The Big Bang is a fairly well-established scientific theory that describes the creation of the universe. According to this theory, some 13.8 billion years ago, our universe began to exist. Initially, it was an extremely dense and hot point. That ‘singularity’, began to rapidly expand and cool. Eventually, it formed simple atomic elements which gravity clumped into stars and galaxies. And, ultimately, producing the universe we see around us today. The link above provides a decent description, while this one offers a much simpler overview.
The Big Bang does have pretty strong scientific support. But how compatible is it with creation as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis? And what response should I make to it as a Christian? Those are questions I struggled with for some time, and I know that many still do.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Table of contents
The Days of Creation
In the Genesis account, we see creation divided up into six ‘days’, followed by the seventh day where God rests. How long are these days of creation? The word used here could mean either a twenty-four-hour period of time. Or it could refer to a much longer period of time. And it is used both ways in the Bible.
That the days are numbered and include the formula “evening and morning” with the first six days would indicate the author likely indicated twenty-four hour days. However, the seventh day does not mention a start or stop. And Hebrews 4:1-11 can be taken to demonstrate that we are still on the seventh day. This is sometimes used as proof that the first six days should probably be considered longer periods of time.
Which is right? Does Genesis have creation occurring in six twenty-four-hour days? Or in six long periods of time? There is no way for me to know for sure. But I suspect that the vast majority of people who read this account up until recent times took it to mean six twenty-four-hour days. And there was really no reason for them to believe anything else. And I also suspect that that was the intent of the original author of the account.
A Literal or Figurative Account
Is the creation account in the first chapter of Genesis a literal account, or is it figurative? I have heard this debated many times, usually with considerable passion. On one hand, you have those who believe that this account is historically and scientifically accurate; that it all happened exactly the way the account lays it out. At the other extreme are those who dismiss this account as nothing more than an ancient myth that the Hebrews borrowed and modified. And in between are any number of different positions that people have taken.
There is symmetry in the six days of creation. In the first three days the realms of light, water, atmosphere, and dry land are created. And in the second set of days, these realms are populated. The heavenly lights occupy the realm of light. Fish and birds fill the water and atmosphere. And land animals and humans occupy the land. Because of that, I have a tendency to view the passage as a non-literal account. One that is more concerned with ease of memory and magnifying God rather than giving a scientific accounting of creation.
Regardless of the original intent, it does appear that most people, at least during the Christian era, have accepted it as being a literal accounting of events.
Are Things As They Appear?
Can I believe what my eyes tell me? Are things as they appear? My eyes alone may sometimes deceive me. My eyes tell me that the sun and moon both are sources of light. They also tell me that the sun and moon are about the same size. And neither of those is true. But I am not just dependent on my eyes. God has given us the ability to explore the workings of his creation. And I believe that what it reveals to us is true. Granted we don’t always get it right to start with. But God’s creation is knowable. And we can believe that it is what it tells us about itself.
And that point was very significant for me as I sought to reconcile the scientific account of the universe’s origins with the first chapter of Genesis. Scientists claimed that the start light I saw when I looked up into the night sky had been in transit for millions, or billions, or years. The universe gave the appearance of being very old. Yet the understanding of Genesis I had grown up with claimed the universe was only a few thousand years old. And there were many other apparent incompatibilities between the two. Which was right? Was there a way to reconcile these?
Romans 1:18-20 and Psalm 19:1-6 both tell me that God reveals himself within his creation. And that convinces me that what creation has to say is true. The revelation of creation is secondary to God’s revelation in his word. But both sources of revelation are true. And they are not in conflict with each other. Any apparent conflict is because we do not understand one of the other of them. Or sometimes both of them.
So if the creation is truly knowable. And it tells us that it is nearly 14 billion years old, can I doubt it? In the end, I could not. I understand that science is fallible. And that new knowledge is periodically uncovered that invalidates older knowledge. But that is true of my theology as well. I cannot tell you how many times I have discovered that I was wrong. That what I believed was not really what the Bible taught.
Reconciling the Two
A literal reading of the creation account in the first chapter of Genesis most easily supports a relatively young earth. An earth that was created as is. The Big Bang argues for a very old earth and an even older universe. One that took its present shape over billions of years. I have read many attempts to reconcile the two, and have explored some of them for myself. But none of those attempts have really satisfied me. In the end, I am left with the belief that the universe is knowable, and that what it says about its origins is best described by the Big Bang Theory. As for the Genesis account, I do believe that it is God-given. But not as a scientific guide to how the creation came about.
Inspiration of the Scriptures
The inspiration of the Scriptures is something that most evangelical Christians hold too. But the claim that often goes hand in hand with inspiration is a literal interpretation of Genesis. And this is incompatible with the Big Bang. So, their reasoning goes, the Big Bang must be wrong. Scientific evidence, if it does not align with their interpretation of the Bible, is wrong. But could it be that it is their interpretation of Genesis that is at fault?
The primary passage used to support inspiration is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. In this passage, Paul says that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” There is nothing in this that claims the Scripture is scientifically accurate. The Scripture is useful to help me to live as a follower of Christ. Not to teach me science. Or even history for that matter. I believe the Genesis account can be useful to me as a believer. So long as I do not get hung up on its scientific failings.
Don’t try and make the scripture something that it’s not. Allow God to speak to you through it, and equip you in his service. Don’t feel threatened when modern science contradicts some of the ancient science found in the scriptures. Don’t forget that God also chooses to reveal himself in his creation as well.
The Big Bang Revisited
The Big Bang Theory affirms that our universe had a beginning. How and why it occurred are a mystery to science. Why the operating parameters of the universe are the way they are, making life possible on earth, are often thought of as a happy coincidence. But it is neither mystery nor coincidence to me. In the beginning, God! And God said … and it was so! The Big Bang is really not all that incompatible with the Genesis account of creation. They are just looking at it from different perspectives.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. – Hebrews 11:3 NIV
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
If you have found value in this post, please consider subscribing to A Clay Jar so that you don’t miss any other posts.