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Why is there something rather than nothing? Most scientists today agree that the universe had a beginning. They disagree on how it began, but they largely accept the idea that it began to exist. However, another question many ask is, “Why does anything exist?” If there was nothing before the universe began, why are we here? If nothing existed before the universe began, it is difficult to explain why there is anything at all. Some scientists have tried redefining “nothing” to make it “something.”
Why Not the Gravity?
Sometimes they suggest that something is gravity. So, if gravity existed before there was anything, where did the gravity come from? What they are doing is to substitute gravity for God, but how can there be gravity without mass?
Isaac Newton described gravity as the attraction between objects that have mass. The more mass, the more gravity pulls them together. That was the accepted theory until Einstein devised a new idea. His theory defined gravity as a curvature in space-time, which is the accepted concept today. But, according to scientists, the cosmic creation event (usually referred to as the big bang) was also the beginning of space and time. So, where does gravity come from if there is no space-time or matter-energy? That still does not answer the question, “Why does anything exist?”
Of course, if science says that gravity existed before anything else, atheists argue that it is no different from saying that God existed before anything else. Who or what made God? Everything that begins to exist must indeed have a cause. However, God is eternal. He did not begin to exist. God is the first cause, the unmade Maker, the necessarily existing uncaused Being. If God created time and space, he is outside of time and space. God existed before time, but even using the term “before” shows that we are limited to thinking in time terms. There is no before or after with God. He knows the future because he can see the entire time line of the cosmos, viewing it from the outside.
Back to the Question
So back to our original question, “Why does anything exist?” We can say that everything exists because God exists. God chose to create this fine-tuned universe of space, time, matter, and energy. We can summarize this with a simple logical statement known as a syllogism. If the first and second premises are correct, then the conclusion must be true.
- Premise 1 — Everything that begins to exist must have a cause.
- Premise 2 — The universe began to exist.
- Conclusion — The universe has a cause.
Premise 1 seems to be obvious. If something did not exist and then came into existence, it must have a cause for its existence. For example, suppose you are driving down the street and notice an empty lot. Each time you drive by, there is nothing but grass growing there. You take a different route for a few months, but one day you drive down that same street, and there is a house on the lot. You would not conclude that the house appeared there without a cause.
You would logically conclude that some builders constructed that house for a reason — probably because someone wanted to live there. You could investigate to learn the identity of the occupants. You could even explore building methods to see how the house was constructed. However, you would surely not conclude that the house appeared out of nothing with no cause.
Looking at the second premise could be more challenging. Unlike the house, you were not around before the universe existed, so you could assume it was always there. You might think it did not BEGIN to exist, so it does not need a cause! That was the approach of many “thinkers” from Aristotle to Einstein. When Einstein formulated the theory of special relativity in 1905, he was concerned that his formulas indicated that the universe was not in a steady state. It was either expanding or contracting, meaning it could not have always existed. To correct that “problem,” Einstein added a “fudge factor” to make it appear that the universe is unchanging. In other words, he just “made up” a number so that his equations would show that the universe was eternal. Other scientists realized that Einstein was cheating, and he later admitted it was the biggest mistake of his life.
Scientific experiments from the 1920s to the twenty-first century have confirmed the universe is expanding and even accelerating in its expansion. Since the universe is expanding, we can trace that expansion back to a point where the universe began as a “singularity.” The universe had a beginning! That was something that many scientists did not want to accept because of its religious implications. The universe has a cause, and science cannot determine that cause. British astronomer and atheist Fred Hoyle coined the derisive term “big bang” because his faith could not allow the concept of an ultimate Causer, or God. He used that term to make fun of the idea of a beginning. However, it has now become the popular term for the beginning.
If premise 1 and premise 2 are both true, the conclusion must be true. The universe has a cause. The scientific consensus is that the big bang was the beginning of time and space as well as matter and energy. So, what does that tell us about the Cause? It tells us that the Cause has to be non-material and outside of time and space. That fits the biblical description of God.
Hoyle's derisive term for the beginning does not accurately describe what took place at the beginning. A big bang indicates some kind of explosion. Explosions are haphazard and chaotic, so I prefer to call it the cosmic creation event. Scientists have determined that the beginning could not have been chaotic but precisely tuned to create a life-supporting universe. The more we learn about the processes of creation, the more we see that if things had been even slightly different, we would not be here.
Because the universe was created by a process, scientists can study that process and follow it back in time. They can detect the residual cosmic background microwave radiation left over from the creation event. Astronomers can look back in time to see some of the earliest stars. Chemists can analyze the elements in the stars by examining the radiation spectrum. We can know how the elements originated in the stars as we study atomic reactions. For example, life is built around the carbon atom, but for a long time, it was a mystery how carbon atoms could have formed. Atheist Fred Hoyle solved the mystery and was shocked by what he found. He saw the fine-tuning required to create the carbon atom, and he expressed it this way:
Tracing the Process
Science can trace the process of creation back to almost the beginning. However, they hit a roadblock just before they reach the starting point. Because of specific limitations, it is thus far impossible to go back to the precise moment when the universe began. But, of course, science cannot go back to before the universe began. Science can only study secondary causation. They can see the processes that lead to the universe we live in. They cannot study primary causation. Could God be the primary cause operating behind the secondary causation we can see? Science cannot say. The best science can do is to suspend judgment. Personal beliefs are not science.
Science today has set limitations on itself, confining its study to the physical realm. To go beyond that would be considered metaphysics or theology. However, some scientists do not hesitate to make theological statements. An example is the late Carl Sagan opening the old Cosmos series on PBS television with the statement, “The cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be.” That is not a scientific statement. It is a materialistic, atheistic theological statement beyond what science can measure and examine. Biologist Richard Dawkins is also not afraid to venture beyond science into theology when he states in River Out of Eden, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
Scientists such as Sagan and Dawkins contribute to the war between science and theology, and specifically science and the Bible. They fail to acknowledge they are making faith statements. Both science and theology deal with the fundamental human desire to know. We are naturally curious because God made us that way. Science began with Christian believers who sought to learn more about God through his creation. A desire to learn more about God through the things he has made motivated men like Roger Bacon, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and others to create what we call “science.”
Faith in a loving and orderly Creator opened the door to a realization that the universe is orderly and not the chaotic product of the many gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Theology and theologians developed many of the methods that science uses today. Also, it was theologians who recognized that only natural causation is open to our direct study. They knew by faith that God was the ultimate cause of the universe. But since God is not a physical being, we can only study the secondary causation. Even though we recognize that God is the only possible cause of the universe, all we can do is discover how he did it and marvel at the precision fine-tuning of the cosmos. When we say that God “zapped” these things into existence without a process, we deny God's engineering and architectural skills. We can know there is a God by the things he has made (Romans 1:20).
Some Final Thoughts
Since God is outside of time, he can hear the prayers of millions of people all over the world at the same time. There I go using that “time” word again. We cannot think outside of time because we cannot live outside of time. If we could, for just a moment (another time word), step outside of history's time line and see it from God's perspective, we could understand why God allows things to happen. We could understand the things that make us ask, “Why doesn't God stop that from happening?” We could see the conclusion of all things. We would know that because of God's wisdom, justice, and love, the conclusion is good.
Today, well-known scientists use books and TV programs to proclaim atheism, materialism, and scientism. At the same time, prominent and often highly-paid religious teachers debunk science and tell people to take off their “science glasses” and put on “Bible glasses.” It is time to call a truce in the war between science and faith. Although the Bible is scientifically accurate beyond its time, it is not a science book. Although nature can tell us much about God, only the Bible can tell us everything we need to know about the Creator of the universe and how to have a relationship with him. Good science and good theology go hand-in-hand.
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Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.