Have you ever considered the miracle of existence? The marvel is not merely ours, improbable enough given the harsh and cold medium that our earth is engulfed in, spins through, and orbits about. Willing or not, we must acknowledge the existence of anything that not only once didn’t exist but that didn’t need to and, yet, does anyway. I’m not talking about the “what” (whatever its shapes, colors, or purposes) of reality, but the “that” (whatever its shapes, colors, or purpose) of it instead. Or, as has been famously asked, “Why is there something instead of nothing?”
For thousands of years, humans believed that the universe, all creation, had always existed. But, thanks to scientists like Einstein, Friedmann, Lemaître, Leavitt, Hubble, et al., science in the early 20th century caught up (finally) with Scripture, positing a created universe that once had not existed. And if it has not always existed, it cannot in any sense be necessary.
Nothing in our created universe, or even the universe as a whole, contains within itself—either in the logic of its existence or in the physics behind it—the justification, the reasons, the explanation for its existence. If a turnip doesn’t possess within itself the explanation for its own being, why should the dirt, the earth, or the Laniakea Supercluster of galaxies that the turnip sits in do so, either? There’s nothing in the material universe, from quarks on out, whose non-existence would, it seems, create a contradiction. In short, we and the universe don’t need to be here, which makes the fact that we are miraculous.
“How is it,” wrote David Bentley Hart, “that any reality so obviously fortuitous— “so lacking in any mark of inherent necessity or explanatory self-sufficiency—can exist at all?”1
Each of the speculative “first causes” of our fortuitous universe—a primeval atom, quantum foam, quantum fluctuations, the singularity—no matter how small, how fleeting, how hot or how condensed no more possesses within itself the reason for its own existence than does a turnip. To point to something material as the explanation for the “material” is to put one’s neck in a noose of one’s own circular reasoning.
One way out of this logical quandary has been proposed by chemist Peter Atkins, who, rather perspicaciously, wrote: “If we are to be honest, then we have to accept that science will be able to claim complete success only it if achieves what many might think impossible: accounting for the emergence of everything from absolutely nothing. Not almost nothing, not subatomic dust-like speck, but absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Not even empty space.”2
To argue that the entire cosmos, all created existence (which, one would assume, is all that he thinks extant), arose from absolutely nothing, “not even empty space,” does, yes, solve the immediate question, i.e., the positing of the material as the first cause of materiality itself. However, it leads to the question, which Dr. Atkins doesn’t answer: How did this creation ex nihilo (and by nihilo he means nihilo) occur?
Meanwhile, Atkins’ claim is a philosophical, not a scientific, one—the only logical move that he can make, given his atheistic materialism. Besides, Atkins, a chemist, works with what is already decidedly there, chemicals. The issue at hand, the emergence of the universe from nothing, is a few physical layers more fundamental than what Bunsen burners and beakers can reveal.
If scientists weren’t so dogmatic and narrow-minded in their assumptions, this problem wouldn’t need to be. Methodological naturalism (you look only for natural causes for natural effects), is a reasonable enough, if not the only reasonable, approach in everyday science. But it has been turned into a passionate ideology, a sacred and inviolate worldview that allows only for the natural in all existence. This unfortunate dogmatism has pushed adherents into either a) assuming what they intend to prove (the material); or B), arguing “for the emergence of everything from absolutely nothing.” Their axiomatizing of the illogical, a), has led them to the impossible, b).
“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be,”3 the late Carl Sagan had declared. That’s a rather broad statement by someone—taking up less than 2 cubic feet himself, and for only 62 years, too—to make about a phenomenon that is 92 billion-light years wide and apparently 13.77 billion years old. Trapped as we all are in our rather narrow sliver of time and space, how could Mr. Sagan have been so sure about not only what’s now but what was and (even more boldly) what “will ever be”? He never came close to proving his statement—because he couldn’t.
Again, any of these materialistic first causes (quantum foam, the singularity) need a materialistic explanation themselves. Only nothing—as in “absolutely nothing. . . not subatomic dust-like speck .... nothing at all . . . not even empty space”— needs no explanation because there’s nothing to explain. Either that, or an eternally existing God, such as the God depicted in Scripture, who Himself, having always existed, needs no explanation, either.
John expressed it succinctly, logically, when talking about Jesus, the Creator, He wrote: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). Think about these words: nothing “made that was made”; that is, nothing that once didn’t exist but was contingent and, like turnips or the Laniakea Supercluster of galaxies, didn’t contain within themselves the origins of themselves—these all were created by God, who is Jesus, who has eternally existed. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1,2).
Otherwise, we’re left either with something creating itself, or with nothing creating everything. Which makes an eternally existing God not merely the only logical option but, in fact, a necessarily existing being. Otherwise, how else could non-necessarily existing things, like turnips or the universe that those turnip exist in, have been created in the first place? They couldn’t.
But God, our eternally and necessarily existing God, also “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7). Here’s where logic becomes too lame, too limited, too human to do much good. Here is where love, a love that transcends logic and reason, takes over.
The fact of our contingent universe logically demands a non-contingent, necessarily existing and eternal God. But nothing logically demanded the cross, which makes its existence even more miraculous than our own.
1 Hart, David Bentley. The Experience of God (p. 90). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
2 Cornwall, John, Ed. Nature’s Imagination: The Frontiers of Scientific Vision (Oxford University Press, 1995). Peter Atkins, “The Limitless Power of Science.” p. 131.
3 “Cosmos: A Personal Journey,” 1980.