Sunday, July 8, 2012

God Revealed in Creation – Part 2

So far we have God revealed as eternal and self-existent, confirmed by scripture and by science. We also saw God as both the maker and divider of light. The pattern we saw in day one will be repeated in each phase of creation. We begin with the evening dark and hidden then God will act with power and immeasurable intellect to accomplish His purpose, we will also see God continue to use division as a creative tool. We addressed out first creation controversy, the length of a creation day or "yowm". Today we will cover another creation day and another controversy.

So after verse 5 the earth is still in a primitive state, a rocky planet covered in water, probably shrouded in a thick mist of gasses.

Genesis 1

Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters."

Firmament is a strange word and different translations sometimes use "expanse", "dome", "vault", "air" and "horizon", and other words in its place. The problem with these other words are that they are used inconsistently, and do not convey the special meaning of the more uncommon word "firmament". The Hebrew word is "raqiya" and it is somewhat paradoxical; something spread out but also acting as a solid or fixed boundary. The verb form of the word is "raqa" meaning to beat or flatten something out. My mental picture is a metal smith pounding on a piece of hot metal to flatten it into a sheet. This word is used in different contexts in the Bible and this one is talking about the atmosphere immediately above the earth. We will discuss the firmament more as we move through the creative process, and talk about stars.

So God is taking this shroud of water vapor from the surface of the earth and moving it up separated from the sea by an expanse of sky. Astrophysicist believe that water would be a common element present at the formation of a rocky planet, but one of the distinctions that makes our earth rare is how our atmosphere forms a container for a stable water cycle, because God has divided the waters.

Recently NASA launched a rover toward Mars, another rocky planet, and they discussed the difficulty of landing anything on Mars because the atmosphere is so thin that all the surface water has evaporated off the face of the planet. The Martian atmosphere is 100 times thinner than that of earth, so when this satellite is pulled into the planet's atmosphere there is not enough density of air for drag or resistance to slow down the landing capsule. As a result they made the largest ballistic parachute ever to try and slow it down. The also made a rocket platform to make the final descent and lower the rover to the surface. On earth you just deploy the parachute and let in float down, but not in Mars.

Thus 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. So the evening and the morning were the second day.

So the firmament "raqiya" (an expanse with a boundary) divides the water in the clouds from the surface water. God names this expanse heaven. The Hebrew word translated heaven is "shamayim" and it is also used three different ways in scripture: 1) it is used here for the sky or inner space, the place of clouds and eventually birds. 2) Later is will be used for what we call outer space, the abode of the stars. 3) Lastly the way we mostly think of heaven is the abode of God and His angels.

In 2 Corinthians 12 speaking of Paradise, Paul refers to it as the 3rd heaven.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 

The Jewish Talmud and other religious literature identify 7 heavens, but looking at the verses they reference, like Paul, I can only find justification for the 3 I have listed (inner space, outer space, and Paradise).

A Recent chemical isotope study of the oldest earth rocks has revealed what this early earth atmosphere was like. It mostly consisted of Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen, Water Vapor, and Sulfur dioxide. We will revisit this when we get to the origin of life, but this particular atmosphere fits perfectly with supernatural creation, but invalidates evolution theory's best explanation for the origin of life, also known as the primordial soup.

Verse 8 concludes with the familiar "evening and morning" for the second creation day, and also brings us to our second controversy regarding creations days. We mentioned last week that one way to account for an old earth would be if there was a gap of time after Genesis 1:1, or even after verse 2. To me the problem with that idea is that the text is counting these creative time periods, and separating the first verse or two would result in an uncounted day, and not fit with the poetic pattern of the rest of the chapter.

But there is another form of gap theory that does fit with the text, at least in its Hebrew form. In our English Bibles verses 5 and 8 contain "the first day" and "the second day" respectively. But look at the page from the Hebrew Bible and you will see something a little different.


Genesis Chapter 1 בְּרֵאשִׁית

א  בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

ב  וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם.

2 Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.

ג  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי אוֹר; וַיְהִי-אוֹר.

3 And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light.

ד  וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאוֹר, כִּי-טוֹב; וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים, בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

ה  וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם, וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה; וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם אֶחָד.  {פ}

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. {P}

ו  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי רָקִיעַ בְּתוֹךְ הַמָּיִם, וִיהִי מַבְדִּיל, בֵּין מַיִם לָמָיִם.

6 And God said: 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.'

ז  וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-הָרָקִיעַ, וַיַּבְדֵּל בֵּין הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר מִתַּחַת לָרָקִיעַ, וּבֵין הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר מֵעַל לָרָקִיעַ; וַיְהִי-כֵן.

7 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.

ח  וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָרָקִיעַ, שָׁמָיִם; וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם שֵׁנִי.  {פ}

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. {P}


So what is the difference between "the first day" vs. "one day", or "the second day" vs. "a second day"? In grammar it is called the definite article which in Hebrew is "ha" and in English is the word "the". So in English, when we read "the first day" and "the second day", we understand the young-earth assertion that the days of creation are consecutive 24 hour days, with nothing in between. But looking at the Hebrew text as "one day" and "a second day", you might ask "a second day of what"? And the answer could be a second day of creation, which would not exclude some other passage of time in between the creation days. In other words the Hebrew text certainly allows for consecutive creation days, but it does not require it. So by the missing "the" we have another form a gap theory which says that Genesis One is counting "creation days" rather than earth days in general, and allows for the passage of time between creation events consistent with some forms of Old-Earth Creationism.

So God's 2nd day of creation establishes an Earth with an atmosphere, a rather dense atmosphere with lots of CO2 and water vapor. This will be very important for the origin of plant life which we will cover with the 3rd creation day. God reveals himself to us in this second creation day in that he acted supernaturally with power and knowledge to preserve the water on the face of the earth, to later make rain possible and give us this wonderful protective atmosphere suitable for life. The first day of creation God divided the light from the darkness, the second creation day He divided the surface waters from the water vapor.

Our unique atmosphere is a part of, what scientist refer to as, the Rare Earth Hypothesis. REH is the idea that most planets will not look like earth, not even most rocky planets will look like earth. REH says that in all the possible circumstances of planet formation, the earth has enjoyed an amazing string of happy coincidences, to make our world suitable for life, and even suitable for intelligent life and advanced civilization. Of course REH is an agnostic way of looking at the intentional creation of God, but sometimes you have to bring naturalist along in baby steps before they will entertain the idea of a cause outside of nature.

Here's how the Bible describes the origin and nature of the universe.

1.   The universe has a transcendent cause (Gen. 1:1; Acts 4:24; 17:28; Rom. 4:17).

2.   The universe has a beginning (Gen. 1:1; Heb. 1:10).

3.   Time has a beginning (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:20).

4.   God is "stretching out the heavens" like a tent (Job 9:8; Ps. 104:2; Is. 42:5; Jer. 10:12; Jer. 51:15; Zech. 12:1).

5.   Someday this universe will come to an end and be replaced by a "new heavens and a new earth" (Is. 34:4; Heb. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 3:10).

Now let's compare how the Bible describes the creation event with what mainstream scientists say about the universe.





Began with the creation event; linear (time goes in only one direction, forward)

Began with the creation event; linear (time goes in only one direction, forward)

Matter and Energy

Had a beginning at some finite time in the past

Had a beginning at some finite time in the past


Transcendent Cause (God) required

Transcendent (Independent) Cause required

Nature of the universe

God is "Stretching out the heavens"

Has been expanding since the creation and will continue to expand in the future

End of the Universe

This universe will be replaced with "new heavens and new earth"

Eventually, universe won't be able to sustain life; universe may collapse or burn up

 Obvious parallels emerge from these descriptions. Although it is certain the ancient authors didn't specifically have the big bang in mind when they wrote those words, it's at least possible that the supernatural Author inspired these particular descriptions because He knew they reflected an accurate account of what scientists would discover millennia later.

Studies probing the intricacies of our universe's early history provide an intriguing way to put certain holy books to the test. The remarkable parallels between big bang cosmology and the Bible place the Christian Scriptures on favorable footing. Conversely, Hindu cosmology teaches the universe is cyclically created and destroyed approximately every 4 billion years. But such an idea clearly conflicts with the best research from the frontiers of astrophysics.

Far from being an atheistic idea to be avoided, big bang cosmology yields powerful support for the supernatural origin of the Bible.


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