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
- 05/25/2015 02:34 AM
Weird Life: Must Life Use Water as Its Solvent?
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the crew of the Enterprise regularly encounters exotic alien life-forms. Many of these extraterrestrials are truly “weird”—distinctly different from life as we know it. In one particular episode, a crystalline life-form refers to humans as “ugly bags of mostly water.”1 “Ugly” is a matter of perspective, but describing humans … Continue reading
- 05/21/2015 02:25 AM
Multiverse Musings: Exercise Caution
Does the multiverse exist? Well, multiverse models might qualify as scientific, and the Bible does not clearly rule out the possibility. In past articles, I have argued that Christians need not fear the multiverse because multiverse models appear to have a beginning and exhibit design. Nevertheless, we should exercise caution. One key criticism of multiverse … Continue reading
- 05/18/2015 02:17 AM
Does Science Make the Case for God, or Not? (Part 2 of 2)
In part 1 of this series, I responded to a New Yorker article in which theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss argued against science making the case for God. Krauss’ article was in response to author and TV host Eric Metaxas’ piece in the Wall Street Journal in which he argues that science does make the case … Continue reading
- 05/14/2015 02:15 AM
How to Relate Science and Faith Without Conflict (Part 2)
When issues of science and faith appear in the public eye, the picture presented is often of two warring combatants. It can be a hostile debate between leaders from opposing “camps.” It can be a big-budget film that pits a religious (or belief-centered) character against a cool-headed, logical scientist. In the end, the message is … Continue reading
- 05/11/2015 02:37 AM
How to Relate Science and Faith Without Conflict (Part 1)
As someone who has loved both science and Jesus since adolescence, it puzzles me why some people (some Christian, some scientists, and some neither) insist that science and Christianity are in conflict with one another. In my research as a molecular biologist and virologist, I have never found this to be the case. Rather, science … Continue reading
- 05/07/2015 02:58 AM
My Response to a Young-Earth Critique of Navigating Genesis
A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; and from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the … Continue reading
- 05/04/2015 02:05 AM
Astronomers Improve Type Ia Supernova Measurement Methods
For centuries astronomers were convinced that the universe was infinitely large, structurally static with no beginning. For millennia, however, the Bible has implied that the universe has expanded, and continues to expand, from an actual beginning of space and time. Edwin Hubble upset the astronomers’ infinite universe model in 1929 with observations showing that galaxies … Continue reading
- 04/30/2015 02:39 AM
Weird Life: Could Life Be Based on Silicon?
Could alien life be based on the element silicon rather than on carbon? This idea has been seriously proposed in the scientific literature for more than a century. Not surprisingly, then, silicon-based life has also been a staple of science fiction. For example, the Star Trek franchise features Tholians, creatures that appear to be composed … Continue reading
- 04/27/2015 02:24 AM
Weird Life: Must Life Chemistry Be Carbon Based?
In the early days of science fiction television, aliens on shows like Star Trek and Doctor Who typically looked like humans with slight feature changes. Some had green skin, some were given antennae, others had enlarged heads, and so forth—nothing too complex thanks to small production budgets. These days, digitally created aliens in Hollywood blockbusters … Continue reading
- 04/23/2015 02:14 AM
The Proton-Neutron Mass Difference Illustrates Fine-Tuning
Our daily lives depend on neutrons, protons, and electrons. These building blocks of atoms determine how those atoms behave, how long they last, and so many other things. Although protons and neutrons both exceed the mass of electrons by almost a factor of 2,000, the relatively tiny difference in mass between protons and neutrons plays … Continue reading
Last Modified December 19, 2006