Cosmology and Creation: An Orthodox Perspective.

Cosmology and Creation: An Orthodox Perspective.

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Cosmology is a science about an origin and development of large-scale structure of the Universe. Its development was started only in XX century. During previous period cosmological views of separate scientists had exclusively hypothetical character and they didn’t have any serious scientific support. Before XVII century Christian worldview was dominating in the European countries and cosmological conceptions were based on the Bible’s doctrine of creation by God. However in XVIII century philosophers of the Enlightenment begun to develop cosmological systems which was radically differ from Bible’s understanding of the universe. By XIX century this resulted to almost universal recognition between scientists of eternity of the Universe. In a work about physical cosmology I. Kant made a conclusion that the Universe should be infinite. He wrote: «If it was possible that God can effectively create the idea of infinity, which to His mind actually presents everything at once in a successive series, why should He not be able to present the idea of another infinity in a spatially united interconnection and thus make the extent of the world limitless?»1 From the view of infinity of the Universe Kant deduced strictly mechanistic model of representation of a physical reality. Though the Kant named himself as theist, he laid down beginning of XVIII-XIX century’s agnosticism. The Science of XIX century, which strives to stand on the materialistic and positivistic presuppositions, was in the sharp contradiction with a Christian sight of the world.

The beginning of cosmology as serious scientific research was laid with making General Theory of Relativity by A. Einstein in 1915. In 1929 red shift in spectra of remote stars was opened by E. Hubble which became as main evidence of expansion of the universe and confirmation of non-stationary model Friedman-Lemaitre. The decision of GTR equations was offered in 1922 by A. Friedman. It tells that the Universe now extends, hence, in the remote past it should have a very small volume with infinite density. It is necessary to note, that Friedman accounts this opening as having not only scientific, but also metaphysical value. He took an epigraph to the first chapter of Friedman’s book «The World as a space and a time» from the book of Wisdom: «Thou hast ordered all things in measure and number and weight» (Wis. 11.20)2. Today only professional historians of a science can remember that fierce discussion was caused with this discovery. In conversation with G. Lemaitre A. Einstein has noticed to him: «Your calculations are correct, but your grasp of physics is abominable»3.

Today the model of the Big Bang is accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists. Two main opening have strengthened ground for the Big Bang cosmology in scientific community. In 1965 there was opened cosmic microwave radiation. Uniformity and very low temperature of this radiation were examined as the rests of «primary flash» by the Universe. In 1992 the satellite on research of background radiation COBE had been opened small irregularities which, according to the theory, explain formation of galaxies and stars in originally homogeneous Universe4. The confirmation of these results has been received in 2003 due to more exact observations made by means of satellite WMAP5.

The majority of physicists consider the Big Bang as «singularity», i.e. limiting edge, «condition of infinite density» where the space-time disappears. Thus it represents an external limit of that we can know about the Universe. If all physical theories are formulated in a context of space and time, it is impossible to speak, at least, in natural sciences, about conditions which existed outside of these categories. Cosmologists consider presence of the singularity as confirmation of incompleteness Big Bang cosmology. It requires a searching another of theoretical concepts which would allow them to describe adequately the events close by this moment. A confidence that presence of singularity is difficulty of traditional Big Bang cosmology is caused by that the equations of the general relativity do not consider the quantum nature of a reality. Therefore ways of search of «Theory of Everything» must go in a direction of building of the adequate theory of quantum gravity6. These theoretical models have the purpose the description of a condition of the Universe when it has age nearby 10-43 s. At this moment named Plank’s time gravitation was compared with strong nuclear interaction. Under such circumstances quantum-gravitational effects should play an essential role. It is supposed that quantum gravitational processes dominated over the earliest times preceded a stage of inflation.

Confidence of that cosmology can investigate the beginning of the Universe shared by many cosmologists leads to various sort of speculations about initial condition of the Universe. Various attempts to build quantum cosmology base on some specific aspects of the quantum theory such as 1) idea of wave function of the Universe, 2) the concept of multivariate space-time (the theory of superstrings), 3) loop quantum gravity and other.

In 1983 J. Hurtle and S. Hawking have supposed that notion of wave function can be applied to all Universe just as wave function of quantum mechanics is applied to elementary particles7.  According to Hawking presence of singularity means to deny universal predictability of physics, and, hence, finally, to reject competence of a science of understanding of the Universe. The combination of quantum mechanics with the general relativity leads to an opportunity that the space and time together can form finite four-dimensional space without singularities or borders similarly to a surface of the Earth, but with greater number of measurements. Hawking supposed that in such model of the Universe «There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time»8. Below he adds: So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?»9 Concerning to Hawking’s  cosmological model J. Barrow notices that his boundless quantum cosmology becomes extremely attractive because it avoids necessity of the beginning. Barrow believes that the traditional picture of the Big Bang with its initial singularity of infinite density «is strictly speaking … creation from absolute anything»10.

Other cosmologist A. Vilenkin has offered the concept of the Universe beginning by quantum tunneling from nothing. If pairs of virtual particles can emerge from nothing why it cannot to be that Universe together with a matter and energy, space and time comes to existence from nothing due to huge quantum fluctuation. For Vilenkin conception of «nothing» is «a condition with non-classical space-time … area of unlimited quantum gravity; there freakish enough condition in which all our concepts of space, time, energy, etc. lose the value»11. At temperatures nearby 1032, which existed during the Big Bang, all forces of the nature should be considered as uniform interaction, and all subatomic particles yet had no distinctive properties. According to «inflationary model», when the age of the Universe was nearby 10-35 s, there was the superfast cooling which has generated huge amount of energy which partly was condensed in a matter. The explanation of «the inflationary Universe» offered by Guth and Vilenkin supposes the following chronology: first, there was an initial Big Bang, «quantum fluctuation from nothing», and then there was a short phase of «quick exponential expansion». An energy which has been saved during this very fast explosion should be transformed to a matter and radiation. It is necessary to note, that the inflationary stage in the early Universe well explains a problem of formation of modern large-scale structure of an observable part of space-time and microwave background radiation12. The concept of inflation allowed to solve many problems of standard Friedman-Lemaitre cosmologies. However, the inflationary model demands for itself enough specific conditions. As Vilenkin wrote: «The origin of initial fluctuations is one of main unresolved cosmological problems»13. In the other work he also notes, that «the nature of an initial condition is a very speculative subject even on cosmological standards»14.

The further development of the theory has led to the concept of the multiverse. A. Linde used conceptions of Guth and Vilenkin and developed model of «chaotic inflation» which in his opinion should explain existence of the Big Bang. «Thus the Universe can be thought of as chaotic foam of causally disconnected bubbles in which the initial conditions are different, and which would subsequently evolve into different kinds of universes. Only one bubble would become our Universe, and we could never get any information about the other ones»15. A. Linde does not see any sense in search of the some «an initial bubble»: each bubble is obliged by the birth to other bubble. M. Roos wrote: «Thus we happen to live in a Universe which is a minuscule part of a steady-state eternally inflating meta-Universe which has no end, and therefore it also has no beginning. There is simply no need to turn inflation on in the first place, and the singularity at time zero has dropped out from the theory»16. As Linde wrote: «This process, which I have called eternal inflation, keeps going as a chain reaction, producing a fractal-like pattern of universes. In this scenario the universe as a whole is immortal. Each particular part of the universe may stem from a singularity somewhere in the past, and it may end up in a singularity somewhere in the future… From this perspective, inflation is not a part of the big bang theory, as we thought 15 years ago. On the contrary, the big bang is a part of the inflationary model»17. It is necessary to note, that connected with model of chaotic inflation the concept of the multiverse looks enough disputable. So, for example, cosmologist R.Vaas wrote: «From the perspective of physical simplicity, epistemology and philosophy of science it is favorable to try to explain as much as possible with a unique-universe account, i.e. searching for a Theory of Everything with just one self-consistent solution that represents (or predicts) our universe. (Of course one could always argue that there are other, causally strictly separated universes too, which do not even share a common generator or a meta-law; but then they do not have any explanatory power at all and the claims for their existence cannot be motivated in any scientific useful way.)»18 The Universe which described by Hawking, Vilenkin, Linde and others is self-existent Universe which can understand exclusively in terms laws of physics, and it doesn’t suppose presence any transcendent beginning. Nevertheless it is necessary to note that desire to suggest new cosmological conceptions were motivated not only scientific problems with «initial singularity», but in many respects it was based on aspiration to exclude any hint on teleological explanation and theological consideration of a universe.

What does mean the conceptions of quantum cosmology? Whether really are we on edge of a scientific explanation of the absolute beginning of the Universe? First of all, from the scientific point of view, these are very speculative and disputable theories, and they lay on the problematic foundations because there isn’t well-grounded quantum gravitation theory. Physicist Chris Isham even pessimistically wrote: «Conceptual problems of quantum cosmology are so serious, that some of professional physicists believe that the program of quantum cosmology can appear absolutely erroneous»19. C. Isham pays special attention to the fact that there is not clear what must to be the of quantum gravitation theory. In his opinion the basic difficulties in building of the quantum theory of gravitation, and, hence, quantum cosmology is that « general relativity is not just a theory of the gravitational field—in an appropriate sense, it is also a theory of space-time itself; and hence a theory of quantum gravity must have something to say about the quantum nature of space and time»20. That is the cause why quantum cosmology remains speculative area of researches and hardly can pretend to the status of strictly scientific theory. In his work about history of quantum gravitation of C. Rovelli wrote: «So, where are we, after 70 years of research? There are well-developed tentative theories, in particular strings and loops, and several other intriguing ideas. There is no consensus, no established theory, and no theory that has yet received any direct or indirect experimental support. In the course of 70 years, many ideas have been explored, fashions have come and gone, the discovery of the Holly Graal has been several times announced, with much later scorn»21. It, certainly, does not mean that scientists should refuse any attempts to construct the theory of quantum gravitation. It assumed only that there are no yet reliable experimental data in favor of existing quantum gravitation research programs. It is hardly reasonable to make any categorical worldview conclusions if we cannot give preference one of them.

It is natural for scientists a desire to continue the story of the Universe as it is possible more close to its beginning. However the real problem arises when cosmologists try to attach their theories ontological sense or operate as if the science possesses unique true way of knowledge of these subjects, but philosophy and religion are considered as insufficiently competent in these questions. S. Hawking, for example, wrote: «Men, who have to study these questions and answer them, – philosophers, in the majority have no sufficient mathematical preparation to keep up with modern achievements of theoretical physics»22. The sense of this phrase is clear. In his opinion philosophers should be physicists-theorists because only physicists can answer on these questions. If we accept Hawking’s remark in absolute sense then everything that we have deal would be physics. Art and poetry, philosophy and theology, the literature and history – all would be reduce to it. Even if we would not reach this limit any philosophical or theological cosmology would be impossible.

There are some fundamental questions which demand answers which are beyond physical explanation. At the construction of quantum cosmology models it is necessary to remember, that cosmological theory can have the wide or narrow form of questioning. The metaphysical basis of cosmology becomes more or less significant in construction of our theory in depending from our accepting degree of explanatory force of theory. Research of expansion of the Universe and structure of formation of a life from nucleosynthesis is essential at our construction of the theory. The metaphysical position which accepts these principles is minimal. The understanding of physical processes nearby epoch of quantum gravitation is less well-grounded. Here the metaphysical position becomes more significant. Theories about quantum gravity eras are extremely speculative; here metaphysical position is essential because there are no experimental and observant restrictions of the theory. Philosophically speaking we have to ask some fundamental questions about nature of reality. Why does exist any laws of physics? Whether are laws of physics describing or ordering? Whether is a nature of a material reality a somewhat mathematical or is it simple so happens that its behavior can be described by mathematical image? Why does anything exist? Why does the Universe suppose existence of a reasonable life? These deep existential questions are a mystery irrespective of a method which we select. The status of all these questions isn’t scientific, but metaphysical. These questions cannot be resolved by scientific approach. In this case there is a natural question: what does metaphysics need that we can get fuller explanation. It demands from us to make a choice between various possible variants of quantum cosmology. As G. Ellis notes, the fundamental question is that underlies this choice23. Why does the Universe have such specific form rather than another when other forms can exist which can to be in according with physical laws? The reason underlying a choice between various casual opportunities for the Universe cannot be investigated scientifically. Symmetry and thin balance which we observe demand an amazing coordination of conditions and interaction of causes and effects, assuming, that somewhat they have been purposefully planned. Is the metaphysical naturalism or theistic metaphysics more adequate from the point of view of completeness of the presented explanation? J. Polkinghorn assures that Trinitarian metaphysics possesses more ability to give complete understanding of a reality than metaphysical naturalism24.

When we approach to consideration of the key problems connected with an origin of the Universe there is a question on, whether the science can speak about the beginning of the Universe in its own language. Is it capable within the limits of itself methods to capture this moment? As R. Russell notes: «T=0 seems to be an event that cannot be described by science precisely because there is no “prior” event … »25. If absolute nothing doesn’t exist anyways then it cannot be measured and observed by our devices, and, hence, it does not get in area of scientific questions. W. Stoeger also accented this point: «With regard to «creation from nothing» and the issue of a temporal beginning to creation, contemporary cosmology and physical science …, will probably never come close to accounting on their own terms for cosmic existence. As disciplines, they are not competent to the tremendous gap between absolute nothingness and something created»26. The question about absolute nothing is beyond a science and it is competence philosophical and theological cosmology. Philosophical cosmology accented two facts which science accepted implicitly. First, the Universe exists; secondly, it exists in the special image. We live in especial type of the Universe. Cosmologists testify that our Universe is unique in the sense that if some of the fundamental parameters which define its properties were others the Universe would be deprived not only live beings, but also galaxies and stars. It means presence of sense in a universe at all levels of its organization.

Philosophical and theological cosmology is closely interconnected. The orthodox theology has a source of its cosmological views in Holy Scripture Holy Tradition. Orthodox exegetical tradition doesn’t demand only literal understanding of Genesis. In common context of the Bible the narrative about creation of the world and the person is closely connected with central theme about uniqueness of the God, the Creator of the sky and the earth. The creation of the world is first action of God in which the human knows care of the Creator about the world and the person. Further, creation of the world is such action of God in which with exclusive force the omnipotence of the Creator reveals before the person. Creation imposes on the human person the responsibility before the Creator. The god is the creator of the world visible and invisible. Prot. G. Florovsky render thought of St. Gregory of Nyssa: «The beginning of the world refers to that moment when God suddenly, in one instant, created the foundation for all causes and substances»27. Archpriest Basil Zenkovsky notices, that creation of the world means «that the world has no roots in itself that the world has arisen due to some upper-world force»28. The God has created the world from nothing. The God doesn’t require for making of the world in an initial material, and He creates the world not only under the form, but also on substance. St. Basil the Great wrote: «But God, before all those things which now attract our notice existed, after casting about in His mind and determining to bring into being time which had no being, imagined the world such as it ought to be, and created matter in harmony with the forth which He wished to give it»29. And St. John Damascene adds that the world is infinitely far from the God not by a place, but the nature30. This distinction of essence means absoluteness of One – God, conditionality of other world. Confirming ontological dualism between God and world V.N. Lossky wrote, that «creation ex nihilo» just means the act of making something outside of the God, creation of absolutely new topic which cannot found the divine nature or any matter, or an opportunity of any life outside of the God»31. The world is created as wholeness, beautiful and harmonious. In the end of each of creation days the Lord speaks: «it was good»  (Gen. 1.25). The narrative about creation of the world assumes that the sacred author speaks about the God as a Person. Only the person can appreciate the created reality by speaking these words. According to thought of St. Gregory of Nyssa «We must realize that the creation of the world was accomplished by everything in God: His will, Wisdom, might, and all His essential nature».32 Emphasizing special love and the consent of the world St. Basil the Great wrote: «The world is a unified whole in spite of the variety of its components, for it has been bound together by God into a single interconnected unit and into a single harmonious body through an indestructible union of love»33. Coherence and a harmony of the world are the basis of its intelligibility for human mind and the reason of any scientific knowledge.

The world exists according to the laws are established by the God. We can name the set of the laws which determine life of the world as a Divine plan of the creation. The world has been created by the God by means of divine ideas or «logoi» as St. Maximus the Confessor named them. Prof. B. Zenkovsky accented this point: «Since this moment these divine ideas, which in act of creation seeding every living things, exist inseparable from the world life … But these ideas which are in the world have their source in God, but in the world they aren’t the God and don’t make the world by the God; they stay in the world of creation which hasn’t in itself any keys to its understanding»34. The God is the reason of the world. The world cannot be a cause itself. St. John Damascene wrote: «Since, then, God, Who is good and more than good, did not find satisfaction in self-contemplation, but in fits exceeding goodness wished certain things to come into existence which would enjoy His benefits and share in His goodness, He brought all things out of nothing into being and created them, both that is invisible and that is visible»35. However, it was not necessity: «Creation is a free act … For the Divine essence it isn’t caused by any internal necessity»36. Creator’s majesty and its otherness to the world are major components of Genesis’s theology. St. Basil the Great calls us to see in beauty and greatness of the creature reflection of infinite beauty and power of the Creator: «Let us glorify the supreme Artificer for all that was wisely and skillfully made; by the beauty of visible things let us raise ourselves to Him who is above all beauty; by the grandeur of bodies, sensible and limited in their nature, let us conceive of the infinite Being whose immensity and omnipotence surpass all the efforts of the imagination»37.

One of key aspects of Revelation is a denying eternity of the matter. The Bible doctrine about the beginning of a universe is absolutely non-comparable with representations modern to Israel of peoples for which the idea of cyclic universe and infinite repeatability of world processes was so characteristic. So popular in materialistic representations XIX-XX idea of infinity of the Universe for a long time was pretended on the scientific status, but it was destroyed by modern cosmological conceptions. The harmony of the world is not so obvious from the human point of view. We only partly can feel beauty and perfection of the God’s creation as the sign of future transfiguration of it in which we hope to enter.

Philosophical, theological and scientific cosmologies tell about same universe by means various methods. Theological cosmology considers the Universe in a perspective of the personal God who created it with love. Philosophical cosmology considers the Universe as completeness of existence, and scientific cosmology investigates the Universe as observable and measurable, and it expresses these measurements and supervision in mathematical formulas. All of these methods do not contradict each other. As serious scientists and as a believer Christians we can accept them simultaneously and this approach can give us richer knowledge of our Universe and our place in it.

Probably, today as well as in the past it is not easy for the scientist to be a religious person, but it is doubtless that the life of the believing scientist is more filled by sense than non-believer. The non-believer scientist S. Weinberg tells: «The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless»38. For him people are forgotten small grain of sand which now exists, but tomorrow by any ridiculous accident will disappear. In opposition of this view the believing scientist can tell that he is not lonely, his life is guided by God’s Providence which helps him in his hard scientific work and leading him to eternal life.



1 Kant I. Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven // Kant I. Collected Works in 8 V. Ã., 1994. V. 1. P. 260.

2 Friedman A.A. The World as Space and Time. Izevsk, 2001. —. 8.

3 Midbon M. A Day Without Yesterday’: Georges Lemaitre & the Big Bang. URL:

4 See: Roos M. Introduction to cosmology. London, 2003. P. 221.

5 See: Liddle A. Introduction to modern cosmology. Sussex. 2003. P. 155.

6 See: «Âθ‰Ó‚˘ fl.¡. –ÓʉÂÌË ¬ÒÂÎÂÌÌÓÈ ËÁ «Ì˘„ӻ // ¬ÒÂÎÂÌ̇ˇ, ‡ÒÚÓÌÓÏˡ, ÙËÎÓÒÓÙˡ. Ã., 1988. —. 39.

7 Rovelli C. Notes for a brief history of quantum gravity. P. 11. URL: gr-qc/0006061

8 Hawking S.W. A brief history of time. Bantam Books, 1988. P. 136.

9 Ibidem. P. 146.

10 Barrow J. The Origin of the Universe. New York, 1994. P. 113.

11 Vilenkin A. Birth of Inflationary Universes// Physical Review,1983. Dec. 27:12. P. 2851.

12 Al’tshuler B.L., Barvinskii A.O. Quantum cosmology and physics of transitions with a change of the spacetime signature//UFN. 1996. V. 166. π 5. P.482.

13 Vilenkin A. Cosmic strings and domain walls// Physics Reports (Review Section of Physics Letters), 1985. π. 5. P. 304.

14 Vilenkin A. Shellard E.P.S. Cosmic strings and other topological defects. Cambridge, 1994. P. 49.

15 Roos M. Introduction to cosmology. London, 2003. P. 196.

16 Ibidem. P. 201.

17 Linde A. The Self-Reproducing Inflationary Universe//Scientific American, 1994. π 11. Nov. P. 54-55.

18 Vaas R. Time before time. Classifications of universes in contemporary cosmology, and how to avoid the antinomy of the beginning and eternity of the world P. 4. URL:

19 Isham —. Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature// Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. Berkeley, 1993. P. 77.

20 Butterfield J., Isham C. Spacetime and the Philosophical Challenge of Quantum Gravity P. 3.URL:

21 Rovelli C. Notes for a brief history of quantum gravity. P. 22.URL: gr-qc/0006061

22 Hawking S.. Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays. SPb., 2001. P. 49.

23 Ellis G.  Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology. P. URL:

24 Polkinghorne J. Physics and Metaphysics in a Trinitarian Perspective // Theology and Science. 2003. V. 1. Is. 1. P. 42-43.

25 Russel R.J. T=0: Is it Theologically Significant? // Religion and Science: History, Method, Dialogue. Archangelsk, 2001. P. 174.

26 Stoeger W.R. Key Developments in Physics Challenging Philosophy and Theology // Religion and Science: History, Method, Dialogue. Archangelsk, 2001. P. 152.

27 Florovsky G. The Eastern Fathers of the Forth Century. Ã., 1992. P. 154.

28 Zenkovsky B. Foundations of Christian Philosophy. Christian Teaching about World. Paris., 1970. P.13.

29 St. Basil the Great. The Hexameron. 2. 3.

30 Lossky V.N. Dogmatic Theology. Ã. 1991. P. 71.

31 Ibidem.

32 Florovsky G. Op. cit. —.152.

33 Ibidem. —.66.

34 Zenkovsky B. Op. cit P.19-20.

35 St. John Damascene. An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. II. 2.

36 Lossky V.N. Op. cit. P. 223.

37 St. Basil the Great. The Hexameron. 1. 11.

38 Weinberg S. The First Three Minutes. 1993. P. 149.