One of the great questions that has befuddled scientists over the years is “How did the universe begin?”
The Bible has a very simple explanation. In the first verse of the Bible, we are told that God created the heavens and the earth. From the days of Moses, many faithful Jews and Christians have accepted that this is how it all got started.
On the other hand, for many years, cosmologists disputed this belief by arguing that the universe was eternal and one, therefore, does not need to think about the origin of the universe because it did not have a beginning; it has always existed.
But when Einstein came along with his theory of relativity, and then astronomer Edwin Hubble began his work observing the heavens, this view began to change.
It was 1916 and Albert Einstein didn”t like where his calculations were taking him. If his theory of relativity were true, it meant that the universe was not eternal but had a beginning. Einstein’s calculations indeed were revealing a definite beginning to all time, all matter, and all space. This flew in the face of his belief that the universe was static and eternal. Einstein later called his discovery irritating. He wanted the universe to be self-existent, not reliant on an outside cause, but the universe appeared to be one giant effect. In fact Einstein so disliked the implications of General Relativity, a theory that is now proven accurate to five decimal places, that he introduced a cosmological constant (which some have called a “fudge factor”) into his equations in order to show that the universe is static to avoid an absolute beginning. By 1922, Russian mathematician Alexander Freidman had officially exposed Einstein”s fudge factor as an algebraic error. (Incredibly in his quest to avoid a beginning, the great Einstein had divided by zero something that even schoolchildren know is a no-no.) Meanwhile, Dutch astronomer Willem de Sitter found that General Relativity required the universe to be expanding. And in 1927, the expanding of the universe was actually observed by astronomer Edwin Hubble. Looking through the one hundred-inch telescope at California’s Mount Wilson Observatory, Hubble discovered a red shift in the light from every observable galaxy, which meant that those galaxies were moving away from us. In other words General Relativity was again confirmed. The universe appears to be expanding from a single point in the distant past.
In 1929 Einstein himself made a pilgrimage to Mount Wilson to look through Hubble’s telescope. What he saw was irrefutable. The observational evidence showed that the universe was indeed expanding as general relativity had predicted. With his cosmological constant now completely crushed by the weight of the evidence against it, Einstein could no longer support his wish for an eternal universe. He subsequently described the cosmological constant as “the greatest blunder of my life.” And he redirected his efforts to find the solution to the puzzle of life. Einstein said, and I quote, that he,
. . . wanted to know how God created the world. I”m not interested in this or that phenomenon,Â in the spectrum of this or that element, I want to know his thought.
Einstein went on to say, most likely with tongue in cheek, that the rest are just details.
The predominant view in cosmology today in regards to the start of the universe is the big-bang theory. The theory proposes that the universe is expanding from a single point in the distant past. In other words, at some definite point in the dimension of time there was a uniquely massive explosion, what scientists call a “singularity,” and the universe has been expanding ever since. Thus, since the universe had an actual beginning, then, arguably, the big-bang theory points rather conspicuously to a theistic view of the universe.
The big bang is profoundly theistic. In fact, I read recently that it is hard to find a cosmologist who will want to participate in a public debate on the existence of God. What”s happened in their branch of science makes the atheistic point of view extremely hard to defend.
Let’s go back to Alan Sandage from last week’s blog. Remember, he was the scientist described by The New York Times as the grand old man of cosmology? He says, “The big bang was a supernatural event that cannot be explained within the realm of physics as we know it.”
And Steven Meyer from Cambridge says, “You can invoke neither time nor space nor matter nor energy nor the laws of nature to explain the origin of the universe. General relativity points to the need for a cause that transcends those domains. And theism affirms the existence of such an entity, namely God. In short, naturalism is on hard times in cosmology; the deeper you get into it, the harder it is to get rid of the God hypothesis.”
When taken together, the theories of the big bang and of general relativity combine to provide a scientific description of what Christians call creation ex nihilo or creation out of nothing.
As Nobel Prize winner Arno Penzias said about the big bang, “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the first five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.”
In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul utters these interesting words, that God, “calls into being that which does not exist.” Maybe this explains the origin of the universe. Again, maybe Paul has it right.
If you are interested in reading more about the intersection of science and faith in God, you might want to read Richard’s book entitled Reliable Truth: The Validity of The Bible in an Age of Skepticism. Here is a link to Amazon should you want to explore it more.