Nic: I do struggle with the fact that we seem to have to accommodate the popular scientific viewpoint when interpreting the creation story. Simply because, in my view, it’s entirely possible that God was completely able to create the whole thing in seven literal days. And I wonder if we simply want to save face within the intelligentsia so they don't think we are nutters, maybe?
Paul: We can be misled by thinking there is an anti-faith "intelligentsia" who need placating. Many people working in the scientific community are Christians. In the 1930s Georges Lemaître proposed that the universe had a beginning—an observation he made from reading the Bible and his work as an astronomer and professor of physics. Now most scientists accept Georges Lemaître’s Big Bang theory. Georges saw no contradiction with faith in the Bible and science, saying, “Once you realise that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes . . . The doctrine of the Trinity is much more abstruse than anything in relativity or quantum mechanics; but, being necessary for salvation, the doctrine is stated in the Bible. If the theory of relativity had also been necessary for salvation, it would have been revealed to Saint Paul or to Moses.
You also made another point Nic saying:
"it’s entirely possible that God was completely able to create the whole thing in seven literal days."
Let's remember that the Bible doesn't call them "literal days". In fact the Bible does inform us that a day for God is not the same as our day. The Bible teaches us that for a reason.
Nic: I don't doubt the existence of a "scientific" trail that enables us to draw conclusions and hypothesise about the long term history of the earth, revealing and helping us understand the natural order of things but I don't see the problem with God being able to create what He wants in whatever "time" he likes. I am familiar with the scripture that says "a day is as thousand years to the Lord and a thousand years is as day" if that is what you are referring to as the Bible telling us that God's days are different to ours. I don't believe that’s what that passage is saying. I see that as God explaining the difference between his eternal existence and out temporal one, nothing more.
I do however, see His deliberate intention to explain how long a day is in which He created the earth in Genesis by providing earthly references that the reader would relate to and understand in the form of "so the evening and the morning were the first day" etc. Otherwise why say it that way. Why can't God speak and fast track the entire "natural" process?
Paul: Thanks for your thoughts. Good points again.
We know now that the evening and the morning are constantly with us. Look at the earth from space and you'll see the evening and morning, present at all times. So as much time as is necessary for one of God's creative days can be taken - Genesis has that correct.
Secondly, if you want to look at the "evening and the morning" from a position of being on the earth then we should remember that "the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." God's Spirit was "moving" so the daylight could be as long as he needed it to be. A plane travelling at 1000 miles an hour can stay in daylight for as long as it has fuel. When the plane stops the evening or morning will overtake it. God doesn't need to "fast-track" creation, he takes as much time as is needed for the process to be completed.
Nic: I still think your answers seem to be assuming the earth could not have possibly been created in 7 earthly days and therefore there has to be a more "rational" explanation. The result can often be a convoluted and easily arguable explanation that takes even more faith to accept. I don't think God wants to mess with us to that extent. Sometimes the simple face value option is the right one. Again, why is it so hard to consider the possibility that God created all this in 7 earthly days?
Is He not powerful enough?
Paul: Thanks for pointing out that the rational explanation can be convoluted. I try to make things simple for people, so that's helpful to me. I'll work harder on making the subject simpler to grasp.
Okay, you asked "Why is it so hard to consider the possibility that God created all this in 7 earthly days? Is He not powerful enough?"
You mentioned earlier Nic regarding Psalm 90:4 (A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.) "only explains the difference between God's eternal existence and our temporal one, nothing more." That's quite a statement, "Nothing more"? Are you sure? How did you come to that conclusion? The verse does point out that God is over and above spacetime, but it also uses the word "day". Perhaps the Psalmist should have chosen another unit of time instead of "day" perhaps "month" or "year" or "week" or "hour". Isn't there a possibility that some people might equate the word "day" in Psalm 90:4 with the famous word "day" in Genesis chapter 1. Maybe the Psalmist made an error of judgement here.
No! The Psalmist was well aware that Genesis chapter 1 uses the word "day" and he explains something to us about how Scripture uses the word "day" that would later help to show the veracity of the Scriptures. Yes, the Psalm explains that God has a different frame of reference to us but it also provides the answer to sceptics who say the Bible is fairy tales and has nothing to do with reality.
Geology, Archaeology, Palaeontology, Astronomy and Genetics are currently in a state where accuracy is at a high degree, and all major scientific areas of expertise agree with each other in the main areas of their research. They have all come to the same conclusion from different angles. Therefore we are beginning to understand God's modus operandi when he created the world. Genesis doesn't use the phrase "earthly day" or "literal day", people who have a particular doctrine to promote use those phrases not the Bible. Genesis uses the word "day".
We know that God did not use 24 hour periods in Genesis 1, because God's handiwork itself tells us otherwise.
If spacetime has lots of space then it also has lots of time!
People who think the universe is only 6,000 years old must also be prepared to say the universe is a lot smaller than we realise.
Spacetime is one thing.
Asking "Is He not powerful enough?" becomes obsolete. God has already shown us through the Bible how he made the universe and science now confirms it.
Nic: "Nothing more" in the sense that the context of the verse does pretty much serve the purpose of explaining to the reader the concept of God being outside of time. I think we have to be careful about adding our cleverness to something God has said that may well be quite straightforward in its fundamental presentation. There’s quite a bit of assumption needed with your various descriptions of what a "day" may be. Personally, I think it’s just a simple way of illustrating the scale difference between time and eternity and therefore, really, its just a day.
I'm not really worried about whether someone thinks it's just fairy tales or not. In fact if you are successful in gaining credibility with the sceptics on this particular matter, you are going to lose them and have to start all over again once we start talking about Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the beggar at the pool of Bethesda and so on because none of those events are explainable from a scientific point of view. So therefore I am not particularly desperate to let go the idea that it’s entirely possible that God created everything in 6 days. Or course he could have!
So it's not an obsolete question. It’s an honest one in the light of other miracles where He apparently enhanced/completely overode the natural processes of physics and biology. I have no problem in accepting God created everything just how you say He did but I don't have the slightest struggle to accept that He did the way I have described either.
But then I haven't had my opinion on the matter published so I can change my mind without having to write another book.
Paul: Thanks for the questions and for pushing me. I always need that. I didn't ask to write any of these books, I would wake very early in the mornings, (I still do) with all these thoughts about Genesis, Exodus, through to Deuteronomy. The books all made sense to me, as if they are a hermetically sealed machine that interconnects perfectly, and science, technology and biology etc. can only confirm what the Bible has already written thousands of years before.
Okay, moving onto your points about Psalm 90:4 and the word "day" as God sees it.
You said, "'Nothing more' in the sense that the context of the verse does pretty much serve the purpose of explaining to the reader the concept of God being outside of time."
Further to this point is that Psalm 90 was actually written by Moses, who is credited with writing Genesis. It is a brave man who says that Moses wasn't trying to explain something to us about the way he had previously used the word “day” in Genesis chapter 1.
When I was a boy in church we didn't have this 7 literal day of Genesis chapter 1 doctrine. Charles Spurgeon in the 1800s (along with other people) had preached that it took God "many millions of years" to create the universe.
Okay moving onto your other point.
'"it's entirely possible that God created everything in 6 days. Or course he could have!"
Except that God has shown us through the universe that he did not. God's laws of physics are trustworthy just as he is trustworthy.
"The works of his hands are faithful and just." (Psalm 111:7)
Nic: I'm a bit disappointed you have completely ignored my main point about miracles and seem to be struggling to acknowledge the glaringly obvious point about God’s already proven track record for breaking the rules of physics. In fact you can't tell me that God didn't create everything in 6 days with all the aging properties of thermo dynamics, etc already built in, with anymore certainty than I can say He did.
Paul: When we say God created the universe we are saying that he created the laws of physics. You asked earlier if God was not powerful enough to create it all in six 24 hour periods. However, the universe that he created informs us that he did not create it in six 24 hour periods. Asking "is God not powerful enough" is the same as asking if God can make a square circle.
As CSLewis said, "You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense... meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words 'God can.'”
Secondly, when Jesus performed a miracle he stayed in line with the laws of physics. i.e. If we plant a seed of wheat, over time it will become much wheat, Jesus did that when he multiplied the bread. He also multiplied the fish, which again is in keeping with the natural order - fish multiply in the sea all the time. He healed people, which God does all the time too, if you cut your self today, put a plaster on it and it will heal. Jesus turned water into wine, which happens naturally all the time, water comes down from the skies, the grape vine draws the water up, men pick the grapes press them and make wine. Jesus said he "can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." (John 5:19) When Satan tempted Jesus into doing something that we don't see God doing in nature i.e. turning stone into bread. Jesus would not do it.
So when you say that "God has a proven track record for breaking the rules of physics." It’s like saying "God made the laws of physics, but actually, he didn't."
All the major sciences agree. Let's take palaeontology for example; we now know some intricate details of how ancient man used to live. The science of palaeontology has become a fine art. If we dismiss the results of the people who have researched ancient man in depth we are naive. Early modern humans have also been the study of geneticists around the globe. We know a lot about these early human beings. Indeed Genesis chapter 1 agrees with what they have found.
When all the major sciences tell you that the universe is a certain way, but that way is at variance with your scriptural slant. Guess who's misled?
Nic: When I say break the rules/laws of Physics I mean God does something that doesn't happen naturally in relation to the time it takes for a thing to happen. So yes, a cut or injury may heal naturally over many days or weeks but when God performs a "creative" miracle that process can happen in seconds. There are many biblical examples of this.
Regarding your statement that water into wine happens all the time. No it doesn't. You can leave a jar of water for a thousand years and it still won't be turned into wine unless, as was the case in the Bible, God steps in and transports the ingredients to the water but more importantly accelerates the process which is completely against the natural laws. My point is that you limit God by saying He must have done something this way or that way when all the time He can and does do things in a variety of ways. Maybe there’s an interesting point emerging here that the very thing we are disputing is the amount of time something took to accomplish, which appears to be probably the biggest factor in defining whether something is a miracle or not. If it takes a normal amount of time according to our experience from a scientific point of view we don't call it a miracle but if it happens in seconds we probably do.
If what you say is correct that all miracles are just natural processes that God has sped up (which I think is still too limiting a definition and not strictly the case) then why are you so rigidly sticking to your theory that creation had no speeding up in its process at all?
Please forgive me if I seem to come across in a forthright manner. It's hard to convey one's manner with just words rather than face to face. I'm enjoying our debate.
Paul: Thanks for the reminder that you are not meaning to come across in a forthright manner. No, I know that my friend, please don't worry on that account. We are only pushing each other on to comprehend God's word. As Paul said, "Brothers, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be children, but in understanding be men."
A "miracle" is understood by the church to be an event that has no history in the chain of cause and effect. An act of "providence" does not break the chain of cause and effect. God uses miracles to show us that it is he who provides (providence) all things.
Water does turn naturally into wine through natural agents. You are right to suppose that acceleration occurred in the case of the miracles, such as when Jesus calmed the storm. A storm will naturally abate when the winds die down, or when Jesus walked on water, people walk on water often, across the Bering Straits for example, but Jesus showed he was the creator of the natural order by commanding the elements and having the wind die down, or not having the water turn into ice before it can be trodden upon. God uses the natural order to show us that it was he who created the natural order.
We know that God did not create the world in six 24 hour periods, both from a biblical point of view and from a scientific point of view.
The church is notoriously slow to accept scientific theories, but regarding the 6,000 year old universe much of the church does now seem to accept that the view point is defective. I've even noticed that the American Creation magazines slowly seem to be turning away from the 6,000 year old universe point of view, or at least they are not mentioning it so much these days. I heard Pat Robertson on TV saying that that it looks like God used aeons of time to create the universe. In a poll on Christian Today, 92% of readers think Bill Nye won the creation debate against Ken Ham. So generally, Christians are coming to terms with the fact that their view of Scripture needs rectifying, just as it did when Copernicus and Galileo taught that even though the Bible appears to say that the earth is the centre, in reality, the sun is. Slowly the church changed its doctrine and that's what is happening now.
God uses Geology, Archaeology, Palaeontology, Astronomy and Genetics, don't think he doesn't. He gives skills to men.
If you are so intent in saying that God could have used six 24 hour periods to create the world through a miracle, what happened to the men who lived 50,000 years ago? Were their lives lived at breakneck speed? There are numerous examples of how we know that God did not create the universe in six 24 hour periods.
Scriptually, men have known it too. Why is there no "evening and morning" for the seventh day? God tells us in Psalm 95:11 "I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" His day of rest is still ongoing.
We ought to be careful about suggesting that God made the universe according to our frame of reference rather than his own: all sorts of problems appear when we do. For instance, Genesis chapter 1 relates that “God created them male and female.” Yet when we move into Genesis chapter 2 the woman had not yet been made, so if we suggest that God made the universe according to man’s time scale we have a problem. According to people who try to say that God made the world according to men's time scale rather than his own, the 6th day of creation involved the creation of all the land animals, and when completed, God saw that it was good. Then the creation of Adam then took place. Adam probably took a little while to get his bearings and overcome his amazement of suddenly existing. And when he had taken a little more time to eat a meal and drink some water, the Lord God took Adam on a journey to the garden of Eden.
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden
to work it and take care of it" (Gen 2:15).
Once there, the Lord explained to Adam his job description, which included the tending of the many varieties of fruit trees. The Lord God also explained about the two trees in the middle of the garden - the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Adam needed to remember (and this was very important) not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So Adam probably made absolutely sure he knew exactly which tree the Lord was talking about. Next, Adam was told to name all the animals, which took some thought, but eventually he completed the task. But then Adam, who was starting to feel a little lonely, heard the Lord say, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” So when searching for a suitable companion proved fruitless, God caused him to fall into a deep sleep and performed a surgical operation. He removed a rib and then closed the flesh so that it would heal nicely, before proceeding to make a woman from the rib. After Adam had woken up, and once again regained his equilibrium, he waited for God to finish making the woman, and when God had concluded his work he brought the woman to the man. God then told Adam what had taken place while he was asleep and Adam consequently named the woman and gave his reasons for deciding to call the woman “woman.” Realistically, that sounds like poor hermeneutics and an extremely long sixth day.
There are many other biblical examples of why God did not use man's time scale to create the world. Preachers have known it for years. Papers were written about it hundreds of years ago, when Christians didn't have the science we have now to confirm it.
Nic: I was nearly convinced as I read this because I agree with you that there’s quite a lot there to pack in to one day but then I read Gen 1 again and the conclusion to the 6th day ends with "I have given every green herb for food". The discourse regarding Adam naming the creatures and Eve being made from his rib come after the 6th day not during. So they would have all the time in the world.
Paul: I'm glad that I had nearly convinced you. But I see I still have a little more work to do.
Okay, here goes:
Genesis chapter 1 tells us that "God created them male and female". When we get into Genesis chapter 2 the woman had not yet been made, so people who say that God made the world according to man's time scale, have a problem here because Genesis chapter 1 said God had already made them male and female. So they have to say that Genesis chapter 2 is a retelling of what happened on the 6th day when the woman was made. (You should know all this Nic, I'm doing your job for you!)
In reality there are all sorts of hermeneutical problems once we say that Genesis chapter 2 is a reiteration of Genesis' chapter 1's sixth day.
The early chapters of Genesis fit well with what we know from science and archaeology. Genesis chapter 1 informs us that humans were hunter-gathers, (The Palaeolithic Period,) who followed the animals and ate from what naturally grew in the ground or from trees. They were under an edict from God to “fill the earth, and subdue it,” which they did because we can see the evidence they left behind. Genesis chapter 2 informs us about humans settling down and learning how to cultivate crops. (The Neolithic Period.) The area where much of this agriculture took place was called the Fertile Crescent. The Lord God helped with some of the planting: in southern Mesopotamia he planted a garden.