In the Beginning…

In the Beginning…

One of the most popular cosmological arguments today is the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It trades on the common sense notion that things happen for a reason. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause. The best explanation of the cause of the universe is a Creator God who created the universe.

The first premise of the argument should not be controversial. Ex nihilo nihil fit– from nothing, nothing comes. However, you might be surprised that people who understand the theological implications of this truth attempt to suppress it. In his book, God and the New Physics, physicist Paul Davies offers a theory of quantum theory of gravity in which the universe could spring into existence uncaused from nothing.

Although there is still no satisfactory theory of quantum gravity, physicists have a good idea of the broad features that would be entailed in such a theory. It would, for example, endow space and time with the sort of fuzzy unpredictability that characterizes quantum matter. In particular, it would allow spacetime to be created and destroyed spontaneously and uncaused in the same way that particles are created and destroyed spontaneously and uncaused. The theory would entail a certain mathematically determined probability that, for instance, a blob of space would appear where none existed before. Thus, spacetime could pop out of nothingness as the result of a causeless quantum transition. – Paul Davies, God and the New Physics, pg. 215

The phrases “there is still no satisfactory theory of quantum gravity,” and, “sort of fuzzy unpredictability,” betray a sort of blind faith typical of religious fundamentalists. In fact, Davies admits that, “The processes described here do not represent the creation of matter out of nothing, but the conversion of pre-existing energy into material form.”

A more promising attack might be on the second premise, that the universe began to exist. After all, why could it not be the case that the universe is eternal and uncaused? It turns out that this is both logically and scientifically impossible.

William Lane Craig presents a strong philosophical case against an eternal universe. If the universe were eternal, then it would be possible (at least in theory) to trace back an infinite string of causes and effects. Prior to the present event there would have existed previous events going back forever and ever. However, when we try to make logical sense of an actual infinite, we end up with all sorts of nonsense. Craig gives the illustration of Hilbert’s Hotel:

Let us imagine a hotel with a finite number of rooms. Suppose, furthermore, that all the rooms are full. When a new guest arrives asking for a room, the proprietor apologizes, “Sorry, all the rooms are full.” But now let us imagine a hotel with an infinite number of rooms and suppose once more that all the rooms are full. There is not a single vacant room throughout the entire infinite hotel. Now suppose a new guest shows up, asking for a room. “But of course!” says the proprietor, and he immediately shifts the person in room #1 into room #2, the person in room #2 into room #3, the person in room #3 into room #4 and so on, out to infinity. As a result of these room changes, room #1 now becomes vacant and the new guest gratefully checks in. But remember, before he arrived, all the rooms were full! Equally curious, according to the mathematicians, there are now no more persons in the hotel than there were before: the number is just infinite. But how can this be? The proprietor just added the new guest’s name to the register and gave him his keys-how can there not be one more person in the hotel than before? But the situation becomes even stranger. For suppose an infinity of new guests show up the desk, asking for a room. “Of course, of course!” says the proprietor, and he proceeds to shift the person in room #1 into room #2, the person in room #2 into room #4, the person in room #3 into room #6, and so on out to infinity, always putting each former occupant into the room number twice his own. As a result, all the odd numbered rooms become vacant, and the infinity of new guests is easily accommodated. And yet, before they came, all the rooms were full! And again, strangely enough, the number of guests in the hotel is the same after the infinity of new guests check in as before, even though there were as many new guests as old guests. In fact, the proprietor could repeat this process infinitely many times and yet there would never be one single person more in the hotel than before.

But Hilbert’s Hotel is even stranger than the German mathematician gave it out to be. For suppose some of the guests start to check out. Suppose the guest in room #1 departs. Is there not now one less person in the hotel? Not according to the mathematicians-but just ask the woman who makes the beds! Suppose the guests in room numbers 1, 3, 5, . . . check out. In this case an infinite number of people have left the hotel, but according to the mathematicians there are no less people in the hotel-but don’t talk to that laundry woman! In fact, we could have every other guest check out of the hotel and repeat this process infinitely many times, and yet there would never be any less people in the hotel. But suppose instead the persons in room number 4, 5, 6, . . . checked out. At a single stroke the hotel would be virtually emptied, the guest register reduced to three names, and the infinite converted to finitude. And yet it would remain true that the same number of guests checked out this time as when the guests in room numbers 1, 3, 5, . . . checked out. Can anyone sincerely believe that such a hotel could exist in reality? These sorts of absurdities illustrate the impossibility of the existence of an actually infinite number of things. – William Lane Craig, “The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe

If there cannot be an actually infinite series of events, then a series of events cannot go back forever, and the universe cannot be eternal. Philosophically, it must have had a beginning some time in the distant past.

Science supports the idea that the universe had a beginning too. It might surprise some Christians that some of the best scientific support for God’s existence is the Big Bang Theory. The name “Big Bang” coined by Fred Hoyle to make fun of the theory. Hoyle was a proponent of the Steady State theory which held that the universe is eternal, and hated the Big Bang Theory because it supported the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and so pointed to the existence of God. Today, the Big Bang Theory remains the best theory that we have about the origin of the universe. It is supported by multiple lines of evidence, such as Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the observable expansion of the universe, and the remnants of radiation left over from the Big Bang,

According to standard Big Bang cosmology, at one time there was nothing. By nothing I mean that there was no space, time, or matter. Then suddenly, all space, time, and matter exploded into existence. Given the evidence, we can draw two conclusions, Either all space, time, and matter came from nothing, or they were caused to exist by something outside all space, time, and matter. Since something cannot come from nothing, the second explanation is the only reasonable explanation.

The cause of the Big Bang must have been spaceless, timeless, and immaterial, since it cause all space, time, and matter to exist. It must have been personal, because it chose to create. It must have been powerful, since it created out of nothing. It must be intelligent, because it created with the greatest precision. This description (at least partially) corresponds to the God described in the Bible.

Since the universe is not eternal, the best explanation is that a supernatural, personal, powerful, intelligent Being created it. The idea that the universe began without a cause is ridiculous. This is not a “God of the Gaps” argument because it is based on things we know. It is not an attempt to explain things we do not know. The evidence points straight to our God.

~ Jared Abbott



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