Evidence for God’s Existence – Origin of the Universe

30 01 2009

The question that we will address in part in this report is how do you know that God exists? We will look over the next few weeks at some of the best arguments for God’s existence. Three of the best arguments that we will look at in the coming weeks will be the cosmological argument, the argument from design, and the moral argument. The cosmological argument can break out into many directions, so today I will begin with one of the best versions of this argument, developed by William Lane Craig, known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I would suggest that you memorize the two premises and concluding statement of this argument as they are short and easy to commit to memory. They are as follows:

  1. Everything that began to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

Generally, skeptics will focus on premise 2 for their attack; however, lately, I have even seen them attack premise 1 as well; however, since the conclusion follows from the two premises, there usually isn’t an attack there. So, to begin, let me address premise 2 as it is the main point of attack by skeptics and give evidence from science that the universe did begin to exist. Now, just so you know up front, I am arguing the scientific evidence here which gives evidence for an old universe (approximately 14 billion years) and in doing so, I want to make the point that I am not arguing against the Bible and certainly not for evolution as some might conclude. The Bible does not specify the age of the universe and many church fathers believed the universe to be ancient. With that said, let me present the evidence for the origin of the universe.

The universe includes all matter, space and time; therefore, the cause of the universe must be a spaceless, immaterial, and timeless, since time, matter and space did not exist until the universe was created. The cause of the universe is causally prior to time, matter and space, and therefore, must be timeless and immaterial in absence of the existence of the universe (we cannot say before since time comes into existence with the big bang and therefore there is no “before” technically speaking.) The cause of the universe must also be personal, since if the cause were an impersonal the universe would show greater age, let me explain . If the mechanism necessary for the universe to come into existence were impersonal and existed from eternity past, the universe would be eternally old as there would be nothing to trigger the mechanism to create the universe. In other words, as William Lane Craig states, “If the cause were a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without the effect.”[1]

First, we must examine the first premise, that everything that comes into existence has a cause. Craig explains that the basis of this believe is “rooted in metaphysical intuition that something cannot come into being from nothing.” What this means is that we all have this common intuition that objects just don’t pop into existence without a cause. He goes onto to state, “To suggest that something could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quit doing serious metaphysics and to resort to magic.” Craig also says that if we accept the idea that something could come into existence out of nothing, we should expect other things to come into existence out of nothing, yet our experience does not confirm such an idea.[2] Some people will resort to a subset of physics known as quantum theory as a basis to say that things do apparently come into existence out of nothing; however, Craig explains that quantum theories that give the appearance of quantum events occurring out of nothing are disputed among physicists as to what is actually happening (are they really occurring out of nothing), or as Craig explains, are they merely fluctuations in quantum energy fields.[3]

Another argument that Craig poses to refute the idea of a past-eternal universe is that an actually infinite number of things cannot exist. I won’t go into great detail on this point except to say that the main objection to this argument is that Cantor’s (mathematical) set theory (you all remember that from your school days, don’t you?) allows for the mathematical legitimacy of an infinite number of things existing. However, Craig quotes David Hilbert, who came up with the well-known (in philosophy and mathematical circles, not necessarily the circles in which we run) Hilbert’s Hotel model-explanation against actual infinites, who said, “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought…The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.”[4] In layman’s terms, you can look as long as you like for an instance of an infinite in nature and you will not find one. Now, some will say that a segment can be divided up into an infinite number of subsegments, therefore, infinites exist in our world. My challenge back is, “please show me an example of a segment of anything actually having been divided into an infinite number of parts and I will give up my argument against infinites existing in nature.”

The leading scientific explanation for the existence of the universe is the Big Bang theory which posits that the universe, all matter space and time, came into existence anywhere between 13 and 20 billion years ago. Some would still argue that the universe is past-eternal, and to this objection I refer to two pieces of research that would refute such an idea. First is a study by Arvind Borde, L.H. Ford, and Thomas Roman, in which they state, “it has recently been found that violations of the WEC [weak energy condition] do not allow one to avoid initial singularities.”[5] In other words, the initial singularity (the point at which all matter, space, and time came into existence) which resulted in the Big Bang and the formation of the universe cannot be avoided. The second piece of research comes from Arvind Borde, Alan H. Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin in which they ask whether the universe could also be past-eternal. They explain that “The intuitive reason why de Sitter inflation cannot be past-eternal is that, in the full de Sitter space, exponential expansion is preceded by exponential contraction. Such a contracting phase is not part of standard inflationary models, and does not appear to be consistent with the physics of inflation.[6]” That makes sense doesn’t it? In layman’s terms, the model for Big Bang cosmology that is generally accepted could not support a past-eternal universe.

This model shows that the universe cannot be past eternal with physics as we know it. These two pieces of research give confirmation to the second premise of the Kalam argument that the universe came into existence. Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist who teaches at Arizona State University and holds a PhD in physics from University College London, summarizes the idea of the origin of the universe saying that if we run the universe’s expansion in reverse, “The surface of the ball shrinks down onto the center of the ball until all points on the surface converge at a single point of space. And then…nothing…physical space – is represented by the surface of the sphere, and that has totally vanished. So this time the nothing before the big bang is really “no thing” – neither matter nor space. Nothing.”[7]

Given that the premises are confirmed, the conclusion then follows that the universe had a cause, and as stated earlier, that cause had to be a timeless, immaterial cause, that is also personal; therefore, the best explanation for the existence of the universe is God.

Next week we will look at the design of the universe and examine the implications of that for either naturalistic or supernatural explanations.

[1] William Lane Craig, “Does God Exist?”; available at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5507; Internet accessed 29 November 2008.

[2] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith : Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 111-112.

[3] Ibid., 114-115.

[4] David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1964), 141, as found in Craig, Reasonable Faith, 117. For a more detailed explanation, see pages 116-124 of Reasonable Faith.

[5] Arvind Borde, L.H. Ford, and Thomas A. Roman, “Constraints on spatial distributions of negative energy”, http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0109/0109061v2.pdf; Internet accessed 30 November 2008.

[6] Arvind Borde, Alan H. Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, “Inflation is not past-eternal”, http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0110/0110012v1.pdf; Internet accessed 30 November 2008.

[7] Paul Davies, Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2007), 67.


Thinking Eternally

30 01 2009

It is appropriate that the first post of this blog should reflect the theme of the blog itself. What is meant by “thinking eternally?” It is no accident that the phrase has multiple meanings based upon how you look at it.

First, it means that we will be thinking for the rest of eternity. God has made us in his image, which means that we have thinking and reasoning ability as he does. He has also made us such that we will exist beyond this temporary existence in our current state. We are eternal beings and as such, we will exist beyond this mortal coil. We will be thinking eternally.

Second, it means that we have thoughts that transcend this finite existence. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. (Ecc. 3:11) This is the reason that man’s search for meaning will never be fulfilled with things of this world. There is nothing in this world big enough or satisfying enough to fill the need that man has for meaning. The things of this world, whether relationships or things, are temporary and fleeting; even the most lasting of relationships. However, God is eternal, omnicient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), immutable (unchanging), sovereign, holy, loving, merciful, just, and much more. In this way also, we are thinking eternally.

The great news is that if we have repented of our rebellion against God and put our trust in Jesus Christ as the one who paid for those sins, we will have eternity to understand God more and more, and for eternity, we will only really scratch the surface. We will understand God in a meaningful way, as he has made that possible for us; yet, we will never understand God exhaustively. Each moment of eternity will be a new moment to understand God better, and each moment will be a new and glorious experience.

So, think together with me through this blog about what is of eternal importance.