For a more general discussion of how the origin of the universe gives strong evidence in support of a theistic God, those who don’t already have it can download my document, “Getting To God,” from the resource page elsewhere on the True Horizon website (Directly available here: “Getting To God Download”)
Instead of reinventing that wheel here, I would like to offer a brief overview of the most powerful arguments on this topic and some links to video and other resources I have found helpful. Readers can pursue whichever ones they would like to know more about.
As the subtitle of the post puts it succinctly, beginnings require beginners. Effects require causes. Events don’t just occur without something to make them happen. The universe is not exempt from these facts.
With that in mind, the three most powerful and simple arguments you should be familiar with are:
- The Cosmological Argument (The Big Bang)
- The Second Law of Thermodynamics
- Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover
The first two are scientific; the third is philosophical. Don’t get scared off by “Aristotle” or “philosophical.” The concept is simple to comprehend and actually the most indisputable of the three. As someone interested in defending a theistic view of the world, being able to discuss each of these should become second nature to you.
I will discuss each argument in a separate post to avoid being cumbersome.
Big Bang Cosmology
For thousands of years and with few exceptions, the consensus view of the universe was that it was “static and eternal.”
- “Static” – while we observed things moving around in the heavens, the common assumption was that the universe itself was not moving at all. It was thought of as a giant “blob” of space that contained all the heavenly objects within it. The blob didn’t move or change; the stuff we could see just swirled around inside it.
- “Eternal” – the universe had always been here. It had no beginning or end, it just “was.”
No one had much reason to question this view until Albert Einstein came along with his Theory of General Relativity (GR). GR was his attempt to find an explanation for gravity. The mathematics of the problem led him to discover a connection between matter, energy, space, and time. His equations made sense of everything, with one exception.
The equations only worked if the physical universe was expanding, and that couldn’t be true. After all, everyone “knew” the universe was static and eternal. That was the paradigm. Einstein was caught in it. He actually inserted what he called a “cosmological constant” into his equations to cancel out the idea that the universe was expanding.
Why would he do that?
The answer is simple but profound. Einstein was an atheist, and he knew the implications of an expanding universe. If the universe was expanding, it couldn’t have been expanding forever. If you ran the clock backward, you could only go so far (think of an expanding balloon). In other words, there had to be a point where the expansion began. The implication of that idea was that something must have started the whole thing expanding in the first place.
Something like God — because beginnings require Beginners.
Einstein would not accept the implications of his own equations because he could not countenance the idea that there was a God. He left his “cosmological constant” in place until he met an astronomer named Edwin Hubble in 1929. Hubble had been pointing his telescopes at stars and galaxies for years and what he found astounded him. Everything he looked at in every direction was moving away from us. The farther away the objects were, the faster they were moving.* There was only one conclusion — an expanding universe — which meant that the implication Einstein wanted to avoid was unavoidable.
The universe had a beginning, and that meant it needed a Beginner.
The formal Cosmological Argument is as follows:
Premise 1: Anything that begins to exist must have a cause.
Premise 2: The universe began to exist
Conclusion: The universe must have a cause.
Albert Einstein later said his decision to artificially insert a “cosmological constant” into his equations was “the greatest blunder of [his] life.” And that is exactly why we the cosmological argument is foundational to the case for theism.
Now, the fact that the universe itself demonstrates that it must have come into existence instantaneously at some point in the finite past has been referred to as “The Big Bang,” and vilified both by atheists who deny its implications and theists who misunderstand its nature. You can read more detail about this here: [Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bang (Part 1)?] and here: [Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bang (Part 2)?]. Don’t be fooled. The Big Bang is one of the most meticulously verified theories in history. Every time it is tested, the case for theism gets stronger.
Understanding the basics of Big Bang cosmology is a must for anyone who is interested in defending the case for Christian theism. But there’s plenty more where that came from.
*This phenomenon is called “red shift.” As objects move away from us, the light emitted from them appears to be longer a longer wavelength — it “shifts” toward the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum where red light is a longer wavelength (If they were moving toward us, the shift would be toward the shorter, blue end, of the spectrum). The effect is exactly the same as the one you would get from sound waves that compress (shorten) as a train moves toward you and expand (lengthen) as the train moves away. The change in pitch you hear from the passing train is replicated in the light waves you observe coming from heavenly objects.