The Bible and Science
I Think There Was A Big Bang!
Beverly Howard Johnson
7303 Wood Hollow Drive,
Austin, Texas 78731
My eleven-year old daughter came to me recently and asked if God created everything, or if our family believed in evolution.
"Whether you have the small nautilus," I explained, "which has been unchanged for millions of years, or a horse which was small during prehistoric times and evolved into the horses of today, they are all part of God's creation process. I believe evolution is a method of creation that he set into motion."
"Oh," she said, seeming perfectly satisfied. But later a friend pointed out that a horse was, in the beginning, still a horse (micro-evolution - defined as minor changes below the species level). What about the theories, she asked, that we evolved from apes, or amoebas that slimed their way out of the ocean (macro-evolution - defined as large and complex changes as in a species evolution)?
Because of my study of astronomy and the Bible, I have come to believe that whether God created man from clay in an immediate act, or programmed an amoeba to crawl out of the sea, or a prehistoric man to stand erect at an appointed time and evolve into a man, it was still God's creation.
That brings us to the question of who first created and programmed living things to evolve. To paraphrase a line from Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" series, before we can make an apple pie, or theorize about evolution, the universe needs to be created. That poses the next potential problem, which usually puts scientists and creationists on opposite sides of the fence.
The Big Bang theory, supported by exciting scientific data gathered from NASA Satellite COBE, is consistent with creationism in that it hypothesizes the universe was created in a single cosmic explosion. "Explorer" detected the energy, or thermal radiation, left over from the moment of creation, which astronomers believe occurred approximately 20 billion years ago.
The account of creation according to Genesis 1:1, 2 states: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep..." Similarly, Carl Sagan's description of the Big Bang hypothesizes that "...for unknown ages after the explosive outpouring of matter and energy of the Big Bang, the Cosmos was without form. There were no galaxies, no planets, no life. Deep, impenetrable darkness was everywhere, hydrogen atoms in the void" (Sagan, Cosmos, p. 281). The congruence between the Genesis account and the scientific explanation is astounding. I believe that the beautiful verse, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..." was the description of the moment, or beginning, of the Big Bang.
With that primordial cosmic explosion, all the elements of our universe - all matter, as well as the physical and mathematical laws - were put into place. Imagine the highest superior intelligence in a dramatic command or commands casting forth his creation which contained the inherent ability to mold itself, forever stabilize itself, adapt and procreate, never straying from the disciplinary physical laws he gave to it. Of course, all matter in the universe continues to expand and move within those absolute physical laws.
In his "Cosmos" series, Carl Sagan charmingly stated, "We are all made of star stuff." What he was referring to is that every atom that ever existed, existed at the moment of the Big Bang, but in different forms. The atoms that formed these creatures of clay called man were there also (Genesis 3:19).
Albert Einstein believed that the universe and all life forms were not accidents. "God does not play dice," he often said. But with the study of quantum mechanics came the discovery of the uncertainty principle which describes the unpredictable behavior of particles: both their position and velocity cannot be exactly computed. Scientists have interpreted this to mean that random chance played a part in the formation or evolution of matter and living things. But it seems reasonable that this divine "catch-22," the uncertainty principle, was designed and programmed into matter by our Creator for a reason. It obviously works ó we and an immeasurable universe are the evidence.
The uncertainty principle did not shake Einstein's belief in his theory of relativity, or in his vision of an orderly universe. He regarded relativity as artistically beautiful and philosophically simple, in addition to being correct mathematically.
We cannot understand God without recognizing him not only as the original mathematician and scientist, but also as the first artist and philosopher, imparting beauty, harmony, and balance into his creation. To separate and discard some aspects of his personality would cause us to see only a partial picture of a whole concept. To leave beauty and design out of mathematics and physics, then, is as erroneous as it is to leave mathematics, proximity, and perspective out of art. Einstein knew this.
It was God's choice to create all matter the way he wanted to create it, in his own method, manner, and time. In our search for truth about his creation and evolution's role in it, we must ask ourselves if we are going to allow God to be God.
Theoretically, you cannot accept God as your Creator unless you accept him as the only Creator of all things (John 1: 1-3), which includes Neanderthals, dinosaurs, and evolutionary processes. If God is the only author of the entire universe, then he alone created and programmed the evolutionary capabilities within all species. From a philosophical perspective, it is difficult to imagine that God would not give his creation the ability to adapt itself to its environment. It would have been the gesture of a loving parent equipping his "child" for the cold winter to come.
But Christians do not get to know God as the author of all biological processes taking place in the universe by analyzing the total sum of scientific data. We have acquired only an infinitesimal amount of data; most is still to come and is for scientists to analyze. We know him as the sole author because, as Christians, we understand his character and nature as it is revealed through his Word. It is a matter of reason and faith that scientifically proven biological processes will never disprove the existence of their author. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).
Let's take a brief inventory here. So far we have invisible evidence of an invisible God credited with a creation that happened approximately 20 billion years ago. This is the kind of stuff that confounds the wise, but from a theological viewpoint it is the truth universal.
Though we will not agree with all scientific theories, the natural selection of micro-evolution is being taught in our schools and is still being studied and evaluated by scientists. Macro-evolution remains a theory. However, if these micro-evolutionary changes reveal God's methods of creation, they will actually allow us to witness creation in progress ó an exciting thought.
If scientific facts do not validate God's Word or support his role as Creator, it is because there has been a misinterpretation on the part of scientific evidence and theory, or a misinterpretation of God's Word. The two factors, scientific evidence and holy scripture, must harmonize together because they are evidence of the same creation by the same Creator. The key is to stop worrying that scientists will produce facts we do not want to hear. That would be an impossibility ó God would not have created a "house divided against itself." (Matthew 2:25) His universe and his holy Word will not contradict one another. It is mankind who is confused.
As we approach the turn of another century, the interpretation of scripture is probably still more challenging than the analysis of scientific data. The Bible is a history with some passages to be taken literally, some metaphorically, and some to remain veiled in mystery as to their meaning. For instance, a sheep herder who four thousand years ago lived in a tent and drew water from a well, might have had difficulty grasping the idea that it took billions of years for the solar system to form and the earth to become habitable. He had no frame of reference for such a concept. It was easier to say "let the waters under the heaven be gathered and let the dry land appear" (Genesis 1:9). This does not mean that God's Word is not accurate. It means only that the explanation given at the time was perhaps epochal, covering different time eras in accordance with the people's understanding.
Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of thy hands,
They will perish, but thou dost endure,
They will wear out like a garment.
Thou changest them like raiment,
and they pass away... Psalm 102:25,26
David wrote these words approximately three thousand years ago. Astronomers now know that all heavenly bodies, including our own sun, are born, live, and eventually die. Our sun has about five billion years left of its' main-sequence or active life cycle. It is estimated the earth will not be habitable 500 million years from now, during our sun's final stages, because it will eventually become a red giant, transforming even remote icy Pluto into a desert.
Scientists work diligently to prepare an orderly presentation of facts resulting from their systematic, organized observations. Their intentions are not to disprove God's existence but rather to form a hypothesis based upon the facts at hand. The Big Bang theory of creation, now accepted among scientists, is not necessarily in opposition to creationism. It has attempted to explain the origin of the universe from a scientific viewpoint, and for the first time in the history of man, has provided physical evidence for us to consider. This should be a time for celebration and for embracing further challenging study.
We cannot keep our children from the classrooms, or shield them from new scientific discoveries. (Nor should we!) Mankind will continue to seek for truth and to discover the mysteries of our universe, but the Holy Trinity will never be threatened by an earthly collection of scientists or scientific facts.
I believe any valid evolutionary process taking place in the universe, whether past or present, has been authored by God and is a planned part of his creation process. If we accept that he created all matter and all living things, then he likewise designed and created the inherent genetic ability within each species to evolve within the processes he planned.
The scientific facts of evolution and the Big Bang theory then do not oppose the idea of God's creative activity, but should give us further insight into his miracle of creation. We can, therefore, have confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is able to stand up to all of the scientific scrutiny of all men, for all time.
The heavens declare the glory of God... Psalm 19:1,2
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