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Don Stewart :: Where Did the Universe Come From?

Don Stewart
Our universe is immense. Our own galaxy is one hundred thousand light years across and contains an estimated one hundred billion other stars besides the sun. Yet our galaxy is only one of a billion other known galaxies.

The origin of the universe has always been a source of mystery to mankind. Where did the universe come from? Has it always existed or did it come into existence at a certain point in time? If the universe is not eternal, what forces brought it into existence?

Three Possibilities

Although one might think that there are many possible theories as to the origin of the universe, there are actually only three. No matter which of the theories of origins a person chooses, any theory will fit into one of three possible categories. The three alternatives are:

1. The universe is eternal, although it may have changed form at various times.

2. The universe is not eternal. At a certain point it came into existence without any pre-existent cause.

3. The universe is not eternal but came into existence at a point in time, and was caused by something or someone other than itself.

The second or third possibilities are variations of the same idea. Hence, we could narrow the possibilities to two: the universe is either eternal or it is not eternal.

An Illusion?

Most people would laugh at the idea that the universe is an illusion. However, there have been philosophers and religious thinkers who have argued that all of existence as we know it is some grand illusion. Others believe that the world in which we live is not a real world after all. It is either a dream, hallucination or thought in the mind of some god. Consequently, they say that talk about the origin of the universe is ridiculous since the universe doesnt really exist anyway.

If someone wishes to argue in this manner one can ask a few simple questions. Does this person believe anything exists? If he does, then what does he believe really exists (the world, himself, etc.)? As soon as he tells us what he thinks is real, then we ask him, "Where did that real existence come from?" He is now faced with the same alternatives: either this real thing has always existed, or it came about spontaneously with no cause, or it was created by something or someone else outside itself.

If a person continues to maintain that nothing actually exists, then we dont have to talk to him at all, because he and we, along with everything else, do not exist. Nobody is talking to nobody about nothing.

1. Is The Universe Eternal?

Most people who declare that the universe has always existed do not actually believe that the universe was without a beginning. Usually they say it is "eternal" because they cannot imagine a time when the universe was not in existence. This universe is the only dimension with which they are familiar and it seems impossible to think of a time when everything that now exists was not in existence.

There is new scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning. Scientist Robert Gange writes:

There is another way that we know the universe had a beginning. Scientists routinely study the light from stars, which consists of waves that originate from the different materials that compose a star. Since the materials in the stars differ, the light waves that leave the stars and come to earth are different. The different light waves can be thought of as the materials fingerprint. Measurements of the light coming from the many stars show that the universe is made up of the same atomic particles that we find on earth.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics, a law embracing physical things on earth, and the universe at large, governs how these materials can behave. Just a short time ago this law had limitations that prevented its application to the entire universe. But recently it was modified, and the revision (called the New Generalized Second Law of Thermodynamics) is vastly more powerful than the older Second Law.

The New Generalized Law teaches that if the universe had been here forever, all of its materials would have reached a state of rest. But we do not see such when we study the universe with telescopes. And if the universe is not in a state of rest, it could not have been here forever, it must have had a beginning.

The universe, therefore, had a beginning-a fact taught by the first verse of every Bible and now accepted by most of the scientific world. Every Bible begins with the statement: "In the beginning God created . . ." Now science says, "There was a beginning" (Robert Gange, Origins and Destiny, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1986, p. 16).

Therefore the idea that the universe is eternal is not supported by scientific fact.

2. Did The Universe Cause Itself?

This option maintains that something can come naturally from nothing-an idea that contradicts both science and the Bible. One of the basic laws of science, the First Law of Thermodynamics, teaches matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed. Natural processes cannot bring something into existence from nothing.

What can we say to a person who believes that the universe just popped into existence from nothing? We can ask him to cite an instance of something coming from nothing. No such example can be found in the universe.

Furthermore, if this happened at the beginning of the universe there would be no reason why it should not happen now. But nobody seriously believes that things naturally just pop into existence from nothing.

Personal Or Impersonal?

If the universe had a beginning, as the evidence testifies, was it personal or impersonal. Was there some intelligence behind it, or did it just "happen" by chance? Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer writes:

An impersonal beginning raises two overwhelming problems which neither the East nor modern man has come near solving. First, there is no real explanation for the fact that the external world not only exists but has specific form . . . As I look at . . . the external universe, it is obviously not just a handful of pebbles thrown out there. What is there has form. If we assert the existence of the impersonal as the beginning of the universe, we simply have no explanation for this kind of situation.

Second, and more important, if we begin with an impersonal universe, there is no explanation of personality. In a very real sense the question of questions for all generations-but overwhelmingly so for modern man-is Who am I? For when I look at the I that is me and then look around to those who face me and are also men, one thing is immediately obvious: Man has a mannishness. You find it today wherever you find man-not only in the men who live today, but in the artifacts of history. The assumption of an impersonal beginning can never adequately explain the personal beings we see around us, and when men try to explain man on the basis of an original impersonal, man soon disappears (Francis Schaeffer, Genesis In Space and Time, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1972, pp. 20,21).

3. The Universe Was Created

Though science and Scripture teach that something cannot come naturally out of nothing the Bible teaches that God supernaturally created the universe out of nothing. Scientific evidence also supports this fact. Robert Gange writes:

The First Law teaches that a natural process cannot bring into existence something out of nothing. If the First Law is correct, which seems to be the case, and if the universe had a beginning which seems to be scientifically accepted, then one conclusion is that something unnatural created the universe. If the world didnt result from a natural process, then it came about from an unnatural process.

The thought that the universe may have originated supernaturally is unsettling to many people. Yet, taken at face value, this conclusion is consistent with the total sum of evidence before us. Modern understanding of astrophysical data collected over the past fifty years or so has illuminated a profoundly important insight concerning the origin of our world. When objectively viewed, we see two complimentary truths: (1) Our world had a beginning, and (2) natural processes do not create things out of nothing. A supernatural birth satisfies them both (Robert Gange, Origins and Destiny, p. 18).

We are left with the alternative that makes sense both scientifically and biblically: the universe was created by something or someone outside itself. Christian scholar E.M. Blaiklock speaks of the challenge of accepting a created universe:

You can . . . believe, if you will, that the vision of order and interlocking purpose which we see all around us is a mere fortuitous congregation of atoms . . . the chances against the fortuitous formation of one protein molecule . . . are beyond imagination. Such an event would require a volume of matter fantastically larger than the whole mass of the Einsteinian universe, with a radius, in fact, of 1082 light years, or, if the molecule envisaged is to be formed within that mass, it would require statistically 10243 billion years for the event. The figure baffles comprehension.

You may confidently tell me that any such chance event could happen before lunch, but I call to your remembrance that we speak of one protein molecule. How many millions compose my little finger, I do not know. If you will, you can . . . believe that an unimaginable complex array of atoms have produced the universe, the human person . . . hope, poetry, and beauty . . . but it seems to me that to accept such a basis on which to build your life and peace . . . you need a sturdier faith than mine when I chose to believe that a great Intelligence has ordered it all. Such a conclusion can certainly not be laughed away (E. M. Blaiklock, ed., Why I Am Still A Christian, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971, pp. 12,13).

Summary

The evidence points to the universe having a definite origin. The Second Law of Thermodynamics requires that orderly things inevitably break down and proceed in the direction of chaos, not the other way around. This fits the biblical model which says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The universe had its maximum order and energy resources after creation and is now running down.

In addition, only the biblical model can explain the form of the universe, as well as the personality of man. Modern man has never been able to adequately answer these two questions.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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