Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Beginning of the Universe

Part 3 of The Beginning, a series on Genesis 1-3

You can listen to this sermon here.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day (Gen. 1:1-5). 

All Truth Is God's Truth

(Much of this sermon's content comes from a little book by Keith A. Mathison called A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture. The book is based on an answer given by R. C. Sproul to a question concerning the age of the universe.)

One of the questions people often ask when they read Genesis 1 is “How old is the universe?” The dominant view among scientists is that the universe is billions of years old. Among Christians, there are differing views on the age of the universe. “Young earth creationists” believe that God created all things in six literal days and that the universe is only a few thousand years old. “Old earth creationists” believe that the universe could be billions of years old--though many OECs believe that God directly created Adam and Eve around ten to fifteen thousand years ago. In this debate we must acknowledge that the Bible was not written to be a scientific textbook and that the purpose of Genesis 1 is not to tell us when the universe began. As Galileo said, “The Holy Ghost intended to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” 

[Read Gen. 1:1-25.]

Many people believe that science contradicts the Bible. And skeptics of Christianity will argue that if science does contradict the Bible, then Christianity is proven false. Is this true?

God is a “God of truth” (Isa. 65:16), and he wants us to believe what is true (both theologically and scientifically). There are two ways in which God reveals truth.

First, God reveals truth through nature. Theologians call this kind of revelation “general revelation.” The Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1-2). The apostle Paul writes, “[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:19-20).

Second, God reveals truth through Scripture. Theologians call this kind of revelation “special revelation.” All of God’s revelation (both general and special) is infallible, but our interpretations of revelation are fallible. People’s interpretations of what they see in nature are sometimes wrong (e.g., spontaneous generation). People’s interpretations of what they read in Scripture are sometimes wrong (e.g., geocentricity, based on a wrong interpretation of Joshua 10:12-14).

Science and Scripture

Science is not the enemy of Christianity. How should Christians view the relationship between science and Scripture?

1. Since general and special revelation both proceed from God, they cannot ultimately conflict. 

2. A misinterpretation of one kind of revelation can be corrected by a right interpretation of another kind of revelation.

3. While science cannot overturn an actual teaching of Scripture, it can sometimes correct a misinterpretation of Scripture. 

4. If a scientific theory contradicts an actual teaching of Scripture, that scientific theory is wrong.

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