Reconciling scientific order of events with Genesis


#1

Hello! I am a freshman in college about to study biochemistry. Actually, I move in the day after tomorrow and I have some questions before I jump from my Christian-homeschooled life into one of science and wonder.

I understand science says that after the Big Bang, matter started to form in wonderful and mysterious ways. This matter accumulated under its own gravity to start the fusion reactions now seen in stars everywhere. This fusion reaction created the different kinds of elements we see today in the planets. This is beautiful and makes perfect sense to me that God would use the stars as a sort of furnace of creation.

However, the order of events in Genesis is considerably different and I’m having trouble figuring it out. Genesis has the creation of the earth well before the creation of stars. How can this be if the stars themselves made the rock the earth is made of?

I’m okay with interpreting Genesis as an allegory, but the different order of cosmic events is something I can’t quite reconcile just yet. Can someone explain this?

Thanks.


(Mohammad Nur Syamsu) #2

The obvious, not all rocks are made from the stars.

Or, the earth was first only created as a potential, and then this potential earth guided the rock formation by stars towards realizing this potential.

But actually “poof” creation of the earth, that things appear at once fully formed, should also be considered. There is an overriding law of the universe which says that the totality of the universe can only be zero. For example, an action has an equal and opposite reaction, giving a totality of zero. Meaning you can have something, an action and a reaction, while the totality of it is still nothing. Creatio ex nihilo, and, ex nihilo nihil fit. Creation from nothing and from nothing comes nothing.

What that means is for the start of the universe any configuration is equally likely because any configuration equals 0. After a first decision is made, then possibilities around what has already been chosen become more likely. Or so to say, when you decide to go to Aruba, then after you arrive in Aruba, you can then decide to go to the beach there.

So for the start of the universe, the first decisions, poof creation(s) is a possiblity, and after that it would be more “incremental”, although poof creation can then still not be excluded.


(Christy Hemphill) #3

Thanks for visiting the BioLogos forum, Catie. What an exciting time of life, with all the new experiences and learning ahead of you! Don’t feel like you have to figure out all the answers right away. There is plenty of time to check out new ideas and think things over and wrap your mind around the variety of opinions and perspectives held by Christians that may be different than what you were taught growing up.

First, you might want to do some reading up on the idea of “concordism.” This is basically the attempt to reconcile all conflicts between the description of creation in Genesis and science. People who have concordist views think that nothing in Scripture contradicts science and vice versa, and they try to come up with creative ways to understand Genesis or science so that the two fit together.

The authors on BioLogos generally reject a concordist approach to Scripture in favor of reading Genesis 1-2 as an example of Ancient Near East literature. It is part of a genre that had different goals (it wasn’t to explain how the world was created, but why) and catered to different audience expectations than we sometimes assume from our current culture and perspective.

Below are some links to articles that address some of the relevant issues. Feel free to come back to the forum and ask questions or bring up things that concern you. (We need more women around here. :princess:) You will probably get feedback from a variety of perspectives, since the people who visit this forum represent all different views and faith backgrounds.

This is an excerpt from the Haarsma’s book Origins, which is an excellent resource for those beginning to examine various Christian perspectives and how they differ. This post offers an overview of concordist and non-concordist interpretations of Genesis and a critique of the concordist approach.

http://biologos.org/blog/comparing-interpretations-of-genesis-1

This series by Ted Davis gives a historical overview of concordism and might interest you if you want to know how the church has approached this issue throughout history:


http://biologos.org/blog/science-and-the-bible-concordism-part-two
http://biologos.org/blog/science-and-the-bible-concordism-part-three

Again, welcome!


(Dcscccc) #4

hi catie. i think you may interest in this article:

http://creation.com/is-there-a-universal-way-christians-should-interpret-the-bible

have a nice day


(Chris Falter) #5

Hi Catie,

Congratulations on this new phase in your education, ministry, and life! I began my undergraduate years at Princeton with a Young Earth Creationist perspective, and because I did not really study any science, I didn’t struggle much during those 4 years with the questions you are confronting in a more direct way.

I think you should read our friend dcscccc’s recommendation very carefully, and ask some probing questions. For example, does this “one hermeneutic fits all passages” really work in practice? Does it apply to 2 Corinthians 13:12?

Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Hmm…do you see evangelical pastors applying a “plain meaning of the Scripture” hermeneutic to 2 Corinthians 13:12? Are they kissing their congregants? If not, why not? Are they just ignoring the command?

More likely, I think, is that they are paying attention to the cultural and literary context of the original Pauline passage in order to understand the intention behind the passage (i.e., what role did the passage play in the life of the audience?). Then they do their best to translate that intention into the contemporary American cultural context–which they accomplish with a handshake or a hug.

Calvin Smith worries that a hermeneutical approach that looks deeper than the “plain meaning,” and incorporates science into an understanding of the cultural and literary context of a passage (like Genesis 1-3), will result in a slide down the slippery slope to “anything goes.” Well, Brother Smith, start applying your universal “plain meaning” hermeneutic to 2 Corinthians 13:12, and pucker up!

More seriously, we often suffer from our poor grasp of history when we approach the subject of science and Scripture. Eminent theologians and teachers of the church like Luther, Calvin, and Philip Melanchthon were adamant that the “plain meaning” of passages like Joshua 10:12 and Psalm 104:5 proved that the sun, and indeed all the heavens, revolved around the earth. But today we treat those passages as allegories or poetry. How did our understanding of the cultural and literary context of these passages change? The historical record shows that science, as propounded by Galileo and Newton (among others), helped the church understand that Luther, Calvin, and other eminent theologians had misunderstood the cultural context and therefore the intention of those passages.

Smith laments any use of science to understand the Scriptures, saying that it results in twisting the Scriptures:

‘Science’ has shown the plain reading of the Bible is wrong, so ignore it and modify what scripture means in order to make it ‘get in line’ with what ‘science’ shows.

Surely it is possible to use science this way. But as the example of Joshua 10:12 and Psalm 104:5 shows, it is also possible to use science not to modify what Scripture means, but rather to better understand what Scripture means.

That is how we should use science. And it is how the good folks here at BioLogos are using science.

A final note on science and miracles: Smith worries that using science to understand Scripture inevitably results in the rejection of miracles. This is not so:

  1. Even though the original audience of the Scriptures did not have an advanced understanding of science, they did understand that miracles violated the laws of nature as they understood them in their day. And yet they had experienced the miracles, so they believed them anyway. We can do the same.

  2. It is a misunderstanding of the scientific method to insist that it rules out supernatural intervention. Science is based on methodological naturalism, which essentially rules out supernatural explanations as a way of understanding the laws of nature. However, stating that the Creator of the universe cannot intervene miraculously (i.e., cannot override the laws of nature) is a philosophical commitment (often referred to as philosophical naturalism) that goes far beyond the boundaries of the scientific method.

When Smith rejects using “science” to understand Scripture, he is correctly rejecting a philosophical naturalism that parades under the banner of science. But that philosophy is not really science. If we understand both the value and the limitations of the scientific method, we can use its insights to help us better discern the cultural context and literary genre of passages like Joshua 10:12, Psalm 104:5, and Genesis 1 - 3, and therefore obtain a better grasp of their intention and power. And that is a good thing.

I have blogged about how science has helped sharpen my understanding of Scripture and my faith toward the end of this post, if you are interested in understanding how I arrived at the place where I now stand. If you are interested in exploring the subject of science and miracles, I highly recommend the works of theoretical physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne. To keep this comment as brief as possible, I refer you to this review of The Polkinghorne Reader for further details.

I hope you have found these thoughts helpful, Catie. May the Lord lead you on in His victory, and bless you with growth in wisdom and truth as you pursue your studies!


(Chris Falter) #6

Hello again, Catie. It just occurred to me that Biologos has published a wonderful video, “Genesis Through Ancient Eyes,” by OT scholar and Wheaton College professor John Walton. He carefully examines the cultural milieu and literary forms of Genesis 1 - 3 to help us understand how to read it with integrity and discern its message. And as a bonus, you get to see Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, conduct several short interviews with Walton! Vischer adds a lot of life and zest to the production, and he’s a really sharp guy, too. It is the best 2 hours you’ll ever spend learning about Genesis.


(Jana) #7

I loved what was said on the first link (comparing interpretations of Genesis) and it makes so much sense! The Bible explains the “who” and “why” and evolution can explain the "how’.


#8

Chris, I doubt Smith rejects using science to understand scripture. What he rejects is using science to change scripture. A big difference. Smith et al often use science to demonstrate the shortcomings of evolution; they are not anti science.

In the theories about formation of the universe, the process, timing, etc., there are many unanswered questions. There are many correlations which are incorrectly used to demonstrate cause and effect, and therefore there are various theories about specifics. While the question of stars, sun and moon and their creations relative to the earth is a valid one, we do not need to suppose that the chronology cannot be reconciled. The fact that light was created on the first day, and that we cannot imagine light on earth without the sun, shows the possibility that there was definately a light source that preceded the sun, and that if the sun was created from that light source (as animals were made from the ground), this does not preclude the earth existing prior to its orbit around the sun, and being orbited by the moon.

Smith believes that creation was mostly a miracle. A miracle can only be understood as something outside of the natural order; that is the definition and that is why science can help to understand miracles under that definition. In other words, if the event can be explained scientifically, then it is not so much a miracle. If there was no such thing as science, then the significance of miracles would be lost.

On the other hand, God can use both miracles and natural events to bring his will and his blessings.


(Chris Falter) #9

Thanks for the reply, @johnZ. Hope you’re having a good day; here in SC we finally got some sunshine. I have an old car that is now part of the Ashley River. :smile:

Practicing astronomers who are publishing research (and I know a couple) state unequivocally that we are currently detecting electromagnetic radiation that was generated 13.8 billion years ago. It’s called the cosmic microwave background radiation. Therefore anyone who is serious about using science to understand Scripture will not support an interpretation of Genesis that concludes the universe is less than 10,000 years old.

Practicing biologists and paleontologists who are publishing research state unequivocally that descent with modification explains how we got from single-cell anaerobic bacteria 3.8 billion years ago to today’s wonderful and varied life forms. Therefore anyone who is serious about using science to understand Scripture will not support an interpretation of Genesis that rejects modern biology and paleontology.

I agree with you that there are shortcomings in science. Contrary to what some proponents say, it doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist, or that the universe wasn’t created by His utterance, or that He didn’t providentially oversee the emergence of life over billions of years to what we observe today. The Scripture clearly teaches these truths, right from Genesis 1:1 all the way to Revelation 22:21 and everywhere in between. You are right, John: when people misuse science by overstepping its boundaries, we can and should point out the error of their claims, and affirm the truths of Scripture.


#10

Dear Chris, your comments about the strong explanatory power of the Big Bang are very interesting. But I wonder if something more could have been said in order to better understand the current state of the Big Bang.

There are at least three fundamental unsolved issues that are necessary to note when we deal with the Big Bang.

  1. The real age of the universe may be 10 times the age calculated by the standard Big Bang. This possible contradiction was established after the finding of three huge super mega walls of galaxies that are of such enormous dimensions that their single formation would have required ten times the current assumed age of our universe. Today astrophysicists work terribly in order to give mathematic coherence to the age of the universe. Think, Chris, that all the physics developed to establish the 13.8 billion age of the universe would need to be either reviewed or discarded as a result of this finding. Here’s a website that explain this finding in more detail.
    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2010/06/great-walls-of-the-universe-do-they-undermine-the-big-bang-theory.html
  2. The cold dark matter is a hypothesis required by the Big Bang. It states that the current amount of matter existing in the universe would not be enough to produce the gravity capable to generate the collapse of gases to form all the matter known in the universe. So it is said that at least 80/100 of the matter in the universe is cold and dark. We don’t see it but it somehow exists. Think of it: if 80 percent of the matter were cold and dark, all of our nights would be kind of Christmas nights with the lights of the stars permamently being interrupted by this cold dark matter. No such cold dark matter has been detected.
  3. The expansion of the universe as a concept was challenged by a group of astronomers from the University of Arizona, chaired by William Tifft. This astronomer made a study of the red shifts in the extremes of the universe and found anomalous readings that indicated him that the universe may not be expanding after all.

The conclusions about the young or old age of the universe can be very elusive when there’s too much contradictory data about the current age of the universe.


#11

Yes Chris, thanks. I am aware of the points you have raised. but as Pipio has described, there are varying theories, and before the theories accepted today, there were other theories that prevailed. So while your comments are pertinent, it may also be that these theories will eventually be revised or changed. Who knows? I think the age of the universe may perhaps not be limited by time, since God created time after all. Yet, I think that the way time is described in scripture will impact how we will eventually see the scientific evidence on earth for the history of earth after land and water were separated, and especially since the time of beginning of plants and animals. I can’t prove this, but this is what I am thinking if most possible. Already we see many many problems with descent with modification from goo to you, or from microbes to microbiologists. In my mind that is simply not a done deal, no matter the hype and faith of evolutionists.

Good science does not resent these problems being pointed out, while poor science wants to protect its own faith.


(Patrick ) #12

This is not correct. Planck 2015 results constraints the time since the Big Bang as 13.813 billion years ± 21 million years. In other words to 0.1%

Again incorrect. Planck 2015 results has the universe composition at to 4.9% ordinary baronic matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy.


#13

It’s a fascile type of incorrectness… the dark stuff by your numbers is 95%, even if dark matter is only 27%.


(Patrick ) #14

Yes, ordinary matter, (the stuff you are made of ) is less than 5% of the total stuff in the universe. What’s your issue with that fact?


#15

Patrick, you are trying to probe the evolutionary origin of bats by resorting to biston betularia as an argument. According to your rationale, the mega walls of galaxies whose development took ten times the Big Bang age of the universe, is false because the universe is much younger than that. Your job is to demonstrate that, either these mega walls don’t exist (elimination of matter ex-nihilo) or that they aroused within the Big Bang 13.8 billion timeframe.

The journal Collective Evolution reported very recently that the cold dark matter continues to be one of the unsolved problems in astronomy. Maybe they are not aware of the 2015 Planck’s reports that you almost literally captured from the so doubtful source called Wikipedia.


(Patrick ) #16

I have read all the Planck 2015 papers. Here is the link to the results:

http://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/planck/publications


#17

Good. Here’s the article published by Collective Evolution.

Also, if there’s a way for you to find the original report on mega walls of galaxies, by Margaret Geller and John Huchra, the title of the article is “Mapping the Universe”, 17 nov 1989, p. 897, Science.


(Patrick ) #18

You really don’t expect me to take this seriously. It is utter nonsense.


#19

Why not trying to answer the bit about mega walls and the age contradiction with the Big Bang timeframe. Is there something new that you can bring to this specific topic?


(Patrick ) #20

Yes, here is something new and factual - the universe is 13.813 billion years old and the observable universe spherical has a radius of 46 billion light years centered at my house.