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In the Beginning

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“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” [1]

Carl Sagan popularised the saying, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” The statement was the opening affirmation of Cosmos, the television series Sagan hosted. This has become a statement of faith for those who have chosen to deny a Creator to Whom man is accountable. From earliest days of human history people have attempted to account for how the things that are came into being; this was the statement acceptable to agnostics and atheists. Sagan, whether he was able to admit it or not, deified the cosmos, just as multiplied cultures have done since the days immediately following the fall of our first parents.

Ultimately, there is but one explanation that has ever been advanced to account for the universe—great powers and/or beings have brought all that is into existence. Interest in the subject of origins waxes and wanes, but never quite fades into the background. Whether dressed up in language that is sold as scientific, cloaked in mythological terms or stated in the straight forward language of the Pentateuch, all accounts of origins finally appeal to a Creator.

The Hindus have several creation myths. In the Rigveda, Purusha, the primeval cosmic being is described as “that that has ever existed and will ever exist.” The “mundane egg” was born from Purusha, though it is not said how this was accomplished. The gods then performed a sacrifice with the Purusha to create all that is in the manifested world from his various body parts and his mind. [2]

In another of the Hindu myths, there existed a golden egg before anything was. Brahma emerged from the egg and created the world. [3] Robert Graves has given us a form of this myth, telling how the Pelasgians (Bronze Age Greeks), imagined that the supreme creatrix, Eurynome—goddess of all things—rose naked from Chaos to part sea from sky so that she could dance upon the waves. She caught the north wind at her back, and rubbing it between her hands, she warmed the pneuma and spontaneously generated the serpent Ophion. Ophion mated with her; and then, in the form of a dove upon the waves she laid the Cosmic Egg and commanded Ophion to incubate it by coiling seven times around it until it split in two and hatched all things that exist—sun, moon, planets, stars, the earth with its mountains and rivers, its trees, herbs and living creatures. [4]

One of the Egyptian creation myths taught that eight gods representing the primeval waters came together and made all things. These gods were divided into male and female groups, the males represented as frogs and the females as snakes. These two groups eventually converged to produce the pyramidal mount; and from that mound emerged the sun, which rose into the sky to light the world. [5]

Modern minds will not appeal to gods, choosing rather to deify unseen forces of nature. In this, the modern mind is not unlike the Greek and Roman mind. During the past several decades, science, and in particular the science of astrophysics has undergone what can only be described as a revolution. Since soon after publication of Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” people have rejected the idea of creation. They ascribed to the concepts of “time” and “chance” mythic power to create. Though not necessarily stated in bold terms, it was assumed that this mythological concept would permit mankind to live without fear of accountability to the Creator.

For generations the prevailing view of the universe had been what was described as the Steady State Theory. This view presented the concept that the universe has always been and will ever be. In this view, the universe is thought to be ungenerated and indestructible, hence Sagan’s religious assertion. The Steady State view was blatantly materialistic and atheistic, having no place for a Creator, even though it did deify time and chance.

More recently, this view has been forced into retirement by the theory that the universe actually had an instance of creation. In this newer view, the universe came into existence somewhere between fifteen and twenty billion years ago in a gigantic fireball explosion that sent suns and planets tumbling outward from a centre into the form we now observe. Furthermore, in this more recent view, the components of the universe are still moving outward. This new theory is called the Big Bang Theory in reference to the instance of creation.

The change in modern scientific thought is rooted in a discovery reported in 1913. Vesto Melvin Slipher, an astronomer at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, reported stars appeared to be receding from the earth at tremendous speeds—up to two million miles per hour. The foundation for this report was the result of study of the shifting light spectrum of distant stars in galaxies far removed from our own. Six years later, in 1919, another American astronomer, Edwin Hubble, used Slipher's findings to formulate a law for an expanding universe. Hubble’s law pointed to a moment of creation. In the meantime, Albert Einstein's theories of relativity were shaking Newtonian physics. Simultaneously, two Bell Telephone Laboratory scientists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, were using new and sophisticated electronic equipment to pick up background radiation from all parts of the universe, which they now identified as the leftover "noise" of that first great explosion. Growing out of this view is the knowledge that if there was an instance of creation there may well have been a Creator.

Robert Jastrow, Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Institute in the United States, states the issue quite strongly in the book, “God and the Astronomers.” Jastrow wrote, “There is a kind of religion in science; it is the religion of a person who believes there is order and harmony in the Universe. Every event can be explained in a rational way as the product of some previous event… This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover… At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” [6]

Certainly there are still many problems with this currently popular view of origins. Current scientific opinion puts the origin of the universe at a point approaching twenty billion years before the present, which Bible-believing Christians tend to find unacceptable, viewing such chronology as fictitious, driven more by a desire to depose the Creator than to understand origins. The Big Bang Theory tells us nothing concerning the event; neither does it inform us Who may have caused the explosion. Moreover, this speculation fails to throw light on why the universe has such astonishing complexity and order, just as it fails to enlighten us concerning life’s origin or of many other aspects of our existence. The conceptualisation is nevertheless exciting to Christians because it does lend hope that scientists are finally moving toward what the theologian has always known.

That brings us to the central question for this study—what does the Bible say concerning our origin? Ultimately when speaking of origins we are constrained to rely upon either of two disparate views. One view attempts to extrapolate backwards based on a hypothesis of uniformitarianism—a view which states that nothing changes and everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. The other view depends upon an observer, the Creator, who related what occurred at the creation. We who are Christians rely upon the latter because God has told us in His Word what happened in the beginning.

CHRISTIAN ROOTS —In the process of working through these initial chapters of the first book of the Bible, we will discover why the book should be of such great value to believers and why it has become a battleground in contending against the forces of infidelity. We will discover our roots in the Book and such a study will prove of inestimable value to each Christian. Genesis must not be view as some form of proof or disproof of the Bible, though it is accurate in all that is presented in the Book; the book is, as has been said, the seed plot of the Bible. Genesis takes us back to the beginning, defining who we are and defining our place in nature and before God. This is a lesson that we need to remember, especially in this day late in the Age of Grace.

Knowing our roots is important to people of this generation. Perhaps that is because in earlier generations we possessed a sense of history. We knew something of our family history and we had a sense of national history. More importantly, we shared an understanding of the history of mankind. We had a common foundation based on the Bible which had guided us as a people. Whether we were Christian or not, we knew the biblical account.

Things began to change with the publication of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” Darwin challenged the idea of God as Creator by appealing to a new god which he designed “Natural Selection.” According to this new view, animals could change in such a manner to confer an advantage in competition with other species. Time and change, operating blindly on the constantly adapting creatures within nature could account for the diversity of animal life observed. Other individuals recognised that through applying this same concept they could account for the origin of government and other human institutions, the origin of religion and the origin of every other social and cultural interaction. This novel scheme of accounting for all things was imposed on even the origin of non-living things such as the earth itself, and ultimately, the even the universe. The doctrine of uniformitarianism grew out of this evolutionary scheme and man at last accepted as reality Peter’s denunciation of the thought that “all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” [2 PETER 3:4b].

In the centuries since the first European settlers arrived in the New World until this day, those arriving generally held this identical sense of history. Whether they were Christian or not, they knew more immediately where they had come from and they possessed optimism about the future. They sought to carve out a nation wherein they would enjoy freedom, building hope for future generations. However, that sense of history appears to have faded for this present generation. The emphasis in modern life appears to be on now. In fact, present generations are referred to as “the now generation.” The concept of the now generation includes Baby Boomers (the first of the now generation) and continues through Generation X, the Millennials to Generation Z. During the past five decades, western society has adopted the philosophy that emphasises the need to “forget about the past” and focus on the present. Advertisers tell us “You only go around once.” Whether we recognise the genesis of this prevailing view of life or whether we are unaware of how it came to be, those holding this view are adopting the Darwinian view of life.

People who have no history are incapable of anticipating a future. If the history of mankind is a fiction of growing out of some primordial soup, it should be no surprise that mankind has no possibility of anticipating a future. R. C. Sproul, founder of the Ligonier Valley Study Center in Pennsylvania, has analysed the value of a study of our roots in terms of secularism, which means “living within the bounds of this age” (from the Latin saeculum, meaning age). Secularism is to live with our outlook confined to this present period alone—without a past, without a future, and above all without God.

Modern thinkers have sold contemporaries on the idea that our roots are in nothingness and that our future is in nothingness; thus Sproul asks, “Think, man, if your origins are in nothing and your destiny is in nothing, how can you possibly have any dignity now?” This is the logical deduction: if we have no roots in the divine, if it is true that we are but grown-up germs, then it makes no difference whether we are black germs or white germs. It is immaterial whether we are free germs or enslaved germs. Unless the dignity of man is rooted in something that has intrinsic value, all our arguments and pleas for human rights and human dignity are meaningless. If all we have is the present, there is no dignity, only nothingness.

Without the teachings of the Book, life is meaningless; and that is precisely the condition of modern philosophies. If the Bible is in error in these first chapters, then major portions of what follow are meaningless. If there was no fall, there is no need for redemption. If there is no need for redemption, there is no need for a Saviour. If there is no need for a Saviour, how do we know there is a God? The entire story becomes at best a myth.

This is the position advocated by Dr. Henry Morris in his commentary on Genesis. “The books of the Old Testament, narrating God’s dealings with the people of Israel, would be provincial and bigoted, were they not set in the context of God’s developing purposes for all mankind, as laid down in the early chapters of Genesis. The New Testament, describing the execution and implementation of God’s plan for man’s redemption, is redundant and anachronistic, except in the light of man’s desperate need for salvation, as established in the record of man’s primeval history, recorded only in Genesis… A believing understanding of the Book of Genesis is therefore prerequisite to an understanding of God and his meaning to man.” [7]

Genesis tells us of the origin of the universe, describes the beginning of order and complexity and relates the initiation of life, man, marriage and family. If man would ever hope to understand something of biology, or of anthropology or of family relationships, he is forced to study the first book of the Bible. In Genesis we learn of the origin of language, the origin of culture, the beginnings of government, the formation of nations and the beginnings of religion. In any study of the social sciences man is ultimately compelled to deal with the biblical account if he has any hope of understanding the issues.

The Christian Faith is compelled to acknowledge Genesis as foundational for the great doctrines espoused from multiplied pulpits throughout the centuries. Theology proper, the doctrine of God Who has neither beginning nor end, is introduced at the beginning. In Genesis we are given a complete revelation of God's character. His eternal nature, His goodness, His verity and His veracity, His omnipotence, His omniscience, His immutability and His sovereignty are each alike described first in Genesis. Every other revelation of God’s Person in the remainder of the Word is but an expansion of what is already given in the first book.

Anthropology, the doctrine of man, finds its roots in Genesis. There is no understanding of man and his place in the universe if Genesis is discarded or disregarded. Hamartiology, the doctrine of sin, is dependent upon the Genesis account of the transgression of our first parents. Without the accurate account of man's fall there is no need of the doctrine of soteriology, the teaching concerning God's salvation, the redemption of fallen man and the justification extended man through grace. The consummation of all things, the eschatological study of last things, of God's divine judgement, whether to reward those who love Him or to call into account those who will live their lives without reference to Him, is first delineated in this foundational book. Bibliology, the study of the Word, the confidence we have in the accuracy and reliability of the Word, the inerrancy and the infallibility of the Word, are utterly dependent upon the Genesis account. The whole of the Faith stands or falls with this one book.

CHRISTIAN CONFIDENCE — Genesis is foundational for all we believe and hold to be true. We might well ask whether our confidence is well placed. Is Genesis to be understood as recounting actual events? Or is it something like inspired poetry in which “spiritual,” but not “historical” truths are taught? Whether Genesis is historical or mythological will colour our view of this Faith and even dictate how we live. Whether we honour God as God, or see the idea of God as an ideal without real impact in daily life, depends in great measure upon our view of this book.

As we progress through messages planned for the future, I shall endeavour to provide scientific evidence for the accuracy of the account found in Genesis. But whether or not sufficient facts are provided, the child of God will possess a desire to believe the book. This longing to believe was first emphasised to me by a young man I led to faith in Christ. Richard was a research assistant in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Southwestern Medical School. It was a joyful day when Lynda and I were permitted by our God to be the human instruments chosen to deliver Richard and his wife Mary Ann into life. Before His new birth Richard had continually thrown up the objection that evolution disproved the Bible and thus Genesis was a myth. Each time we spoke in my laboratory, Richard objected that the mythological accounts of Genesis kept him from believing the accounts of Jesus. After all, if the Bible erred in the first book and confused fiction with fact, then how was he to know it spoke accurately in the second instance when it spoke of God's provision of salvation?

It was only a couple of days after Richard and Mary Ann had knelt in our living room, praying that God would forgive them their sin and save them as they placed their trust in Christ's Promise and His finished work, that Richard again stopped by my laboratory for a visit. We spoke briefly of the importance of study of the Word for growth in grace. With that, he casually mentioned that he was reading Genesis.

“How are you finding the book?” I inquired.

“You know, Mike,” Richard offered, “a strange thing is happening. I am not saying I am as yet convinced that the book is true, but I find myself wanting to believe it is true.”

What was to him a strange discovery was nothing less than an affirmation of the repeated statements of the Word. God does not call us to “take a leap in the dark”; He calls us to faith in His revealed truth. Think of the message found in the Hebrews letter. “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” [HEBREWS 11:6]. Think of Jesus' challenge to anyone wishing to know Him and to know His will. “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” [JOHN 7:17]. Consider this rich offer. “Come now, let us reason together” [ISAIAH 1:18]. Without hesitation, the Christian affirms that God invites man’s scrutiny and welcomes questions. God does not fear honest questions or careful examination of His Word. Dear saint, God will not be dethroned by man’s careful examination. What will be found is that God is true and that His Word is reliable.

The starting point for exploring whether Genesis is accurate or errant is the assertion that GENESIS IS A PART OF HOLY SCRIPTURE GIVEN US BY GOD. [8] Because it is the Word of God, Genesis speaks with divine authority. This is the pointed affirmation of the Apostle to the Gentiles when he writes: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” [2 TIMOTHY 3:16]. The Scripture to which Paul referred were the Old Testament writings. He possibly included James and the Gospel of Mark since they would have been available by the time he wrote; and he certainly had in view those letters which he had penned. Included among the Scripture which Paul says to be God-breathed [theópneustos] is the Book of Genesis. In short, God’s account of creation provided in Genesis is God-breathed.

This account of origins is to be accepted as the Word of God who cannot lie. The Christian must either accept or reject Paul's simple statement, applying it even to his view of Genesis. To claim to believe God while refusing to believe what is written of God in this Word is to attempt to hold two positions that are diametrically opposed. We cannot put Genesis on the level of any other ancient document, for it is unlike any other document given to us by revelation. Either the Bible is the revelation of God, or it is simply a collection of stories and myths collected by an ancient tribe. If it is merely a collection of myths, we have no particular responsibility to believe what it purports to present. However, if this is the revelation of God, informing us how we came to be and telling us of our responsibility to Him, then we are responsible to believe that this book is historical. If this is Scripture, we are obligated to believe that it actually occurred just as the One who gave it has presented it. In other words, if this is God’s Word, we should believe it is accurate because God has given this and said it is true.

A second point for the exploration of one who seeks to know truth is the assertion that THE WHOLE OF SCRIPTURE ASSUMES THAT GENESIS IS HISTORICAL. As a case in point, consider the 136th PSALM. [9] This Psalm praises God for His enduring love. The Psalm begins with a doxology, but then passes quickly to providing reasons why we should praise God. The first of these reasons is His work of creation [PSALM 136:5-9]. Without any break, and certainly without any indication that he is now beginning to write in a historical rather than in a poetical or less than literal vein, the Psalmist goes on to list a second reason to praise God, which is His work of delivering Israel from Egypt [PSALM 136:10-12]. Then the Psalmist continues recounting historical events. He lists the names of kings that were defeated before finally concluding with the blessings of God to Israel in what was then the present time [PSALM 136:23-25].

What is expressed in this Psalm is nothing less than a review of Israel’s history and of God's specific acts in history that reveal a natural continuity between the acts of God in creation and the events of the day in which the Psalm was written. The logical conclusion is that the Genesis account is to be taken as history according to this Psalm. Assuredly we can multiply examples of Scripture which assume that the creation account and subsequent history are to be viewed as a continuum.

A special aspect of the attitude of Scripture toward the historicity of Genesis is dependent upon THE TEACHING OF JESUS. For Christians this issue carries great weight. Did Jesus consider the accounts of Genesis historical? Challenged by the Pharisees with a question concerning divorce, Jesus replied with specific reference to GENESIS 1:27 and 2:24. He carefully probed their hearts, asking, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” [MATTHEW 19:4-6]. In MARK 13:19 Jesus spoke of “the beginning of creation that God created.” In JOHN 5:45, 46 He states that to disbelieve what Moses wrote is to disbelieve His words. I conclude that it is impossible to be a Christian, adhering to Jesus' words, while rejecting Genesis.

A fourth point for consideration as we explore the reliability of the Genesis account arises through REVIEW OF ANCIENT COSMOLOGIES. Cosmologies are creation accounts and all ancient civilisations had cosmologies to account for the world about them. There are fascinating similarities among the cosmologies of the various races of the world; and these cosmologies sometimes show similarities to the Genesis account. Because of these points of correspondence, some writers have supposed that Jesus adapted His views to that ancient day in which He lived (though He Himself knew better, being God). Is such a position fair or accurate?

The opinion of William F. Albright, the recognised dean of archaeologists, is helpful in addressing this point. Albright was not an evangelical, though he became increasingly conservative as his studies progressed. He spoke openly of the lack of similarity between Genesis and the other ancient accounts. For instance, he argued that the Babylonian Epic does have certain superficial resemblance to the Genesis account. At some points the language is similar; but beyond that, hardly anything is the same. The Hebrew account is monotheistic; its language is terse. The Babylonian account is polytheistic, verbose and crassly mythological.

At the beginning, according to the “Enuma Elis” (the Babylonian creation epic) there were two monsters, represented as dragons. Apsu was the fresh-water subterranean ocean, and his consort Tiamat was the salt-water ocean which surrounds the earth. From these two monsters spring a generation of deities, the last of which become so powerful that Apsu and Tiamat plot to destroy them. The result is a titanic struggle in which Tiamat is slain by Marduk, one of her offspring. Her body is split in two, the upper half being formed into the heavens and the lower half into the earth. Men and women are made from the blood of Qingu, Tiamat's chief minister. The text reads as follows, “Punishment they imposed on him, his blood vessels they cut open, with his blood they created mankind.” Albright maintains, and surely reasonable men must agree with him, that nearly anyone can see the vast gulf separating this obviously mythological account from the serious, historical account in Genesis.

But don't scholars still argue that the Genesis account is myth? Some do, but C. S. Lewis addressed this point during his work. Lewis stated that when some learned scholar tells him that portions of the biblical narrative are myth, he does not want to know what his credentials are in the area of his biblical scholarship but rather how many myths the scholar has read. Myths were Lewis' business, and it was his testimony that the biblical accounts were not among them. Myths are fantastic stories which attempt to explain what can otherwise never be explained. Biblical accounts of the creation are statements presented as fact by the One who called all things into being.

Some will no doubt still argue that we are missing the point, that whether the language is mythical or not it is still inadequate for giving a truly factual account of origins. Think this through. The account of creation might have been written in one of three ways: in scientific language; in straightforward historical prose; or in poetry. Poetry is out for the reason that it does not go far enough. It does not tell us what we most want to know. Thus we are left with scientific or historical prose.

What would it take for the account of creation to be written in scientific language? Frederick A. Filby, a professor of chemistry in England for many years, has registered his convictions in the book “Creation Revealed.” Filby wrote, “The sciences which probe most deeply into the ultimate facts of matter and life are probably astro- and nuclear physics and biochemistry. But these sciences are written, not so much in language as in symbols. It takes many pages of symbols to discuss the nature of a single atom of hydrogen. It has been estimated that to give a complete account of the position of the groups and bonds in a single virus of ‘molecular weight 300 million’ would take a 200-page book.

“If the scientific description of a single hydrogen atom, or of a virus too small to be seen without a microscope, takes a book, what hope is there of ever giving a scientific account of the creation of man and the universe? Yet Genesis 1 in its original form uses only 76 different root words. If Genesis 1 were written in absolute scientific language to give an account of creation, there is no man alive, nor ever has there been, who could understand it. If it were written in any kind of scientific language, only the favoured few could comprehend it. It would have to be rewritten every generation to conform to the new views and the terms of science. It would not be written in our mid-twentieth century scientific language, for no earlier generation could have grasped its meaning, and to our children it would be out-of-date. The scientific description of the ‘how’ of the universe is beyond the understanding of any human brain, but Genesis 1 was written for all readers, not for none…

“What then would be the best method for the Creator to use for (1) making a beginning to his book and (2) establishing that the God of the Bible is also the God of creation—in language simple enough for all men in all time?

“The answer is … Genesis 1 … the most amazing composition in all the world’s literature, using only 76 different word-forms fundamental to all mankind, arranged in a wonderful poetical pattern yet free from any highly coloured figures of speech. It provides the perfect opening to God's book and establishes all that men really need to know of the facts of creation. No man could have invented it: it is as great a marvel as a plant or a bird. It is God's handiwork, sufficient for Hebrew children or Greek thinkers or Latin Christians; for medieval knights or modern scientists or little children; for cottage dwellers or cattle ranchers or deep sea fishermen; for Laplanders or Ethiopians, East or West, rich or poor, old or young, simple or learned … sufficient for all! Only God could write such a chapter … and He did.” [10]

With this compelling statement we may only concur. Filby’s reasoning is to the point, for the most fundamental of all issues is whether God has spoken in Scripture as the Bible claims He has. Genesis deals with origins and beginnings; but Genesis also serves another purpose, forcing us back to origins in the matter of our own thought values. Has God spoken? Has He spoken here? Answer that in the negative, and all is chaos. Answer in the affirmative, and all that follows becomes clearer, ever clearer. Indeed, Genesis is written in historical prose. Reading the book, we are confident that it is factual for it was given us by Him who was present In The Beginning. Amen.

[1]Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version  2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Wikipedia, “Hindu views on evolution,”, accessed 11 November 2014

[3] Ibid.

[4] Wikipedia, “The Greek Myths,”, accessed 11 November 2014

[5] Wikipedia, “Ancient Egyptian creation myths,”, accessed 11 November 2014

[6]Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (W. W. Norton, New York, NY 1978) 113-4

[7]Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings (Baker, Grand Rapids, MI 1976) 17-18

[8]This review is adapted from James Montgomery Boice, “Fact or Fiction,” in Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1998) 20-25

[9]This argument was presented by Francis A. Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time: The Flow of History (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 1972) 15

[10]Frederick A. Filby, Creation Revealed: A Study of Genesis Chapter One in the Light of Modern Science (Revell, Westwood, NJ 1963) 15-16

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