Note: this Entry is part of a series of Entries on Evolution and Creationism, and is not intended to be read in isolation.
The most popular Creationist theory is that found in the ancient document Genesis, which is part of the Old Testament of the Bible. Genesis is thought to have been written by Moses, though no-one is sure. The traditional view is that the Bible, though written by humans, was inspired by God. The text begins with the creation of the universe by God, then tells the first part of the history of humanity.
The Genesis Timeline
Genesis begins, 'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth' (Gen 1:1). The document then goes on to a six-day account of the creation. On the first day, we see that, 'God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light' (Gen 1:3). On this day, just like the other days, God calls what he created 'good', indicating satisfaction with creation. Every day in the story also ends with the phrase, 'And there was evening, and there was morning - the [what day it was] day' (Gen 1:5,8,13,19,23,31). This indicates that the days were indeed 24-hour days.
On the second day, God said, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water' (Gen 1:6). Verse 8a says 'God called the expanse "sky"'.
On the third day God said, 'Let the waters under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear' (Gen 1:9). Verse 10 explains, 'God called the dry ground "land" and the gathered waters he called "seas"'.
On the fourth day, the sun, moon, and stars were created. 'And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark the seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light to the earth"' (Gen 1:14 - 15a). In verse 16 we learn, 'God made the two great lights - the greater one to govern the day and the lesser one to govern the night. He also made the stars.'
God said on the fifth day, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky' (Gen 1:20). In verse 22 God says to the creatures, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth'.
On the sixth day God first creates land-dwelling creatures, saying, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind' (Gen 1:24). After they were made, God said, 'Let us make man in our own 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'. (Gen 1:26). God then grants man and animal the freedom to eat plants in verses 29-30a: '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. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move along the ground - everything that has the breath of life in it - I give every green plant for food"'.
'Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array'.
'By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work' (Gen 2:1 - 2).
To better understand the Genesis creation account, it is recommended that you read the whole text. You can find this in either the Jewish Torah or the Christian Bible.
Genesis as a Historical Document
Many people try to categorise Genesis as a hymn, myth or saga. It has all the characteristics of an historical document, but is labelled otherwise because of the first few chapters, which focus on the beginning of the universe. But Genesis is not anything like hymns, myths or sagas.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines 'hymn' as 'a song of joy or praise'. The Bible has many hymns in it, so why can't Genesis be just another song? First of all, the literary style of Genesis is in contrast with this, because it is prose. Old Testament expert Aila Annala comments, 'Something very typical for Hebrew prose are the many waw-consecutive forms in the beginning of the sentences... To make the creation story into a hymn is as difficult as trying to sing a couple of pages from a modern history book'.
Annala also points out that the Genesis creation account is very non-mythological, and very unlike a saga. The sun and moon, for instance, are not referred to by their names, but as lights. 'I believe that the original writer of the creation story... wanted to make sure that these celestial bodies were regarded as just lights and not gods,' Annala says. Gerhard von Rad, one of the world's most respected Old Testament experts, says of Genesis, 'There is no trace of the hymnic element in the language, nor is anything said that needs to be understood symbolically or whose deeper meaning has to be deciphered'.
Genesis has many similarities with other creation accounts from the same geological area, such as Sumerian, Egyptian and Babylonian myths. The question is, which one of these is the first? There seems to be a consensus between these stories that the universe was created by God. Then, as it was written down, different accounts emerged. Genesis, though, is unique because it has none of the mythical elements of the other stories, and is therefore more trustworthy.
The Science of Genesis
Today, many scientists are confirming things said in Genesis. For much of history, most thinkers believed the universe did not even have a beginning, much less a creation like Genesis. Now science has proven that the universe did indeed begin, and in a way not unlike the Genesis account.
The Big Bang
The 'Big Bang' is not, as many school-children are led to believe, a theory that contradicts Creationism. Genesis is an example of creation ex nihilo, meaning creation from nothing. Until recently this was often seen as unscientific. Now the big bang theory has changed that. Let's look at the science and history behind this theory.
Many ancient cultures believed in a universe that was eternal or, at least, one created from an eternal substance. The science of the times echoed this concept, and the thesis was generally accepted until the last two centuries. Several scientific discoveries have discredited it: according to the general theory of relativity, the universe is expanding, and stars have been discovered that are exhibiting a 'red shift', indicative of the fact that they are moving outward, thus expanding the universe. There is also something called 'dark matter', which is believed to be residue from a cosmic explosion, floating around the universe. Also, according to the second law of thermodynamics, the universe is decaying like a 'wound-up clock' and, therefore, must have been 'wound up' or created in the first place. The first law of thermodynamics, or the law of conservation of matter, states that matter cannot be created or destroyed, suggesting that something external to the universe must have caused its existence. These data are what led to the big bang theory.
Now the question is, what caused this universe to begin? Could such a thing just happen for no reason? Many theories have come about in an attempt to explain how such a bizarre thing as a universe exploding into existence can happen by natural causes.
Carl Sagan proposed that perhaps the universe is eternal after all, and the explosion that caused our universe was one in a series. But this violates the basic laws of physics: the universe would use up its energy after several explosions and cease to be eternal. Furthermore, the second law of thermodynamics - the law of decay - dismisses the idea of an eternal universe.
Some scientists cite the self-generating universe theory, which is an illogical contradiction. Philosopher Charles Colson criticises, 'If the universe doesn't exist yet, there is no 'self' to do the generating'. Stephen Hawking, probably the world's best known living theoretical physicist, proposed that the early universe was in 'imaginary time', which is purely a philosophical fantasy. Quentin Smith, philosophy professor, cuts to the chase and suggests that the universe 'came from nothing, by nothing, for nothing'. This reduces science to ridiculous magic.
The idea of the big bang, a finite period of time in which the universe was created, is in accordance with Creationist philosophy. However, it contradicts naturalism. As Charles Colson says, 'Naturalistic credo regards reality as an unbroken sequence of cause and effect... that can be traced back endlessly...' but, 'the big bang represents a sudden discontinuity in the chain of cause and effect'. Arthur Eddington, famous physicist, called the idea of an ultimate beginning of the universe 'repugnant', and Albert Einstein tried unsuccessfully to disprove it mathematically.
Another explanation is that some intelligent being that is not under the constraints of this universe, nor abiding by its laws, created it. That intelligent being must be a God or a group of gods. There is actually some scientific evidence supporting this, namely the fact that the big bang must have exploded with perfect velocity. Too much velocity and matter would have flown out too fast for particles to pull together, and no galaxies, stars or solar systems would have been created. Too little velocity and the universe would have collapsed in on itself. Physicist Paul Davies calculates that the force of gravity would have to have been accurate within 1 part of 10 to the 60th power.
Charles Colson concludes, 'The big bang theory gives dramatic support to the biblical teaching that the universe had an ultimate beginning - that space, matter and time itself are finite. Far from being a challenge to the Christian faith (a faith that believes the Genesis creation account), the theory actually gives startling evidence for the faith'.
Sometime after creation in Genesis, there is an account of a flood that covered the entire world. Virtually every culture has a similar legend, the most well known being The Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian account. Some scientists theorise that the tremendous geological energy exerted by such an occurrence has been misenterpreted by modern geologists, resulting in the current geological timeline. Although neither Genesis nor any other books in the Bible tell the precise age of the Earth, according to genealogies it must be younger than the current geological timeline postulates.
Experiments in the Gulf of Mexico Basin have yielded surprising results for this theory. Boundaries once thought to have been Paleozoic/Mesozoic would be better classified as flood/post-flood. This is because after the first stage (either Paleozoic or flood), we see dramatic variations in average sea levels, and apparent high energy levels required for the ensuing erosion and depositing. There is also a massive sediment wedge, 10 miles thick, extending 720 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. With a worldwide flood, these are the results that ought to be found, but the modern geological record has no explanation for these anomalies. Other similar experiments are going on in other parts of the world.
The Age of the Earth
As stated earlier, the Old Testament seems to indicate that the world is fairly young. Several scientific methods of age detection, such as carbon-dating appear to indicate otherwise. How can the Earth appear millions of years old unless it is millions of years old? The ubiquitous Aila Annala postulates, 'Mature creation out of nothing has as its natural consequence an apparent age. If you accept that the Biblical story describes a mature creation, then you have to reckon an apparent age'. Annala gives the example of the New Testament story of Jesus turning water to wine. When the wine is tasted, it is referred to as 'the best' wine at the banquet. The best wine would logically have to be the oldest wine, so even though Jesus had created it just moments earlier, the wine had a much older apparent age.
The Genesis document, in addition to being the most widely accepted Creationist account, is the most verifiable Creationist account. Science, from geology to cosmology, supports it and it has a unique non-mythical quality such as no other account has to verify its historical background. For these reasons and more Genesis is becoming more widely accepted as the description of the beginning of the universe.
Other Entries in this Project
- Evolution and Creation - an Introduction and Glossary
- The Tension Between Science and Religion
- The Theory of Evolution - Part I
- The Theory of Evolution - Part II
- Discrepancies in the Theory of Evolution - Part I
- Discrepancies in the Theory of Evolution - Part II
- Creationism - Fundamental(ist) Errors
- Human Evolution - the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis
- Creationism and Creation Science - A Perspective
- Creation - A Mainstream Christian Viewpoint
- Creationism in the UK