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In the Beginning


"Science and the Bible just do not mix!"

This claim is heard from people both in the scientific community and in Christendom. A great bone of contention is the first book of the Bible, particularly the first chapter—Genesis One.

Some scientists say "the facts of nature tell us the earth is billions of years old. Those dogmatic religious people say the Bible claims it’s only thousands of years old. Therefore, the Bible is wrong; it can’t even get the first fact right. Case closed."

Some Christians say "those atheistic scientists are trying to use completely natural means to explain our existence, leaving out a personal Creator entirely. The words of the Bible say otherwise. Therefore, science is wrong; it can’t even get the First Cause right. Case closed."

Some people trapped in the middle of all this think: If there is a God He would reveal Himself with consistency and harmony whether in a written revelation or in His creation.

Let’s look at that possibility. Let’s compare the record of the Bible, what Christians say is the Creator’s special revelation, to the record of nature, that record many scientists put their hope in. Let’s see if there is some harmony between Genesis One and nature and try to shed some light where there has been mostly heat.

Case reopened...

Introduction

There are several extremely important points to keep in mind as you read through these parallel accounts:

1) It was never the intention of the Bible to record all the facts of history, natural and supernatural. Christians believe the Bible to contain that which helps us to understand our Creator and our relationship to Him. Thus, Genesis One here is not intended to be a full description of prehistory. You’ll find it touches on those events which have the most significant impact on mankind.
2) Although science claims to have a good grip on the major events of Earth’s history and the rough timescales of these events, no one in the scientific community is pretending to be able to know, with absolute certainty, the exact mechanisms of these phenomena or the precise moments at which they occurred.
3) Christianity and science claim different special insight into our past. Christianity claims that the record of the Bible gives us the best information on Who did it, less information on how it happened and the least information on when. Science tells us that the record of nature best tells us when it happened, tells us less on how it happened, and reveals the least on Who did it.
4) It is of utmost importance now, as ever, to establish the frame of reference for each account. The following account by science allows one to imagine observing from anywhere in the universe. The biblical account establishes its point of view in verse two; it is reporting from the surface of Planet Earth.

Please remember these when reading the following accounts...

Day 1

The Record of the Bible


1 In the beginning God created(a) the heavens and the earth(b).
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

(a) Hebrew bara — create something radically new
(b) "heavens" and "earth" in combination refer to the whole physical universe.

3 And God said, "Let there be(a) light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.(b)

(a) hayah — cause to appear or arise; become; come into existence [Note: bara not used here]
(b) yom — the period of light, as opposed to the period of darkness; the period of twenty-four hours; a general vague "time"; a point of time; a year

The Record of Nature


In the beginning there suddenly came into existence the universe—out of nothing. In the instant of a primeval explosion, 16-19 billion years ago, all space, matter, energy, and even time itself were created.
As this new universe expanded, it cooled. Some of its matter collected into clumps that after several billion years became billions of galaxies each with billions of stars. About 5 billion years ago, a third generation star, our Sun, was born of a massive cloud of interstellar gas and dust located about two-thirds of the way out from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. About 99% of the mass of this cloud went towards the formation of the Sun. The remainder collected in relatively tiny, dense clusters and became the nine or more planets of our solar system. About 4.6 billion years ago, after enough collecting and melting and shaping, the first semblance of what would be called Planet Earth was born. From about 4.6–4.25 billion years ago, a variety of gases from different sources made up the first atmosphere of the young planet.

These gases, together with the interplanetary dust and gases, left the Earth’s surface without the sun’s light. As if that weren’t enough, heavy meteoric bombardment blasted debris into the already thick atmosphere. With no light reaching Earth’s surface, the planet was empty of life.

Due to the heat of young Earth, trapped water (among other gases) was squeezed out of it like water from a baking apple. But the planet was massive enough (therefore it had enough gravity) to hold onto a lot of that water vapor—it would not be lost to space as were the lighter gases. The water vapor could condense and fall as rain. As the planet cooled, this rainwater could exist as a liquid for longer and longer times on the earth’s surface. Roughly between 3.8–3.5 billion years ago the young planet was covered completely by a shallow sea.
By about 3.8 billion years ago, the solar winds had successfully blown away the lighter gases. And Earth didn’t have enough gravity and wasn’t cool enough to hold onto to the other gases—except for water and carbon dioxide. The interplanetary dust had cleared. Meteoric bombardment was dying down considerably, too. As a result, during this time, somewhere around 3.8–3.5 billion years ago, the surface of the planet saw its first light through a translucent sky. At this time, as well, comes evidence of the first life on earth.

Day 2

The Record of the Bible


6 And God said, "Let there be(a) an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

(a) hayah — cause to appear or arise; become; come into existence [Note: bara not used here]

The Record of Nature


As Earth aged and cooled, the shallow sea was slowly establishing a stable water cycle; that is, the water was being more and more consistently recycled through the atmosphere back to the sea. By roughly 3 billion years ago a stable water cycle was established between the atmosphere and the surface. But Earth had by no means yet "settled down."

Day 3

The Record of the Bible


9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the land produce(a) vegetation; seed-bearing(b) plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed(b) according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed(b) in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

(a) dasha — to sprout; to bring forth
(b) zera — the embryos of any plant species

The Record of Nature


At about 3.5 billion years ago, gigantic dome-like granite blocks began to force their way up through the crust, exposing themselves above the sea. This was a very slow process. Finally, by about 2.5 billion years ago, Earth had settled into stable land masses. Afterwards, the movement of land was mostly lateral, across the surface of the planet, like the plate tectonics we experience today.
Now with abundant carbon dioxide and water, with land and light, the plants which were confined to the surface of the waters were now establishing themselves on land. (The time-scale which takes us from the simplest algae to ferns to conifers to flowering plants to grasses lasted from over 3 billion all the way to 25–50 million years ago.)

Day 4

The Record of the Bible


14 And God said, "Let there be(a) lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made(b) two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made(b) the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

(a) hayah — cause to appear or arise; become; come into existence [Note: bara not used here]
(b) Hebrew allows here "had made."

The Record of Nature


From very roughly 2 billion to 500 million years ago, the atmosphere was going through a transition. Oxygen was slowly increasing in concentration in the atmosphere due mainly to photosynthesis. Some of the oxygen was being converted into ozone in the upper atmosphere. With the extra carbon dioxide in the air (due in part to volcanic activity), there was a pronounced, greenhouse condition. These factors, along with the temperatures and pressures, maintained a permanently overcast sky. There was light, but for a long while it was diffused and the sky was still translucent. But, as more carbon dioxide was consumed by the plants and as volcanic activity decreased, the greenhouse effect lessened. These changes, along with a stabilization of the temperatures and pressures, allowed for our translucent sky to begin to clear up, to become transparent. The sun and moon and stars began making their first personal appearances on the surface of Planet Earth. So now, from about 1 billion to 500 million years ago on our planet, there was an atmosphere which included about 20% oxygen, an established water cycle, stable land, plants, protection from UV (provided by the ozone layer), and a visible sun, moon, and stars for potential bioclocks. The stage was set for the introduction of animal life...

Day 5

The Record of the Bible


20 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let the birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21 So God created(a) the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing(b) with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

(a) bara — create something radically new
(b) nephesh — vital animals, i.e. animals that clearly manifest the soulish attributes of mind, will, and emotion

The Record of Nature


About 570 million years ago, there was a sudden and dramatic increase in the number of animal species on Earth. This event, the Cambrian Explosion, saw the introduction of about 500 million new species of life, the majority of them sea creatures. Marine invertebrates appeared early on. Various fish types first showed up about 400 million years ago; birds and marine mammals came about 50-100 million years ago.

Day 6

The Record of the Bible


24 And God said, "Let the land produce(a) living creatures(b) according to their kinds: livestock(c), creatures that move along the ground(d), and wild animals(e), each according to its kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God createdf man in his own image, in the image of God he createdf him; male and female he created(f) them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." 29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

(a) yatsa — produce; to cause to come forth; proceed
(b) nephesh — vital animals, i.e. animals that clearly manifest the soulish attributes of mind, will, and emotion
(c) behemoth — large land quadrapeds
(d) remes — rapidly moving vertebrates
(e) chay — wild mammals
(f) bara — create something radically new

The Record of Nature


By about 350 million years ago, animal life took off on land, but it wasn’t until about only 50 million years ago that the numbers and kinds of mammals grew so great that this time is sometimes referred to as the Age of Mammals.
Most recently, however, in the last 10–50,000 years, a new species appeared on the planet which would change things dramatically. These new creatures were utterly unique in that they displayed evidence of a moral conscience; they showed concern over death and an afterlife; they had an awareness of a God; they exhibited a desire to worship God; and they had a desire to discover truth. This creature, the latest of all of Earth’s major species, is Homo sapiens—modern man.

Day 7

The Record of the Bible


2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating(a) that he had done.

(a) bara — create something radically new

The Record of Nature


Since man appeared on Earth, there has been a virtually total arrest of the introduction of new species. (There has not been a single new animal species observed coming into existence, despite the optimum conditions of today). Hundreds of millions of species came into existence during the Cambrian Explosion, hundreds of millions have gone extinct since that period.

Conclusion

There are some, from both extremes, who would write off the complementary comparison of these two accounts as pure coincidence. But it is difficult to imagine that the writer of Genesis, someone who lived thousands of years ago, would just coincidentally get all the major astronomical, geological, and biological events recorded and in the correct order. People then didn’t know of continental drift, or of requirements of photosynthesis, or of the order of life, etc. And, only in the last couple of decades have physicists come to the inescapable conclusion that the universe came into being from absolutely nothing, from a Creation Event; Genesis One begins with those words.

What makes the Bible’s account even more amazing is that it is the only "religious" account to come even close to what scientists call the facts of nature. All the other creation stories are so far off the mark that even the most generous of interpretations is nowhere near what is accepted as fact.

To be sure, the Bible is not a complete account. It was never intended to be. Nor is the knowledge of nature complete by any means. There is a lot of work to do in all disciplines in trying to understand the mechanisms of Earth’s origins. Much of the early landscape has been lost to plate tectonics; only 2% of the fossil record is recorded; the exact nature of the earliest atmospheres alludes us. It is as if we are swimming underwater with our eyes open wide, but no matter how hard we try to see, it is still a blurred image. But a blurred image which clears year after year.

The Bible speaks of at least one more day after this Seventh Day is ended. The Bible tells us that a Day of the Lord is coming when the Almighty God will reign again in power and glory. In that Day, there will be a new heaven and a new earth; all the old universe will have passed away. His followers, those who have repented of their rebellion and followed Him, even now look forward to that day of hope when they will be eternally united with their King to live in His presence and love forever.

If the Bible is so precise and accurate with the first seven days of creation, isn’t it a high probability that it will get this next day right, too. Science has nothing to say about it—it can’t. This is found only in the Bible. Are you looking forward to the New Day?

It is our sincerest hope and prayer that this essay about the Beginning will lead you to commit your life to the Living Creator God of the Bible so that you may reign with Him in the End.
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