I read this in my theology class this summer. My professor Larry Wood wrote it. It blew my mind.
The belief that time had a beginning was confirmed by two Oxford University mathematicians/physicists, Stephen W. Hawking and Roger Penrose, who demonstrated in 1970 space-time had a beginning with a big bang singularity. That is, the universe began from a single point (a singularity). This means our universe had a finite beginning approximately 15 billion years ago when an infinitesimally small, dense soup of energy (a trillionth the size of a proton in the nucleus of an atom) began to expand. Though this “big bang singularity” was virtually nothing in size, it contained all the matter/energy in the universe as we know it today, including all the plantets, stars, and galaxies.
It should be carefully noted that the universe did not begin to expand into an already existing space. Rather, the expanding universe was the expansion of space itself. Into what is space expanding, if not it is not more space? The answer is–nothingness. There is nothing “out there” into which space-time is expanding. This contradicts common sense, but contemporary science tells us this is the way the world really is.
George Smoot (an astrophysicist and researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and member of the Center for Particle Astrophysics and Space Sciences Laboratory) raises this question: “What was there before time began?” He replies: “Facing this, the ultimate question, challenges our faith in the power of science to find explanations of nature. The existence of a singularity–in this case the given, unique state from which the universe emerged–is anathema to science, because it is beyond explanation.” Richard Gott, a Princeton physicist, put it this way: “What caused the singularity and what happened before it? The standard answer for what happened before the big bang singularity is this: time was created at the singularity…along with space. Thus, time did not exist before the big bang, and thus nothing happened before it.”
If there was once a big bang singularity, this would need to be explained, but science recognizes that it does not have an explanation to account for “the shock of that instant” of creation of space-time. Christian theology has always maintained the mystery that God created the world out of nothing. Does this mean that science now recognizes God to be the necessary presupposition for creation? In his book, God and the Astonomers, Robert Jastrow saw this implication in the big bang singularity as the scientist’s nightmare: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”