A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

What scientific argument for the truth of Christianity do you find the most persuasive? (I would love to hear your answer on either Facebook or Twitter.)

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 many people view God’s interaction with the universe similar 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 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 the Proverbs, into the Gospels and Epistles and ending in Revelation. God created the universe out of nothing. As I understand it, a beginning-less 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 “knock-down” 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.

Subjects: Bible, Big Bang Theory, Cosmic Expansion, Laws of Physics, Origin of the Universe

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About The Author

Jeff Zweerink

Since my earliest memories, science and the Christian faith have featured prominently in my life - but I struggled when my scientific studies seemed to collide with my early biblical training. My first contact with RTB came when I heard Hugh Ross speak at Iowa State University. It was the first time I realized it was possible to do professional work incorporating both my love of science and my desire to serve God. I knew RTB's ministry was something I was called to be a part of. While many Christians and non-Christians see the two as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. They operate by the same principles and are committed to discovering foundational truths. My passion at RTB is helping Christians see how powerful a tool science is to declare God's glory and helping scientists understand how the established scientific discoveries demonstrate the legitimacy and rationality of the Christian faith. While many Christians and non-Christians see the two as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Jeff Zweerink thought he would follow in his father's footsteps as a chemistry professor until a high school teacher piqued his interest in physics. Jeff pursued a BS in physics and a PhD in astrophysics at Iowa State University (ISU), where he focused his study on gamma rays - messengers from distant black holes and neutron stars. Upon completing his education, Jeff taught at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. Postdoctoral research took him to the West Coast, to the University of California, Riverside, and eventually to a research faculty position at UCLA. He has conducted research using STACEE and VERITAS gamma-ray telescopes, and currently works on GAPS, a balloon experiment seeking to detect dark matter. A Christian from childhood, Jeff desired to understand how the worlds of science and Scripture integrate. He struggled when his scientific studies seemed to collide with his early biblical training. While an undergrad at ISU, Jeff heard Hugh Ross speak and learned of Reasons to Believe (RTB) and its ministry of reconciliation - tearing down the presumed barriers between science and faith and introducing people to their personal Creator. Jeff knew this was something he was called to be a part of. Today, as a research scholar at RTB, Jeff speaks at churches, youth groups, universities, and professional groups around the country, encouraging people to consider the truth of Scripture and how it connects with the evidence of science. His involvement with RTB grows from an enthusiasm for helping others bridge the perceived science-faith gap. He seeks to assist others in avoiding the difficulties he experienced. Jeff is author of Who's Afraid of the Multiverse? and coauthor of more than 30 journal articles, as well as numerous conference proceedings. He still serves part-time on the physics and astronomy research faculty at UCLA. He directs RTB's online learning programs, Reasons Institute and Reasons Academy, and also contributes to the ministry's podcasts and daily blog, Today's New Reason to Believe. When he isn’t participating in science-faith apologetics Jeff enjoys fishing, camping, and working on home improvement projects. An enthusiastic sports fan, he coaches his children's teams and challenges his RTB colleagues in fantasy football. He roots for the Kansas City Chiefs and for NASCAR's Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon. Jeff and his wife, Lisa, live in Southern California with their five children.

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