings that is unjustified. The alternate argument, also visited by Krauss in the debate, is that with a universe so large, there must be millions if not billions of other species out there. How can Christians claim that we are the center of God’s creation? Isn’t that a little arrogant?
Did God create the universe for humanity?
Note the phrasing used by Krauss: “It seems to me to be incredibly arrogant to assume that God created the universe for us.” But is that the fact? Since Krauss is arguing with a Christian (Dr. Lennox), and the Christian’s source for information about God comes through his revealed Word (the Bible), the first question one must ask is whether the Bible says that God created the universe for humanity?
Well, the Bible certainly says in many places that God created everything. For example, John 1:3 clearly states, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” That seems pretty broad and most people would understand that to be a claim that God is the creator of everything including the universe and man. More specifically with respect to the universe, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” So, it seems clear God created the universe in the Christian teaching.
But did God create the universe solely for humanity? With respect to this question, Colossians 1:16 is instructive: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” You see, the Bible doesn’t directly say that God created the universe for man, rather, God created the universe for Himself and His own ends. Later, after the creation, Genesis 1:26 tells us that God chose to give man dominion over the earth.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Note that the verse refers to things of the earth. In fact, nowhere in the Bible does God give man dominion over the universe. But even if it did, that does not mean that God created the universe for us as Krauss alleges.
So, when a skeptic argues that it is arrogant to say that God created the universe for us, my first response is that God didn’t create the universe for man, He created the universe for himself. If the skeptic has a verse that shows to the contrary, I’d like to see it. In other words, the atheist argument starts with a false assumption.
Distinguishing the Anthropic Principle
Now, I have heard some Christian pastors make the point that God created the entire universe in such a way that it is perfectly suited for humanity. Dr. Hugh Ross at Reasons to Believe (http://www.reasons.org) uses this tool a lot. And he certainly is correct that the universe does seem designed in a way that allows for life. This is the basis of the Anthropic Principle. (http://www.reasons.org/articles/anthropic-principle-a-precise-plan-for-humanity) In fact, as Dr. Ross states it,
The anthropic principle says that the universe appears "designed" for the sake of human life. More than a century of astronomy and physics research yields this unexpected observation: the emergence of humans and human civilization requires physical constants, laws, and properties that fall within certain narrow ranges—and this truth applies not only to the cosmos as a whole but also to the galaxy, planetary system, and planet humans occupy. To state the principle more dramatically, a preponderance of physical evidence points to humanity as the central theme of the cosmos.
And it seems equally clear that evidence suggests that our planet has been put in just the right place to allow life to arise. One can find more about the evidence by watching the video The Privileged Planet (http://www.theprivilegedplanet.com/). This video is not the only source for this type of information, but it is a good and entertaining source.
So, am I saying that I disagree with either the idea that the universe seems designed for humanity or that the earth seems to be in a place that seems especially suited to life or am I saying that these ideas are somehow unbiblical? No, not at all. What I am saying is that it is incorrect to say that God created the universe for humanity. He didn’t. He created it for His own purposes and His own glory. But the creation of human beings constitute an important (to God) part of that purpose, so God created the universe in a particular way so that humanity could live and be part of the universe. It was not only or primarily for us, but we are part of the plan.
Is humanity the main point of creation?
So, to give Krauss (and others who hold his view) a fair shake, I will revise his statement to be consistent with the Biblical teaching: “It seems to me to be incredibly arrogant to assume that God created the universe mainly to be suitable for humanity.” But, again, I don’t think that’s quite right either.
Certainly, the Bible says that we have been placed on this earth as the pinnacle of creation. But is that all creation or just the creation on Earth? You see, the word “creation” can be referent to the entirety of creation (the universe) or to just the Earth. Take for example Mark 16:15: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” Here, the word “creation” seems limited to the Earth because the Apostles have no way to go to any place but places on the planet Earth (the world) to preach the Gospel (even if other beings exist out there in the cosmos). Now, I suppose it’s possible that we could someday develop interstellar vehicles which would allow humanity to go out into the universe to find life on other planets to whom we can preach God’s Gospel, but until we know that such other life forms exist, to suggest that verse means we’re suppose to go preach to the Romulans, Klingons or the Vulcans is science fiction which isn’t what the Bible addresses. (Of course, I need to be careful because another of the races mentioned in Star Trek is the Cardassians which is awfully close to the Kardashians who we know exist even if we have little reason to believe they are from another planet.)
So, is it right to say that the universe was created “mainly to be suitable for humanity”? I think that it would be fairer to say that the universe was created in a way that one of its purposes was to be suitable for humanity. God may have had many purposes behind creating the universe of which we are totally unaware because the Bible does not list all of the reasons God may have had for creating the universe, and science (at least based upon present knowledge and capacity) cannot give us further information as to what those purposes might be. So, tearing down my own alternative statement, I don’t believe it is correct to say that God “created the universe mainly to be suitable for humanity.”
How is that arrogant?
So, that leaves us with the most accurate statement from the Christian point of view: “It seems to me to be incredibly arrogant to assume that God created the universe with one purpose being to create it in a way to be suitable for humanity.” That’s actually a pretty weak claim of arrogance (i.e., claiming to be one of many possible purposes behind God’s activities), but let’s go with taking a closer look as to whether this is really arrogant.
First, let’s define what arrogant means. I have posted the dictionary definition above.
There are two senses in which a person can be arrogant. First, a person can be arrogant in their claims. Second, a person can be arrogant in how they treat others, i.e., arrogant in their attitude. The first can be depicted by thinking about a person who claims to be one of the five best basketball players in the world. Such a person would probably be considered arrogant if the only place he or she played basketball was on the school playground in pick-up games. Sure, he/she can out-play other pick-up game players, but why should anyone believe that he/she is all that good when he/she isn’t playing at the highest level? But, if the person making that audacious claim were LeBron James or Keven Durant, the claim to be one of the best has been proven out by playing as one of the best players in the best leagues in the world. In such a case, the claim itself isn’t arrogant – it’s true.
So, let’s accept (since it’s obviously true) that the universe is tremendously big – bigger than most of us can imagine. Does that mean that it is arrogant to believe that God created it with at least one of the purposes being the creation and home for humanity? Well, it would be if this were simply what humanity was saying about itself. That would be pretty self-important and therefore arrogant. But if it is the creator of the universe who says that He made it for humanity, than it isn’t arrogant at all. It is a simple statement of fact. That, of course, is exactly what the Christian is claiming – God is the one who said that he created the universe and put man here as the pinnacle of his creation on earth. That’s not arrogant, that repeating what is true according to God’s divine Word.
Are Christians saying it as though humanity is better than any other possible race that may exist out there? I don’t get that sense. Of course, we don’t know if any other alien races exist so it is hard to get a feel for whether there is a claim to superiority over other possible life. But absent some statement by a Christian that God has said we are superior to all other life that may exist outside of the earth and that God created the universe only for us, this isn’t an arrogant claim in the sense that Christians have an arrogant attitude.
Who’s really arrogant?
But when I listen to Krauss and his arguments, I believe that the person who is really arrogant here is Krauss (and others like him). Let’s grant that he is a relatively intelligent individual who is well-versed in his particular science field (even if he isn’t particularly well-versed in religion). What he is essentially saying is that his view of science which, by definition, is only the study of created things, leads him to know that God, who isn’t a created thing, does not exist. And moreover, it leads him to believe that Christians are being arrogant to say that God created the universe with them in mind. And he knows this…how? Isn’t that a claim to superior knowledge or self-importance to believe that he and his fellow “brights” (another overworked, inaccurate use of the English language) somehow know either that God doesn’t exist or what is in God’s mind.
To me, that’s the arrogance.