For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.
This is a common argument that is made for the existence of God – the fact that the world, creation itself, obviously attests to the existence of God, and has done so since the beginning of time.
Recently, I watched a debate between Christian apologist William Lane Craig and Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion (Dawkin’s chair was empty, for various reasons). Craig has also debated famed atheist Christopher Hitchens on the existence of God (a debate in which Hitchens yielded his entire closing speech), as well as many other atheists and agnostics on the existence of God.
Craig is a much better apologist than I, well-learned, and incredibly logical, so I’ll summarize two of his major arguments for God’s existence here. In the verse above, these are also referred to as “his eternal power and divine nature.”
- Eternal Power: The Kalam Cosmological Argument
- Divine Nature: The Fine-Tuning Argument
Eternal Power: The Kalam Cosmological Argument
A basic kalam argument looks like this:
- If A is true, then B is true.
- A is true.
- Therefore, B is true.
The kalam cosmological argument goes like this:
- Whatever begins to exist requires a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe requires a cause.
The first premise is a fundamental law of nature (The Law of the Conservation of Mass) which states that – “matter can neither be created nor destroyed.” As well, there is the First Law of Thermodynamics that has to do with energy. It states that – “energy can neither be created nor destroyed.” To deny this premise is to deny fundamental natural laws.
The second premise is obviously true as well. To deny it is to deny reality, existence, and modern cosmology (a branch of astronomy that is concerned with the “study of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and is concerned with fundamental questions about its formation and evolution” (Wikipedia). In fact, it is modern cosmology that has allowed scientists to establish the Big Bang Theory as the leading cosmological model for the beginning of the universe.
There is a vast body of research to support the Big Bang Theory, and it is accepted by the majority of scientists as the most accurate and comprehensive explanation for the beginning of the universe. So what exactly happened at the Big Bang? The theory states that at one point in history, the universe was extremely hot and dense, and expanded incredibly rapidly (like an explosion), until it came to cool and rest as the universe we know today. At that point, subatomic particles and the basic building blocks of matter were formed.
Three significant things were sparked into being at the Big Bang:
Before the Big Bang none of these existed.
But did God truly create time and space (and matter)?
And that leads us to the next portion of the kalam cosmological argument. If the first true premises are true (and to insist they are false is delusional), then we must agree that the third premise must also be true: the universe must have a cause.
Now, while most scientists will agree that the Big Bang caused the formation of the universe, what caused the Big Bang? Was it just a random accident? But that’s impossible, because it denies the Law of the Conservation of Mass as well as the First Law of Thermodynamics. And even in scientific experiments in quantum mechanics where virtual particles come into being in a vacuum, something must spark the vacuum to cause the “bang.” As WinteryKnight writes:
The vacuum is sparked by a scientist. The particles exist for a period of time inversely proportional to their mass. But in the case of the big bang, there is no vacuum – there’s nothing. There is no scientist – there’s nothing. And the universe is far too massive to last 14 billion years as a virtual particle.
Therefore, there must have been a spark, a cause, behind the Big Bang. And because the Big Bang created space, time, and matter, we can infer three things about the spark of the Big Bang:
- The spark is not bound by space – because it created it – so, it is not physical, because physical things exist in space.
- The spark is not bound by time – because it created it – so, it is not temporal, but eternal, outside the confines of time.
- The spark is not bound by matter – because it created it – so, it is not material and has no mass.
- Abstract objects like numbers, sets, and mathematical relations
- Minds, like your own mind
Abstract objects cannot cause any effects in nature, so we are therefore left with only one option as to the spark that caused the Big Bang: a mind. And minds are perfectly capable of causing effects in nature – simply raise your arm to see. So a supernatural mind logically must have been the spark behind the Big Bang (supernatural because it is not bound by nature), and because it violates the Law of the Conservation of Mass and the First Law of Thermodynamics, it has performed the impossible: a miracle.
That is the basic cosmological argument for the existence of God. And though there are many more rabbit trails to go down (including whether or not the causal mind is personal or impersonal, whether or not the universe is actually infinite, the multi-verse theory, and so on), Craig is far more learned on these subjects than I (and more interested in arguing them), so I encourage you to learn from him if you want to know more.
Divine Nature: The Fine-Tuning Argument
This argument is the one Christians often find the most appealing and easily resonate with. It goes like this:
- The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is either due to law, chance, or design.
- It is not due to law or chance.
- Therefore, the fine-tuning is due to design.
WinteryKnight has done a wonderful write-up of the fine-tuning argument from both William Lane Craig and Dr. Walter L. Bradley (Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor University), and as this post is already quite long, I won’t spend a great deal of time getting in depth on this argument here. Rather, please check out WinteryKnight’s posts for more details.
However, WinteryKnight does have a very well-written argument for the reality of fine-tuning that I’ll quote here:
Is the fine-tuning real?
Yes, it’s real and it is conceded by the top-rank of atheist physicists. Let me give you a citation from the best one of all, Martin Rees. Martin Rees is an atheist and a qualified astronomer. He wrote a book called “Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe”, (Basic Books: 2001). In it, he discusses 6 numbers that need to be fine-tuned in order to have a life-permitting universe.
Rees writes here:
These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator?
There are some atheists who deny the fine-tuning, but these atheists are in firm opposition to the progress of science. The more science has progressed, the more constants, ratios and quantities we have discovered that need to be fine-tuned. Science is going in a theistic direction.
Basically, adjusting any of the constants or numbers that hold our world and universe together by even so little as 2% would create a universe in which life would be an impossibility.
So, as the verse from Romans points out, “they [atheists and all people] are without excuse…For [God's] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
But Can I support the Big Bang Theory as a Christian?
When I was in high school, my youth pastor used to say, “Sure, I believe in the Big Bang: God spoke – BANG! Earth was created.” At the time, I thought he was absolutely joking and calling into question the science behind the theory. But now, I think there may have been some scientific truth to what he said as well.
One of the biggest problems I had with the Big Bang Theory when I first heard about it in school decades ago was this:How can science explain (or expect me to believe) that a Big Bang occurred at all? I’m no idiot, and I remembered my fifth grade teacher explain the Law of the Conservation of Mass. I knew that if matter and energy could neither be created nor destroyed, then nothing could ever have caused the Big Bang. And yet, on the other hand, I called myself a Christian and believed that God created the universe out of nothing.
So, on the one hand, I adamantly refused to believe in the leading scientific theory for the creation of the universe. Yet, on the other hand, I went straight to the Bible and read it as plain literal text and believed wholeheartedly that when God spoke, everything came into being in an instant (or in the six days of creation as recorded in Genesis).
But, I’m not convinced that the six days of creation took place over six 24-hour periods of time as we know it. Even Augustine and Thomas Aquinas thought that the first two chapters of Genesis were written for the understanding of the people of the time, and may not have been written in a completely plain literal sense. Besides, check out these two verses (one from the Old Testament, and one from the New Testament) that declare how time is just a relative thing to God:
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
2 Peter 3:8
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
Now, granted, these verses do not specifically address the Genesis creation account, and so cannot truly be used in defense of a lengthy (thousands of years) creation period. But the point to be made is clear: God is not bound by time and space (or matter). If he were, he could not have been able to create time and space (and matter).
Science and Christianity are NOT mutually exclusive
This, I’m afraid, may be partly what is wrong with Christian belief sometimes. We believe the Bible is the Word of God – so we believe that everything recorded within it is true. However, at times when science raises new evidence that is not written about literally in the Bible, we have a tendency to turn it aside as scientific folly (as I once did with the Big Bang).
Christians often tend to regard only ONE as truth and turn aside from the other. Either the Bible is true, wholly true, and never false, or science is. But both cannot be. Now, while there may be scientific theories and principles that have been overturned over the centuries, the Bible has never been disproven by science. In fact, the complete opposite is true. The more science discovers about the universe, the more it supports Christianity. And the more I learn about science, the more my own faith is strengthened because scientific evidence backs up what I’ve already believed.
As Christians, we need to spend less time running from new scientific theories and discoveries, and more time actually studying them, giving thought to them, and learning how they fit into the grand universe that God has created. If we do believe that God has created the universe, and if we do believe that the Bible is God’s infallible, complete, and true Word, then any true scientific discovery cannot hinder our faith, but only reinforce or deepen our understanding of what we already believe.