So, Does the Universe Have a Beginning?


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by Rob Lundberg

In following up with my previous post on God creating the universe, let me say that I am always excited whenever I am in a conversation with a skeptic who is willing to admit, that the universe began to exist.  However, there are still those out there that are still taking a blind leap to believe that the universe has always been, and did not have a beginning to its existence. When I ask them about Sir Edwin Hubble’s telescope about half of them claim that they haven’t given it much thought. The more educated academic skeptic will admit that Hubble made some great discoveries, and probing deeper we may hear in the background “hubble hubble toil and trouble, red shift glows and radiation afterglow bubbles.

The reason for keeping the skeptics’ hope for an eternal universe though, comes from the likes of Carl Sagan, and his self defined successor Neil DeGrasse Tyson who carried the torch of Sagan and revived the program, on PBS/Fox respectively called “Cosmos.”  If you go back as far as I do, you might recall the opening line, “The cosmos [universe] is all that is, or was or ever will be.”  According to this view held by many pop skeptics, it is stating that the cosmos (vis-a-vis the universe) had no beginning. If the universe had no beginning then what is the need for a Beginner is their thinking?

But this contrasts the findings of the Hubble Telescope and the Bible, which opens up with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  In this posting, I hope to share with you a few arguments for why I believe that Sagan and Tyson are wrong and that the universe does have a beginning.  By presenting these arguments I believe we will find good reasons for God’s existence.

Making the Case for God by Showing a Beginning to the Universe

The first argument for the universe having a beginning and thus pointing to the existence of God is an argument that has been revived and championed by Christian debater, Dr. William Lane Craig; known as the kalam cosmological argument.

The argument goes as follows:

Premise #1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

Premise #2: The universe began to exist.

Conclusion:  Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

An Explanation of the Kalam Argument

When we look at the first premise, we see that it affirms the undeniable law of causality, also known as the law of cause and effect. The law of causality simply states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause.

Speaking to the second premise, allow me to point to a few arguments that rise within this premise. One of those is philosophical and the other two are scientific. (That’s right, Christians should not be afraid of science when speaking atheists who want use science to try and debunk religion in general and Christianity particular.)

Reinforcing the second premise of the kalam argument, let’s start with the philosophical argument,

 Premise [1′].  If there are an infinite number of moments that occurred before today, then today would never have come because it is impossible to pass through an infinite number of moments.

Premise [2′]  Today has come.

Conclusion: Therefore there must have been only a finite (limited) number of moments before today, therefore showing that the universe had a beginning.

A second argument relates to what is called the second law of thermodynamics which states that the amount of usable energy in a closed system is running down (becoming more disordered or chaotic). But if the universe were eternal and “running down.” this brings forth a contradiction that the universe has been in a constant state of running down and yet has not done so. If the universe is getting more and more disordered, it cannot be eternal, or else it would be completely disordered by now. As we can see that this is not the case.  Therefore the universe must be finite in its duration.

The third argument addresses the expansion of the galaxies. There is plenty of scientific evidence to show that the universe is in a holding pattern (which is what the steady state theory posits). The universe is not static, but the Hubble Telescope shows plenty of evidence that the universe is expanding outward from a central starting point. This leads us to a conclusion that the universe did have a beginning from single starting point.

The scientific discipline of astrophysics has confirmed that there was a time that the universe did not exist, but then came into existence from nothing.  This is what Christian theologians and philosophers call creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothing).

This means that at one point time there was nothing. But then there was something.  There was nothing, and then something natural came into being by a supernatural agent. What or Who is that supernatural agent?  Or can I ask the question this way, “why is there something rather than nothing?” (Lucretius, a first century BC Roman philosopher).

The universe must have a cause. Its beginning from nothing must have come about by means of something outside itself.  That cause must be spaceless and timeless because both space and time began to exist when the universe began.  To add to this, that First Cause of the universe must be eternal (not bound by time) and without cause because an infinite series of causes is impossible. The universe itself cannot be self caused (be its own cause) because it is temporal, changing, finite and science shows us that it had a beginning.

It would seem that this spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, moral, personal, intelligent, sustainer, Creator and uncaused First Cause of the existence and design of the universe might possibly exist. So if something like the universe has a beginning, then it must have a Beginner and that Beginner is the only entity in existence, the reason for whose existence is in Himself.  And that First Cause is drawing you and I to the verse of the Bible where it says, “In the beginning God. . . “
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robgoodgravatarRob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a confused, chaotic, “brave new world.”  He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.

If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at roblundberg@ratiochristi.org    If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.

Author: roblundberg

I am a blogger, writer, equipper, and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and then take it and communicate it to a confused culture in a "brave new world." My mission involves evangelism undergirded by apologetics, and training; and equipping you to walk in the spiritual disciplines. I currently serve as the local Chapter Director and Community Apologist for Ratio Christi in Fredericksburg, VA.

6 thoughts on “So, Does the Universe Have a Beginning?”

  1. Speaking as a skeptic who has spent a good deal of time thinking about this issue, I will say that my doubts regarding whether or not the universe began to exist have absolutely nothing to do with popular television programs, and absolutely everything to do with philosophy and physics.

    Yes, if we extrapolate backward from the fact of the universe’s expansion, we can develop a model in which time is past-finite. That is not the same as saying that it is impossible to develop models in which time is past-infinite. Given certain assumptions, the former seems quite likely; however, we are far from having demonstrated the validity of those assumptions, and the question is most certainly still an open one in cosmology.

    More importantly, however, is a discussion of what is meant by the phrase “begins to exist.” To the average person, this phrase brings to mind a time in which an entity did not exist, followed by a time in which that entity does exist. However, regardless of whether our universe is past-finite in time or past-infinite, there was never a time in which the universe did not exist. This is obvious in the case that the universe is past-infinite. In the case that the universe is past-finite, there necessarily must be a first moment of time. The universe exists in that first moment of time, since time is itself a part of the universe; and since it is the first moment of time, there do not exist any prior moments in which the universe does not exist.

    Whether or not the universe has an initial moment, it makes no sense to claim that it began to exist.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Let me ask a few questions here so I know where you’re “sitting” on this. You don’t believe that time had a beginning? That is problematic when you agreed that there was a time when the universe did not exist. So before the universe began to exist, what was in place to measure “time?” Using science here, would you agree with me that the Hubble telescope shows a time when the universe, and could it be that when the universe did begin to exist, that time began to exist? Thanks again. RL

  2. Thank you for taking the time to respond!

    Let me ask a few questions here so I know where you’re “sitting” on this. You don’t believe that time had a beginning?

    I do not believe that the universe had a beginning, as I do not believe that there was ever a time in which the universe did not exist.

    Whether or not the universe had a first moment, or a past-finite boundary in time, is another question entirely– a question which is still very much unanswered in cosmology.

    That is problematic when you agreed that there was a time when the universe did not exist.

    My apologies, as I must have been unclear in my meaning. I certainly do NOT agree that there was a time when the universe did not exist. Quite the contrary, I think that it is entirely incoherent to hold to such a position, whether or not time is past-finite.

    Using science here, would you agree with me that the Hubble telescope shows a time when the universe, and could it be that when the universe did begin to exist, that time began to exist?

    I certainly don’t agree with this. What I would agree with is the claim that Edwin Hubble’s observations of the motion of galaxies are best explained by the expansion of space-time; and that Lemaitre’s observation of the backward extrapolation of this trend is best explained by the position that space-time was once much, much smaller; and that cosmological data gathered by WMAP and other projects have provided exceptional evidence to show that this is the case.

    I would also agree that given certain assumptions (for example, those utilized in the work of Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin) it is likely that the universe has a past-finite boundary.

    I do not agree that the question of whether or not the universe had an initial moment of time has been settled in cosmology. I certainly do not agree that there was ever a time in which the universe was nonexistent.

    1. Your statement, “I certainly do NOT agree that there was a time when the universe did not exist. Quite the contrary, I think that it is entirely incoherent to hold to such a position, whether or not time is past-finite.”

      And then you stated the following: “I certainly don’t agree with this. What I would agree with is the claim that Edwin Hubble’s observations of the motion of galaxies are best explained by the expansion of space-time; and that Lemaitre’s observation of the backward extrapolation of this trend is best explained by the position that space-time was once much, much smaller; and that cosmological data gathered by WMAP and other projects have provided exceptional evidence to show that this is the case… I would also agree that given certain assumptions (for example, those utilized in the work of Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin, it is likely that the universe has a past-finite boundary.
      I do not agree that the question of whether or not the universe had an initial moment of time has been settled in cosmology. I certainly do not agree that there was ever a time in which the universe was nonexistent.”

      If memory serves me correctly, Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth produced a paper where they came up with the hypothesis that “almost all” inflationary models of the universe will reach a boundary in the past – meaning our universe probably DOES NOT exist infinitely into the past. I take this to mean that these three great astrophysicists believe that the universe had a beginning. If it does not have an infinite past, there must be a punctiliar time when it did begin. The concept of “time” is, not atemporal, meaning that there must have been a time also when time did not exist. The question then is if this is true, I don’t think your rationale is solid.

      1. My apologies! I thought I had responded to this, days ago, but I must have forgotten to click the “Send” button.

        If memory serves me correctly, Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth produced a paper where they came up with the hypothesis that “almost all” inflationary models of the universe will reach a boundary in the past – meaning our universe probably DOES NOT exist infinitely into the past.

        The BGV paper in question showed that, given certain assumptions, any spacetime universe which has been expanding on average over its whole history must be incomplete in null and timelike past directions. Put in layman’s terms, this means that such a universe (given such assumptions) is either finitely bounded in the past or else must have some physics other than that of inflation to describe the past-boundary.

        The concept of “time” is, not atemporal, meaning that there must have been a time also when time did not exist.

        This is incoherent. The phrase “there must have been a time” is synonymous with the phrase “there must have existed a time.” So you are literally claiming that, “there must have existed a time when time did not exist,” which is obviously self-contradictory.

        Time is a part of the physical universe. Whether time is past-infinite or past-finite, it remains true that the universe has existed literally for all time. Even if the universe is past-finite, that only tells us that there was a first moment of time– a moment which is not preceded by any other moments of time. The universe still existed in that first moment. There was literally never any time when the universe did not exist.

      2. “The BGV paper in question showed that, given certain assumptions, any spacetime universe which has been expanding on average over its whole history must be incomplete in null and timelike past directions. Put in layman’s terms, this means that such a universe (given such assumptions) is either finitely bounded in the past or else must have some physics other than that of inflation to describe the past-boundary.”

        Of course I am assuming that you are hoping for the latter rather than the former. If the universe is finitely bound in the past, like BGV proposed, then it must be finite. Hubble confirmed this with his findings, and I am sure Stephen Hawking would concur, though struggle with this concept.

        How is “there must have been a time also when time did not exist” incoherent? Time is a part of the physical universe because when the universe began, time as we know it began.

        This is not equating time with the universe, but time is a product when the universe began. There are no actual infinites that can be crossed. So what we are talking about when the universe began was a punctual point in time when the universe began. In math it is can be illustrated as a ray .—-> Infinity future time began. We only speak of infinite pasts conceptually, for example Hilbert’s Hotel. One never can cross and actual infinite.

        So as a theist, when I am referring to Being we call God, I am referring to one who is absolute Being and has the characteristics of actual infinity, is spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, moral, personal, intelligent, sustainer, Creator and First Cause of the existence and Designer of the universe and the Uncaused first Cause.

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