what it reveals about origins.
since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal
power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through
what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
What does natural revelation reveal about origins?
We know that the Bible
originated through a process involving very ordinary men and very ordinary
writing tools, with the small but critical addition of God's direction and
providence. Only on very rare occasions did God intervene in ways that circumvented
what we would describe as the natural order of things. So in terms of natural
revelation, we ask this:
does the created universe indicate in regard to the origins of universe,
the earth, and life itself? Were
our origins the result of God's pre-planned processes, or his sudden and
First, the subject of
the verse from Romans quoted above is God's "invisible qualities"
All the nuances of when and how everything originated are not per se
invisible qualities. On the other hand, neither this verse nor others touching
on natural revelation necessarily limit what can be learned about God from
the observable universe. Either way, we must proceed carefully.
of the Bible must be held firmly, but not so idolatrously tight that we
lose the willingness to re-evaluate those things which we think we "know".
The great scientist and Christian Johannes Kepler reminds us that the first
recourse of the scientist should not be to look towards the miraculous.
While God is certainly capable of having instantly created all we see, it
is also possible that God has not acted in that way.
Note: The positions
I am taking in the following paragraphs do not reflect those of either traditional
"old-earthers" or "young-earthers". (The two positions
are compared here.) At
the likely price of disappointing both sides, this is simply the result
of my own interpretation of modern science coupled with years of Bible study.
Concerning the universe, I slightly favor belief in an old universe
probably along the popular figure which is currently thirteen billion years
old (twenty years ago the popular figure was fifteen billion years). This
is considered to be more easily calculated than the age of the earth, or
length of time that humanity has existed. The advantage is in the observation
that all galaxies and superclusters appear to be rushing outward from a
center. If so, their paths are traceable backwards
and their trip time becomes measurable. Of course, this assumes a roughly
even expansion rate and relatively little historical change in the speed
of light; both for which there does seem to be some doubt.
Consequently, one cannot
rule out the possibility that the universe either began as something larger
than a mere theoretical point, or expanded somewhat differently than traditional
Regardless of whether
the universe is young or old, our solar system constitutes only a microscopic
portion of it, which is perfectly illustrative of Psalm 8. The psalm rhetorically
asks what is man that God should bother to think of him out of all the vast
splendor God has created. The more vast the universe, the more in awe we
should be that its Creator bothers to care about us. That is partly why
I favor a universe that is overwhelming in every aspect - it humbles us.
Of course, the psalmist's question still makes its point even if the universe
were created this morning.
the earth: I interpret the majority of evidence to be pointing towards
an age in the hundreds of thousands of years. That is much older than having
been created in 4004 BC as once calculated by James
Usher in the 1600's, but far younger than the billions of
years theorized by proponents of Darwinism
in the late 1800's. At the very least, the fact that absolutely nothing
has carbon dated older than around 55,000 years is very curious. (Details
on carbon dating and radiometric dating methods here.)
No one is proof-positive
of how planets typically form, or if Earth's origin conforms to that pattern.
Who knows how far upward or downward age estimates will continue to be revised.
One thing is agreed upon, however: The many
in which life is narrowly sustained on this planet (more).
Each aspect exists by phenomenally thin margins. These aspects, perhaps
as many as 150 or so, have been the subject of entire books; some authored
by nonbelievers, others by believers. (See a list here.)
How are these narrow margins to be explained?
chance, or pre-designed improbability?
If we knew more about
planets in other solar systems and knew that others harbored life, Scripture's
description of God's crafting of the earth might be properly interpreted
as phenomenological in nature. But until such time, it appears that balances
within life, the earth, and the universe are constructed both delicately
different creatures abound in heaven and different creatures abound on earth.
Just as the Bible does not indicate the full extent of creatures that may
abide within heaven, neither does the observable universe as yet indicate
the extent of the creatures that may abide within it. (What about life
on other planets?)
What we do know about
life is that even where certain chemicals abound, the so-called "building
blocks of life", the probability of DNA arising by accident is still
effectively zero (discussed here).
That comes from the Nobel winning discoverers of DNA. Of course, if and
when someone convinces me they know more about DNA than its discoverers,
then I will listen to them.
We also have overwhelming
evidence against Darwinian evolution as provided by many non-Christian anti-creationists
Evidence by scientist-Christians is just as convincing, but the former case
is one which no skeptic can as easily dismiss as biased. In total, science
indicates that life is a deliberate, intelligent
intervention wherever it shall be found.
Of what is there to be afraid?
While most Christians
agree on God's special creation of life and on an earth probably younger
than put forth by most evolutionists, some Christians oppose belief in an
old universe. Although I cannot refute the possibility of a young universe
(theologically or cosmologically), I do believe that proponents of this
position sometimes share one or more of the following mistaken assumptions:
1. "An old universe leaves the door open for evolution."
No, it doesn't. It doesn't
because calculations by secular scientists (indeed, practically anti-Christians)
such as Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe, and Francis Crick declare the
accidental formation of life to be impossible, even given a universe twice
that of fifteen billion years old. Their calculations are partly the basis
for the growing field of intelligent
design. Even if one disbelieves in God, one does not have
to keep clinging to refuted Darwinism or other antiquated nineteenth-century
Furthermore, to not
believe in an old universe for fear that something you don't want
to be true might be true is a very slippery slope. When you reject
natural revelation and instead base your beliefs on fear, or on interpretations
you refuse to re-evaluate, you have basically become an idolater. You
have lifted up personal opinions, either yours or someone else's, over that
which God has placed in front of your eyes. You have become the medieval
Catholic bishop shunning a gaze into Galileo's telescope - something that
speaks very poorly of your science, and of yourself.
2. "The Bible says six days so it means a literal six days."
While the text does
categorize God's creation of the cosmos as falling into six days even before
such things as days existed (one complete revolution of the earth), believers
recognize that not every statement in the Bible is intended to be interpreted
You'll find a more complete
discussion on "days" here,
but the end-run around a lengthy word analysis is to ask if Scripture ever
tries to communicate something more than simply the words being employed.
For example, research the words "lamb" or "word" or
"lion", and then compare their literal definitions to the God
to whom they are so often used to refer.
Or whom did Jesus say
was "the Elijah who was to come"? Did he not say John the
Baptist (Matthew 17:9-13)? Was he not revealing that the correct interpretation
of this particular prophecy was far more metaphorical than perhaps everyone
had been anticipating?
This is not playing
fast and loose with interpretation (a critical issue thoroughly discussed
this is diplomatically urging believers that where natural revelation seems
to be saying one thing, and written revelation another, we must bring the
two together. We must unite them with humility and using our absolute best
interpretation of what we both observe about creation and read in the Word.
3. "The universe may have been created to only look like it's old."
This is also referred
to as being created in a mature state (like when Jesus created fish and
bread on a mountainside to feed the multitudes). First, fish and bread are
products of cyclical processes. We know what a mature fish should
look like because we are familiar with their complete life cycle. The same
with bread. These acts were specifically done by Jesus for an express purpose.
However, we comparatively have no idea what a mature universe should look
like, nor do we need the universe to have any particular appearance at all.
The Congress of Astronomers
in 1969 declared the expanding universe to have a beginning and, by all
appearances and measurements, it is not slowing down. The universe is
a linear, once-in-forever event. We thus conclude the universe to have
no life cycle; thus nothing mandating that God give the universe its present
appearance in order to make it appear right. Astronomically speaking,
there is no right appearance, and any appearance at all is going to be interpreted
as natural whether the observer believes in God or not.
We also know that the
observable stars and galaxies are at varying distances from the earth. The
time it takes light to travel these distances is both varied and great -
greater than the short time that some give for the age of the universe.
This requires that God either created everything far away, along with photon
paths already in route to the earth, or that the speed of light and speed
of outward rushing objects has greatly changed.
The photon path idea
seems extremely forced, though there is admittedly some evidence for change
in the speed of light, and possibly forthcoming evidence for a radical deceleration
of outward rushing objects. If true, this might be evidence for a young
universe, but not for a universe created with the false appearance of having
expanded from a common center.
How likely is it that
God would create everything to appear to be rushing out from a common center
from which it never actually came? Admittedly this is a very weak argument;
but if God did so, one might argue this to constitute something along the
lines of a "false witness". How likely is it God arranged numerous parts
of the universe with false appearances such as crater impressions from meteors
which never fell, expanding debris fields from exploding stars which never
were, or fossils of creatures that never existed?
This returns us to our
very first rule about natural revelation. If
God does not lie to us in his written revelation, there is no reason to
believe he lies to us in his natural revelation. Reality is what it is because
God has made it so. Therefore our arguments must constrain themselves to
using our best science, using our best scriptural interpretations, and this:
How does creation appear to have been created, because unless stated
in the Bible otherwise, that is likely how God created it AND intends for
Scripture to read.
did the universe come from?
did the earth come from?
did man come from?
On freedom of inquiry