Missing the Beginning

The first word in the Hebrew text of Genesis is Reshith translated into English as In the beginning.  It is ironic that the question of the existence of God becomes an issue one word into the Hebrew text.  For at least the last 1,000 years, atheists have tried to dispute the notion that there was a beginning.  The problem is that if a person admits that there was a beginning they are faced with the issue of what the cause of that beginning was.  It is much simpler to just deny that there was a beginning and maintain that everything has always been--not necessarily as it is today, but in a form that could change into what we see today.

In the 2004 version of the Humanist Declaration the statement is clearly made, "The universe is self existing and not created."  Older versions had the word eternal in the statement, but as one thinks about the phrase self existing, it is obvious that the question of origins is evaded by the use of self existing so the word eternal is not needed.  Atheists will usually respond to this point by saying that religious people claim God is self existing, so there is no reason why atheists cannot make the same claim.  Carl Sagan in his book (Carl Sagan, Cosmos, [New York:  Random House, Inc., 1980], page 257) said "Why is it anymore reasonable to say that God has always been, than to say that the cosmos has always been?"

The answer to this challenge lies in the nature of God and the nature of the cosmos.  Carl Sagan was also fond of saying, "The laws of chemistry and physics are the same everywhere in the cosmos."  This statement of faith (which is probably true) maintains that the processes of nature are consistent and universal.  All of our observations in astronomy verify this, but it is also important to notice that all of our observations are based upon certain assumptions about space and time.  When we measure light, we measure its frequency in cycles per second.  When we measure speed in space, we measure it in meters per second.  Force, mass, acceleration, energy, momentum, and inertia are all measured in similar units.  Time is involved in all of these quantities in one way or another, and space is assumed to have certain qualities which fit the descriptions of our mathematics.

All of these scientific tools, which measure what we have described, have agreed to the fact that there was a beginning to time and to space.  The cosmos is expanding at an ever-increasing rate.  This acceleration is not well understood by science at the moment, but the fact that it is accelerating strongly suggests that it has accelerated away from a place where it was at rest.  This beginning point has all of the cosmos moving away from it.  There is no indication that the acceleration is a property of space and time.

As researchers from all areas of human endeavor work with the observations and data about the cosmos, it has become increasingly obvious that no explanation of how the cosmos came into being is going to be possible by the methods and understandings of the twentieth century.  The laws of physics are quite limiting as to what is possible as far as matter, space, and time are concerned.

The result of all this is that scientific theories are being proposed that do not depend on Newtonian physics.  String theory, for example, proposes quantities that exist in multiple dimensions beyond our own.  When theories that operate in ten dimensions are proposed, they are not easy to test.  Nearly all theories in quantum mechanics have similar problems.  We are not only limited by our inability to devise experiments to test these theories, but we are also limited by our ability to understand them.  It is also important to understand that even if one accepts a theory involving 10th dimension strings of energy, the origin of the strings and the energy remain unapproached.  Multiple universe theories face the same problem.  The biblical term, In the beginning, refers to the origin of all of reality.  Whether God did the creating process by creating strings or parallel universes or inflations or bangs is not relevant.

The atheist challenge to this will still be that the origin of strings, universes, etc., being unexplained or unexplainable does not necessarily mean that God did it--and that is true.  We are not proposing a God-of-the-Gaps argument in which we say "God did it" because we have no other explanation.  What we are saying is that the biblical description of God as the creator offers a large body of support for God as the creator of the cosmos.  First of all the Bible makes it clear that God is outside of all other dimensions.  God is described as the creator of time and space and as a being having no spacial dimension properties (see 1 John 1:5; 4:8, 12, 16; 2 Peter 3:10;  and Colossians 1:16-17).  Secondly, the descriptions given of God offer a number of properties that are clearly seen in the cosmos and which blind chance would not produce.  This includes love, care, design, patience, personality, purpose, wisdom, and planning.  Debates about the various versions of the anthropic principle and Intelligence Design (I.D.) have not changed the fact that more and more evidence is coming to light concerning the fact that our universe seems designed to sustain carbon based life.  Atheists and skeptics may try to counter this evidence, but they have no real alternative to offer.

--John N. Clayton


Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec04.