Creation, Science and Faith

Last night I had a terrible headache…the kind where you don’t want to even keep your eyes open.  So after dinner as my husband and I were sitting on the couch relaxing, I handed over the remote for him to choose whatever he might like to watch as I would likely only half listen with my eyes shut anyway.  My husband is a geologist and so chose to watch a National Geographic Amazing Planet program that discussed the forming of earth through plate tectonics and the capabilities, both destructive and otherwise, of volcanoes, earthquakes, and so forth.  As I heard the woman begin to describe the earth as an upset stomach belching forth lava, I fought back a chuckle and fully intended to sleep through the remainder of the program.  But try as I might, the woman narrating the film with peculiar metaphors and overly dramatic warnings of the earth’s future demise caught my attention and I ended up listening to the entire program.

It was quite interesting really.  I have never been one for science but it was intriguing to hear the theories behind the earth’s formation, scientific evidence behind the plate tectonics that shape our planet, and so forth.  What I found most interesting, was how all of these theories seemed to fit well with the creation story I believe in, even though there was a noticeable absence of any mention of God.  This led to a discussion between my husband and me about God and faith as it relates to science.  Scientists desire to explain the why and the how behind everything.  Faith is believing even in the things you cannot understand.  Many people view these as separate things that cannot be combined.  You either believe in science, or God.  But why? 

In the program last night, they showed an animated model of earth forming.  The image was one of the sun in the background as miscellaneous space rock collided together and began to circle around a fiery center which they explained was earth’s core.  The image was striking to me because even as I watched it, I could picture the same image with the hands of God turning the molten rock together to form our planet.  The only difference from my image and theirs was that theirs contained more confusion.  The narrator reached a point in her explanation where she explained that they do not know what drove the space material to combine into our planet, nor why it formed the way it did, being able to sustain life in ways that other planets cannot.  I felt like raising my hand saying “I know! I know!”  To me the answer is simple; the earth formed the way it did because God formed it.  It was not just a random act of space with no rhyme or reason; it was the plan of our Almighty Creator!

The program described the beginnings of earth as essentially a ball of fire, with magma eventually cooling on the outermost layer to form our core.  The density of clouds and gasses produced eventually became rain which caused water to form on the earth.  The fertile soil from the volcanic material was cause for a wide variety of plants to spring forth out of nowhere. And of course eventually the circulation of bubbling molten rock beneath the earth’s surface moved the plates around creating a wide configuration of continents before settling on seven continents the way we know it today.

Now let’s compare that with the Bible’s account of creation:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.   Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.   Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.” Genesis 1:1-13

If we combine this with the scientific approach, it all seems to make perfect sense.  A formless void rock forms as the Spirit of God moves it into position. The water was formed through a separation between the waters above in the atmosphere which rain down to water on the surface.  The water was gathered into one place, land in another, to form continents.  The ground was extremely fertile and every type of vegetation came to be.  Science tells us these things happened largely due to the earth’s inner core.  And I say sure!  That makes sense to me.  Our God is a very intricate creator.  It makes perfect sense in my mind that He would create our earth the way He did, with plates and magma and everything.  Let’s read on into Genesis:

“This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:1-7

Now doesn’t that mist rising from the earth to water it sound an awful lot like the scientific belief of steam from within the earth coming forth to create gas and then water?  And the Bible definitely had this recorded way before modern science “discovered” it!

Of course scientists believe this took millions, even billions of years to take place.  The Bible says seven days.  What are we to believe?  The importance of the Genesis accounts on creation is that God created everything with purpose and as unique creatures.  I believe that the creation story splits it into seven days for a few reasons: 1) to emphasize the importance of taking a day of rest to worship the Lord and 2) to emphasize that God did not merely create the earth and let nature take its course, seeing what random things would come to be.  But rather that each portion of creation was designed by God and created thusly.  This is not to contradict the Bible.  The Bible is not legend.  It is the Divine Word of God and is truth.  However, we cannot know the exact meaning of a “day” even with the mention of morning and evening.  While this sounds like a typical day, we cannot know if it was literally 24 hours.  We also cannot know whether it was written as an exact chronological account or if it was split up as such to emphasize specific points.  In fact, the order of plants, then animals, and finally man that we read in Genesis 1 is changed in Genesis 2 which places the creation of man first, with plants and animals created afterward for the man. This shows us that the chronological timing is not the focus here.  The focus should be on the f act that God did create everything as individual events and with a specific purpose.  The answer to how long it took to form the earth is, in my mind, irrelevant.  Especially when we consider the Creator.  One thing that fascinates me is the concept of existing outside of time and space.   Days, weeks, hours, years, are all human constraints.  God is not a mere human.  He does not exist within our given time frames.  He is always present, in the past, present, and future.  This is beyond our comprehension. 

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.” Psalm 139:1-6

God is everywhere at all times.  While this knowledge is too wonderful for us to ever understand, it is truth. 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

Therefore, the exact number of hours as we know them to be that it took to create the universe is not for us to know.  God is the beginning, He is the end, He is all things in between.  Nothing can exist outside of God.  

We do not need to have all the answers.  This we know:  God created the earth with divine purpose.  It did not just happen to create itself from nothing.  The theories of science may very well be true.  Perhaps earth did form the way the National Geographic woman explained in the program.  But it was not an accident.  It was God who directed the magma to flow, the seas to form, rain to fall, and plants to grow.  It was God who created every living thing.  If creatures evolved in some way it was because God willed it so.  Whether this took one week or billions of years in time as we know it is outside our understanding and does not matter.  God created it all.

Although I started the program with a splitting headache and my mind was racing a mile a minute comparing scripture to the scientific theories presented, I went to bed with my head feeling at ease and my body relaxed.  Despite the lack of mention of God within the program, the sheer awesomeness of earth’s beginnings shout the glories of the Creator even without saying His name.  The thought of this awesome power from such a loving God filled my heart with gladness and peace knowing that I am loved by the Divine Creator of it all.

“Let the glory of the LORD endure forever; Let the LORD be glad in His works” Psalm 104:31

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9 thoughts on “Creation, Science and Faith

  1. michelepittman524 July 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm Reply

    Thank you for the great post!

  2. William Ockham July 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm Reply

    Beautiful post. That is one of the things I really appreciate about Catholicism is that it is very pro-science and believes that science can and should be used to support the faith. Some of the most significant scientific discoveries in the last 500 years were made by Catholic scientists:

    — Nicolaus Copernicus proposed the heliocentric model of the Universe.
    — Gregor Mendel (Augustinian monk) is the father of modern genetics.
    — George Lemaître (Belgian priest) first proposed the Big Bang theory.

    My personal favorite is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (where my blog inspiration comes from) who was a world-famous paleontologist and Jesuit priest who used his scientific knowledge from studying the evolution of pre-human hominoids to develop a beautiful theological synthesis of faith and science. Although Teilhard de Chardin was ahead of the Church of the 1920s, his ideas are now part of mainstream Catholic theology thanks to Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

    W. Ockham

    • rosesnearrunningwaters July 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for reading and for your response! I will have to admit that I did not know the people you mentioned (as I said I’ve never been one for science!) But I am so glad you shared them with me and will have to look into them more! God Bless!

    • catholicyouthlife August 12, 2013 at 11:19 am Reply

      This is very interesting, I have heard of all of these people throughout my years of public schooling, but their being a priest or a monk was never mentioned, if anything they were acknowledged as Christian. That is a wonderful bit of information!

  3. catholicyouthlife August 12, 2013 at 11:20 am Reply

    You did a wonderful job of putting this idea into words! Thank you!

  4. wordprocessor August 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm Reply

    well said!! to God be the glory!

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