CAN YOU TRUST THE BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF CREATION?
Stephen Ku — Pacifica,
Brought up in a Christian family,
I always accepted without question what I was taught about the Bible and about
God. But my faith began to meet some serious challenges during my college
years. One of them was the study of science.
THE AGE ISSUE
During my first semester I took a
geography class. Geological evidence of the age of the earth often came up in
lectures, readings, or discussion sessions. Based on fossil records and
radiometric dating, which measures the radioactive decay of rocks and
meteorites, scientists estimated that the earth is about 4.6 billion years old.
This clearly contradicted my
belief that the universe was only a few thousand years old. Without even
attempting to weigh the evidence, I simply dismissed the information as an
unreliable claim founded on an inaccurate dating method.
The issue of the age of Earth and
the universe surfaced again a year later when I took an astronomy class. This
time, it smacked me right in the face.
In a discussion session, our TA
talked about the size of our universe. He started by saying, “The universe is
so vast that it is way bigger than you could possibly imagine!” Then he
introduced the concept of the light year, a unit of measurement with which
astronomers estimate the distance of objects in space. Light travels at 3x108
kilometers per second. A light year, then, is the distance light can travel in
one year, i.e. 9,500,000,000,000 kilometers.
Just to give an idea of the scale
that we are dealing with:
Alpha Centauri, the closest star to us besides
the sun, is 4.3 light years from us.
Our galaxy, known as the Milky Way, is about
100,000 light years in diameter. (This means it would take light 100,000 years
to travel from one end of our galaxy to the other!)
Our nearest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, is
2.2 million light years away.
The distance to the galaxy M87 in the Virgo
cluster is 50 million light years.
The distance to the most distant object seen in
the universe is about 18 billion light years (18 x 109 light years).
Because it takes time for light
from stars to reach Earth, we are actually looking back in time when we look at
the stars. For example, in 1987, scientists observed a supernova in a nearby
galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. Since this galaxy is 190,000 light
years from us, they were looking at an event that actually occurred 190,000
The most distant objects that
astronomers can see now are about eighteen billion light years from Earth. This
means that the universe must have existed eighteen billion years ago, which is,
incidentally, the current estimate for the age of the universe. In other words,
when we see these objects in space, we are literally looking back in time at
things that existed at a time when the universe was just formed.
When I learned of these facts, I
was blown away. I was amazed at the vastness of the universe we live in, and I
suddenly realized how tiny and insignificant human beings are. At the same
time, I was forced to confront the fact that this universe is billions of years
old. This time around, I couldn’t run away from the evidence; it was all too
THE SEARCH FOR ANSWER
As I learned more and more from
the astronomy class, I became increasingly uneasy. I couldn’t help but question
the beliefs I had taken for granted: What about the biblical account of
creation? Didn’t God tell us in the Bible that He made everything in six days?
Did this universe really begin with a huge explosion and expand to the current
state over billions of years? And if it did, where was God in all of this?
I became afraid to know more than
I wanted to know, and I was apprehensive at the thought that the Bible I had
believed in all my life could possibly contain such a gross error. And if the
biblical account of creation cannot be trusted, what in the Bible can be
I could have ignored the facts and
held firmly to what I believed. But I would be fooling myself; my belief would
be nothing more than a superstition. On the other hand, if it turned out that
the Bible was wrong, I would be completely lost! What would I do if I found out
that my faith in God had been nothing but an illusion?
I went to the school library and
picked up books on the Big Bang theory and the origin of the universe. I also
visited the library of a nearby union of divinity schools and found a handful
of books on science and creation. I tried to be as open-minded and objective as
I could and made a point to see the issues from different points of view.
After some extensive research and
deliberation, I was able to resolve many of the questions I had. My mind opened
up to a much wider horizon. On the one hand, I had to reshape some of my former
prejudices. On the other hand, I became more convinced of my faith in God and
in the Bible.
I do not have any degree in
science, and I do not presume to speak as someone who is well versed in it. But
I will share with you, from a lay-person’s perspective, a few of the things I
learned in the process of my search, in the hope that they will also help
readers who may have little knowledge in science.
Science and Faith Differ in Scope but Are Mutually
Science and faith explore two
different kinds of realities. Whereas science studies the physical realm,
religion helps us understand the spiritual. Science explains the mechanics of
things, but religion inquires about the meaning and purpose of things. Science
makes deductions from things that can be observed and tested, but faith is
based on God’s direct revelation through His word.
Scientists can tell us that the
universe is expanding, but they do not have the authority to claim that it
wasn’t God who caused the expansion. On the other hand, Christians do not need
to fear that new discoveries in science might undermine their faith and thus
reject scientific explanations on the mechanics of how this universe
Albert Einstein commented,
“Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” Although
science and faith are concerned with different realities, they must complement
Science seeks to understand God’s
general revelation through nature. Faith seeks to understand God’s special
revelation through Scripture (see sidebar). It would be foolish to think that
science has made religion obsolete, just as it would be narrow-minded to think
that scientific discoveries can pose a threat to our faith.
When we are willing to open our
eyes to God’s general and special revelation, we gain a much fuller
understanding of God and His works.
Faith helps science students gain
a spiritual perspective on the physical things they observe. It answers
questions such as, “Who brought this universe into existence?”, “What is His
relationship to us?”, and “What is His purpose for us in this physical existence?”
On the other hand, science helps
believers in God gain a greater appreciation and understanding of God’s
creation. Astronomy, for example, gives us insight into the vastness and
complexity of this universe,
When we continually discover the
wonders of God’s creation, we cannot but stand in awe of the Almighty God and
praise Him for His greatness.
Belief in an Old Universe Does Not Entail Belief in
Some Christians reject the old
age of the universe outright or look at it with suspicion because they believe
that it is an attempt by atheists to deny the Creator. But such an attitude is
Physical sciences make
observations, gather empirical data, and arrive at physical laws or theories
without any personal prejudice. In this sense, science continually helps us
understand the physical existence.
But it does not and cannot draw
conclusions for us about things beyond the physical existence—that is where
faith comes in. Therefore, scientific findings are neutral as far as spiritual
implications are concerned. It is up to the individual to interpret the
scientific finding according to his personal faith.
The discovery of the old age of
the universe was not the result of an atheistic agenda. Neither is the Big Bang
model an attempt to discredit faith in a creator. In my search for answers, I
came across books by Bible-believing scientists who believed in the old age of
the universe and the Big Bang model. To me that speaks volumes.
These scientists did not
compromise their faith to accept the old age of the universe. They were
individuals who were sincere in their faith and well respected in the
I came to the conclusion that if
these scientists could openly embrace the old age of the universe without
compromising their faith in God, I had no reason to fear.
There is also no need for
Christians to be on the defensive, for a billion-year universe would not
threaten our faith at all. We just need to resolve the apparent conflict
between science and our beliefs.
Scientific Facts Help Us Re-Evaluate Our
Understanding of God and His Word
When scientific facts seem to
contradict the Bible, the problem does not lie in the reliability of God’s
word. Rather, it is often the result of our own misinterpretation of the
We ought to humbly acknowledge
that our understanding of God’s word is limited and be open to a more accurate
interpretation. We should not defend our interpretation as if it were the
We have learned from history the
mistakes some Christian leaders in the Middle Ages made of condemning
scientists as heretics in order to defend the view of a flat Earth.
One major objection to the old
age of the universe is that it implies that the universe evolved naturally.
People who are in this position argue, “If the universe took billions of years
to form, then that would mean that there is no creator!”
They firmly believe that God must
have created things instantaneously. When God said, “Let there be…,” things
just appeared in a split second as if touched by a magic wand. Billions of
years to form the universe simply rules out a Creator, they claim, because that
is not how God does things.
I bring up the above example not
to argue for or against an old universe. But it just shows that we tend to
interpret the Bible with our own preconceptions. Those who hold to the idea of
“instantaneous creation” question how God could have possibly taken THAT long
to create the universe.
But if we think about this
position critically, we can just as well ask, “But who is to say that God
couldn’t have slowly formed the universe the way a craftsman carefully works at
God’s word is eternal, and it
stands firm in the heavens (Ps 119:89). The eternal truths of God’s word, such
as God’s love for the human race, His redemption through Jesus Christ, His
everlasting dominion, and His commandment to love the Lord and our neighbors,
can never be changed.
But our reading of the historical
records or the cultural references in the Bible may be subject to change as
scientific or archeological discoveries shed new light on these passages. So
when scientific facts do not seem to reconcile with our reading of these
records, they should not call into question the reliability of the Scripture.
This is not to say that whatever
scientists tell us is always right. Empirical data may often be indisputable,
but theories based on scientific facts are not absolute. As science continues
to develop and scientists make new discoveries, theories of the past may be
rejected and replaced with more accurate models or physical laws.
Since theories will be tested
with time, we will do well to take them into consideration and reserve our
opinions about them for the time being.
LOOKING AT THE ACCOUNT OF CREATION
With the above principles in mind,
how should we resolve the apparent contradiction between an old universe and
the six-day creation? Many solutions have been proposed, which we do not have
time to analyze one by one. The table below summarizes three common
interpretations of creation:
Summary of Interpretation
Position on the Age of Earth and
God first created the heavens
and the earth, as recorded in Gen 1:1. Then there was a “gap”—an unspecified
duration of time in which Satan and his angels rebelled and ravaged God’s
creation. Starting with Gen 1:2 is the record of the creation week, a period
of restitution in which God restored His creation.
God created all things in six
twenty-four hour days. The exact length of day is an essential part of the creation
Young (Thousands of years-old)
The word “Day” in Scripture can
be a period of indefinite length (e.g. Isa 11:10-11). Some who hold this view
also understand the narrative of Genesis 1 as written from the perspective of
the earth as it was being prepared for man rather than an account of the
creation of the whole universe, which is very briefly stated in Gen 1:1.
If you are interested in the
arguments for these interpretations and others not listed here, I encourage you
to do some reading on your own and draw your own conclusions. I personally find
the Day-Age position most satisfying exegetically and scientifically, but this
does not mean that other views are definitely wrong.
THE CREATION AND OUR FAITH
Through my research on the issue,
I have come to understand that there needs to be no conflict between science
and faith and that the creation narrated in Genesis can be explained in view of
In fact, recent discoveries in
science, not just in astronomy but also other fields, have provided more and
more evidence that point to intelligent design in the universe by a loving
Creator. Although Christians may not agree on the exact mechanics and duration
of the creation event, we can agree that science attests strongly to the
biblical account of creation.
However, I have also come to
realize that, ultimately, our faith does not rest on the creation alone. The
issues surrounding the Creation pale in comparison when we consider the
overwhelming number of scientific discoveries that have confirmed the
reliability of Scripture over the years.
The fulfillment of prophesies in
the Bible, the impact that the Bible has had on human history, the confirmation
of archeological findings on the historical accuracy of the Bible, and so
forth, have all served to strengthen our faith in God’s unchanging word.
Perhaps most important of all, our personal experience in the life-transforming
power of God’s word is the best testimony to the truth in the Scripture.
While we continue to gain a
greater knowledge of God and His creation through studies of science and the
Bible, we can rest assured that science and faith are not on a collision course
and that we do not have to choose between the two. Further insights into both
the general revelation of nature and the special revelation of Scripture will
only bring us closer to God’s eternal truth.
Sidebar 1: General Revelation and Special
God is infinitely higher and
greater than human beings, and our minds are too limited to grasp the existence
and nature of this Supreme Being. The only way for us to know God is through
His revelation of Himself to us. The Bible teaches us that God reveals Himself
to us in two important ways.
First, He reveals Himself to us
through nature. This is usually called the “general revelation.” Paul writes
about this kind of divine revelation, “Because what may be known of God is
manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the
world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things
that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without
excuse” (Rom 1:19, 20). Because science explores the physical universe, the
study of science can help us better understand our Creator and His creation.
The second kind of revelation is
known as the “special revelation.” This refers to the Scripture, the written
word of God. Through the Scripture, God reveals to us who He is, His
relationship to us, His works, and His will for us. By studying God’s word, we
may know Him and obey Him.
Because God is the Creator of this
universe as well as the author of the Scripture, His general revelation and
special revelation to us do not conflict with each other. Rather, they
complement each other. The study of science and the study of Scripture together
help us gain a fuller knowledge and appreciation of the one true God.