At the moment in church, we’re going through a sermon series on the first chapters of Genesis. These chapters deal with some very foundational themes, looking at the nature of the world, of humanity, of marriage, work and family. Some big questions come up here. Among the biggest are those relating to modern science. How could God create the world in six days if scientific evidence suggests the universe is billions of years old? Where does evolution fit into all this? Does modern science disprove the creation story?
Now, I’m going to be upfront here. I’m not a scientific person. There are many other people with much greater scientific knowledge than I am. So, I’m not going to get into a complex discussion of the different theories on the matter. I’m just going to reflect on the sermon I heard, because I found it really interesting.
We’ve made many, many scientific discoveries since the time Genesis was written. We’re living in a society with a completely different worldview. If we look closely, then, at Genesis, we see the reason why believing in modern science does not rule out believing in Genesis 1.
Genesis and science are answering different questions.
Science is all about the what and the how of the universe. What is the world made of? How has life developed over many years?
The first chapters of Genesis, on the other hand, aren’t so much concerned with the scientific details of creation. They’re interested in other questions altogether – who and why. Who created the world? Why was it created? Why do humans exist at all?
Back in the time Genesis was written, there were many different creation stories belonging to different nations. Often these stories would involve many gods battling for power. But Genesis 1 presents a different picture. Only one God, the great I AM. Creating everything from nothing. Creating all things good.
There are a whole range of Christian views on the ‘how’ of creation. Was it created in 6 literal days? Or was it 6 ‘epochs’, happening over billions of years? Did God work through evolution? Ultimately, none of us can know 100% for sure because these events happened long before anyone here was even born. I have a feeling that the real answer is far more complex than what we’ve come up with.
Whatever view we hold on the what and how, the who and why still stay the same. So, what are the key points that we need to keep when looking at Genesis 1?
1. God is the creator of the world.
God created the world. In the beginning, before anything else existed, God was there. He spoke, and through his words he created the universe out of nothing. Whether that happened over six days or six billion years isn’t really the point. The world didn’t come about by random chance. Every new species and every change came about by God speaking it into existence. Even if we allow for evolution or creation over billions of years, God was behind it all. He stands, powerful and infinite, in goodness over all he’s created.
2. Adam and Eve were real
Maybe they didn’t literally encounter a talking snake and eat the forbidden fruit (or maybe they did). But somewhere back in prehistory, the first of humanity rebelled against God. This is really important to maintain, because it has big theological implications. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we’re all born with a sinful nature and live in a fallen world. This is why Jesus came into the world to save us, so it does matter!
As for me, I think I’m leaning towards the view where the ‘days’ of Genesis 1 are figurative, and refer to events that happened over a long period of time. But I hold this view lightly. It’s the answers of who and why that I hold close. The what and how can fall in place around them.