CosmosEx Nihilo: “from or out of nothing.”

Here are some interesting scientific ‘facts’:

1. As far as we know the universe consists of 50 billion galaxies. This is as far as science can see at the moment. The universe may be infinite for all we know.

2. All this stuff is supposed to have emerged 14 billion years ago in less than a second, from a point with no physical dimensions (the big bang theory).

3. Something made the entire cosmos out of nothing.

The big bang theory is not a recent theory. Its scientific history can be traced to 1929 when Edwin Hubble presented evidence of cosmic expansion, the fact that the galaxies were rushing away from each other. In other words if you were to “roll back the tape” you would find the galaxies rushing back to each other till they all came together.

If there was indeed a big bang you would also expect to find a loud echo of that bang. This big bang echo, or background radiation resulting from the big bang, was discovered in 1965.

As Greg Easterbrook writes in his article ‘The New Convergence’ (WIRED December 2002, 165ff):

“Today cosmologists do think they know a fair amount of steps two and three (of the big bang) — what the incipient cosmos was like in the instant after the genesis, how matter and energy later separated and formed the first galaxies. But as for step one, no dice. Nobody knows beyond foggy conjecture what caused the big bang, what( if anything) was present before that event, or how there could have been a prior condition in which nothing existed. Explanations of how the mass of an entire universe could pop out of a void are especially unsatisfying.”

It ‘just so happened’ that I was doing my quiet time in Revelation around the time I read Easterbrook’s article, and encountered the following:

“You are worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you made the whole universe; by your will, when it did not exist, it was created.”

Revelation 4 : 11 NJB

I also remembered my early days in Regent College, when I was given this piece of wisdom. Science helps us to understand the ‘what’ of the universe, what is out there. But only the Scriptures can tell us the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ — who created the universe and why it was created.

At first glance this may sound simplistic but I believe it is just simple, powerfully simple. After all even the Scriptures themselves tell us “the heavens declare the glory of God” but only “the Law of Yahweh is perfect, refreshment to the soul.” (Psalm 19)

Therefore Christians should not apologise for supporting the scientific enterprise. We are only finding more about the universe that God created.

However, all must come to recognise that empirical science cannot give us the answers to the pressing moral and spiritual questions of the day. Again Easterbrook summarises the situation well:

“Biologists and fundamentalists may still want to hurl bricks at one another, but there is no dodging the immediate questions of biological engineering, stem-cell research, transgenic animals, and so on. What is life? Do individual cells have rights? Do human beings have the right to alter human DNA? Is it wise to re engineer the biosphere?”

These questions are being hotly debated and the answers adopted will have enormous implications for mankind, enormous implications for all of us.

Christians must see the urgency of taking part in such discussions. It means therefore that some of us within the body of Christ must heed the call to do good science. Others must struggle afresh with the Word in the light of the questions of the day. Still others must think and pray as to how we can reasonably and effectively share the truths of God with a pluralistic society. I take it that strategies that are appropriate for the U.S. may not be suitable for Malaysia.

Different parts of the body of Christ must all do their part. We need to work together. We need to be humble. We need to be patient. We need to pray.

But we cannot be silent. And we need not be apologetic for the answers that the Scriptures provide.