When I first became a Christian I had a question that I mulled over every time I looked up into the night sky: Why did God make such a large universe? Why countless galaxies, nebula, stars, etc? Especially considering that the vast majority of the universe could not even be seen by man until very recently, when considering the entire history of human presence on earth, with the advent of telescopic technology.
Some common default Christian answers have been that God created countless nebula and galaxies to show case his Glory and how great He is. And though I agree that contemplating the surreal size of the universe is a very humbling and awe-inspiring notion of God’s greatness, it cannot be the sole reason for its existence. After all, we didn’t even know of the universe’s wide expanses until recently. Additionally, for God to create so much just to “show off,” doesn’t seem like the God of the Bible. God does not suffer from an identity-crisis and need to impress us to validate Himself. Our God is rational, and therefore there must be a rational reason why he created such a large and expansive universe. Otherwise, the vast stretches of universe we don’t see is just a huge waste of time.
I found I was not alone in this problem. It is in fact a huge source of skepticism for many unbelievers. Especially scientists who do not favor the anthropic principal (universe fine-tuned for life) as evidence for a Creator. Take for example a remark from famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, when he wrote, “… this argument [the Anthropic Principal] for the existence of God implies surely the most wasteful creator one might imagine, who makes countless universes in that in a tiny sector of just one of these, life might arise,” (Tyson & Goldsmith, 104). Well if Neil Tyson said it, it must be true! Unless, there is a genuine reason why God created such a large expansive universe. And at that I have found two answers to this problem.
The first of the two answers is somewhat partial but related to the issue. The first answer is navigation. For thousands of years people have been able to accurately navigate far distances on earth (especially at sea) using the stars. Many refer to this as an answer for why God created a huge universe, but it doesn’t satisfy because the stars we see are but a miniscule fraction of the content that is out in the universe.
The second answer is, on the other hand, absolute and satisfying: Mass Density. The universe has a mass density, which is the cumulative amount of mass within the universe. Thus, the stars, star clusters and galaxies are all a part of the universe’s overall density. But what makes the mass density of the universe so interesting is that it is absolutely paramount to our existence.
The mass density falls into a very precise region called “critical density,” (Williams & Hartnett, 137 & Ross, 35). Theoretical physicist Dr. William Drees explains, “A universe with a much larger density would have collapsed at an early stage, while a universe with less matter would have been too diluted to allow for the formation of stars,” (Drees, 80). Cosmologist Dr. Hugh Ross agrees, “The uniformity, homogeneity, and mass density of the universe all must be precisely as they are for human life to be possible…” (Ross, 86). In other words, if our universe were more dense or less dense the galaxy, solar system and planet we live on could not exist. If God had created a lot less the universe would collapse back in on itself. Thus God was not being wasteful at all when he created such an expansive universe with countless stars, nebula and galaxies. He did it for us so that our existence would be possible.
I’ll close with a quote from Ross, “What this means is that approximately hundred -billion-trillion stars we observe in the universe – no more no less – are needed for life to be possible in the universe. God invested heavily in living creatures,” (Ross, 118). So next time someone criticizes the existence of God by pointing out the massive size of the universe be sure to politely share with them that we only exist because God was kind enough to create so much surplus.
Drees, W.B. (1990) Beyond the Big Bang; Quantum Cosmologies and God, (La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company)
Ross, H. (1994) The Creator and the Cosmos; How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God, (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress)
Tyson, N.dG. & Goldsmith, D. (2004) Origins; Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution,” (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.)
Williams, A & Hartnett, (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books)