As there will be people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” in heaven, it seems that some of these would not have heard about Jesus before they died (Rev. 5:9-10). I believe that infants go to heaven when they die because they are not accountable for their sin. We will look at other people in two categories, those who lived before and after Christ.
The Bible says that those who trusted God in Old Testament times go to heaven. Although most of the promises they were given were physical, they also had a heavenly hope. They realised that this earth was not their final home: “admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (Heb. 11:13NIV). Instead they were looking towards heaven: “they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16a). We are told that God “has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:16b). In particular, Abraham “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
These people are commended in Hebrews as those who lived by faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). The Jews were told, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). This faith was based on a revelation from God.
“Enoch walked faithfully with God” (Gen. 5:22, 24). So did Noah (Gen. 6:9). This means they obeyed God. “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). Job repented after God revealed His power through nature (Job 38-41; 42:6).
So those who trusted in God’s revelation to them before the formation of the Israelite nation go to heaven. In their case, God usually spoke directly to them.
God spoke to the Israelites “at many times and in various ways” (Heb. 1:1). It is stated that Moses accepted “disgrace for the sake of Christ” (Heb. 11:26). But as Moses lived about 1,450 years before Christ, this seems to be a figure of speech. It means that Moses choose to be loyal to God and to associate with his fellow Israelites. The reason given is that “he was looking ahead to his reward”. As Hebrews was probably written about 65AD, the writer knew that the Messiah was the one through whom God guaranteed their promised future.
So the Israelites who trusted in God’s revelation to them in Old Testament times go to heaven. In their case, the revelation was usually miracles and the law given through Moses.
We know God revealed Himself to the Israelites as they were His people during this period of time. But what about the Gentiles? The Israelites were told to follow the laws that God gave them through Moses so that other nations would come to know God: “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Dt. 4:6-8).
Rahab is a Gentile who trusted God (Heb. 11:31). She told the Israelite spies, “I know that the Lord has given you this land … for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Josh. 2:9-11). Because of what she had heard of the Exodus and the defeat of the Amorites, she realised that the God of the Israelites was greater than the Canaanite gods. So she rejected the Canaanite gods to follow the God of the Israelites.
Also Ruth the Moabite told her Israelite mother-in-law, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Likewise, she rejected the gods of the Moabites to follow the God of the Israelites. God’s interest in the Gentiles is shown in the book of Jonah where Jonah was sent to Nineveh with a message of God’s judgment and the people repented of their sin (Jon. 3:1-10).
So the Gentiles who trusted in God’s revelation to them in Old Testament times go to heaven. God revealed Himself to them through the Israelites when they heard about their law and the miraculous preservation of their nation.
All the above are examples of people who go to heaven without hearing about Jesus. But the Bible says the following about Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12NLT). And Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). This means that the only way to get into heaven is through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Before Christ’s death people were saved according to their acceptance of God’s revelation to them. It was based on the future work of Christ. So those who trusted in God’s revelation in Old Testament times go to heaven because their faith in God was equivalent to faith in Jesus Christ. They were saved on credit. “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” (Rom. 3:25). In this way God overlooked the sins of those who trusted in Him before Christ’s death and resurrection.
In Romans, God reveals that we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23) and we can only get to heaven through trusting in Christ’s sacrifice for us (Rom. 3:22-26). But it also says that people are judged according to God’s revelation to them: “All who sin apart from the law (Gentiles) will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law (Jews) will be judged by the law” (Rom 2:12). The two main ways that God reveals himself to people who haven’t heard about Jesus are creation and conscience.
Firstly, the physical world demands a Creator. Its design requires a Designer. The laws of nature require a Lawmaker. By looking at our universe, anyone can know that there is a creator God. “The truth about God is known instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God” (Rom. 1:19-20NLT). Enough of God is revealed in His creation that there is no excuse for not believing in Him. Those who reject this revelation follow idols and practice sinful behaviour and suffer God’s judgment (Rom. 1:18-32).
Nature is a testimony of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Ps. 19:1-4). Also, Paul said “We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, He let all nations go their own way. Yet He has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:15-17).
So if people haven’t heard about Jesus, they can be judged according to their response to the revelation of God in creation. If they turn from idolatry and seek the true God, then God may give them additional revelation. For example, Cornelius was a Gentile who sought God. So God sent Peter to tell him about Jesus and salvation (Acts 11:14). God can appear to people in many ways throughout their lives. He can send people to inform them (Rom. 10:14-15). Because God doesn’t want anyone to perish in hell and wants everyone to repent of their sin, we must trust that He has made a way for those people (2 Pt. 3:9).
Secondly, everyone is born with a conscience. We all have an instinctive knowledge of right and wrong. For example, most people know it is wrong to lie, steal, and commit adultery and murder. The Bible gives God’s standards for humanity. But for those who are ignorant of this it says: “They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right” (Rom. 2:15NLT). Anyone who has not heard about what the Bible says will be judged according to their conscience. God will say, “What did you think was right and wrong?” The next question is, “Did you always do the right and not the wrong?” By that standard, of course, everyone fails. The conscience proves that we are sinners like the law does for the Jew.
The issue is their response to a guilty conscience. If they were sorry for their behavior and would repent then they would probably go to heaven. This reasoning is based on the fact that God is just and wants all to be saved. He has made a way for all, but few accept it.
Like those who lived before Christ, the issue is whether they responded to God’s revelation to them. So through the creation and our conscience, God gives everyone the opportunity to turn to Him and be saved from the penalty of their sinfulness and go to heaven.
Lessons for us
Like the Israelites, a Christian’s behaviour can influence an unbeliever to repent and follow God and go to heaven. “Live such good lives among the pagans (your unbelieving neighbors, NLT) that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Pt. 2:12).
Although people can to be saved without hearing about Jesus, it isn’t likely to occur in very many instances. The usual way to go to heaven is to respond to hearing about Jesus. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:14). That’s why it’s important to tell people about Jesus as much as possible and support others in this work.
Based on a message given at my mother’s funeral on 3 April 2013
A funeral usually involves memories and reflections of the life of the person who has died. But the funeral of a Christian can also look ahead in anticipation of what lies ahead.
Help from God the Creator
The source of a Christian’s help and protection throughout life is described in Psalm 121NIV.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm— He will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
When this song was written about 3,000 years ago, God’s people knew that the only reliable help and protection comes from the God who made the universe – “the Maker of heaven and earth”. In this context the Hebrew word for “heaven” means the atmosphere and the stars and galaxies. A God with the intelligence and power to create the universe and populate it with living plants, animals and people was surely able to help them! The Bible says He was the source of life on earth whereas all other gods and philosophies are the product of the human imagination.
Unfortunately in our modern world we have largely lost this knowledge and this confidence. We have forgotten about God the Creator. Even though we have wonderful technology, science can’t explain how matter was created from nothing or how life originated, and we often replace God the Creator with the idea that things created themselves.
So when we struggle in life where does our help come from? Some people go to counsellors for help who encourage them to get help from outside themselves. Because people usually can’t solve their own problems, they need to get help from someone else. In a similar way, we all need “outside help” to sustain us and God the Creator is the ultimate outside help!
Psalm 121 ends with, “The Lord will watch your coming and going both now and forevermore”. Here those who trusted God the Creator were promised that God would protect them throughout life and into the future. They could live with assurance and confidence that God would continue to help them. Likewise Christians can have the assurance that God will sustain them during their life and afterwards.
A different world
You may ask if God created everything in the beginning, why is there so much suffering in the world? The world today is very different from the one God made originally. We live in a different world. In the beginning it was a perfect world with harmony between God, people and the natural environment. But when people turned against their Maker, it changed and sin, evil, suffering and death came into the world. This change was caused by people like us. We live in a world with consequences – an act has a consequence and an effect has a cause. Because people turned against God our relationships have been ruined. We ignore God and are separated from Him, we can’t get along with other people, and we exploit the natural environment. Another consequence is that the Bible says we are destined to eternal punishment. Because we are the cause of this problem, we need outside help. Because each of us is guilty, we can’t help each other. The only reliable help available outside humanity is God the Creator.
Help from God the Lifesaver
Fortunately, God didn’t only create the universe and the laws of nature in the beginning, but He also continues to sustain it. He is not only incredibly powerful, but He is also incredibly loving. We remember His special act of love at Christmas and Easter when we celebrate the unique birth and death of Jesus Christ. God knew that mankind was doomed to eternal punishment unless He provided them with outside help. He did this about 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ lived on earth and died and came alive again. Jesus was unique; He was God living as a human being. He showed His power over our world by the miracles He did. When He died by crucifixion, He took the eternal punishment that we deserve. If we turn towards God by being sorry for our behaviour and accepting the fact that Jesus has taken the penalty for our sin, then He promises eternal joy instead of eternal punishment. This is called eternal life. So Jesus is like a lifesaver – He can rescue us from the eternal consequence of our selfish behaviour. In this way God is making a new creation and He gives us the choice of being a part of it. Although we spoilt God’s original creation, and there is now sin, evil, pain, suffering and death, these will be absent in God’s new creation. Instead we can be reconciled with God, we can love one another and we can look forward to the restoration of creation like it was in the beginning.
Because a Christian has accepted Jesus as their Savior they can have an inner assurance, joy and peace.
What happens when a person dies? Not only do the lungs stop breathing and the heart stops pumping. The Bible says that at death a person’s invisible soul and spirit is separated from their body. If they trusted in Jesus the Savior, their soul and spirit goes immediately to be with God in heaven. After death they are enjoying a perfect place. That is why Paul could say, “To die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) and that he preferred to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). So they are in a better place. Their death is a loss for us, but a gain for them.
But there is more! On Easter Sunday we recall that the body of Jesus was raised back to life after being buried in a grave. The Bible describes a coming day when the bodies of believers, who trusted in Christ the Savior will also be raised back to life:
“What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:50-57NLT).
This is also described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. As part of God’s new creation they will have new bodies which won’t wear out and die (1 Cor. 15:42-49; Phil. 3:21; 1 Jn. 3:2) and they will be transported to be with God in heaven – spirit, soul and new body. This will be a great victory over the sin, suffering and death of our world. That’s why Christians can look forward confidently to the coming resurrection. There’s victory ahead!
The hymn, “How great Thou art”, summarises the greatness of God and the reasons for our Christian faith.
The first verse is about God the great Creator and source of life on earth. It says “Your power throughout the universe displayed”. Do we see God’s power in His creation?
The third verse is about Jesus Christ the great Lifesaver and source of eternal life. It says “On the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin”. When we stand before God, will He be like a lifesaver or like a judge? If we turn towards God by confessing our sins we can be ready to meet Him.
The last verse is about the great resurrection when the bodies of those who have trusted in Christ will be raised and changed to be with Him forever. It says “When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home – what joy shall fill my heart”. Are you ready to experience this joy?
Written, April 2013
Are animals smarter than people?
Sometimes in movies or children’s stories there are talking animals. This is an example of anthropomorphism where something is given human attributes. The word comes from the Greek word for human (anthropos) and form (morphos). A recent television show titled “Making stuff smarter” described how nature inspired scientists to develop new inventions. For example:
- As sharkskin seems to prevent the growth of algae, material with a similar micro structure may inhibit the spread of bacteria.
- As geckos adhere to a vertical wall by microscopic hairs on their toes, material can mimic this to enable other things to adhere to walls.
- As birds use a flexible, shape-changing wing, this may be mimicked in future aircraft.
These abilities of nature were explained in the television show as follows:
- “In each case, nature has come up with something new just by manipulating the surface of a material on a very small scale”.
- “For billions of years, Mother Nature’s been experimenting, and that’s given living things amazing abilities, like healing, flight and camouflage. What can we learn from nature’s ingenuity?”
- “With all our technology and materials, it’s easy to think we’re the planet’s best inventors, but life has been experimenting with the raw materials of earth for far longer. Billions of years of evolution have created a vast array of plants and animals with amazing abilities of their own. As our understanding of biology and our materials deepens, a new world has opened up, one where nature’s ingenuity and human ingenuity can combine.”
So animals amazing abilities are attributed to: “nature”, “Mother Nature”, and “evolution”. This creative ability is assumed to be an inherent characteristic of animals. Does the fact that scientists are imitating these abilities mean that animals are smarter than people? The answer to this question depends on how the animals were created. If they created themselves, then they developed these characteristics first and so in this aspect they are smarter than the scientists who are investigating them! On the other hand, if the animals didn’t create themselves, then they are not necessarily smarter than people.
Why is “Mother Mature” capitalised? This looks like theomorphism, where something is given the attributes of God or a deity. The word comes from the Greek word for god (theos) and form (morphos). In this case the idea of evolution replaces the need for a creative God. It is theomorphic.
God says …
What does God say about this topic in the Bible?
- God made the original animals and people (Gen. 1:20-27). This means that He invented the amazing abilities of animals and people. So nature is ingenious because God is ingenious, not because of the idea of evolution. Also, scientists are ingenious because God is ingenious. So animals didn’t create themselves, but they do reproduce themselves, as God planned.
- God made people to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Gen. 1:26). In this sense, people are smarter than animals and not vice-versa.
So, don’t believe everything you hear and read. Instead test it against what God says.
Written, April 2012
Recently the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva in Switzerland has been used to discover a new sub-atomic particle. The collider directs streams of protons around a 27 km circular tunnel so they collide head-on and records the sub-atomic debris that results.
A researcher reported, “Our new measurements are a great way to test theoretical calculations of the forces that act on fundamental particles, and will move us a step closer to understanding how the universe is held together”. So scientists are seeking to understand how the universe is held together. According to the Bible, what they discover will be secondary causes and not primary ones.
Primary and secondary causes
The Bible says that everything in the universe is held together by the powerful word of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is “sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3) and “in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1 :17). God’s divine power sustains the mass, energy, space and time of our universe. It the primary reason the universe is held together.
The Bible also teaches that God spoke the universe into existence.
- “the universe was formed at God’s command” (Heb. 11:3).
- “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth … Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:6-9).
- With regard to the whole universe (visible and invisible, living and inanimate); “at His command they were created” (Ps. 148:5)
- “God said” is mentioned ten times in the description of the creation of the universe (Gen 1:1-31).
The orderly mechanisms and models of science reflect God’s nature. These mechanisms and models are secondary causes which describe how the universe operates. They are part of the creation over which God has dominion (Job 25:2; 38:33). The eternal omnipotent God who has massive intelligence is the original and ultimate cause because He determined how the universe operates.
God not only designed and created the universe, He continues to sustain it by His divine powerful word. He is both a Creator and a Sustainer.
Written, December 2011
The heavens declare the glory of God!
These notes were prepared for a presentation to be shown to High School students in New South Wales, Australia.
I have a Bachelor of Science with first class honours (BSc Hons) in Physics from the University of Sydney, and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Environmental Science from Macquarie University.
What is the meaning of the word “creation”?
According to the Macquarie Dictionary, the word “creation” is a noun meaning “that which is created”; or more specifically “the world”; or “the universe”. It describes something that has been created or made or an original work. In this presentation, we will use the word “creation” to describe “nature” or “the world” or “the universe”.
The word “creation” was used in the Bible by Paul to mean the universe: “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:20-22NLT).
We live in a creative world. People are very creative. For example, artists create works of art, architects create buildings, inventors create inventions, engineers create machines, and authors create novels. Here the creations are works of art, buildings, machines, and novels. Even animals are creative. They make sounds to communicate with each other and make homes such as nests and holes in the ground.
The creative process involves two nouns and one verb:
- The creator – someone or something who creates
- The creation – what has been brought into existence. It’s something new. Something that had a beginning.
- To create – is the action to bring something into existence.
In this process, the creator is the cause and the creation is the effect. Did you know that we live in a cause and effect universe? For every effect there is a cause. Likewise, for every creation there is a creator. The creation begins in the mind of the creator. As illustrated by the examples given above, the creator is always more intelligent than the creation (except in the case of biological offspring, where God is the real creator of a person’s DNA).
Why is it important to study creation?
As mentioned above, “creation” is “nature” or “the world” or “the universe”. We rely on creation for much of our health and well being. It is our life support system It provides the resources we use for: supplying food and water, which are essential for life; supplying energy; making buildings and transport systems, and supplying raw materials for the things we manufacture.
These resources include: animals on the land and in the water; plants, including forests; soils; and minerals and fossil fuels. We would die if all our plants and animals became extinct.
As we didn’t create any of these raw materials, we don’t know everything about them. Researchers study creation in order to understand how it works. They also study our bodies in order to keep healthy and treat injury and disease.
I hope the students watching this presentation learn more about creation in their studies. Maybe in future they can improve the knowledge of creation through research and investigations and apply it to the benefit of humanity.
As the pinnacle of God’s creation, people are given the responsibility to care for the rest of creation – the first man was told to:
- “Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground” (Gen 1:26), and
- “to tend and watch over” the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15).
This involves the management of earth’s resources for the benefit of everyone.
Couldn’t the universe have been created by chance?
Could Windows7 have been created by chance? Obviously no! As the universe is more complex than Windows7, it couldn’t have been created by chance either.
Everything which has a beginning has a cause. As the universe has a beginning, it has a cause. As the universe is a creation, it has a creator. What sort of creator is required? Could it have been due to chance such as a random event or random process?
Our world is made up of physical and non-physical components. The physical components (matter and energy) cannot produce the non-physical components. For example, information, such as the code stored in the DNA and RNA of all forms of life, is a non-physical message. The only source of such information is an intelligent creator. How much intelligence is required?
For the following reasons, the creator of the universe is more intelligent than modern scientists!
- Plants make food and oxygen from sunlight and water in the process of photosynthesis. But scientists are unable to do this (Sarfati, p. 125). So the creator of plant life is more intelligent than modern scientists!
- The information in the human genome is wonderfully complex. The DNA sequence in each cell of our bodies is made up of about 3 billion pairs of molecules. Scientists certainly can’t make life. They can’t even manufacture a single living cell such as an amoeba. That’s why they use stem cells in their research. So the Creator of life on earth is more intelligent than modern scientists!
The complex design of our world requires a Designer. The information in the genetic code requires a source. Complex creation, design and information can’t occur by chance. That would be like a computer that occurred by chance and we all know that doesn’t happen. Instead what happens is that computers break down, they devolve. Likewise instead of getting more complex with time, the natural world is devolving, extinction is evident, not evolution. Did you now that most mutations involve a loss or corruption of genetic information? They are malfunctions that can cause illness such as cystic fibrosis.
This means the answer to the question is “no”, the universe could not have been created by chance. Chance cannot produce the complexity of our world. By the way, nothing can create itself, because that would mean that it existed before it came into existence, which is nonsense!
So the creation demonstrates that there must be a powerful creator, who we call God. David knew this 3,000 years ago when he sang, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” (Ps. 19:1). This means that God’s existence can be inferred from nature, which is His creation.
How would you describe the creativity of God in creation?
The creativity shown in creation is enormous. Think of:
- The vastness of the galaxies.
- The grandeur of mountains
- The structure of the atom
- The enormous range in types of animals and plants.
- The enormous diversity within each type of animal and plant.
- The complexity of the design of each animal and plant
- The range of the behaviour of each plant and animal
- The range of ecological habitats across the world
- The coordination between the plants and animals in every habitat
- The complexity of a single living cell
- The coordination between all the organs of the body
- The beauty of a flower
- Even the range of colours.
Creation is loaded with creativity. The Creator is a supreme architect, engineer and computer programmer in one being.
God is so creative that inventors copy things they see in creation. For example:
- Aircraft were developed by copying the flight of birds.
- The design of the human eye has been copied in the design of the optics of cameras (Sarfati, p. 31).
- The iridescent blues in butterflies & birds are due to a natural diffraction grating, which has been copied to design for brighter and deeper colours (Sarfati, p. 53).
However, we need to realise that the creation has been corrupted since it was created. We can learn about this from the Bible which has been given to us by God who told its authors what to write. The Bible says that the original creation was perfect (“very good”), but this was spoilt when people rebelled against God. At this time, suffering, crime, disease, death and tragedy were introduced. When people say, “how could a loving God create such a world?”, they show their ignorance of the history of our world. He didn’t create it that way in the beginning.
So although God’s creativity is still evident, creation is marred by natural disasters, mismanagement, pollution and extinction.
Does religion fear science?
Christians believe that God the Creator has revealed Himself to us in the words of the Bible. The bible contains the history and destiny of humanity. It is a unique book.
As Christianity inspired and fostered the development of science, it does not fear true science. During the Reformation people interpreted Scripture in a historical-grammatical fashion. They believed that a rational God ruled the universe and realised that Adam had been told to “tend” or “take care” of creation (Gen. 2:15), which lead to scientific research, exploration and discovery.
Operational science studies the creation in order to understand how it works. If science stays within the bounds of the experimental method, there is no conflict with Scripture. However, if scientists extrapolate outside the range of their observations, their predictions become more speculative. Such predictions are not robust. For example, when scientists make statements about the origin of life many years ago, these cannot be proved because they are in the area of history, not operational science. How can you do an experiment about something that cannot be observed?
The facts of science do not change, but the theories proposed to explain these do change. This is because human knowledge is not perfect. In this sense, scientific theories are tentative.
Each year scientists reveal more detail about creation; but each discovery just leads to more questions and things to investigate. So science can reveal more about God’s creativity. As the existence of God is revealed in a general way in creation, by studying the wonders of creation, science can help to demonstrate His immense intelligence and power.
However, Christians do not agree with the philosophy of materialism/naturalism (that nature is all there is). Note, information is not material. This belief is contrary to Scripture – it ignores the Creator: “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created (creation) instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!” (Rom. 1:25).
Does creation reveal God’s perfect love for humanity?
As people care about what happens to their creations, so God cares for His creation. For example:
- He has provided all the resources we need for survival. Creation is our life support system.
- He saw that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). The original creation showed God’s perfect love for humanity.
- He continues to sustain the creation: “You care for people and animals alike, O Lord” (Ps. 36:6). He cares for people, animals, birds and fish.
- “He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Mt. 5:45).
- “He sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts” (Acts 14:17).
- “All the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine” (Ps. 50:10-11).
- “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Mt. 10:29-31). The God cares for the sparrows, and He cares more for people.
So the powerful, loving and personal Creator God is engaged with His creation.
However, we also need to take into account the fact that creation has been impacted by people’s rebellion against God. Creation can be cruel. Balance the perfect and the corrupted. “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:20-22). In this passage Creation is personified. Like a pregnant mother, it looks forward to being delivered from suffering, disease and death.
Does God take pleasure in His creation? And if so, why does He?
As people take pleasure in their creations, so God takes pleasure in His creation.
During the week of creation God paused five times and noted that “it was good” (Gen. 1:4, 12, 18, 21, 25). Then when it was finished: “God looked over all He had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Gen. 1:31). It sounds like He was pleased with what He had made.
Psalm 104 is about the God of creation. It says, “The Lord takes pleasure in all He has made!” (Ps. 104:31). A reason for being pleased is that the creation shows God’s power and wisdom: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship” (Ps. 19:1).
Jonathan Sarfati (2008) “By Design – Evidence of nature’s Intelligent Designer – the God of the Bible”, Creation Book Publishers.
Written, November 2009
We live in a creative world. People are very creative. For example, artists create works of art, architects create buildings, inventors create inventions, engineers create hardware and software, and authors create novels. Even animals are creative. They make sounds to communicate with each other and make homes including nests and holes in the ground.
The creative process involves two nouns and one verb:
- The creator – someone or something who creates
- The creation – what has been brought into existence. It’s something new.
- To create – is to bring something into existence. It’s an action.
The creator is always more intelligent than the creation (except biological offspring). This should be obvious from the examples given above.
Creation is a major theme of the Bible. It begins with God creating everything and ends with God remaking everything in a new heaven and a new earth (Gen. 1:1-2:3; Rev. 21:1-5).
This article is based on Bible passages that use the words “create”, “creation, or “creator”.
God has revealed Himself to everyone in His creation. Isaiah wrote, “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars?” (Is. 40:26NLT). This is a good question. When we look at creation we should be reminded of their Creator. Science today misses the main point of God’s revelation through the creation, which is that the creation requires a Creator.
We live in an amazingly complex world. Each year scientists reveal more detail; but each discovery just leads to more questions and things to investigate. Look at all the information in the human genome; it’s wonderfully complex. The DNA sequence in each cell of our bodies is made up of about 3 billion pairs of molecules. Scientists certainly can’t make life. They can’t even manufacture a single living cell. That’s why they use stem cells in their research. So the Creator of life on earth is more intelligent than modern scientists!
The complex design of our world requires a Designer. The information in the genetic code requires a source. Complex creation, design and information can’t occur by chance. That would be like a computer that occurred by chance and we all know that doesn’t happen. Instead what happens is that computers break down, they devolve. Likewise, instead of getting more complex with time, the natural world is devolving; extinction is evident, not evolution. Did you know that most mutations involve a loss or corruption of genetic information? They are malfunctions that can cause illness, such as cystic fibrosis.
Also, nothing can create itself, because that would mean that it existed before it came into existence, which is nonsense! Instead, the logic is that everything which has a beginning has a cause. As the universe has a beginning, it has a cause, which is that it was created by God. So, we live in a cause and effect universe.
David knew this 3,000 years ago when he sang, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship” (Ps. 19:1). This means that God’s existence can be inferred from nature, which is His creation. Because the universe is awesome and immense, God must be immensely powerful. That’s what omnipotent means. Paul said that His eternal power and divine nature are evident in all we see, “The truth about God is known instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God” (Rom. 1:19-20). “Eternal power” means there is no limit on what God can do.
The Supreme Creator
Our knowledge of God’s nature and how He created everything comes from the revelation of Scripture, as it is the only clear revelation from God – it has not been tainted by sin. God was the only One who was there and He tells us how it happened. We are told, “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen” (Heb. 11:3). Here we see that in the beginning God spoke and created what can be seen from what was invisible. In Genesis 1:3 we read “Then God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light’”. In Genesis 1, “God said” is mentioned 8 times before something new was created.
Paul gives more information, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together” (Col. 1:15-17). So God created an invisible spiritual world as well as the visible physical world. Because He made everything in the universe, He is supreme over all creation (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). God continues to sustain the creation by holding it all together.
God also created time. He created our ancestors Adam and Eve “in His own image” so He could have a special relationship with humanity (Gen. 1:27). He is the “author of life” (Acts 3:15). So, God is certainly creative.
Another of David’s songs says, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Ps. 8:3-4). Looking at creation should cause us to feel humble as we recognize the greatness of the God who chose to create us in His image.
However, the truth of the greatness of God is suppressed today as it was when Paul wrote; “God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom. 1:18). Paul explains how this truth is suppressed: “they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship Him as God or even give Him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:21-23).
First, they ignore God. They don’t glorify Him as the great Creator or thank Him for sustaining them by His creation. Instead of acknowledging what should be obvious, people act as though there is no God. In this sense they are ignorant. God is replaced by nature; they say that nature does this and nature does that. Paul says that ignoring God leads to futile thinking and darkened hearts. Their plans come to nothing and there is no compassion.
Second, they claim to be wise. They claim to know everything and are able to handle all the problems of life. They act like God. But in this they become fools.
Third, they worship the creation. Because people are instinctively religious, when they reject this revelation of the true God through His creation they worship idols. Paul repeats, “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator Himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!” (Rom. 1:25).
Godlessness results in wickedness. The consequence of suppressing the truth of the greatness of God is sexual immorality and all kinds of sinful behaviour (Rom. 1:24-32). That’s why the wicked are condemned by God and under His judgement and why there is a universal need for the gospel.
Isaiah wrote, “For the Lord is God, and He created the heavens and earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos. “I am the Lord,” He says, “and there is no other” (Is 45:18). So, the Creator is unique.
Because God had no beginning, He doesn’t need a cause (Dt. 33:27; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 7:3; Rev.1:8; 22:13). In fact God has no beginning, no end or limits; He is infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. God is omni (from the Latin word meaning “all”)! God’s power was demonstrated to Job though the wonders of creation (Job 38-41).This caused Job to realise that God could do anything (Job. 42:2).
Because God is perfect, His creation was perfect. The Bible says that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). But it didn’t stay that way.
Creation’s Suffering & Redemption
God told Adam “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains” (Gen. 3:17-18). So Adam’s fall into sin affected the world around him.
Although the original creation was “very good”, because of people’s rebellion against God, the universe has been cursed with suffering, disease and death. It has been spoilt, although we see shattered remains of the original creation. “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse … For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:20, 22). When people say, “how could a loving God create such a world?”, they show their ignorance of the history of our world. He didn’t create it that way in the beginning. We are reaping what Adam sowed. Today, life is a struggle for all creation and there is much suffering. This affects Christians as well as the rest of God’s creation. We “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).
However, together with the rest of God’s creation, we can look forward to the Lord’s coming reign over the earth: “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are” (Rom. 8:18-19). When the Lord returns to set up His kingdom, the creation will be redeemed from the affects of the curse and re-created to be “very good” once again. The Garden of Eden will be restored (Acts 3:21). This is when: “the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. … as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord” (Isa. 11:6-9).
An understanding of creation is the foundation of the gospel message. When he spoke to Gentile audiences at Lystra and Athens who were ignorant of the Old Testament, Paul appealed to God’s handiwork in nature as evidence of the existence of the Creator (Acts 14:15b-17; 17:24-27). He was the one they should be worshiping, not worthless idols.
The grand message of the Bible is that in the beginning God created everything, then when Adam and Eve disobeyed God the creation came under God’s curse and evil, sickness, suffering and death became prevalent. In this sense the whole creation is suffering. But Jesus came to die on the cross and was resurrected back to life so that those who trust in His work can have a new spiritual life and look forward to living in His new creation. After He returns believers will receive new bodies and will leave the suffering world to eventually reign with Him in His kingdom of the restored world.
What about someone who has never heard the gospel message? The Bible says, “it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Two steps are necessary: to believe that God exists, and the creation tells us that, and to earnestly seek Him. If they seek Him, He will led them to a knowledge of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
Psalm 95 is a song of praise that the Jews sang to God for being a great Creator. When Christ returns to set up His kingdom, all creation will praise Him (Ps.98:4-9). That’s what the song “Shout to the Lord” is about. In Psalm 104, the God of creation is praised for His work as the great Creator and Sustainer. All creation praises God in Psalm 148, which includes “Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for He issued His command, and they came into being” (Ps 148:5). All creation is to praise the Lord because He spoke the universe into existence.
In heaven the redeemed bow down before God on His throne and praise Him because He created everything: “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased” (Rev. 4:11). Finally, at the end of time, after God has dealt with people’s sin and rebellion, every creature praises God (Rev. 5:13).
Lessons for us
Do we appreciate the grandeur, majesty, power, wisdom and beauty of the creation? Do we realise that because it didn’t make itself, it requires an awesome Creator who continues to uphold and maintain it? He rules over all creation. Let’s keep aware of God’s greatness, power and sovereignty. Are we humble before Him? Do we thank Him for sustaining us by His creation? Do we acknowledge His work of creation in songs of praise?
Do we realise that, like humanity, the whole universe has been cursed with suffering, disease and death? Are we looking forward to the day when the curse is removed?
Are we worshiping the Creator or the creation? Who are our heroes? What images are occupying us on the movies, TV, and internet? Are we ambitious or greedy? Are we chasing the good comfortable life or always seeking good health?
Creation is a major theme of the Bible. The sequence is creation, fall into sin, release from the penalty of sin (redemption) through Jesus Christ, and creation of the new heavens & the new earth. Do we begin at the beginning of the gospel message, particularly for those who are not familiar with the Bible?
The fact that God has created the universe is fundamental to the Christian faith because it leads to:
- Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of all believers. If God couldn’t create life in the beginning, how could He bring the dead back to life?
- The ultimate restoration of the fallen creation. If God couldn’t create life in the beginning, how can He create life in a new creation?
Written, November 2009
What happened in the garden in Eden?
In the previous article we saw that at the beginning of time the universe was created by an intelligent and powerful God. He did it in six days followed by one day’s rest to give us the pattern for a seven day week.
Genesis is divided into ten main sections, each beginning with the phrase “the account of”. The next section begins: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4NIV). Moses would have written Genesis from oral history that had been handed down through the generations and God would have shown him how to edit and record this on papyrus. Of course, as Moses’ birth is recorded in Exodus 2, he wrote the most of the second to fifth books of the bible from first hand experience. It this article we will look at Genesis 2:4-25.
Contradictory creation stories?
Because the creation story in Genesis 2 appears to differ from that in Genesis 1, some say that they were written by different people and not Moses. For example, in Genesis 1 God creates by simple command, but He used the ground in Genesis 2 (v.7,19). In Genesis 1 God is called “Elohim”, whereas in Genesis 2 He is called “Yahweh Elohim”. They say that these are conflicting versions of the same story. But what do we see when we look at the text?
Genesis 1 covers the creation of everything in the universe. It summarises the milestones of God’s creative work in the six days of creation and ends with a summary, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array” (Gen. 2:1). The Hebrew word for God, “Elohim”, is mentioned 29 times in this chapter. It is written from God’s perspective.
Genesis 2:4-25 focuses on events in the Garden of Eden during the sixth day of creation. It gives more detail on the creation of mankind and the roles of Adam and Eve. The topics covered are: the Garden of Eden, the creation of Adam and Eve, and Adam’s and Eve’s roles. The Hebrew phrase “Yahweh Elohim”, is mentioned 11 times in this passage. It is written from Adam’s perspective.
“Elohim”, refers to God as the Creator of the universe, the ruler of nature, and the source of all life. “Yahweh” (or Jehovah) is the personal and covenant name of God. It is used to stress God’s personal relationship with His people and the fact that He keeps His promises. Both “Yahweh” and “Elohim” occur numerous times in the book of Genesis, together and separately.
Accordingly, Genesis 1 correctly used the name Elohim, for God’s role as Creator of the whole universe and of all living things is what the chapter teaches. The subject narrows immediately in Genesis 2-3 where it describes God’s personal relationship with Adam and Eve. God is depicted as walking and talking with Adam in the Garden of Eden. Apparently Adam knew God by His personal name from the beginning—his family worshipped Yahweh (Gen. 4:26). Therefore Yahweh is appropriately joined to Elohim to indicate that the Elohim of all creation is now the Yahweh who is intimately concerned to maintain a personal relationship with humanity.
The literary pattern of Genesis is to present a brief sketch with a broad subject matter and follow it up with a longer more detailed account of the things that are more important to the central theme of the Bible. For example: looking at the first four main sections of the book that begin with the phrase “the account of”. The first section, which covers the creation of the universe, is brief in length and broad in scope (Gen. 1:1-2:3). This is followed by a section on the creation of mankind and their fall into sin, which is longer and more detailed (Gen. 2:4-4:26). This begins the history of mankind and sets the stage for redemption, which are central themes of the Bible. The third section presents a genealogy from Adam to Noah and is brief and broad in scope (Gen. 5:1-6:8). This is followed by a section on Noah and the flood, which is longer and more detailed (Gen. 6:9-9:29). This shows the consequence of sin and the fact that God rescues and protects His people.
So Genesis 1 and 2 are not contradictory accounts. Genesis 2 is a more detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation. They are complementary, just like each of the four gospels is different, yet complementary. In fact when He answered the Pharisees question concerning divorce, Jesus quoted from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, so He accepted both accounts (Mt. 19:4-5; Mk. 10:6-8).
Some think the biblical stories of creation originate from other creation myths. Actually it was probably the other way around; some of the myths are corrupted versions of the biblical account of creation. If we say that early Genesis is mythical or symbolic, where do we say that it begins to be accurate history? We have the same problem if we say miracles are myths. Once we start rejecting some of the biblical account how can we trust the rest?
The Garden in Eden
Everything in this section of Genesis relates to mankind. It begins by stating that cultivated plants were not present until there was a “man to work the ground” and until there was rainfall (v.5-6). It seems as though at the beginning water came from beneath the earth instead of by rain.
God planted a garden in Eden for Adam and Eve (v.8). This was probably prepared on the third day of creation when vegetation was created (Gen. 1:1-13). It was the first garden. The trees in this garden were beautiful and their fruit was useful for food (v.9). Two particular trees are mentioned in middle of the garden. The tree of life seems to have had the power to convey immortality (v.17). In the book of Revelation the tree of life appears as a symbol of the person of Christ. All true Christians will “eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). This is eternal life in heaven (Rev. 22;2, 14,19). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was used by God to test the obedience of Adam and Eve (v.17).
A river watering the garden flowed from Eden and divided into four other rivers called the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates (v.10-14). As the surface of the earth would have been different before the flood, we cannot compare this landscape with what exits today. Moses says it was east of Canaan (v.8). The present Tigris and Euphrates rivers were probably named after these original rivers. This is like names being transferred from one country to another. Many of the names in Australia come from United Kingdom because that is where many of the early settlers came from. For example my suburb is named after Ryde on the Isle of Wight and my state is called “New South Wales”.
Adam, the first man
The bible describes the origin of mankind: “the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (v.7). God formed his body from the “dust of the ground” and then gave him the breath of life. So Adam was created from the ground, not from an ape. Here we have the creation of life from non-living matter. It was a miracle. Adam was a perfect man in a sinless world.
The first man was named “Adam” or “Man” (v.20). The Hebrew word for “Adam” means “of the ground” or “taken out of red earth”, and it is also used in Genesis for males and for mankind. He is mentioned eight times in the New Testament as the first human being on earth (Lk. 3:38; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Jude 14).
One of the curses on Adam after he sinned was, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). Upon death the body returns to the ground. It is interesting to note that the animals and birds are also said to have been made out of the ground (v.19). But Adam was different because he was made in the image of God.
Then “the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (v.15). Adam cultivated the garden. So work was a part of ruling over the rest of creation before the fall into sin.
Then we see that God set up a test of man’s obedience. “The LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die’” (v.16-17). God made Adam and Eve with the power to make a choice contrary to their nature. He wanted creatures who loved him freely, even though it meant there was a possibility of evil. Real love must be free; it cannot be instinctive or compulsory. So they were commanded not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God gave them a choice and told them of the consequence. Now the penalty for disobedience was not 10 minutes in the sin bin! Is was death—instant spiritual death and progressive physical death. When Adam sinned he immediately cut himself off from the source of life, but the dying process took 930 years. There is also the possibility of eternal death (2 Th. 1:9).
Next, Adam named the animals and birds, which was another part of ruling over the rest of creation (v.19-20). A name to the Israelites was not just a label but a description of the essential character of the creature. In this instance Adam would have named the each animal according to its character and nature. Adam would have also noticed that the animals were male and female, each had a mate that was similar yet different. But he didn’t have a mate (v.20).
Eve, the first woman
Up until now everything about creation had been good. Now God says that something is “not good”—“It is not good for the man to be alone” (v.18). It was not good because we are social beings that are not made “to be alone” and God had not yet finished His work of creation. Adam needed a helper (v.18, 20). He was lonely and needed a companion. Eve was to be his helper and companion in the secure relationship of marriage (v.24).
The Bible describes the origin of woman: “the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man” (v.21-22).
God made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. So Eve was created from a part of Adam, not from an ape. Cloning is a genetic copy of an existing person, but this is different as it includes a change in gender. Here we have the creation of life from other living matter. It was a miracle. Eve was a perfect woman in a sinless world.
Adam recognised that she was his companion when he said “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (v.23). Together they were called “man” (Gen. 1:26-27). “When God created mankind, He made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And He named them ‘Mankind’ when they were created” (Gen. 5:1-2). She was called “woman”, which means “taken out of man” (v.23). Later she was called “Eve”, which means “life” (Gen. 3:20).
This account teaches the unity of mankind. All people have a common ancestor in Adam—he’s at the beginning of the family tree.
Adam and Eve were the first husband and wife (v.25). I think they were married on the sixth day of creation. They had a perfect wedding, even though there were no other people there! It has the key elements of a marriage ceremony. God gave her to Adam; “He brought her to the man” (v.22). And God pronounced them husband and wife: the Creator said “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (v.24, Mt. 19:4,5). Adam and Eve were a perfect husband and wife in a sinless world.
Here God is establishing marriage as the basic institution of society. Jesus (Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10-6-9) and Paul (Eph. 5:31) quoted v.24 when they taught about the marriage of one man to one woman. Whenever Adam and Eve are mentioned together in the New Testament it is to illustrate the roles of husbands and wives in marriage (1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim.2:13-14).
Genesis 2 conveys four important aspects of marriage. Firstly,marriage is a new unity. The husband and wife are to leave their parents and start a new family unit and “become one flesh” (v.24, Gen. 29:14). They are bound together, not just individuals. What was once “his” and “hers” is now “ours” and “us”. One of the primary purposes of marriage is to provide companionship, a sharing of life together. As a “helper”, Eve shared Adam’s work and responsibilities as well. Husbands and wives were designed to work together. They should be a team and work together in bringing up their children. Marriage partners are dependent on each other—they are interdependent (1 Cor. 11:11-12). Divorce is painful because it is severing a unity that was once alive.
Secondly, marriage is a lifetime commitment. It is a permanent relationship that should not be broken until death (Rom. 7:1-3). The husband is to leave his parents and be “united to his wife” (v.24). The Hebrew word means to “cling” and “keep close”. It also conveys the idea of loyalty and devotion. Jesus said, “what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mt. 19:6). Marriage partners are to be faithful to one another. Sexual immorality is a sin against God and against our own spouse (1 Cor. 6:15-18). God hates divorce, but 45% of marriages in Australia end in divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). What a sad lack of commitment. Jesus only allowed divorce in the case of adultery (Mt. 5:32; 19:9).
Thirdly, the husband is the head of the family. He is ultimately responsible before God for the nature and character of the home. In this passage Eve is described as a “suitable helper” for Adam (v.18,20). Paul shows that this responsibility applied before the fall into sin when he referred to Genesis 2, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man” (1 Cor. 11:3,8-9). The “man” in this case is Adam and the “woman” is Eve. Here he mentions the order of their creation (Adam was first) and the purpose (Eve was to help Adam). The principle is that husbands should lead the family. Of course Paul also teaches husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25,28,33; Col. 3:19) and wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18). Paul also based the latter on the order of creation (1 Tim. 2:13).
Fourthly, there should be openness between husband and wife, with no secrets and nothing to hide—“The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (v.25). This first marriage was unique because there was innocence before the fall into sin. Openness does not mean always agreeing or feeling the same. It means a readiness to share with one another, completely, without insisting that the other reflect the same attitude. There is to be a complete freedom of communication, one with the other. Adam and Eve were relaxed and felt at ease with each other. There was no strain in their marriage. Otherwise, communication breakdown can lead to marriage breakdown.
Application to us
Genesis provides the foundation of the Christian faith. We have seen that Genesis 2 explains the origin of humanity and of marriage. As God designed and made the first man and woman, He knows all about our needs and desires. In order to get the best out of life, we should follow His guidelines and lessons for us in the Bible. In particular, we should follow Jesus, the last Adam, who brings life to those who trust Him (1 Cor. 15:22,45).
When Jesus was asked about marriage He went back to Genesis. Because the meaning of marriage is based on Genesis. Our society is based on families and families are based on marriages. We should also follow God’s guidelines if we want our marriage and our family to work well.
What happened at the beginning of time?
The best place to begin reading a book is at the beginning. It’s important to read the beginning in order to understand what happens later. This article begins a series that looks at the beginning of the bible. This helps us understand later events in the Bible, like when Jesus Christ came to earth.
Interpreting the Bible
As “all Scripture is God-breathed”, the original text contained no errors or mistakes (Prov. 30:5-6; 2 Tim. 3:15-17). The words in the original language were inspired by God as the human writers of the Bible were given the words by the Holy Spirit (2 Pt. 1:20-21). That is why it is often referred to as the Word of God. In fact Scripture is the only source of revelation that is not affected by sin (Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 8:20-22). The Bible is our only reliable authority on the creation of the world—we have no other eye-witness account.
While Scripture is accurate, it is not exhaustive. However, it is sufficient to make us “wise for salvation” and “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-17NIV). It is a concise book with no unnecessary detail. God gives us the important things that we need to know and we need to use our intellect to apply these to our situations in life.
God intended that ordinary people would be able to understand the Bible. For example, fathers were to teach the Scriptures to their children at home (Deut. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:4). Also, the Bereans “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). They only need the help of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14).
The meaning of scripture is the meaning the inspired authors intended to convey to their generation. The only exception to this rule is prophecies which also have another meaning when they are fulfilled at a future time. So, it is important to find out how the original readers would have understood the words. After all, it was their language being used in their circumstances.
The Bible is a theological book. It contains the message of salvation from the penalty of our sin. But this theology is set in a world of history and science. It uses the physical world to illustrate and reveal spiritual truths. Although it is not a history book, the history in the bible is accurate. Although it is not a science book, the science in the bible is also accurate. What it says is exactly true. Because it is the inspired word of God, its language communicated accurately to its original readers and a good translation communicates accurately to us today.
The interpretation of scripture requires consideration of the text and the context in which it was written. This includes knowledge of the language, culture and history of that time. For example, is the text a literal narrative or is it poetic? It should be taken literally unless there is ample reason to believe the text was meant to be taken figuratively, such as metaphors, symbolism and parables. Also, other passages of scripture may help to confirm the meaning of a difficult passage.
The Context of Genesis
The book of Genesis was complied and written by Moses in the 14th century BC from oral history and revelation from God (Acts 7:22; 15:1; Genesis 17; 2 Peter 1:21). Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Until he was weaned, his mother would have taught him the history of the Hebrew people. When he was older, Moses was “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in words and action” (Acts 7:22).
Moses wrote the first five books of the bible while travelling between Egypt and Canaan. The people in both of these lands worshipped idols. The forces of nature were personified as pagan gods. These mythical beings included the sun god, the river Nile, and the golden calf in Egypt and sun, moon and stars, Baal – the god of the rain and storm, Asherah – the goddess of the sea and fertility in Canaan. The ten plagues were directed against the gods of Egypt. On the way to Canaan they moved through lands where people tried to seduce them into idolatry and immorality. Middle Eastern creation myths usually involve how one of the gods triumphs in a mighty battle against the forces of chaos and then reigns over the other gods and creates order out of chaos.
Genesis was written to these Israelites to educate them about the true God and protect them from idolatry. Moses is declaring that God has revealed Himself in creation and in history; Baal is not the true god. The New Testament affirms this as real history. Jesus quotes v.27 in Mt 19:4 and Mk. 10:6 and Adam and Eve are mentioned several times (Lk.3:38; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Jude 14).
Genesis is the foundation of the Bible. It is a book of beginnings; containing a selective history according to God’s purposes. The word “Genesis” comes from the Greek word meaning “origin” or “beginning”. The Hebrew name for this book was “in the beginning”. So Genesis describes the beginning of the universe, the earth and all its inhabitants of human beings, marriage, family, society, civilization, sin and redemption and how God relates to His creation. It contains the original and true account of creation and shows who God is, who we are, what our basic problem is and God’s solution to that problem. In this article we look at Genesis 1:1-2:3.
God is the Creator
The bible begins by saying, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). So the answer to the question of the origin of the universe and of life is given in the first verse of the bible. The fact that God refers to Himself as “us” seems to be a reference to the trinity (Gen. 1:26; 3:22). This is confirmed in the New Testament, which says that Jesus created everything (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16).
How did God Create?
God created the universe in a series of creative acts over six days (Gen. 1:1-31). “God said” is mentioned nine times in this passage. For example, “God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light” (v.3). He spoke and light shone in a world that was previously dark. So the pattern is that God spoke and it happened (Psalm 33:6, 9; Hebrews 11:3). His creative acts are also described as “God created” (v.1,21,27), and “God made” (v.7,16,25). The outcome is stated, but few details are given of the process. After all, this was written in the 14th century BC to be understood by ordinary people. This helps understanding by readers with a wide range of linguistic skills and intellect. So, according to the Bible, God created everything out of nothing, whereas according to evolution, nothing organised itself into everything.
I believe that over this period God created a mature world that was fully functioning. For example, Adam and Eve were adults, not babies or children; they were called man and wife right after Eve was created (Gen. 2:25). Also, they and the animals needed food to eat from the very beginning of their creation. Of course, this was a miracle and Moses was familiar with miracles (Ex. 10:1).
God also created the laws of science which have operated since the creation. These laws do not include the act of creation itself. For example, the first law of thermodynamics states that energy and matter (remember e=mc2) is always conserved; it cannot be created or destroyed. We cannot apply these laws to the week of creation when energy and matter were made. This means that today’s operational science does not apply to origins like creation. It cannot explain miracles. We should be careful not to extrapolate to areas outside the area of our observations. Like Job, we need to be reminded by God that no-one was there in the beginning, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4).
When did God Create?
It happened “In the beginning” (v.1). This was the beginning of time because God created time. God was all that existed before this occasion, because He is timeless (Psalm 90:2). Jesus said, “at the beginning of creation God made them male and female” (Mk. 10:6). So this first week when Adam and Eve were made was the “beginning of creation”. The Israelites knew it was only a few thousand years before their times. They had the genealogies from Adam to Noah; Shem to Abraham; Isaac, Jacob, Levi; Levi to Moses and then down to their generation (Gen. 5:1-32; 11:10-26; Ex.6:16-20,26-27). Luke supplies similar information in the genealogy of Jesus (Lk. 3:23-38).
Why did God Create?
Creation shows God’s power and divine character (Rom. 1:20). Like the universe, God exists, and is orderly and reasonable and good. God is also personal, like mankind. He greater than all other gods. As He has chosen to show His love through human begins such as us, God created the earth to be inhabited (Is. 45:18). Adam and Eve are described as being the last of God’s creative work (v.27).
Why did God take so long?
After each creative act, the bible says “And there was evening, and there was morning—the X day”, where “X” ranges from “first”to “sixth” (v.5,8,13,19,23,31). Then it says that God rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2-3). The instances in this chapter of the Hebrew word for day, “yom”, used in conjunction with “night”, obviously refer to daylight hours (v.5,14,16,18). What about the six times that “yom” is qualified by “evening and morning” and a number? What did this mean to the Israelites in Moses’ time? Is it daylight, 24 hours, some other period of time, a moment, or a theological category? A period of 24 hours is the only meaning that makes sense in this context. This is consistent with the fact that a Jewish day begins and ends at sunset, rather than at midnight. This means that a day is comprised of an evening (night) followed by a morning (daylight). Genesis 1 is also a sequence of events in time like the lifetimes in the genealogy of Genesis 5.
The sun, moon and stars are to “serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years” (v.14). Obviously this instance of the word “days” means periods of 24 hours. This phrase also shows the Hebrews had words for longer periods than day which could be used by the author if required. But the language used for the six days in Genesis 1 makes no suggestion of a longer period of time.
Why did God take six days? After all, He could have made everything in six seconds! God’s six days of work and one day for rest were an example for His people. According to the fourth commandment, they were to work for six days, but not do any work on the seventh day because God made the universe in six days and then rested on the seventh day (Ex. 20:8-11). This only makes sense if the days of the creation week were the same as those of the working week. God set the example of six days work and one day rest. The working week is based on the creation week. That’s why there is seven days in a week. The seven-day week has no basis outside Scripture.
Creation of the Universe
The clear intention of Genesis 1 is to give the Israelites an account of the origin of the universe. It shows God as the creator of time, matter and energy and everything within the universe. They needed to know why their God was greater than the gods and idols of the Egypt and Canaan. Many pagan creation myths were probably corruptions of the original account of creation recorded in Genesis.
Moses summarized God’s creative work as follows:
Day 1: Space, matter and energy, and light created (v.1-5).
Day 2: Matter and energy distributed across the cosmos (v.6-8).
Day 3: Dry land and vegetation were created on earth (v.9-13).
Day 4: The sun, moon, stars and planets provided light and their cycles provided measurements of times and seasons (v.14-19).
Day 5: Aquatic creatures and birds were created (v.20-23).
Day 6: Animals and the first people, Adam and Eve, were created (v.24-31).
On Day 7 God rested (Gen. 2:2-3). He had finished His work of creation. Now he would sustain His creation and after man’s sin He would change the universe and then reconcile and redeem (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).
The fact that God created different kinds of organisms which reproduced “according to their kinds” is mentioned ten times in v.11,12,21,24,25. This implies that each “kind” of creature is distinctive, which is consistent with the statement that “All flesh is not the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another” (1 Cor. 15:39). Their descendants never change from one “kind” of life to another.
What is Moses saying to the Israelites? Our God supersedes all the others. He is a powerful Creator who made everything. He even made what other nations considered to be gods. The true God is separate from creation. This is the same message that Paul told in Romans 1.
People: In the image of God
The fact that mankind was made in the image of God is stated three times (v.26-27). It shows that people were in the image of God from the beginning. What did this mean to the Israelites in Moses’ day? They used the term to describe a likeness between parents and children—Seth was described as being in Adam’s likeness (Gen. 5:3). Also pagan idols were represented as images (Lev. 26:1).
To answer this question we will see what Adam and Eve do that is unique to humanity. First, the statement that is made twice with respect to humanity but to no other creature is that they will “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (v.26, 28). For example, Adam was to tend and care for the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15). So mankind was to rule over the rest of creation: we are the link between God and creation. (Ps. 8:5-8). But due to sin “at present we do not see everything subject to them” (Heb. 2:8). We have great power and responsibility. Second, Adam was prohibited from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16). People are conscious of moral values: we call some things good and others bad. This moral nature of mankind is different to the instincts of the animal world. Third, Adam named the animals (Gen. 2:19-20). Mankind is creative and inventive: this involves imagination, the ability to think in conceptual terms (abstract thinking), and the ability to see a thing with the eye of the mind and then create it physically. Fourth, Adam and Eve talked with God (Gen. 3:8-13). People can communicate and use language to convey ideas and discuss issues. In particular we can communicate with God.
Elsewhere the Bible says that people are comprised of spirit, soul and body (1 Th. 5:23). No other creature on earth is a spirit. Our spirits live forever, but there is no mention of life after death for animals. Maybe it is the spirit that is made in the image of God.
Creation was very good
“God saw that it was good” is mentioned 7 times in Genesis 1 (v.4,10,12,18,21,25). This means that it is in line with His divine purposes and in accordance with His divine character. Also, “good” is the opposite of “evil” and fruit is “good” food (Gen. 2:9). It finishes by saying, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (v.31). This is a strong indicator that the world originally had no death or disease.
It was an excellent creation that had not yet been spoilt by sin. Sin is never described in the Bible as being “good” and death is called the “enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26). This original creation is very similar to last two chapters of Revelation, where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” because “no longer will there be any curse” (Rev. 21:4; 22:3). Peter said that after Christ returns God will restore everything (Acts 3:21).
Because there was no sin, there was no death of animals or humans. In fact the animals and people were vegetarian at the beginning (v.29-30) and in the restored state (Isa. 11:6-9: 65:25). As people and animals faced no predators, they were in harmony and there was no fear. There was peace on earth.
Lessons for us
The Bible shows that the universe was created by an intelligent and powerful God. He did it in six days with one days rest to give us the pattern for a seven day week. There was no sin in the original creation and we can look forward to the restoration to this in the new heavens and new earth described at the end of the bible (2 Pt. 3:13). In the meantime we can praise God: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being” (Rev. 4:11).
Adam and Eve were the climax of creation. They were made in the image of God to rule the rest of creation. They were also creative, with a moral nature and the ability to communicate with God. Even though our world has been spoilt by sin, people still bear the image of God. This gives them great significance.
Becoming a Christian is like being recreated in the likeness of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). We become a child of God. Do we think and act like an image of God? Like an image of Christ? Are we using our personality and spirituality like God? Are we behaving in His likeness? Through Christ in our lives, believers are becoming more Godlike (2 Cor. 3:18).
 A day is the time for one rotation of the earth about its own axis. A month is approximately the time for one orbit of the moon around the earth. A year is the time for one orbit of the earth around the sun. There is no such physical relationship for the week.
Written, July 2004
See the next article in this series:
- In the beginning. Part 2: The first marriage
The phrase “according to their/its kinds” occurs ten times in Genesis 1. God created plants to produce seed “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1: 11, 12) and animals to reproduce “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:21, 24, 25). In this context, the Hebrew word that is translated “kinds” means a category of creatures. The same word is used seven times to describe the creatures taken on the ark (Gen. 6:20; 7:14). The equivalent Greek word “genos” was used in the Septuagint (a translation of the Old Testament into Koine Greek in about 300-100 BC) to describe the black kite, raven, hawk, heron, locust, katydid, cricket, grasshopper, and great lizard (Lev: 11:14-16, 19, 22, 29) and the falcon, raven, hawk, and heron (Dt. 14:13-15,18). So, the Biblical usage of the word “kinds” seems to correspond to a “genus”, which is a Latin word meaning sort, kind or class.
According to Gen 1:11 there were “seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds”. So the offspring of the plant or animal was “according to its kind”; the “kind” includes the parents and the offspring; they were the same “kind”. Creatures reproduce according to their kinds. This is the law of reproduction. One kind does not change into a different kind (Jas. 3:12). The ability to breed and produce offspring defines the original created kinds. Groups of living organisms belong in the same created “kind” if they have descended from the same ancestral gene pool. For example, all the species of finches that Darwin saw on Galapagos island were the one “kind”.
Although there are similarities between the biological kinds, they are distinctly different: “Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another” (1 Cor. 15:39). So there are profound differences between humans and animals. With regard to plants, “to each kind of seed He (God) gives its own body” (1 Cor. 15:38). This suggests that the differences between kinds are due to differences at a cellular level; each has a unique genetic code.
So, the Bible teaches that there were distinct “kinds” of biological life from the beginning. Life on earth didn’t begin with a single cell that became more complex with time. Instead, each kind would have contained a diversity that enabled genetic variations to occur and be favored by natural selection. This means that each original “kind” was like a tree that started out as a trunk and branched out over time as its variability became evident. So the collection of the kinds is like a forest, which I call the forest of life. The forest of life is a better illustration of how life has changed over time than the tree of life. The kinds don’t change from one to another, but there is some variety within each kind.
The contrast between evolution and creation is clear. Evolutionists believe in the tree of life—that all living things are descended from one common ancestor. That is, they believe in change from one kind of creature to another. Creationists believe in the forest of life—variation within the original created kind, but not one kind changing into another.
We need to remember that life had a common Creator, not a common ancestor. From the beginning, life was made to reproduce itself according to its kinds—it’s like a forest, not a tree.
Writtten, July 2007
The basic truth about our world
When we look around each day, what do we see? We see the visible world, our natural or man-made environment. The Bible says that people can know about God from what they see: “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom 1:20NIV).
According to this verse, some things are visible and some are invisible and we can understand something about the invisible from what is visible. Of course, many creatures can see, but people have complex brains that can help them understand more about what they see.
Paul wrote that the physical world “has been made”; it is a creation. This means that it is not just a product of the forces of nature and it didn’t make itself. The Bible says, “the universe was formed at God’s command” (Heb. 11:3).
Nature is orderly; particularly living things. Ecosystems and the web of life have distinct patterns. From this order of the physical world, Paul says that we can understand that it is a creation. We know that people can create things like clothes, tools, toys, buildings, roads, cars, music, stories, movies, art work and craft work. These are creations. The steps involved in a creation are: it begins with a concept or idea, which is followed by a design and then production. All creations have a creator. This is very basic logic that all can understand (Rom. 1:19).
A Divine Creator
Then Paul names the creator, as “God”. A creation such as a work of art, a musical composition, a song, or a novel reveals something about its creator. What can we learn about God from what He has made?
First, the creator is always more intelligent than the creation. As people are a part of creation, the Creator is more intelligent than us. As the genetic code of living creatures is extremely complex, I think that God is much more intelligent than we can imagine.
Second, the creator controls the energy and power evident in the creation. Therefore, God controls the energy and power evident in the universe such as in an electrical thunderstorm, a tsunami, and the explosion of a star. The Creator is more powerful than we can imagine.
Third, there are supreme laws of nature that we must respect. For example, if we don’t respect the law of gravity and step off a cliff we will die. Likewise, there are laws of electricity which can be fatal if we don’t respect them. These laws rule, we can’t disregard them and live. Gravity rules objects that have no support and electricity rules the flow of electrons in conductors. As the laws of nature rule in the creation, so the Creator rules over the creation.
Fourth, as people have a personality, with a mind, a will, emotions and the ability to communicate, it’s logical that the Creator is also a personal being. That’s why the Bible refers to God as “Him”, not “it—He is more than a force or influence.
So God reigns and rules over the creation and is an extremely intelligent and powerful personality. Paul describes this as His “eternal power and divine nature”. These are some of His invisible qualities which we should understand from what has been made.
As everyone can see or sense the creation and be aware of its laws and characteristics, we can all know that it was made by a Creator. Therefore, Paul claims that there is no excuse for not knowing that God created the world. This fact should be obvious (Rom. 1:19). It doesn’t need any education, just common sense. Why don’t more people see this more clearly? It’s because the truth of the divine Creator is suppressed by the ungodly, which is wicked and foolish (Rom. 1:18, 21-23). So what was once attributed to “God” is now attributed to “Nature”, and God is only used as a swear word. They imitate God be claiming to know everything and they worship ideas and images that have been created by humanity.
As God rules over all His creation, we should respect and worship Him (Rom. 1:21). As we are part of His creation, we should thank God for all He has done for us. Surely Christians should be characterised by worship and thankfulness towards God.
Written, June 2007
Implications of the complexity of life
Western society is becoming increasingly godless and anti-Christian. In fact many see no need for a God because they think that modern science and knowledge has explained everything that used to be attributed to God. In particular, the theory of evolution has helped to displace God.
The Theory Of Biological Evolution
The word “evolution” is commonly used to describe “any process of formation or growth or development” and the theory of biological evolution is an explanation of how life began and changed over time to be what it is today. According to this theory a big bang or explosion took place in space that set into action the events of evolution. Then stars and planets were formed and life began on earth when non-living molecules changed into single-cell organisms. These simple creatures eventually turned into more complex creatures and finally into humans. It is assumed that all this happened over billions of years.
The central idea of biological evolution is that all life on earth shares a common ancestor, just as we share a common grandmother with our cousins. The causes of evolution are said to be variations in genetic makeup due to random mutations that are sorted by the environment in a process called natural selection whereby those with advantageous characteristics are more likely to pass them on to the next generation.
This is a dominant paradigm today, which is used to explain many aspects of life by attributing them to evolution. Evolutionists assume this theory is true. It is a materialist and naturalist viewpoint; as it only allows material and natural causes.
Interpreting The Evidence
When we look into what happened in the past, we are like a detective trying to solve the cause of a fire or of a death. They investigate, whether it was due to natural causes or due to human causes such as a criminal act. All that is observable is the current evidence. When detectives seek the cause of a crime, they use assumptions to interpret the evidence. Their findings are only as good as the accuracy of both their investigation of the evidence and the assumptions they make.
Intelligent causes are studied in forensic science, archaeology, and in extraterrestrial intelligence. Are such causes applicable to the origin of terrestrial life? How can we recognise an intelligent cause? Was a rock an Aboriginal tool or eroded by natural processes? Let’s look at two examples from extraterrestrial intelligence. Because of a belief in evolution, some people believe that life would have evolved elsewhere in the universe and we should be able to communicate with it. The Pioneer space probes in the 1970s had a message for any life forms that they might meet travelling across the galaxy. A plaque was bolted to the outside of the spacecrafts which depicted a man and woman, a map of our solar system, and other symbols that may help intelligent beings interpret the message and understand something about us. Someone who saw the plaque would recognise that it had an intelligent cause, because it couldn’t have been made by natural processes alone.
Then there is the SETI project. This Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is looking for radio signals being transmitted by beings that are assumed to be located outside our solar system. The regular radio pulses emitted by pulsars were briefly thought to be potential intelligent signals; the first pulsar to be discovered was originally designated “LGM-1”, for “Little Green Men”. However, they were quickly determined to be of natural origin. Nevertheless, scientists are still analysing signals from space for signs of intelligence.
The Theory Of Intelligent Design
The view that nature shows signs of having been designed by a pre-existing intelligence has been around, since the time of ancient Greece. The most famous version of the design argument was William Paley’s “watchmaker” thesis that went like this:
“In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever. … But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think the answer which I had before given would be sufficient. To the contrary, the fine coordination of all its parts would force us to conclude that … the watch must have had a maker … who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.”
Paley argued that we can draw the same conclusion about many natural objects, such as the eye. Just as a watch’s parts are all perfectly adapted for the purpose of telling time, the parts of an eye are all perfectly adapted for the purpose of seeing and so was evidence of an intelligent designer, which he inferred was the God of the Bible.
Since the 1980s, advances in biology have convinced some scientists that the theory of biological evolution, which is based on natural random processes, was inadequate to account for the sheer complexity of living things, and these could not have been built up in a step-by-step process over time. Called intelligent design (ID), this new approach claims “that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology” and “some biological systems are so complex that they only function when all of their components are present, so that the system could not have evolved from a simpler assemblage that did not contain the full machinery”. ID argues that design rather than random mutations is the primary source of genetic variation. ID research studies whether the “apparent design” in nature is the product of an intelligent cause or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations.
It is interested to note that biochemists use design terminology when they encounter the purpose, function and apparent meaning that pervades living systems. Intention and purpose, which can only be generated by intelligence, is implicitly recognized in this language: the genetic “code,” the “blue print” of life, “messenger” RNA etc.
Within a living cell there are thousands of biological molecular machines, which contain highly coordinated moving parts. Life is so complex that modern science is unable to create it from non-living matter. Furthermore, living organisms have the unique ability to continually repair and maintain themselves and to reproduce themselves; an ability that cannot be replicated by modern science and technology. Whenever we encounter complex systems – whether integrated circuits or internal combustion engines – and we know how they arose, invariably a designing intelligence played a role.
Of course, materialistic science rules out all evidence of design because it implies a supernatural cause and they only want to deal with naturalistic causes. So, when an evolutionist looks at life, they think it is the result of an evolutionary process, whereas those who follow ID think it is the result of intelligence. ID is often criticised as being a version of Biblical creationism: however, all they share is an intelligent cause.
DNA: The Genetic Code
DNA and proteins are the most important molecules of life. DNA carries the hereditary information in almost all living things (some viruses use RNA instead of DNA). Every cell in our body carries DNA; except for the red blood cells. DNA carries the genetic code which determines how cells make proteins and thereby how to make and maintain a person. The huge task of mapping the human genome was completed in 2003.
DNA functions like a language or software program that uses four symbols to carry messages (or instructions) in strands of DNA. These instructions for the protein structure, coded on the DNA molecule, are copied onto a messenger RNA molecule and taken from the nucleus of the cell to a ribosome where it is used to assemble amino acids into a protein molecule. Because they exhibit clear purpose, the code and messages in DNA necessary for life are powerful evidence for design and against materialism—the sequences of the symbols that make the messages are not dictated by physics, chemistry or any known material cause; and statistical analyses rule out chance, even with a universe trillions and trillions of years old. Genetic instructions don’t write themselves any more than a software program writes itself.
Just as intelligence is needed to explain a bird’s nest or a spider’s web or an orchard, which were designed and built by intelligent creatures, these scientists think intelligence is needed to explain the complicated messages found in DNA. They are skeptical of claims that undirected natural causes such as random mutation and natural selection can alone account for the complexity of life. Instead they think that intelligent causes are required.
Furthermore, the genetic information in the DNA cannot be transcribed without many molecular machines that are themselves encoded in the DNA. As the genetic code can only be transcribed if all the molecular machines were in place from the beginning, the origin of this central aspect of life cannot be explained by the evolutionary model of step-wise development from simple to complex. The proponents of ID refer to this as an example of the “irreducible complexity” of life on earth.
What Does The Bible Say?
Although the Bible is not a book of science, it often refers to the origin of life and the reason for life existing on the earth. Instead, the Bible is a book of history that uses poetic language on occasions.
God created out of nothing
The Bible begins with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1TNIV). The Hebrew verb bara used in this verse means “to create out of nothing”. Its subject in the Bible is always God. According to the Bible, God created: the heavens, earth, the great creatures of the sea, every living and moving thing with which the water teems, every winged bird, the heavens, earth, mankind, and the world (Gen. 1:1, 21, 27; 5:1-2; 2:4; Deut. 4:32; Is. 42:5; 45:18; Mk. 13:19; Eph. 3:9). Creating something out of nothing is beyond the realm of materialistic science.
So God created everything (Is. 44:24; Ecc. 11:5; Jer. 10:16; Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2; Rev. 4:11). “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Heb. 3:4). “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being” (Rev. 4:11).
Three other Hebrew verbs are used in the Bible with bara: asah means “to do or make”; yasar is a technical potter’s word “to mould into shape”; and kun means “to set up, establish”. All these verbs are mentioned in Isaiah 45:18: “For this is what the LORD says—He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited”.
Creation: How and Why
Gen. 1:3 says “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light”. “God said” is mentioned 10 times in Genesis 1. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth … For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:6, 9). Also, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Heb. 11:3).
So something was created out of nothing at God’s command. These were miracles that can’t be explained by the laws of nature, which would have become operational when creation was completed (Gen. 2:2). As God created these laws, He is not subject to them. In fact, “God made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding” (Jer. 10:12).
One of the purposes of the creation is that it would bring praise to God, the Creator (Ps. 148).
Evidence of a Creator
A creation provides information about its creator. This has been expressed in poetic language: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Ps. 19:1-4). Because the universe was made by God; it is “the work of His hands”. As a creator is always greater than their creation and the universe is so vast and complex, it shows that God has greater power than we can imagine.
The Bible says that people can know about God from what they see: “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom 1:20).
As everyone can see or sense the creation and be aware of its laws and characteristics, we can all know that it was made by a Creator. Therefore, Paul claims that there is no excuse for not knowing that God created the world. This fact should be obvious (Rom. 1:19). It doesn’t need education or indoctrination, just common sense. Why don’t more people see more clearly? It’s because the truth of the divine Creator is suppressed, which is wicked and foolish (Rom. 1:18, 21-22). Such people are like the Sadducees who were told “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God’” (Mt. 22:29).
Strengths And Weaknesses Of ID
As Christians can use archaeological research to show the truthfulness of the Bible, they can also use ID to illustrate the biblical description of creation. Design and other arguments from science can be used for pre-evangelism by exposing the fallacy of the evolutionary assumptions that blind the eyes of people today to the truth of the Word of God. It shows that material causes alone cannot explain the complexity of life.
However, ID allows for evolution in the sense that living things are related by common ancestry. This is because it only challenges “chance” as the cause of evolution, not whether evolution has occurred at all. Also, as nature does not reveal the identity of the designer, the theory of ID allows for any “designer” including aliens from outer space and New Age gods. It is like an “unknown god” (Acts 17:23). By leaving out the Biblical Fall into sin, the designer must be cruel and wasteful. The Fall was a major event in history, which changed everything. The world we see today has been corrupted by sin, it is not the original world that God designed.
As for the theory of biological evolution, ID does not explain the origin of life, but only deals with the arrangements of pre-existing materials. Where did all the matter, energy and information come from? Of course, the Bible says God “created” and “made” everything.
Lessons For Us
Let’s realise the importance of our paradigm of the origin and diversity of life. We all make assumptions. Naturalistic assumptions lead to believing that the complexity of life is due to natural processes and explaining life by evolution, whereas, Biblical assumptions lead to believing that the complexity of life is due to the Creator and explaining life by creation by God. We should base our thinking on God’s word; that’s where the real Designer is revealed.
In the beginning God created everything. He is the source of all the matter, energy and information in the universe. Life had a common Designer and Creator, not a common ancestor.
ID can be a tool to help show some of the problems with the theory of evolution. The complexity and design of life points to an intelligent Designer. It can be used in evangelism when we point out that the God of the Bible was the Designer and Creator and we add the history of the fall into sin.
If God is the Creator and Sustainer of everything, this means He has a plan and is directing human history. As His creatures, we are accountable to Him. Paul mentioned two categories of people; those who are wise and those who are fools (Rom. 1:22). Fools do not recognise the Creator; while the wise realise that the Creator came to earth to reconcile them with God. Don’t be a fool; but be wise and trust God’s promises for our future and be included in His plan for the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
 “Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity” 1809
Written, September 2007
At the “real” start of the third millennium
This is the first month of a new year and of a new millennium. As the first year was 1 A.D., so 1000 A.D. was the last year of the first millennium. Likewise, the last year of the second millennium was 2000 A.D., which means that 2001 is the first year of the third millennium. So the celebrations that were held twelve months ago should have been called the beginning of the 2000s, not the beginning of the third millennium, which actually begins this month.
Although one day, month or year is not necessarily more important than another (Rom. 14:5), we all like to celebrate important dates such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries. These are milestones that remind us of significant events along the road of life. Let’s look at some important events that God wants us to remember and celebrate.
Remember the Creator
After the universe was created in six days the Bible says, “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (Gen 2:2-3 NIV). This is not the rest that follows weariness, but the rest of satisfaction and completion of a job well done (Gen. 1:31).
The Sabbath was to be observed by the Israelites as a day of rest from everyday work, as a reminder of their God who rested after His work of creation (Ex. 31:14-17). The principle of one day’s rest in seven was established in Old Testament times for the benefit of individuals, families, employees and even animals (Ex. 20:10; Mk. 2:27). Its establishment in the account of creation implies that it is meant for everyone, not just for Israel.
It is said that God “blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Gen. 2:3; Ex. 20:11). This indicates two purposes for the Sabbath rest –as a gift (or blessing) from God for the well-being of humanity, and a special (or holy) day for God. Besides physical rest, it also means remembering the Creator and praising God for His provision for us. He had given us life and time, and on this day we are to give some time back to Him.
So, the Sabbath rest is God’s milestone pointing out His goodness to everyone as their Creator as we pause for a regular weekly break from work. Remember, the wisest man that ever lived said, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl. 12:1). Creation reveals the Creator’s eternal power and divine nature .(Rom. 1:20). But this is less evident when life becomes more troublesome and less enjoyable. Unfortunately, those who reject this revelation, choose to worship idols instead of “the God who made the world and everything in it” (Rom. 1:23,25; Acts 17:24).
Remember the Redeemer
The Israelites were given a second reason for observing the Sabbath day: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Dt. 5:15). It was a weekly reminder of their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This act of God is called “redemption,” which means “buying back” or “ransoming from captivity.” Christ was a “redeemer” in that by His sacrificial death He paid the ransom for our sinfulness and so delivered us from slavery to sin and its penalty (Eph. 1:7).
So, the Sabbath is also God’s milestone pointing out His mercy toward His chosen people as their redeemer. As the Sabbath rest included employees, the Israelites were to show a loving concern to others (Dt. 5:14). This was confirmed when Christ healed the man with a shrivelled hand on the Sabbath (Mk. 3:1-5).
Jesus said that He was Lord of the Sabbath and demonstrated this as the Redeemer of the world (Mt. 12:8; Lk. 4:16-21). The Sabbath was “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in. Christ” (Col. 2:17). After the day of Pentecost, it was more important to remember God’s great salvation for mankind’s sins than to remember the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. Consequently, the early Christians met for worship and the collection of monetary gifts on the first day of the week in memory of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). Christian worship on Sunday replaced Jewish observance of the Sabbath. It is interesting to note that according to Leviticus 23:15, the day of Pentecost (Acts. 2:1) may have been on the first day of the week. However, some authorities state that the Pharisees believed that the Sabbath referred to here is the holy day of Passover which fell on a different day each year.
The Jews also celebrated their release from slavery in the first month of each year. As God’s people in Old Testament times, they were given a series of annual religious festivals by God. These festivals commemorated occasions when God had reached out in power to intervene for the Jews or had provided for them in a time of distress. It reminded them of God’s presence and activity among them.
The first and most important of the festivals was the Passover, which was celebrated in the first month of the religious year (Ex. 12:1-30; Lev. 23:4-8). The Hebrew calendar is based on the 29.5 day lunar cycle. Their first month commenced after the spring equinox and is equivalent to March/April inour calendar. As their months began at new moon and the Passover began on the fourteenth of the month, the Passover corresponded with a full moon. Easter is its direct equivalent in our calendar, being the Sunday after the first full moon on/after March 21.
The Passover corresponded with the beginning of the grain harvest (Dt. 16:9) and it commemorated the deliverance and exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Neferhotep 1 (Ex. 12). This was achieved in a miraculous way through the death of a lamb and smearing the lamb’s blood on their door frames. The plague of death to all the first-born sons in Egypt “passed over” the Jewish households with the sign on the door frames. Soon afterwards the Egyptians urged the Jews to leave their country.
Like the Sabbath, these religious festivals were said to be “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col. 2:17). Paul referred to Christ as “our Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7). So the Passover was an illustration of Christ’s sacrifice for us. As the death of the Passover lamb saved the Jews from death, so Christ’s death can save us from the punishment of eternal death in hell. The similarity is emphasized by the fact that Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover celebration (Jn. 18:28; 19:14).
When Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover with His disciples, He instituted the Lord’s Supper by relating the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine to His coming death (Lk. 22:7-20). His followers were told to do this in His remembrance (1 Cor. 11:2326). Believers are told, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). So, the annual Passover was replaced by the weekly Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).
Now and forever
It’s obvious that God wants us to remember and celebrate His great achievements in creation and redemption. This can be done by a regular weekly break from work and by a regular partaking of the Lord’s Supper. These are two of the most important things we can do this week, month, year and millennium –and they will refresh us physically and spiritually.
Such celebrations are not only for now but are for eternity, as the role of God the Father and the Lord as Creator and Redeemer is the theme of the great future celebration in heaven: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being … You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 4:11; 5:9).
Published, January 2001
When I was on vacation in South Australia there were two explosions – one in a restaurant and another in an explosives factory. The debris was scattered across the neighborhood, killing several people. It reminded me of the evolutionists’ idea that the universe was formed from a “big bang.”
According to the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1 NIV). The Hebrew word for “heavens” (samayim) can also refer to the atmosphere (Gen. 8:2); or the sun, moon and stars (Gen. 1:15-17); or God’s dwelling place (Ps. 2:4). At least eleven times, the Bible says that God “stretched out” or “stretches out” the heavens. The context of two of these passages may be the atmosphere (Jer. 10:12; 51:15), for another two it is the stars and galaxies (Job. 9:8; Isa. 45:12), while the remainder relate to either of these alternatives (Ps. 104:2; Isa. 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 48:13; 51:13; Zech. 12:1). The theme of all these passages is the greatness of God as Creator of the universe (Isa. 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Zech. 12:1).
The events of creation were supernatural acts of God (Ps. 33:6,9; 102:25). As these events were outside human experience, the Old Testament writers used figurative language as there was no other way to describe them in the Hebrew language. They wrote that God “stretches out the heavens like a tent” (Ps. 104:2), and “He stretches out the heavens like a canopy (or curtain), and spreads them out like a tent to live in” (Isa. 40:22). The Hebrew word natah means to stretch, spread out or extend in every direction. It represents what one does in pitching a tent by unrolling the canvas and “stretching it out.” For example, Abram “pitched (natah) his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east” (Gen. 12:8). As a simile of God’s creation of the heavens, in the six days of creation (Ex. 20:11), God stretched out the heavens like a tent.
The stellar heavens are mentioned on the fourth day of creation: “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky (samayim) to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness” (Gen. 1:14-18).
When we apply this image to the creation of the stars and galaxies we see that God stretched out the heavens (universe) to a vast size to make room for all the stars and galaxies. Vast size and the assumption that the speed of light is constant give the universe an apparent old age. This is like the rest of creation which seems to have been created in a mature form. For example, on the sixth day of creation, God created Adam and Eve as mature adults. They were a unique creation; no other people were created in this manner. Likewise, if the original heavenly bodies were created in a mature form, on the seventh day they would have had an apparent old age.
So God created the stars and the galaxies with a “big stretch” not a “big bang.” The next time you stretch something out, like a tent, remember that in the beginning God stretched out the universe and that the vast expanse of stars and galaxies “declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1).
Published, June 2008
Did you know that our view of the physical world can strongly influence our thoughts, our behavior and our future?
From its first verse, the Bible clearly teaches that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This message is the foundation of the Christian faith, and is repeated throughout the Bible. In Job, the oldest book of the Bible, God says, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” and “Everything under heaven belongs to Me” (Job 38:4; 41:11 NIV). Paul wrote, “All things were created by Him” (Col. 1:16). And the last book of the Bible says God, “created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it” (Rev. 10:6).
The Bible tells us how God communicated to mankind and how people have responded since the beginning of recorded history. Our key reference for this article is Romans 1:18-32. Read it now.
The Universe: A Revelation Of God
Paul summarized how God has revealed Himself to humanity through the physical world. Regarding wicked people, he wrote: “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20).
People have no excuse for not knowing God; it should be instinctive. They have no excuse for rejecting the Creator. Instinct is a programmed response that is essential for life. Our two pet rabbits have dug a burrow in the ground without ever being taught to do so by another rabbit. Some of our body functions that are instinctive are: our heart beat, blood circulation, digestion and breathing. A breakdown of any of these systems is life threatening. The same applies to our knowledge of the Creator.
God reveals Himself to us through His creation. We all see this every day – in people, plants, animals, earth, sun, moon and stars. They are evidence of a great Creator. God is the only Creator of energy, matter and life; He is the ruler of the universe. By looking at the beauty and complexity of creation – whether on the large scale of stars and galaxies, or the small scale of atoms and molecules – anyone can know there is a God.
King David expressed this well in a song of praise: “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak: night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or a word: their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world” (Ps. 19:1-4 nlt).
The existence of the physical world is a message of God’s creatorial power. This is called God’s general revelation of Himself. It is available to everyone no matter where or when they lived and it doesn’t depend on knowing the Bible. People in ancient times would have also heard by word of mouth, as Adam and Eve would have passed on the account of God’s great creation to their descendants. So people originally knew God the Creator, but this knowledge was lost over time.
Moses compiled the record of the early history of our earth in the book of Genesis. He recorded man’s failures including: Adam and Eve’s disobedience, Cain’s murder of Abel, Lamech’s violence, the prevalence of evil before the great flood, the behavior that caused Canaan to be cursed, Nimrod building Babylon in rebellion against God, and building the tower of Babel as a monument to man’s greatness (Gen 3:6; 4:8,23; 6:5; 9:24; 10:8-12; 11:2-4). These were all symptoms of man forgetting the Creator.
Then we read that Abraham travelled from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan. Clearly both these civilizations rejected all evidence of the Creator. Ur, the capital of the Second Sumerian State, was a center of pagan idolatry where people worshiped many gods (Gen. 11:31; Josh. 24:2). They also kept careful records of the movements of the planets and stars and had a form of astrology in which they associated the planets and stars with their gods and goddesses. After Ur was destroyed it was replaced by Babylon as the dominant city in the Middle East.
The Canaanites also worshiped idols. They explained nature by reference to their gods and goddesses – such as Baal, the god of the rain and storms, and Asherah, the goddess of the sea and fertility. They had a pantheon of gods under the control of El, the creator of created things, and his counterpart Asherah, the mother goddess. Kings were regarded as divine, and former kings were invoked as saviors.
Canaanite religion was the most sexually depraved of any in the ancient world; male and female prostitution and sexual fertility rites were common (Dt. 23:17,18). Drunkenness and immorality were prevalent during their religious celebrations. The Canaanites also mutilated their bodies (Dt. 14:1-2). Led by Joshua, the Hebrews came out of the desert to invade Canaan in 1440 bc. At this time many tribal groups lived in the area.
The Hebrews were forbidden to worship the Canaanite gods. Instead, they were to destroy their objects of worship, destroy the Canaanites, and not intermarry with them (Ex. 23:23-24; 34:11-16; Dt. 7:1-5; 20:17-18). However, we know they disobeyed God: Judah’s first mistake was in marrying a Canaanite woman (Gen. 38:2). This led to the idolatry and evil practices that were later removed by King Josiah (2 Ki. 23:4-25). These included: shrines and articles made for idols such as Baal, Asherah and all the starry hosts; pagan priests “who burnt incense to Baal, to the sun, and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts”; male shrine-prostitutes; child sacrifices; horses and chariots dedicated to the sun; spirit mediums and seance leaders; and household gods.
Clearly the Canaanites rejected the Creator and turned to idolatry and wickedness. As a result they were judged by God when Josiah was king.
When Paul visited Athens, “he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). Athens was a great cultural, educational and religious center – the most important university city in the ancient world. It contained several temples to honor the goddess Athena, and its citizens would have also worshiped their emperor.
The Acropolis in Athens was decorated with buildings and sculptures such as the Parthenon and the immense statue of Athena which was over 10 meters (33 ft.) high. The Athenians worshiped the great Greek gods and their Roman equivalents including Zeus (Jupiter), Hera (Juno), Poseidon (Neptune), Demeter (Ceres), Apollo (no Roman equivalent), Artemis (Diana), Ares (Mars), Aphrodite (Venus), Hermes (Mercury), Athena (Minerva), Hephaestos (Vulcan), Hestia (Vesta) and Dionysus (Bacchus) .
Paul spoke with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The Epicureans lived for pleasure, while the Stoics were pantheists who avoided expressing their emotions. The Greeks were well known for their philosophers – such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – so it’s not surprising that a favorite activity in Athens was to discuss “the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21).
When Paul preached in Athens his topic was “An Unknown God.” He knew the Athenians were “very religious,” so he introduced them to “The God who made the world and everything in it” – the very source of life (Acts 24-25). Like the ancient Canaanites, the Athenians had lost the knowledge of the Creator. They forgot that design demands a designer, and a complex world requires an intelligent Creator – nature didn’t create itself.
In Athens Paul declared that all nations who live on earth come from a common ancestor, Adam. Then he pointed out how the Greeks were worshiping something of their own creation – idols made of gold, silver and stone. What ignorance! God isn’t like anything that humans have thought up and made. The truth according to the Bible is that God made us; we don’t make Him with our hands or our minds.
Then Paul urged them to turn to the true Creator God in order to escape His coming judgment. He gives a clue on how this is possible by mentioning that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.
Published: May 2004
See Part 2 of this article:
- What happens if we reject the Creator?: Part 2