Episode 38 - Is the Big Bang Theory Compatible with the Bible?

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What does the Bible say about the Big Bang theory? 

In some pockets of the world, Christianity, and more specifically, Christians, have the reputation of being anti-intellectual, at least to some. Because to some people, holding to the claim that God created the earth and everything that exists in six literal 24-hour solar days is a contradiction of modern scientific evidence, and it flies in the face of all of the available evidence, at least to them, so this is an anti-intellectual claim. To such a person, they believe that you have to turn your brain off in order to be a Christian. 

Now in principle, we can demonstrate that the Bible, and the New Testament especially, does not have this idea of needing to not see evidence in order to believe. In fact, John's whole gospel is written so that we might know, and in knowing come to believe or trust in the son of God, Jesus. Numerous other times in the New Testament we have examples of Paul making a case and wanting people to know, to understand, to reason through things, to use the mind in order to come to faith or trust in Christ. 

The standard set by the New Testament isn't anti-intellectual, but to some people the young earth claim of six literal 24-hour days is an anti-intellectual claim. Now that isn't a reason to reject it. Just because it flies in the face of science, that doesn't make it not true. However, we're left with the question: What does the Bible say about the Big Bang theory: the idea that something like 13.8 billion years ago everything came into existence, that it started out very dense, very small, very hot and rapidly expanded, and that it's still expanding today? The universe had a beginning. That is what the Big Bang theory points to, that all matter came into existence at a point in time in the finite past.

Now what does the Bible have to say about this, you may ask. Well, not much. I also don't think the Bible says much at all about a young earth either. I've written about this before: http://brianseagraves.com/blog/context-the-often-forgotten-consideration-when-reading-genesis-1 Here's the highlight. Genesis, the first book in the Bible, starts with "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Some people have read this like it's a summary or like a chapter title of what's to come. Then the book goes on to describe the actual creation of the heavens and the earth. 

However, better scholarship points to a different conclusion, that this is its own distinct event, that God creating the heavens and the earth is literally how the Hebrews would have considered God creating the universe. For when they spoke of the universe, they used the term heavens and earth. In other words, everything that exists, things under our feet and things above. The first verse in the Bible starts with "God created the heavens and the earth." Then we focus in on that creation, specifically on earth. It says, "And now the earth was formless and void." 

What amount of time could have passed in that gap there between the creation of everything and zooming in to focus on each, in what we might call special creation on earth? Who knows how long that time gap could have been. But I don't think there's any good biblical reason to reject what science says about the age of the universe. God could have created the earth and everything on it in six literal days, and the universe be 13.8 billion years old. Even everything on earth could have been created 6,000 years ago and the universe could still be 13.8 billion years old. Now you may ask why such a long gap in between creating the universe and earth. But what is time to a God who has always existed? What are a few or multiple billions of years? They’re nothing; a blip on the radar. 

Just because there's a large amount of time, or at least a large amount of time to us, between what could possibly be the beginning of the universe and the creation on earth, this shouldn't make us reject the idea. Since Genesis 1:1 is its own event -- the creation of the universe -- we don't have to reject the idea that the universe is billions of years old. 

People want to say that the Bible is our only source of authority and knowledge. However, It should be our primary source of authority, but Christianity has never regarded it as the only authority. In the same way, Christianity has never regarded scripture as the only source of knowledge. 

Paul speaks of natural revelation in Romans 1, that through creation we can know that there is a God. The Psalms speaks of the heavens testifying to the handiwork of God. We can know about things from natural revelation, from outside of the Bible. Because all truth is God's truth. The truth we come to learn from the natural world is no less true than what we read in scripture. 

Now, we are left with how do we reconcile potential differences between the natural world and what the Bible says. Here's the point. If all truth is God's truth and the Bible is God's inspired and infallible word to us, then the book of God's words - the Bible - is not going to contradict the book of God's works. In other words, nature, what God did, what God has created. We should always be seeking to harmonize scripture and our understanding of the world. Now sometimes scripture is going to correct our understanding of the world. It's going to say no, this scientific conclusion cannot be true because of what we have clear evidence for in scripture. 

Other times, what we come to understand about the universe, God's universe, through God's creation, using the gift of reason God has given us, will help us better understand what is meant in scripture. In principle we do this in a variety of ways. For example, we come to better understand the Ancient Greek language. This helps us better understand scripture. In the same way, as we come to better understand the universe, we can actually see that it's possible the universe is billions of years old.

 But,  there is something that the Bible tells us is strictly important, and we should never reject through anything a scientist may tell us. That is that God did the creating. There's disagreement from reading scripture and taking Genesis 1 seriously as to the age of the earth. Maybe we'll get into this later in more detail. However, it does start out in the very first book, in the very first chapter saying, "God created the heavens and the earth." That leaves no room for uncaused causes. It leaves no room for evolution or creation by chance, for such a thing is a contradiction in terms. It doesn't leave room for that. Scripture is exceedingly clear on God doing the work, God taking credit for creation, and creating to his glory alone. When we try and redefine that in terms of some naturalistic, unguided, random process that had no cause for no reason, we deprive God of the glory due his name, for creation testifies to the majesty and power and glory and splendor of God. 

One thing we must be very clear on, God did the work of creation. If the Big Bang did happen, which I think is the most reasonable understanding of all of the evidence both biblical and scientific, well then what does that mean? That means the universe had a beginning, which means the universe had a cause. The Big Bang theory doesn't actually make sense without God. Now I'm not just trying to plug got into a gap in science, but scientists have said before that the universe came into existence from nothing, with no cause, and from nothing, and for no purpose. 

Now how does any of that make sense? Something coming from nothing without a cause? That's just ridiculous, honestly. Now what makes more sense? That there was a cause for the universe. In a previous episode we've talked about an argument for God's existence, the cosmological argument. It's very simple. I'm going to leave you with this thought today, an example of how the Big Bang theory actually supports an argument for the existence of God. Here's how this argument, very simple argument, goes. 

1. Everything that begins to exist must have a cause. 2. The universe began to exist. (Scientific evidence and philosophical evidence all point to this. In conclusion, the argument would say:) 3. the universe had a cause. Now the universe can't have caused itself. Things don't cause themselves. Parents don't give birth to themselves. Knocks don't knock themselves on the door. Rhinoceroses don't appear out of nothing. Everything that begins to exist has a cause, and that cause cannot be itself. That cause must be outside of itself. 

What we understand when we look at the natural world is the universe, the Big Bang, must have had a cause, or as Greg Koukl likes to say, “a Big Bang needs a big banger.” It needs someone to set it off. The most reasonable explanation for that is God. This is exactly what we find in Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." I hope that's something to think about that maybe helps you in conversation as you're trying to maybe do a couple of things: put together what you see in science and what you see in scripture, and also use science to support a premise for God's existence using the cosmological argument. I'll talk to you next week on Unapologetic.