A Question I Was Asked:

"Why is the 'Big Bang' Theory of the Origin of the Universe Preferred by Christians? I'm Not Sure That I Understand."

The Question:

"Can you please explain, in simple terms, why the 'big bang' theory of the origin of the universe tends to be preferred by Christians. I'm not sure that I understand."

My Reply:

Okay. Basically, it is preferred not because believers accept that there was some sort of literal 'big bang' when the universe first appeared, but because the theory stresses a sudden creation of the universe. Actually no literal 'big bang' (like a nuclear explosion) is taught but the sudden expansion of time and space at a particular point in the past. It is now accepted that there has been no past eternity of matter; in other words, there was a time when matter did not exist. But let me just briefly fill in some of the background to this. In the early part of the 20th century the origin of the universe was an entirely open question. There were several ideas about it. But by about mid-way through the century, there were really only two major models:

1. The 'Big Bang' Theory (About which more later).

2. The 'Steady State' Theory.

The 'Steady State' theory came from Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) in 1948. The idea here was that the universe had always existed but that new matter could still be added. Hoyle believed that things looked pretty much the same all over the universe and he felt there was no evidence of a universe suddenly appearing. He was prepared to accept that the universe was expanding, but he disagreed with any concept of the universe's sudden appearance. As an atheist, he found the idea that the universe had a definite beginning to be philosophically difficult, as he felt that many would argue that a beginning implies a cause, and thus a Creator God. So Hoyle was a big opponent of the 'Big Bang,' and, indeed, it is Hoyle who is apparently responsible for (disparagingly) coining the term "Big Bang" on a 1950 BBC radio programme, The Nature of Things, whilst criticizing the theory.

The 'Big Bang' started to take off with the discovery that the universe was expanding. Much of the credit here is due to the work of Edwin Hubble (1889-1953). 'Hubble's Law' is a statement in cosmology that the 'redshift' in light coming from distant galaxies is proportional to their distance. The law was first formulated by Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason in 1929 after nearly a decade of observations. This was considered to be the first observational basis for the expanding space paradigm and today serves as one of the most often cited pieces of evidence in support of the Big Bang. The 1960s discovery of 'quasars' further strengthened this theory. These quasars are believed to be the most remote objects in the universe. Despite their comparatively small size, they produce tremendous amounts of light and microwave radiation: not much bigger than Earth's solar system, they pour out 100 to 1,000 times as much light as an entire galaxy containing a hundred billion stars. All of this tends to confirm that the universe is even bigger than some had previously thought, that it had a definite beginning and is now in a gradually 'running down' state.

From a Christian point of view, the importance of 'big bang' cosmology is only that it strongly confirms that the universe did not always exist (anathema to the Fred Hoyle theory) and that it certainly had a beginning, therefore there was indeed a point of Creation.

There are now a few variations within 'Big Bang' cosmology, but nobody envisages returning to the 'Steady State' model which is seen as fundamentally flawed.

However, Christians must be very wary of taking on board the entirety of the 'big bang' model; much within the network of theories which surround this concept would be unsupportable by Theists and many points of so-called 'big bang' cosmology are contrary to the observable data, according to many reputable sources. Moreover, the concept fully supports all the usual evolutionary models and insists on a millions of years old universe, even when increasing evidence is now starting to point to a much younger universe. So the concept is of interest to us only because it outlined a sudden appearance of the universe at a specific point in the past.

Robin A. Brace, 2007.