The large size of the universe is often said to be an argument against the existence of the God of Christianity. If the purpose of God were to create a place for humans to live, why didn't God just create one star and one planet? Isn't the existence of trillions of galaxies a complete waste? Doesn't the huge size and mass of the universe suggest that humans are just a cosmic accident among the numerous habitable planets?
Size of the universe
Our star, the Sun, is a slightly above average sized star (one of the 1021 stars in the universe) in an average sized galaxy (of which there are ~100 billion in the universe). The universe itself is currently tens of billions of light years across,1 and seems to be expanding more rapidly as it gets older. It seems like complete overkill for God to have created so many galaxies when one would have been more than enough. The Hubble ultra deep field image below shows what the universe looked like ~2 billion years after the initiation of the Big Bang. The tiny dots are not stars, but entire galaxies, tightly packed together in the early universe.
God's purpose for the universe
The argument that the universe is too large to have been created by God implies a knowledge of God's purposes in creating the universe. Skeptics tend to assume that Christianity claims that the universe was created to give humans a nice place to live. Although the Bible indicates that the universe was created as a place for humans to live, God's purposes in creating the universe go much deeper than just providing a good place to live. In fact, God's ultimate purpose for the universe involves its complete destruction,2 followed by His creation of an entirely new universe with vastly different physical laws. God's main purpose for the universe is to allow a large number3 of spiritual beings (both angels and humans) to choose to spend eternity with Him.4 The requirement of the allowance of choice for free will beings puts constraints on the laws of physics and how the universe operates.
What does a universe look like that requires free will choice? First, there is a requirement for cause and effect. Since we live in such a universe, we tend to assume that cause and effect is a given. However, time, a necessary component of cause and effect, is a construct of this universe, and began at the initiation of the Big bang.5 In addition to time, it must be clear that choices exist, and that there are differences between those choices. The Bible says that we must choose between good and evil (which is why evil must exist), and accept God's solution (Jesus Christ) to the problem of evil. How do we know that choices are to made while living on earth? There are two forms of revelation (general and special) that God has used to inform mankind of their choices. General revelation comes from nature itself. This is one reason why the universe is as big as what it is. If God had created one star and one planet, we might think about how it came to be, but we would have no way of studying those two objects to make any kind of inference about their origin. However, the Bible says that God spreads out the stars,6 and that we can study the universe to see how great God is,7 so that we are without excuse in rejecting Him.8 So, the immense size of the universe demonstrates God's power and authority.
Universe size matters!
Besides spiritual reasons, there are also physical constraints on the minimum (and maximum) mass of the universe. The universe could not have been much smaller than it is in order for nuclear fusion to have occurred during the first 3 minutes after the Big Bang. Without this brief period of nucleosynthesis, the early universe would have consisted entirely of hydrogen.9 Without helium (comprising ~24% of the matter in the universe), heavy element production in stars is not possible, so that no rocky planets would have ever existed in the entire history of the universe.
Likewise, the universe could not have been a much more massive than it is, or life would not have been possible. If the universe were just one part in 1059 more massive,10 the universe would have collapsed before life was possible. Since there are only 1080 baryons in the universe, this means that an addition of just 1021 baryons (at 1.67x10−27 kg/baryon equals 1.7 mg of matter - equal to a grain of sand) would have made life impossible! The universe is exactly the size it must be for life to exist at all.
For both spiritual and physical reasons, the universe must be immense to fulfill the purposes of God, according to the Bible. The large size of the universe tells us about His power and authority, and is required for the formation of rocky planets.
- Book Review: Why the Universe Is the Way It Is by Hugh Ross
- Is God Real? Does Science Answer "Is There a God?"
- Why is There Something Instead of Nothing?
- Evidence for the Fine Tuning of the Universe
- Extreme Fine Tuning - Dark Energy or the Cosmological Constant
- Quotes from Scientists Regarding Design of the Universe
- Krauss, L. M. and B. Chaboyer. 2003. Age Estimates of Globular Clusters in the Milky Way: Constraints on Cosmology. Science 299: 65-69.
- But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire,
kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! (2 Peter 3:12)
"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Mark 13:31)
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Luke 21:33)
And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, "YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN." And this expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:26-27)
- After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God. (Revelation 7:9-11)
- In Jesus' parable of the banquet, the master of the house (representing God) invited a large number of guests. Most of the invited guests made excuses and did not want to go to the banquet (representing heaven). Jesus said, "Then the master [God] told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.'" (Luke 14:23)
- "The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed
forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big
Bang, about 15 billion years ago." Stephen Hawking
The Beginning of Time.
Penrose, R. 1966. An analysis of the structure of space-time. Adams Prize Essay, Cambridge University.
Hawking, S.W. 1966. Singularities and the Geometry of space-time. Adams Prize Essay, Cambridge University.
Hawking, S.W. and G.F.R. Ellis. 1968. The cosmic black-body radiation and the existence of singularities in our universe. Astrophysical Journal 152: 25-36.
Hawking, S.W. and R. Penrose. 1970. The singularities of gravitational collapse and cosmology. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A: 529-548.
The following verses suggest that God created the
universe through an expanding universe - what science has called the Big
Bang. In many cases the Hebrew text indicates present tense - a process
- Who alone stretches out the heavens, And tramples down the waves of the sea; (Job 9:8)
- Covering Thyself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. (Psalm 104:2)
- It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)
- Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it, (Isaiah 42:5)
- Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone" (Isaiah 44:24)
- "It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, And I ordained all their host." (Isaiah 45:12)
- "Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together." (Isaiah 48:13)
- That you have forgotten the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens, And laid the foundations of the earth; That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, As he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor? (Isaiah 51:13)
- It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:12)
- It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 51:15)
- The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, (Zechariah 12:1)
- The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)
- ... what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and
divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that
men are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)
And the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is judge. Selah. (Psalm 50:6)
The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples have seen His glory. (Psalm 97:6)
- Big Bang nucleosynthesis, Wikipedia.
- Cosmology Tutorial, Part 3: Spatial Curvature; Flatness-Oldness; Horizon, Edward L. (Ned) Wright, UCLA.
Today's New Reason to Believe
Integrating Science and Faith
- 11/24/2014 02:49 AM
How to Prepare Earth for Animals
Most larger construction projects usually include one critical step when multiple things have to come together at the right time and in the right way. When building an addition onto the back of my house, that step occurred when erecting the walls. In the span of a day, the three walls were framed, balanced on … Continue reading
- 11/20/2014 02:06 AM
Tuberculosis Study Could Help Us Understand How Disease Spreads
The latest Ebola outbreak has elicited a lot of fear—justifiably so. The potential for a pandemic highlights the critical need for epidemiologists to understand the origin and spread of human pathogens. The Ebola scare also raises difficult questions of a theological nature. How could a good God, who is all-powerful and –knowing, create a world … Continue reading
- 11/17/2014 02:38 AM
Is the Whale Pelvis a Vestige of Evolution?
You’ve heard about the elephant in the room—but what if the elephant is a whale? I distinctly remember feeling uneasiness when I came upon a blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling in the Museum of Natural History in London. It wasn’t the skeleton’s massive size that caused my disquiet—it was the small pelvic and … Continue reading
- 11/13/2014 02:44 AM
RTB Scholars’ Thoughts on Pope Francis and Evolution
Pope Francis drew some media attention last month for his reiteration of the decades-old Catholic endorsement of the big bang theory and evolution as a means of creation. The Washington Post summarized the pope’s statements:1 The pontiff appeared to endorse the theory of the Big Bang and told the gathering at the Vatican that there … Continue reading
- 11/10/2014 02:56 AM
God’s Goodness and the Ebola Virus
Prior to this year, the Ebola virus was an obscure pathogen that rarely grabbed a slice of attention. Now it’s front-page news. All over the globe, the overwhelming response to Ebola has been fear. But this virus’ lethality to humans also makes some people wonder about God’s goodness. How could a loving Creator, who is … Continue reading
- 11/06/2014 02:11 AM
Q&A: Did the Sumerian Kings Reign for 10,000 Years?
From Jeff in Lake Ozark, MO In your book The Genesis Question (p. 117), you mention ten kings of Sumer who lived before a “great deluge” in ancient Mesopotamia. The eye-catching aspect of these kings is that each king’s reign exceeded 10,000 years, with one attaining nearly 50,000 years! The life spans of these kings … Continue reading
- 11/03/2014 02:09 AM
Q&A: How Did the Nephilim Reappear after the Flood?
Roger in Grand Junction, Colorado After reading your chapter in Navigating Genesis about the Nephilim I still have some questions. Genesis 6:4 reads, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days and also afterward when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes … Continue reading
- 10/30/2014 02:59 AM
Q&A: Does the Book of Revelation Hint at a Multiverse?
From Jeremiah in Vancouver, Washington Hello Reasons staff, Revelation 21:1 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (NIV). Do you think that this could be hinting at the possibility of a multiverse? **** Great question, Jeremiah! I think the “new … Continue reading
- 10/27/2014 02:33 AM
What Are the Odds of You Being You?
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. — Psalm 139:13–14 When anticipating the birth of a child—be it our own or a grandchild, niece or nephew—we might find ourselves … Continue reading
- 10/23/2014 02:19 AM
Three Discoveries Marked by the Creator’s Fingerprints
Over the past month, three different topics important to the science-faith discussion have appeared in scientific literature. Discoveries in each of these areas showcase an apologetic intersection that helps buttress the Christian faith and point to God’s work in fashioning the cosmos—from distant galaxies to Earth’s mountain ranges—for life. 1. Distant Galaxy Affirms Big Bang … Continue reading
Last Modified December 19, 2006