“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ‘For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.’”
Isaiah 55:10-13 ESV
The language in these verses from Isaiah 55 are figurative. Will the mountains and hills really break forth into singing? Will the trees of the field clap their hands? (What hands do trees have?) But the language conveys a truth: the world was created in response to God and awaits the fulfillment of God’s purposes for which He created it.
Just as the rain and snow produce the intended results of watering the earth, sprouting the seeds that allow the sower to produce bread, God’s word goes out and accomplishes the purposes for which it was intended. This is true from the beginning to the end.
God spoke the world into being. He set the heavens and the earth (the universe) into motion by His word. (2 Peter 3:5) The world came into being in response to God speaking. And the ultimate ends God has purposed will sprout (and have sprouted) into the seed that produces the material from which the sower ultimately accomplishes the end purpose.
The parallels between Genesis 1 and John 1 are obvious. Genesis 1 reads:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
John 1 reads:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
These parallels convey the idea that God is “verbal” by His very nature, and He communicated the universe into existence. Indeed, the creation story as it unfolds in Genesis bears this out:
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (gen. 1:3)
And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” (Gen. 1:6)
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” (Gen. 1:9)
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation…. (Gen 1:11)
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night….” (Gen. 1:14-15)
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” (Gen. 1:20)
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds…” (Gen. 1:24)
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness….” (Gen. 1:26)
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that a plural pronoun is used for God in Genesis 1:26. To be verbal by nature, communicative by His very essence, God must have relationship within Himself. In John 1, we read that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God”, and then John goes further to say this:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:14)
Of course, he is talking about Jesus – God who became like us, the creatures He created in His own image. Of God and Jesus, John said,
“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God….” (John 1:11-12)
The age of the Earth is a hot button topic for Christians today. Science suggests that the Earth is old, but a large segment of western Christianity has put down big stakes on the claim that the Earth is young. We have to be careful here that this tension doesn’t overshadow the Gospel.
The issue of the age of the Earth has almost become a litmus test in some Christian circles for belief in God. But is it a good litmus test? Does the Bible speak to the age of the universe?
The Ham/Nye debates were my introduction to Ken Ham (and to Bill Nye for that matter). I wanted Ken Ham to be my champion of a biblical view of science, but I just came away unsettled. (See Debriefing the Nye v. Ham Debate)
As I’ve admitted before, I am decidedly not a science guy. I tend to put these things on my back burner and let them simmer, and that is what I did with the debates. Quite some later I came across Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe. He made sense of the science and the biblical creation account in Genesis. He still does to me, though I tend to take all of these things with a grain of salt because I still don’t know what I don’t know.
I have consciously avoided criticizing Ken Ham because so many Christians love him. And again, I don’t know what I don’t know about the science. But, I am changing on that score too. It isn’t the science that I am chiefly focused on at this point, but something far more fundamental to the Christian faith – the Gospel.
I’m not a scientist, and I am not even “a science person”, though I have become much more interested in science as an adult than I was as a child. I am more of a philosophical and theological person. My background is English literature, world religions, and American jurisprudence (law).
We give scientists quite a bit of deference in our modern society, and so we should. They are peeling back the layers of this universal onion in which we live. Scientific discoveries are fascinating, life-changing and significantly valuable.
I would be quickly lost in the weeds in a discussion of science among scientists, but scientists are human. They have flaws, and they usually are not schooled in philosophy or theology.
For instance, Stephen Hawking, is one of the most brilliant scientists of our age. In his book, The Grand Design, he says, “In a world in which a law like gravity exists, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.” This isn’t a statement of science; it’s a philosophical statement with theological impact. But does it make sense?
One of the showing stopping questions posed by atheists is this one: If God created the universe, who created God?
It is a clever question, and has stumped many a person who believes in God, but the question, itself, is flawed. Let me explain.
In my response, I am indebted to John Lennox who’s answer to this very question is embedded at the end of this blog article. John Lennox, is a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and a frequent speaker on topics of science, philosophy and religion. He has twice debated the vocal atheist, and Oxford professor, Richard Dawkins, who wrote a book, The God Delusion, using this question as a centerpiece.
The flaw of the question is that it is loaded with the assumption that God was created. The response of the Christian (or theist generally) is that such a notion (that God was created) is not a notion about God at all, but a notion about a god – a created thing. Another word for such a thing is an idol.
A self-described atheist threw out this proposition offhandedly in a dialogue I had recently. I think it makes sense to respect the people we dialogue with, including atheists, so I chewed on that proposition a bit. As often is the case, I woke up this morning thinking about things that I had been thinking about the night before.
As I reflected further, it dawned on me that, perhaps, time is an illusion. It actually makes some sense. Let me explain.