One of the most important doctrines of the church is ‘creatio ex nihilo’; this means that we believe God created the universe out of nothing. Genesis 1:1 is the key text: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ According to this doctrine, all that is physical has been created by God from nothing and this creation was something that happened in a particular time in the past.
How does modern science and philosophy deal with this? Surely as Christians we should be prepared to discuss this subject knowledgably and reasonably with the unbeliever or doubter. It is fundamental to our witnessing that we can answer the questions put to us in an informed and respectful way. The problem is that we live in a world where talk of a Creator is considered outdated and without any reasonable basis. Christians often feel lacking in the knowledge and skill needed to debate this — particularly with scientists. I hope in this brief article to show that we have plenty of excellent reasons to point anyone to a thoroughly biblical view of God as the Creator of the universe.
WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING?
This simple question is a good starter. We take for granted that the universe exists. But why should it exist? Why is there anything at all? The fact that there are galaxies, stars, planets, the earth, atoms and all the forces of nature is not something to be simply accepted as inevitable. The brute fact that things exist should lead us to ask why! The atheist has no answer to this. This simple question needs to be pressed and not dismissed. All that we know about the universe makes us expect a cause or reason for any part of it or indeed the whole of it.
THERE HAD TO BE A BEGINNING
If we look at any physical object, then we can assume that a series of causes placed it there. A rock on the seashore beside our house on the Isle of Harris has a history. If we went back in time, and we knew all the facts, we could list a series of events, right back to the formation of the earth. The same can be said of the universe as a whole; there had to be a series of events or causes, and this leads us to conclude a beginning, indeed a first cause. This is the cosmological argument for a creator, put forward by the ancient Greek philosophers. The cosmological argument for God is a very strong one. The only way to avoid it is to say that the universe has an infinite past, and that, as we shal l see, is not possible.
THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF AN INFINITE PAST
Some will indeed argue that the past is infinite and that this does away with the need to talk of an absolute beginning. Perhaps there was a series of big bangs and even an infinite number of them. The problem with this is the impossibility of an infinite series mathematically. If we are to talk of an infinite series of causes going back eternally, with no beginning, then we are on slippery ground. It is not possible to traverse an infinite series. Imagine being back an infinite time ago — it would be impossible for the universe to reach the present. This is the same as imagining a space craft trying to reach a star which is an infinite distance away; it would never reach it even if it could go at near the speed of light. A timeline of an infinite series of events or causes is not possible. There simply had to be a beginning.
THE BIG BANG CONTROVERSY
We cannot avoid discussing the question of the Big Bang theory of how the universe began. All hangs on our interpretation of the six days of creation in Genesis chapter one. Proper discussion of this requires another article; suffice it to say that we should not rule out those days being periods of time (as the Hebrew allows). It is certainly possible to hold with integrity the highest possible view of scripture and at the same time believe in a very old universe, which could have had a beginning such as the Big Bang. To rule this out of court is, in my opinion, both dangerous in our witnessing and unnecessary. When the Big Bang theory was first proposed, based on many observations of the universe, it was considered too much like a creation event. Atheist scientists tried hard to resist it because of this. Anything you read from cosmologists about the Big Bang leaves one in absolute awe at the immense power and magnificence of that event, and the current prevailing scientific view is that it began from nothing — yes, nothing.
The late Stephen Hawking, the most famous scientist of our times, believed it began from nothing, but he then tried to involve gravitational forces to somehow make it happen, rather than any creator. He never explained where the gravitational forces came from and his argument for a universe somehow popping into existence from nothing, on its own without a creator, falls down completely.
THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE
The fine-tuning of the universe to allow for galaxies, stars, planets, the earth and life itself is not just some creationist make-believe. The exquisite way in which the universe is set up so precisely is a very powerful argument for the fine-tuner, God. It is acknowledged by cosmologists that the conditions at the beginning had to be very precise to even allow for any galaxies to form. There are many examples and here are just a few.
The expansion energy of the universe was counteracted by the gravitation force pulling it all back. This had to be very finely balanced. It has been acknowledged by physicists that this expansion energy had to differ from the opposing gravitational energy by less than one part in 1015 (a million billion). Any variation from this would have resulted in either an expansion with no galaxies or a premature ‘big crunch’ as the universe contracted back.
The universe at the beginning had to have a slight unevenness or non-uniformity. If the matter and energy had been completely smooth or uniform then there would never have been any aggregation of matter into galaxies, and if the universe had been more uneven, everything would have collapsed into black holes. The unevenness is expressed by cosmologists by the letter Q, which is the energy difference between the peaks and troughs in the density, expressed as a fraction of the total energy of the initial universe. Computer models show that Q had to be very close to 0.00001 in order for any galaxies to form. If Q had been minutely different we would not be here, let alone the earth and our solar system.
We could list many other aspects of fine-tuning. The only way out of concluding that there is a mind behind all this precision is to assume that there are multiple universes and ours is just one that struck lucky somehow. There is absolutely no evidence for multiple universes and the atheist only brings out this argument because of an atheist worldview, rather than because of science.
The doubter will often accuse us of merely attempting to fill in gaps of scientific knowledge with God, as if our position is one of ignorance. On the contrary, the Christian position is based on our increasing scientific knowledge of how the universe works.
John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at the University of Oxford, has written much in support of the design arguments from fine-tuning. He says concerning these arguments: ‘We should note that the preceding arguments are not “God of the gaps” arguments; it is advance in science, not ignorance of science, that has revealed this fine-tuning to us. In that sense there is no “gap” in the science. The question is rather: how should we interpret the science? In what direction is it pointing?’
His conclusion is that science overwhelmingly provides evidence for a Creator of the universe.
As we consider the universe in its vastness and beauty, we can turn in awe to our Saviour and worship him afresh. ‘All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made.’ Let us be encouraged to hold our nerve and speak the truth.
Dr Antony Latham is a GP based on the Isle of Harris. He is the writer of a number of books including The Naked Emporer: Darwinism Exposed and The Enigma of Consciousness — Reclaiming the Soul
[This article was first published in the October 2018 edition of The Record]