The Big Bang and the Bible: Not a Competition?
Many of the Christians I know believe that the Big Bang is in direct opposition to the Bible. However, what if the Big Bang is just a physical expression of the same creation story found in Genesis? Before some of you dismiss the notion, let me give you some background on myself. The first seventeen years of my life were spent deep into the Christian culture. I attended a Christian school from the age of 10. Never once in any of those years have I gone without a Bible class, whether it was Sunday School or a class at my actual school. Contrary to what most people would assume, I actually did have science classes. I took Biology, Chemistry, and basic Physics, and I was taught cell structures, genetics, chemistry, and biology (although my retention of those subjects may have diminished a bit through the years).
After graduating from high school, I enrolled in my local community college. This was my first adult experience with non-religious education. At that point in my life, my mind was open and ready to learn about other religions and other scientific or moral standpoints, all without giving up my own Christian beliefs. The best subject I decided to study was Astronomy, as it was the first time I got to study science as most of society did, without religious interjections. It wasn’t until my second semester in the course that we discussed the Big Bang, but that day in class, I had the greatest epiphany about the origins of the universe. You see, since I had the Biblical creation story so well-ingrained in my mind, the events of the Big Bang started to sound familiar to me. I then went on to read Stephen Hawking’s works in order to better understand the origins of the universe. So allow me to, as simply and as briefly as I can, explain what I realized that day.
Before we even started the discussion on the Big Bang, we learned about relativity. Simply put, relativity is Einstein’s theory that time and velocity are related, and that the faster an object moves, the slower time passes. This means that time is not absolute. Think of it this way — an inch on a ruler is always an inch. It never changes; it never gets shorter or longer. But a second of time might sometimes be shorter, sometimes longer. Time, as we think of it, is not always the same. Of course, this only applies at speeds that are close to or at the speed of light. So while you will not notice a shift in time on your daily commute to work, there is a significant difference in how universal events (such as the Big Bang) are measured from different points in the universe. So theoretically, the universe could have been made in six literal 24 hour days.
This is where we get into the concept of the expansion of the universe. It is a proven fact that the universe is indeed expanding, and at a constant rate too. Think of the universe inside a balloon, and it is constantly being inflated. If you watched the universe like a movie in reverse, then there must have been a time when everything was closer together. So close, in fact, that it was condensed in a singularity, or a single point in space. This made me think of Genesis 1:2: “The earth was without form and void. . . .” Void, in its traditional definition, means “empty” or “nothing.” So the universe, at that point, was indeed nothing.
This singularity began to expand (remember the balloon), and sometime after, there was the first occurrence of light. In Genesis, light is the first thing that God creates (Genesis 1:3). At this point, the only contents of the universe were mostly photons, electrons, and neutrinos: the components of light. From here on out, the development of the universe can be briefly described as protons and neutrons fusing together to produce heavier and heavier elements. The first element produced was Hydrogen, followed by Helium. Under the influence of gravity, these elements started spinning and condensing to form galaxies and stars, including our sun. Following after this, planets began to form around these stars.
By now, nuclear fusion in the universe progressed to the point where water was created. This follows along perfectly with Genesis, as the next mention of creation is related to water. Specifically, this is the creation of an atmosphere, or the protective layer around the Earth that allows life to occur and thrive (Genesis 1:7-8). In the next Biblical day of creation, God then separated the water from the land, creating lakes and oceans (Genesis 1:9-10). Genesis speaks as if water already existed by the time God began to work with it. This makes sense along the timeline of the creation of elements.
It is at this point that the Bible begins to explain the creation of life. I’m not going to attempt to discuss this, as I see the debate over evolution as a completely different topic, and my knowledge about the events of the universe do not extend this far. The focus of this article is to point out that perhaps the Big Bang and Genesis are telling the same story. My aim in writing this was not to “prove” anything. I am only in my second decade of existence; there is no way that I will ever be able to fully understand the Cosmos. But what I do understand is that there are some extremely heated debates over the issue of the origin of the universe, and I have seen both sides of it.
So for those of you uncomfortable with the prospect that a Big Bang occurred, be open to the possibility that science has actually discovered how the creation process happened. We’re not afraid of the knowledge of how biology works, or how the Earth orbits the Sun, so we shouldn’t be afraid that science may be able to explain something else. You don’t have to forfeit your beliefs in order to understand the world around you. Scientists, I’m not trying to force God into the Big Bang. I know that the concept of God is one far beyond scientific measurement. All I’m trying to say is that maybe we’re arguing over the same story, told in two different ways.