Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What I believe: God is the Creator of all things

When my son Jon was a wee little boy, he used to sit with his chin resting on the top of the back of the sofa, looking out the window to the yard. "Who made the trees?" he would ask me.

"God made the trees," I replied.

"Who made the clouds?"

"God did."

"Who made the grass?"


"Who made our house?"

"The builders built our house, " I told him. That always threw him, so I explained, "The builders built our house, but God made the things they built it with. For instance, they framed our house with wooden boards. God made the trees grow so the lumberjacks could cut them down and have them milled into boards to build houses."

Once even longer ago somebody else, Shannon or David, or maybe Laura, asked me, "Where was I when you were a little girl?"

"You weren't born yet when I was a little girl," I said.

"Yes, but where was I before I was born?"

Now that's a question, let me tell you.

"You were in the mind of God," I said. And they liked that. It satisfied them. They believed it. And you know what? I believe it too.

Psalm 139:15-16 says, "My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." (ESV)

I believe that God made the world and everything in it.

I believe this because the Bible says so, and I believe that the Bible is true.

Here are some Bible passages which tell us that God made the world:

Genesis account of creation
Isaiah 45-46
Psalm 8
Psalm 19:1-3
Psalm 104
John 1:1-4
Colossians 1:15-17.

Now, this means nothing to people who do not accept the truth of the Bible. I totally understand that. I am not trying to prove to a skeptic of the Bible that God made the world because the Bible says so. I do not expect that skeptics will read the Bible and then stand up and take note. I am not that simple-minded. All I am doing here is laying out the fact that the Bible does state that God created the world.

Now, about the world being created in six twenty-four hour days... you might be surprised at what I have to say about that.

What is a day? A day is twenty-four hours. How do we measure this? We measure it with respect to the time it takes the earth to make one revolution with reference to the sun: sunrise, morning, noon, afternoon, twilight, sunset, bedtime, midnight, and back to sunrise again.

While closely reading the Genesis text, I noticed this:

On Day One, God created light and separated the light from the darkness. He called them morning and evening, and that was the first day.

On Day Two, God said "Let there be an expanse," and He separated the waters from the waters and called the expanse Heaven (...if you are confused by this, so was I; just keep reading, please).

On Day Three, God separated the water from the earth and made dry land and seas. He told the earth to sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed and fruit.

On Day Four, God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night." He created the sun, moon and stars and placed them in their orbits, designing the patterns of their revolutions.

Wait a minute. God created the sun, moon and stars on Day Four.

So, if we measure a day based on the length of time it takes the earth to revolve one time with respect to the sun, what was a day before there was a sun? What were Day One and Day Two and Day Three?

A skeptic, an atheist, a person who is bent on not believing the Bible, finds ammunition right here in the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible. This doesn't make any sense. Besides, how could plants grow and produce seeds and fruit before there was a sun to make them photosynthesize?

It all depends on what you are looking for. Are you looking to see what the Bible could teach you that is true? Or are you looking to see what you can complain about?

First, I have to admit that I do not see a Biblical mandate that God created everything in six twenty-four hour days. Could He have created everything in six twenty-four hour days? Of course! He is God, and He can do anything. I'm just not sure that we can claim that the Bible says He did.

Do you see what I am doing here? I am trying to separate what the Bible definitely says (that God created the world in six days) from something that we often claim the Bible says (that God created the world in six twenty-four hour days). The Bible might not say exactly what we have often interpreted it to say.

I am not advocating for evolution. We'll get to my skepticism about that theory at some point. I'm just saying that I don't think God paid much attention to ordering the way time could be measured prior to the fourth day of creation (when He made it one of the main items on His to-do list), so to insist on applying our current understanding of time-flow to the creation process seems to me rather simplistic and awkward.

God exists outside of time, and He was outside of time before He ever lifted a finger to create anything. We simply cannot bend our minds around the concept of existence outside of time. For us, to exist means to be born into a time continuum where one moment follows another and life is a string of consecutive events stretching from birth to death. We can think of the past, and we can think of the future, but we cannot imagine what it would be like to exist outside of all of it. God does exist outside of all of it, though. This is why He can tell us in His word that He knows the end from the beginning. He's on the outside, watching it all unfold simultaneously, except I probably expressed that all wrong because I can't really imagine what it would be like to be free and unbounded by time. Besides, He's on the inside, too, always.

Here's what I think: I think when Genesis 1:3 tells us that God said "Let there be light" and created light and darkness and separated them from each other and called them day and night, He was creating time. This would be the logical first step for Him to take in creating an environment in which humans could exist and live.

Following that, I think on the second day when God created the great expanse to separate the water from the water and called it Heaven... He was creating space.

Day One: time.

Day Two: space.

There you have it, the ubiquitous time-space continuum necessary for all life as we know it.

Day Three is a little trickier. The Bible says that God gathered the water into seas, made dry land and produced vegetation of all kinds. A literalist is now picturing lakes, rivers, valleys, forested hills and fields of wheat. But what do we know?

We know that the sun isn't going to be born until tomorrow (Day Four). And we know plants can't grow without sun.

Think back to what we have already seen God do: create time and space. If time is "step one" (and incidentally, I conjecture that it probably took God a lot less than twenty-four hours to create time... I imagine Him doing it in a single stunning, electrifying instant), and if space is "step two," what would be the logical third step? It seems to me that the logical third step would be to put something into the time and the space.

What would you put into time and space? Well, what about matter?

What if God created matter on Day Three, the elements of the periodic table, hydrogen and nitrogen and (naturally) carbon, as well as the rest of them? Maybe He even started forming some of the elements into molecules, inorganic and organic. The organic ones would soon become the foundation of plant life and even animal life. Well, a literalist may ask, why doesn't the Bible say that, then? Well, I would respond, because the elements had not yet been discovered at the time Moses was receiving the Word of God from the Lord on Mount Sinai. That kind of scientific knowledge was thousands of years in the future.

If you were God (a dangerous thing to try to imagine, but carefully try for just a moment), and you were giving a vision to a man of ancient times like Moses, a man who lived long before any scientific development (imagine this), and you were trying to explain to him that you had created matter on the third day of creation, what kinds of visions would you use to show him? He has to write something down, but what could he grasp, with the knowledge base that he has? Maybe you would show him water, rocks, minerals, and the plant life that would soon spring from these building blocks of nature which, on their own, are actually too tiny for the naked eye to see? Does that sound a little like what we read about in Genesis 1:9-13? Maybe?

Then on Day Four, God took that matter He'd brought into being on Day Three, and He made the Universe... stars, moons, planets and everything on them. People who study the stars say that they swirl around with meticulous, predictable precision out there. God designed it all, the way a watchmaker designs a very fancy watch, except infinitely bigger and infinitely more intricate.

On Day Four, God placed Earth at just the right distance from the sun, not too close and not too far away. He measured out just the right elements in the perfect ratios to make up the earth's atmosphere, and He poured water onto the earth to make it ready to support life. He let things begin to live and grow after the patterns He had created for them.

On Day Five God made fish, birds, insects and all the lower life forms.

On Day Six, God made mammals and humans, the higher life forms.

Given what we know about science, none of this seems the least bit implausible to me. It seems miraculously logical and orderly for a piece of writing that was transcribed approximately 3000 years before people had figured out anything about the scientific method or biological classification or chemistry. Just pointing that out.

I'm not saying that the way I explain things here is definitely the way things were. In fact, my husband, who loves physics, has an entirely different theory based on the way time is expanding and not a constant. I could be right. He could be right. Goodness, the literalists could be right. I don't think we will know exactly how creation happened until we get to heaven and ask God about it.

But no matter what, I believe that God is the Creator of all things.

to be continued

1 comment:

  1. Ruth, this is really cool! I think you're onto something here.

    I once read a book called "The Science of God," by Gerald Schroeder, a Jewish physicist and theologian. I don't agree with everything he says, but he points out (perhaps similarly to Shawn) that time is relative. He says that if you measure the age of the universe by the rate of the flow of time on Earth today, it's almost 15 billion years. But if you measure it by the rate of the flow of time for the universe as a whole at the moment that matter emerged after the Big Bang (called "quark confinement"), the universe is almost but not quite seven days old. That would mean we're actually still living in the sixth day of creation. That would mean that Gen. 2:1-3 actually describes the future—that everything is still being built into what is "very good." It would explain why Jesus worked to improve human life on the Sabbath after the pattern of his Father (John 5:17). It would mean that what the author of Hebrews says about the Sabbath rest is more than a metaphor (Heb. 4:1-11).

    But don't misunderstand: I like your explanation too! A lot of deep stuff here; it will be fun when we learn the answer!