A Very Big Bang

Patricia A. Mondore, M.A. and Robert J. Mondore

"By the word of the LORD were the heavens made...For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm" Ps. 33:6,9

I remember seeing it in all the headlines. We had all heard of the theory behind it, but on April 24, 1992 the general public was informed by the press that the "Big Bang" had been confirmed. News reports all over the world carried the reactions of various astronomers who were ecstatic over the new findings. Astronomer Carlos Frenk stated, "It's the most exciting thing that's happened in my life as a cosmologist."{1} Astrophysicist Michael Turner exclaimed, "The significance of this cannot be overstated. They have found the Holy Grail of cosmology."{2} Project leader, George Smoot, made his now famous quote, "What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe...It's like looking at God."{3} Over the next several months data from the mission continued to pour in, only further confirming the original reports. Dr. John Mather, another one of the principle investigators of the project stated, "The Big Bang Theory comes out a winner. This is the ultimate in tracing one's cosmic roots." He added, "We are seeing the cold glow still remaining from the initially very hot Big Bang...The closer we examine the Big Bang the simpler the picture gets."{4}

While the scientific community was jubilant, there were mixed reviews within the religious community regarding this latest cosmological revelation. Some quickly dismissed the whole idea based on nothing more than their distrust of scientists. It is true some had become disillusioned with the whole profession after seeing such theories as Darwinian evolution and natural selection being presented as scientific fact. This had not exactly endeared them to the proponents of such ideas. In fact, because of these major points of contention, many Bible believers had come to reject new scientific discoveries simply because they came from scientists. There was another group of believers, however, who looked upon these latest findings with delight and saw them as further proof of the biblical account of creation. Like it or not, in accepting the Big Bang model, scientists were acknowledging the occurrence of a creation event. So what is the Big Bang Theory? What was the discovery that led them to conclude it is true, and what are the implications of such a conclusion?

The concept of a universe with a beginning point had been evident to scientists long before 1992. Einstein's theories of relativity pointed to it.{5} Edwin Hubble's discovery that all the distant galaxies appeared to be retreating from us reinforced it. In 1927, Belgian physicist George Lemaître, who referred to the universe's beginning point in time as a "primeval atom," predicted that this "primeval atom" might still be detected in the form of remnant radiation. In 1933 he concluded that the former static universe model was virtually impossible. Early big bang theorists George Gamow, Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman wrote that the heat radiating from the primeval explosion must still exist, since, unlike the heat from any other heat source, there is nowhere to which this primeval heat can escape. In 1948 Gamow modified Lemaître's theory of the primeval atom and proposed that the universe was created in a gigantic explosion. He calculated that the radiation from such an explosion should now be expected to be present everywhere in space at a temperature of about 5 degrees Kelvin (Kelvin is absolute zero).

More recent calculations indicate that hydrogen and helium would have been the primary products of the big bang, with heavier elements being produced later. Gamow's theory, however, provided a basis for understanding the earliest stages of the universe and its subsequent evolution. The extremely high density within the primeval atom would cause the universe to expand rapidly. As it expanded, the hydrogen and helium would cool and condense into stars and galaxies. This explains the expansion of the universe and the physical basis of Hubble's law.{6} As the universe expanded, the residual radiation from the big bang would continue to cool, until now it should be a temperature of about 3 degrees Kelvin. Another major breakthrough occurred in 1965 completely by accident. Two physicists who were trying to refine a radio receiving device, found they couldn't eliminate an unknown source of noise that corresponded to a temperature of about 3 degrees Kelvin. No matter where they pointed the receiver in the sky, this level of radiation remained constant. What they had unknowingly uncovered was the lingering effects, or the microwave radiation of the giant explosion from which the universe was formed. The discovery of this relic radiation provided what most astronomers consider to be the earliest confirmation of the big bang theory. In 1983, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle was the first to coin the expression, "The Big Bang Theory"{7} but it was not until that famous day in 1992 that scientists obtained the evidence they needed to conclusively prove that the Big Bang took place.

Today the Big Bang Theory is the most broadly accepted theory for the origin and evolution of our universe. It postulates that the observable universe started from an instantaneously expanding point and that since then the universe has continued to expand, gradually increasing the distance between our Galaxy and external galaxies. This expansion also cools the microwave background radiation. Thus, the cosmic microwave background radiation, which today has a temperature of 2.728 Kelvin, was hotter in the early universe. The Big Bang Theory is consistent with a number of important observations: The observed expansion of the universe; the observed abundances of helium, deuterium and lithium, three elements thought to be synthesized primarily in the first three minutes of the universe; the thermal spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation; and that the cosmic microwave background radiation appears hotter in distant clouds of gas. Since light travels at a finite speed, we see these distant clouds at an early time in the history of the universe, when it was more dense and thus hotter.{8}

A great deal of importance has been placed on the significance of the microwave background in establishing the fact of a universal explosion precipitating the creation event. That is why the discovery on April 24, 1992 was so important. It was that day, aboard the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) space shuttle that the necessary statistics were confirmed. The temperature measurements were found to be precisely in line with the predictions of the researchers. Mather concluded, "The COBE scientists now can say that the temperature of the afterglow radiation is 2.726 degrees above absolute zero with an uncertainty of only 0.01 degrees...It took us 18 years of careful effort to reach this point, but now we can say that the Big Bang Theory had been tested against observation to a fine degree of precision."{9} As another astrophysicist puts it, "The cool and uniform temperature of the cosmic background radiation indicated the universe had suffered an enormous degradation of energy, typical of a large explosion. This energy degradation is called entropy: the degree to which energy disperses or radiates. Only very hot explosions have the levels of entropy equal to that found in the universe. Only a hot big bang could account for such a huge specific entropy for the universe.{10} In addition to proof of an explosion, the irregularities found in that radiation also offered an explanation for the formation of galaxies and stars within the universe. In fact, the results reported by COBE in 1992 showed irregularities that nearly matched the calculations necessary to explain the formation of the universe as we know it today. The logical conclusion is that "the universe must have erupted from a single explosive event that by itself accounts for at least 99.97% of the radiant energy in the universe"{11}

Those who have studied the Bible already knew there was a creation event; that God created something (in fact, everything) from nothing. But was there actually a "big bang"? Is there any biblical evidence of such an occurrence? The Psalmist wrote, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm" (Ps. 33:6-9). It is by the Word of the Lord that creation took place. Again we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life..." (John 1:1-4). All life came from the Word, who is Jesus. God sent forth His Word and the world came into being. He spoke and there was life. The Scriptures are clear that when God speaks, things happen. Isaiah wrote, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Is. 55:10).

Just what does the voice of the Lord sound like? The Scriptures describe a most awesome sound coming forth from the mouth of God. The Psalmist tells us, "Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded" (Ps. 18:12,13). The nation of Israel had several opportunities to hear this voice for themselves and their reaction spoke for itself. We read, "Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder...And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die" (Ex. 19:18,19, Ex. 20:18,19).

Jeremiah also described the results of the powerful voice of the Lord. He wrote, "Now prophesy all these words against them and say to them: 'The LORD will roar from on high; he will thunder from his holy dwelling and roar mightily against his land. He will shout like those who tread the grapes, shout against all who live on the earth. The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD will bring charges against the nations...This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth'" (Jer. 25:30-32). When the Lord raises His voice in judgment the entire world will feel its effects. Truly, our God speaks with great and commanding power.

Our most recent and most conclusive scientific evidence points to a creation event; the starting point of the universe; a Big Bang. The Scriptures are in complete agreement with the concept of a Creation event. God created the universe from nothing. All of the stars, planets, galaxies, as well as all of the life that covers this earth came to be, because God spoke the word and it came into existence. No one was there to hear the sound at the moment of creation but the cosmic microwave background radiation still resounds with the radiant energy of an explosion from long ago. Though they have the proof of its happening, scientists still struggle to understand what the First Cause was, the mighty force that brought an entire universe into existence from nothing. Those who have studied the Bible understand that when God speaks, things happen. The Word of God was given and the universe sprang into existence at His command. It was a mighty big bang, indeed.


{1} Hawkes N. Hunt On for Dark Secret of Universe. London Times April 25, 1992:1

{2} Associated Press. US Scientists find a 'Holy Grail' International Herald Tribune. London April 24, 1992:1.

{3} Maugh TH. Relics of ‘Big Bang' Seen for First Time. Los Angeles Times April 24, 1992:A1

{4} Cleggett-Haleim P. Big Bang Theory Passes Toughest Test. NASA Press Release. Washington DC. January 7, 1993.

{5} See Chapter "Time and Time Again"

{6} Cosmology. Microsoft® Encarta® 96 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation.

{7} Holye F. The Intelligent Universe New York: Holt, Rinehart & Wintson 1983:45.

{8} Peebles PJE., Schramm DN, Turner EL et al."The Case for the Relativistic Hot Big Bang Cosmology", Nature, 352;1991:769.

{9} Cleggett-Haleim.

{10} Ross H. Creator and the Cosmos NavPress Pub. Colorado Springs CO 1993:24

{11} Ibid p27