Let There be Light: The Religious Significance of the Big Bang Echo

My eleven-year-old son put it better than anyone I have ever heard.

Homeschoolers socialize with other homeschoolers. We took our kids to movies together, enrolled them in activities that ranged from classes at the local science museum to participation in swim teams, homeschool soccer leagues and even a homeschool chess club.

We also had picnics, went to movies and other recreational activities.

It was after a homeschool picnic that my son gave me the best description of God’s viewpoint of us that I’ve ever heard.

We were full of food and feeling mellow and we got into a discussion of the first chapter of Genesis. We were all, including the kids, just kicking it around, expressing our own views. One of the homeschooling mothers took an absolutely literal, and, to me at least, narrow and inaccurate, view of the first chapters of Genesis. She believed that God had created the earth (and presumably the whole universe) in six twenty-four hour solar days.

I kept raising the buts inherent in her argument … but 24 hour days are based on how long it takes the earth to turn on its axis, and there was no earth and no sun “in the beginning,”

… but God created time, so in the beginning there was no time …

… but …

She would have none of it. She couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea that there was once nothing, absolutely nothing, and God created all creation out of this nothingness.

To her, and a lot of other people on both sides of the existence-of-god arguments, the idea of a beginning in which light, time, atoms, the rules of physics — everything, everywhere — simply did not exist was too incomprehensible to bother considering.

My eleven-year-old piped up, “but God created time,” he said. “God is not part of time. When God looks at creation, He doesn’t see a line, going off into the future. He sees a dot.”

My son’s comment didn’t make a ding in our friend’s thinking. It floated past her without engaging one brain cell.

But I was stunned by the simple understanding of an eleven-year-old.

He had said it all.

When scientists taught that the universe always was, they were dodging the obvious. The metaphysical implications in an existence which began from nothing are enormous.

If everything — everything — had a beginning, and that beginning was a sudden something when nothing exploded into all that is, then the question of “What, or Who, did this?” comes shortly after.

I’ve read comments about the discovery of the Big Bang Echo to the effect that the Big Bang Echo debunks the Biblical story of creation once and for all. I assume that by the Biblical story of creation they were referring, not to the Scriptures themselves, but to interpretations of those Scriptures like that of my fellow homeschooler.

The idea that God created the universe in seven 24-hour solar days has so many holes in it, from simple logic, that it won’t stand. If you read the thing literally, really literally, you’ll see that it doesn’t say any such thing. It says “day” and day, used this way, is poetic. It can mean almost any space of time.

The first chapter of Genesis is a poem. Anyone can see that. It’s what it is.

But it also describes, in poetic rather than scientific terms, a reality. God did create the heavens and the earth. He “spoke” existence into existence.

The discovery of the Big Bang echo doesn’t prove that. It doesn’t even address it.

What it does do is let us see it.

As my eleven-year-old son once said, God created time. He is outside time the same way that Henry Ford was outside and not part of the Model T, that I am outside and not part of this blog post. Mr Ford and I both leave our signatures all over our creations. There is an image of us in what we do. But we are not governed by the realities of what we have created. It is governed by us.

God created time just as He created everything else. He is outside of it. I think that when God looks at creation, he sees all of it, all at once, all the time.

When it comes to time, we, who are in it and of it, are like a grasshopper, standing in the middle of an interstate highway. From our vantage point, the highway of time goes on in both directions forever. It has no beginning and no end. But to God, Who is outside of time, the beginning, and the end, are both constantly in view.

That is what it means to be transcendent.

We, who are made in the image and likeness of God, possess the capacity to slowly and painstakingly unravel this mystery of how God did it. From inside our temporal prison, we can, by use of all our wits and by building on one another’s thinking, figure it out.

I believe that’s because we are made for more than this life. Where else did this drive to touch the face of God with our minds come from? What practical purpose does it serve for us to seek and find the echo of the Big Bang from which we came? We are made for more than what we appear to be. Our craving for transcendence is a hunger that we feed but cannot satisfy with the devices of our minds.

What we are hungering for is not the what of existence, but the Who that is behind it.

This Being Who spoke existence into existence, this Word that was there from the beginning, loves us. He left us clues to how He did it scattered throughout creation like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs.

The Big Bang echo is one such crumb. It allows us, for the first time, to see creation as it was created. That is its significance. And its gift.

Science is not the enemy of faith. Ham-handed fools who try to use science to “prove” their personal prejudices can make it seem to be the enemy of faith. Occasional misapprehensions of the partial discoveries we make as we follow the bread crumbs can yield to this hubris and, again, make science seem like the enemy of faith.

But in truth, science is just us, figuring out the creation we’ve been handed.

Science misapplied can be our undoing, both spiritually, and, as we meddle deeper into the building blocks of our existence, physically. We can blow ourselves up or mutate our genes and end ourselves with science. The threat is right in front of us every day we live.

That’s because science is our creation, and as our creation, it is flawed in the ways that we are flawed. It a tool that our tool-making kind has devised to help us understand How He did it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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  • Mrshopey

    The first person to propose the theory of the expansion of the Universe and Big Bang theory was Msgr. Lemaitre, Catholic priest, astronomer and professor of physics.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Not the only time that a Catholic priest was the first to propose a correct theory, either. IIRC, it was a Catholic priest who first, against the common view, gave the correct account of the Neanderthal fossils; I can certainly say that the first acceptable History of England, blowing away centuries of lies, was by the Catholic priest Lingard.

      • FW Ken

        Wasn’t Mendel a priest?

        • Dan13

          He was a monk, not sure if he was a priest as well.

        • Dale

          Yes, Mendel was an Augustinian priest. He also became abbot of his monastery, which led to the end of his scientific research.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    You are braver than I. I just don’t try to discuss the science of creation with any of my more fundamentalist friends. I love geology, paleontology, and anthropology, and it frustrates me to no end when they are dismissed without thought.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Tell me about it. There was a man who was a “young earth” creationist – in other words, as bad as as they come. I tried to explain to him that the Fathers – including such lightweights as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas – had treated the Genesis narrative as a philosophical propositoin rendered in story and not as an account of fact; that Augustine had said in so many words that if church teaching on physical matters disagreed with science, it should accept the correction of science and not bring shame on Jesus Christ; and that speaking as a scholar in early history, I know for a fact that six or ten thousand years don’t even come close to fitting in all that we know for certain about early and prehistoric man. At the end he was just not answering. The last thing I said was something along the lines of: “I beg you on my knees, in the name of He is who is truth, to reconsider this proud and unwise attitude. God never said, believe in absurdities because I said you should.”

  • pagansister

    And speaking of creation—-HAPPY SPRING to everyone! :-)

  • SisterCynthia

    One of my early experiences as I contemplated switching from an Art Bachelors to one in Geology, was having a fun summer geology class that was mostly field trips. On one of those, we had a fairly young Benedictine Brother, from Westminster Abbey, B.C., join us (he taught science in their boy’s school, wanted to keep up his credentials). The two boneheads of the group, who were proud to only believe in the power of beer and vodka, decided during a van ride to throw the “Genesis thing” in his face to put this weird, celebate, religious nut in his place (not that he had even mentioned God at all). When he calmly informed them that the Church had no problem with the Big Bang or even evolution, as long as it is understood that God is behind it all and science does not presume to discuss spiritual realities, they were left just sort of hanging there. It was glorious! :-D And it led me to do more thinking and go ahead and switch majors, comfortable that I wouldn’t be turning my back on God. Not that I’ve ever worked a day in the field, but Geology was the path I needed to walk back then. I wish I could remember that brother’s name. :)

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    How can science be the enemy of faith, when science came from faith?


  • bob malcolm

    really enjoyed the article…i recall a song entitled”the revealing science of God” from way back in 1974.never DID know the lyrics , but the title stuck w/me & over these many years i’ve categorized many of the scientific discoveries/breakthroughs under that song’s title….because so much of what science is discovering really reinforces the truth of HIS WORD!so i don’t see science ( anymore) as an “enemy” of Christian faith , but i see (most of) it as revealing the total credibility of The Bible.

  • Lee

    Beautiful mind.

  • Robert

    For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:11.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      My ways are not your ways, says the Lord.

      • Robert

        I wonder if creationist Dr Kent Hovind’s 250,000 dollar challenge for proof of evolution has ever been redeemed. You guys might be able to make a lot of money if you have the proof.