Monday, November 27, 2006

God of Wonders, Pt. 1: "In His Time"


A Newsweek poll shows that 91 percent of American adults say they believe in God and 87% say they identify with a specific religion. Christians far outnumber members of any other faith in the country, with 82% of the poll’s respondents identifying themselves as such. Another five percent say they follow a non-Christian faith, such as Judaism or Islam. Nearly half (48%) of the public rejects the scientific theory of evolution; one-third (34%) of college graduates say they accept the Biblical account of creation as fact. 73% of Evangelical Protestants say they believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years; 39% of non-Evangelical Protestants and 41% of Catholics agree with that view.

Although one in ten (10%) of Americans identify themselves as having “no religion,” only six percent said they don’t believe in a God at all. Just three percent of the public self-identifies as atheist, suggesting that the term may carry some stigma. Six in ten (62%) registered voters say they would not vote for a candidate who is an atheist. In conducting the poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed 1,004 adults aged 18 and older. (“God’s Numbers” March 31, 2007)

According to a much-discussed survey reported in the journal Nature in 1997, 40 percent of biologists, physicists and mathematicians said they believed in God - and not just a nonspecific transcendental presence but, as the survey put it, a God to whom one may pray “in expectation of receiving an answer.” The survey, by Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia, results were virtually unchanged from one conducted in 1914. (“Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science,” New York Times, 8/23/05)

Was there light or was there water first? Why is the earth millions of years old? The first chapter of Genesis is science as you have not been taught and insight the wisest scientists would appreciate. Genesis 1 is a concise though not a comprehensive account of creation. It is true though it is not thorough. It is not intended to be a scientific and historical record but it is a theological and truthful record.

How did God create the world? What does God reveal about Himself in creation? Why did He create man?

Exalt His Power in Creation
1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)

Stephen Hawkins said that probably the most remarkable discovery of modern cosmology is that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning, about 15 billion years ago, countering Immanuel Kant’s notion that the world was uncaused and has no beginning. Scientists like Kant’s idea because they reject the idea of a supernatural cause or a Creator. Hawkins also believes that time would collapse or end again, although I am not sure where he got the idea that the Bible says the universe is 4,000 years old.

A 2004 Gallup poll late last year showed that only 28 percent of Americans accept the theory of evolution, while 48 percent adhere to creationism - the belief that an intelligent being is responsible for the creation of the earth and its inhabitants. An informal survey released in April from the National Science Teachers Association found that 31 percent of the 1,050 respondents said they feel pressure to include “creationism, intelligent design, or other nonscientific alternatives to evolution in their science classroom.” According to the survey, while 20 percent of the teachers say the pressure comes from parents, 22 percent say it comes primarily from students. (“New Tactic In Evolution Debate,” Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2005)

Intelligent design is the theory that the universe and its life forms are so complex that a higher cause must have caused it. It has been pointed out that some of the greatest names in science — men like Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Johannes Kepler and Galileo – were Christians.

The opening statement “in the beginning” is the account of the beginning of time, space and matter, which were created and the architect is God. God existed before the physical world began. Man is finite because he is limited by his bodily flesh, the physical world and natural laws, but God has no and knows no such limitations. The single Hebrew word “re’shiyth” or “beginning” is limited to the first thing God did when time began.

Questions like this have often been put to Christians to test their knowledge: “Can God create a rock so heavy He can’t lift?” We are so stuck on physical laws, matter and substance, which are issues to man who knows no other “sphere” but not to God, who called them into existence. God is spirit (John 4:24) and He stands apart from space, time, distance and material.

The verb “created” tells that the world has a beginning, a starting point in time of which we do not know when. Man invents, but God creates. Even the best and the brightest, the most brilliant of scientists, have to invent out of something - a cell or a particle, but God creates everything out of nothing. Scientists can convert matter from solid to liquid, gas or plasma, and combine atoms into molecules and split them, but only God created from nothing. The geniuses of the world need raw material, physical resources and repeated experiments to arrive at a product or a proposition, but God creates by His spoken word, a hint of the Word who is to come.

The creation was in six days but how long the earth was in its previous depopulated and unoccupied state or form, before its present inhabitable and vital form, was not noted. Room is given to debate whether God created a young earth thousands of years young or an old earth billions of years old, or how long after He created matter did he create life.

The world was wet, ugly and messy before it was beautiful. The Hebrew word “formless” (v 2) occurs 20 times in the Bible, translated in NIV four times as “waste” (Deut 32:10, Job 6:18, 12:24, Ps 107:40), thrice as “empty” (Job 26:7, Isa 45:18, 59:4), twice for words such as “formless” (Gen 1:2, Jer 4:23), “useless” (1 Sam 12:21 twice), “worthless” (Isa 40:17, 44:9) and “naught/nothing” (Isa 40:23, 49:4), once for “ruin” (Isa 24:10), “chaos” (Isa 34:11), “desolation” (Isa 34:11), “confusion” (Isa 41:29) and “vain (Isa 45:19), and once lost in translation (Isa 29:21)!

The Hebrew word “empty” occurs only thrice in the Bible, twice translated as empty (Gen 1:2, Jer 4:23) and once for “desolation” (Isa 34:11). “Darkness” is consistently translated as “darkness” 78 of 80 times, with two exceptions: once each for “dusk” (Josh 2:5) and “gloom” (Job 10:21). Not only was the world a barren wasteland, it was pitch black. The same word describes the darkness over Egypt for three days, whereby no one could see anything or leave his place for three days (Ex 10:21-23) and for the great day of wrath when the LORD comes (Zeph 1:14-15).

The earth was devoid of light, life and color. The only thing that kept it together was the Spirit of God hovering over the “deep,” or the Hebrew word for “waters.” The word “hover” occurs thrice in the Bible, translated twice as “hover” (Gen 1:2, Deut 32:11) and once as “tremble” (Jer 23:9). The Spirit of God was actively, powerfully and energetically at work. The interest thing was the presence of water before light, in verse 3.

Experience His Provision of Care
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day. 14 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 seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning--the fifth day. 24 And God said, “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.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:3-25)

Isn’t it ironic that the first thing the Light of the World created was light (v 3)? Note that darkness was not created on the first day; it was already present. God is the main character in the creation account of the first chapter; His name appears 33 times. All that He created was “good,” except that the word was missing on the second day, where there was no creation activity, only the separation of the sky and the waters. Everything that He made was good, flawless, perfect.

The verbs specifically indicating what God did in the creation process include “He said” (vv 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26), “He separated” (v 4), “He made” the expanse and separated the waters (v 7), “He made” two lights and set them in the sky (v 16), “He created” the great creatures of the sea (v 21), “He blessed” the creatures (v 22), “He made” the wild animals (v 25), “He created” man in his image (v 27 , created 3x) and “He blessed” them and said (v 28).

Surprisingly, the central verb in the creation process is not “create” or “made” but the verb “said” (vv 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26). God creates not “from” or “with” physical material but “by” and “through” His spoken word. He conveys his thoughts, commissions their existence and commands their presence. The Lord does not need to consult, confer or check with anybody.

The first day of God’s creation is light, not darkness, which was already present. This light is not sunlight, which was created on the fourth day (v 14). This light is not derived from the sun and stars, but from the surrounding atmosphere. Without this light, no plant, which was created a day earlier than sunlight, could survive. The sun and moon, which were created three days later, did not determine the day; light and darkness did that. The two lights merely serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years (v 14).

God provided the Day 1 light source, but this source does not have to be the sun, moon or stars. Other sources are fire, lightning, electric light globes, fluorescent tubes, luminous insects such as glow-worms and fireflies, etc.

Some scholars suggest this counters the worship of the sun - man’s ignorance that the sun is the source of light.

On the second day, the word “create’ was not used. Day two was a creative process more than an act of creating. What do you look for in Mars for signs of life? Or why do astronauts look for clay on other planets? The answer is the precious commodity water. He certainly did not create water on day two. Before light was created, the Spirit was hovering over the deep, or the “waters” in Hebrew. That is why water is indication of life, whether on Earth or Mars. The expanse God created is called sky (v 8), or “heaven” in KJV, for anything suspended in the air, from the blue skies to galaxies beyond. Water is in the earth’s atmosphere. Water covers 71% of earth’s surface. Earth is the only planet in the solar system or the known universe whose surface has liquid water. Earth is the only place in the universe that supports biosphere, where life is known to exist.

The second day begins God’s separating process. The divisions God ordered included the separation of light from darkness (v 4), water from water (v 7), day from night (v 14), and sunlight - another light – from darkness (v 18). God spoke the world into place but he intervened in the creation process. The word “separate,” or “divide” in KJV, means differentiating or distinguishing between.

On Day three, he grouped the waters and the land in their rightful place. He collected the waters, partitioned the skies and conceived the land. The “dry ground” (v 9) is in general called “land/earth” (v 10) too, which already debuted in verses 1 and 2, except this emerging earth was dry. The text did not state whether the land rose to the top and trapped water or it developed craters to store waters, or both depression and elevation occurred at the same.

God was not done with day three, followed by His command for vegetation or grass – varieties of seed- and fruit- bearing plants and trees to sprout, spring out or spew out from the new land that barely surfaced. This Hebrew word for “produce” occurs only one other time in the Bible, again for vegetation (Joel 2:22). There are vegetation or “grass,” plants or “shoot,” seed, tree and fruit. The word “bear” means conceiving, producing, yielding.

As I have said previously, the sun and moon that appeared on the fourth day did not determine day and night; they were merely appointed for daytime and nighttime markers or calendar and seasonal pointers. They delineate seconds, minutes and hours of the day and number the weeks, months and years of our lives. God called the bright and glorious scorching sun and the beaming and gentler shining moon “lights” (v 16) or “luminaries.” They were made to govern or rule the day and the night (v 16) but never to govern or rule our lives or determine fate, horoscope or fengshui. God made the stars too on Day Four but they are not “luminaries” as such.

The word for “teem” (v 20) on the fifth day means “creep” or “to wriggle, by implication to swarm or abound” (Strong’s). A creep is an animal. The general translation is “move” (Gen 7:21, 8:17, 9:7, Ex 1:7, Lev 11:41). God blessed the water creatures and the winged birds; but the land creatures were created the next day. Beginning from day five, the creation was of “creatures” that were “living” (v 20). The word “creature” means breathing or vital creature, and the word “living” means fleshly or active.

Darwinian science would have people believe in the evolution of species, but the biblical record states that living creatures were created according to their kinds. There is no evolution or “missing link” discovered through the ages; the species remain in their kind. Their chromosomes might be similar 90 something percent but the few percent counts. Cross-breeding has its limits. One can crossbreed dogs within its kind, but one cannot crossbreed a horse with a donkey to produce a mule, or a zebra with a donkey, that can reproduce into the next generation. Life forms adapt to the change of environment to survive the changes around them but they can never mutate, evolve or morph out of its kind to another kind. The missing link is popular but never scientific. It is not fact but fiction. The search for the missing link to prove the leap from monkey to human is a futile, foolish and fraudulent search that has deluded and poisoned many minds. Their same ancestor – the true missing link - is dust (v 24)!

Enjoy His Presence in Communion
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our 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.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 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. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day. (Gen 1:24-31)

The ongoing study and comparison of the human DNA with animal DNA will eventually make people marvel at how unique and special God created man to be. DNA is literally the creatures’ book of life. An article title pointedly say: “Just 2.5% of DNA turns mice into men.” It seems that mice and men share about 97.5% of their working DNA, just one per cent less than chimps and humans.

99% of human genes are now confirmed to match that of Mus musculus. Mice have around 300 genes humans do not and vice versa. It reveals that mice have 14% less DNA than we do, totaling about 2.5 billion nucleotide base pairs against our own 2.9 billion.

In the year 2005, researchers who had worked for two years deciphering and analyzing the 19,300 genes belonging to a 12-year-old boxer declared that humans and dogs have essentially the same genes, but yet the complete dog genome consists of 2.4 billion chemical letters — commonly known by the letters A, T, C and G — compared with about 3 billion for humans. (“Genetic Map of Dog May Help Humans” Los Angeles Times 12/8/05)

In analyzing the 3 billion number of base pairs in the human genome and the 1.23% that are different in the chimp genome, even Time magazine admitted that man and chimps that share 99% of their DNA are so alike and yet so different:
“When it comes to DNA, a human is closer to a chimp than a mouse is to a rat. Yet tiny differences, sprinkled throughout the genome, have made all the difference. Agriculture, language, art, music, technology and philosophy – all the achievements that make us profoundly different from chimpanzees and make a chimp in a business suit so deeply ridiculous – are somehow encoded within minute fractions of our genetic code. Nobody yet knows precisely where they are or how they work, but somehow in the nuclei of our cells are handfuls of amino acids, arranged in a specific order, that endows us with the brainpower to outthink and outdo our closest relatives on the tree of life. They give us the ability to speak and write and read, to compose symphonies, paint masterpieces and delve into the molecular biology that makes us who we are.” (Time 10/9/2006, “What Makes Us Different?”)

The land animals were made the same day as man, but the man God made, however, was not just “good” as animals were – they were very good (v 31). They were given dominion of rule to prevail against sea, air and land creatures. This “rule” function is different from the “governing” function of the sun and moon (v 16). Rule has the meaning of ordering and organizing, managing and monitoring, controlling and conquering it.

The word “made” (v 26) has a twist to it. God made the sky (Gen 1:6-8) and the great lights and the stars (Gen 1:15-16) - without much explanation or qualifying. He made the fruit tree and the wild animals with explanation - according to their kinds (Gen 1:11, 25), but the first thing God said upon making man was, “Let us make man in our 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). Of all creation, man is the only creature made in His image and likeness. God made us special, in His image and likeness, meaning God made us spiritual, moral and intelligent beings. We are not creeps or animals. Frail as he is, man is such an amazing, extraordinary, interesting, outstanding and unique creature. In fact, he is the crown, the centerpiece and the climax of God’s creation. God made man not mediocre but magnificent, not good but excellent, not average but admirable.

Unlike the previous day when God created the living creatures, God did not just bless them but He also spoke to them (v 22). Man was created for a relationship – for fellowship and communion - with God from day one. Man’s soul relationship was with his God. He planted His word and voice in man’s heart when He created him.

Conclusion: The true Bible student is never afraid of scientific evidence but only of quack scientists and inexact science. Scientists only answer the “how” things were made but only the Bible gives the reason “why” they were made. Colossians 1:16-18 writes, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Dr. Stephen Jay Gould put it in his book “Rocks of Ages” (Ballantine, 1999): “Science speaks with authority in the realm of “what the universe is made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory)” and religion holds sway over “questions of ultimate meaning and moral value.”

The complexity and the value of life - nature, animals and humans – argue for the existence of a Creator. His design is stamped and encoded in each of us. He created us for a meaningful relationship. Jesus came to restore man to a rightful relationship with God that was broken when man sinned, to make Him a redeemed person, responsible over all and receptive to Him. The Westminster Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Do you know more precious than any gift God has given us is the gift of Himself to die for us on the cross? Have you accepted the Savior and received the abundant life He promised? Are you a recipient and beneficiary of the most wonderful gift He has given - the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ?


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