Magazine Article

The Big Bang, Standard Cosmological Model, and the Bible

Do modern theories provide adequate answers to the questions?

Aleksei Popov
The Big Bang, Standard Cosmological Model, and the Bible

The Scriptures state that observing the universe can give us important information about its Creator. The psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Ps. 19:1-3, KJV). 

With the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, questions have piqued regarding the origins of the universe. Do modern theories provide adequate answers? How do they relate to the biblical picture of the origin of our world? 

A Static Universe?

From the time of ancient Greek philosophers until the beginning of the twentieth century, the universe was considered static, unchangeable on a large scale. By materialistic theories it is also eternally existing, having neither beginning nor end. The theory of relativity1 called this hypothesis into question. 

In this theory, the universe, depending on its average density, should either expand or contract. It cannot be static, as was shown by Russian physicist and mathematician Alexander Friedmann.2 The same conclusions were reached by Belgian mathematician and Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre, who developed the theory of the expanding universe.

The next important step in the question of universe stability was the discovery of the so-called redshift in the spectra of distant galaxies. The magnitude of the redshift is directly related to the distance to the galaxy: the farther the galaxy is, the greater its redshift and, accordingly, the faster the galaxy is moving away from us. This was called Hubble’s law and fit very well into Friedmann and Lemaitre’s theories.4 These observations confirmed the assumptions that the universe is not static, putting to an end the centuries-old belief about the stability of the cosmos. 

Unresolved Questions

But here a logical question arises: if the universe is really expanding, then there was a “moment zero” in the past, from which this expansion began. At that moment all the matter of the universe had to be compressed into a point with infinite density (in astrophysics, this is called “singularity”). 

Where did this singularity come from? What caused its “explosion” and the subsequent expansion of space and matter? How could the complex structures that we see in the universe—galaxies, stars, planets—be formed because of this “explosion”? The Big Bang theory tries to answer these questions. 

A brief summary of this theory looks something like this:5 Approximately 14 billion years ago the universe was in a state of singularity, and, for reasons we do not understand, this singularity “exploded.” Modern science does not have a theory that explains the processes that took place at that moment. Approximately 10-42 seconds after the “explosion” there was an extremely rapid expansion, called “cosmic inflation,” which lasted 10-36 seconds and literally “inflated” the universe. 

After the inflation, the fundamental “building blocks” of the universe—quarks and gluons— were formed. These formed protons and neutrons, which formed the nuclei of the simplest atoms, which included hydrogen, deuterium, helium, and some other light isotopes. After about 400,000 years after “moment zero,” the temperature of the universe, initially infinitely large, dropped so much that the formation of hydrogen atoms became possible. 

At that time the universe became transparent to radiation, which, spreading freely in space, reached us in the form of so-called cosmic microwave background radiation. About a billion years after the beginning of cosmic expansion, the first stars and galaxies began to form. The first stars served as “factories” to produce heavy elements born during nuclear reactions, then, as a result of supernova explosions, were thrown into the surrounding space. From these heavy elements, planets and planetary systems were formed. 

There are many questions about the Big Bang theory, especially if it’s considered from a purely materialistic point of view—excluding a Creator. Perhaps the most important question, over which scientists have been struggling for more than 50 years, is regarding the nature of singularity. Where did it come from? There is no scientific explanation for such a “super point.” It is something outside of science, closer to the realm of faith—something that points us to the act of creation and the Creator! 

Another question about the Big Bang theory is the issue of fine-tuning of the universe in such a way that complex structures can appear in it. Ordinary explosions destroy and disintegrate rather than generate new complex structures. For complex structures such as galaxies, stars, and planets to appear after the Big Bang, this explosion had to be extremely and precisely planned.6 Where did this tuning come from? Who carried it out? Blind chance? This would be practically impossible!7 

In general, for an unbiased researcher, thinking about the origin of the universe leads to the question of an intelligent creation and, accordingly, an omnipotent Creator. 

Biblical Perspectives

From the viewpoint of modern cosmology, the universe is about 14 billion years old. How does this relate to the biblical account of the creation of the world? The fact that we observe star systems so far away that light takes millions and billions of years to reach our eyes is strong evidence that the age of the universe is much bigger than the several thousand years that have passed since Creation week. 

Based on an in-depth study of the Hebrew text in Genesis 1, many theologians tend to conclude that the creation of the universe took place before the events of Creation week. They suggest that there is a time gap of indefinite duration between the events described in Genesis 1:1, 2 and the rest of the narrative in the chapter. The age of the universe can be much bigger than several thousand years, although the Bible doesn’t comment about this gap or the events that took place during this indefinite period of time. This theory has been called the passive gap theory.

On the other hand, the idea that the universe was created during Creation week, just a few thousand years ago, is often called the no gap theory.9 In favor of this view, we can say that the processes that took place during Creation week go beyond the scope of modern science and cannot be understood from a scientific point of view. 

Accordingly, the apparent contradictions can be explained by phenomena not yet known to science. Neither position can be considered as the absolute truth, and all the above arguments in support of one or another position should be considered only as assumptions, which could turn out to be incorrect. Our knowledge is far from complete, especially when it comes to the creation of our universe. Give glory to God, who “created the heavens and the earth.” 

1 Robert M. Wald, General Relativity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). 

2 A. Friedmann, “Über die Krümmung des Raumes,” Zeitschrift für Physik 10 (1922): 377-386. 

3 G. Lemaitre, “Un Univers Homogène de Masse Constante et de Rayon Croissant Rendant Compte de la Vitesse Radiale des Nébuleuses Extragalactiques,” Annales de la Société Scientifique de Bruxelles 47 (1927): 49-59. 

4 E. Hubble, E. “A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae,” Proceedings of the National Aademy of Sciences 15, no. 3 (1929): 168-173. 

5 A. Liddle, An Introduction to Modern Cosmology, 2nd ed. (London: Wiley, 2003). 

6 P.C.W. Davies, The Accidental Universe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982). 

7 R. Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 344. 

8 R. M. Davidson, “The Genesis Account of Origins,” in He Spoke and It Was: Divine Creation in the Old Testament, ed. Gerald A. Klingbeil (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2015), pp. 47-54. 

9 Ibid.

Aleksei Popov

Aleksei Popov, Ph.D., works for the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino, Russia.