Monday, October 6, 2014

Some Comments on the Creation Week: Day Three

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.
(Gen 1:9-13)

The creative acts of this day can be divided into two major categories: the creation of the dry land and the creation of vegetation. A lot could be said about each category, though, so we'll break it down verse by verse.

v. 9a, And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place,

One stunning detail mentioned in this verse is that all the waters were “gathered unto one place.” Such wording strongly suggests there was initially only one ocean and, therefore, could only be one continent. Modern scientists, of course, have recently come to this same conclusion via scientific inquiry. In the 1920's, scientists began to suggest all the modern continents were once joined in a single super-continent dubbed, Pangea. More recent theories speculate there may have also been other super-continents.

Of course, the Bible does not need to be affirmed by science. Indeed, I feel the opposite is true – the clear wording of the Bible seems to affirm that the scientific theory of Pangea is correct. At the initial creation, there was a single continent.

What is not clear from the text is the initial ratio of land to sea. If I consider only the text and nothing else, I would probably guess that it was about 50/50. When I further consider that God intended the land to be man's domain and the He wanted the earth filled with people, I might then suggest there was probably more land than sea. After the Flood, when subterranean waters had been released, we are left with the present ratio of mostly water. The oft repeated criticism of “where did the flood water go” is a canard; it's still here.

v. 9b, and let the dry land appear

We're not sure exactly how the land “appeared.” There seems to be a sense of the land rising and the water running off it into the one place. Alternatively, God could have miraculously parted the water and created the dry land in the gap. If the land has risen out of the sea, we might even see signs of erosion as the waters rolled off and were gathered together.

This would have been the primordial earth. Since there has not been any living thing before this point, there cannot be any fossils found in the rocks. Later though, it may have happened that burrowing insects and other creatures were trapped in this rock and became fossilized.

v. 10, And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

This is certainly mere speculation by me but I noticed that God did not pronounce the division of the waters to be “good” at the end of Day two. However, He said that the creation was good twice on Day 3. Perhaps that could mean that the division of the waters and creation of the air (Day 2) and the creation of the land (Day 3) were sort of a single continuous act that lasted all of Day 2 and just now ended on Day 3. It's just a thought.

Old earth creationists should take note that the Bible clearly states the sea existed first and land was created afterward. This is directly the opposite of secular theories on the creation of the earth which says the earth was initially hot rock and oceans came later.

v. 11, And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

Here God creates the plant life. There seems to be three classifications of plants which are distinguished by the seed:

  1. Grass. The seed is not mentioned here because the seed is not obvious. This group probably includes flowers as well.
  2. Herbs, where the seed is obvious as in wheat or corn.
  3. Trees, which yield fruit which carries the seed in itself.

Certainly this single sentence is not intended to be a scientific treaty on the classification of every type of plant. Something like grapes, for example, aren't trees but do yield fruit whose seed is in itself. Instead, it's likely intended to be a broad generalization that says God created all kinds plants.

One thing not mentioned here is marine plants. Did God create those here or on Day 5 with the other marine life? Also, what about things like mushrooms? I believe the wording of the text is such that it could include all non-animal, terrestrial creatures. Personally, I would include marine plants as being created on Day 5.

v. 12, And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

The plants seem to appear out of the ground at God's command – not as sprouts but as fully mature plants already yielding seed and ready to be eaten. We will see later that God intends all His living creatures to eat only plants.

We also see in this passage the introduction of the term “kind.” The herb and tree, for example, yield seeds “after their kind.” This is an important concept in creationism. Creatures are grouped not according to their “species” (a man made classification) but belong to created kinds. They also reproduce according to their kind. There may be many kinds of apple trees (red delicious, golden delicious, gala, granny smith, etc) but an apple tree will never produce bananas. There are variations within the kind (we call these “species”) but creatures only reproduce their own kind.

v. 13, And the evening and the morning were the third day.

Old earth creationists should again take note. Plants can survive overnight in the dark (it happens every day). It's difficult to believe, though, that vegetation can prosper millions of years without bright sunlight if the days represent long ages (the sun isn't created till Day 4). Also, evolution theorizes that life began in the sea and plants came much later. The Bible is clear that plant life came before marine life – exactly the opposite of evolutionary theory. Finally, how could the plants have survived millions of years waiting for bees and birds to come along and aid in pollination?

The events described here occurred in a single evening and morning. An ordinary day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Some Comments on the Creation Week: Day Two

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
(Gen 1:6-8)

Surprisingly little details are given for the events of Day 2. There seems to be at least two acts that occur (possibly distinct from each other).

1) God divides the waters into the “waters which were under” and the “waters which were above.”

2) God creates an expanse (“firmament” in the KJV) between the waters under and the waters above.

Since the details surrounding these events are so scant, we can only speculate about what these creative acts might have included. However, we must be careful to not hold out our speculation as doctrine. Some things that have been theorized seem reasonable. Some are musings. We can employ science here but we are limited since we are dealing with a unique event that wasn't observed. We can trust the clear text of the Bible but our scientific theories are suspect.

We know that God will soon be creating living things on the earth so it would not be unreasonable to suppose that He is preparing the planet to support them.  The “expanse” or “firmament” is the space occupied by plants and terrestrial creatures (including us). Therefore, God possibly created the atmosphere here with its composite of various gases.

We are certain that water existed on the first day. Since water is hydrogen and oxygen (H2O), then we can say those elements were created on Day 1. If God is creating breathable air on Day 2, it is likely similar to the air we breath now. Besides oxygen, the air would have contained nitrogen, argon, carbon (as in CO2), neon, etc. So the elements of the periodic table are being created ex nihilo in the order that God has chosen to introduce them in the creation and not necessarily in the order of simple to complex as predicted by the Big Bang. More will be introduced as God creates the dry land and living creatures.

The firmament is also where weather occurs. In Genesis 2:5 we are told that it did not rain on the earth during the creation week but perhaps here God is creating clouds (we'll talk in a moment about the waters above the firmament). At the very least, God likely created the mechanisms that would govern weather in the future – things like air pressure (a necessary consequence of having created air), evaporation, etc.

The biggest controversy surrounding Day 2 is over what is meant by the “the waters above” the firmament. There are at least 3 mainstream theories:

The Mundane Explanation

The waters above could simply be clouds and the firmament is the expanse between the earth and the clouds. Such a reading fits the text well and needs little additional explanation.  It should be noted that such a belief would imply that the Bible accurately described clouds as being made of water well ahead of scientific discovery.

The Canopy Theory

Some creationists believe the waters above represent a type of canopy, either of dense clouds or ice. By the way, I've often heard the canopy itself referred to as the “firmament” but the text is clear that the firmament is the expanse between the waters. Proponents of this theory believe the canopy collapsed at the time of Noah and was the source of much of the Flood waters.

This interpretation of the text carries a few difficulties. Such a canopy, for example, would obstruct our view of the stars described on Day 4. Of course, some old earth creationists suggest the sun and stars were created earlier and could not be seen. The sun could only be perceived as diffused light (described on Day 1) and it was not until Day 4 that the clouds were cleared and the sun, moon, and stars could be seen clearly.

There are also some scientific difficulties with a canopy. Of course, I never let prevailing scientific opinion trump the clear meaning of the words of the Bible. The Bible does not explicitly state there was a canopy and there is no other reference to it later in the Bible. I haven't seen a compelling argument for the existence of such a thing. I don't endorse this interpretation but I can't entirely reject it either. Perhaps clouds were more dense prior to the Flood – though not necessarily a solid dome of ice.

While most creationists do reject this idea, there are a few staunch proponents of this theory and have built elaborate models around it. Perhaps the most notable proponent is Carl Baugh who has made some dubious, scientific claims about the affects of such a canopy – things like how it was the canopy that allowed antediluvian people to live for hundreds of years.

Humphreys' Model

In his “white hole cosmology,” Russell Humphreys has proposed that, when God divided the waters, He used the “waters above” as the raw material to create the rest of the universe. This position would mean that the initial earth was huge and most of it was stripped away to form everything else. Again, the Bible doesn't explicitly say this happened so I cannot say dogmatically his view is correct. It could fit the text, though, and Humphreys has made several successful predictions with this model.

Of course, it's possible for a little of each of these theories to be true. The “waters above” must mean something and since we cannot determine a precise meaning from the text, we should be careful not to wed ourselves to any particular theory as though it were scripture.

The passage ends with the usual demarcation; it was evening and morning. All the things done by God in this passage, whatever they may include, were all accomplished in a single, ordinary day.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Some Comments on the Creation Week: Day One

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
(Gen 1:1-5)

When some people think of the first day of the Creation Week, they only think of God creating day and night. We can see here there is actually a lot more going on. Let's break it down, verse by verse:

v. 1a, In the beginning...

First we can see that God created, “in the beginning.” The beginning of what? The answer is obvious but we seldom stop to think about the implication. This is the beginning of not only the universe but it is the beginning of time. So one of the first creative acts was God creating time. The things we ordinarily use to mark the passing of time will come later but God started the clock ticking here.

v. 1b, ...God created the heaven and the earth.

The term “heaven” can have several meanings depending on its context. It sometimes refers to the sky and other times to the abode of God. Here, I believe “heaven” clearly refers to space. Before God created everything, He needed a place to put it. Space isn't something that always existed and God simply put the earth and stars into it. Space itself was created. Before this moment there was no space.

Immediately after creating space (or perhaps simultaneously with it), God creates the earth. We know that the sun, moon, and stars are created later so, at this moment, the earth is the only matter in the entire universe.

We can see from this short, simple verse the very profound and fundamental creative act of God. He began the creation in a very logical and orderly way. He created time, space, and matter.

v. 2a, And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

The Hebrew word translated here as “without form” is tôhû (תּהוּ) which is a seldom used word – not just in the Bible but in Hebrew in general. We're not entirely sure what is meant by the term and Brown-Driver-Briggs says the primary meaning is hard to grasp (that is, it's hard to grasp the meaning; not that it means “hard to grasp”). The Greek word used in the Septuagint literally means, “unseen,” possibly a reference to the fact that it was dark.

Certainly the earth lacked any features. There were no mountains, no valleys, and certainly no living things. There was not even land. The wording here creates a distinct impression namely that the earth then was empty and did not resemble the present earth in any way.

We see from last sentence that the earth initially was only water. Since water can only exist at temperatures less than 100°C (212°F), perhaps we could assume that the initial creation was a “cool” event.

We also learn from this verse that God was actively involved in the creation. Yes, He spoke and it happened but He did not speak from a distance; He was there, hovering over the face of the waters. This is not a case of God nudging the universe in a certain direction and then letting physical laws take over.

v. 3, And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

For some reason, many people seem to think the creation of light marked the beginning of the creation. We have seen that much has already happened before this point. The first day began in darkness and now it is light so the day is about ½ over.

The Bible doesn't mention the source of this light. We know that it cannot be the sun since the sun will not be created until day 4. Some have suggested that God Himself was the light but I am skeptical of that claim; if God were the light, then where was the light just a few minutes earlier? The Bible does attest that in the new creation, there will be no more need of the sun because the Lamb will be the light (Rev 21:23). However, verse 25 tells us that there will neither be any more night so we cannot draw an exact parallel between this light and the light of the Lamb in Revelation. Since the Bible is silent on the source of this light, we cannot be dogmatic in our speculations. Suffice it to say this was a temporary source that God used to mark the passage of days until the sun was created on day 4.

It's interesting that God created a light that specifically is not the sun. Even the ancients understood that the sun gave light so if Genesis were truly the product of human imagination, it's rather incredible to believe someone would think to separate the creation of light from the creation of the sun. Some might argue this is evidence of a divine revelation for Scripture.

v. 4a, And God saw the light, that it was good:

Several times during the creation week, God pauses pauses to reflect on His creation. Each time, He sees that what has been created is “good.” The fact that God continuously affirms that each created thing is “good” flies in the face of theistic evolution (TE). According to TE, the world was created over billions of years of death and destruction. According to this belief, the world has been bad, bad, bad, on its way to finally being, “very good.” The Bible attests over and over that everything was initially “good.”

v. 4b-5a, and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

The presence of night and day indicate that the earth has already begun rotating. Therefore, we can be sure that physical laws – like gravity – have also already been created. Nobel laureate, Dr. Stephen Hawking, once said that because physical laws like gravity exist, then the universe could create itself out of nothing. It's rather laughable that such an intelligent person could make such a contradictory statement. How could there be any physical laws before the universe was created?

Physical laws are only our descriptions of the way matter behaves. Matter exhibits gravity. Just like matter cannot create itself, neither can gravity create itself. Science can only presuppose gravity existed in the creation; secular scientists really have no more explanation for the origin of gravity than they do for the ultimate origin of matter. They can only appeal to poofery.

v. 5b, And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Each day of the six creative days is punctuated by this phrase. Since God created light on the first day, we can know how much time has passed. It was an evening and a morning – an ordinary day. The presence of the term “morning and evening” leave little wiggle room for anyone wishing to reinterpret the word “day.”

God could have created the entire universe in a single moment. God could have stretched the creation out over billions of years. Yet for whatever reason, God chose to create the universe in the way He did – over six ordinary days.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Some Comments on the Creation Week: A short series

A while back, I taught a short series on creation for my Sunday school class. It was supposed to last for the summer and I had planned on covering several topics like the role of creation in evangelism, various ways some Christians reinterpret Genesis in order to fit it with popular scientific theories, and how to answer some of the more common objections people raise against creation. One lesson I had planned was to cover the days of the creation week, giving a short description on what happened each day. However, there were so many questions asked and such interest shown that the single lesson I had planned ended up being stretched over 5 lessons.

It was during that time that I realized that, even though the language of Genesis 1 is straight forward and easy to read, many Christians don't stop to consider the full impact of what is happening on each day – not so much from a spiritual perspective but rather from a physical one. To that end, I thought it would be worthwhile to have a short series of post, each covering one day of the creation week. This isn't meant to be a treaty on the subject. Instead, I hope to simply open a few eyes to the realization that what is being described were real events that literally shaped the world.

Because they were real events, understanding the days of the creation week helps us understand science. Rather than reinterpreting Scripture in order to make it fit with secular views of our origins, we can use the clear meaning of the words in Genesis to gain an appreciation of the physical processes that were occurring.

As I go through this series, I may mention popular reinterpretations of Scripture but they won't be my focus. I've written before about some of the most common ways Christians interpret Genesis in order to reconcile the Bible with science. In this series, I won't spend much time rebutting alternative interpretations but will present the most obvious meaning (as determined by a plain reading of the text) as the correct meaning.

It's my plan to spend a single post addressing each day of the creation week. The only exception to this might be the sixth day, where I may spend an extra post covering some of the events described in Genesis 2. I'm also going to try to post twice per week so this won't be stretched out over months. Please keep checking back. And, of course, comments are encouraged.

God bless!!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Exotic Cosmology: Conclusion

Nearly five hundred years ago, scientists (if I may call these people scientists) must have thought they were really onto something when they invented the idea of phlogiston. They had “known” for centuries already that things were made of the primitive elements of earth, air, fire, and water. The fact that there was some fiery substance present in some things that made them burn seemed obvious. Yet when they tried to learn more about the properties of phlogiston through experimentation, they couldn't quite nail it down. It simply didn't behave the way they expected.

The problem laid at the root of the theory. This wasn't a case where they had the right idea and just needed to stick with it. They were looking in completely the wrong direction. The truth was exactly the opposite of their theory:
  • When a substance burned, phlogiston wasn't released into the air; oxygen was removed from the air.
  • Objects in enclosed spaces didn't stop burning because the air had become saturated with phlogiston but because the air had been depleted of oxygen.
  • Phlogiston was not a poison that saturated the air and made it unbreathable; instead the air was unbreathable because it had all of its oxygen removed.
What seemed to be the most obvious explanation (that there was something inside things that made them burn) turned out to be completely wrong. No amount of tweaking the phlogiston theory could save it. It was doomed from the beginning. It just took the scientific method of testing, observing, and repeating to discover how wrong it was.

When we consider modern cosmology, the Big Bang doesn't sound unreasonable at first hearing. We can see the stars moving away from us. If the universe is continuously expanding, then we need only extrapolate backward to conclude that at some point in the distant past, all matter very close together. It's obvious. Yet no matter how reasonable it sounds, some things just don't add up – things like the flatness problem, the missing matter and energy, the horizon problem, and the missing monopoles. There's also the unsettling coincidence that we appear to be at the very center of the universe.

To be certain, scientists have “explanations” for all these things. They invent “exotic” theories to explain their failed predictions. It's like phlogiston all over again. However, unlike phlogiston, we can't test these fanciful cosmologies as easily. The nearby stars, for example, move only according to the visible matter near them. In other words, there is no room for “dark matter” within 13,000 light years of us. Yet we are told that the galaxies which are millions of light years away are made mostly of dark matter. How would a skeptic disprove that? We can't fly there to do any experiments. Similarly, scientists say that there really is no center of the universe and it would look basically the same from any vantage point. Really? How do we test that? We can't even fly to the next star, let alone a star millions of light years away, to see how the universe looks from there. We only know what the universe looks like from our vantage point.

Scientists have liberty to be very creative. It is by thinking “outside the box” that has led to many inventions and scientific discoveries. But creativity is still governed by reality. The continuous tweaking to the very reasonable idea of phlogiston could only possibly lead to naught because phlogiston didn't exist. It was only through the scientific method that we were able to arrive at the truth.

Today, secular cosmologists aren't bound by the scientific method. They are free to propose the most outrageous explanations without fear of having their theories disproved by experimentation. Oh sure, their theories might come with predictions but even if the predictions fail, they remain undeterred because they can simply invent a still more outrageous theory to explain the failed prediction.

The Big Bang theory is simply a modern version of phlogiston. It might seem reasonable at first but it is completely contrary to reality and can only be kept afloat by continuously invoking very unreasonable sub-theories. These sub-theories, though, lie outside scientific inquiry. They can't really be observed or tested. They aren't as much theories as they are stories. Secular scientists believe them not because the scientific evidence for them is overwhelming but because they refuse to consider the alternative.