I still remember taking Biology for the first time in High School. I didn't get the teacher I wanted at the time. I had wanted to get Mr Brown who was my Cross Country coach and also my Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader as well. Instead I got Mr. Taylor, the Track and Golf coach. We all referred to him as Mr. Darwin outside of class among ourselves because every part of his subject always somehow got pulled back into the subject of Evolution. It was a difficult year for me and I had to spend extra time reading other articles on the subject in order to debate him on the subject and hold onto my faith that the earth was really only about 10,000 years old and Genesis was correct.
For the most part, I held on to my faith through all of my high school years. It wasn't really until I went to college and began to study Astronomy and other subjects that I began to wonder. Is Genesis right? I didn't really know any more. They were so different and so far apart, how can you make sense of it. I was told that either Genesis is correct or Darwin is correct? It often haunted me. I would later watch shows on TV showing the immensity of space. Galaxies billions of light-years apart spread out through the universe and I am in one small planet among an uncountable number. My smallness became even smaller and I struggled with how God could know me... ME... intimately.
When these shows would come on I would shrink away from them and find other things to watch. It scared me. It seemed like a dagger in the Bible as well for if Genesis is wrong, then what else is wrong? I knew I had to come to a conclusion, but which one? Being well educated in math and science it almost seemed like I was doomed to make the wrong one. But I knew God was big enough to answer my questions and he even challenges us too. He says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your MIND". He doesn't need for me to go get a lobotomy to be his disciple. I also knew that some of the greatest thinkers and scientists in the world were Christians too. Sir Isaac Newton (father of physics and calculus) was a very devout Christian. CS Lewis, professor of Philosophy and Ancient Literature at Cambridge was at first an atheist and then later one of the most prolific writers of Christianity in the 20th century. But even with this great company I needed more. I needed to see it for myself. I needed to be like Thomas and challenge the Lord on this and I knew he would answer me.
It was during this time God put in my heart to lead an adult bible study at my church on the subject. It forced me to put it down on paper and think it all through and as I did it became clearer and clearer to me. The issue is not if Genesis is right OR Science was right, but instead that they BOTH were right. This is not to say I think we evolved from apes. No. That part I do not accept and much in science today has yet to confirm that idea yet. But of the things we are pretty certain on I think there is a lot of agreement.
So let us begin...
In the beginning....
First to start, we must see how we received the book of Genesis. It didn't come straight to us in the 21st century. This is the fundamental mistake many who read the Bible fail to acknowledge. While,yes the Bible is the inspired word of God and God speaks to us through is word, it is given through the people of their time and in their language. Genesis was written by Moses, but maybe even earlier to Abraham and passed down through his people. Abraham lived around 4000 years ago in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in the city of Ur (one of the first civilizations). His language was not like ours today. Today we have about 20,000 words in our dictionaries to choose from, whereas Abraham may have had as little as 1000 words. His knowledge of the world was also limited. While he did move from Ur to where Israel is today, he knew little of how big the world was let alone how big the Universe was. To Abraham the world may have only been a few 100 miles across and the stars were with in reach (or least the people of Babel thought they were). Finally, we do not know Abraham's math skills. Counting was of some importance but numbers above 10 might not be needed much. To illustrate this, see how God communicates to Abraham how many descendants he will have. He uses a picture-board of sorts with Abraham and says they will be more numerous than the "stars in the heavens" rather than giving him a large number.
In short, Abraham had the language and world-view of a 5 year-old compared to us today. We often forget those important facts and we often pull these people from the pages and make them fit our modern world or impose on them our language and world-view. Neither of these are right when we read the Bible and often we do. Would you berate a 5 year-old for not knowing calculus or Newton's 1st law of motion? Of course not! Neither should we expect that of Abraham, Moses, David or many other OT people. They are who they are and we do not need to apologize for their attitudes or traditions that may seem foreign to us. In fact, Genesis chapter 1 has only 784 total words and only 218 UNIQUE words in it and may be why it reads so simply.
Note: this is not to at all say Abraham is primitive in his thinking at all. For example, Abraham knows that there are limits on what a humans body is capable. He knows that advanced age makes it impossible to bear children. He also is willing to sacrifice himself to save his nephew and goes to war to free him. He also bargains with God on Sodom and Gomorrah and reasons with God on how wrong it would be to destroy the righteous with the evil. All I am saying here is that knowledge of space and science to his people of that time is limited compared to us.
To illustrate this in modern terms, consider a child's interest in the baby-making process. So how do you tell a 5 year-old how they got here? When it comes to children who are curious about how their baby brother/sister arrived here we must tell them the TRUTH in a way that they can understand it and in their own language. You can't use big words like, gestation, or sexual intercourse with them. You can't talk about DNA or Fetus or Embryos. They just are not ready for that yet. You don't want to lie to them as this will later destroy your credibility with them on future subjects. A simple way you may want to address this is by saying to them:
"A special love that only a Mother and Father can have was blessed by God and put you inside your mother's belly!"Did you lie to your child? Absolutely not! You answered his question in an honest and loving way that does not diminish your authority as a parent on future questions and you conveyed some very important principles such as love and the miracle of birth to him. It's an answer that is both understandable and ,at the heart, truthful.
So also God must convey this important TRUTH to Abraham as well. He must convey to him the following:
- God is in control of earths events (nothing happens without his permission)
- God is very powerful
- God is a God of order
- God loves him.
This is exactly what God does in Genesis.
When you compare the story in Genesis to what science today tells us, they are really not very far apart at all. In fact, in some ways Genesis was right FIRST and science later caught up with it.
Story of Creation as told be God:
- There is a beginning of time.
- Earth is void ... empty... null
- First act of creation ...LIGHT ... followed closely by DARKNESS.
- Earth is created and all the land is on one place
- Plant life is created
- Fish and Birds are created
- Land animals are created
- Man is created
Story of Creation as told by Science
- There is only the singularity and nothing else... emptiness
- There is a beginning of time (the singularity expands suddenly and unexplainably)
- The universe cools and the first atomic particles created are electrons. Because electrons do not want to be near other electrons they push strongly against each other and expand rapidly creating the first visible event in the universe. That event is the creation of Electromagnetic energy (light). The brightest even our universe ever saw. Later as the expanding universe cools protons and neutrons are created and combine to form the first atom: Hydrogen.
- Eventually earth is created. According to plate tectonics all the earth plates started in one place creating a huge singe Super-Continent called: Pangaea.
- First life form created is plant life as RNA is simpler to assemble than DNA. Most likely mold or fungus.
- Life is thought to first start in the oceans with small single-cell life and then advance onto higher forms
- Sea life eventually evolves and moves onto land slowly as fish searching for more food or to get away from predators find ways to adapt and stay out of the water for longer periods of time.
- Man eventually come
Why DAYS and not BILLIONS OF YEARS
But why would God say it was 6 days when it was really longer though? Isn't that another argument against the Bible? Actually it isn't at all. Remember, Abraham has limited math knowledge. He may only be able to count to 10 on his fingers. Larger numbers don't come into play in his life, so God can't use numbers that have no meaning to him.
Another reason God uses a shortened time frame is that God can use this to illustrate to Abraham his immense power. This idea came to me when I was at work. I had just finished developing a new tool and an amazed co-worker asked we how long it took to create it. I answered "Oh I did it over the weekend", when in fact I had started it earlier the previous week. I said "weekend" to make myself look better in his eyes (yes I have an ego just like you!). But God doesn't do this to puff up his ego. He has a legitimate reason for doing this: To show how powerful he is.
In science we say
POWER = FORCE * DISTANCE / TIME.
If I move a 200 lb weight 10 ft in 10 seconds. I used 200*10/10 = 200 ft-lb/sec of power
If I move a 200 lb weight 10 ft in 2 seconds I used 200*10/2 = 1000 ft-lb/sec of power
It took 5 times more power to do it in 2 seconds than when it was done in 10 seconds.
God can use this to his advantage when talking Creation to Abraham. While Abraham has absolutely no clue as to how BIG the Universe really is (he may think the world is only a few hundred miles across), or how COMPLEX it is at the atomic scale. He does see how big and varied the world around him is (plants,animals, bugs, etc) and by God reducing the time-frame he plants the idea in Abraham's mind about how POWERFUL God is and what he is capable of doing. Abraham can compare what he is able to do in 6 days with what God is capable of doing in 6 days and be totally amazed and left in awe. Yes, later we will discover with telescopes how big the Universe is and we will smash particles together in giant machines and see how complex atoms are and the mathematics of how it all works will blow our minds. But for now, Abraham is the one God is talking to and he conveys his message to him in a way that Abraham can be amazed. Note, It is completely possible that God can create the entire Universe in 6 days if he wants, either way we are awe-struck and the how powerful God is whether he is creating a small simple world in 6-days or a vast complex universe billions of light-years across.
Genesis discovers the "singularity"
Language is so vital in communication. How do you describe something when you don't have the words (or knowledge) to back them up? How does God communicate an incredibly dense, hot point of complete energy like the singularity? This entity is so mysterious even scientists find it hard to describe it and why it would even suddenly expand is even more miraculous. I remember being in 3rd grade and pondering the words in Genesis of how God says, "the earth was empty and void" but then a verse later says "the Spirit of the Lord hovered above the waters of the deep". Wait! How can water be present and the earth be empty? I now see that the "waters of the deep" as God's description of the singularity. Is earth in the singularity? Yes it is! I am in there. You are there. God calls out of this nothingness our very existence and that first visible event of light itself! To the early man, such as Abraham, nothing was more mysterious than the depths of the sea and ocean. Vast, endless and depths beyond comprehension, might be the only vehicle God has to explain this incredibly complex concept. God often meets us where we are at and uses language and ideas we are familiar with. Other examples of this in the Bible are when Jesus uses multiple parables to try to articulate the Kingdom of God to us mortals. He uses, sheep (shepherds would get it), lost coins (woman of his day would get it), pearl of great price (merchants), and hidden treasure in a field (land owners).
Another fact here often overlooked is just how amazing it is that a man with no education, limited language, no knowledge of science was able to write down a high-level overview of our universes creation and be 100% correct. How can that be? For the Christian, we see that it is God's inspired word and is just more evidence that we can trust him.
Now of course, some skeptics will say that there are other early creation stories out there. The Egyptians had theirs and so did the Mesopotamian people but none has come as close to what science has determined as the book of Genesis. All other stories first try to explain God's creation. Take for example Egyptian myth which has "Ra" ,the sun god, calling himself out of the Nile "because I knew my own name!". He then creates other gods by masturbating and his sperm creates new gods when it hits the ground. Only the Jewish faith starts with God already there and calling our existence out. Another big difference too is that in all other myths, man is often created by accident and is held down by god. In Genesis, man is not an accident, but the crowning jewel of God's creation. He is special and ....LOVED.
Does this mean that Science has it all figured out?
My answer to that question is NO. So often science was wrong and the Bible was right for many years. Take for example, that for most of sciences existence, scientists believed in a "static universe" view in which the universe has always been here and it's the same as it always has been. Even Albert Einstein held this view. Then along came Hubble who showed us that the universe is expanding and therefore at one time it was all compressed into a small point called the singularity. The Bible already pointed out this to us in it's first few words, "In the beginning..." and God's first creation of light. Science had to re-write their books on the Universe and how it got here whereas the Bible did not.
A second reason I don't accept everything from Science is that they often over simplify things in order to fit their time-table. For life to get where it is today, you need 2 things:
- A long series of small (minute) steps caused by mistakes in the DNA
- A long period of time measured in the billions of years to play out
For issue #1, the problem is that Life is not a simple process. As we study the cell more and more we find more and more complexity (something Darwin never could have imagined). We find molecules inside the cell that act like small motors or robots carrying nutrients and waste to and from the cell membrane. We see small entities in the cell called mitochondria processing energy for the cell to do its work. So as we look closer and closer we see that the number of steps needed grows exponentially and the path becomes longer and longer. Like a person on a long journey who thinks the end is just over the next mountain range, only to find multiple mountain ranges after it looming far into the distance.
This greatly impacts reason #2, because as you need MORE time to complete the journey your find that you are being given less time to do it. You have to remember that for Life to exist on earth the clock doesn't really start ticking until earth creates a stable environment for Life to begin. Just because rocks show the earth to be 5 billion years old does not mean that life can start developing on earth 5 billion years ago. Other factors must come into being and in a certain order:
- Earth in a stable orbit with a stable rotation
- Idea of moon coming from an impact of a Mars-size planet disrupts this process
- This is needed to stop the Sun's strong solar-wind from removing the earth's fragile and growing atmoshere
So yes, science hasn't and won't figure everything out. I think God has left his finger prints all over his creation for us to marvel and say "How in the world did this ever come about?". As we delve deeper into cellular biology and the complexity of life we are shown that life is too complex to just start on its own. We see a great design must have an even greater designer behind it.
What about other Christian scientific views such as Apparent-Age skeptics ? Do they explain things as well?
I have at one time or another been in some of their camps along the way. For example, I used to think it was possible that the earth only LOOKED old because when God made the rocks he could make them look old (what they call "apparent age"). But I never really liked this answer. It would mean that God deceives the scientists into thinking the earth is 5 billion years old. But I know God does NOT deceive. It's like a person who takes an piece of furniture and puts varnish on it and dents it to make it "look old" (called antiquing) which is fine as long as you don't sell the furniture as being really old. For that reason I could not hold the Apparent-Age view anymore.
So Why does God do it this way? Why does he create our world and us using natural processes?
I think the answer here is simple: he wants us to come to him in FAITH... not FACT. Imagine if God did make the world in 6 days and the earth was only 10,000 years old. Every rock we tested would show a 10,000 year old earth. There would be NO dinosaurs. Our universe would be only 10,000 light-years across (about 1/10 the size of the Milky Way). Everything would line up. There would not be enough time for evolution to occur. There would be no scientific explanation for our being here and so the ONLY answer would be what God says in Genesis. But that would mean I would be compelled by facts to believe in God and not faith. I would even go to say that faith wouldn't be needed at all and we would have no choice to believe or not believe in God.
But God doesn't want fact-based-zombies worshiping him. He wants believers who will worship him in "Spirit and in Truth". He has reasons for doing things the way he does them. The problem is that we too often don't spend the time with him to ask him "why?". We don't delve into his purpose and his plan to see that he really does have one. God knew from the beginning that we would develop amazing radio-telescopes and see how huge this world is.
He knew we would discover how cells divide and grow. He knew we would discover how cells carry with them the information to create a whole new being inside of them. He knew we could create electron-microscopes and would discover the DNA structure and how it carries life-data from eons ago inside it.
God knew we would dig into the earth and find fossils of long extinct creatures. God knew we would discover radioactive isotopes that would enable us to test the age of rocks and minerals and see how old the earth really is.
All of these discoveries would only bring MORE glory to him as it would show how even greater and powerful he is if we only have faith that he is there. But like the idol worshipers of ancient times, we worship what is created (science,math,physics,biology,etc) rather than the creator. We glory in our "discoveries" rather than in the one who designed it in the first place. Like art-critics who painstakingly analyzes a great painting and studies every brush stroke and after writing their critique of the work turns around and glories more in his own critique rather than in the genius who created the painting in the first place.
But God knew this would happen too....
Does Science have all the Answers
Finally, science must come to realize that for all their research and all their analysis and formulation of laws, theories and ideas, it cannot determine the answer to the most important question of "WHY?". They can determine the HOW but never the WHY. Take for example, Einsteins highly complex General Relativity Field Equation (note the equation below is "short-hand notation" and the actual equations are extremely complicated):
Einstein might formulate the Law of General Relativity, but why the universe has that law in the first place cannot be determined. Could the universe possible run on a completely different set up equations? Sure. So why does ours use this equation? Another issue is the constants used in these equations, such as 'c' which is the speed of light ( 3.00×108 m/s), or G which is the Gravitational constant (6.67408 × 10-11) can take on all kinds of values. Our Universe happens to use these values but nothing says it has to be that way. Research has shown that changing the G value by a factor of 10 our universe would either implode during the Big Bang or fly apart before stars or planets could form. So why does our Universe has the exact right settings for these constants? They might theorize that universes pop in and out of existence randomly each with different settings of constants, but they cannot determine why they do so or how those values get assigned. For these questions science has no plausible answers.
However, it is the WHY that God answers in the Bible when he says:
For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life!God knew from the very beginning Adam and Eve would sin and he would no longer be able to bless them with eternal life. He would have to fix the problem of their sin by sending himself... his own Son to come and die and pay for our sins. In fact God spends most of the Bible dealing with this issue rather than with Creation.
That alone should show to us just how much more important this is to him.