Creation is a divisive topic both in the Body of Christ and in world. Biblical creationism, and scientific cosmology may regard the combination of the two as being fundamentally polemic, and this has been the case historically especially since the 20th century. Before creation is discussed the presuppositions and background needs to be touched on, as well as some parameters. Fundamentally having diverse opinions about creation is a non-heretical issue, meaning the salvation of the believer is not predicated on creation theology, it only reflects the high or low view of scripture that person holds, that conversation is outside the confines of this article.
Ideas about the creation of the universe, from the Steady State Theory, to the Big Bang Theory have been around for some time. The latter was a result of the observations of Edward Hubble, in seeing that galaxies were moving apart from each other, meaning that the universe has a beginning (Origin Of the Universe, 2017). Stephen Hawking, Neil Degrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan have all espoused that the universe is approximately 13 billion years old. It would appear that the Biblical account of the universe being only thousands of years old would be inaccurate. It’s from this standpoint that I would like to hopefully change your mind.
I am going to make some assumptions and several declarations about how this issue is going to be approached. When discussing an issue such as this, we must be fair and have a sterling commitment to balanced scales in measuring the logic. That means we as Christians should not apply a standard to other theories that we would not let stand against the Bible, and reciprocally as well. There is no reason to doubt the character of Christians who believe in the Young Earth Theory, and there is no reason to doubt the character of a scientist who claims the universe is 13 billion years old. It is outside the context of the article to account for the opinions, or moral character of every scientist and every Christian, so the assumption is that both sources are honest to the best of their knowledge. Christians with the Biblical account, and science with the best knowledge of aggregate humanity. The separate methodologies by which cosmologic age is scientifically deduced and conversely theologically determined using the Bible are both sound from the perspectives of the scientist and the biblical theologian. It’s important to not understate the zeal of both positions, and the diametrically opposed viewpoints. The question then becomes why is there such disparity in the accounts of how the universe was created, and how is that rectified?
Christianity posits the inerrancy of scripture. That it is theopneustos, or God breathed. What is written is God’s Holy Word and that words have meaning, and that they mean what they say they do, in the original koine Greek or Hebrew as applicable. I am not going to validate the allegorical/mythological approach of Genesis in this article because I am assuming literal communicative truth of the Bible.
I also reject the idea that the scientific community is generalized as specifically “God hating” or “anti-God”. Scientific methodology that belongs to humanity. People from all races and creeds contribute to the growing body of scientific knowledge, and to characterize all of science as being controlled by a single “anti-God” or “anti-Christian” sentiment is inaccurate. For instance Blaise Pascal was a theoretical mathematician who created the differential equations necessary to study air pressure and fluid dynamics, and is also famous for Pascal’s Wager, a theological question used to evangelize and challenge those who are not regenerated. Christian scientists are in nearly every single scientific field. There are specific individuals who hold beliefs contrary to that of many Christians, but those rejections of God and objections to His Word should be parsed out on a case by case basis. We can’t do that here. The scientific community is pluralistic, and provides the best information we as a society have, at the time. If it is possible to be Christian and support a scientific world view that does not diminish the Word of God, the issue is what comes first scripture or science?
In Genesis it reads:
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
In verse one the Hebrew reads samayim, and we need to disambiguate it slightly, it can mean, both “Heaven”, and “the sky”. In this case it means the sky, which we know now as space, however, this was a simpler age there was no need to distinguish between an atmosphere and the vacuum of space. It is appropriately described using the correct syntax of the day. Time was created “in the beginning”, space was created next, and finally matter was introduced via earth or erets in Hebrew. Verses 3-5 talk about the introduction of light into the universe. Time, space, then matter were created and then light. Light is distinguished as being day, and darkness as night. That is what happened on day one.
Day one is a literal day, in the sense that it consists of a sunrise, and a sunset on a planet called earth, with a spin orbiting Sol, a star in the Milky Way galaxy. Here is the stipulation, how can we have a day, a full twenty four hour cycle, without earth, in its exact position, rotation, and orbit, without the exact amount of atoms that constitute earth? You can’t. The definition of day, involves, the exact amount of atoms and molecules with exact velocity to fulfill the specification of a 24 hour day. Day from the perspective of Moses who is attributed as writing Genesis, is written with that context of day, being in mind. In order to fulfill the definition of day in the context in which it is used, you will need a planet called earth with X amount of atoms, orbiting a star at Y rotational velocity, orbiting in the outer arm of the Milky Way galaxy at Z rotational velocity. There are other factors at play, however if those factors are not met, then it does not constitute the day which is described in Genesis, because it would be more, or less time than 24 hours. Because God predestined all things, by decree that means that at a time before creation, God had already decided, what was going to constitute planet earth and all of its inhabitants. If earth was created, and part of it was missing, or still being assembled, because it did take time to assemble (a time frame is offered in Genesis) then it follows that even if the earth partially complete rotated once in a complete solar cycle, that the solar cycle in question does not constitute a Biblical day by definition.
I skipped verse two and now I am going to return to it. Before distinguishing between the light and the darkness the earth was without shape, it was formless. This is interesting, because the earth was not a sphere, a circle, a hexagon, a dodecahedron, a pyramid, a flat plate, or any other shape that can be named, because it was chaos. Out of the chaos came definition and organization, something that is characteristic of the triune God, something that is evident throughout scripture. After parsing heavens and earth, God makes light and darkness separate, and then begins to name the light day. Day is the first measurement of time that we as human beings have. To distinguish one day from the other. To fulfill a day on earth it would have different physical requirements than a day on Mars, or Venus, or Jupiter. A day on Mars is not an Earth day, and a day on Mercury is not an earth day, then it could also follow that an earth day minus any number of atoms, does not constitute the biblical day described in Genesis, because if the earth was being assembled it would move differently in space. But in verse one heavens and earth were indeed created. Created but not constituted in form, because the form of earth described in verse two is formless and shapeless. Finally that form took time to assemble, but the first day was not complete until earth was assembled, in its particular starting point in the rotational pattern in our solar system orbiting the Milky Way galaxy.
The basis of our systems of metrology or how we measure items in space and time, is very much dependent on relative factors. A day can either be shortened or lengthened based on astronomical factors. Sometimes days on other planets are measured using in terms of an earth day. A day on earth is not a day on earth if we have only half of earth assembled, or if it is not rotating at the correct speed, which is dependent on the mass of earth. If you change the mass you change the speed, therefore conflating the definition of day. To the best of human knowledge the universe is approximately 13 billion years old. There is no reason to doubt the information presented, as being anything other than the current set of information we have now. Five hundred years from now that age could become more precise or could change altogether. But the reason why I can say that 13 billion years is equivalent to the Biblical day described in Genesis is they both have the same reference frame. There was no day before the first day, time passed, but it’s not the first day. The definition of day comes from disambiguating light and dark on a fully amassed earth, not anything else. Once everything is set, and complex matrix that is our universe is assembled according to His will, then God disambiguates light from darkness and says, “its show time”.
I have no reason to believe that Genesis is inaccurate concerning the creation of the universe, I have no reason to believe that Moses was an incompetent writer or that he was not capable of relating the Word as it spoken to him by God. To the best of Moses’ knowledge he was correct in writing Genesis. There is no fault in Genesis.
There is a similar distinction I would like to make. In Leviticus 11:3-6 it says that rabbits chew the cud, and makes an assertion about the fitness of a rabbit to be consumed for food. Rabbits do not chew the cud, however to the Israelites they appeared to because of the movement of their mouths, so Leviticus is correct in identifying what is unclean to eat, using colloquialisms of the day (Mitchell, 2017), because the point is to be communicative and not factual to minutiae. The point is that they should not eat rabbits, and it was explained in a way that could be understood. I am positing a parallel between that instance and others like it, taking place in creation specifically in Genesis. Creation in this sense is not inaccurate, or mythological, but is presented in a basic sense that can be easily understood, easily understood could mean that it is simplified. The idea of sufficiency of the Bible means it is sufficient for salvation, not a tome of all knowledge, just what is most important.
The accuracy of the Genesis account depends on the presuppositions held: that there is an omnipotent all powerful God, that He was there at the beginning, there was a beginning, that Genesis is written truthfully, and that our best scientific research is also accurate as far as we know as finite beings. If one of those presuppositions changes so does the understanding of creation. If you discount science completely, and you are viewing this post on an electronic device, you are a hypocrite because it is engineered using the same overarching methodology that is used cosmologically to determine the age of the universe. If the core methodology is untrue, then extensions of it are also untrue. Because we know that there is some fact in scientific methodology it is our jobs as Christians to sift through it with distinction to empirically determine that truth for the Glory of God. It is antithetical for a Christian to be opposed to truth. The truth is literally written in Genesis, it serves its purpose of identifying God, and declaring the universe as created and that it was done in seven days.
I think that creation is an important issue to Christianity, because it is often used by outsiders to bring us as Christians to chagrin. The purpose of the article is to think critically about the Bible, and its implications. As new information about our world is manifest it is our job to view it in light of scripture. Scripture comes first as divine revelation, but then our attempts to understand our reality can come in second. We worship the God of truth (John 8:32), the God of all creation (Hebrews 11:3), and a triune God that knows all things. We do not. It is my goal to be the iron that sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:27) and to present my ideas as a means of challenge and meaningful discussion. Not as an absolute, but as a logical outcome of given these presuppositions, and these axioms of truth (e.g. sola scriptura, inerrancy of scripture) based on current understandings. In the articles following this one I will discuss the allegorical approach to Genesis and why I do not agree with it, as well as diving into the antediluvian period in history, and my interpretations of it. For the non-religious these are some of the hang ups they have, and to be able to articulate a Christian perspective with truth and love should be our ultimate goal. I reiterate, I am just another Christian looking at the universe and how wonderfully it is put together, and I have some ideas on that so I thought I would share.
Until the next time I make your head hurt, God Bless you.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Astronomy, Science. 2017. “How Old Is The Universe?”. Space.Com. https://www.space.com/24054-how-old-is-the-universe.html.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009.
Mitchell, Tommy. 2017. “Contradictions: Do Rabbits Really “Chew The Cud”?”. Answers In Genesis. https://answersingenesis.org/contradictions-in-the-bible/do-rabbits-really-chew-the-cud/.
“The Origin Of The Universe”. 2017. Stephen Hawking. http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-origin-of-the-universe.html.