When I think of the most controversial topics related to faith, if not number one, at least solidly in the top five would be creation. By creation, I mean specifically whether the world we see around us was created in six 24-hour days or over a much longer period. Related to this is the age of the earth, whether less than ten thousand years old or millions of years old. These questions get people all riled up.
The interesting thing about this is that the conversation goes beyond the church. People outside the church don’t care what we believe about the Trinity or the resurrection but they care very much about the supposed conflict between faith and science when it comes to creation. There have been lawsuits even recently and ongoing discussions among educators and politicians about whether alternative theories of life can be taught. Some non-Christians fear that any belief in the Genesis account is terribly dangerous to scientific advancement. They fail to remember that the entire scientific enterprise emerged among people who took Genesis very seriously.
I will confess that I am not excited to talk about the faith and science of creation. It is not that I’m not interested, as I very much am. This is my dilemma. If I reject six day creation, I can be accused of not taking the Bible seriously. If I accept six day creation, I can be accused of not taking science seriously. I lose no matter what.
I do want to say one thing about this question. It is not a matter of a Christian view versus a non-Christian view. There is not one official Christian view of how God created the world and the life found within it, despite what some people want. There are devout Bible-believing Christians who believe in a six day creation and a young earth and there are devout Bible-believing Christians who believe in a long process of creation and an old earth. There is room within the church for both views and it is not my place to tell you which interpretation you must believe.
Not only should I not tell you what to believe, I can’t. I was not there as it was slightly before my time. While I have some opinions, I expect that many of my opinions will be corrected when I stand face to face with Jesus.
But that doesn’t mean that I have nothing to say and that this will be the shortest sermon ever. I do believe that the Genesis account of creation is extremely important for us as Christians and that it provides some important insight into reality and our faith. Let us take a look at what Genesis teaches us.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Before getting all hung up on when this happened, let us just let those words sink in. The heavens and the earth began to exist. We saw last week that the heavens and the earth represent the created order. There was a time when there was nothing and then there was a time when there was something.
You may think that is all pretty straightforward and yet it is a fairly controversial statement. A number of the ancient philosophers taught that the universe was eternal in both directions. Not only will it never have an end, it never had a beginning. If you got into a time machine and kept going back, you would never get to a point where there was nothing.
But those were ancient philosophers who didn’t know any better. They didn’t have the advantage of modern science. But are modern scientists any better? When we think of the most brilliant scientists, probably Albert Einstein comes near the top of the list. Way back in 1917, Einstein published a paper on General Relativity. This is what we need to know. At the time, Einstein believed in a static universe, that is a universe that is, with no beginning or end. But his mathematical model suggested that such a universe shouldn’t be able to exist as gravity would cause the universe to collapse. So he added into his model a fudge factor to counteract gravity. It was not that there was evidence for this but it was needed to support his preconceived understanding of the universe. It was not until scientific evidence demonstrated that the universe was expanding and thus had a beginning had a beginning, that Einstein admitted he was wrong and removed the fudge factor.
Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning, there are still scientists and philosophers who fight against it. Why? Because a universe with a beginning opens the door to a Creator and that makes some people uncomfortable. And well it should. If we are not alone in the universe, everything is affected. This is what Genesis teaches us as well.
Creation Points to God
Genesis describes creation as God’s work day by day. And it is work, as we find that he rests on the seventh day and this is meant to be a pattern for us. One way to look at this is to look at it as a scientifically accurate description of how God created the world and life in it. Others look at this as a symbolic description, more poetry than science.
What both interpretations have in common is that there is order, pattern and beauty to creation. There was no randomness to creation. None of it was a mistake. Think about it when it comes to different styles of art. There are artists who will through a can of paint at a canvas and whatever patters appear, that they call art. Other artists have an idea in mind and they work painstakingly on all of the details to achieve that vision they have for their painting. This is latter example is the picture that we have in Genesis and I believe in science as well.
The key event for me in leaving atheism was observation of nature and the world around me. Not only did I observe beauty in nature, I could see the interconnectedness. Nothing about the world looked like it came about by accident. I still remember coming to the conclusion that I didn’t have enough faith to be an atheist. Atheists require more faith than Christians to believe that this world and all of the life in it was just a series of accidents. Creation points to a Creator. This is what the Psalms and Romans affirm in the Bible, but we can see this even without the Bible.
Creation is Good
I believe that one of the most significant aspects of the Genesis account is also one of the most overlooked. After each step of creation God describes it as good and at the end of it all describes it as very good. We skip over those short statements as if they were unimportant and yet they are key.
I find it interesting that there are people who claim that they take Genesis 1 literally and yet treat creation as if it was not good. They look forward to escaping earth and going to heaven. They reject creation care because they see this creation as junk that God is going to get rid of anyway. That is not taking Genesis very literally because God said this creation was good.
What happens if we truly understand this creation as being good? That includes the world around us and other people, as we are all interconnected. Christians shouldn’t be the ones fighting against creation care, we should be the strongest advocates. And what about the people around us? Look at the people in this room. Each one of us has been created in God’s image and we are part of God’s creation. Do we treat one another with that in mind?
Our job as Christians is not just to get people into heaven, although telling people about Jesus is central. Our job is to be faithful with everything that God has given us, including the world around us and the relationships we have. We have to ask ourselves if we truly see God’s creation as good.
How long ago did God create the world? How long did it take him?What were the processes he used? To be perfectly honest, I really don’t know. Scientists and theologians attempt to piece together the evidence and come up with the best answer, but can any of us be certain?
But there are some things we can be confident in. This universe was created by a Creator. A Creator that loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. This creation points us to the Creator. When we get distracted by the busyness of life, take a look at creation. Let creation point you to the artist who created this amazing masterpiece. This creation not only points us to God, it reflects his goodness. Creation is good and we should treat creation as good.
There is nothing wrong with sifting through the evidence to try and find answers to the hard questions. But let us not lose sight of the big picture when we are debating the details.