In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, (Genesis 20:11)
But just HOW did God make the world?
There are basically three ideas around about how the world came to exist.
Most science today assumes that everything came into existence by natural processes and random chance
From the subtle unchallenged assumption of evolution in David Attenborough’s natural history films, to the explicit anti-theism of Richard Dawkins and Steve Jones, science and the media are united in rejecting the idea of a Creator. Possibly the greatest Science Fiction author Isaac Asimov made the same mistake as very many people – “I am an atheist, out and out. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he does not that I don’t want to waste my time.”
The large majority of scientists close their minds to the evidence for God’s existence – so in the end he can’t see what many others can! But Christians HAVE seen that evidence. We have experienced the power of God and seen him at work! Scientists should NOT ignore that evidence, but rethink their scientific assumptions until their science fits with the real world! It was Albert Einstein who said “Science without religion is blind. Religion without science is lame.”
“Posterity will some day laugh at the foolishness of our modern materialistic philosophy. The more I study nature the more I am amazed at the Creator.” – Louis Pasteur
Science will never prove decisively whether God created everything or not
As we said two weeks ago, knowing God as creator is a matter of faith not science.
Heb 11:3 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.
This verse says to me that science will never ever give conclusive proof about the process of creation or even the existence of God. We will always need faith to interpret the scientific evidence correctly.
“God is not discoverable or demonstrable by purely scientific means, unfortunately for the scientifically-minded. But that really proves nothing. It simply means that the wrong instruments are being used for the job.” J. B. Phillips (1906–1982)
Science develops theories based on observations about the universe. Almighty God is by definition greater than the universe and outside and beyond and before the universe. So we need faith to recognise what God has chosen to reveal of Himself within the universe.
We need a “change of mind” if we are ever going to see God.
Two people were walking along a river bank one day when they saw a man across the river. “How can we get across?” They shouted. “Why would you be wanting to do that then?” The man asked. “We want to get to the other side” they explained patiently. “Don’t be daft,” the man replied. “You’re already on the other side!” What we see depends on our point of view, on where we are standing to begin with.
Many people are so blinded by the way the media suggests that science has replaced God that they simply cannot see God. Some scientists are so locked into their way of looking at the world that they genuinely cannot see the evidence for God which is all around them. But for anyone who looks for it with the eye of faith, that evidence is plain to see. Scientists just need to switch their way of looking at the world – to move from a world which excludes God to a world which allows the possibility of God in it.
In contrast to scientists, Christians (and Jews and Muslims) and most people of faith believe that God created the whole universe.
ALL Christians believe that God created the universe. The Nicene Creed begins, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”
We believe that because, as we saw two weeks ago, from beginning to end the Bible teaches is that God is Creator. God created space and time, matter and energy, all things out of nothing, AND God designed and formed and shaped everything into the way we see things today.
ALL Christians agree that God is Creator. Where Christians have different opinions is over HOW God created the universe and particularly HOW LONG it all took.
“Young Earth” 7-Day Creationists
They read the first two chapters of Genesis entirely literally. So they believe that God made the universe from nothing in just six days of 24 hours each. From the ages of Adam and all his descendents they work out that the earth was created only some thousands of years BC and so the earth is now less than 10,000 years old. This is why they are described as “Young Earth” or 7-Day creationists and this view usually associated with a fundamentalist understanding of the Bible.
This view is sharply opposed to the view of scientists who think the universe is between 13 and 14 billion years old and the earth is 4.5 billion years years old and that human beings like us have been around for a couple of hundred thousand years. Scientific ideas such as evolution and the existence of dinosaurs in biology and continental drift in geology seem to contradict the idea of the entire creation taking only seven days.
“Old Earth” Creationists
Many other Christians don’t see the same problems with evolution or dinosaurs or continental drift. They still believe just as strongly that the God of the Bible is Creator of the whole universe. But they disagree that everything came to be just as it is now in the space of just 144 hours only 6000 years ago. They believe that God created what scientists call “natural processes” like evolution or continental drift, and worked through those processes to shape planet earth and all the life on it over billions of years. Old earth Creationists are happy to accept that the theories of science describe HOW God made the earth while the Bible explains WHO made the earth and WHY. This view is sometimes called theistic evolution or evolutionary creationism.
Young Earth Creationism is very popular with American Christians. On the other hand evangelical Christians in Britain more often believe in Old Earth evolutionary creationism. But which view is right?
The first thing I want to say is that we just don’t know. We won’t be sure until we get to heaven. I have good friends who hold either view. But then I want to say a few more things, not just as a scientist but also as a student of theology and Biblical interpretation. I want to explain why I am an “Old Earth creationist”.
The debate between 7 day “Young Earth Creationism” and “Old Earth Creationism” is a matter of Biblical Interpretation for Christians
The whole weight of Young Earth Creationism rests on interpreting that word Day in Genesis 1-2 as literal 24 hours.
But You don’t have to believe in a 7-day creation to believe in the infallibility of the Bible. “Young Earth Creationists” say that if you don’t believe in a 7-day creation then you don’t believe in the authority of the Bible! That is just rubbish! Old Earth creationists like me are as committed to the authority and reliability of the Bible as anybody else – we are actually disagreeing over the interpretation of just one word as it is used in just three passages of Scripture.
Events of creation were revealed, not observed. Until Day 6 there were no humans around so the Genesis account did not come from human observation. It was revealed in some way to the author of Genesis. All revelations have to be subject to interpretation, and in the Bible revelations are more often symbolic than literal.
There are different kinds of language in the Bible: some is symbolic or metaphorical
When we approach amy Bible passage we must try to work out what kind of language it is written in. Eternal and spiritual truths, things we can never fully understand or adequately describe, often can’t be expressed in literal language. So religious truth is usually expressed in words used symbolically or poetically, using similes and metaphors, sometimes bending language almost to breaking point. We make a big mistake if we try to understand literally language which was intended to be understood symbolically.
For example, think about when Jesus told his parables. Was the “Good Samaritan” a real living person? Did a genuine “Prodigal Son” ever leave his father? Were the parables history? Surely these were carefully constructed stories conveying powerful spiritual truth. The parables did not necessarily relate to historical events. We have to ask similar questions about the Creation Narratives in Genesis chapters 1-2. Are they intended to be “scientific truth” in 20th century terms? Is the language literal or is it instead symbolic or poetical language?
“Old Earth Creationists”, like me, are just as committed as anybody else to the reliability of the Bible as the Word of God. But we believe that Genesis is teaching religious and not scientific truth. Therefore we believe that the language of the Biblical account of creation is symbolic rather than necessarily literal. Genesis teaches WHO it was who created the earth (God) and WHY, but not scientifically HOW it all took place.
In the Bible the word “day” does not always refer to a 24-hour period. We read phrases such as “the Day of the Lord.” In particular Psalm 90 and 2 Peter 3 are significant.
2 Peter 3:8 (quoting Psa 90:4) But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
If the days in Genesis are from God’s perspective not a human point of view, many problems disappear!
Old Earth Creationists regard the “days” in Genesis as long periods of time. Other parts of the account are SURELY symbolic – God “said” (what language did God say it in?) God “breathed” into Adam’s nostrils. When we’re talking about what God “says” and “does” human language HAS to be symbolic. When it says “days” surely these are God’s days. It’s not necessarily right, and in my view mistaken to insist that the days in Genesis 1-2 have to be understood as literal 24 hour periods. (There were not even a sun or a moon until the third day!)
Notice how well the order of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 actually fits with scientific ideas of evolution, ideas which did not come alone till thousands of years after Genesis was written. So I have no problem with the idea of development or evolution. There could well have been were dinosaurs, living and dying out before humans were created in that long long period of the fifth “day”.
We talked last week about how God created human beings in his own image. We are all set apart from the animals because we embody the mental image, the creative image, the moral image, the social image and the spiritual image of God. Biologists and psychologists cannot explain these aspects of our humanity – evolution doesn’t explain it. The Bible tells us that God breathed the breath of life into human beings and Old Earth creationists understand this as a specific act of creation giving to particular animals those qualities of the image of God which make us distinctively human.
The Language of Science or History as we know them only existed from the 18th century onwards
It seems very unlikely that the writers were trying to produce a textbook of science and history because science and history as we know them have only been invented over the last few hundred years! Everything in Genesis 1-2 must have been revealed by God to those writers in ways that the people THEN could understand, not in the language of history and science which weren’t going to be invented for thousands of years. The Bible accounts need to be read in the context of the kinds of literature which were around when they were written, not as if they were written today just for us. Let me tell you a story.
Man walks into a doctor’s surgery.
Doctor, Doctor, I keep on singing “The Green Green Grass of Home all the time.”
Doctor says, “You’ve got Tom Jones syndrome.”
Man asks, “Is that common?”
Doctor replies, “It’s not unusual!” Boom Boom.
We know what kind of story that is by the formula, beginning, “Doctor, Doctor” and ending “Boom Boom”. It’s a joke.
The joke only works if we know certain key facts – Tom Jones is a famous singer and two of his greatest hits are “The Green Green Grass of Home” and “It’s not unusual.”
To “work” as a joke it is completely irrelevant whether an actual man ever did walk into a specific doctor’s surgery or not. It is a funny story. The “genre” of joke does not demand historical accuracy.
We wouldn’t find that story in the Bible because elements of it would be outside their time – anachronistic. In the same way, to find literalism, or scientific details or even historical language as we use it today in Genesis 1-2 talking about events before human beings were around, would be anachronistic. It is a misunderstanding of the genre of the language.
The problem which I have with Young Earth Creationists is that they are fighting the wrong war on the wrong battleground! The challenge is NOT to prove to the scientific world that the earth came into being in 6 days less than 10,0000 years ago. That is not a question of science but a question of Biblical interpretation and systematic theology.
Focus on proving a 7-day creation distracts people from the more important task of pointing to God as Creator
Almighty God is Creator of Heaven and Earth! Whether the earth was created in seven 24 hour days is an issue of Biblical interpretation, not science. The debate between science and seven day “Young Earth Creationism” is a red herring from the vital Christian message we have to proclaim about God as Creator. The idea of creation in 7 days is a major barrier to for some, especially for some scientists. Public arguments over Young Earth Creationism is likely to drive people away from God, not bring them to God. That certainly happened to some of my friends who today are eminent scientists.
So HOW did God create the world. In literally seven days as Young Earth creationists believe? Or through natural processes which geology and evolutionary biology describe as Old Earth creationists believe? What the Bible DEFINITELY teaches is that Almighty God is the Creator of Heaven and Earth. With the eye of faith, we can see the Hand of the Designer, the eternal architect, in all He has made. And science which studies the wonders of creation will never ever be able to prove or disprove the existence of the Creator who is beyond and above His creation.
Revelation 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”