February 3, 2017
As I contemplated this question, my answer was big bang cosmology. Here’s why.
All big bang models include three essential features: (1) constant laws of physics throughout the universe; (2) a dynamic universe, one either expanding or contracting; and (3) a beginning to the universe. Remarkably, the biblical description matches these essential features.
Constant Laws of Physics
The scientific enterprise depends on a universe governed by constant laws of physics. If measurements today have no bearing on what happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow, no scientific progress can happen. Similarly, if measurements here on Earth are unrelated to what happens in a different galaxy, scientists cannot determine anything about how the universe behaves. The main philosophical motivation for Einstein developing the theory of general relativity was that the laws of physics ought to appear the same everywhere in the universe at all times. Science depends on a universe governed by constant laws of physics, but it provides no basis for this crucial philosophical necessity.
One attribute of God given in the Bible is immutability—God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The specific aspect of God’s immutability relevant to big bang cosmology relates to how the universe behaves. I suspect that many people view God’s interaction with the universe similarly to how I used to. In that view, God created the universe and largely sits back and watches it unfold, although he will intervene at times to bring about some specific outcome. However, Scripture paints a different picture. If God were to withdraw his hand from upholding the universe, it would tumble into nonexistence. In other words, God’s immutability results in the universe behaving reliably because God sustains it at every place, all the time. Jeremiah 33:25–26 explicitly compares the reliable behavior of the universe to God’s faithfulness in keeping his promises. In fact, God sustains the universe so consistently that we can describe its behavior using terms like the “laws of physics.”
A Dynamic Universe
Numerous biblical authors (Job 9:8, Psalm 104:2, Isaiah 40:22, Jeremiah 10:12, and Zechariah 12:1) note that God is stretching (or has stretched) out the heavens. I doubt that these authors had the expansion of the universe in mind when penning the words, but the terminology they use is provocative.
In the early 1900s when Einstein developed the theory of relativity, the solutions to its equations described a dynamic universe—one that was either expanding or contracting. However, the prevailing scientific thought of the time argued for a static and unchanging universe. So ingrained was the idea of a static universe that Einstein added a constant to his equations to remove the dynamic character that naturally flowed from the equations. When measurements in the 1920s confirmed the expansion of the universe, Einstein reportedly called the introduction of the constant “the biggest blunder of his life.”
A Beginning to the Universe
The doctrine of creation ex nihilo pervades the Bible, from Genesis through Proverbs, into the Gospels and Epistles, and ending in Revelation. God created the universe out of nothing. As I understand it, a beginningless universe would contradict this important doctrine. That’s how important creation ex nihilo is. Einstein’s theory of relativity and the expansion of the universe convincingly point to a beginning of time—a conclusion that many scientists strongly resist. Today, that resistance finds some support in the pursuit of a quantum theory of gravity. Yet, the past century repeatedly shows that advances in our understanding ultimately support explanations of the universe that contain a beginning.
I don’t want to imply that big bang cosmology is a “knockdown” argument for the truth of Christianity. Both Christians and non-Christians offer rebuttals to each of the points raised above. Some rebuttals are scientific (the multiverse, quantum gravity, etc.). Some are theological (stretching does not mean expansion, exegesis in light of ancient Near Eastern culture, etc.). However, in my assessment, big bang cosmology represents one of the cleanest and most persuasive arguments that the biblical and scientific descriptions of the universe match. And that fact validates the truth of Christianity.
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