A question that children often ask when they get older is where did God come from? As adults we also ask the same question from time to time. This is a hard question. According to scripture, God had no beginning, as we read for example in Psa 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” As human beings we have difficulty in understanding how someone or something could have no beginning. An atheist might actually use this as an argument against God. How can someone exist who had no beginning?
The Bible clearly teaches that the universe had a definite beginning: Gen 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The first verse of the Bible implies that the universe and the Earth were in existence before day one of the creation.
Modern astronomical science actually accords with the account in Genesis 1:1. Telescopes reveal that the universe is in a state of constant expansion with most galaxies moving away from each other. This is difficult to imagine, but a good analogy is the baking a raisin loaf bread in a bread maker. Imagine a dollop of dough with embedded raisins being placed in a bread maker. As the dough ferments it begins to expand. If we could miniaturise ourselves and sit on a raisin in the middle of the dough, and we could see through the dough, we would see all the raisins around us receding. In the case of a raisin loaf we don’t generally see the dough expand, but when the timer stops and the smell of fresh bread pervades the house,out comes a large loaf that we know started off much smaller. (I had a job in a bakery years ago and was amazed at how small the dollop of dough was for a white loaf of bread – not much bigger than a sausage).
In the above analogy, the dough is space and the raisins are the galaxies. Since the universe is expanding then clearly it was smaller at an earlier time. If we keep going back in time then all the galaxies were compressed into a very small space, which was the moment the universe was created – a definite moment in time as recorded in Gen 1:1.
Remarkably, the expansion of the universe is actually referred to in scripture, for example in Jer 51:15 “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” Telescopes reveal that God really has stretched out the heavens. The Bible contains another accurate analogy of the creation of the universe in Isa 40:22 “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grass hoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” Most of us are familiar with curtains. Throughout the day a curtain is scrunched up to one side of a window and at night it is stretched out across the window. In the case of a tent, the tent often is spread out flat across the ground and then is stretched out to enclose a much larger space.
How do we explain the origin of the universe if we do not believe in God? We might conclude that the creation of the universe was some kind of cosmic accident and that the universe literally came out of nothing. As a theist, we could counter that in that case there should be no difficulty in believing that God just came out of nothing.
Some source of energy must have brought the universe into existencethat did not need creating. One of the foundation principles of physics is the conservation of energy – in other words energy cannot be destroyed or created (in the sense of being created out of nothing). For example, in a BBQ the heat used for cooking is produced from the chemical energy stored in the propane. When the gas is switched off and the plate cools the heat is lost to the atmosphere.
From the principle of the conservation of energy it is valid to argue that the energy that created the universe did not come out of nothing but from apre-existing source of energy. In the end, we are led to the conclusion that this source of energy always existed. This might be difficult concept to accept, but so is the idea that the huge amount of energy in the universe came from nothing.
We could keep putting the source of the energy back and back. For example we could argue that a super God made God, and a super-super God, made the super God and so on. We have to stop somewhere, so why not stop with God whose origin does not need explaining since he had no beginning? Even if we do not believe in God we are forced to believe in some force or energy that has always existed.
Another interesting issue is the fact that this universe in which we inhabit looks like it has been designed for life. If it wasn’t then we wouldn’t be here to observe it. The four fundamental forces of nature – gravity, electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces – have just the right strength relative to each other for the universe as we know it to exist. If either of these were only a very small amount different from what they are then the universe would be unsuitable for life. For example, if the strength of gravity were a bit stronger the stars would burn too fast and if a bit weaker stars would not form.
The difference between the strength of gravity and the strong nuclear force is 1040. This is number is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or in words, ten thousand trillion trillion trillion. The electromagnetic force is 100 times weak than the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear 1,000 times weaker than the electromagnetic force. If we say that the strength of the forces must stay within 50% of the value that they have (which is actually a very large tolerance as we shall soon see), then the ‘chance’ that all four forces would randomly have the right relative strength for a universe able to support carbon and water based life forms is one part in 10120. This number has three times as many naughts as 1040.
This number is worked out as follows. If we set the strength of one of the forces (say the strong nuclear), and then randomly select the strength of the electromagnetic force by turning a dial with 1040 settings , there is a 1 in 1040chance the electromagnetic force will have the correct relative strength. The same argument applies to the remaining two forces. Therefore, in the end the chance that all four forces have the correct relative strength is 1 in 1040+40+40 = 10120. This is a ridiculously huge number and implies that the universe has been designed.
We will now look at a specific example of the fine tuning of the universe. If the strength of the nuclear force was just 2.5% stronger all of the hydrogen that came in to existence at the beginning of the universe would have fused into helium preventing the formation of ‘regular’ hydrogen burning stars like out Sun. That is a very small margin of error and suggests that the fine tuning is even finer than suggested by the huge number above.
From an atheist perspective we might just say that this is just the way the universe is. It just so happens that the force that created the universe produced the fundamental forces with just the right strength. Some people have developed a concept known as the multiverse in an attempt to account for the extremely fine balanceof the universe. In the multiverse theory, the universe in which we inhabit is just one of a large number of universes that have been created by a universe ‘factory’. The vast majority of the universes are duds and unable to support life, but by definition were in one of the good ones. Now, of course the question is where did the universe factory come from?
The concept of God having always existed is a difficult one. Maybe we can get a bit closer to understanding how God can be eternal from the following. We all know that 1 + 1 = 2. Was there every a time when 1 + 1 was not equal to 2? No. 1 +1 has always been equal to 2 and always will be. In language, there has always been a yes and no and always will be. The concept of one plus one is equal to two is outside of time. We could call it an eternal truth. So it is with God.
When the universe was created space and time as we know it came into existence. We think of time as marching on at a steady pace. You and I both live 24 hours each day – my 24 hours is exactly the same as your 24 hours. However, if we were to travel to other places in the universe this is not true. Time runs slightly slower on the Moon since the strength of the Moon’s gravitational field is less than it is on Earth. You may have seen a video of the Apollo astronauts walking on the Moon. They move much more slowly than on Earth due to the weaker gravity.
The Apollo astronauts’ watches ticked slightly faster on the Moon than on the Earth in accordance withEinstein’s theory of relativity. This time dilation effect as it is known is real and does actually relate to everyday life. If you have a smartphone, it probably has a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver so that the phone knows where you are in the world. If you run Google Maps and a dot appears on the map indicating your location, then your phone does this by picking up signals transmitted by the constellation of GPS satellites in orbit around the Earth. The clocks on these satellites run more quickly than on the Earth and therefore have to be corrected so that they stay synchronised with clocks on the surface of the Earth. If no correction were applied navigation would become very inaccurate.
In places where the gravitational field strength is very strong, for example close to a black hole, time runs so slowly it almost stops. The fact that time runs at different rates in the universe suggests that God is outside time, which accords with the Biblical record: 2 Pet 3:8 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Even if we don’t believe in God, in the end we are forced to be ‘religious’ in the sense that we need to believe in something that created the universe that itself does not need explaining.