I recently visited the city of Prague, the capitol of the Czech Republic, a city with beautiful architecture and cultural attractions. As part of my visit, I went to hear the Czech Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and their performance of Antonin Dvorak’s 9th Symphony. It was as splendid and stirring a performance as I can recall ever hearing.
While listening to the performance of Dvorak’s music, I began thinking about the creation of the world. In that concert hall was a human analogy of the abilities and processes that had to be part of creation. First off, there was Dvorak and the genius of his musical talent. He was able to put on paper notes for various instruments in a way that would bring light and life to the symphony. In his case, the instruments were already there. At an earlier time, other people invented the instruments that Dvorak and other composers would make use of. Each inventor had special skills and insights that were beyond that of less gifted people.
Now we come to the performance. The individual musicians were trained instrumentalists. In Prague, they were the best in their field. Even so, the conductor who was a well known and respected professional, had to direct a group of about 125 musicians. Putting it all together with skill and care brought out the exquisite beauty of Dvorak’s 9th Symphony. It was performed so well that midway through it, I realized I had tears coming down my face.
While I hope you can appreciate in words the complexity of the performance of a symphony, consider for a moment the requirements of creation. Think about the universe with millions of galaxies, or our own galaxy with its 2 billion stars. At the other extreme, what about the DNA wrapped up in the first cell of human development? It’s so small and detailed that it takes powerful microscopes to even recognize them. Yet, that DNA controls the total development of an individual from conception to death. Parents pass on their features to following generations.
Everywhere we look we come across perfection in complexity that cries out for answers to questions that flood into our thoughts. Changes in the composition of our worlds in minute fractions would make their existence impossible. Where did this perfect “music” come from? When and how did it begin? How about humankind? What about our origins and purpose? What does the Bible and what does science say? Do they agree? These are all questions we will place before you as we go along.
When Did Our Universe Begin?
Most cosmologists today agree that around 15 billion years ago, all matter was in a super condensed ball about the size of a grain of sand. Cosmologists are scientists who study the origin, composition and formation of the universe. At that distant time there was an incredible explosion that generated temperatures in the billions of degrees Centigrade. It also changed the super condensed matter into an expanding whirlpool of cosmic material that eventually cooled, produced light and began forming the stars and galaxies that we see today.
These same cosmologists say that the Hubble Space Telescope has provided new evidence of what they call the “Big Bang.” Several critical questions remain unexplained. Where did the super condensed ball of matter come from? What caused this ball of matter to explode in such a spectacular manner? What guided this vortex of super heated matter to develop into the galaxies and stars we now see and observe with the Hubble Space Telescope?
And we are not even down to such annoying questions like where life came from, where intelligent life and self-conscious intelligent life came from. But we don’t want to muddy the waters for the question on the table: Who Is God?
Cosmologists are students of the universe. Any talk of origins is confined to just that—matter. It would be equally wrong to ask them to answer theological questions as it would be to have the local parish preacher give a scientific paper on interstellar dust. That does not mean, however, that there must be a conflict between what each is saying. I must admit I am not a scientist by profession. But we all want to hear the answer to the obvious question: Is there a God to begin with?
The question about God’s existence cannot be proven under present circumstances. The time will come when that will be settled to everyone’s satisfaction. God will reveal himself in as spectacular a way as the Big Bang got the universe rolling. There won’t be any question. In the meantime, the proof of God is as definite as the proof of the Big Bang: We see the results. There is no vital conflict between scientific finding and the idea of a Creator God. Just as we know there is a composer of Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, we know there is a Creator of the universe. Random chance doesn’t explain the origin of either.
The origin of the universe is important to discuss because any question of ultimates leads us there. For example, probably one of the first serious questions any of us asks is: Why am I here? What am I doing on earth? What is my purpose here? These are all variations on the basic theme reasonable people are curious about. That road, of course, leads us to think not only about ourselves, but our universe as well. This issue is big enough that we spend lots of educational time trying to figure out where we came from.
The “Big Bang” and Genesis
Let’s open up with a premise about God: If there were a God who was responsible for the “Big Bang,” would he not tell us about it? If there were a God who created us, would he not let us know? In asking these questions, we know that if we are going to understand what happened before we or matter existed, it will have to be revealed by someone who was there. That’s pretty basic.
A second premise about God is that whatever he told us would pretty well match up what we could observe. In other words, he would not tell us that the moon is made of green cheese only to have us discover in the 20th century that it isn’t. Up to that time, we could argue and speculate about the moon. Once human beings actually walked on the moon and scooped up some of its surface and brought it back, we found out it was not anything like green cheese. It was more like the surface of the earth minus millions of years of habitation by plants and animals.
Has this God we’re talking about lived up to these expectations? Has he told us about creation and himself? Can we check? Although God does not try to prove himself, he has left an unmistakable trail for us to follow. Visible signs abound that don’t require going into painstaking exploration.
The very first thing God does for us is announce who he is: Creator! To check this we go to the first sentences of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Because humans were not around when creation took place, it had to be revealed. Moses, the author of Genesis, starts, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Without charts or diagrams, that’s the Big Bang in one sentence. A few sentences later, the narrator goes on. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:1, 3). That is, God brought light out of the darkness.
If you’re up on your cosmology, you are aware that in the scientific model of the Big Bang, there wasn’t any light at all in the first 300,000 to 400,000 years. It was all darkness. On that same timetable, for a hundred million years or so there weren’t any stars that produced the kind of light we see today in the evening sky. The rapidly expanding cosmic “mash” was so hot (remember, billions of degrees) it could not produce light. The remaining Genesis account of creation also parallels what scientists say today.
Without belaboring every stage of development, read through the first 25 verses of Genesis 1. You will discover what others have seen: An almost word for word description of what the scientific world tells us took place. Only the Mosaic text had no connection to space exploration—it relied on the vision of the Creator.
Should it surprise anyone that the Creator’s account and the findings from science are basically in sync? (We’ll address the 6 X 24-hour day question later). You see, the Hubble Telescope, as wonderful as it, doesn’t invent what it sees—it’s just looking and reporting. Likewise, the account in Genesis 1 is a report from the Creator as to what happened. The major difference between Genesis and Hubble is that Genesis supplies answers to the otherwise unanswerable:
Where did the super condensed ball of matter come from?
What caused this ball of matter to explode in such a spectacular manner?
What guided this vortex of super heated matter to develop into the galaxies and stars we now see and observe with the Hubble Space Telescope?
The answer to all of the above: The Creator! It was the Creator who planned and designed the universe and brought it into being.
Who Is God?
We now have the most significant answer to the question, Who Is God? God is the Creator of all we see. There is nothing in the universe that does not trace its origins back to the Creator God. From that finding, we can draw some definite conclusions.
First, all of creation is subordinate to the Creator. No Creator = no creation. It is also reasonable to conclude that if the Creator had a plan and design for the super compressed matter the size of a grain of sand, the Creator also had a plan for the world that came out of it and in which we live. However, unless the Creator chooses to reveal himself and that plan to us, we are left without a clue as to why we are here.
Unfortunately, that is where we end up with the Hubble model. A huge unanswered question hangs over scientific endeavor: Where did the super condensed ball of matter come from in the first place? Science may help us understand how things happen, but it is silent on the ultimate origin. Revelation alone can answer the question of who. Yes, it’s interesting to know how things happen. It’s important to know who makes things happen. That is the beauty of the Genesis narrative in the Bible. With purpose, it does not go into the detail of the creation of the universe, or of anything else for that matter. It speaks to the origin of life and matter.
Although mankind did not have the Hubble Space Telescope until late in the 20th century, the Creator didn’t leave us in the dark. What Genesis and the creation narrative do is answer two essential questions for living life. If we understand these two, we can make sense out of what we’re doing here. From the very beginning, we are told the “who” of creation as well as the “why” of creation.
Let’s dig further into the who and the why. When I talk of the who of creation, it’s to unravel the mystery of matter: Who designed and brought this incredible universe into being? The why of creation responds to a similar question: Why is the universe here? That leads us to: Why am I here?
Long before watches were designed and created by the Swiss, humankind wanted to know who was the “watchmaker” of the universe and why the universe was created. Getting those two answers untangles many perplexing questions mankind has considered since arriving on the planet.
You and I may never understand how the universe was created anymore than we can explain love, electricity, gravity or many other energy sources. We are contented with knowing about the Creator and his ideas and plans, and being part of those. That is what brings final satisfaction into our living and forms a foundation on which to build our lives. As one author has recently written, it makes for the purpose driven life.
God The Creator
What does it mean when we say that God is the Creator of heaven and earth and everything about them? One of the writers of Scripture explained it like this: “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood by what he has made.” (Romans 1:20). In other words, we can draw some understanding about God from creation, his power and his divine and eternal nature. He is the Creator God. He is the Almighty!
For now, however, let’s stick with the creation narrative of Genesis—what it says and what it does not say. Much needless debate has gone on for too long between those who argue over how creation happened when that is really not the point of Genesis. The Genesis revelation from the Creator is to let us know who was responsible for creation and, thus, to whom we are responsible: In short, the who and the why of creation. If we spend our time debating the how of the creative process, we are missing the point of Genesis and are wasting energy on something that is not there.
What is the message of Genesis? God is the Creator; it is he to whom we are accountable. That’s the point of Genesis 1: God created with a purpose. The first purpose is to make known that he is the Creator of the universe and therefore supreme. Second, as we read further in the account, mankind is the only part of his creation with which he wants and expects a relationship. If we miss these two points, no amount of accuracy over the process of creation makes a bit of difference. I believe that is why the Creator didn’t go into lengthy detail on the process of creation in Genesis except when he created man and his life mate.
God the Creator wanted to accomplish something with the Genesis narrative. It records the beginning of what was to be a long-term relationship with humanity, the crown jewel of his creation. Right away the narrative discloses the special affinity between the created and the Creator, between God and mankind. That begins on the sixth day or period of creation. Prior to that, God had populated the land and the waters with vegetative life. Now the land and water will be teeming with all kinds of animal life. God saw that all of this was good. Notice the significant change in language, however, when it came to the creation of humankind.
Mankind Is Created
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26, 27). No other declaration like this is made about any other part of the Creator’s plan or action. Mankind, male and female, was created compatible with the Creator.
As we examine ourselves we see a picture (even though blurred) of the Creator. No matter where else we look, whether ant or fish, bird or beast, none are created “in the image of God.” Not only are we compatible with God, he also delegated to humankind the responsibility to rule over the rest of creation. He is saying he wants us to participate in taking care of the wonderful world he created.
How did that work out? Rather than guessing, we can turn to Genesis the second chapter and read about it. At that time, man (Adam) did not have a mate. Yet, the Creator gave him a couple of assignments. He designed the Garden of Eden for Adam to look after. It was beautiful and perfect in every respect. To place it into today’s language, it was more stunning than Disney’s finest production. The Creator said, “Look what I’ve made for you. It’s yours and I want you to look after it.”
Some time later, God gave Adam a second project: Check out all the animals I’ve made and name them—like the world’s first taxonomist. There was method to God’s “madness.” He wanted Adam not only to name the animals, but he wanted him to look at them for a prospective life mate. He found none, which is exactly what God knew. Adam was now ready to receive the mate of God’s special design. When Adam saw her, he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” Interestingly, the narrative adds, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”(Genesis 2:23, 24).
Several things from this part of Genesis pop up out of the page. We get a glimpse of what it means, “to be made in the image of God.” Mankind is able to communicate; there is conversation with his Maker. There are no barriers. Adam is as free as the plan or will of God for him. He is eager to do the bidding of the Creator. From what we read later, he could chose to follow the Creator or to go his own way. He had a free will. He arrived at the Garden to follow the directions he had been given.
There was satisfaction in doing what God had asked of him. However, there was no doubt he would not be complete as a man until there was a woman in his life. This may be one of the things Adam noticed as he named the animals—there were males and females of every species, but not in his case. When he saw and received Eve, the equation of human living was completed—the two become one flesh. What else can be so simple and yet so profound?
We are not told how long Adam was in the Garden before he started on the second assignment God gave him. Nor do we know how much time it took to name all the animals. What is apparent is that the second chapter of Genesis is an accounting of everything that took place on the sixth day. That was the period in which the narrative states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. . . God saw all that he had made and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:27, 31). This is what I’d like to refer to as the “sixth day problem.” The remarkable outcome of the sixth day problem is it leads us to the “6 X 24 hour day solution.”
The Sixth Day
When we look at the events of chapter two and recognize them to be a more complete explanation of the sixth day in chapter one, we are beginning to understand the intent of the Genesis creation account. It is not a manual on how God created the heavens and the earth. Nor is it a scientific text. It is a highly spiritual and relational account of mankind’s position in the universe. Imagine if God had given us in full detail the creation of all matter, living and non-living—we would have to pack around volumes the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica and more.
However, if the Creator wanted to tell what our status in the world is, and tell us who he is, then he has done that well in the first three chapters of Genesis. A reading of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation reinforces that many times over. Writers from Moses to the Apostle Paul rely on the principles of these three chapters to detail the absolute majesty and grace of God, while showing humanity’s need for Divine redemption. We begin to unlock this grand mystery by correctly understanding the sixth day.
Even a casual reading of Genesis 2 and looking at the events it unfolds leads to only one conclusion: These events could not have been carried out in a 24-hour period. The sixth day or period contains the events of chapter two and ends when Eve is created and introduced to Adam. From that single perspective the word translated day does not mean an 8-hour time period or even a 24-day. The word we read as “day,” is the Hebrew word “Yom” as in Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. So in Genesis, the word Yom is used variously to mean (1) the separation of light and darkness; (2) the difference between daytime and nighttime controlled by the sun and the moon; (3) the accumulation of time for each creative achievement—the first day, the second day, the third day, etc.
The seventh day of rest presents another issue. There are no day or night, light or darkness questions here. It is the Creator’s day of rest that other writers of Scripture say is on-going. The writer of Hebrews tells us that God’s day of rest still continues (Hebrews 4:3). With all this we understand the very fluid and unspecific time frame of the word Yom or day in the Genesis creation account.
This is not questioning what God can do or how fast can he do it. We cannot impose human space/time requirements on the Creator. Elsewhere, the Scriptures declare that a day with the Lord is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day (Psalm 90:4-6). We seem to always be in hurry whereas God is operating in a different timeframe. God is living in an “eternal now” with no beginning or ending. We may be waiting for our next paycheck or Social Security check so we can pay the rent and buy the groceries. That’s not God’s schedule.
We could intersect God’s schedule and discover that he is equally at home a few million years ahead or behind from what our watches read. He is simultaneously present regardless of our space/time schedule. He is never early or late or out of date. By using the indefinite word “Yom” to describe the time periods of creation, Scriptures is making an important statement about God and creation and revelation.
What Does The Word Day mean?
If we can resolve the difficulty caused by the word “Yom,” I believe we are moving toward the intention of Genesis 1 – 3. As we have discussed, if it were the Creator’s intention to give us a scientific document, these chapters fall woefully short. If he wanted to give us some signals about himself and his relationship with humankind, we have what we need. As we will soon see, the authors of Scripture rely heavily on this meaning of creation as it affects our relationship with the Creator and our attitude towards him.
Outside of the creative acts surrounding man and woman (the human species), there is complete silence as to the method and time duration of what takes place in these chapters. In other words, the word “Yom” is an indefinite term used loosely to describe an indefinite length of time. We could say it this way: There are six stages to the creation story. Each stage is dependent on the completion of the previous stage. For example, there would have to be fully developed plant life on the earth before animals started tromping around in the grasslands looking for food.
Could God snap his fingers and have everything completed in one day? Yes, he could. But the need for us to have it so can’t be derived from the text. As we have seen, we should not impose on the text a time frame that the text itself is indefinite about. Can it be that we are trying to win an argument on the 24-hour time clock that isn’t there?
The significance of the first three chapters of Genesis is that God has created everything around us. He is responsible for all we see and observe. Therefore, there is nothing that is not subordinate and accountable to him. The real issue for us is not the length of time it took to bring about creation. Nor is it how creation was carried out. We don’t know. The question before us is: Where does mankind (Where do I) fit into God’s creative plan? These chapters of Genesis tell us that God created us to have relationship and conversation with him. He has a superior plan for us—greater than we can imagine. He kicked off that plan a long time ago with a Big Bang. He’s not in a rush but he wants us to get on board with that plan and the direction he is going.
Want to come along?