Either matter is eternal, or God is. The first law of thermodynamics tells us that energy (matter) can be neither created nor destroyed – so where did it come from? Many scientific theories are never promoted to scientific law, as such status is reserved for only the most inviolable of theories which have proven reliable under innumerous tests and experiments to disprove them. It means no counter examples or exceptions exist. It is law. Newton’s law of universal gravitation and laws of motion, Kepler’s laws of planetary orbit, the laws of thermodynamics, with its law of conservation of energy, comprise the pantheon of scientific truths in the universe. While our understanding of the laws can change and equations are sometimes refined for corner cases, as with gravity when Einstein explained it in the context of spacetime, the lasting truth of a law remains.
Let’s look at the law of conservation of energy. Simply stated, energy cannot be created or destroyed – it’s here to stay, but how did it get here in the first place? Has it been here all along, or did someone put it here? We take it for granted that our ovens heat our food at the touch of a button, but where does the electricity come from to power the oven? How do we keep our laptops powered to read this content? That an incontrovertible law must be abrogated in order to explain the existence of energy in the universe is the elephant in the room full of atheists. God created the universe, or matter is eternal – those are the choices. Many issues in life are subjective, does this outfit look good on me? or, do you like my cooking? But scientific truth is objective and unwavering, as if echoing the words of Jesus: Before Abraham was, I AM. Something can be true, and even if we don’t like it, it remains true. In fact, in the early 1600s, the catholic church, out of a misplaced notion that the Bible taught otherwise, insisted Galileo recant his teaching (from Copernicus) that the earth orbited the sun. This error is a lesson in the dangers of eisegesis (reading things into Scripture that are not there).
Creatio ex nihilo – God created the universe out of nothing – is the Biblical answer to this question on the origin of energy and matter. God is eternal and matter is created, not the other way around. Everything you see, feel, or touch has been here since creation. We may be excited about recycling but the earth has been recycling since the beginning, converting one form of energy to another. Potential energy is converted to kinetic energy as a ball rolls downhill, thermal energy to mechanical energy in a steam turbine, and electromagnetic radiation to chemical energy in photosynthesis. Even matter itself was shown to be a form of energy, given by Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2. You can incinerate something but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. When you burn firewood, combustion converts stored chemical energy into kinetic and thermal energy. Perhaps we seldom ponder the origin of energy because we take for granted that it is here. Maybe it scares agnostics and atheists to consider God as creator so instead they hold out hope for science to explain our origins. Science is the practice of systematic exploration of our physical world, not spiritual. The scientific method and reliability of laws makes experimentation possible to advance our knowledge. It is not the charter of science to incorporate supernatural events to explain origins. However, science and faith can coexist because the God who created the heavens and the earth continues to uphold all things by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). Ironically, God established the laws of physics through the supernatural act of creation. The first law of thermodynamics, which God decreed, tells us that energy cannot be created. We can’t do what He did; He cannot be imitated.
Spectral lines are the fingerprint of the atom thanks to conservation of energy. When electrons in excited atoms jump to higher energy orbitals and then relax, dropping back to lower energy orbitals, they must emit a photon to maintain constant energy – to obey the law of conservation of energy. This photon emission will tell you the identity of the atom because we can rely on energy being conserved. The emitted photon has a specific wavelength (color of light) because the total energy of the excited atom must be equal to the combined energy of the relaxed atom and its emitted photon. You recognize a neon sign because the wavelength of the photon emitted by a neon atom is orange and it will always be orange because God ordered and maintains the energy levels of electron orbitals and superintends the law of conservation of energy.
Jesus and the Father are one, and the attributes of God are inter-dependent and consistent. We have constant energy because God’s nature is constant – He is immutable. I wrote briefly about the law of conservation of energy in my post about God’s immutability here: https://www.romans120.com/2018/04/making-the-invisible-visible-gods-immutability/. The laws of physics are unwavering because God is omnipotent, upholding all things by the word of His power and in Him all things consist. He never tires, he never vacillates, he never changes or grows. The laws he established provide boundaries within which we are constrained while He exists entirely outside of time and the limits of our physical world. When the secularist attempts to disprove God’s existence by using those same laws to preclude God’s supernatural action, he or she is incorrect because the laws themselves are not god; rather, they are reflective of and subordinate to God and hence subject to his intervention. Our visibility is limited to what we can sense physically and that is the purview of science; however, answering the question of what was here before there was a ‘here’ is beyond the reach of science. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. God has imbued our physical world with clues attesting to His creative work and affirmations of His sovereignty. How did we get here if energy cannot be created? Why are atoms here the same as atoms in the next galaxy? Why is the speed of light constant? Why does math work? The answers to all these questions echo God’s nature and his attributes are on display throughout creation not just to lead you to faith, but to reveal his glory. God will not force you to trust Him, but truth remains despite unbelief and the universe will not be quiet about that. After all, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, as His followers rejoiced and praised God saying “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”, the pharisees demanded Jesus rebuke them [suppress the truth] but Jesus said to them “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out”.