Recent Creationism and the Bible, Part 5: A Brief History of Creation Views

Sam A. Smith

[This is an addendum for the reader who would like more information, and perhaps a little historical perspective on creation views. Some readers will undoubtedly ask, “If Recent Creationism isn’t true, what other options exist?” Hopefully this information will help clear the fog.]

A brief history of biblical cosmology

In the past, creation was not a “hot topic,” but in modern history several things have happened to bring this issue to the forefront. Years ago, prior to the emergence of biological evolution and modern atheism, most people in western culture believed in God. Naturally, they assumed that God made the world. The bib­lical account was simply taken at face value and little attention was devoted to the analysis of the Bible’s account of creation. It is unfortunate that in the absence of controversy some biblical truths are neglected. This pre-scientific Christian conception of the ori­gin of the Universe was very simplistic, most people simply believed that God had created the Universe a few thousand years earlier. Bishop James Ussher calculated the date of creation at 4004 B.C. and that date appeared in many Bibles until the mid-twenti­eth century. The emergence of the theory of biological evolution challenged the assumption that the world was recently created. After all, if evolution were true it would have taken long ages for life to evolve from simpler organisms, and longer for the first life forms to have emerged in the first place. With the grow­ing acceptance of evolution people began to look for evidence of the antiq­uity of the Earth. In this regard geology and biology de­veloped together. The ages of various rock formations were dated based on the assumed amount of time that would be necessary for their evolution, or the evolution of the creatures embedded within them; evolutionary biologists then used the “findings” of geol­ogy to support biological evolution.

Biblical conservatives, who tend to understand the Bible more literally, rejected biological evolution as incompatible with the teaching of the Bible, but most eventually accepted the proposition that the Earth might not be so young. In an effort to square this emerging realization with the Bible various theories were put forth. One was the “Gap Theory.” The Gap Theory pro­posed that God created the Earth (Genesis 1:1), and at Satan’s fall God judged the Earth, which lay in ruins for a long time (Genesis 1:2) until it was renovated by God (Genesis 1:3-2:3). According to the Gap Theory the six-day account in Genesis 1:3-2:3 is the account of the Earth’s renovation along with the creation of plants, animals, and man. According to this view the Earth could be any age, since no one knows how long the gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 might have been. In a very simplistic way this seemed to square the Bible with modern thinking about the age of the Earth, while at the same time rejecting biological evo­lution. This view came to be one of the dominant views among biblical conservatives and remained so up until the 1960s. Many of the leading conservative Bible expositors of the early twen­tieth century held to one form or an­other of the Gap Theory.

Other ideas designed to reconcile the Bible and scientific observations about the age of the Earth were suggested too. One theory proposed that God created the materials of the Universe and then let natural processes unfold for a while, possibly millions or billions of years, before recently “forming” them to support life on Earth during the six days of Genesis 1:3-31 (a fairly recent set of events).

Theistic evolution was also pro­posed by those who took a less-than-literal view of Genesis. This theory not only attempted to square the Bible with the presumed antiquity of the Earth, but went a step further attempting to reconcile the Bible with biological evolution. Theistic evolutionists proposed that God used evolution as the means of creating life, at least partially. Another view called “progressive creationism” suggested that the days of Genesis One were actually long geologic ages in which God performed his work of creation in “bursts.” This view was essentially non-evolutionary in that it did not attempt to account for the rise of the various species through evolution; rather, it simply sought to square the Bible with current thinking about geology and paleontology.

More recently since the early 1960s the trend among some biblical conservatives has been back to the original conception of a young Universe, in the range of eight to ten thousand years old. Recent Creationism began to gain ground in the 1960s and ’70s. There were several reasons for this. The Gap Theory was in trouble with proponents beginning to acknowledge serious exegetical (interpretive) flaws in the biblical support. Christians found their backs to the wall with the explosion of evolution in schools, colleges, and universities, and they desperately needed to mount a serious challenge to evolution. Finding support for a recent creation would be the surest antidote for evolution. It was also simple. Time is to evolution what fuel is to a fire, take away the fuel and a fire dies; take away time and evolution dies. Other theories seemed to have fallen by the wayside, or clearly had serious problems. Perhaps be­cause it mounted a serious challenge to evolution, Recent Creationism quickly coalesced into a highly focused and organized movement. Organizations like the Institute for Creation Research have been prolific producers of educational materials, most of which have been distributed in churches, Christian col­leges, and seminaries, where they have had a significant impact. Part of the appeal of Recent Creationism is that it seems to bring together a “literal” and non-evolutionary interpretation of the Gene­sis account, and to harmonize the Bible with the complexities of modern science. Ac­cording to Recent Creationism, God created the Universe in a ma­ture state perhaps eight to ten thousand years ago; the Universe appears old not because it is old, but because it was created ma­ture, imparting to it the appearance of being much older.

As has been pointed out, Recent Creationism has serious flaws of its own. Although the early geological evidence offered for the age of the Earth was suspect due to its inherent evolutionary bias, since the mid-1900s a growing body of evidence points to a Universe that is much older than eight to ten thousand years. Also as we have seen, the validity of Recent Creationism hinges on the ability of a mature creation to fully account for the Universe’s appearance of age, but that explanation is seriously flawed (see Parts 2 and 3). We will now take a little closer look at some of these views.

The early Christian (Pre-scientific) view of creation

The pre-scientific view of creation held prior to the mod­ern period is that the world was created out of nothing approximately six thousand years ago. The nice thing about this view was that it did not require any elaborate explanations to ac­count for why the Universe appears to be old. To the pre-scientific mind the Universe looked to be about six thousand years old, and as they say, “that was that.”

The pre-scientific view was based on a simplistic reading of the Old Testament that gave no consideration to the problem of the apparent age of the Universe. By adding up the genealogies and reigns of the Old Testament kings and any other available chronological data, some biblical scholars thought they could ar­rive at a fairly accurate date for creation. Using this method, Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656) dated creation at 4004 B.C., or more precisely, the evening prior to October 23, 4004 B.C.  Bishop Ussher’s chronology was so widely accepted that his dates ap­peared in the margins of many Bibles until recently. While this chronology is no longer considered to be valid, primarily be­cause of issues with the pre-flood portion, it was still an amazing piece of work.

Of course, there were problems with the pre-scientific view. First, it didn’t entirely fit with the biblical text. As we have seen, the creation account in Genesis does not make the claim that everything re­corded in Genesis 1:1-31 occurred within a six-day period, lit­eral or otherwise. What Genesis says is that the creation ex nihilo occurred sometime before the first of the six days. Second, this view did not account for the apparent age of the Universe.

Reconciliation theories

Only recently have we become aware of the fact that the Universe appears to be much older than a few thou­sand years. In fact, estimates of the age of the Universe now extend about 13.8 to 20 billion years. Prior to the modern period there was no need to reconcile the Genesis account with scientific observations. However, with new evidence for the age of the Universe, it became necessary to speculate as to how the Genesis account and science might be squared. This need gave rise to numerous “reconciliation theories.” A reconciliation theory is a speculative understanding of the Genesis account and how it might fit with modern science. While many Christians are convinced that there is adequate scientific evidence that the Universe is old, most con­servatives reject biological evolu­tion as both incompati­ble with the Bible and unsupported by scientific evidence. Nevertheless, there have been some within Christendom who have embraced biological evolution, and that is reflected in at least one of the theories that will be mentioned.

Naturally, the degree to which each theory attempts to reconcile Genesis and modern science varies. Some theories provide for reconciliation between Genesis and science both in regard to the age of the Universe and biological evolution. Other theories reject biological evolution, at least at the macro-evolutionary level, and simply attempt to reconcile Genesis with the apparent age of the Universe. It is important to under­stand that all of these theories are speculative. It is also  essential to make a distinction between what the Bible actu­ally says and rea­sonably implies, and a theory that attempts to show how that in­formation relates to modern science. A particular reconciliation theory might prove to be incorrect, but just because a the­ory proves unworkable does not mean the Bible is incorrect. Recon­ciliation theories are simply speculations about how Genesis might fit with modern science. It is also worth pointing out that such theories come and go in popularity. From the early nineteen hundreds to the nineteen-sixties the Chaos (I prefer the term “Preformative”) Theory and the Gap Theory were predominate among biblical conserva­tives, whereas since the 1960s Recent Creationism has become dominate, especially among fundamental Christians. Just as there was a paradigm shift among biblical conservatives in the 1960s and 1970s, we are now on the verge of another shift as difficulties inherent in Recent Creationism are being brought to light.

It is important to keep in mind that Christian teaching on the subject of creation contains two distinct streams of information. One stream is what the Bible actually says, primarily the Genesis account; the other stream is what we think that biblical information means in light of our present understanding of the Universe (i.e., science). Often both streams are combined and presented as one. This has certainly been the case with Recent Creationism. Unfortunately, such a procedure doesn’t distinguish the biblical facts from the theoretical component. Most of the theories we will survey have significant, indeed fatal problems, yet it is possible to find individu­als who still subscribe to these views. In fact, there are some whose view of Genesis has not moved beyond the pre-scientific. While such laxity is not necessarily fatal to our faith, it may be fatal to our witness. If we refuse to acknowledge what others see clearly, we can hardly expect our message to be taken seriously.

Day-age theories

Day-age theories state that the days of Genesis were not literal twenty-four hour days, but long geologic ages—millions, or billions of years, possibly of variable length. There are two basic forms of day-age the­ories: theistic evolution and progressive creation. These differ in that while theistic evolution accepts macro-evolution (transmutation of one species) progres­sive creation attributes the origin of species to creative “bursts” spaced out over long geologic ages. Much of the current paleontological evi­dence and modern radio­metric dating is consistent with progressive creationism, or perhaps we should say that the theory has been conformed to the data, except for dates for human existence ex­tending beyond the range of bibli­cal his­tory.

Theistic evolution

Theistic evolutionists speculate that God created the mate­rials of the Universe and the physical laws, and then used evolu­tion (chance interaction, mutation, and natural selection) to complete the process. They offer basically the same evidence for theistic evolution that is offered by atheistic evolutionists. There are varieties of theistic evolution. Some proponents suggest that God created the first life and allowed evolution to run its course; others hold that life arose as a result of natural processes from the materials that God created.

From the biblical point of view there are two major prob­lems with theistic evolution. First, it isn’t compatible with a nor­mal/objective understanding of the Genesis account. Genesis states that man was a direct creation of God; it also states that God created all of the animals “after their kind” (Genesis 1:24,25). This statement clearly seems to preclude the idea that all life has arisen from simpler forms. Secondly, the account of man’s fall into sin and the plan of redemption, of which the rest of the Bible is largely occupied, are based upon a normal/objective under­standing of the first few chapters of Genesis. If the creation ac­count were to be regarded as mythical, or even allegorical, then the entire message of the Bible would be questionable. Third, there are fundamental scientific problems with the Theory of Evo­lution itself, for example: abiogenesis (life from non-life), the problem of irreducibly complex systems, the complexity and apparent design of organisms, the problem of how non-intelligence produced the in­formation necessary for the pattern of living things, and the lack of evidence from the fossil record and nature for the existence of species intermediates.

Progressive Creationism

Progressive Creationism states that God’s creative activity extended over long ages. This non-evolutionary view re­gards each of the days of the Genesis account as representing an era of inde­terminate and possibly variable length, during which God progressively created living things in bursts. According to this view the species arose in the time frame that modern science claims is indicated in the fossil record, but not as a result of macro-evo­lution. Con­sequently, the days of Genesis are understood as a lit­erary struc­ture representing the creative epochs. In the past, some proponents of day-age theories used 2 Peter 3:8 as support. (In this passage Peter indicated that with the Lord a thousand years is “as one day.”) However, as we will see further along a closer look at 2 Peter 3:8 does not sup­port this use.

There are several difficulties associated with progressive creationism. First, it isn’t compatible with a normal understanding of Genesis. However, the theory cannot be entirely ruled out on that basis; it is possible, albeit unlikely, that the days of Genesis were intended simply to represent indefinite time periods, not 24-hour days. There are numerous instances in the Bible where the term “day” represents a time period other than a 24-hour day; for example, the frequently used expression, “the day of the LORD.” In this case, the reference to “evening” and “morning” would simply form a kind of literary inclusio for each metaphorical day. Second, as to the use of 2 Peter 3:8 where Peter said, “…one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” this statement does not mean that when scripture indicates a day we are at liberty to interpret that to mean an indefinite amount of time. Peter was simply saying that God as an eternal being is unaffected by time. He was not saying that when scripture indicates a time relationship we are at liberty to take that figuratively. It’s odd that 2 Peter 3:8 would be chosen to support the idea that time ref­erences in the Bible are somewhat elastic. Actually, this passage indicates quite the opposite. If a day in this passage were not liter­ally a day, and a thousand years were not literally a thousand years, this passage would make no sense, since the meaning only comes into sharp focus when we understand that Peter is saying that a literal twenty-four hour day and a literal thousand years are all the same to a timeless God. However, having said that, the fact that 2 Peter 3:8 does not support the day-age concept is not a negative for this view; it is more the lack of positive biblical evidence. Third, it is sometimes suggested that Exodus 20:11 seems to preclude this view by stating that everything was created in six days. Of course, if Exodus 20:11 simply reflects the Genesis account, then whatever “day” means in Genesis is also meant in Exodus 20:11. Progres­sive Creationism still does not solve all the scientific problems, since there are incompatibilities between the record of biblical history and modern science in the area of scien­tific dating, especially the dates of human existence. Unfortu­nately the scien­tific dating process is itself theory-bound, and those theories are based on naturalism.

Literary theories

Various literary theories claim that the days in Genesis are merely a literary structure in which the creation story is either told or set. According to one of these views the six days of Genesis were not six days in which creation took place, but six movements in the creation story, like “acts” in a play. One variation on the liter­ary framework theory is that God revealed the account of creation in six days, and that Genesis contains a synopsis of what was re­vealed on each day. In either case the six days are not viewed as a timeframe for the work of creation, but simply a structure for the story of creation. These theories do not speak directly to the issues of the age of the Universe or evolution. The various literary framework theories can stand alone as vague general theories or as adjuncts to another more detailed theories, such as progressive creationism or theistic evolu­tion.

The Gap Theory

Once very popular among biblical conservatives, this the­ory proposed that God created the world, which was subse­quently judged with devastating effect when Lucifer (Satan) fell. This theory proposes that the six-day account in Genesis is the account of the Earth’s reconstruction after its creation and subsequent judgment. Ac­cording to this view the original creation is mentioned only in Genesis 1:1. Genesis 1:2 describes the condition of the Earth following its judg­ment, and Genesis 1:3-31 describes the Earth’s subsequent re-crea­tion, or renovation.

A number of arguments were offered in support of the Gap Theory. First, it was assumed that it would have been out of charac­ter for God to create the Earth “formless” and “void” (Genesis 1:2); therefore, something must have happened to cause the Earth to become that way. Second, the terms “tohu” (“form­less”) and “bohu” (“void,” or “empty”) are used together in only one other instance in the Bible, where they clearly indicate judg­ment (Jeremiah 4:23). Third, the idea that the original creation was judged by God could be made to fit with the biblical description of the fall of “Lucifer,” presumably recorded in Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Isaiah 14:12-21. (Al­though the name “Lucifer” is often used to refer to Satan, it is not likely a personal name as the AV indicates in Isaiah 14:12, but should be translated “morning star,” or “bright one.”)  Fourth, the Gap Theory appears to reconcile the Genesis ac­count with the apparent age of the Universe. A variation of the Gap Theory even sub­scribed to a pre-Genesis 1:3 plant and animal kingdom also at­tempted to square Genesis with modern fossil dating.

There are three principal problems with the this view. First, the grammar of Genesis 1:1-2 does not allow for a gap be­tween verse 1 and 2. Quite interestingly, this fact was brought to light by one of the foremost gap theorists of the time, Dr. Merrill F. Unger, in an article that appeared in the theological journal Bibliotheca Sacra (January 1958), titled: “Re­thinking the Genesis Account of Creation.” The reason, as Dr. Unger explained it, is that “In the original language [Hebrew] Genesis 1:2 consists of three circumstantial clauses, all describing conditions or circumstances existing at the time of the principal action indicated in verse 1, or giving a reason for that action.”To put it simply, what Dr. Unger pointed out was that the timing of the main verb of the sentence (v. 1, “created”) controls the timing of the three cir­cumstantial clauses describing the conditions in verse 2.  (Verses 1 and 2 are one sentence in the Hebrew.) This means that at the time God created the Heavens and the Earth, <clause #1:> “the Earth was [at the time of its creation] without form, and void;” <clause #2:> “and [at the time of creation] darkness was upon the face of the deep;” <clause #3:> “and [at the time of creation] the Spirit of God moved upon (or better, “was moving upon” {participle}) the face of the waters.” When read as the grammar indicates there is no way that verse 2 can be a descrip­tion of the Earth having been judged subsequent to its creation in verse 1, because verse 2 describes the conditions of the Earth at the time of its original creation in verse 1. This understanding of the text com­pletely rules out any notion of a gap between Verses 1 and 2. Interest­ingly, Dr. Unger remained committed to the Gap Theory, albeit a modified version. His solution was to theorize that the creation referred to in verse 1 was not the original creation, but the re-creation of the Earth after its origi­nal creation and judgment, which he suggests, must have occurred prior to verse 1; thus placing the original creation, the Earth’s judg­ment, and the gap prior to the opening verse of the Bible. While a highly crea­tive solution, this had the unfortunate effect of making the Gap Theory an extra-biblical theory, since it pushed the gap right out of the Bible! It took about twenty years for Dr. Unger’s obser­vations to take hold, but the shot had been fired, and ultimately the Gap Theory died, a victim of friendly fire. The second problem is that the Gap Theory was never well supported biblically. The creation passage says nothing about the fall of Lucifer (Satan), or the Earth being judged. All of that material had to be imagined as having a connection with the creation account. The third problem is that a great deal of weight was placed on iden­tifying the terms tohu (formless) and bohu (empty) with judg­ment. While it is true that the only other place these terms are used together in the Bible is a picture of divine judg­ment (Jeremiah. 4:23), it is also true that one example does not establish a norm. There simply isn’t enough biblical evi­dence to conclude that these terms must refer to judgment when used to­gether.

Recent Creationism

Having already dealt extensively with Recent Creationism in this series, I will only mention here that there are two forms: what might be called “Classic Recent Creationism” and “Relativistic Recent Creationism.” As the names imply, both of these views subscribe to a young Universe, but they propose different solutions to the problem of the apparent age of the Universe. As we have seen, the classic or standard view, as held by virtually all of the major recent creation organizations makes use of the mature creation argument to account for the apparent age of the Universe. However, the relativistic view proposes a relativistic explanation to account for this apparent age. Again, Classic Recent Creationism will not be discussed here since it has already been critiqued in detail in previous articles. I will only briefly mention the relativistic view since it has gained little support among Recent Creationists.

In 1998 Dr. Donald Humphreys, a recent creationist, in acknowledgment of the major problems associated with the Appearance of Age Theory appealed to by most recent creationists, proposed another solu­tion to explain why the Universe looks so old (see: Donald Humphreys, Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe, Master Books, 1998). Dr. Humphrey’s theory was complex, being based on relativity and the fact that gravity distorts time. His theory, which could be termed “white hole cosmology,” postulates that the Universe expanded out of a “white hole” (a theoretical “hole” with a gravitational event hori­zon from which matter and light can escape, but not re‑enter, essentially a black hole in reverse). According to this theory the Earth is at the center of the Universe, and since an event horizon affects time, making it run incredibly fast, as the Universe ex­panded and the event horizon shrank due the loss of matter, the entire Universe, with the exception of the Earth, eventually passed through the event horizon. Since the event horizon would weaken as it shrank, the greatest aging effects would be seen in the galaxies furthest from Earth, since they would have passed through the event horizon first while it was still strong. On the surface, white hole cosmology seems to provide an explanation of the age differential between the Earth and more distant parts of the Universe; however, the specifics as proposed by Dr. Humphreys faced enormous problems both with the text of Genesis 1:1-31 and science, especially since the existence of white holes is purely speculative. Unlike black holes, no evidence of the existence of white holes has ever been discovered. According to this theory, ninety-nine percent of the Universe is much older (point of presence time) than even the maximum figure generally al­lowed by Recent Creationism (ten thousand years). In other words, this view acknowledges that the bulk of the Universe was not cre­ated recently. And if it is acknowledged that the Universe does, in fact, appear to be old, not just mature, why postulate such an unlikely theory just so one can contend that the Earth is young, a claim the Bible nowhere makes.

The Preformative (Chaos) Theory

This view is generally called the “Chaos Theory”; however, I prefer the term “Preformative” because it’s a more accurate and descriptive term. This view proposes that God created the Universe ex nihilo sometime prior to the first formative day of Genesis. The six days of Genesis describe God’s subsequent activity in preparing the Earth as a home for man. According to this view, all of the work done by God during the six days of Genesis was “formative” (i.e., using already existing materials) rather than creation ex nihilo, and it’s not possible to determine from the Bible how much time might have passed between the original creation ex nihilo and the first formative day. Accordingly, it is not possible to determine the age of the Universe from the Bible.

The Preformative View is based upon a literal under­standing of the Genesis account, and it does not impose any age assumptions on creation, whether young or old, nor does it re­quire any corollary theories, as is the case with Recent Creationism. It simply states that God created the materials ex nihilo in Genesis 1:1-2 and then subsequently formed those materials (hence the term “preformative”) during the six days of Genesis 1:3-31. This should not be confused with the Gap Theory.  The Preformative View allows for an unspecified time between Genesis 1:2 and 1:3 where the grammar presents no problem, but unlike the Gap Theory this view suggests no particular events between Genesis 1:2 and 1:3 other than natural physical processes. Additionally it should be noted that the Preformative View is compatible with a biblical history that places the literal twenty-four hour days of Genesis 1:3-31 within the last eight to ten thousand years, just as in Recent Creationism, only without the obvious problem of having to explain how the Universe could be just ten thousand years old. This view seems to track closest to the literal statements and structure Genesis, and interestingly, while it does not require an old Universe, it fits well with current scientific evidence of the Universe’s age.

Historically, the main objection to this view has been to pose the question: “Why would God create the Universe and then allow so much time to pass before filling it with living things?” The answer to the question is: “We don’t know.” “Why” ques­tions involving God are very diffi­cult to answer unless the answer is revealed in scripture. How­ever, it is possible to venture a re­sponse: Maybe the “cake” wasn’t ready to be iced immediately. At this point someone might say, “But why would God need to wait for the completion of physical processes before forming and filling his creation?” Couldn’t God simply command everything to be in­stantly ready? The answer is “Yes, he could,” but that does not mean that he did, and there is no reason why he should have done so. God is the one who or­dained the physical processes at the creation ex nihilo, and being timeless, he would not be the least inconvenienced by the pas­sage of any length of time in creation, even if it were billions of years. It has also been suggested that Isaiah 45:18 implies that the six-day forming and filling activity of God had to be closely associated in time with the creation ex nihilo. However, there is nothing in that passage that implies the forming and filling of the six days of Genesis had to occur immediately on the heels of the creation ex nihilo, only that the forming and filling had to occur eventually because that was God’s ultimate purpose for the creation.

Occasionally one sees this objection: If this view were cor­rect, it would mean that God, contrary to his nature, created the world in a chaotic (disordered) state. This objection is why the view was originally called the “Chaos Theory” by its detractors, who at that time were mostly Gap Theorists. The flaw in this objection is fairly obvious. Even though the original creation was as yet un­formed, or we might say it was in a “preformed” state, it was far from chaotic, for all of the ingredients of creation (time, matter, energy, space, and the physical laws governing them) were pre­sent. It certainly may be characterized as incomplete, but not cha­otic. The fact that all of the creative work was not done in­stantly does not imply that the job was inferior, chaotic, or in any way beneath the majesty of God; even the plan of redemption is being accomplished over thousands of years, and that certainly isn’t beneath the dignity of God.

The history of modern scientific cosmology

While the discussion here has been principally concerned with what the Bible says about the origin of the Universe, it is important to know how this information fits with modern theoretical (scien­tific) cosmology, since any biblical theory that is seriously at odds with sound scientific observations would be highly problem­atic. We must not forget that the God of the Bible is also the God of science, whether scientists choose to acknowledge him or not.

From the time of Aristotle (c. 300 B.C.) to the early Nineteenth Century, the secular view of the Universe was that it is infinite and eternal. This was very convenient, since an eternal Universe requires no explanation of its origin. However, this theory posed problems. Scientists theorized that if the Universe were infinite in all directions there should be stars visible at every point in the sky at some distance, and if it were eternal, there would have been sufficient time for the light from all those stars to reach the Earth. Therefore, if the Universe were infinite and eternal the night sky should be much brighter. Since the night sky is not bright, it is apparent that the Universe could not be infinite and eternal. This realization in the early 1900s led to another view called the “Steady State Theory.” The Steady State Theory claimed that the Universe is eternal but stars are being born and dying in a perpetual cycle. This theory accounted for why the night sky is not bright, since stars eventually die out, and it required no Creator and thus fit with purely naturalistic assump­tions. The problem with this theory turned out to be the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which implies that over time in any physical system there is an increase of entropy (spent, or dissi­pated energy, which has no potential to do useful work). If the Universe were eternal, then it would have had eternity for the use­ful energy level to reach zero; thus, the Universe should be cold and dark, which is not the case. In spite of this diffi­culty, most physi­cists continued to subscribe to some form of the Steady State Theory well into the 1950s and ‘60s, perhaps because this best fit with their natu­ralistic assumptions. In the early 1900s a growing body of evidence had begun to point to an expanding Universe, but this evidence was largely ignored. In 1914 Vesto Slipher presented evidence that several nebulae were receding from the Earth. In 1915 Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity predicted an expanding Universe; however, Einstein simply zeroed out this expansion with a purely arbitrary “cosmological constant.” In 1922 Alexander Friedman, a Russian mathematician, predicted the expansion of the Universe, and in 1929 Edwin Hubble proposed the law of red shifts, based on the observation that the light spec­trum of a galaxy is more shifted toward the red (long wave­length) end of the spectrum the further that it is from the Earth. The problem with an expanding Universe is that it implied a defi­nite age limit for the Universe, since it could not have been ex­panding forever. To see the problem, simply imag­ine a movie of the Universe’s history run backwards; it could only shrink so far. Of course if the Universe is not eternal, then it must have had a beginning. This is precisely what was penned in the opening verses of the book of Genesis, and scientists and natural philosophers recognized that a Universe with a beginning was problematic for naturalism, scien­tism, and atheism. Obviously, if the Universe had a beginning, it could not have created itself. So, the implication is clearly that something, or someone outside of the Universe, something eter­nal, must be responsible for the exis­tence of the Universe. Of course, the implications of an absolute beginning of the natural realm would be a stunning defeat for naturalism, a defeat that the naturalistic scientific community absolutely could not allow to happen. In fact, one of the classic arguments for the existence of God, the cosmological argument, said just that, that the existence of the Universe implies the exis­tence of something, or someone eternal, since something cannot come from nothing.

As best they could, scientists tried to avoid the inflationary big bang view. However, in 1965 two Bell scien­tists measured a 3 de­gree Kelvin excess antenna temperature in all directions in which they pointed their microwave antenna. This figure coincided very closely with the predicted residual tem­perature that would have been left over from a cosmic big bang origin. Later evidence pro­vided by the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite in 1990-92, and the Wilkinson Micro­wave Anistrophy Probe (WMAP) have confirmed even more closely the theoretical pre­dictions of a hot big bang origin of the Universe. Since the mid-1960s naturalistic scientists have found themselves in a dilemma. They cannot, under any circumstance, acknowledge an absolute beginning of the Universe, yet all the available evidence points to the fact that the Universe did indeed have a beginning. They have been left with only one alternative: to con­tinue to argue that some natural process is eternal and there­fore no supernatural cause is required. Of course the perceptive reader will recognize that this discussion crossed over from sci­ence to philosophy long ago. [I have often wondered  over the fact that many, if not most conservative Christians dismiss the “Big Bang” Theory as a ploy on the part of atheistic scientists to explain the origin of the Universe apart from God, when precisely the opposite is true. Most atheists, whether scientists or not, are appalled at the implications of the Big Bang, and not a few have been motivated to reconsider the existence of God as the Creator. Of course the teaching of Recent Creationism is probably responsible for this state of confusion on the part of so many Christians, and as such has prevented us from effectively participating in one of the biggest discoveries of our time and leveraging that discovery in the proclamation of the Gospel; for the “Big Bang” Theory, in its essence, parallels Genesis 1:1-2.]

The fact that scientific cosmology has landed precisely in the same spot as the Bible has indeed been disturbing to naturalistic scientists and philosophers, most of whom are atheists and have an obvious in­terest in the issue far beyond the bounds of science. Since an ab­solute origin is highly problematic for them, a number of ideas have been put forth to try to get around the implications of a be­ginning to the Universe. One theory has been the “Oscillation The­ory.” This theory suggests that the Universe has gone through an infinite number of expansions and contractions (crunches) and is, after all, eternal, needing no explanation for its origin. Not sur­prisingly, the problem with the oscillation theory is the same as with the Steady State Theory. The Second Law of Ther­modynamics implies that no physical process can go on forever; it will eventu­ally “wind down.” Two other problems with this the­ory are that the Universe doesn’t seem to have enough mass to contract, and if it did it is believed that its low mechani­cal efficiency would not likely result in a subsequent re-expansion.

More re­cently the Hartle-Hawking model suggests that some eternal phe­nomenon was in place prior to the emergence of the present physical laws, and this phenomenon accounts for the ori­gin of the Universe. Dr. Stephen Hawking called this phenomenon “imaginary time”; and as we will see, it is quite appropriately named. Given imaginary time, Dr. Hawking hypothesized that the Universe could have emerged out of nothing, all by itself, with no need for a Creator. In his book, The Universe in a Nutshell (Bantum Books, 2001), Dr. Hawking assured his readers that imaginary time does exist (see chapter four). This assertion has confused many people, including some scientists who simply assume that Hawking would not make such a statement if it was not prov­able, yet that is exactly what he did. One of the fundamental concepts of big bang physics is that no scientific statements can be made about any­thing prior to time zero (the beginning of time). Why? —Because one cannot make any sci­entific statements about anything prior to the exis­tence of the present physical laws. So, how did Dr. Hawking arrive at the conclusion that imagi­nary time exists? In the first three chapters of The Universe in a Nutshell he delicately wove an assumption into his discussion; that assumption is that science demands a natural (i.e., non-supernatural) explanation for everything. However, Dr. Hawking’s assumption is not science; it was nothing more than cleverly disguised natural philosophy. Given the com­pel­ling evidence for an inflationary big bang origin of the Universe, any natural explanation would likely require a quantum event, since the Universe would have been very small when it emerged from nothing, and since quantum events require time (as do all other events), Dr. Hawking hy­pothesized that some kind of time must have existed (hence, “imagi­nary time”) before the emergence of real time which began at creation. With this, Hawking proceeded to explain how the Universe might have emerged out of nothing, that is, nothing other than imaginary time and quantum mechanics, which of course isn’t “nothing.” Dr. Hawking did nothing more than a clever job of concealing his naturalistic assumptions and hoping his readers would get lost in the myriad of details, as apparently many did.

The present state of scientific cosmology is this: The Universe, as we know it, as described by the laws of physics, had a beginning. That beginning encompasses everything we know, including: time, matter, energy, space, and the properties we call physi­cal laws, which includes quantum mechanics (if true) and relativity, and any as yet undiscovered unification principles (if they exist). Sci­ence can make no authoritative statements about what might have pre­ceded the Universe’s creation, since such statements would have no basis in known physical laws. As far as theoretical cosmology is con­cerned, we have finally reached “the end of the road.” While scien­tists will undoubtedly continue to suggest what might have happened “if such and such were true,” they cannot go back further than the moment of creation, actually a few moments afterward when the properties we call physical laws originated. Therefore, science will never know any more about conditions prior to crea­tion than it knows right now, which is absolutely nothing. This is a permanent limitation.

To return to the first article in this series, Part 1: The Bible Does NOT Teach a Recent Creation! tap or click here.

Copyright 2019, by Sam A. Smith
All Rights Reserved
Published September 2019 by

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