Genesis 1:14a

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.” (Genesis 1:14a, ESV)

Atheists have a big problem with Genesis 1:14.  That’s because they don’t believe in God, but they say it’s because it doesn’t make sense that there could be light, evening and morning, before there were stars.  Going back to Genesis 1:3-5:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

It isn’t surprising that atheists have trouble with this order.  What is surprising is how many Christians have trouble with this order.  Some Christians try to explain this order away by saying that Genesis 1 is told like a story, out of sequence.

I understand how, atheists, who don’t believe in God, wouldn’t believe in the order He created things.  But once a person believes in God . . what is hard about Genesis 1?

If I believe there is an all-knowing, all-powerful God–that is, a total boss of the universe–why would I have trouble believing He could create light before the sun and stars?  If God created the sun as a source of light, couldn’t He just as easily have created light without the source?

My human reasoning gets me messed up when I assume God has to do things the way I have to.  If I wanted to invent something–let’s say the paperclip–I would need metal to make it out of.  I can invent by using materials around me in new and clever ways, but I can’t actually create: that is, make something out of nothing.

One of the ways God is described is light (see 1 John 1:5).  God’s presence illuminates our lives because He is the creator and upholder of all things.  Colossians 1:17 says,

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (NIV)

What makes sense, then, is not that God would need stars to light up His night or the sun to light up His day, but rather that He could do it in any way He wished.

It could be that God was directly creating day and night up to this point, and that He now creates lights and the earth’s path of movement in such a way that it becomes the “mechanism” for the rest of the days and nights.

We are told that, one day, those who have faith in Jesus will not need to depend on this mechanism for warmth or light:

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.  (Revelation 22:5, NIV)

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Photograph by John Bowles, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/nerull/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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History vs. Science?

History is hypothetically outside the realm of science, because science is based on observation and replication (experimentation).  I can’t observe Abraham Lincoln to see if he was the 16th president of the United States.  And I can’t replicate the universe’s beginning to see how it happened.

Science does, however, influence history . . . and history does influence science.

On the one hand, science gives theories of how the universe began, for example.  This is science presuming upon history.

On the other hand, history gives a ‘past’ that scientists work from.  No one goes into an experiment with no prior knowledge and no expectation of what will happen.  If I place a seed in a pot, for example, I don’t expect it will cause the world to blow up or that it will cause penguins to migrate to North America.  I have boundaries of expectation for the experiment.

So what should I base my decision on: history or science?

What evidence does each side give?

History gives us truth (events that really happened).  Science gives us experiments, observations, probability, and theory.

Before I decide which to trust, I have to ask myself . . . why is truth a part of history?

For anything to be true, it must have a beginning in a Being who is truth or able to create truth.  Otherwise, where would truth come from?  It can’t have come from chance, since chance would never allow for objective moral standards of any kind.  (The Christian God is Truth and is able to create Truth as He speaks.)  If anything in history is the truth (for example, if it’s true that I brushed my hair this morning), then I have to ask myself . . . where is that truth coming from?  Why is it that the past really happened?  In a chance universe, how can anything be reliable?  Why would the past stay the same?

Back to my decision: I can trust history (truth) or science (experiments, observations, probability, theory).

The first—truth—can only prove creation true.  How so?  It cannot prove creation is untrue by its own “chance universe” claim in no absolute truth . . . and, therefore, no truth.  Therefore, creation can be proved to ways: by truth or experiment/observations.  A chance universe, on the other hand,  can be proved only by experiments/observations.

The second–experiments/observations–is actually irrelevant.  How so?  If there is no absolute truth, nothing can ever be known for certainty out of an experiment.  There is no ability for trustworthy historical documentation.  How can I know what happened in an experiment when there is no reliability the outcome will be the same under the same circumstances (if there is no truth), and I can’t even rely on my memory of the experiment as an aid (if there is no truth)?

Perhaps when I plant a seed, the universe did explode and I don’t know it because the past is relative and without truth . . . perhaps penguins will migrate to North America if I plant another seed.  How can I know anything, if there is no premise of truth?  Logic cannot exist without truth.  History cannot exist without truth.  And even science itself is toast!

If I have no truth to hold onto, the only thing I can cling to is logic-less, irrational chance.  So how can anything be known?  But this is the very least scientific of all: the inability to know anything.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  (Psalm 14:1b, ESV)

All things bright and beautiful?

All things bright and beautiful, the Lord God made them all[1].

A PBS special on the life of Charles Darwin ridiculed Christians with this song.  In the film, after Darwin’s daughter, Annie, dies, his family goes to church.  He won’t go in, and as he waits outside, he hears this hymn[2].

The message is that Christians live in a delusional existence, that we stubbornly cling to a belief in the loveliness of creation when all around us we see suffering and death.

Is that how Christians really think?

The only people I know who would identify themselves as Christians and think that way belong to the “health and wealth” movement.  Since they are in opposition to the book of Job, and the teaching and example of James, Peter, Paul, the early church, and Jesus Himself, they should not be showcased as examples of Christian living.

The rest of the Christians I know are intimately aware of the evil in the world.  I have friend after friend who has gone through deep hardship, from disease to accident to violence to death.  To insinuate that Christians are out of touch with suffering is not only inaccurate, but deeply cruel.  We do not cling to God because we see a bright and beautiful world around us.  We cling to God because He is the only antidote for the curse.

As my father wasted away with Lou Gehrig’s disease, he became more and more confined to our dining/living room where his hospital bed was.  From this area he could watch the birds outside the window, eating the birdseed out of their birdfeeder.  We had friends who came over and filled the birdfeeder every day so my father would be able to watch the little birds.

Are suffering and death a natural part of the struggle to survive? Or are we missing the first and last part of the story?

One day when he was watching, a hawk pierced down through the sky and snatched up one of the birds at the feeder.  Not even the fastest athlete could have stopped this from happening, but I imagine what it must have felt like to be my father, struggling at that point to even stand.

All things bright and beautiful?

Evolution answers this question with an absolute

NO.

But do Christians answer this question with a happy-go-lucky yes?

Bloodshed, survival of the fittest, disease . . . these are not bright and beautiful.

But even so, as a Christian, I don’t have to answer with an absolute NO.  It’s true that bloodshed, survival of the fittest, and disease are not bright and beautiful.  But for the question All things bright and beautiful? I can answer,

Once.  And someday.

Once, creation was bright and beautiful.  And someday, creation will be bright and beautiful again.  These are the two bookends of this world: God created a perfect heaven and earth (Genesis 1-2) and God will create a new heaven and earth through Christ Jesus (e.g., Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah 66:22, John 1:4, John 3:16, John 10:9, John 11:25, John 14:6, Ephesians 2:18, 2 Peter 3:13, 1 John 5:20, Revelation 21:1)

The in-between pages to these bookends is not chance but choice.  I am not living in a world of suffering by chance.  I am living in a world of suffering by choice.  When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they chose suffering for this world.  And every time I sin, I reiterate their choice.

My father’s disease was not God’s choice or God’s responsibility.  My father’s disease is the choice and responsibility of mankind.  When I become angry for the suffering in this world, I find the anger must always be directed back to myself.

If this is where it ends, I might as well jump off a cliff.  But, praise be to God, it isn’t.  Just as God created a perfect world, He will one day create another perfect world, only this time, it will last forever (e.g., Isaiah 65:17, John 5:24, John 6:51, 1 Corinthians 2:7-10, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Titus 1:1-3).  There will be no more sin, and so there will be no more suffering (e.g., Isaiah 51:11, Revelation 7:9, Revelation 22:3).  Because there is will be no more sin, no one with sin will be able to enter that world (e.g., Romans 2:16, Romans 20:15, Revelation 21:27, Revelation 22:14).  Only those who have had their sin washed away by Jesus will be able to go in (e.g. Matthew 1:18-23, Matthew 25: 31-46, John 3:36, John 6:37, John 10:1-18, John 17:3, 1 John 1:2).

And, for those who enter, all things will once again be bright and beautiful.

“I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud

And your sins like a heavy mist.

Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

(Isaiah 44:22, NASB)

[1] All Things Bright and Beautiful lyrics by Cecil F. Alexander

[2] See And It Was Good by Ken Ham, from his book How Could a Loving God . . .?  Ken Ham lost his brother Robert to a degenerative brain disease in 2002.  The book How Could a Loving God . . .? is free to browse on the Answers in Genesis site as well.

Photograph by Dave Gingrich, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/ndanger/

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