Answering questions about eternity and embryology
Published: 25 November 2017 (GMT+10)
At CMI, we answer a wide range of creation questions. First, an interesting question about eternity.
Eric B. from the U.S. writes,
I have a sincere question. I’m a Christian but have always been unsettled by the paradoxical feeling of eternal life. The idea of something never ending for us should be joyful, but I’m constantly horrified by the thought of there being only a limited amount of things one could possibly do for eternity, since there can’t be an infinite amount of them. At some time everything possible to exist will, and there will be no new things to experience. How could anything stay satisfying forever. As horrible as it is, it would seem like the only way to not suffer anymore is to not exist after death, but we exist and have desires and love for people, and for all that to end isn’t desirable, even though you wouldn’t know that you don't exist anymore, so shouldn’t be harmful. It also concerns me that there’s a lot of people who have no problem believing you don’t exist after death because you can’t know it if that happens, and if belief in God and eternal existence are needed for peace and joy.
Lita Cosner responds:
Thanks for writing in. Wow, that’s really honest to admit these feelings about eternity. I would first really recommend that you talk to your pastor about this, because I think you could benefit from the sort of discipleship that you can only get in a local context. But I can offer a few thoughts that might be helpful in the meantime until you can meet with your pastor.
It’s true that there are only a limited number of created things, and if all we had were created things to occupy us in eternity, we might eventually get bored. But the wonderful thing about eternity is that we will be in the presence of God, who is inexhaustible in His glory and His goodness. Millions of years after we are resurrected, we will still be discovering new heights of His glory and depths of His goodness, and we will have new things to praise Him for. God is what makes eternity joyful for us. He created us with a need to have new things to learn and discover, and in the resurrection that need will be fulfilled in ways that we can’t even imagine in this life.
We can imagine if this life went on forever, that would be horrifying, because this world is fallen, and we are fallen, and our relationship with God, even though we are reconciled with Christ, is not yet what it will be in the Resurrection (or at least, it is not manifested as it will be).
God will be satisfying to us as believers forever, and as we will always have more to discover about His character, we will never run out of new things to experience. But as I said before, I really do recommend that you speak to your pastor.
I hope these few thoughts are helpful.
It is a common myth that all of us start our development as females. Victor S., Brazil, writes:
Hello friends form CMI! I have some doubts here. In a post in your site, the author said that it's myth to say that embryos “start off female”. However, I came across an articule that says: “Although all humans fetuses, whether genetic males or females, begin fetal development with a female form, it is at the seventh week of gestation that the bodies of unaffected genetic males begin their masculinization” I wish to know if the author didn't know about it, or the other site is wrong.(or I misunterstood both) And I want to know how should I treat a person with CAIS.
Lita Cosner responds:
Thanks for writing in. It is actually untrue that the embryo starts out female. Rather, males and females share the same early developmental pathways because the structures being developed are not sex-specific until a particular point in development. As the Wikipedia page for “Sexual differentiation in humans” puts it, “A fetus doesn’t develop its external sexual organs until the second month of pregnancy—seven weeks after conception. The fetus appears to be sexually indifferent, looking neither like a male or a female. Over the next five weeks, the fetus begins producing hormones that cause its sex organs to grow into male or female organs.” In fact, in the very early development of the embryo, both the müllerian (female) and wolffian (male) duct systems begin to develop, with the presence or absence of testosterone at a certain point in development determining which one predominates.
This is just good design economy for baby boys and girls to develop along the same pathways as much as possible (this is also why symmetry is a good idea in the design of a body plan). So the early embryo is not ‘female’, he or she is at an undifferentiated stage of development, although every cell already has an XX (for a girl) or XY (for a boy) chromosome pair which will determine the sex-specific development of the little boy or girl.
A big part of the development of the embryo is the presence or absence of testosterone and the body’s correct response to its presence (i.e. making the body more masculine). There are problems when there isn’t enough of it in a genetic male (or when the genetic male's body can't respond properly to it, as in CAIS), or when there is too much of it in a genetic female's body. Individuals affected by intersex conditions should be treated with dignity and compassion, and affirmed as image-bearers of God as all people are. Incidentally, there has been activism against early childhood operations to ‘normalize’ intersex children before they are old enough to understand and give consent. How interesting that one group of people is fighting for the right not to be operated on as children, while transgender people are fighting for ever-earlier medical interventions! Incidentally, transgender activists often try to co-opt the plight of intersex individuals to argue against the gender binary altogether—but this is not valid.
See the following articles for more information:
- Male and female He made them …
- Are women genetically superior to men?
- Transgender arguments hinge on sex versus gender—can you choose?
- Celebrating gender confusion