The significance of the Big Bang for Theism
Matt Longhorn, Reading, UK (email@example.com)
September 21, 2006
The story of our understanding of the universe has been charted well in the
agnostic author Robert Jastrow?s – God and the Astronomers. Jastrow traces the Big Bang
theory back to mathematical calculations by Slipher, De Sitter and Einstein
at the beginning of the twentieth century followed later by the experimental
findings of Edwin Hubble and also Penzias and Wison.1 Prior to the discovery of the
expansion of the universe the prevalent theory was that the universe was eternal
and unchanging and therefore needed nothing to account for its beginning ? there
was no beginning.
The Big Bang shows that the universe had a beginning by allowing us to trace
the expansion observed by Hubble and follow it back in time. By following this
expansion back, we come to a point that is infinitely small and dense ? the
beginning of our universe.
Not only did space come into being at the beginning, but time also began. This
combination of a beginning of space and time can be found in the Bible ? 2 Timothy
1:9 ?…This Grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.?
John 1:3 ?Through him all things were made??
William Lane Craig lists some Old Testament texts indicating a beginning of
all matter ? Exodus 20:11; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 44:24; Proverbs 8:23; Psalm 102:25-27 2
Whilst the beginning of the universe itself is certainly a good argument for
God it can rapidly lead into some fairly abstract arguments. It is no longer
enough to be aware of cosmological theories but mathematics and philosophy is
also needed to show that it is actually impossible for the universe to be infinitely
Concerning the Big Bang theory, two quotes help to show its importance for theism
? For the Scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story
ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about
to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is
greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.3
Perhaps the best argument in favour of the thesis that the Big Bang supports
theism is the obvious unease with which it is greeted by some atheist physicists.
At times this has led to scientific ideas? being advanced with a tenacity which
so exceeds their intrinsic worth that one can only suspect the operation of psychological
forces lying very much deeper than the usual academic desire of a theorist to
support his/her theory.4
As Isham notes, the atheist will often turn to arguments that are poorly supported
by the empirical evidence, such arguments as the oscillating universe. This
is not surprising, there seem to be two possibilities regarding the Big Bang:
either it was caused or it was uncaused (these may not be the only options but seem
to be the most obvious). Quentin Smith states ?I argue the Big Bang has no cause.?5
What Smith is proposing is that something came from nothing or to put it into another
fashion: nothing caused something and this seems to be a nonsensical thing to say.
Billions of Galaxies = Billions of Life Supporting Planets?
When we look up to the sky on a clear night we are confronted by seemingly uncountable
numbers of stars c.f. Genesis 15:5 ?Look up at the heavens an count the stars
? if indeed you can count them.? It is only natural to assume the existence of life
on other planets orbiting other stars, but is this really the case?
Modern cosmology (the study of the universe as a whole) has come up with the
concept of the habitable zone ? a zone that a planet must fall into in order
to support life; outside this zone life cannot be supported. The question is:
how likely is it that all the necessary factors to support life will come into
Hugh Ross argues in a 1994 paper that there is ?less than one chance in 10282
(million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion
trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion
trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion) exists that even one
such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles?6
Some simple examples of the factors necessary for life7 are:
The planet must be in a spiral galaxy ? the other types of galaxy cannot support
The planet must be between the spiral arms of the galaxy
The planet cannot be too far from the centre of the galaxy
The planet cannot be too close to the centre of the galaxy
The plant must have a moon to stabilise its axis
The solar system must have large gas planets to protect it
The planets must orbit in a near circular orbit
The planet cannot be more than 5% closer to the sun than the earth is8
The planet cannot be more than 37% further from the sun than the earth is9
The planet must have enough mass to support tectonic activity
The planet must have water
The planet must have continents
The planet must also occur at the right age in the universe
It is not enough just to have these factors however. Hugh Ross?s probability
argument cannot be taken in isolation from the probability of life forming even
given these factors; they should be combined to give a real estimate of the
probability of life in the universe.
The above arguments only look briefly at what it takes for a planet to exist
that can support life. They do not touch what is known as the anthropic cosmological
principle; namely the idea that if the physics of the universe were to altered
even slightly, no life could exist.
J.P. Moreland states ?Any form of life even remotely like our own is remarkably
sensitive to infinitesimal alterations in these constants. Had the values of
these constants been even slightly smaller or larger, then no life would have
It should be noted that the anthropic principle is concerned with advanced life
such as humans. The boundaries for the physical constants may be slightly more
flexible for less advanced life (e.g. bacterium). This greater flexibility would
still result in remarkably low probabilities and should not be taken as a refutation
of the design inference.
Regarding the improbability of the universe containing the values in physics
necessary for life William Lane Craig states ?The point is that it is unimaginably
more probable that the universe should be life-prohibiting rather than permitting,
and the best explanation for the cosmos as it is may well be intelligent design.?1
It may be fair to state that the arguments for an infinite number of universes
(such as the chaotic inflationary model), stem from the need to explain away
the fine tuning in the universe. The probabilities involved in a universe supporting
life are staggeringly small, and despite some arguments such as the weak anthropic
principle (that we shouldn?t be surprised at this fine tuning, as we wouldn?t
be around to be surprised at it if it wasn?t the case), the desire to have an
infinite number of universes to allow such tuning to occur makes a striking statement
about the efficiency of this argument.
Design is the best inference to draw from the data found in cosmology; and
whilst not proving God exists, it does make it a rational conclusion to make.
Putting the other areas of argumentation alongside the arguments from cosmology
and astronomy, the Christian can present a compelling case for the existence of
It should be noted that whilst the above arguments would appear to be reasonable,
they may not stand on their own. More information may be needed to back up the
statements made here, meaning further study may be required depending on to
whom the case from cosmology is directed.
Whilst not a 100% proof of Gods existence, this information has helped to place
mankind back in the centre of the universe (metaphorically speaking). No longer
do we have to view ourselves as insignificant beings, but rather special and
significant beings, with a brilliantly designed place in the universe.
A final point that should be needs to be brought up; the atheist will often
make assertions that are almost religious in nature. What this means is that
they may tend to operate from the assumption that God does not exist and proceed
to ignore all evidence to the contrary. This naturally leads to the advancement of
theories which are not well supported by evidence, but are the only real hope
that the atheist has of avoiding the conclusion that God exists.
1 Robert Jastrow; God and the Astronomers 1992 Readers Library Inc
2 Paul Copan and William Lane Craig – Creation Out of Nothing ? A Biblical,
Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration – 2004 – Baker Publishing pg 65ff.
3 Robert Jastrow ? God and the Astronomers 2nd ed.1992 ? Readers Library Inc.
4 William Lane Craig quoting C.J. Isham ? Reasonable Faith ? 1994 ? Crossway
Books Pg 328
5 William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith ? Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology
1993 ? Oxford University Press pg 108 (introduction to essay IV)
7 Some easy to read/understand resources on this subject are:
Lee Strobel ? The Case for a Creator ? 2004 ? Zondervan; Chapter
Norman L Geisler and Frank Turek ? I Don?t Have Enough Faith to
Be an Atheist ? 2004 ? Crossway books pgs 95-106
8 Guillermo Gonzalez ? Habitable Zones in The Universe ? 2.1 http://204.121
10J.P Moreland ? Scaling the Secular City a Defense of Christianity 1987 ? Baker
Books pg 52
11 William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith ? Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology
1993 ? Oxford University Press pg 268