Scientific evidence points to our awesome universe having a beginning. But what was the first cause? In the Bible God says He did it. Can that be proven?
Over the past 50 years, astronomy and astrophysics have been among the fastest developing fields in science. Spurred by advanced instrumentation and orbiting telescopes that can detect signals across the full spectrum of wavelengths, our knowledge of the universe has vastly increased.
This scientific evidence has led to the development of several models for how the universe began and expanded over billions of years—explaining a paradox that had perplexed astronomers for thousands of year. (For a detailed review of historical developments as well as current scientific theories related to the laws of the universe, see The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose, 2007.) Until the 1920s the universe was considered to be static; but was it infinite or was it finite, and did it have a beginning or not?
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey states, “The ancient Greeks recognized that it was difficult to imagine what an infinite universe might look like. But they also wondered that if the universe were finite, and you stuck out your hand at the edge, where would your hand go? The Greeks’ two problems with the universe represented a paradox—the universe had to be either finite or infinite, and both alternatives presented problems” (Skyserver.sdss.org, article “The Expanding Universe”).
But in 1929 astronomer Edwin Hubble’s discovery that the universe is expanding led to the conclusion that the universe is not static and that it must have initially had a beginning.
As more and more evidence has been gathered, many scientists have developed a commonly accepted model for the beginning and growth of the universe. This model is often referred to as the hot inflationary big bang theory and will be referred to as the standard model here. A very condensed version of that model is outlined below.
A summary of the hot inflationary big bang theory
- In the beginning the universe was a point of energy that was infinitesimally small with an almost infinite temperature and infinite density. It is sometimes described as a “tiny seed region” from which the universe sprang.
- The universe was launched (referred to as the “big bang”) when the universe instantly “inflated.” In less than one-millionth of one-millionth of one-millionth of one-millionth of a second, the universe inflated to a size a million times a million times a million times a million times as large. In seconds the universe reached a size somewhat less than we see today (see “Does the Big Bang Theory Require a Miracle?” for further discussion of inflation).
- The universe was an immensely hot (trillions of degrees) broth consisting of subatomic particles. During this instant, the forces of nature took on their current forms.
- By the time the universe reached the age of about a minute, it had cooled to the point that hydrogen had formed and conditions throughout were similar to those at the center of present-day stars.
- When the universe was around 60,000 years old, light density dropped below that of matter, energy began to turn into matter and the universe passed from the radiation era to the matter era.
- At 400,000 years the universe cooled below 3000 kelvin and atoms formed.
- After about 100 million years matter began to clump together, and the first stars were born.
- By about 1 billion years the first galaxies had formed.
- By 5 billion years galaxies had matured into the type we see today, and the Milky Way galaxy had formed.
- By 9 billion years the earth had formed.
- It is estimated that the universe is now about 13.7 billion years old.
How can you prove what happened billions of years ago?
Since no human was there to witness what happened at creation, proof can only be based on circumstantial evidence. The scientific evidence for the standard model is very strong and is based on:
- Observations and measurements of the observable universe.
- The currently understood laws of nature.
- Mathematical modeling that produces results consistent with Nos. 1 and 2.
While additional research aided by even more advanced instrumentation is continuing, it seems likely that the main elements of the standard model will be reinforced more strongly.
So, is the case for the creation of the universe now closed as being explained by natural causes? Or are there still major unexplained issues?
Does God have a place in creation? Scientists begin with a fundamental assumption that only natural processes and sequences of events that are consistent with natural laws should be considered. In other words, the idea of God creating the universe is ruled out as a possibility from the beginning.
But is this assumption consistent with the scientific method and the circumstantial evidence?
What is unexplained, explains a lot!
There is a vital issue unexplained in the standard model. In fact, the model does not specifically address the moment of creation at all but, rather, begins with the growth of the universe from a preexisting source of energy and matter.
While scientists claim to follow the scientific method in studying the origin of the universe, the standard model begins with one fundamental assumption. You have to accept the premise that something was created out of nothing!
Scientists generally agree that there had to be a source of energy and matter before the big bang. But how did this initial source originate? What laws of physics can explain this phenomenon? There are none that allow for the creation of energy and matter from nothing.
Various unsubstantiated theories have been proposed, ranging from the idea that the universe didn’t really have a beginning to multiple universes appearing and disappearing over eternity. All the evidence suggests that the universe had a beginning. Yet the simple fact is that science offers no rational explanation as to the source of the matter forming the universe. Does this not suggest a supernatural beginning of the universe?
There is a related unexplained question. With all energy, matter and space itself initially concentrated in an infinitesimally small volume, what held everything in place before its release at the “bang”? What force would be strong enough to constrict the entire universe other than a supernatural power?
Another unexplained issue is the sudden inflation of the universe. How did the universe increase in size from something infinitesimally small to a size only slightly smaller than we currently see today—in less than seconds? Again, this concept cannot be explained by any laws of physics. What then could have caused this sudden inflation?
Then there is the question of the four fundamental forces of the universe. These forces are gravity (a universal attraction between all forms of mass and energy), strong forces (needed to hold the nucleus of atoms together), weak forces (acting only inside particles of an atom and responsible for some particle reactions and certain kinds of radioactivity), and electromagnetic forces (acting between any charged particles such as electrons and protons within atoms).
Scientists believe that these fundamental forces emerged during the first seconds of the big bang. However, there is no explanation for how these forces emerged. Are we to believe that such fundamental forces just happened?
It is important to understand exactly what scientists believe was created at the big bang. The layman might think that there was initially empty space and that creation occurred when this space was filled with matter and energy. In the standard model not only were matter and energy created, but also time and space itself. Einstein’s theory of relativity postulated that time is a part of the physical universe. As such, time can vary depending on location and velocity. So far, every test of Einstein’s theory has verified it.
The implications are huge. If time and space were a part of the physical creation, what existed before?
What does the scientific evidence suggest?
Based on the scientific evidence to date, the following events occurred at the beginning of the creation of the universe.
- The matter and energy of the universe were created from nothing.
- All matter, energy and space itself were constrained in an extremely small volume by an unknown force.
- At the launch of the universe, matter, energy and space inflated in an instant to create a universe of almost the size we see today.
- Time began when the universe was created.
- All the laws of physics, as well as the fundamental forces of nature, were created in the instant of inflation.
After this initial flurry of activity, the universe began to generally follow a pattern of development consistent with natural laws. Yet there is absolutely no scientific explanation as to why or how these first events occurred. Without such evidence, the options are:
- To accept, on faith, that at some point in the future such scientific evidence will be discovered.
- To look for an alternative explanation.
Which is a more reasonable conclusion? That these once-in-the-history-of-the-universe events occurred due to some unknown set of natural laws that have not been observed since? Or that an all-powerful supreme being was the first cause?
Which requires more faith?
God’s claim as Creator
The God of the Bible claims responsibility for the creation of the universe. The very first words of the Bible are: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This scripture does not define how far back in time this beginning was. Science indicates it was billions of years, and a careful study of the Bible shows that it is consistent with the scientific evidence.
There is an indeterminate gap of time between the creation of the universe described in this verse and what follows in the next verse. In Genesis 1:2 a re-creation of the earth is described in preparation for the introduction of mankind. See “The Gap Theory” for a detailed explanation of the time difference between these two verses.
God points out that looking at the evidence of creation proves that He is God.A similar declaration of God as the Creator is found in other scriptures as well. For example, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6-9).
God challenges us to prove His assertions. “Come now, and let us reason together,” God says in Isaiah 1:18, in reference to His desire to forgive our sins upon repentance. “Try Me now in this,” He says in Malachi 3:10, regarding His promise to bless those who faithfully tithe to Him.
God expresses the same principle in the New Testament as well: “Test [prove, King James Version] all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
God points out that looking at the evidence of creation proves that He is God. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). In other words, creation is a proof of God.
Notice that the Bible agrees with science that time had a beginning. Paul, referring to God’s promise of eternal life, wrote: “In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2). As some may be surprised to learn, the Bible does not conflict with science but rather supports it (see “God and Science”).
The design of creation
There is abundant evidence that the creation of the universe was a supernatural event. The scientific evidence points to a unique event in the history of the universe—its creation. Yet the mechanism of this event cannot be explained through science. What is the alternative? A Creator God.
Read more about this life-changing truth in the other articles in this section on “Is There a God?” and get to know our amazing Creator. The articles on this website are here to help you do just that!