googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: September 2014

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.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Exotic Cosmology Part 4: Dark Matter and Dark Energy

In my last post, I talked a little about the “Flatness problem” that exists in Big Bang cosmology. The term “flat” applies to the shape of a model that describes our universe as it exists. When the supposed Big Bang began, there had to be a precise balance between the rate of expansion and the rate the expansion slowed. A too fast expansion would have created an “open” universe where no stars could have formed. A too slow expansion would have created a “closed” universe” where all the matter would have fallen back together in a big crunch. Our universe is “flat,” that is, it has not expanded too fast or too slow but “just right.”

The precise, fine-tuned balance necessary between expansion and slowing is represented by the Greek letter omega (W) which has the mathematical value of 1. Matter produces gravity. At the beginning of the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe existed in a single point. As space began to expand, matter began to move apart so there had to be enough matter to slow the expansion enough to allow stars to form. The problem is, that even with all the visible matter in the universe, it would not create enough gravity to slow the initial expansion. It wasn't just a little bit less, it was only about 10-20% of the amount of matter needed to bring W to 1. Also, as scientists observed distant galaxies (which always form a spiral shape), they noticed the stars in those galaxies did not move in the ways predicted by the Big Bang.

With the amount of matter visible in the universe, the Big Bang is not a viable theory nor does it accurately describe the motions of distant galaxies. Rather than questioning their theory, though, scientists assume the matter is still there, we just can't see it! They actually believe that about 85% of all the matter in the universe is invisible.  They called this invisible matter, "dark matter."

When scientists add this hypothetical “dark matter” to their predictions of the movement of stars in distant galaxies, it does make their calculations match what is being observed. However, when we observe stars in our own galaxy, specifically those within 13,000 light-years from us, we can see that they are only affected by visible matter. The mass that we see around our own sun is attracted by visible matter and there is no room for any extra, “dark” matter.

So dark matter is one of those things that we cannot observe directly on earth. Even though it's supposed to represent the majority of all matter, it exerts no gravitational affect in the nearby universe. It simply another one of those exotic theories that cannot be tested nor observed and is invoked seemingly to just smooth out problems with a flawed theory.

But that's not the half of it. Scientists have recently discovered in the last couple of decades that the universe isn't just still expanding – it's accelerating! But what force out there could be causing the universe to expand more rapidly against the braking force of gravity? They theorized that space isn't really empty but is comprised of a force they termed “dark energy.” And if you thought that the idea of most of the matter that exists is invisible sounded “exotic,” then hold on to your socks. Scientists believe that about 75% of the universe is comprised of “dark energy.” So, according to Big Bang cosmology, the part of the universe that we can actually experience, observe, and test only represents about 4% of all there is. The rest of it is invisible!

Now, I'm not opposed to the idea that there may be particles we haven't yet discovered. The existence of dark matter or dark energy does not affect the creation model in the slightest. If such things exist, scientific inquiry might lead us to them. However, the Big Bang theory virtually demands that they exist. It sort of reminds me of Carl Sagan's “Invisible Dragon.” Secular cosmologists tell us it's there but they have a long list of reasons why we can't see it. I'll tell you another possible reason why we can't see it – maybe it's not there!

Maybe dark matter and energy are like phlogiston. Maybe they're like epicylces and deferents. They might seem to help explain what we observe but later we will find out they never really existed. They could just be symptoms of a flawed premise – a premise that is being kept afloat by continuously invoking fanciful explanations. Also like phlogiston and epicycles, maybe someday these too may be discarded when the underlying theory is abandoned.