Tuesday, July 3, 2012

God Revealed in Creation – Part 1 The Beginning

Both Psalm 19 and Romans 1 say that God has revealed Himself through His marvelous creation. But we can learn more about what God has revealed, by looking at creation through God's other form of revelation which is the written scripture he has breathed into godly men throughout the ages beginning with the 5 books of Moses. God as creator is a constant theme in the Bible, so it is quite logical that God begins his revelation of scripture with an account of creation.

Genesis 1

The History of Creation

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

"In the beginning God" - the first remarkable insight revealed here is that God Himself is self-existent and uncreated without beginning or end. However in history the wisdom of man has not always agreed with this revelation. As late as the 1950's scientist believed in a steady state universe without origin. Cosmologist Carl Sagan was famous for the quote "The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be."

Despite the atheistic sentiment in that quote Carl Sagan considered himself an agnostic, but the Cosmos he spent his life studying provided him the first evidence of God's existence. The idea is generally known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the idea that the universe logically requires a pre-existent first cause. The argument has taken many forms but I favor that of Thomas Aquinas: 1) If it is possible that something might not exist, then it is certain that at some time it did not exist. 2) Everything that begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist, so the universe has a cause. 3) If anything exists contingently, at least one thing exists necessarily.

Plug what we know from modern cosmology into this philosophy and the answer is obvious. The universe at one time did not exist. To come into existence the universe had to have a cause. A universe with a beginning, and a cause, points to a supernatural existence outside of creation. This supernatural eternal existence, the uncreated cause, is best described as the God of the Bible.

The arguments against Kalam usually take the form of some infinite regress, a never ending series of causes and effects, but those all fail the logical requirement that no matter how many immediate causes one may propose, any series always has a beginning, thus an ultimate cause is always required. Thomas called this the essential first cause, and this argument has never been defeated. But Kalam can only terminate on a first cause that has always existed, and only God is eternal and self-existent, for everything we see in the material world is temporary.

The gospel of John said it like this: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

In the second book of the Bible, Exodus, God is found recruiting a prophet to lead the people of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt. God appeared to Moses as the now famous burning bush that burned but was not consumed. Moses inquired of God, that if Israel questioned Moses' calling, and asked "what is the name of the God that has sent you, what shall I say"? God answers and says you will tell them "I am, that I am, has sent you". A careful study of this phrase reveals the intricate meaning of the title. First as the "I am", God identifies himself as the self-existent one, the Lord with no beginning and no end. Second "that I am" means God is the self-existent one, because it was necessary that one should be self-existent.

The fifth book of Moses further explains that only God can be eternal and self-existent, so he alone is to be worshiped. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." This passage introduces the first commandment "Have no other gods BEFORE me". The 10 commandments argue that God comes first in all things.

Colossians 1 states that God is not only the self-existent creator but the maintainer of the universe. "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth...And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." (1:16-17) Predating modern science by over 1,500 years Hebrews 11 states that the building blocks of all God's creation cannot be seen. "The worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." (Hebrews 11:3)

An old rabbinical proverb puts it like this: Being what he is, God could not fail to be who he is, and being who he is, God could not fail to be. So the sum of the matter from the Bible is thus, God is the eternal creator, because an eternal creator was necessary. The infinite God exists, because he must. The temporal cannot exist without the infinite.

So Moses begins with God before creation. The word beginning also means first or primary. So as we look at creation we must remember that God is the first thing, the preeminent truth, it all begins with Him. As we have discussed before it was the observation that the light from distant stars was red-shifted in the light spectrum meaning they were moving away from us; that laid the foundations for scientific understanding that the universe is expanding. An ancient expanding universe had to be much smaller in the distant past and that suggested that everything once was all very close together. The second discovery that brought science close to a Biblical understanding of the beginning was the cosmic microwave background radiation, which was found when testing an early form of radar.

This CMBR was found in every direction at every distance in the universe, and it was all the same temperature, which meant it all had the same origin. The CMBR was the smoking gun proof of an unimaginable flash of light at the beginning of time, also known as the Cosmic Creation Event.

3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

Did you hear the bang? Physicist Fred Hoyle was a proponent of the steady state universe without beginning, and he did not like the idea of a cosmic beginning, so he mockingly called this event "the big bang". Now many scientists recognized the Biblical implications of the evidence for a cosmic beginning, but oddly enough many Christians were not receptive to the big bang theory. You see Young Earth Creationism as the predominant view of creation time only saw the conflict in the astronomical dates in billions of years, with its own six to ten thousand year old universe view, and largely rejected this epiphany of science. Now as we have discussed before, Bishop Usshers Chronology reverse engineered a creation date using biblical genealogies. So it will be a while before we get to tackle genealogies, but our task is to see God revealed in creation, so let's continue with the text.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

The Hebrew words of the original text have a very rich symbolism so I want to spend some time on the words used and the meaning they carry.

Beginning – means the start but also the first or primary thing

Said – is to think then command

Create – is to form something

Call – means to cry out or declare

Without form – means desolate

Void – means empty

Deep – is an abyss

Day – is a period of time, and the root word means hot

Night – means to pause and the root word means to fold back

Evening – means to cover

Darkness – means hidden or secret

Morning – is the end of night, and the root word means to seek out

So let me describe the scene for you. Time begins with God revealing himself in creation. Verse 5 puts the evening before the morning, so we begin in darkness where the will of God is hidden from us. Then as God is creating the earth is desolate and empty, there is nothing yet suitable for us, but the spirit of God is there hovering. The root word for hovering means brooding, like a mother hen brooding over her eggs. One thing we know from scripture is that when we see the spirit of God it means, things are about to change, the power of God will overcome the circumstances of the time.

Then God speaks into this deep abyss of nothing and commands light to appear. Remember "said" means to think then command, so the light is not a random thing it is intentional, well designed and suitable for God's purpose. The light is not everywhere at once it is divided, it is only in the past 350 years that science determined that light had a speed, that it takes time to move so it cannot be everywhere at once. The speed of light in a vacuum is a universal constant of 186 thousand miles per second, was part of Einstein's theory of relativity as the maximum speed of matter and energy. Light was first observed to have a finite speed in 1676 by Ole Romer, and some 200 years later they calculated that the light from the Sun takes over 8 minutes to reach the earth. Science has confirmed Genesis 1:4 is correct, thousands of years after it was written. So God creates by adding information (His thoughts and words) and power or energy, this is an unimaginable amount of energy. According to the standard model of physics the creation event, not only makes matter and energy, but the fabric of space and time itself, the four dimensions of our reality. Then God evaluates what He has done and declares the first stage of creation as good or pleasant and complete.

Verse 5 gives us our first controversy regarding creation, "what is a day"? Well God defines day in verse 5 as the "time of light", he called the light day and the darkness he called night, but then He adds that the evening and the morning together are a day. The Hebrew word for day is "yowm" and it is used variously in scripture to mean the daylight hours, any part of the daylight hours, the daylight hours and the nighttime hours together, some other finite period of time. So to measure this day as a length of time you would have to know how long was the darkness then how long was the light. From the Bible text I cannot answer this. I know our days now are marked by the earth's rotation relative to the sun, but the Bible does not speak of those things until the 4th creation day. In the first 5 verses I don't even know what the source of light was, or if we're even intended to know the duration of it's shining.

The Young Earth Creationist seem certain that this is a 24 hour day, the Old Earth creationist are also known as "day age creationist", so you can guess that they believe the text can mean a "yowm" of almost any period of time. The Theistic Evolutionists see it all as metaphorical poetic language not intended for such a literal interpretation. So who is right?

To me the key parts are that God stood outside of space and time, and shone His creative light on a world described and desolate and empty. That the full trinity (Father, Word, and Spirit) of God participated in creation and God acted with knowledge and power to make something good for His purpose, His glory and our benefit. Our world had a beginning and God is the reason why.

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