Are Science and Faith Compatible? Concept 2: The Cosmological Conundrum

Mark Phillips | October 17, 2018

If you haven’t already, check out the first article in this series, Are Science and Faith Compatible? Concept 1: Atheism is Self-Denying

Until the 20th century, it was widely accepted by many scientists that the universe had always existed, contra the biblical view. For an atheist, this view would have been necessary. A universe that once was not and then came into existence at some finite singular point must have a First Cause to bring it into existence. The universe could be the first thing ever to exist, but it could not be the First Cause of existence. That leaves too much room for a Creator. So, a static universe, one that had always existed, was the atheist’s comfortable place to land.

Clearly, the very first line of the Bible contradicted this widely accepted concept of a static universe when it declared that there was a beginning and that, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) Those who believed in a static universe took the position that the Bible was wrong from its very first verse. But, then three new significant observations and conclusions in 20th century cosmology demonstrated that the Bible had it right all along.

The implication of universal entropy

Universal entropy basically means the universe is running out of usable energy, physically expanding into cold death. On its present course, the universe would eventually become cold, black, and dead. Technically, it would reach almost absolute zero, the point at which all usable energy flow comes to a complete standstill.[1]

“IF-THEN” Logic

IF the universe is running out of energy,
AND IF the universe had always existed,
THEN, it would have already run out of energy (because forever would have been enough time for it to run out of energy)
SINCE the universe clearly has not run out of energy,…
THEN, it has not always existed.

This logic creates an interesting problem for the naturalistic worldview, which believes the physical universe is all there is. If the universe has not always existed, then something had to bring it into existence. It is illogical to say that the universe could create itself because it was not around in the beginning. Nothing cannot make something. Yet God created everything out of nothing in such a way that nothing can be made from nothing. Such is the truth pointing to the glory of our Creator God as Paul wrote in Romans 1:21 – “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made…” Greater now than ever are the reasons to remove all excuses.

An expanding universe

Astronomy exploded in the 1920’s, along with support for Genesis 1:1. The giant dome telescopes opened up a new realm of wonder as we gazed into the night sky. Until then, there were only undiscernible distant pinpricks of light. These new powerful telescopes revealed a creation more magnificent than ever imagined–a universe full of galaxies!

One astronomer, Edwin Hubble,[2] was enthusiastically viewing these galaxies from the Palomar Observatory on Mt Wilson in southern California. We know now that you can view even the smallest region of any fractional quadrant of the universe and observe numerous galaxies.

The Redshift

Hubble also made another monumental discovery. In any quadrant of the sky, he found galaxies displaying what is called the redshift. You likely can recall the sound of a siren blaring as it quickly comes and goes. As it drives away, the sound drops in frequency and gets lower in pitch. It’s because sound waves are elongating as they move away from you–the longer the wave, the lower the pitch. This is known as the Doppler Effect, named after Christian Doppler, Austrian mathematician and physicist. We see this same effect in light.

If an object displaying visible light is moving away from us quickly, it will stretch the light waves out, lowering their frequency toward the red end of the spectrum–the redshift. Hubble found glorious galaxies in every quadrant of the universe shifting light toward to the red end of the spectrum, thus indicating they are moving away from us at a rapid rate. The sensible conclusion is universal expansion. Incidentally, it is reasonable to argue that this is precisely what the Bible describes when it says God stretches out the heavens. (Job 9; Isaiah 42, 44, 45, 51; Jer 10, 51; Zech 12)

Expansion in Reverse

So, the same problem exists against a static universe (one that has always existed). Since the universe is expanding, we know it had a beginning. How? By reversing the cosmic picture and going backward in time. Moving forward in time, we know the universe gets bigger and bigger; but if we move back in time, the universe would get smaller and smaller. This reversal exercise eventually takes us to the only conclusion–space diminishes to nothing as we take the universe back in time to before its beginning. You cannot put any amount of matter into zero space, let alone an entire universe. It could not have existed when there was no space. Conclusion: Space and matter, along with time, had to be created by the First Cause.

General relativity

Just prior to the explosive work in astronomy of the 1920’s, Albert Einstein was working on his Theory of General Relativity. In short, it says that massive objects cause a curvature in space itself. The result pointed to a universe that had to have a beginning point. At first, Einstein did not like the implications of his own conclusions. He tried to fudge his own equations with a constant that would allow the universe to be static, a force that balanced out against the expansion of the universe. There was no physical justification for this constant, this balancing force. But Einstein basically fiddled with his own math to make it support a static universe. He later called this the greatest mistake of his career. What changed his mind?

In January of 1931, Einstein visited Hubble at the Palomar Observatory. Present also was Georges Lemaître, who first proposed the expanding universe later validated by Hubble’s redshift. There are newsreels of the visit. As the legend goes of the somewhat staged presentation, Einstein emerges from the observatory to members of the press and quips in his thick German accent, “I now see the necessity of a beginning.”

In 1968, Stephen Hawking solved the field equations of relativity: Rab – ½ Rgab = 8oTab. What he showed is that the curvature of space gets tighter and tighter (smaller and smaller space) as you go back in time. Eventually, it gets infinitely tight, infinitesimally small, ultimately leading to zero space. And how much matter can you put into zero space? None! This is another mathematical demonstration that the universe once was not. And since it now is, it needed a cause to come into existence, the Creator.

The Universe had a Beginning

So, we have two applications of science, one theoretical (Einstein’s Relativity) and one empirical (Hubble’s redshift). They both corroborate an expanding universe, which drives the conclusion also verified by universal entropy: The universe had a beginning. This is behind Borde’s / Vilenkin’s / Guth’s statement, “Any universe that on average is expanding must have a beginning.”[3]

Astronomer Robert Jastrow understood the implications of a beginning to the universe when he wrote,

This is an exceedingly strange development unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.[5]

MATERIALISM’S ATTEMPTS TO REFUTE THE OBVIOUS BEGINNING

The naturalistic methodological materialists are not easily giving up their philosophical hope in some kind of static universe. Currently, they appeal to what is called quantum cosmology. The claim is that when the universe was so small, an unfounded idea called quantum gravity might have overruled Einstein’s relativity and the conclusions Hawking reached in 1968. Before creation, this quantum gravity could keep the universe in a wave state (as opposed to a particle state: “stuff”), since quantum behavior acts like both a wave and a particle, until such time that this limbo energy became all the matter of the universe. There are at least three big problems here.

The first problem: There is no clear description of (or evidence for) quantum gravity. It is grasping in an effort to resist the need for a Beginner, a Creator. The second problem: This idea requires a sort of imaginary time before time, and imaginary time has not been demonstrated. The third problem: This theory says there are multiple geometries, multiple dimensions that make up all the different possibilities of space during the pre-universe limbo “imaginary time” time. Well, that won’t do, because our universe only has one geometry. So what happened to all those other “geometries of space” since they could no longer exist once our universe does? Something would have to deal with that, compressing all those different spatial geometries into one to make our finely tuned universe possible. We’re getting into highly improbable fantasyland here, one that still requires a Great Coordinator of all the geometric dimensions.

Appealing to the Best Conclusion

A common practice of science is appealing to the best conclusion. Good science says the best conclusion about the origin of the universe is it had a beginning—thus a beginner, a creator. As the Bible says in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. – Psalm 19:1-4b

Read Next:
Are Science and Faith Compatible? Concept 3: The Programming Paradox


[1] At first glance, this seems a depressing observation; but the Christian knows Christ will return long before this would ever happen. It is reasonable to assume at that time, God will establish some new physics in the new heavens and new earth for eternal life in eternity!

[2] The Hubble Telescope is named after Edwin Hubble. It can accurately pinpoint and magnify a view of one 24 millionth of the whole sky to reveal thousands of galaxies in God’s magnificent creation in just this tiny fraction of His heavens! This is known as Hubble Deep Space. Do an internet search on HDS related to the Hubble Telescope’s view of the constellation Ursa Major, and you will see magnificent images resonating with Psalm 19:1-6.

[3] Borde, Arvind, Guth, Alan H., Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete, Phys.Rev.Lett., 90 (2003) 151301, rev. Jan 2003.

[4] Sandage, Alan, at the Dallas conference on universal origins, 1985.

[5] Jastrow, Robert, God and the Astronomers, Readers Library, Inc., London, 1992.


Mark Phillips avatar
Mark Phillips is Chairman of Theology and Science at Trinity Classical Academy in Santa Clarita, CA. He has a background in biology and chemistry (B.S.) as well as advanced degrees (Th.M., Ph.D., G.D.Th.). His mission is to equip students with knowledge and application of scientific apologia, producing young men and women who know science without yielding to scientism.

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