What happened before the Big bang?
Is that even a question?
As space-time came into existence at the big bang, time did not exist for there to be a ‘before.’
That the universe came out of nothing has been part of Christian theology for much longer than it has been science’s main contender of how the universe came to be, the Big Bang Theory. In the fourth-century AD, Saint Augustine was thinking about what existed before God created the universe and concluded that the universe and time were created at the same time out of nothing*.
In the early twentieth-century, Albert Einstein came to that conclusion scientifically, in the theory of general relativity. Using that Rev. Georges Lemaître, in 1927, said that the universe was a singularity smaller than a subatomic particle. Don’t worry what the word singularity means: When Scientists have something that they don’t understand they make up a word to describe it.
Two years later Edwin Hubble came up with a graph showing the rate at which the expansion of the universe was increasing. Extrapolating backwards it was calculated that the Big Band was 13.7 billion tears ago.
From all this, it seems that what happened before the Big Bang is not really a question.
One of the problems with the Big Bang Theory is that we know what happened a minute after the big bang, even a second after the big bang, even a thousandth of a second after. but we don’t know what happened during the first 10-31 of a second after the big bang. That is the first 0.0000000000000000000000000000001 of a second. The laws of science do not apply to that first small amount of time so there’s no way of knowing what happened.
The simplest explanation of the big bang can be found at the beginning of the novel Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett: ‘In the beginning, there was nothing, and it exploded.’
There are alternate theories to the big bang.
- There was a curve in time in the moments just after the big bang so the universe did not spring out of nothing.
- Our universe bubbled out of another universe.
- There is an endless progression of bubble universes each of these birthing more universes in an immeasurable multiverse, but as the multiverse idea cannot be falsified imperically this belongs to philosophy rather than to science.
- The big bounce: The universe expands then contracts in a cycle, bouncing back each time it contracts to a certain size. This is the only theory that says that time existed before the creation of the universe.
The best theories that Science can come up with do not contradict the philosophy and theology of a fourth-century monk.
God of the gaps
Please notice that when I said that we don’t know what happened during the first 10-31 of a second after the big bang I did not say, “This is where God created the world,” or anything similar.
Some Christians are their own worst enemies here. I am tired of seeing and hearing explanations by preachers where basic science is got wrong. They assume that the definitions of scientific law and theory are something which they are not. The basics science are either ignored or not known. Please, if you do not understand the basics of science do not use them in sermons.
The idea that science explains some things but the things that science cannot explain are down to God has a bad history. As science explains more and more of what we do not know the parts explained by God get squeezed out. God becomes smaller and increasingly irrelevant. It is also incompatible with Christianity.
We do not believe that God lit the blue touchpaper and retired. God did not just create and then after setting it in motion. That is Deism: the belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe. That is not the belief of Christians, a belief that God does intervene, by speaking directly to prophets, by sending his Holy Spirit on the Church and supremely by entering the world as a human and sharing our existence and in an act of love taking our punishment.
God is not the god of the gaps. God is at work constantly in creation from its beginning through now and will be into whatever the future brings. God is in all the things that science can explain as well as the things science cannot explain.
*Out of nothing. My reading of Genesis 1:1 is that there was something existing, but it was “without form and void,” meaning that there was something there but it was chaotic.