Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. – Albert Einstein
One of the trickiest problems for a religious scientist is finding some way to reconcile the two fields. Unfortunately, there is a preconceived notion that science and religion counteract each other, that science is just the abode of the faithless who feel the need to logically demonstrate that which religious people take on faith. The problems with religion and science comes from the fact that misguided practitioners of both fields assert their beliefs on the practitioners of the opposite field. It is illogical to state that since physics has not proven the existence of God, that a supreme being can not possibly exist at any point in spacetime. Likewise, it is irrational for a religious individual to state that the Big Bang (for example) is false (to say nothing of asserting that the theory is atheistic) when the holy texts of various religions are completely uninterested in the physical problems of creationism. Science provides the “how” and “what” of our universe where religion provides the “who” and “why”. Without either, our understanding of the universe and our place in it would be utterly incomplete.
Out of all religious topics, the idea of creationism is the one that tends to be most hotly debated between religious people and scientists. When it comes to the creation of the earth, both sides seem to ignore or disregard the other sides views on the matter. I would like to show how the creation account in the Bible actually provides a pretty thorough account of the creation of the world without negating the discovers of science. The key is that the Biblical text does not deal with any of the physical or chemical acts of creation, rather it is written simply so that anybody can understand the very basics of the creation of the Earth. Before we start though I would like to make four fundamental claims about the creation of the Earth that I will rely on throughout these articles.
1. God is endless and eternal, thus his work is also endless and eternal. This means that he was at work far before the creation of our Earth. Thus I accept the dating of the universe and the Earth at 13.7 billion years and 4.54 billion years respectively. When the Biblical account says “in the beginning” it is referring both to the beginning of the universe and the beginning of the Earth. Therefore the first verse in the Bible should be read to refer to both of those events and the “in the beginning” of the Earth is only relative to our timeline. There is no beginning to eternity.
2. The days of the creative period are only period of time. When the Bible says that an act is the first day, second day, or so on; it simply means that these are a period of time. These period of times are definite, but not uniform. Two examples of this usage are Genesis 40:4 where the Hebrew word “day” is translate as ” a season” and Judges 11:4 where the Hebrew word “day” is translated as “in the process of time”. Once again this shows that the current dating of the Earth is correct as far as we can tell.
3. Ex nihilo creation is false and non-biblical. This doctrine is mentioned nowhere in the Bible and is an offshoot of 2nd century Greek philosophy getting mixed in with the scriptures. Originally the idea of ex nihilo creation was taught as a hedge against certain Gnostic teachings, but now we can see that the idea that everything was created out of nothing is in fact illogical. This is supported by a direct reading of the Hebrew bible where the word translated as “create” is more readily translated as “differentiate” or “allocating of properties”. The idea here is that it is more correct and advantageous to describe God as organizing the Earth and not creating it out of the void of nothing.
4. God works by natural means. He does not subvert the laws of nature, he simply applies them at a higher capacity than we do. When referring to the miracles of Jesus Christ, theologian James E. Talmage said: “Miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law, but are wrought through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized.
“In the contemplation of the miracles wrought by Christ, we must of necessity recognize the operation of a power transcending our present human understanding. In this field, science has not yet advanced far enough to analyze and explain.” This also applies to the creation of the Earth.
Ok now that that is out of the way, lets get on with day one.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
So after all of the excitement of the Big Bang, let’s go out to a lonely little corner of the Milky Way galaxy where not a whole lot is happening. Rather, there is just a huge cloud of hydrogen, helium, oxygen and some heavier elements. Nowadays we would call this a nebula, but this cloud is the beginning or Earth. About 9 billion years after the Big Bang, a shockwave (possibly caused by a nearby supernova) went through this cloud of interstellar gases causing it to begin to spin. Eventually this spinning motion flattened the gases into a spinning disk. Because the center of this disk had very little angular momentum, it collapsed in on itself due to the force of gravity. The gravity and compression of this collapsing ball of gases eventually created enough heat and energy to start nuclear fusion. Our sun was born.
Farther out, the planetary disk was beginning to coalesce. After our sun was born, its solar wind blew all of the large chunks of matter out to the fringes of the solar system, where they began to collide with each other and form the protoplanets that would eventually become the planets that we know. Scientists estimate that at this point there were around 200 protoplanets in the inner part of the solar system. Eventually collisions between these protoplanets formed the four planets that we know today. The gravitational interactions between these protoplanets eventually smoothed out each others orbits, putting the planets in their current orbit. During this time, the moon was formed due to a huge impact between two protoplanets within Earth’s current orbit.
The Earth started off hot and molten but as the large impacts began to cease it was allowed to cool down, which in turn caused the shrinking of the crust on its surface. During this time is when the first atmosphere of the Earth was formed. We know that there are many bodies in the solar system which are composed of water (comets being a notable example) and it seems evident that some of these bodies were part of the formation of the early Earth. As the Earth cooled, volcanic outgasing released large quantities of water into the atmosphere as well as hydrogen and helium. Also during this time, Earth was being heavily bombarded by smaller comets and meteors which also would have deposited large amounts of water on the surface. However, at this point in time the Earth was still far to hot to support liquid water on it’s surface so any deposited water would have evaporated into atmospheric water.
When the Biblical account refers to the “face of the water” this is what it is referring to. There would have been light on the planet surface, but only diffuse light that would not have been able to penetrate the thick atmosphere. The moon and stars would not have been visible at this time and life would be utterly impossible on the Earth. A good example of what this may have looked like is the moon Titan, which has been described as being very similar to early Earth.
And so with day 1 down we have a hot, poisonous Earth recently formed from impacts within a solar nebula. Hopefully things will get a little more hospitable soon.