In the Beginning God...

Genesis chapter 1, verse 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is the beginning of the story of how the world began. It’s a story about what happened in the history of existence. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Moses wrote Genesis about 3,400 years ago. This story of creation sets the stage for our entire Christian worldview.

There is, however, a competing story: the atheist story. Our story says God made all things. The atheist story says nothing made all things. How do we know, then, which is true?

Let me offer you two simple questions that will show our story of creation is the most reasonable.

Question #1: Have things always existed? Notice there are only two possible answers: yes or no. Either everything has always existed or it has not. There’s no third option. Consider the idea that things have always existed (answering “yes”). This would mean that atoms, planets, stars, and basically the universe have always been around. Most scientists, though, recognize that’s impossible because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

This principle is fairly easy to understand. Imagine you walk into a room and see a hot cup of coffee sitting on a table. It’s steaming, and you can smell the aroma. The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that the cup of coffee has not been there for an eternity, because if it had, it would have cooled down. The coffee would have reached the same temperature as the air in the room.

The same is true of the universe. We detect hot stars (our sun is one example) in the universe. The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that the universe could not have existed for an eternity, because if it had, the stars would have cooled down by now. Their energy would have been spent, and they would have reached the same temperature as the space around them.

This leads scientists to conclude the universe is not eternal. That would mean the answer to the question must be no, things have not always existed. Specifically, the universe began to exist at some time in the past. This is completely consistent with our story in Genesis 1:1.

Since the universe hasn’t always existed, we can ask the next logical question.

Question #2: What caused the universe to begin to exist? Again, there are only two options: something or nothing. Let’s consider the option that nothing caused the universe to begin to exist. This sounds…unbelievable. How would that even be possible? Nothing is not something. Therefore, how could it be responsible for beginning anything? When there’s nothing, nothing can be done.

Do cars begin to exist by nothing? No, they are caused by machines and people. Do trees begin to exist by nothing? No, they are caused by pollination and seeds. Do planets begin to exist by nothing? No, they are caused by a star’s gravity and space dust/material. There’s never a case when nothing causes something to begin to exist. There’s always something.

If nothing pops into existence without a cause, then how could the entire universe—something even more immense—simply begin to exist from nothing? If it could, then why don’t other things pop into existence as well? Why doesn’t a leopard, a carburetor, or (my favorite) a peanut butter cup spontaneously appear without a cause? Why does nothingness prefer to cause only a universe to pop into existence and not my favorite candy?

As you see, nothing can’t be an explanation for the beginning of the universe. The only other option is that something caused the universe to begin. Every time something begins to exist, it has a cause. That is what we experience 100% of the time. The universe is no exception.

Can we understand some characteristics about this “something” that caused the universe to begin? We know it must be very powerful because it had to create all of space, time, and matter out of nothing. It must be timeless since it existed before time began. It must be immaterial because it created the material world and it couldn’t create itself. It would have to be personal because only a personal being can act freely and choose to create. It must also be very smart since it had to create all the physical laws (gravity, electromagnetism, nuclear force, etc.) and coordinate them together to form a life-permitting universe. Therefore, whatever caused the universe to begin was extremely powerful, timeless, immaterial, personal, and super smart. Those characteristics are consistent with Yahweh, the God of the Bible. That’s because our story of God and creation fits what we know to be true from reality.

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Alan Shlemon