Friday, February 19, 2021

Ongoing Creation

 The term Creation possesses many definitions and meanings. The first book of the Bible (Genesis 1:1) refers to the most significant theological meaning of creation. The famous first verse of scripture refers to an absolute beginning of time—before which there was no space, energy, or matter. Prior to that, human time did not exist. From our human experience with the dimensions of time, space, matter, and energy governing our present lives, it is difficult to conceive or even imagine these conditions. The Creator of the Bible is able to exist within our dimensions, but also outside the dimensions in which we exist. Humans cannot conceive or even imagine that God could exist in other dimensions as well as in dimensions with which we are familiar.

The absolute beginning of time according to our human experience occurred at the Big Bang—about 13.8 billion years ago. God brought matter into existence from an infinitely small “singularity.” Physical descriptions for “singularity” characteristics are unlike anything with which humanity is now familiar. But Hebrew for Genesis 1:1, according to Hugh Ross in his volume “The Genesis Question” (Navpress, 2001), states the terms used in Gen. 1:1—heavens and earth,—“consistently refer to the totality of the physical universe: all of the matter and energy and whatever else it contains.”

Since the Big Bang creation event, our universe has expanded and has experienced many physical transformations. Credible scientists have described the primeval sea of quarks, early particles from which protons and neutrons formed and later combined to form atomic nuclei in the first several thousand years. These early particles were too hot to capture electrons. When they cooled enough, they captured electrons and formed elements which later formed galaxies of clouds and later, stars. The stars formed new elements and took on a life of their own. Astrophysicists refer to “cosmic evolution,” an ongoing sequence of events to explain our past and present physical existence. 

Our view is that the subject of creation, especially the creation event described in Genesis 1:1, usually signals a one-time event. The richness of our language and theology, however, permits discussion of many other aspects of God’s creative power. Our Creator is not limited to a singular creative episode with respect to our physical universe or physical life. The power of God’s creative work has been ongoing since the beginning. The study of our physical universe, its origin, its development over time, and its development in the present, reveals much of God’s ongoing creative work. Many useful discoveries have been made concerning the events of 13.8 billion years ago, but much reported knowledge about the origin of our universe is speculative, at best. 

Of even more importance is the manifestation of God’s ongoing creative ability with respect to living things. A riveting discussion topic is the origin of life on our planet. Is there a natural explanation for how life originated? In terms of our Christian belief system, God created life itself. Many scientists continue to search for a natural explanation for life’s origin. They are having little, if any success. The topic of divine action is off limits and even unwelcome in our science laboratories.

In contrast to our limited knowledge of events at the origin of the universe, we are far more confident that medical science has explained the sequence of events in the origin of planetary life. For instance—gestation—the events involving production of a human life from conception to birth. Knowledge of the process of gestation has increased exponentially. More knowledge of gestation is constantly being discovered. 

How do we relate our post title—Ongoing Creation—to the development of human life? As we study the wonderful events involving reproduction, we believe the terms divine creativity and divine creation are entirely appropriate to describe events occurring in our present day. God is the Creator/Author of the wonders involving the production of new life. Life begins at conception, the joining of two gametes, sperm and ovum, into a zygote. This new diploid cell possesses all the potential to become a fully human being. It is fully human, although not fully mature.

The creation process of the next nine months involves building and structuring many functional layers of cells from the early zygote. It becomes an embryo, soon becomes a fetus, and finally a newborn. This process is not random or incoherent. Rather, it is suffused with precision and wonder. In our post of 2-21-2018 we quoted a well-known developmental biologist, Lewis Wolpert: “It is not birth, marriage, or death, but gastrulation which is truly the most important time of your life. The term signifies “the embryonic process during which a living organism’s body plan is established.”

There are many dimensions of God’s creativity. Many theologians deal with the concept of divine creation in relation to preserving, upholding, sustaining, conserving, governing, or intervening. Randy Alcorn of Eternal Perspective Ministries, states, “Each individual since Adam and Eve has been personally created by God.”     


Friday, February 5, 2021

Leftovers of the Initial Creation Event

 With a nod to the spectacular, we recently posted accounts of the ‘great planetary conjunction’ of Jupiter and Saturn, a spectacular rare total solar eclipse, a beautiful comet visitor, and a fireball meteor which spread treasured fragments of cosmic matter on our home planet’s surface. We resist focusing exclusively on overly spectacular astronomical phenomena. Everyday environmental events provide plentiful examples of natural wonder.  

There is nothing boring about sunrises and sunsets, the common star-filled sky (and perhaps the cloud cover obscuring the stellar show), ubiquitous common insects, (even in the spring), gentle rain events, plant growth, ordinary animal behavior, and  dozens of other daily events in which we are immersed.

Bear with us as we develop our case for divine creation, utilizing the term “leftover,” not in a pejorative but rather in a positive sense.

We highlighted both the spectacular and the mundane in our opening paragraphs. Both suggest a rich history. What came before? In terms of the ‘spectaculars mentioned in our opening paragraph: Are the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn “leftovers” of a divine creation event? Is Earth’s Moon, a main player in solar and lunar eclipses, a “leftover?” Are comets, fireball meteors, and meteorites “leftovers?” We ask, “Leftovers from what?” In terms of more ordinary phenomena including mountains and living things, could we make a case for creation’s leftovers? If we agree that the Big Bang, occurring 13.8 billion years ago, was God’s initial act of creation in our universe, the answer is an emphatic “Yes.”

For many, the issue of a young earth is important. They interpret the seven “days” as literal rather than figurative. They do not acknowledge that Genesis days could be anything other than literal 24-hour days. Their position forces then to the conclusion that Earth and the universe itself is only six to ten thousand years old.

The position of our blog and the position of the John Ankerberg ministry is that diverse interpretations of the Hebrew yom (day) in early chapters of Genesis allow for a very ancient Planet Earth and universe in accord with multiple discoveries of historical science. Most scientists are in agreement that there is overwhelming evidence that the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago. On the same time scale Planet Earth originated about 4.5 billion years ago and simple life first appeared about 3.8 billion years ago. Fully modern humanity appeared very recently—about 50,000 to 65,000 years ago. At that time there was a significant leap in the ability of homo sapiens. That human achievement leap is described as a cultural explosion. Some analysts call this ability leap evidence of a divine creation event.

Recently I was challenged to recommend a book supporting the relationship of science and faith. I offered a volume by theologian C. John Collins, entitled “Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?” (Crossway Books, 2003). The 400-page volume is a comprehensive defense of Collins’ confidence in science and its relationship to faith. Collins states, “I have already given you my reasons for rejecting the claim that the Bible teaches a young earth…” He outlines theories proposed by theologian/physicists John Polkinghorne and Ian Barbour:

     “About 15 billion…years ago, space, time, and the universe began when the initial 

     singularity—all the matter and energy compressed into a point with zero

     dimensions—suddenly began expanding unimaginably rapidly. (Theorists disagree

     on how rapidly, and how the rate has changed over time.) After the first three

     minutes, atomic nuclei could form, yielding helium and hydrogen; after about

     500,000 years, the lighter elements could be formed. After about a billion years 

     of expansion, the stars and galaxies began to form, in which the heavier elements

     were produced. Some of these stars have died and some have scattered their

     matter—this is how the basic building blocks for biological systems became

     available. About 4 1/2 billion years ago planet earth was formed, condensed out

     of cosmic clouds. Biological life first appeared on earth about 3 - 3 1/2  billion

     years ago.”

Note the citation of the formation of planet earth in the quote above. As planets formed from the gas cloud, likewise, comets and meteors formed in the same way. In Collins’ words they formed from rocky masses and frozen gases which “bashed into each other and fused.” In our times planets, meteors, meteorites, and comets remain as “leftovers” from the initial Big Bang creation event. These leftovers are composed of “heavy elements” formed from “light elements” helium and hydrogen. Primeval stars exploded into supernovae. Light elements fused and spread heavy elements, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and other heavy elements into space. Living things are now composed of light and heavy elements—“leftovers” from the Big Bang. (Carl Sagan in his TV series Cosmos once voiced, “We’re made of star stuff.” Sagan was not a Christian, but he was correct in his “star stuff” utterance.)

Throughout Earth history our Creator has performed miracles. In other posts we have categorized miracles as (1) sustaining, (2) transformational, or (3) transcendent. We recognize the Big Bang as “God’s initial creative act.” In this universe it qualifies as a transcendent miracle. The origin of life on our planet, including fully modern humanity, is a transcendent miracle. Other events such as the formation of planets from gas clouds could be classified transformational miracles. Everyday maintenance of the orderly physical system exemplifies ongoing sustaining miracles. In all these categories, our Creator is at work to manifest His glory.

The Creator endowed matter with a coherent set of physical laws and physical constants by which the current cosmic order has achieved its present maturity. We speak of a wondrous endowment: God’s handiwork is present in thousands of ways within our sphere of existence. Science has discovered how the manifold physical systems operate. We observe creation miracles each day. For these gifts we offer God our thankful worship.