The origin of atoms
A single drop of water contains more than a million million billion atoms, one-part hydrogen to two parts oxygen. Though themselves composed of elementary particles known as quarks, atoms do not decompose or break down into those constituent particles in nature. Under the extreme conditions found in stars, many atoms can transmute into atoms of a different kind. Here on earth, however, with the exception of radioactive elements, they are completely stable. Think of how much wasted time and energy alchemists of the past would have been spared if they had understood that fundamental physical truth.
Everything, including the dirt under your fingernails and the mouse that skulks in your kitchen, is made up of atoms combined together in various ways. But I know that you already know that. I also know that if you are reading this you are obsessed with the glory of God. You’ll jump at every opportunity to see more of His glory like a child leaps with excitement when presented with a new toy. Let’s take a fresh, introductory look at the miracle that is atoms. To God be the glory!
Many believe that untold trillions of identical hydrogen atoms were formed in an instant by purely natural means shortly after the Big Bang occurred. To many people, that makes sense. One must confess that postulating a being with the capacity to exquisitely craft the universal budget of tiny particles beggars the imagination, too. How can a being exist who is capable of finely crafting motes of matter in such untold numbers and of organising them into super huge objects ranged across the span of seemingly infinite space? But the facts are more readily explained by recourse to a supreme creator who intelligently planned it all than to a supreme, brainless explosion.
The first moment of creation
The Holy One of Israel built over two thousand billion galaxies, each composed of such stupendous numbers of atoms our pea brains run out of gas trying to take it in. Should every scientist in the world, together with all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, unite as one in a gargantuan effort to put together a single atom, they would fail. Let that thought sink in.
How did God create them? We may be tempted to suggest that He made a machine to churn them out like needle manufacturers mass producing needles. One problem with this idea is that nowhere in Scripture do we see the slightest hint of such a method. Over and over we read that God created everything. Furthermore, the lack of pre-existing materials at hand to make such a machine would have necessitated creation from scratch anyway in order to create the materials from which to make the machine. Back to square one. Conclusion: atoms were hand made.
Now that we have begun this train of thought, let’s probe further. Please note that we will not make any attempt to adumbrate any process that may have been involved. For example, it could be postulated that He made all the protons first, then all the neutrons and electrons then somehow stitched them together. Or, if one accepts the standard Big Bang model as a first step in divine creation, one might suggest that atoms were somehow “condensed” out of a primordial plasma or soup of quarks and gluons that theory dictates existed for the first fraction of a second.
We will sidestep such questions and focus on a much simpler matter: did God somehow mass-produce (or batch-produce) atoms or did He craft each one individually? Let’s repackage the question: did He have to give full attention to the creation of each atom, or did He do it in a waving-of-the-wand kind of way?
Scripture is fairly clear that creation of the universe or its primordium was a near instantaneous affair:
To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:6-7)?
It stretches the imagination beyond breaking point to envisage an age-lasting shout. We conclude that they were all manufactured in the blink of an eye, possibly out of a massive fireball consisting of a fleeting, created primordial soup. To some, that theory would suggest a mass-production affair in which no direct attention was paid to each tiny particle. But the rapidity of the action does not force that conclusion. God can operate at infinite speed.
When one considers the staggering precision engineering, repeated trillions upon trillions of times over, lacking any and all congenital defects, surely the simplest conclusion one can reach is that each one received the full attention of its Creator in its manufacture. We earlier said that atoms were hand made; let’s put it slightly differently now and say that each atom was lovingly, carefully, individually crafted. No human mind can wrap itself around such a notion. Makes one think of Psalm 139:6:
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.
Even more astounding when you think about it is the biblical teaching that the living Jesus Christ is now, nanosecond by nanosecond, maintaining the universe:
He reflects the glory of God… upholding the universe by his word of power (Heb. 1:3 RSV)
Were He to cease winding the clock for even a moment, poof! That He continues doing so in spite of the brazen ungodliness of man stands as one of the most astonishing manifestations and proofs of the faithfulness of God, pouring scorn on the charge that the Creator is a capricious deity.
Discovered or decreed?
Did God discover an atomic design that would work, or did He dictate a design that would work? When He laboured over His drawing board, were the gleams of incipient forms in the Master’s eye in any way constrained by “natural laws” beyond His control? Is the answer to this question all a matter of semantics? That’s a lot of questions, isn’t it?
Behind this line of enquiry lies a fundamental revelation about the nature of the God spoken of in the Bible. Take, for instance, Psalm 33:6:
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
These words do not disprove the pre-existence of natural laws, but they do imply it. Everything exists because God decreed it, not because He discovered a way of making it happen. One implication does not a revelation make. Consider further the words of John 1:1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Granted, strict logic does not forbid the existence of laws of nature “in the beginning” based on this verse, but once again their absence is implied. God alone was in the beginning. The clincher Scripture is found in Revelation 4:11:
You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.
Everything exists because God wills it, and His will is not predicated on, dependent upon, contingent upon or constrained by anything else. God is utterly supreme. Nothing is higher than He, not even the laws of nature.
The non-existence of physical laws “in the beginning” is also proven by a simple consideration: if you do not have any matter at all, you cannot logically entertain the idea of laws that govern it. The very idea of laws of physics and chemistry is a nonsense if they have nothing on which to operate, just as sex does not exist when you don’t have living creatures to indulge in it.
Once God had created the laws of nature, of physics and chemistry, He was indeed constrained in coming up with designs based on those laws. If a bird is to fly, the structure of its wings is constrained by the laws of aerodynamics. Well then, could not the same thing be said about atoms? That the design was constrained by natural laws of divine origin? True. But here’s the point: God decreed, not discovered, the natural laws and thus, by extension, everything that exists in the material world. Atomic design responds to natural laws of divine origin, not to a divine discovery.