As mentioned in the previous blog, the fundamental Christian argument is that God has intentionally designed our world (and the universe in general) to declare His glory and to make Himself known. This statement includes two other presuppositions: truth and reality exists and can be known.
In most matters, most people speak and act as if reality matters, but not when it comes to God. In matters of religion and faith, there seems to be a pervasive idea that all religious beliefs are equally valid, as long as those beliefs do not harm people, and all religious beliefs have different perspectives that should be celebrated and preserved, rather than challenged and critiqued. In other words, many people are troubled by claims that a particular religious belief is objectively true and does correspond to reality. Frankly, if this popular notion is true, then all defenses for the faith are exercises in futility since Christianity (and any other religious belief) would be nothing more than escapism and speculation. C.S. Lewis addresses this mentality:
Christianity is not a patent medicine. Christianity claims to give an account of facts— to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitiveness must make you want to know the answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.
Escapism in philosophy and religion boils down to a matter of folly and self-deception. It’s simply foolish to try to avoid the truth about who we are, what we are, and why we are here in this world. If there is a God who made us and has placed demands over us as His creation, we need to know. Conversely, if God is nothing more than a clever mythological device from the ancient world, we need to know that, too. Even if one believes that the reality that we live in is a mere illusion (as some do believe), the very concept of an illusion presupposes a reality. Ultimately, reality exists and ultimately, we cannot escape it.
Our common experience also tells that we can know objective truth. For instance, many accept mathematical statements (i.e. 2 + 2 = 4) and scientific statements (i.e. humans require air to breath) as absolute truth. In making these statements, we are not imposing fictional models on reality; rather, we are recognizing truths that would be true even if we did not recognize them. In other words, human beings do not create knowledge, but we recognize the reality of our world. This leads to the ultimate question: if human beings do not create knowledge or reality, then what is its ultimate origin? In this, our ability to know truth (which exists outside of us) is a kind of evidence for the existence of God. If there is a God, then it must be true that some ideas about God will be true and others false.
My first evidence pointing to God’s existence and knowability comes from the very basic fact that the universe has an origin. The topic of the eternality of the universe was originally a matter of philosophy in which Western philosophers generally assumed that the universe had a beginning until the late 18th century. Immanuel Kant originally argued for the infinitude of the universe and over time, this theory became widely accepted among scientists. By the turn of the early 20th century, the common worldview held that the universe is static – more or less the same throughout eternity. However, the discovery of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and astronomical observations contradicted this view.
A Brief Historical Survey of 20th Century Physics
In 1913, astronomers noticed that several galaxies were moving away from our planet at high speeds. Shortly thereafter, Einstein published a series of papers which described the theory of general relativity and derived the Einstein field equations, which was a mathematical tool used to describe the general configuration of matter and space taking the universe as a whole. Einstein’s work was endorsed by numerous famous experiments, and by the early 1920s, most leading scientists agreed that the Einstein field equations could serve as a foundation for cosmology.
Shortly after Einstein published his theory, Dutch astronomer Willem de Sitter produced a cosmological model from the Einstein field equations which pointed to an expanding universe (for those who are interested in the debate between Einstein and de Sitter, see this historical page). Later, Edwin Hubble used his telescope to verify de Sitter’s mathematical prediction that “the farther away a galaxy is, the faster it moves” – implying that the universe was expanding from a central point. The implication of these findings was obvious: the universe is finite and had a beginning. Even though there were (and still are) scientific concerns about the big bang theory, numerous scientists, from Einstein to Eddington, opposed the big bang theory because it contradicted the prevailing worldview of a static, eternal universe. For example, in an exchange of letters with de Sitter, Einstein quipped “this circumstance irritates me,” and “to admit such possibilities seems senseless.”
There were numerous theories that attempted to revive the eternal universe model (for a historical survey, see this historical page), but all of these alternative models, which utilize a static universe, received a fatal flaw through the discovery of the cosmic microwave background (which is the background radiation that the big bang hypothesis had predicted would be left behind by the initial creation of the universe). In early 1990s, the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) demonstrated that the cosmic background radiation was homogeneous enough so that the universe must have begun from a singularity point and yet the background radiation had just enough irregularities (of an extremely minute amount) to account for the formation of the universe’s galaxies.
The Conclusion of the Matter
Now what conclusions can we draw from this historical survey? First, even if one argues with the methodology of the big bang hypothesis, what should be plain and obvious is that the universe is finite and has a beginning. This means that there once was a time when matter did not exist. Therefore, any worldview that requires spontaneous generation or self-creation to explain itself must be inherently self-refuting (since something has to already exist in order to create itself). Second, the existence of the universe is not the result of “chance”. If there was a point when matter did not exist, this also means that there is no naturalistic reason for why it is necessary for the universe to exist. This means that questions regarding the purpose of the universe must be asked if we care about matters of truth and reality.
Now this is a point that is not that difficult to understand. All of us have asked questions about the origin of the world as children and I can bet that none of us concluded that the world was eternal. This basically means that this knowledge is self-evident to us and to deny it means that we are suppressing this truth (cf. Romans 1:18-23). This leads to the last point: the fact that the universe has a beginning and is separate from its Creator is only explained in theism. In theism, God is understood as the distinct, eternal being who brought the universe into existence by an act of His will. However, it is only in Christianity in which the purpose of creation is linked with redemption. Consider the apostle Paul’s words concerning Christ in Colossians 1:15-20:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Christ is not only the agent of creation, but He is the agent of the new creation for those who put trust in Him. In the next blog, I will address the contingent complexity of our universe as an evidence of God’s existence and knowability.