Last week, with the aid of the Night Sky App on my phone, we were able to stand outside our house just after 10pm and see the International Space Station streak across the sky at a speed of over 17000 mph and an altitude of 200 plus miles. The awesome grandeur of the cosmos has been more evident in these recent weeks because of the absence of pollution. It has always been made visible by the extraordinary images from the Hubble space telescope.
On Sundays over the next few weeks we are going to look at the early chapters of Genesis under the general title “Lessons from the Dawn of Time”. There are negative and positive reasons for looking at this stuff.
Negatively, it is often treated or dismissed as obscurantist, irrelevant and myth. It is also the happy hunting ground for all kinds of interpretations and ideas.
Positively, it is the foundation stone for the Biblical story of “Salvation History”. The name Genesis means “beginnings”. It raises important contemporary issues like Creation, Gender, Work, Environment, Evil and Rescue.
One Christian writer, Kris Kandiah, put it this way: “Part of the answer to developing resilient disciples comes by looking at those difficult questions we usually avoid! The paradoxes of the Bible may help us with the paradoxes and unanswered questions that life throws up.”
We don’t like admitting that we have these unresolved and unanswered questions in a Christian world that would like neatly packaged answers. We can concentrate in our sermons on familiar Bible passages and the recycling of the same uplifting anecdotes. Is it just possible that our ancient Christian faith has survived and thrived, not in spite of these difficulties and apparent contradictions but because of them?! What if it is in the most difficult parts of the Bible that God is most clearly revealed?
There is a great deal of fake news and misinformation about based on a false assumption that science and faith are somehow rival descriptions of the way the world works. I am a believing earth scientist. I have not committed intellectual suicide by being a Christian. I have spent my whole professional life researching and teaching this stuff. Science and Faith are not contradictory but complementary! They address different questions. Darwin himself lost his active Christian faith, not because of fallout from the theory of evolution, but from the death of his daughter Annie at the age of 10 in 1851. In fact, Darwin wrote “There is a river in the grandeur of Creation that traces its origins to a creator”– phrases not quoted by David Attenborough, Brian Cox and the rest.
Science presents us with a wonderful vista on our cosmos and origins. I have a choice: CHANCE or a CREATOR.
In relating science and faith, take a simple example: an old fashioned vinyl record. We can describe it scientifically – a black plastic disc with groove in it rotating at x rpm. We can measure its weight and size, etc. All of this is factually true: we have not exhausted the truth content of what can be said about the record. Science cannot explain the pleasure or the horror(!) I feel when I hear the music!
Another Christian writer, Henri Blocher, comments: “Curiosity about our beginnings continues to haunt the human race”.
The Bible puts it this way:
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen is not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11.3) A statement of creation which pretty much sums up the Big Bang!
“In the beginning GOD…” (Genesis 1.1). The Bible does not set out to prove the existence of God, it assumes it. The New Testament also says “Whoever would come to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11. 6).
As we travel through the dawn of time, may you find the presence of the living creator God with you.