Intelligent Design

Should Christian apologists use Big Bang as evidence?

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Dr Sheldon Rob Sheldon

Yesterday Rob Sheldon wrote to us on the “epicycles” of today’s cosmology. (Copernicus used about 27 epicycles 14 centuries after Ptolemy. Since the half-life of an epicycle solution is decreasing rapidly, we may reach 27 within 10 yrs.)

That reminded me (O’Leary for News) about something I’d been meaning to get around to asking him. Some Christian ministries see Big Bang theory as a threat and others use it in their apologetics. Is either approach a sound idea? Science is an ever-changing, many-splendored thing. What helps or hurts a given argument could change over time, but what if the message is supposed to be for all time? Over to Sheldon:

Stanley Jaki (1924-2009)

I along with Stanley Jaki stand somewhere between Hugh Ross and say, Creation Research Institute. That is, I don’t mind the idea that the universe began 13.7 billion years ago in a big explosion. It does a nice job explaining the data.

But the data look very finely tuned–as Hugh Ross would agree. So the secular academia have added all these modifications to the Big Bang to emphasize non-creation, non-fine-tuning, non-design, which strictly speaking, aren’t a part of the Big Bang model, they are add-ons. Features like inflation, dark energy, dark matter exotic particles, (I like non-exotic dark matter), black-holes, multiverses, worm holes, and yes, even gravity waves.

Some of them may turn out to be correct, others cannot be correct, but all of them have been hyped to death as if they were respectable physics (which they are not, they are hypotheses, some very speculative). The more I look into them, the more hype I see, and it deeply troubles me.

Hugh Ross came out of the astronomy community–discovering God while a postdoc at CalTech–and he still deeply respects the astronomy and astrophysics (judging from his newsletters). I’m a bit younger and a lot more jaded than Hugh, so the hype, the one-sided presentations, and even the persecution of alternative views make me disbelieve the consensus view almost on principle.

The late Stanley Jaki was a physicist and philosopher who felt exactly the same way as I do, writing an important book (for me anyway), God and the Cosmologists, where he documents this twisting of the Big Bang theory to support a secular philosophy.

If I am not a young earth creationist, it is not because I believe the physics more, it is because I believe the Hebrew more. The YEC treatment really needs to stop quoting Augustine (who couldn’t read Hebrew) or Calvin and start doing their own exegesis. Three years ago when my father fell ill, I decided to drop everything and work on the Genesis exegesis to see where the conflict lay.

In addition to the truly fascinating material on the location of Eden and the time of the Flood, I was surprised to find Genesis confirms some aspects of the Big Bang (13 billion years, recombination era, galaxy building) while undermining other aspects (exotic dark matter, probably dark energy). I wrote up a 43 page article for an upcoming World Scientific Pub. anthology on this, (which was brutally shortened to 20 pages by eliminating half the days) which attempts to show that Genesis is a technical document and requires a technical exegesis with at least the same amount of time dedicated to Hebrew as to the astrophysics.

So is the Big Bang a significant theory? It is for secularists, who have no other origination story. The Epicurean version had an eternal universe, but that is pretty much moribund today, so they are stuck with BB, as Robert Jastrow’s book documents. Like Hugh Ross, I think this is a great time to show the similarity with Genesis. But then like Stanley Jaki, I point out where the secular myth goes off the rails, purely because they do not want to agree with Genesis.

And then finally, I want to show how Genesis puts us back on the rails again, by pointing to the elements of design in both Big Bang and the history of life on this planet (evolution).

Well, that might motivate more people to study Hebrew.

See also: Big Bang exterminator wanted, will train

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32 Replies to “Should Christian apologists use Big Bang as evidence?

  1. 1
    J-Mac says:

    It’s OK as long as they explain what caused the big bang and what/who controlled it leading to order; exquisite order.

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Jaki is author of numerous books and is well-worth reading.

  3. 3
    mike1962 says:

    Is this a serious question?

    Yes. No. Maybe so.

    Who knows.

    Will it matter on your death bed?

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    I wrote up a 43 page article for an upcoming World Scientific Pub. anthology on this, (which was brutally shortened to 20 pages by eliminating half the days) which attempts to show that Genesis is a technical document and requires a technical exegesis with at least the same amount of time dedicated to Hebrew as to the astrophysics.

    So is the Big Bang a significant theory? It is for secularists, who have no other origination story. The Epicurean version had an eternal universe, but that is pretty much moribund today, so they are stuck with BB, as Robert Jastrow’s book documents. Like Hugh Ross, I think this is a great time to show the similarity with Genesis. But then like Stanley Jaki, I point out where the secular myth goes off the rails, purely because they do not want to agree with Genesis.

    So the Book of Genesis is a “technical document” requiring a “technical exegesis”?

    And an eternal universe doesn’t cut it but an eternal god is no problem?

    Oh, and theories – or hypotheses, if you prefer – such as dark matter, black holes and multiverses were all cobbled together by secularists and atheists to prevent God being given a fair shake as an explanation?

    Who are you and what have you done with the real physicist Rob Sheldon?

  5. 5
    tjguy says:

    As a creationist, I am at least happy to see IDers beginning to show a little skepticism about the Big Bang and the danger of using it in apologetics. I obviously feel Sheldon does not go far enough in his questioning of the Big Bang, but at least he is showing some restraint.

    I don’t mind the idea that the universe began 13.7 billion years ago in a big explosion. It does a nice job explaining the data.
    ….
    So the secular academia have added all these modifications to the Big Bang to emphasize non-creation, non-fine-tuning, non-design, which strictly speaking, aren’t a part of the Big Bang model, they are add-ons. Features like inflation, dark energy, dark matter exotic particles, (I like non-exotic dark matter), black-holes, multiverses, worm holes, and yes, even gravity waves.

    to emphasize non-creation, yes, but also to rescue the theory from falsifying data!

    Some of them[the modifications] may turn out to be correct, others cannot be correct, but all of them have been hyped to death as if they were respectable physics (which they are not, they are hypotheses, some very speculative). The more I look into them, the more hype I see, and it deeply troubles me.

    Nice to see some skepticism here! Agreed that Ross goes way overboard here as well. The Big Bang may explain some data well but, at the same time, it cannot explain other data well – therefore all the ad hoc theory saving rescue devices become necessary.

    So again, we have a hypothesis that is not supported by the data. Yet, to save the hypothesis – which does have some supporting data – IDers add God to the mix and use Him as a theory saving rescue device. Creationists tend to take the view that adding God to the mix is not the right approach, but rather to simply let the data falsify the theory – this is how science normally works.

    If I am not a young earth creationist, it is not because I believe the physics more, it is because I believe the Hebrew more. The YEC treatment really needs to stop quoting Augustine (who couldn’t read Hebrew) or Calvin and start doing their own exegesis. Three years ago when my father fell ill, I decided to drop everything and work on the Genesis exegesis to see where the conflict lay.

    This is the new approach that OECers have recently been taking. Up until a few years ago, you hardly ever heard this approach, but wanting to appear biblically relevant, some have switched to this approach to make their beliefs sound more palatable and acceptable in the Christian community.

    I’m sorry, but I have real problems with this claim. First of all, this is underhanded criticism of YECers. He seems to think that YECers base their whole case on Augustine. Way way oversimplified and just not true. Implying such a thing makes him lose credibility immediately in my eyes. He needs to state his arguments with a bit less bias. However, since he is mainly preaching to the choir here, as they say, this will go mostly unnoticed by the choir.

    Secondly, he makes it sound like YECers do not do their own exegesis. How silly! And then, on top of that, he claims that he is an old ager BECAUSE of his own exegesis of Genesis. That may be partially true. I cannot say either way. It is what he says, BUT, I do know that what he implies about YECers is just totally wrong. YECers are YEC exactly because of the Hebrew – and I think he knows that! It’s funny how now it is the OECers making this argument. It used to be the YECers saying this – and we still do – but as I said, this is becoming a new and popular OEC approach now. However, any old Tom, Dick, and Harry should know that YECers are YECers precisely because of what they believe the Hebrew teaches. We start with the Bible. And this is ALWAYS the first criticism we get from IDers. So, that insinuation is just silly and plain old wrong. This paragraph makes me question some of his other claims.

    So 3 years ago, when he became sick, he took up the study of Hebrew? He became a Hebrew expert in such a short time and was able to verify all these things? – “I was surprised to find Genesis confirms some aspects of the Big Bang (13 billion years, recombination era, galaxy building) while undermining other aspects (exotic dark matter, probably dark energy).”

    Sorry. To see that in Genesis, you had to look for it. This seems to be more a case of eisegesis rather than exegesis. And, come on. This was his position before he began to study Hebrew and I’m sure he was quite certain of it scientifically speaking. So no surprise what he found. Is he really OEC mainly because of his short study of Hebrew or because of his years of study of science? Perhaps he could say that his study of Hebrew confirmed his previously held ID views, but to say this is the main reason for his views seems just a little bit overstated if you ask me. Perhaps I’m judging or questioning too much here.

    “…Genesis is a technical document and requires a technical exegesis with at least the same amount of time dedicated to Hebrew as to the astrophysics.”

    Wait! I thought it was IDers who always claim that Genesis is NOT a science textbook and criticize YECers for reading it that way! Yet he seems to be claiming that it is a science textbook. Actually, YECers agree with the “not a science textbook” idea. And I have trouble seeing that God wrote Genesis through Moses knowing and intending that no one would ever be able to properly understand it until the 20th century when scientists dreamed up the Big Bang. In fact, God would also have had to know that people would misinterpret it His Word for thousands of years.

    I certainly understand that science can give deeper meaning to biblical passages. We read about man’s inability to count the number of the stars in Jeremiah 33:22. ‘As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant’. At that time, “scientists” thought there were only about 3,000 stars and they could be counted, but now, thanks to powerful telescopes, we know how accurate this is. But that is a bit different than the misunderstanding that would have occurred if Mr. Sheldon’s view of Genesis is correct.

    Anyway, I am glad to see Mr. Sheldon taking the biblical text seriously, but I question whether his approach to the text was as unbiased as he would like us to think. I wonder if Mr. Sheldon did as much research on the Hebrew of Geneses 6-9 that speaks of the global flood. I suppose he also thinks God intends for us to understand the flood was a local flood from the Hebrew.

    As for me, I am not too convinced by his opinion that Genesis is “a technical document and requires a technical exegesis with at least the same amount of time dedicated to Hebrew as to the astrophysics” to understand. I think the amount of Hebrew study he has done compared to the amount of astrophysics study he has done might be a bit out of balance.

    But thank you, Dr. Sheldon, for at least considering the biblical text in your views.

  6. 6
    News says:

    Seversky at 4, we are glad to learn, is a Hebrew scholar and can explain why Rob Sheldon could have learned nothing from Genesis that could ground or guide his thinking.

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    The idea of six 1000 year periods (days) followed by a 1000 year millennium where Jesus was going to rule on earth from the modern city of Jerusalem in the modern state of Israel was falsified in 2004. What does the Hebrew say about that?

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    And an eternal universe doesn’t cut it but an eternal god is no problem?

    An eternal universe like our universe is out, unless you’re going to appeal to miracles.

    An eternal God is no problem. God is neither physical nor finite.

  9. 9

    Thanks all of you for reading my little heart-to-heart testimony here. My father was a missionary with the PCUSA for 12 years, and then a pastor for the remaining 45. He died 3 years ago, after a stroke had immobilized him and kept him from his passion–reading books. He was always so proud that I had gotten my PhD, and wanted to know how a scientist felt about the fundamentalist faith that had embraced at age 16 (before it became a pejorative word.) I had gone to seminary in 1983 and met my wife there, but had then pursued a physics doctorate and career. When academia became so politicized that I had been run out of my fourth academic position (see Ben Stein’s “Expelled” movie), I went back to seminary to get another PhD. Unfortunately my thesis was too controversial, and I struggled six years to make it more palatable, but couldn’t.

    So when my Dad was stricken, I told him I would write a book to answer his question, the thesis that I had wanted to write at seminary. It uses some rather unconventional methods in exegesis, relying on modern linguistic tools and science techniques rather than commentaries and early church fathers. That is, it is a data-based exegesis rather than a textual one–much like the trend in historiography to use archaeological statistics in the construction of a theory.

    Unfortunately, my father passed away before I had finished the first chapter, and it took me a year to go back to the book. But after two years of intense work, I had 300 pages of single-spaced, 8×11 text. My children, some of whom finished it, all said it was unreadable. My wife is still promising to read it after a year. So I’ve divided it into 3 books, and will be releasing the first volume soon. And then you can read for yourself what a “technical exegesis” looks like.

    Here’s a teaser. The Hebrew “beasts of the earth” or “birds of the air” means a “wild, carnivorous animal”, whereas the Hebrew “beast of the earth” or “bird of the air” means “domesticated, tame animal”. Then the animals God brought Adam in the garden were domesticated, and the animals Noah put on the ark were domesticated. And among other things, that means no giraffes poking their head out the window, and no elephant dung to clean out of the bottom deck.

    So why aren’t these Hebrew words translated that way? Because the translators were constrained to tell the story the way all the theologians had interpreted it. In fact, every translation of the Hebrew, whether it be the Greek LXX, the Latin Vulgate, or the English KJV, are *theological* translations. And that means if you want to know what the Hebrew says about science, you will have to do your own archaeology. Which is what this book is about.

    Reserve a copy now.

  10. 10
    Dionisio says:

    “Should Christian apologists use Big Bang as evidence?”

    “evidence” of what?

  11. 11
    Mung says:

    Rob,

    Sounds very interesting. To what extent would you say an actual knowledge of Hebrew is required in order to understand the contents of the books?

    Do you have a favorite Bible study software?

    I’m very partial to Bibleworks

  12. 12
    anthropic says:

    Rob, what do you make of the notion that the Genesis creation story was written with an eye to refuting Egyptian religion?

    Hence the days begin in the evening and end in the morning, as Egyptians thought the Sun was a god and at night the world became chaotic, only to be restored when the Sun rose.

    Also, the Sun and Moon are never named directly, just the “greater light” that rules the day and “lesser light” that rules the night. Again, this was to minimize the Sun and Moon.

  13. 13
    Mapou says:

    There is strong evidence that the book of Genesis is many books (scrolls) compiled into one. Adam and Eve in one scroll are not the same Adam and Eve in another. The Adam and Eve in Eden are not the same Adam and Eve who had Cain and Abel.

    Also, words like “heavens” and “earth” do not always have the same meaning. Heavens sometimes means expanse. In Isaiah, we read that Yahweh “stretched out the heavens like the fabric of a tent.” Earth may also mean land or dirt (physical matter).

    Just saying.

  14. 14

    Wow, all good questions.

    #10 — evidence of design of course

    #11 — bible software changes the way we learn a foreign language. We used to spend an enormous time on flash cards trying to memorize vocabulary. Then we would take our Hebrew sentence, do a one-for-one translation into English, and try to make sense of it. This approach is completely backwards!

    The computer does a far better job at flash cards, and hebrew doesn’t use Indo-European syntax, so working from the English disguises the meaning. We should learn Hebrew by ignoring vocabulary, and spending all our time learning Semitic syntax–which is to say–linguistics.
    Use the tools to get the vocabulary and parts of speech. Bibleworks leases the Westminster Leningrad Codex software that does this (which is free!) Then use a syntax parser to form a likely syntax tree. Then see if you agree with the way the branches of the syntax tree are arranged. If possible look at two or three variant syntax to see how it changes the meaning.
    If you get a hunch that something isn’t right about the meaning (which applies to much Genesis!) then build your own word tables to see if there might be another meaning or nuance to the words. With a bit of practice, you will see how the syntax and the nuance feed off each other because neither is complete in itself.

    I have version 5 of Bibleworks, but I find blueletterbible.com to be even better. I also use the free bible tool Xiphos and a proprietary syntax parser Emdros 3.4 with the WTS 2011 ruleset.

    #12 the idea that Genesis functions as an apologetic was in a way an apologetic against the “Genesis is myth” camp. And while there is much to learn in this approach, it is like saying “Einstein’s theory of special relativity was an apologetic against the Medieval geocentric worldview.” You can use Einstein this way, but he wasn’t even thinking about Medieval physics when he wrote his theory.

    Genesis had much, much bigger fish to fry than Mesopotamian “temple dedication rituals”. Genesis was telling us about the big bang, about the design of the earth, about domestication, about anthropology, about the origin of speaking humans. It had to cover some 12 billion years of history in a way that would make sense of the Flood, of the “dark ages” after the Flood, of languages and genetic entropy.
    And in fact, Egypt had a lot of that story too. It is my hunch that Moses cribbed a lot of his material from the Egyptians. I know, you’re thinking “that bunch of pagan myths??!” But the Egyptians wrote in code, and once you break the code, it isn’t so pagan but rather scientific, with a lot a similarity between Egyptian science and Genesis. Again, it would take too long to explain here–get the book.

    #13 the idea that the document we have today was a pastiche of earlier documents goes back to Julius Wellhausen. But not only has there never been a document that behaved that way, but specific details of Wellhausen’s thesis have proven false. It’s taken 150 years for theologians to abandon this approach, but it really, really didn’t work out–in general or in particular.

    So why are Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 talking about creation using very different story lines? Because the events are separated by about 50,000 years. It was two separate events that unfortunately became conflated by early church fathers. Actually, I blame most of the mess of Genesis translation on the LXX, which was a 200BC translation and due to Hellenistic Jewish scholarship. But that’s a different story. From Moses to Micah, no one was confusing Genesis 1 with Genesis 2.
    You are quite right that words change their meaning, or perhaps have different nuances. Think 1910 when “The Fundamentals of the Christian Religion” were published and people wanted to know if their pastor was a “Fundamentalist”. Fast forward to 2001 when Islamic “Fundamentalists” were responsible for flying airplanes into the Twin Towers. Now I ask you, did the word have the same meaning in 1910 as it had in 2001? And if English changes that fast, why not Hebrew?

  15. 15
    Eric Anderson says:

    Back to the original OP question:

    Some Christian ministries see Big Bang theory as a threat and others use it in their apologetics. Is either approach a sound idea? Science is an ever-changing, many-splendored thing. What helps or hurts a given argument could change over time, but what if the message is supposed to be for all time?

    My — admittedly, highly tentative — skepticism about the Big Bang has nothing whatsoever to do with scripture, or attempts at interpreting the same, or any particular exegesis, or any assumption that scripture was intended as or can be used as a scientific text. I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone’s religious views or personal interpretations of scripture; just that I think it is a little presumptuous of us to place a weight on the scriptures that it is not clear they were ever intended to bear.

    I have long felt — the wonderful Privileged Planet documentary notwithstanding — that the equation of “let there be light” with the Big Bang is at best, quite contrived, and, potentially, just wrong.

    Furthermore, I sat up and took notice some years ago when I read some comments from David Berlinski that seemed to, if not outright reject the Big Bang, then to at least urge caution in interpreting and understanding the data.

    Additionally, I have not quite gotten my mind around how the Big Bang is supposed to have worked practically — resulting in galaxies, solar systems, planets, and the like. In particular, the accretion theory seems suspect. Likely there is a great explanation for it all that I just need to get up to speed on, but that remains one additional area of unease for the time being. One could of course posit a creative event between the time of the Big Bang and the present to account for the formation of our fair planet that would alleviate issues with accretion and the like. But if we are talking about the Big Bang as typically presented, the implied and often stated outflow of the Big Bang is precisely that: the formation of the cosmos in the form in which we see them now, including smaller-scale organizational features like our solar system and planet.

    Personally, I would not hang my hat on the Big Bang, either scientifically or otherwise — certainly not theologically. It is too distant, far too dependent on indirect circumstantial evidence, to form a linchpin of evidence for my faith. If it remains the best scientific story going, great. If it later turns out to be less secure than previously thought, that is fine too.

  16. 16
    Mapou says:

    Robert,

    The placement of the Toledoth phrases (“these are the generations of…” ) in Genesis clearly points to it being a compilation of genealogies. Besides, the text uses the phrase “the Adam” in the garden story (the generations of the heavens and the earth) but switches to a simple “Adam” without the definite article when speaking of Adam and Eve and his family (the generations of Adam). It is clear that the two Adams are not the same.

    I conclude that the YEC movement is gravely mistaken. Many have lost their faith on account of their erroneous interpretation of Genesis.

  17. 17
    Querius says:

    Ancient cosmologies often cite warring gods, dismemberment, and body parts in their creation stories. The earth is supported on the backs of large animals such as tortoises and elephants. One of the Greek Titans, Atlas, holds up the heavens. The sun and moon are powerful deities.

    In contrast, the Bible contains no similar stories. According to Genesis, the sun and moon are simply luminaries, not gods, and the earth is not supported by any giant animals.

    He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing.1 – Job 26:7 (NASB)

    There are 17 references in the Tanakh about God stretching out the heavens.

    Various critics argue that this passage should have mentioned the force of gravity. But Einstein, in his general theory of relativity, explained gravity not as a force, but as space-time curvature. In string theory, gravity is theorized to be the result of closed strings in a low energy vibrational state. Currently, no one knows whether the earth maintains its orbit by space-time curvature, a vibrational state, or something else. In any case, the earth hangs on nothing material. And no cosmic animals are involved.

    The literal Septuagint translation of Genesis begins like this:

    In the beginning, God made the heaven and the earth. But the earth was unseen and unready; and darkness was upon the abyss. And the Spirit of God bore upon the water. And God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. – Genesis 1:1 (NASB)

    Compare this with the description of the early chronology of the universe, the initial “cosmic dark ages” that lasted several hundred million years, in Wikipedia:

    Before decoupling occurred, most of the photons in the universe were interacting with electrons and protons in the photon–baryon fluid. The universe was opaque or “foggy” as a result. There was light but not light we can now observe through telescopes. The baryonic matter in the universe consisted of ionized plasma, and it only became neutral when it gained free electrons during “recombination”, thereby releasing the photons creating the CMB [Cosmic Microwave Background]. When the photons were released (or decoupled) the universe became transparent.

    Thus, according to current scientific theory, the universe was initially dark and fluid. Then the universe went through one or two inflationary stages, became transparent, and there was light.

    That the universe originated from a singularity and has been inflating—stretching—ever since then, is relatively new. For hundreds of years, it was assumed that the universe was static and infinite, having no beginning or end. During that time, critics of the Genesis account would ask how light could exist before the stars came into being. Now they would know, at least in theory.

    My point is not that Genesis is a scientific account, but rather that it’s compatible with scientific inquiry.

    However, because it’s difficult to theorize any natural process that could cause our universe to simply pop into existence out of nothing 13.8 billion years ago, physicist Andrei Linde further developed the inflationary universe idea in 1983, which speculates that our universe is just one of many “bubbles” that spontaneously grew as part of a multiverse.

    The multiverse speculation brings us full circle. It is logically no different than postulating the existence of a giant cosmic turtle that lays eggs which become new universes because it’s not exactly testable or scientific. But it does get skeptics out of an ideological jam.

    Anyone want to take a shot at explaining scientifically how entropy is suspended for a static infinite universe? Please don’t bore me with a Von Helmont explanation on how stars are spontaneously generated under the right inflationary conditions.

    -Q

  18. 18
    Dionisio says:

    Robert Sheldon @14

    Wow, all good questions.
    #10 — evidence of design of course

    Ok, thank you for your very insightful articles and follow-up comments.

    The very little I understand (overstatement for lack of a more accurate term) about the Big Bang is that it seems like a theory -based on the analysis of gathered data and mathematical models- that suggests some possible scenario(s) for the existence of this universe, including the idea that it had a beginning at some point. But does it prove all that it proposes?

    In my younger years, specially while studying at the university, I was easily persuaded to believe that science had it all figured out and that the universe was infinite, had no beginning, no end, eternal in all directions, and that matter could not be created nor destroyed, just transformed into energy and vice versa. I believed that idea was carved on rock, solidly grounded, no doubts about it, no questions needed, no discussion required, that’s it, done deal, move on, next subject please? Basically, the authority of science was above anything else, totally unchallenged.

    The Big Bang theory is one of the things that weakened that alleged authority. The same science that gave me as a fact the concept of a universe with no beginning suddenly told me that it changed its mind and suggested that the universe actually had a beginning at some point?

    That was an unacceptable large margin of error. The difference (infinite – billions) is still infinite, as far as I remember from high school math class. Actually, subtracting trillions from infinite also results in infinite. That kind of opinion flip-flopping is seen in politics for convenience, but serious science should try hard to avoid falling in such discrediting situations. Simply shameful.

    The Big Bang theory seems incomplete and perhaps could be modified in the future. Definitely I wouldn’t use it as a direct evidence of anything serious. However, it does help to illustrate that science lacks the sufficient authority to prove or disprove anything that transcends this universe.

    Yes, the entire mysterious universe, specially this fascinating (though still groaning) biology we see within and around us here on this planet, do declare the unfathomable work of God (Psalm 19:1). Maybe that’s why it’s known as God’s general revelation to all mankind. The Holy Scriptures (OT & NT) are God’s special revelation to the elect who will believe it.

    Since Christian apologetics seems to be associated with 1 Peter 3:15; the evidence I would lean on is the transcendent implications of the unchangeable message of Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1.

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    I don’t think Christians should apologize for the Big Bang.

  20. 20
    Eric Anderson says:

    Querius @17:

    My point is not that Genesis is a scientific account, but rather that it’s compatible with scientific inquiry.

    That seems like a reasonable position.

    —–

    Mung @19:

    LOL!

  21. 21
    Eric Anderson says:

    Dionosio @18:

    The Big Bang theory seems incomplete and perhaps could be modified in the future. Definitely I wouldn’t use it as a direct evidence of anything serious. However, it does help to illustrate that science lacks the sufficient authority to prove or disprove anything that transcends this universe.

    Seems prudent.

    Yes, the entire mysterious universe, specially this fascinating (though still groaning) biology we see within and around us here on this planet, do declare the unfathomable work of God (Psalm 19:1). Maybe that’s why it’s known as God’s general revelation to all mankind. The Holy Scriptures (OT & NT) are God’s special revelation to the elect who will believe it.

    Since Christian apologetics seems to be associated with 1 Peter 3:15; the evidence I would lean on is the transcendent implications of the unchangeable message of Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1.

    Well said.

  22. 22
    Phinehas says:

    I wrote up a 43 page article for an upcoming World Scientific Pub. anthology on this, (which was brutally shortened to 20 pages by eliminating half the days) which attempts to show that Genesis is a technical document and requires a technical exegesis with at least the same amount of time dedicated to Hebrew as to the astrophysics.

    This sounds very interesting to me. I look forward to reading it.

    I think the exegesis vs. eisegesis accusation can be overused and overwrought. Exegesis does not require ignoring context, and general revelation is a real part of that context. I don’t believe it harms the concept of exegesis to approach it from an expectation that general and special revelation will be in agreement, or to specifically look to reconcile the two to the best of your ability. I don’t see the value in trying to interpret scripture while deliberately avoiding general revelation. Nor do I think science is harmed when one uses special revelation to help inform hypotheses. If we are confident that the source of both forms of revelation are the same, whey would we deliberately ignore either when looking to better understand the other?

  23. 23
    tjguy says:

    Mapou @ 12 & 16

    There is strong evidence that the book of Genesis is many books (scrolls) compiled into one.

    The placement of the Toledoth phrases (“these are the generations of…” ) in Genesis clearly points to it being a compilation of genealogies. Besides, the text uses the phrase “the Adam” in the garden story (the generations of the heavens and the earth) but switches to a simple “Adam” without the definite article when speaking of Adam and Eve and his family (the generations of Adam). It is clear that the two Adams are not the same.

    I conclude that the YEC movement is gravely mistaken. Many have lost their faith on account of their erroneous interpretation of Genesis.

    I agree with the idea that different people wrote portions of Genesis as defined by the phrase “toledath”but I have real trouble thinking that the Adam of Genesis 2 and Genesis 3 are totally different people. First time I ever heard such a claim. Talk about trying to confuse people!

    I disagree with your view of YEC as well, but I will grant that some have lost their faith thinking the Bible is way off when it comes to Genesis. I think that is the fault of the Church for not properly preparing their young people for the real world. I am a believer in creation science. The Church has given away far too much to secular interpretation based on the idea that God could not have been involved in the creation of the world. The Bible presents exactly the opposite view. It may not qualify as “science” in the 21st century – since Materialists have hijacked science and eliminated any role for God – but that doesn’t mean it is wrong or not respectable.

    As a creationist, I view the description of creation in Chapter 2 as a more detailed description of Day 6 from Genesis 1. Here is an article that deals with the common objections to this view: http://creation.com/genesis-contradictions

    Here is a very good in depth article about the toledoth idea:

    http://creation.com/who-wrote-.....-colophons

  24. 24
    tjguy says:

    Querius @ 17

    My point is not that Genesis is a scientific account, but rather that it’s compatible with scientific inquiry.

    However, because it’s difficult to theorize any natural process that could cause our universe to simply pop into existence out of nothing 13.8 billion years ago, physicist Andrei Linde further developed the inflationary universe idea in 1983, which speculates that our universe is just one of many “bubbles” that spontaneously grew as part of a multiverse.

    Querius, I agree that Genesis is compatible with scientific inquiry, but not necessarily the type of “scientific inquiry” of the 19th – 21st centuries that by definition rules out from the start any possibility of God being active in creation.

    I cannot see how this approach can be considered compatible with Genesis. When doing historical science, we need to take the information God gives us about the past into consideration as we interpret the data.

    If we are accused of being “anti-science” or “unscientific”, then so be it. God is not bound to work by the rules set up by 20th century scientists who simply assume there is a natural cause for everything. Obviously, I speak as a creationist.

  25. 25
    Eric Anderson says:

    tjguy:

    If I may, my response to Querius @20 and (I think) his point @17, is not with respect to a materialist straight-jacket version of science, but rather science in the sense of following the evidence where it leads.

    In that sense, there is much in Genesis that can be seen as compatible with our current scientific understanding of events. However, it doesn’t mean that Genesis was intended by its authors as a geology textbook or a biology dissertation or a scientific treatise of any kind.

    If the real purpose of the scriptural account is to provide a framework within which to understand ourselves, to tell a story in which we have an intimate connection with deity, to explain the foundational relationship we have and should have with God, then we should note that it does so in a successful and powerful way. If that is the real purpose of the testimony presented, then we need not force an additional purpose on the testimony that it was perhaps never intended to bear.

    At the same time, if the written testimony is true, then it will inevitably contain hints of and be broadly consistent with other testimony, such as the testimony of nature as found in geology, paleontology, biology, and other areas. In that sense, the written testimony of Genesis actually contains quite a bit of material that is consistent with the testimony of nature, or, if you will, our attempts to understand nature through the instruments of good science.

  26. 26

    This thread is getting stale, but I wanted to affirm several of the positions expressed. #22 Phinehas has said it well– “If we are confident that the source of both forms of revelation are the same, whey would we deliberately ignore either when looking to better understand the other?”

    There has been a 300 year development in theology since the Enlightenment said Scripture (special revelation) was opposed to Science (reason, logic, data). This has produced a conflict or tension between people who study words and texts, and people who study non-verbal data, math and science. As linguistics has matured as a scientific discipline, however, more and more we are seeing how texts and data are related. They are not, nor can be, two separated, self-consistent worlds. When Kurt Goedel wrote his “incompleteness theorems” in 1931, he showed how using textual criteria in mathematics made mathematics no more certain than texts. He reunited texts and math into the same endeavor.

    So back to Genesis. The way in which dictionaries are composed is a scientific endeavor, so that the translation of Genesis is not simply A citing B citing C citing D who is the author. Rather, A infers from data what B meant when B used data to infer what C meant etc. The texts and the science cannot be separated, and when they are, much misunderstanding ensues.

    The problem, which I think began with the Hellenistic Jewish translation of Hebrew, is that we think “this word A must mean B, because that’s the most reasonable meaning.” Several such words have been tossed around in this comment thread, “toledot”, “adam”, and I’ll stir the pot and add a few more: “yom”, and “raqiya”.

    If you Google these words and read the commentaries, 90% of the debate is of the sort, “The Septuagint says this” and “Augustine held that”, which is to say, opinions of people working from a translation of the word. If you are really adventurous, and go to the Talmud, you will find “Rabbi Jacob says this” and “Rashi says that”. These guys are at least not working with a translation, and occasionally they will be honest and say “nobody knows what this word means”. That honesty is something you won’t get from the translators, because of course the translation has a meaning stuck in there, even if it is wrong.

    So when you realize that perhaps the meaning of “raqiya” is lost forever, that’s when you begin to appreciate what science can offer the textual critic. Because science can tell you what sort of objects have the same properties as “raqiya”, and you can try one after the other until you get a good fit. Then you have a “working hypothesis” as to what the word might have originally meant, and you can see if the hypothesis adds meaning to other passages, other words. In so doing, you are applying the same principles as science to the skill of linguistics, you are merging science and texts into the same endeavor.

    And that is why I must reject the opinion of many commentators that “Genesis is compatible with science”. That is like saying “salvation is compatible with theology” or “physics is compatible with science”. It isn’t compatible, it IS science.

    Now #24 makes a valid point that science is often defined (by non-scientists) as anti-supernatural, or “natural”, but this is a meaningless statement. It’s like saying “I only believe math theorems that are true.” They wouldn’t be a theorem if they weren’t true, so either this is a tautology, or a setup for the “No True Scotsman” argument that “if I don’t believe them then they must not be true.” Most people who say, “science can’t study miracles” haven’t talked to surgeons and doctors recently. Scientists study all kinds of things whether they are miracles or not. And just because something is a miracle–like Alan’s full recovery from a massive heart attack–doesn’t mean that I can’t try to understand how the nerve tissue in his heart muscle recovered despite the medical impossibility.

    So what does that phrase “science is the study of natural causes” mean? It means that if I don’t want to study something I fling around philosophical jargon as justification for my incompetence or timidity. Because ultimately, science and texts, science and revelation, science and religion are all part of the same endeavor: people trying to make sense of their world. There is no division, we are both human and we both live in the same world. It would be the greatest of ironies to deny someone else the right or freedom to do what I myself am enjoying. It certainly is not a Christian virtue.

  27. 27
    Querius says:

    Eric Anderson @ 25,

    Exactly. We were created with a curiosity and creativity. Genesis does have lots of hints. For example, the places in Genesis where you read,

    “Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so.” Genesis 1:24 (NASB)

    In the Septuagint, what’s translated “creeping things” in Greek is actually, herpeton in Greek. Reptiles.

    The analogy I use is the following:

    Alexander III of Macedon, known as Alexander the Great (21 July 356 BCE – 10 or 11 June 323 BCE), was the son of King Philip II of Macedon. He became king upon his father’s death in 336 BCE and went on to conquer most of the known world of his day. – quoted from http://www.ancient.eu/Alexander_the_Great/

    Really? How unlikely is it that one man could do this? Did this “Alexander” use a weapon or just his bare hands?

    See what I mean?

    -Q

  28. 28
    tjguy says:

    Thomas Kitching on The Conversation writes, “Cosmology is in crisis” – but then adds – “but not for the reasons you might think.” We’ve just shown some pretty good reasons to think that. What is his reason?

    “We still have no idea what the vast majority of the universe is made of. We struggle to understand how the Big Bang could suddenly arise from nothing or where the energy for “inflation”, a very short period of rapid growth in the early universe, came from.

    But despite these gaps in knowledge, it is actually human nature – our tendency to interpret data to fit our beliefs – that is the biggest threat to modern cosmology.”

    – See more at: http://crev.info/2016/01/cosmo.....juXUH.dpuf

    As the anomalies build up, it gets harder and harder to ignore them and write them off as just an anomaly. For a list of a number of recent anomalies, see the article.

  29. 29
    Florabama says:

    Rob or Mung or other resident scholars, I have never heard biblical scholars apply relativity as it relates to time dilation to Genesis. If all matter were concentrated at the BB, would not time be grossly concentrated as well, making our current clocks unreliable as chronological measures of time as it is related in the Genesis account? I’ve always felt creationists should reject the old earth/young earth labels for a “time is relative creationist” label. Is this completely bonkers or is there something to it?

  30. 30
    mike1962 says:

    Querius: The literal Septuagint translation of Genesis begins like this: In the beginning, God made the heaven and the earth. But the earth was unseen and unready; and darkness was upon the abyss. And the Spirit of God bore upon the water. And God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. – Genesis 1:1 (NASB) Compare this with the description of the early chronology of the universe, the initial “cosmic dark ages” that lasted several hundred million years, in Wikipedia…

    But Genesis doesn’t stop there. In the next couple of verses:

    And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

    The “dividing of light from darkness” is tied to “day” and “night” and the “first day.”

    Do you really think this correlates to what Wikipedia describes?

  31. 31
    Eric Anderson says:

    Robert Sheldon:

    You have some good thoughts and make a strong case that we should use all the tools at our disposal to try to make sense of the world. I don’t think either Querius or I would disagree with that. The issue we are discussing can perhaps be boiled down to two things:

    1- What can a particular tool tell us?
    2- How do we define that tool?

    1- Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that the author of Genesis was primarily interested in helping us “make sense of the world” by providing a framework within which to understand ourselves, by telling a story in which we have an intimate connection with deity, by explaining the foundational relationship we have and should have with God. In that case the author would no doubt be making a very valuable contribution to our understanding of things, but he would not necessarily be trying to make sure we have an advanced understanding of astronomy, geology, biology, physics, etc. That would not be his purpose and we would be wresting the scripture to force that kind of purpose upon it. Furthermore, the text would not be able to bear the weight we would be demanding of it.

    However, if the author’s account was a true account, we would expect it to be consistent with other true testimonies, whether written in tablets, on papyrus, or in the record of nature itself. It is in this sense that Genesis can be interpreted to be consistent with a number of other areas of study, including geology, biology, etc. But that is a very different thing than claiming that Genesis is going to teach us a lot about those things, that Genesis had as its original purpose to elucidate those things, that we should be able to tease out of the text all of those things.

    2- Secondly, and perhaps I should have put this first, I think much of your thoughtful response @26 can be simplified to the question of how we define science. I certainly don’t think that science is limited to only material and naturalistic explanations. But nor would I take such a broad view to say that every investigative endeavor, every form of learning, every inquiry is “science.” For example, there may well be good reasons to distinguish between what we can learn from peering into the microscope and what we can learn from peering into our mind and heart. It is the former that most people would refer to as “science.”

    Yes, potentially it is just a definitional issue, one that philosophers of science have wrestled with for centuries. But in the context of the areas of study that are often understood to constitute science, it seems reasonable to say that Genesis is consistent with such areas of study.

    —–

    Incidentally, I’m not saying that research of ancient civilizations, textual studies, linguistic analyses, and the like relating to Genesis aren’t “science.” I’m more than happy to classify them as such. The question of Genesis and science is less related to the tools used to investigate Genesis and more related to the underlying purpose, intent, and message of Genesis itself. If the primary purpose of Genesis was something other than teaching us about, say, geology, paleontology, and biology, then we should be cautious to not base our understanding of such areas too heavily on that text.

  32. 32
    Querius says:

    mike1962 @ 30,

    In 17, I wrote

    For hundreds of years, it was assumed that the universe was static and infinite, having no beginning or end. During that time, critics of the Genesis account would ask how light could exist before the stars came into being. Now they would know, at least in theory.

    Thus, your point of view is critical in determining whether something sounds scientific.

    Ok, let’s consider your question directly.

    Apart from a complete anthropomorphic, childlike interpretation of Genesis, what is the text really telling us?

    – First something called the abyss came to exist. Can you tell me what an abyss might be? Take a wild guess.

    – The abyss started out in complete darkness and apparently had fluid properties.

    – Then it was filled with light.

    – Then there was a separation between light and the absence of light.

    – Periods of light and dark define the passage of time. How would you propose to measure time if all you can observe are photons? Seriously. Do you know how and when time started?

    That evenings and mornings are transitions enabling a basic measurement of time doesn’t sound so far-fetched when you and I clear our minds of preconceptions.

    No, I don’t know the best answers to these questions or exactly how the universe began, but I find it fascinating to try to figure it out! And Genesis gives me hints but no pat answers.

    -Q

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