The universe had a beginning. Here’s how we know, and why it matters.

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“All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”

-Alexander Vilenkin
Theoretical physicist
Director of the Institute of Cosmology, Tufts University

I recently spoke with a sharp young person who suggested that perhaps the universe has always existed – no need, then, for a Creator if the created thing has always existed. That’s a fair question.

A century ago, many scientists believed precisely that. The early 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell agreed with this premise, saying, “The universe is just there. And that’s all.” In the 1940s, British astronomer Fred Hoyle suggested the universe stretched infinitely into the past and future.

But in the decades since, new scientific evidence has swayed physicists into a consensus that the universe had a beginning. 

Why does that matter?

If the universe had a beginning, it means that the universe came into existence; it was created.

Vilenkin, quoted above, states the unease at which secular scientists affirm a created universe:

For many physicists, the beginning of the universe is uncomfortable, because it suggests that something must have caused the beginning, that there should be some cause outside the universe.”

-Alexander Vilenkin

Secular scientific publication New Scientist describes this as the Genesis Problem:

The big bang is now part of the furniture of modern cosmology, but [cosmologist Fred] Hoyle’s unease has not gone away. Many physicists have been fighting a rearguard action against it for decades, largely because of its theological overtones. If you have an instant of creation, don’t you need a creator?

-New Scientist

(Armed with that bit of information, one might make the delicious observation that all secular physicists are creationists; they just disagree about how and why.)

If the universe had a beginning, it was created.

That creation event, for many physicists, is the Big Bang: all material matter suddenly exploded into existence with great energy and speed, scattering outward and forming planets, stars, and entire galaxies.

The late Stephen Hawking acknowledged that the evidence indeed points to a universe with a beginning:

imageAll the evidence seems to indicate that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning, about 15 billion years ago. This is probably the most remarkable discovery of modern cosmology. Yet it is now taken for granted.

-Stephen Hawking, physicist

How do we know the universe had a beginning?

Hawking says this is a discovery of modern cosmology. What was discovered? What new scientific evidence changed minds?

  • Galaxy movement: newer and higher quality observations of distant galaxies shows that the further away a galaxy is, the faster it is receding from us. This allows us to measure and extrapolate: if we could reverse time, we’d see all the galaxies converging at a single point in space. This single point is the location of the Big Bang Singularity, ground zero for the creation of the universe.
  • Cosmic microwave radiation. Physicists predicted that if the universe had a beginning, we’d hear evidence of it in the form of background radiation in space: a humming sound echoing from the initial creation of the universe. This was observed and confirmed to exist in 1964 by astronomers Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias, who later received the Nobel Prize. Today, their discovery is referred to as the Big Bang Echo.

These new discoveries, coupled with dozens of other minor discoveries persuaded physicists to come to a consensus that the universe indeed had a beginning.

So if the universe had a beginning, what caused it to begin?

Modern cosmologists have felt unease at this question because it implies a creator; God.

Scientists have come up with some alternate hypotheses, but even these hypotheses often end up requiring the existence of something eternal and outside of the universe; a divine origin. We’ll examine some of these hypotheses in the next post.

The Torah is For Humanity

Summary: Today is April 6th, the 6th day of counting the omer. Today I’m writing about how the Torah is universal. It’s the inheritance of the Jewish people, yet it’s the best moral guide for all humanity.

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I just started reading The Rational Bible, an excellent new commentary on the book of Exodus from Jewish author and conservative voice Dennis Prager.

In it, Prager makes this fantastic observation:

The idea that the Torah is only for the Jews is as absurd as the idea that Shakespeare is only for the English, or that Beethoven is only for the Germans.

-Dennis Prager, The Rational Bible

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I think that has big implications for the Messianic movement and indeed all of Christianity. If the Torah is the world’s best moral code, and it’s included in the Christian Bible, why not follow it?

Christians certainly keep much of the Torah; you will not find Christians who justify murder, theft, adultery, etc. But even parts of the 10 commandments, like 7th day sabbath, is not kept due to a belief that Jesus did away with the Torah.

But one of the restorations God is doing through the Hebrew Roots movement is the idea that Christianity must return to its historical Jewish root, including an honoring and keeping of the Torah. It is the next great step in the Reformation of Christianity.

Messiah is in the global Torah export business. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said,

כִּי מִצִּיּוֹן תֵּצֵא תוֹרָה, וּדְבַר-יְהוָה מִירוּשָׁלִָם

-Isaiah 2

Which is, “Out of Zion will go forth the Torah, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” And this is something Jews say in the synagogue every Shabbat as the ark for the Torah scroll is opened.

This is interesting because the Torah has gone out from Zion into all nations, and the Word of God – the whole Bible – has gone from location-specific (Israel) and people-specific (Israelites) to a global and universal application. The Torah is for everyone, all humanity.

And you know who is primarily responsible for that?

The Jewish messiah Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth.

Regardless of one’s personal views of Jesus, one thing is historically certain: he caused the Hebrew Bible to go global. He exported the values of Judaism and the monotheism of the Jewish people to the entire world.

And, as a follower of his, I can say with certainty that he has turned us all into followers of the God of Israel. It’s really why you see such broad Christian support of the nation of Israel: it’s primarily because Christians are followers of the God of Israel.

That’s remarkable, even from a secular standpoint. Billions of non-Jews now call the Jewish God their God, the Jewish Scriptures their Scriptures. That, frankly, is a miracle.

God went to great lengths to export the Torah from Jerusalem to all nations. So, fine Kineti reader, why not consider it, hear it, listen to what it says?

(Today is the 6th day of counting the omer. Blessed are you Lord, who gave your Torah and your Spirit on Shavuot.)

You–Yes, You–Should Be Writing

Summary: It’s the 5th day of counting the omer. I aim (and fail) to blog each day of the omer count leading up to Shavuot. Today I’m writing about…writing. Writing requires thinking. Formulating your thoughts and putting them to [virtual] paper sharpens your intellect.

imageIn both computer programming and psychology, talking out a problem often leads to a solution. I suspect this applies to other areas of life too. And this is why writing is important: it forces you to think, formulate your thoughts clearly. And that leads to better and sharper thinking.

In computer programming, we have something called rubber duck debugging. Rubber duck debugging is when you encounter a bug in your code and despite repeated attempts to fix it, you’re stuck.

The solution? Talk about the problem to a rubber duck sitting your desk.

You start describing the problem to the duck, and as you formulate the problem, line by line, you begin to think of possible reasons for the error that you hadn’t thought of while heads-down debugging. Suddenly, a potential solution comes to mind.

Jordan Peterson, a rising academic, author and psychologist, was asked how he handles patients with difficult life problems.

His answer? When his patients come to him with a problem, the best thing to do is let them talk out the problem. His patients might not even know why the problem exists, let alone the solution. But when they speak to him about the problem, formulate it and explain it, often they begin to see a cause of the problem or even the beginning of a solution.

“Good session, Dr. Peterson!”

The same goes for writing. Writing requires thinking. And often when I sit to write, I have to organize my thoughts in order to write something coherent. (Hopefully that comes across in at least some of my posts!)

And as I organize my thoughts, I almost consistently see new insights and observations that I otherwise would’ve missed. Writing products better thinking.

And better thinking is good for disciples of Yeshua.

So, start writing. Get a blog. Tweets don’t count. If you’ve neglected an old blog, consider this a sign that you should start blogging again.