Why is Space so Big?

A row of planets
I had been teaching a class in apologetics and using a lot of cosmology for a whole week in a camp environment. One part of the teaching program had been to get kids using a telescope and building a love for science and an appreciation for what science can do for us while at the same time seeing how belief in God is compatible with such a love. We had a group of kids out in the mountains of Montana looking at an incredible sky and seeing a nearby galaxy in the telescope. As I talked about how far away the galaxy was, and what two million light years meant, one of the girls asked "Why is space so big? Why are all those stars and galaxies out there? Why isn't it just us, the moon, and the Sun?"

A rising moon as seen from above earths atmosphere The question is actually even broader than that. Our view of God is too small, and that means that our understanding of how God functions and the way He accomplishes things is also too small. Religious people frequently deal with creation by saying God "spoke it into existence." Somehow to them this means that there was no process involved, but God's voice mysteriously brought things to be as they are. I would suggest that this phrase does not preclude intelligence and purpose and process. Yes, God's will, His laws, His power, and His purpose brought the cosmos into existence. I might speak a physics course into my student's heads, but I do not do it by just saying "let there be a physics course." The fact of the matter is that it takes a great deal of work by me and my students for the physics course to become a reality in their heads. God's processes are not work that we can understand as far as the power and plan are concerned, but the fact that God tells us to look at the creation and learn about Him from what we see suggests that process is there and can be understood.

Galaxies Over the past 100 years, mankind has learned a great deal about nuclear processes. This understanding has not only produced a scientific revolution, but has also enhanced our ability to understand God and the things that God has done. A good example of this is Einstein's famous equation E = mc2. Every junior high science student knows that the most fundamental truth expressed in this equation is that energy and mass are not different things, they are just different forms of the same thing. The atomic bomb is simply a case of taking a small amount of mass and changing it back into the energy from which it came. In recent months scientists have succeeded in doing the opposite process--of taking energy and turning it into mass. The process is complicated, but mankind has done it. There are passages in the Bible which tell us that one property of God is energy. "God is light (1 John 1:5)" is an example. What Genesis 1:1 is actually saying is that God took some of His own substance--His own energy--and turned it into matter. On a very elementary level man has come to understand how that is possible. Our understanding of nuclear physics has given us a new insight into the power and nature of God.

Nebula When we look out into space we see literally millions of galaxies. Each of those galaxies contains billions of stars. Do we here on the earth really need these objects? The answer is "yes!" Mankind has learned in recent years that heavy elements like iron and lead are produced in very special ways. Just taking energy and turning it into matter will produce hydrogen. The process of creation in the beginning would have made copious amounts of hydrogen, and our studies of space confirm this--the cosmos is full of hydrogen. How do you turn that hydrogen into iron? Mankind has succeeded in taking hydrogen and turning it into helium, a material much more massive than hydrogen. The process is called thermonuclear fusion--dramatically seen in the hydrogen bomb. Man has only been able to do this on a very basic level, but in particle accelerators called cyclotrons, man has been able to make heavier elements by fuzing together nuclei to make even heavier materials. We now understand that any element can be produced by having enough temperature and pressure to push nuclei together to make heavier nuclei.

In nature, this is done in stars. Stars are essentially giant pressure cookers that push nuclei together to make heavier elements. The processes that govern such formations also produce processes to distribute them through space. Stars flare and in doing so eject material produced in their interiors. Stars explode, a process called a nova and send massive amounts of their interiors throughout the cosmos. As this process goes on, space becomes enriched with heavy elements making planets and other heavy objects possible.

Our sun is not capable of producing the iron, copper, and other heavy elements that make up your blood and your body. The sun generates heat and light by pushing together the hydrogen that makes it up. Our part of space however, is enriched with heavy elements from stars that have existed in the past, and have exploded their interiors producing a rich storehouse of iron, manganese, copper, gold, silver, and other heavy elements. In God's wisdom, He has not only provided a place for man to live, but a whole system of materials that is continually being enriched and replenished so that life can grow and expand and function in many places in our part of space. We are made of stardust.

Nebula Someone might object to this discussion saying that such a process is going to take eons of time. The response to that suggestion is that God created time, and so it means nothing to Him. A statement like "A day is unto the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day" should say to us that God does not measure time as we do, neither is God controlled by time as we are. God could have chosen to miraculously create the processes and speed up their function, but He had no reason to do so since He is outside of time and not limited by its processes. Our concept of God and His processes is way too small. God functions throughout the cosmos and His plans and His ways are so vastly superior to man that we tend to want to bring Him down to our level rather than allowing our minds to reach out to His.

Another objection to such an understanding of the processes that have created us and our world is that this is a totally natural process that excludes God. This is an unfortunate suggestion. First of all, one has to realize that time and space are created things. The old joke about the scientist challenging God to a creation contest, and as the scientist picked up a handful of dirt God saying "now wait a minute, that is my dirt" is much more than a joke. The basic existence of time and space are powerful apologetics for God's existence. Suggesting parallel universes or tunnels to connect one existence to another does not answer the question of the creation of the fabric of space/time. If there are multiple universes, they are all in the fabric of space/time which God created.

Laboratory equipment The other problem with objecting to this explanation for the formation of the matter of the cosmos is that this in no way suggests that chance is the operational force. Not only does chance not explain the creation of space/time itself, but the number of parameters that have to be operative for matter to have the proper properties for life are virtually unlimited. The nuclear processes that create heavier elements and that cause novas and supernovas in stars are not random chance events. They obey physical laws that govern what happens. Matter's gravitational, electrical, magnetic, and nuclear processes make these things work. For all of them to take place simultaneously at a point in space and time that allows the physical world to exist is a tremendous demonstration of the need for intelligence and purpose. The fact that we understand human conception and birth has not denigrated the amazing complexity of the process, and in fact has increased our appreciation of the fact that it works as well as it does. Understanding the process of the formation of heavy elements also is awe inspiring. We again are seeing birth, but this time a birth that is even more complex and profound than our own.

"The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork" has a very special meaning when one comes to appreciate what it takes to produce the elements needed to make an Earth. Our knowledge and understanding glorifies God and lifts our appreciation of His wisdom, power, and purpose. It also brings new meaning to the beautiful challenge "What is man that thou are mindful of Him." Mankind should not fear science and its discoveries, but look to the discoveries of the future as beautiful testimonies to God and His greatness. 

--John N. Clayton

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