Today: 21 April 2014
 
 

  

Creation of the universe

'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'
(Genesis (OT), chapter 1, verse 1)

Many who explore Christianity don't have a problem with the idea of a creator, but struggle with the idea that to be Christian they
eagle nebula from the Hubble  telescope

might have to believe in creation taking precisely 6 days of 24 hours—or 144 hours, or 8640 minutes, or 518,400 seconds.

Sometimes struggling is important to a genuine faith, but let me share ideas in this series of articles that have helped someone who is both a scientist and a Christian get his head round these mind-boggling concepts, trusting the Bible while trying to understand the physical evidence in the universe God created.

In the Bible passage above, the term ‘heavens-and-earth’ in Hebrew is one of those compound phrases (like we might say ‘bits and pieces’ instead of ‘stuff’), used because the writer didn't have a word like ‘universe’ at his disposal, and
Eagle nebula from Hubble
the concept of a universe (meaning everything that exists) doesn't appear in Greek culture until much later. So this verse talks about the creation of the entire universe in a seemingly instantaneous manner.

In the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, most scientists would have had trouble with the idea of the creation of the universe in anything but a very long time, it being so—well—big, and prevailing ideas were more along the lines of the universe being infinitely old—or, as British astronomer Professor Fred Hoyle postulated, of along the idea of 'continuous creation' of matter.

But 20th-century studies of the cosmos (aka universe) showed that it is expanding at an ever-increasing rate (the furthest stars are moving away from us faster than those closer to us), suggesting a vast cosmic explosion. After doing the sums (rather beyond the scope of this article), they were able to project backwards to when everything must therefore have been in the same place at the same time—the so-called Big Bang moment. (Again, excuse me for saying ‘moment’ because, of course, moment implies time, and there wasn’t such a thing until the universe existed).

In a single blinding pulse, a moment of glory much too swift and expansive for any form of words, the 'singularity' (as cosmologists like to call it, being wary of using words like 'creation') assumed heavenly dimensions... space beyond conception.

Within the tiniest split second after the singularity, the temperature hit 100 billion degrees centigrade. The first second produced gravity and other forces that govern physics. In less than 60 seconds, the universe was already a million billion miles across. In less than 3 minutes, 98% of all the matter that would ever exist had been produced (thanks to Bill Bryson for a lot of the phraseology in those two paragraphs).

Does that sound pretty quick work to you? It does to me. And since those first few dramatic moments, the universe has continued spreading out like the debris of a huge explosion.

Of course, such descriptions (if true, and of course CNN wasn't there to film it!) would not have conveyed much to readers in the millennia since Genesis was written, so—rather like Forest Gump—that's all the Bible wants to say about that.

There’s no conflict between the Bible and current cosmology - for the first few minutes of the universe, at least.

People of faith and people of science can agree on at least one thing: there was a beginning. Beyond that, Christians take a variety of views, but continue to say, `In the beginning, God created...' —however he did it.

Next up – the early earth  

Go deeper - learn more

Pray: Lord, only you know how the universe came into being! Who are we to try and work out exactly how you did it? Your creation was beautiful and perfect, and now we look forward to a time when that perfection will be restored. Thank you for everything you have done, and help me to appreciate it. Amen.

Visit Reasons to Believe - a science/faith think-thank website

Watch the video clip Accidental Masterpiece

Watch the video clip Psalm 19, with voiceover plus 'music' recorded from space

Read the book A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Read the book The Creator and the Cosmos by Hugh Ross


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