As a Christian who affirms the bible, the world clearly had a beginning since God created the world. If God created the world then it follows that the world did not always exist. The problem is that not everyone affirms the idea that God created the world. Without going into literally every theory out there as to how the world came to be, there are those who hold to the view that the world “never came to be.” These folks would suggest that perhaps the world always was, and hence is in no need of an explanation for its very existence. The world just is and that’s it!
But is this really the case? Can we know that the world actually had a beginning? Or is it the case that the world always existed? The latter has been the predominant view throughout history especially within the context of Greek thought. For the Greeks the world has always existed; indeed, on many of the pagan conceptions of creation the gods had to work with pre-existing stuff out of which the world was made, and hence construct the world with these materials. The Judeo-Christian conception of history on the other hand held to what is known as “creatio ex nihilo” (creation out of nothing) and hence committed them to the idea that the world began to exist a finite time ago.
I think there are good grounds for believing the traditional Judeo-Christian conception of a created world with a beginning. Let us consider first the inherent problems with assuming that the world has in fact always existed.
If the world always existed then…:
It would also be the case that there have been an actually infinite number of events leading to the present moment. However, it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite and so therefore, we would not have reached the present moment. Yet, here we are experiencing the present moment, and so it would seem to follow then that the world has not always existed.
If the above example is too abstract for some let us consider some scientific data that points to the reality that the world did not always exist. Consider the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that the usable energy within the universe is running down. However, if the world has always existed why hasn’t the world already run out of useable energy by now? The fact that the world (i.e. universe) is currently running down as we speak, it seems to follow that the world has not always existed.
Another indicator that the world (i.e. universe) has not always existed comes from Big Bang cosmology. If one holds to the Big Bang theory then the finite nature of our universe seems to be unavoidable since the theory suggests (at least in accordance with the Standard Model) that the universe is currently expanding. If the universe is expanding, then it would seem that if one were to rewind the process, the universe would be contracting until it reaches a point of beginning (a singularity if you will). But, if the universe had a beginning, it would then follow that the universe did not always exist.
Admittedly, various Christians are divided in regards to what to think about the big bang; especially those engaged in the Young Earth Creationism vs. Old Earth Creationism debates. If one does not hold to the big bang theory, then my previous point about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is still relevant and I think apologetically useful.
At any rate, I think these points are helpful in showing the skeptic that there are good reasons to believe that our world has not always existed but rather had a beginning a finite time ago.
Does this by itself demonstrate the existence of God? Absolutely not, it was not my intention here to demonstrate the existence of God, but rather to point to a fact quite consistent and confirmatory of the biblical concept of a beginning of our universe. Consider all of this as a helpful tool within the biblical Christian’s apologetic arsenal and one further step towards a more fuller and robust explanation of the beginning of our universe from a biblical perspective.