The universe had a beginning
The pagan Greek philosophers thought the physical universe had no beginning. To Plato (428-348 BC), the universe was perfect and unchanging. And Aristotle (384–322 BC) argued that the world (matter) must have existed from eternity. If the universe could never have gone from nothingness to somethingness, it must always have existed. For this and other reasons, time must stretch eternally into the past and future. Aristotle taught that the world was eternal.
Medieval philosophers also wondered whether the universe is eternal or had a beginning. And medieval authors debated that point in light of the Christian creation story. (more…)
Creation of the cosmos according to the Bible
There are two main worldviews concerning the creation of the universe: the big-bang theory and the Bible. According to the laws of nature, both explanations have a light time travel problem (Appendixes C and D).
This post gives a summary of the biblical worldview of the creation of the universe. It begins with seven inferences from the Bible.
Over six days at the beginning of time, God created a functionally mature universe (Gen. 1:1-2:1) (Appendix A). This is not deceitful because God communicated to mankind what happened. According to the genealogical and historical information in the Bible it occurred about 6k years ago. After the six days: (more…)
There are two types of explanation for the origin of the universe. These are either natural or supernatural. The natural explanation says that the universe is a product of the laws of physics and chemistry operating on energy and matter in space and time. It may also assume that the universe is part of a larger ‘multiverse’ that creates new universes (Appendix A).
The supernatural explanation says that the universe was created by something/someone beyond the laws of nature or something miraculous. It is not defined by space-time, matter and energy nor the laws of physics. Which type of worldview offers the best explanation? (more…)
The big-bang model is the current scientific explanation of the universe (Appendix A). Did you know that this mathematical theory includes two miracles that can’t be explained by modern science? According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”.
A model is a mathematical explanation of something. Models that describe a current process can be tested experimentally against the real thing. Their predictions can be compared with observations. This is operational science which is reliable. But models about the distant past can’t be tested in that way because we can’t directly observe the past (and human records are fragmentary). This is historical (or forensic) science which is more speculative and unreliable than operational science. It involves the construction of tentative historical narratives to explain past events. And models about the distant future can’t be tested in that way because the future hasn’t occurred yet. This is futuristic science which is also more speculative and unreliable. Historical and futuristic science often rely on unreliable assumptions and extrapolations. But just because operational science is reliable, doesn’t mean that the others are also reliable. In fact, because they can’t be tested by experimentation, historical and futuristic science will always be less accurate than operational science. So operational science is more robust than historical and futuristic science. (more…)
Was the universe small at the beginning and then grow to be huge or was it huge at the beginning? A common view is that because the universe is very large, it needed a long time to form.
What does the Bible say about this topic? We will look at the creation of vegetation, living creatures and people before looking at the creation of stars and galaxies.
Plants grow when a seed germinates. The seed grows to be a seedling, which grows to be a budding plant, which grows to be a flowering plant, which grows to be a ripened mature plant with seeds/fruit.
On the third day of creation, “The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:12NIV). So the plants had seeds and the trees had fruit, indicating that they were mature. (more…)
Made to be inhabited
A letter in a newspaper stated that Genesis chapter 1-11 is pre-history and is probably best described as a ”saga”, which is a story. They said it was a different genre to the rest of Genesis, which I assume was considered to be real history which had been verified by archaeology. Well, what does the evidence show us?
The history of the universe from the beginning of time according to those who reject the Bible and the God of the Bible is often told as follows:
- About 15 billion years ago – there was a “big bang” and stars like the sun formed from the exploding gases
- Then about 4.6 billion years ago – planets like earth formed around the stars
- 3.5 billion years ago – the first life appeared in deep water when molecules combined to form single-celled organisms
- 1 billion years ago – multi-cellar organisms evolved
- 600 million years ago – invertebrate animals and fish evolved
- 475 million years ago – land plants evolved
- 360 million years ago – amphibians and then the first land animals evolved
- 250 million years ago – reptiles ruled
- 200 million years ago – birds and mammals ruled
- 90 million years ago – flowering plants evolved
- 200 thousand years ago – the first humans evolved
Bill Gates is funding a project to present this information online for high school students. Let’s look at what the Bible says about such “big history”.
According to Jesus
When Jesus was discussing divorce and marriage He went back to Genesis and quoted from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female’. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife …” (Mk. 10:6-7NIV). These verses refer to the first people Adam and Eve. Here He links the “beginning of creation” with the beginning of the human race.
When Jesus was condemning the Pharisees, he quoted the range of martyrs in the Old Testament, “the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah” (Lk. 11:50-51). Abel was in the first family (Genesis 4) and Zechariah was mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24, the last book in the Jewish Old Testament. Here He links the “beginning of the world” with the first family.
Clearly Jesus believed that early Genesis was real history, not just a story.
We can also learn something about the beginning of everything from Jesus. It is instructive to consider how Jesus demonstrated God’s power. He did many miracles; more than is recorded in the Bible (Jn. 20:30). For example:
- A storm was calmed straight away (Mk. 4:39)
- 5,000 men plus women and children were fed from five loaves and two fish (Mk. 6:30-44)
- People were healed immediately: the blind could see (Mt. 20:34); the crippled could walk (Lk. 13:13) and the dead stood up (Mk. 5:42; Jn. 11:43-44).
So Jesus could change the physical world instantly. He didn’t need time to do it in gradual steps. Likewise, God can create physical things instantly. He doesn’t need time to do it in gradual steps from the simple to the complex.
According to Paul
When looking at why people who have not heard the gospel still face God’s judgment, Paul wrote “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. 1:21). God’s attributes have been evident to people “since the creation of the world”, not just since people have been on the earth. The implication is that people have been here since the creation of the world. This is consistent with what Jesus said about Adam, Eve and Abel.
Paul also believed in Adam and Eve (Rom. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13-14). For example, He contrasted Adam and Jesus in three passages of the New Testament:
- “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:44-45). From Adam we have physical life in a natural body, but from Jesus we can have eternal life now and a redeemed body at the resurrection.
- “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin … through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:12-21). So death entered the world because of Adam’s sin, but eternal life is possible through Jesus.
- “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). From Adam we have physical death, but from Jesus people can be resurrected from the dead.
So Paul viewed both Adam and Jesus as true historical characters, not as mythical figures. He saw the creation and fall into sin of early Genesis as historical events that had a significant impact on our world, not as “pre-history” stories.
According to historical records
If there has been a crime or a car accident, the police determine what happened from the evidence and by interviewing witnesses. The Biblical writers witnessed what they wrote about, except for situations such as creation when God was the witness.
History is the study of past events. We don’t use operational science because it’s only reliable for present events – we can’t do experiments on the past or the future unless we make assumptions (then the finding relies on the assumptions made). Documentary evidence is the best form of historical record. Let’s look at what the historical records in the Bible meant for its original readers, the Children of Israel.
When God gave them the ten commandments, He said “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day” (Ex. 20:11). This was a model for their working week. In this context, the heavens are the stars and galaxies. God took 6 days to create the universe, but could have taken 6 hours, 6 minutes or 6 seconds. After all, God is outside the time of our finite world. He is infinite and all powerful.
God didn’t use a long process to create everything. He commanded and it was done immediately (Ps. 33:6-9; Heb. 11:3). I am not aware of any Scriptures which indicate long ages of time were involved in creation.
This is also supported by the resurrection which is described as “we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). So our resurrection bodies will be created instantly. This is consistent with the original creation taking a short period of time and Christ’s miracles happening instantly. God doesn’t need lots of time to create something new.
The creation was finished on day 6, which was when Adam and Eve were created. So we know that people have been on earth since then.
A mature universe
On the day they were created, Adam named the animals and Adam and Eve were married (Gen. 2:19-20, 24). They were created as mature adults. The universe and the earth that God created were mature. Its complex interacting systems functioned properly from the beginning. The animals and plants lived in mature and functioning ecosystems. So the creation was mature and fully functional from the beginning. It didn’t need to develop gradually over time from simple to more complex.
This means that at that time the apparent age of things didn’t match the actual age. Scientists calculate the age of the universe by assuming that all the stars and galaxies have expanded to their positions after a big explosion. It is an assumption that is also based on using the red- shift of light and the Hubble law to calculate the expansion rates and the distances of galaxies. However, the Bible says that God placed them in their positions on day 4 of creation by stretching them out (Gen. 1:14-19; Ps. 104:2). So the difference between their apparent age of 15 billion years and the Biblical age of thousands of years represents the miracle that God did on day 4.
When did this happen? Is Genesis 1-11 pre-history? It is followed by Genesis 12-25 which is about Abraham. Do we know much about before this time? Yes we do. In Genesis 5 and 11 we have detailed genealogies from Adam to Abraham (Gen 5:1-32; 11:10-26). These are not just lists of ancestors and descendants. Their ages at the birth of their child in the family tree and their death are also given. Some Biblical genealogies have gaps because their purpose is to show their main ancestors (Ezra 7:1-5; Mt. 1:1-16). But these ones are worded in such a way as to exclude omissions and gaps. They are the most comprehensive genealogies in the Bible. Because they cover 19 generations, we know more about these people than our own ancestors!
Besides this, there are two other genealogies that cover this period in the Bible (1 Chron. 1:1-27; Lk. 3:33-38). There are three genealogies in the Bible covering the period back to Adam that some allege is pre-history! So it’s real history. It seems as though in recent times some people call it pre-history to explain the inconsistency with the recent extra-biblical account.
When you add up that dates given in Scripture you find that Adam lived about 6,000 years ago and the global flood was about 4,500 years ago. That’s a long time, thousands of years, but it’s not millions of years. When compared to the extra-biblical timeline, the historical timeline:
- Is documented historically instead of being calculated
- Is shorter (about 6,000 years compared to about 15 billion years)
- Has people appearing near the beginning (people have been here for 99.9998% of the time); instead of near the end (people have been here for 1.3% of the time). People have been here most of the time. After all, God made the world to be inhabited, “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 … I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right” (Isa. 45:18-19).
The extra-biblical account is inconsistent with recorded history. As it relies on assumptions of people who were not there when it happened, clearly these assumptions are wrong. What are these incorrect assumptions?
- They rule out a God of miracles. This means they have to rely on current physical processes and forces to explain the past.
- Consequently, they believe that the present is the key to the past, but according to the Bible the past is the key to the present – after all history goes forwards, not backwards!
- They believe that given enough time everything can create itself and organisms always evolve or build up gradually over time from simple to complex. Therefore the biological world has become more complex with time.
- They believe simple organisms are primitive and developed earlier than more complex organisms.
Does it matter if the extra-biblical explanation of the past history of the world is wrong? Yes, because it destroys the gospel message. It destroys the source of sin and death, removes the need for a Savior, and ruins the possibility of future restoration of the earth when Christ reigns (Acts 3:21). That’s what happens if the first three chapters of Genesis are not historical, but a story that isn’t necessarily true. This means removing creation, the Garden of Eden and the fall into sin as real events in real places.
This explanation moves the source of sin, disease, decay and death from Adam and Eve’s disobedience to making it be a part of our world (which Christians call God’s creation). In this case disease, decay and death have always been a part of our world. They are the normal situation; and not viewed as being abnormal. It takes away the lack of disease and death before the fall. It puts death before sin, not after it. It puts evil before sin, not after it. It means that the created world, which God said was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), was marred by disease and death. It takes away the fact that the original sin affected all of God’s creation (Rom. 8:19-23). It takes away the promise that all creation will be liberated from its “bondage to decay” when Christ returns to rule over it.
Lessons for us
As believers, our thoughts and opinions should be controlled by God, not by the views of those who reject God. This means that our thoughts and opinions should be controlled by the Bible, not by the extra-biblical theories which rule out the possibility of divine intervention in the natural world, such as miracles. The Bible says that God has intervened in our big history and He will intervene again. We ignore that at our peril.
Sin, death and salvation are important aspects of the Bible and Christianity. Let’s be aware of the implications of ideas such as extra-biblical big history which are inconsistent with the Biblical record.
Finally, the Bible is not a science book; but it is a history book. It is the best record of ancient history we have today; a supreme example of ancient history; and a big history book. It contains documentary evidence by eyewitnesses which has been accurately preserved over the years. So we can trust the Bible on big history.
Written, June 2012
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
Also see: God created a huge universe