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Big Bang

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Bang...?

The Big Bang may well be the most amazing discovery in the history of science. Imagine if you can, every single particle that makes up every single person, planet, star and galaxy of the entire Universe bound into a 'singularity', a point of infinite density occupying zero volume, and unleashed in a mammoth explosion of energy that marks the dramatic beginning of time, space and everything. Imagine these cosmic fireworks unfolding like flowers, clustering into galaxies and bursting into stars, stretched apart with the fabric of space over billions and billions of light years, and throughout it all swirling clouds of gas condensing and forming the planets, nebulae and stars we see today!

Try to grasp the power behind such a creation, and the genius of the mind who engineered it! Absolutely incomprehensible!

Truly this was the Lord's doing, and surely it is marvelous in our eyes!

Yet at the beginning of this century, the Universe was commonly thought to be infinite and static, with the assumption that it had always existed. It was just... there! Even though most religious people accepted that God made all things, few considered the possibility that the actual creation of the Universe would ever be discovered or described by science.

But this is exactly what the "Big Bang" is all about.

It was Einstein's amazing calculations early this century that first suggested that the Universe was expanding, but, as he did not believe it, he added a "fiddle factor" into his maths to stabilise his Universe, hoping to discover the reason later. By 1929 Edwin Hubble's deep space observations had shown the Universe to be vastly more immense than previously imagined, and his discovery of galaxy redshifts demonstrated that the Universe was indeed expanding. There was no avoiding it this time, and Einstein realized that his cosmological constant "was the greatest mistake of my life."

The first amazing implication of an expanding universe was that if the Universe was indeed smaller and smaller the further we explore back into time, then we can extrapolate a moment of beginning (10 to 15 billion years ago) where the Universe was incomprehensibly small in a way where all known laws of physics break down. Which for many people sounded like a very unsatisfactory arrangement, and was the source of much scientific debate. But when Penzias and Wilson accidentally discovered the predicted background radiation in space in the 1960s, the case for the Big Bang was considered sealed.


Well, it had been realised for some time that if the Universe was in fact expanding, space would be expanding with it and any radiation in that space would be proportionally "stretched". The Big Bang fireball would have generated intense very short wavelength high-energy radiation but, as the Universe expanded, this would be progressively expanded into radiation of microwave wavelength and diminished in intensity to something of a whisper.

In 1964, Penzias and Wilson were testing an experimental microwave antenna and were plagued by a background hiss that would not go away, no matter where the antenna was pointed. Speculation blamed some pigeons roosting inside, who were soon forcibly evicted, but the hiss continued. A discussion with radio-astronomers led to the realization that they had tuned into the relic of the Big Bang, and the mysterious hiss became one of the most persuasive evidences for the Big Bang.

Since then, several other discoveries have also confirmed the theory, and most astronomers now regard the evidence for it as "overwhelming".

Yet Gen 1:1 had always said, "In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth." The Bible had always described an ultimate beginning. Today, few Bible students familiar with the Big Bang theory would doubt that Gen 1:1 is a reference to this grand beginning of our magnificent and expanding Universe.

One thing that impresses me in all this is the way the scientific community came around to accept the Big Bang. Nobody wanted it, and it hardly sounded like an original idea either. It was resisted strongly for years, partly because it had such a disconcerting Biblical flavour, sounding too much like Christianity's Creation "ex-nihilo" ('out of nothing') and partly because it could have no scientific explanation. Science is in the business of giving cause to effects, but here was the greatest effect of all with no cause. In fact the very term "Big Bang" was coined by Fred Hoyle in derision of the concept! Yet the observational evidence became overwhelming, and science was forced to follow. In fact, Fred Hoyle himself ended up doing much of the science that helped explain it, and the name has stuck.

(Actually, this is science at its best and most reliable. Unwilling scientists were forced to follow the evidence because the evidence demanded it rather than because it supported their pet theories.)

A big difficulty for a scientist in accepting such an unexplainable for a First Cause is that a great big "stop" sign is put in place saying, "No questions please!" Don't enquire about the cause, because any ideas cannot be tested! This is anathema to the scientific mind, partly because it opens up the field to total speculation which can never be tested. The rapid progress of science in the last two centuries has been largely due to an approach that has eschewed untestable speculation and superstition in favour of rigid testing procedures. Yet all that science can test is that which is within the Universe. Beyond the Universe, anything is possible.

Why bother then with trying to explain anything? If we admit that the Universe itself is physically inexplicable, then how can we be sure that any physical explanation for anything is truly meaningful? How can any scientific explanation of anything be truly worthwhile if the origin and cause of the Universe is beyond scientific enquiry? These are very disturbing questions. It is impossible to fully explain our cosmos unless we have a source of information from beyond the Big Bang!

So stop worrying! We 'theologians' and our Bibles are not being tossed away yet! Quite the opposite it seems! For we have a source of information from beyond the Big Bang.

Today, the essential Big Bang concept is so firmly entrenched that the best way to get attention for a cosmological article is to include in the heading "Is this the end for the Big Bang?" or something equally controversial. While we do well to be cautious about any scientific theory, and findings which appear to challenge the theory behind the Big Bang do get reported quite often, every astronomer I have spoken to has no hesitation in affirming that the Big Bang remains by far the best fit with observation. And after all, what scientist worth his salt is not looking for problems to solve? And there are many problems to solve, especially problems of detail. But the debate is not so much over WHETHER the Big Bang has happened, but HOW the Big Bang unfolded.

Unfortunately, we tend to grab these headings and triumphantly exclaim, "See, the scientists can never agree and obviously don't know what they are talking about! Why don't they just read the Bible and get the answer?" Personally, I'm glad some don't. There is no witness like an unwilling witness. And we forget that science is attempting to explain how the Universe happened in mechanical terms, rather than why it exists in absolute terms. It would seem very foolish to turn the tables by pretending to understand the mechanics, and perhaps lose direction and find that scientific men are coming closer than we to understanding the "why" when we have had the revealed word of God to tell us, but we were too busy debating the wrong thing to notice the question.

In fact, the funny thing is, the Bible always talked about a beginning of the Universe, but when science discovered and described it, how many of us disputed it? Amazing! Surely this must be telling us something!

What I find particularly interesting about this beginning, is that God was already there. Which means that if the Big Bang marks "the beginning" of the Universe, then God was not only "before" the Universe came into existence, (rather logical if He created it after all!) but, being before it and the Creator of it, he is logically above and beyond it, independent of and unconstrained by anything that is part of it.

In other words, this implies that God is independent of and unconstrained by physics, chemistry and biology, and indeed, any of the laws or dimensions of the Universe that science is able to describe, including gravity, time, and the speed of light. All these things are created by God FOR this Universe and as part of it, rather than some sort of eternal conditions that he has to work under. Perhaps this explains why science cannot "prove" God, simply because God, being beyond the Universe, cannot be tested by experiments within the Universe. The command, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord your God" suggests that human beings have always tried to put God to some sort of experimental test. But proof of God will always be in the mind of the individual moved by the evidence. And there is no shortage of evidence, as Paul says in Rom. 1:20: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." Many people have observed that a man will either see the finger of God at work in everything, or he can never see it at all.

This is especially true of the Big Bang theory. Many will see it as obviously demanding a God as the "first cause", while others are determined to hold fast to unbelief. When the editor of New Scientist magazine made a little comment on the "no need for God" question, he was so swamped with correspondence that a special newsletter was required just to publish "the God letters"... all written by scientists! He later admitted that the very argument he had used (Occam's razor) to do away with the necessity for God had been skillfully turned around to REQUIRE God as a first cause.

One of the more fascinating things about the Big Bang is the precision engineering involved to make it all work. Sir Bernard Lovell, in his book "In the Centre of Immensites", pp 122,123, remarks about the Big Bang: "If at that moment the rate of expansion had been reduced by only one part in a thousand billion, then the universe would have collapsed after a few million years... Conversely, if the rate had been marginally greater, then the expansion would have reached such magnitudes that no gravitationally bound system (ie, galaxies and stars, etc) could have formed."

Surely this finely tuned explosion suggests our Universe was no mere accident? No galaxies = no stars, and no stars = no planets, no planets = no earth, no earth = no life, and all that means no you and me.

Then there are the laws controlling the fundamental forces of the Universe. I'll let Alan Hayward explain with an extended quotation from his excellent book "Creation and Evolution" p 61...

"There appear to be just four basic forces holding everything in the universe together, from the smallest atomic particles to the greatest galaxies. Physicists call them the gravitational force, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force. Each of these has a characteristic strength that physicists have measured.

"If we ask, why do those forces have those particular strengths, there seems to be no answer...

"Something (or Somebody) has evidently tailored the values of those four fundamental forces of nature, so as to give the universe precisely the properties it needs if life is to exist in it.

"To give just one example of the way these forces are matched, take the relationship between gravity and the weak nuclear force. It is the perfect balance between these two that has caused the universe to keep expanding at a comfortable steady rate. To achieve this, according to Paul Davies, the two forces have to be tuned to each other with the astonishing accuracy of one part in ten thousand billion billion billion billion!

"If they became mismatched by this minute amount in one direction, then, says Davies, 'the expansion of the universe would be explosive, and it is doubtful if galaxies could ever have formed against such a disruptive force.' With the same amount of mismatch in the other direction, 'the explosion would be replaced by a catastrophic collapse of the universe.'

"All this, says Davies, provides 'compelling evidence that something is "going on" '.

(Alan Hayward, "Creation and Evolution", p 61, and quoting from Paul Davies, "The Accidental Universe", p 110)

Several years later, while discussing some even more astounding fine-tuned coincidences, Paul Davies (in his best-seller "The Mind of God", in a chapter called "Designer Universe") is less hesitant at expressing what he thinks is "going on", and arrives at the following conclusion:

"The apparent 'fine tuning' of the laws of nature necessary if conscious life is to evolve in the universe then carries the clear implication that God has designed the universe so as to permit such life and consciousness to emerge. It would mean that our own existence in the universe formed a central part of God's plan."

The apostle Paul reminded the Colossians that the whole Universe was created for Christ, things in heaven and things on earth, and we have been invited to share with him. Do you think it is possible that we have under-estimated just what this means?

It seems to me that an awful lot of time and drama are passed over in the simplicity of the opening words of our Bibles, presumably because they would distract from the essence of the message. Yet the shepherd boy's quiet consideration of the sun, moon and stars enabled him to face the giant Goliath in a spirit of astonishment that such could dare defy the armies of the Living God! Job had his attention directed to consider the behaviour of a creation whose hidden secrets teach us about the power and intellect of our God, and the prophet Isaiah urges the people several times to lift up their eyes to consider the heavens and the implications they have for worship. There is nothing in science that can ever take this wonder away. Whether a scientist is digging up fossils of ancient life forms or peering into the awesome depths of space, or whether he is studying the biological marvels of our "fearfully and wonderfully made" human frames or teasing out the secrets of the atom, he or she is exploring the handiwork of God in a skillful and disciplined manner, whether they acknowledge it or not.

Truly this world is full of hard-hearted and stiff-necked people who will always resist the truths inscribed into the very fabric of Creation. We must resist allowing anyone's human prejudices and opinions to obstruct the wonder and reverence due to our Creator, and we must be equally careful lest our own prejudices and opinions interfere with our ability to recognise and be motivated by the hand of our God seen in the discoveries of science.


"The LORD possessed me (wisdom) in the beginning of his way, before his works of old I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men" (Pro 8:22-31).
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