Science: The Big Bang

A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article quoted a poll showing that 51% of Americans do not believe the universe began all by itself, from nothing, with a “big bang.” What surprised me most about the article was its honesty in explaining why so many disbelieve the big bang theory, which is the prevailing model in cosmology to explain the beginning of the universe. The WSJ article said this:

The culprits might be “scientific atheists,” a small but vocal group of thinkers who employ science to claim that there is no God. Some argue that the universe came into existence all on its own. In particular, physicist Lawrence M. Krauss’s 2012 book A Universe from Nothing insists that the big bang occurred within a complete emptiness, and thus there is no need for a “God.” But the key assumption of Mr. Krauss’s conjecture is flawed and at odds with modern cosmology. The big bang did not occur in “nothing.” It had to be spawned in some kind of pre-existent medium, known by physicists as “quantum foam,” though we don’t know exactly what it is. [1]

Though, as noted in the article, the theory assumes that something did pre-exist the big bang, Krauss and other scientific atheists don’t want to leave room for God in their thinking. That viewpoint reminds me of the old Billy Preston song, “Nothing from Nothing” [leaves nothing]—an idea far more consistent with current big bang theory than any atheistic interpretation!

The idea of the big bang was first conceived in 1927 by Roman Catholic priest Georges Lemaître, who also was an astronomer and physicist. Up to that time, the accepted theory was that the universe had always existed in a “steady state” and that matter was eternal. Lemaître theoretically deduced the expansion of the universe and proposed that it was launched from a “primeval atom.” He rejected the steady-state theory because he believed the story in the first chapter of Genesis of a beginning and searched for a way to prove it scientifically. He did so using a complex mathematical proof based on Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

What’s ironic is that Einstein did not accept the big bang theory when it was proposed in 1927. In 1916, in what he referred to later as “the biggest mistake of my life,” Einstein altered his equations to fit the accepted idea of a steady-state universe. But in 1929, Edwin Hubble’s astronomical observations proved Lemaître correct about an expanding universe and Einstein and many other scientists came to accept the big bang theory.

The big bang theory continued to gain scientific credibility as it was used to predict certain phenomena later proven to be actual. Though the theory is now widely accepted, it is unable to explain the origin of the “bang” itself and the origin of the laws of physics necessitated by it. Still, it’s not difficult to visualize the expansion (called “inflation”) of the universe from a single point. Physicist Alan Guth conjectured this explanation:

During the universe’s first 10-35 of a second, a period of extremely rapid, exponential inflation occurred, expanding the universe by a factor of at least 1026. It would be the equivalent of taking a pea and expanding it to the size of our solar system in a time less than a millionth of a blink of an eye.

The big bang accounts for the uniformity in the universe of microwave background radiation. This phenomenon was discovered in the mid 1960s by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson at Bell Labs using ultra-sensitive cryogenic microwave receivers. P. J. E. Peebles of Princeton then identified this radiation as the residual energy of the big bang. These discoveries changed humanity’s understanding of our universe.

Though big bang theory does not specify what kicked off the big bang itself, the nature of the event points to a pre-existing, intelligent agent. According to Berkeley’s George Smoot, the big bang was a “finely orchestrated event,” not a chaotic explosion. Astronomer Eric Carlson describes it as “incredibly, highly ordered…just the opposite of a chaotic event.” Had the expansion rate at the beginning been faster or slower—by a mere 1 part in 1060—life would not have been possible.

As you will recall, Albert Einstein discovered that energy does not disappear, but changes into matter. This means that everything comes from the energy/material of the big bang—the universe has a material/energy oneness. However, there is no hint of consciousness in that material—no reason to think that the big bang orchestrated and ordered itself. That leaves open the question, what (or who) did? Physicist and science writer Paul Davies comments:

What is the source of those ingenious laws that enable a universe to pop into being from nothing? …There is no compelling need for a supernatural being or prime mover to start the universe off. But when it comes to the laws that explain the big bang, we are in murkier waters.

Though Davies’ questions bring him close to the truth, he does not connect the dots as we do. Big bang theory seems to fit well with our faith in the God the Bible tells us created all that is, which would include the laws and conditions that led to the big bang. Though our faith in God does not rest on scientific theory, the big bang theory does seem to offer clues as to the ultimate source of all that has come into being. As Paul wrote, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

God has revealed himself to us in his actions in history. Those actions include creation as well as what God did to reveal himself to certain individuals and to the people of Israel. But, by far, the most complete revelation came when the God of all creation entered time and space in the person of Jesus Christ, thus providing for us his self-revelation. In that revelation we hear and see God as Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of all history—from beginning to end. “For from him and through him and for him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

History had a beginning by the agency of the Triune God and it will culminate in the return of Jesus, the Creator, Savior, High Priest, Sage, King of kings, Judge and Elder Brother of the human race. The big bang was simply the beginning of an unfolding story (“his-story,” which through Jesus becomes ours) leading to the time when God creates “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1), in which his people will live eternally in a loving and joyful relationship with him through their eternal Mediator, Jesus Christ.


[1] “In the Beginning, There Was an Atom,” The Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2014.

Author: Joseph Tkach


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