Who’s Afraid of the Big Bang?
By Pastor George Van Alstine
Most of us are turned off by scientific descriptions of the universe, its origin, history and immensity. We can track with the planets revolving around the sun, especially since we have lived through the days when space travel to the moon and other planets has moved from fantasy to reality. But when a Caltech or JPL speaker starts talking about galaxies, light years, black holes, novae and curved space, we tend to doze off. If we try to concentrate enough to follow what the speaker is saying, it’s not long before we are reaching for the Advil.
On the other hand, most of us who believe in the Bible’s message to our spiritual needs tend to accept all our Holy Book tells us about the history of the world we live in. Our “default” belief about the universe comes from Genesis Chapter 1, that God created all that exists in six literal days of creation and that the world we live in came into being about 6,000 years ago. Normally, we don’t have to think about this too often and, being intellectually lazy, we seldom do.
Scientists started talking about the “Big Bang Theory” in the 1920s, showing from many fields of research that there was once a cosmic explosion from a single point, and the universe has been rapidly expanding ever since. The general public became aware of it a few decades later. We may have read about it in National Geographic or Time Magazine, but we probably just thought of it as a curious notion some geeky researchers spend their time on so they don’t have to deal with real life. Christian writers who have commented on this theory have usually treated it as a teaching of atheistic secular humanists who are trying to explain away the existence of God. One glaring and obvious “contradiction” to the Bible has often been the focus of their criticism – that the Big Bang Theory asserts the universe to be 13.7 billion years old!
So, many conservative, “Bible-believing” Christians became locked into what has been called the “Young Earth Theory,” which basically takes all the statements in the creation account literally and dates creation at 6,000 years ago. This is too bad, for in insisting on a position that to anyone who has studied science at all seems indefensible in the light of established research, they have missed the most important truth about the Big Bang Theory: Scientists have come to the settled conclusion that our universe had a beginning. Beyond that, science is not equipped to give answers, and this opens the door for a reintroduction of the Creator God into the discussion. Our Bible says “In the beginning (whether it was 6,000 years ago or 13.7 billion years ago), God created the heavens and the earth.” If science leads us to the conclusion that there was a beginning, religion should be prepared to introduce people to the Beginner, God.
I believe it’s time for us to get beyond the old “Science vs the Bible” arguments. I’m ready to embrace fully the findings of modern science as a way of “thinking God’s thoughts after him” (the words of Johann Kepler, 17th century astronomer). If we take this approach in teaching our young people, we won’t be afraid that when they go off to college they’ll lose their faith when confronted with a barrage of alien ideas from secular science. They’ll simply be pursuing new opportunities to learn about the God we want them to worship as Lord and Savior.
In last week’s Messenger I attributed the quote “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand” to Charlie Brown. I received this immediate correction from former ABC Christian Ed Director Rev. Steve Rice, who reminded me that he had written a major college term paper on the “Peanuts” cartoon characters:
“I’m sure that you’ve heard by now that it was Linus who made this quote, not CB. CB is a people-pleaser, like myself, and loves EVERYONE and will do anything to keep ’em happy towards himself.”
The truth is I had not “heard by now,” because none of the rest of you Messenger readers cared enough to correct me. You need to be more theologically acute in reading the stuff I write. Don’t let me get away with misinterpreting important texts like “Peanuts.”
Thanks Steve, and God bless you in your continuing ministry of teaching in the Bay Area. –