Most Christians feel a need to put a stake in the ground with regard to the truth of Genesis One. Defending the truth is important, but we must be careful when defending Genesis that we do not defend something that is not there. An interesting example is the seven days of creation. Belief in literal days has often been used as a test for an authentic Christian.
When defending Genesis, we must be careful that we are defending something that is really in it. Before putting a stake in the ground for the "literal days", we should be sure that we understand the message of Genesis One. The first thing to note is that for the first three days of creation, the sun and moon did not exist (these were created on the fourth day), so Genesis is not describing days as we understand them. This points to an important truth.
Days existed before man or the sun or the moon existed. This means that a pattern of time being marked off into days existed in God's nature and character, before the existence of the sun and moon. The pattern of day and night that we experience is not derived by human experience, but comes from the nature and personality of God himself. The concept of a day is not a human category, but existed with God, before humans existed.
The days of creation are divine days, whatever that means, and not human days. Understanding the meaning of a divine day is almost impossible for a human mind. This is confirmed in 2 Peter 3:8.
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years.
Peter was not giving a mathematical formula for deriving one from the other. He was not saying that God's days are longer than human days, but explaining that our human days is totally different in nature from God's experience of days. Our understanding of time is a shallow and superficial copy of God's concept of time.
The implication of this is that Genesis One is describing creation from God's perspective. God existed in the heavenly or spiritual dimension before the earth was created. He created the earth and everything in the universe by speaking and commanding from his place in heaven. His words and their consequences are described in Genesis One from a heavenly perspective. Genesis 2 switches to a more human perspective.
The seven days of creation describe how God's activity was punctuated. Given that we are being given a glimpse of God at work, we should be careful about saying that it can be understood in terms of human concepts of time and activity. When God does something in a day, we cannot know what that means, because we do not understand how God works. I am reluctant to say that days of creation were seven 24-hour days, as we know them, because my human mind can only partially understand what a day looks like in heaven.
Seven literal 24-hour days cannot be my stake in the ground with respect to creation. Genesis One gives a description of what God was doing in the heavenly dimension, so it cannot be interpreted in the same way as written description of a human baker baking bread. Genesis One is not the beginning of history on earth, but a description of what happened with God in the heavenly dimension, but using human categories of thought.
Human categories of thought are just not up to the job of describing what happens in the spiritual dimension. We get this right through the Bible. When John tried to describe his vision of heaven, he wrote of lightening, rainbows, gold, jewels, glass and crystal. We should not assume that he saw these things. The vision John received was so amazing he could not describe it in human words
The problem is that a word like "rainbow" does not mean anything until you have seen a rainbow. Because very few people have seen what John saw, we do not have the shared words to describe it. Even if we had the words, most of us would not understand their meaning, because we have never seen the objects they refer to. So instead of using heavenly words that no one would understand, John used the words for the most beautiful things on earth to paint a poetic picture of what he had seen. His description of the heavenly realm is not a literal description of what he saw, but a desperate attempt to convey and understanding given the limitation of human words.
The same applies to Genesis One. God has given us the privilege of seeing the creation of the universe from his perspective, but human words are inadequate for this purpose. However, they can be used to paint a limited, but nevertheless useful, picture of what God was doing.
If we took some real gold and jewels and made a model of the New Jerusalem based on John's description in Revelation 21, we would end up with something quite bizarre. The model would give a totally distorted understanding of what God was revealing through John. The reason is that human words and concepts simply cannot do justice to the heavenly or spiritual dimension of life. We will not understand what John saw by reading his descriptions as we would a blueprint, but instead we should try and catch a glimpse of the wonder of what John saw, a wonder that inspired him to use such amazing words.
In the same way, we should not read the first chapter of Genesis of an historical description of some events that occurred on earth or as a script from which a film of creation could be made. Rather we should see it as a description of what happened in the heavenly realm and how things in the spiritual dimension impacted the physical dimension. Reading the passage through the normal earthly meanings of the words will produce a limited view of what they are describing. Our aim should be to gain a glimpse of the wonder of who God is and what he did, given that such majestic human words are needed to describe it.
Human words can never fully describe God. The best they can do is portray a limited view of his greatness. We should grab every revelation that God gives us, but we should never imagine that we see clearly. Genesis One gives a wonderful description of God's creative activity, but we should never think that we can fully understand what happened. When reading the chapter, we should expect to be inspired more than we will be informed.
God Created All
This approach is not a sell out. Genesis One contains some important truths that cannot be ignored. The first is that God created everything. This universe and human life cannot be understood apart from God.
This is a serious warning to modern scientists.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Heb 11:3).
Modern science works on the assumption that this world can be understood by observing the physical dimension of life. This is not true. Any study of this world that ignores God and ignores the spiritual dimension will produce a distorted view of reality. We cannot fully understand the nature of human life or animal life, unless we understand that they were created by God. We will never fully understand their behaviour, if we ignore the spiritual dimension to reality.
Humility in All
Humans will never fully understand how the universe was created and formed. We can learn more and more about the universe as it exists now, but understanding its origins is largely beyond human understanding.
Christians can never know how these worlds were made, because although God knows, he has chosen not to reveal this information to us. All we have is one page of fairly poetic language and a few references in other parts of the Bible. A full technical account of the creation of the universe and everything in it would take a million pages, but we just do not have them. Christians should be much more realistic about how little we know about the origins of life. About all that we know is that we were created by God. We do not help our cause by pretending that we know a lot more, just because we love God.
Scientists will never fully understand how this world was made. Science works by developing theories and then undertaking repeatable experiments to test the theories. This works well for understanding things as they exist now, but the method is not so using for understanding the origins of the universe and the origins of life. Scientists can conduct experiments to test little parts of their theories, but they cannot design an experiment to test the entire process. Putting some energy under the appropriate conditions and observing whether a universe emerges is simply not possible. It is not possible to put a few atoms together and observe whether human life evolves. Therefore all theories about the origins of the life and the universe must remain as theories.
Christians and scientists get into great arguments about who knows the most about the origins of this world. The truth is that neither group knows much at all. Both sides of this debate would benefit from a great dose of humility.
Created in God's Image
The second important truth that comes out of Genesis One is that God created humans in his image. Any attempt to understand human nature that ignores this fact is bound to fail.
This truth blows the theory of evolution out of the water. If man slowly evolved from an apelike species, then he cannot be considered to be made in the image and likeness of God. I am not willing to give up the truth that I was made in the image of God for some claim that I am more closely related to a chimpanzee. This is my stake in the ground.
The fact that humans and apes share common genes proves nothing. There is no reason why God should not use common designs for different specifies. If something works well in one species, a sensible designer would use the same design for another species. Common genes just show that apes are actually partly made in the image of man.
The strange truth is that when I look at men who hate the idea that God created man, I see of the image of God in them than I see of the image of the apes. Okay, the image of God has been marred by sin, but it is so strong that it remains obvious. When I look at them I see the following:
- immense creativity
- variety of personality
- discernment between good or evil
- a desire for eternity
- need to communicate ideas
- appreciation of beauty
- a huge capacity for love
- delightful sense of humour
All these things are evidence of the image of God in man, and they are sometime most evident in people who hate him.
A third fundamental truth in Genesis One is that when God had finished his creative activity everything was good. This is a critical point, which Christians must never let go. When God finished his work, it was good. This means that there were no earthquakes, no volcanoes, no droughts, not tornados, no tsunamis, no fatal diseases and no floods. People like to blame God for evil. When people are killed by an earthquake or famine, people like to play the blame game and say, "Why did God allow it".
The truth is that God created a good world. He did not create a world where floods, earthquakes and droughts kill people. These things came into the world after the fall. When mankind sinned, Satan was freed to do his harm in God's creation. Earthquakes and, viruses, dangerous animals and destructive forces were released on earth.
Sin and evil totally changed the way that the earth functions. Earthquakes, floods, droughts, tsunamis, tornados and volcanoes appeared on earth for the first time. Animals, insects and plants changed into dangerous forms that had not existed when the world was good as God crated it. Bacteria and viruses the cause sickness and disease emerged and began to spread. All these things that marred God's good earth were the work of the devil
We should not be asking why God allowed these things. We should be asking why mankind allowed the devil to bring these things into our good world.
Christians have been so busy defending seven literal days that they have given up on the goodness of creation without realising. They play the same game, asking why God allows evil on the earth, without understanding that their question denies the truth of Genesis One
The other implication of this truth is that the universe we observe is seriously distorted by sin. Human sin tainted everything. Sin set the devil free to do enormous damage in God's creation. Not only did this affect the earth, the entire universe was affected at the same time. Christians have not fully grasped the impact of this truth. While Satan was attacking mankind, other demonic forces went to work in the universe creating evil species, working havoc and spoiling the God universe that God created. This was not the gradual change over time that scientists assume, but instantaneous change caused by spiritual forces that cannot be observed.
Astronomers peer into space through their telescope. They assume that they can use their observations to understand the origins of the universe. The problem is that they are not looking at the universe as it was created in the beginning. They are looking at the universe, which has been seriously damaged by sin and evil. This is an unbreakable barrier that science cannot overcome. The impact of the fall is that we cannot see the universe the way it was when God created it, not matter how powerful our telescope. Humans cannot observe the universe as it was at the beginning. All that scientists can observe is a universe distorted by sin.
Some Christians have used the Genesis flood to explain some of the physical phenomena that are found on earth. This is interesting, but it misses an important point. The fall had far greater impact on the creation than the flood.
In Man's Image
I have a friend who is an atheist and believe that mankind evolved from the apes. Yet when I look at him, I see more evidence of the image of God than of the image of an ape. He is intelligent, articulate, logical, honest and loyal. He loves his family and provides for them. He has a strong sense of right and wrong. I see him as proof that mankind was created in the image of God.
As I watched a clip of a gorilla on television last night, it occurred to me that it looked like it was created in the image of man. That got me thinking. When I looked at Genesis 1, I discovered something that I had not seen before. There is no record of God creating the great apes. On the fifth day, God created the sea creatures and every living thing in the seas and rivers. He also created the birds that fly in the sky. On the sixth day, he created the living creatures on the earth. He created the quadrupeds (four legged animals) and the creeping things. Apes that move on two legs are not mentioned.
I have noted that the world massively effected by the fall. Satan used the opportunity to create many evil species like wasps and house flies. Actually he does not have the power to create species, he can only modify specifies that God has created.
I wonder if the great apes were part of his misguided handiwork. Maybe he took genetic material from humans and put into some other animals to develop a breed of humans that would be totally loyal to him. His efforts failed, and he ended up with species vastly inferior to humans, although they appear to be "created" in the image and likeness of man. That could be why their genetic make up is very similar. Maybe Satan left these species on earth to strengthen his theory of evolution that would emerge many years later.
A fourth fundamental truth in Genesis is that mankind was created good. This is a serious blow to any theory that humans evolved from another species. If these theories are true, there is no point of development when we stopped being chimpanzees and became human. The change was gradual. A species that is evolving is not perfect, because it can get better in the future. In theory, an evolving species could evolve to be closer to the image of God in the future. The truth is that God created mankind in his image.
This is essential for understanding Jesus ministry. If we evolved from the apes, we have never been totally good and cannot be expected to be good. People who behave like animals are just being true to their nature. If we are evolving into a more advanced species, we do not need a saviour. We just need more of the right kind of evolution.
Animals cannot sin. Only people who are created good can fall into sin. If sin is not real, Jesus had no reason to die, and the cross was a terrible blunder. However, God does not make mistakes. Jesus died, because sin is real. Sin is real, because humans were created good, before falling into disobedience. Jesus came to restore things Back to the way they were before that fall, when all things were good as Genesis One describes.
Avoid Being Stranded
Christians seem to think that because they have revelation from God, they should know more about the origins of the universe than others. Their frustration with knowing so little is often solved by taking the latest scientific position and blending it in with God's revelation. The danger is that when science changes, Christians are left stranded with out dated ideas.
Medieval Astronomy illustrates this danger. The early Roman Catholic Church taught that the sun moves around earth. This doctrine did not come from the scriptures, but was imported from Aristotle, whose philosophies were considered to be the best description of the way the world operated. When Copernicus and Galileo demonstrated that the earth moves around the sun, the church had a problem. It had yoked its horse to a scientific bandwagon that was going the wrong direction. The church eventually had to back down and ditch its Aristolean dogmas. However, it would never have got into that embarrassing position, if it had not used a secular source to fill out God's revelation.
Many modern Christians are running the same risk, by trying to merge the modern scientific cosmology with God's revelation. The problem is that secular science uses an incomplete theoretical framework, so it will always get some things wrong. As these flaws emerge, the science must change. Christians who have linked to a particular view find themselves stranded, locked into a scientific view that has dropped out of fashion.
The fact that I am unwilling to commit to seven literal 24-hour days, does not mean that a have accepted the big bang or evolution. These theories have far more problems than seven-day creation. Christians who hitch their horse to these bandwagons will be left stranded as these flaws are exposed.
Something and Not Nothing
The big bang people have several big problems. The first is that the theory only takes us back so far. The big bang begins with all the energy in the universe concentrated at infinite density in a point of singularity. It cannot explain where all that energy came from or how it was concentrated in on point. It is actually a theory to describe change in the universe, not a theory of the origins of the universe.
The basic philosophical question that needs to be answered by every philosophy is the following.
Why there is something rather than nothing?
There are three possible answers to this question.
- Nothing exists
- The universe that exists now has always existed.
- The universe that exists now came into existence.
Although it is the most likely possibility, the first answer is clearly wrong, because I exist and the universe I live in exists. The second answer implies an eternal universe. This does not make sense. The big bank theory seems to require an external universe, but it cannot explain why the universe is eternal. The third possibility is the most plausible, but it needs a creator.
Genesis resolves this problem, because it begins with God Creator, who is eternal. An eternal God is more plausible than an eternal universe. God is the reason there is something and not nothing.
The First Day
On the first day, God created light and darkness, but light is just in a special form of energy. This suggests that God created all the energy in the universe on the first day. I don't how long he took to create this energy. Humans did not exist and human time had not begun, so God's action cannot be measured in terms of human concepts. The important thing is that he created all the energy in the universe in one unbroken action (a divine day). He did not need to pause for a break while he regathered his strength. He did not need to recharge his batteries for a second go at the job. He did not need to take a breather. The fact that God achieved this mighty task in one single action demonstrates his omnipotence. Only an infinitely powerful being could accomplish this alone during one divine day
Darkness is the absence of light. It cannot be created directly, but appears when light is withdrawn. (A room becomes dark when the light is turned off). This implies that light and energy were not spread evenly through space when God created them. He must have gathered the light together into clumps leaving some parts of space in darkness. Genesis does not explain how God did this. He may have spread light though space and then drawn it together to cause darkness to emerge. Or he may have created all the energy at one point of singularity and let it go, just for the fun of it, or so the angels could watch the fireworks (The microwave radiation that scientist have detected might be the remnant of this event).
We do not know how God created energy and light. We should just be glad that he did. The really important thing is that when he had finished, God said that it was good. I suppose in this context, good really means "Wow. that was fun!"
The second problem with the big bang is explaining how exploding energy expanded unevenly and formed into clumps of matter that would eventually become stars and planets. The accepted explanation is a disturbance at the beginning of the big bang, but this had to be exactly right to produce the universe that we live in.
The first chapter of Genesis avoids this problem, because God created space on the second day, his second burst of activity. We do not know how he did it, but many biblical passages speak of his stretching out the heavens.
It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts (Is 45:12).This suggests that God did stretch out the stars in an expansionary process, like the one that astronomers have observed.
He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding (Jer 51:15).
God stretched out the heavens in divine day. We do not know what that means in terms of human time. Scientists say that the big bang occurred many millions of year ago. However, they are not really talking about time, but the immensity of the change that has occurred since. They are saying that if things changed at the same rate as they are changing now, the universe would have taken millions of years to change from a compressed point of singularity into it its current state. The emphasis is on the immensity of the change.
However, God is not limited by the way that change is currently occurring. He could have spread out the heavens instantly, if he wanted. On the other hand, he may have started with a few stars and planets and then gradually added more and more, like a juggler throwing up additional balls. The important thing is that he created space and all it contains in a single action. What a God! God saw that it was good. I think he was saying, "Wow, that looks amazing!"
God is Absolute
The only constant in modern cosmology is the speed of light. I find this slightly odd. The truth is that God is the only unchanging absolute in this universe. Therefore, there is no reason why we should assume that the speed of light is absolute. Some scientists are beginning to explore the possibility that the speed of light is slowing over time. I am not sure where that will lead, but I know that any cosmology that assumes the speed of light and absolute is constant is flawed.
Missing Matter does Matter
The fourth serious problem with the big bang cosmology is that the universe is too empty. Given the estimated size of the universe, there are not sufficient physical objects in the universe to explain the observed gravitational forces. This problem was solved with a theory that up to 90% of the matter in the universe is dark matter with huge mass that does not emit light. However, dark matter has never been observed.
There are two reasons for this problem. First, there is the problem of observation. Astronomers looking out into space observe electromagnetic radiation covering the entire spectrum, from light to gamma waves. However, this data is absolutely meaningless without a theoretical framework through which to interpret what is observed. If the theoretical framework is wrong, the conclusions made from any observations are like to be flawed.
Any theoretical framework must deal with the fact that humans can only observe space from a single point in space. That makes distant objects difficult to measure. For example, it is difficult to guess the height of a mountain, if you do not know how far away it is. Likewise, it is difficult to assess the speed of a distant plane, if you do not know how large it is. We resolve these problems by observing from two points, but this is not really possible when observing space. Scientists use a theoretical framework to decide on the size, distance and speed of objects, based on their intensity, but if this framework is flawed, their view of the universe will be distorted. The danger is that observers will reach conclusions that were buried in their theoretical assumptions. The fact the cosmological framework requires the existence of dark matter suggests that it is flawed. The universe might be much smaller than they think.
The second issue is that that modern scientists use a theoretical framework that leaves out God and ignores the spiritual dimension to life. This is a serious weakness. The spiritual dimension of life is intertwined with the physical universe, so it will have an impact on what is physically observed. The spiritual forces at work in this universe are good and evil. The dark matter that it shaping the universe may actually be the presence of evil spiritual forces, either operating freely or shut up by God (in an abyss).
Plausibility is not Proof
The theory of evolution has a couple of serious philosophical problems too. The first is that plausibility is not the same as proof. Evolutionary changes cannot be repeated in a laboratory, so they cannot be proved using the scientific method. This means that evolutionary explanations for life are never proved. Therefore, all that scientists seek is plausible explanations. Nothing more is expected.
When a new phenomenon is discovered, someone come up with an evolutionary reason why the phenomena might have occurred. A plausible explanation is all that is required to settle a matter. For example, if a bird has bright feathers on it head, someone will suggest that these evolved to attract mates. Provided the explanation is plausible, it is accepted. No one bothers trying to prove that this was the actual reason, because such proofs are impossible, because the processes that happen randomly over thousands of years cannot be repeated in a laboratory.
Plausibility on its own is a very low standard of proof. The fact that something is plausible does not mean that it actually happened. Many plausible events have never happened, so plausibility is not the same as proof. Evolutionary science has settled for plausibility as a standard, because it cannot work with anything stronger, but this means that evolution can never be more than a theory.
Proves to Much
A major benefit claimed for the evolutionary theory is its explanatory power. However this is also a philosophical illusion. The problem with the theory of evolution is that it can explain anything. If a bird has dull plumage, it is for camouflage against predators. If the bird has bright plumage, it for attracting mates. It does not matter what type of plumage a bird may have, evolution can explain it. If a bird was discovered with wings make of iron, an evolutionary explanation would quickly emerge.
A theory that can explain anything might be useful, if you have rejected God and need a theory to explain life on earth. A theory that can explain anything is useful because, it can never be proved wrong. A theory that proves too much is dangerous, if you are seeking the truth.
Atheists have to believe in evolution because they are unwilling to accept the alternative. They have not choice. Christians have an alternative, so they are not compelled to believe in evolution.
The theory of evolution is a theory of change and not a theory of origins. It explains how one thing changes into another. It purports to explain why a horse changed into a giraffe, but it cannot explain how life came out of nothing. Genesis One explains the origin of life. This is the important question, far more important than understanding why change may occur.
These are just a few of the flaws that exist with modern theories about life and the universe. I am not going to ditch Genesis One for the sake of unproven theories with known flaws. I know that God exists. I know that he created the universe. I also know that, if scientists study the universe within a theoretical framework that does not deny him or the spiritual dimension, they will eventually arrive at a cosmology and theory of origins that is consistent with Genesis One. If they continue with a biased theoretical framework, their flaws will eventually be exposed, how previous experience shows that this can take up a long time. Scientists will often prop up there favourite theory for a long time, before it finally collapses. I am quite happy to wait for that to happen. Until that happens, I am not prepared to sacrifice God's revelation for the sake of improvable theories. On the other hand, I do not feel the need to defend any Christian view of creation that goes beyond the Genesis One. I am quite happy knowing what I do not know.