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This essay sets out to challenge the widespread assumption that scientific explanations for the creation and destiny of the universe are directly opposed to religious or theological explanations of the cosmos. It begins by exploring the cosmic geography of the peoples of the Ancient Near East and examining linguistic elements of the biblical creation stories in order to demonstrate that our modern concerns about understanding the cosmos are not necessarily the same as those of the biblical authors. It goes on to discuss current areas of debate – such as the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, the concept of a multiverse, and the idea of ‘heat death’ as a potential end of the cosmos – and considers how far such concepts are compatible with Christian teaching.
(This paper was selected as the winning entry in the 2017 Fraser Essay Prize competition.)