Madison Church

The Essence of Creation: Exploring Genesis and the Intersection of Science and Faith

January 31, 2024 Sarah Hanson
Madison Church
The Essence of Creation: Exploring Genesis and the Intersection of Science and Faith
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever tried to communicate something important, only to end up in a tangle of confusion? That's exactly what happened when Sarah hinted to Chris about not wanting to make dinner, which somehow translated into a mix-up involving Jimmy John's. It's the perfect segue into our profound exploration of Genesis, where we unravel the rich tapestry of creation narratives and their dance with scientific thought. We bypass the pitfalls of misinterpretation and plunge into the heart of what Genesis really aims to tell us, considering not just the dawn of the cosmos and humanity, but the very foundation of the Hebrew nation.

Against the backdrop of passionate and often polarized debates, this episode zooms in on the pivotal truth that God is the creator, infusing the universe with intent and purpose beyond our human timelines. With the help of new insights from the James Webb Space Telescope stirring the scientific community, we examine the parallels between the faith we place in science and religion. This conversation culminates in a moving discussion on the 'why' of creation, emphasizing the primacy of love and the original messages within religious texts, steering us away from the divisiveness of legalism and toward a more unified understanding of our existence.

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Speaker 1:

I am wondering have you guys ever tried to tell somebody a story or give an example of something and they just totally get it taken way off track and miss the whole dang point. Has that ever happened to you? Okay, good, it's not just me. Sometimes you can end up in these crazy details and you're like wait, but I never got to make my point. Or maybe I got to make my point and it's even worse than they still missed it. I hate when that happens. Sometimes it can be days later where I'm like wait a minute, I tried to huh, I'm going to try that again. Something like this happened to me just yesterday. As a matter of fact, it's been like a long week around our house and, despite the fact that I have meal planned and grocery shopped and prepped, dinner wasn't going to happen last night. It's just not doing it. I'm done right. So I tell Chris, I tell my husband, I'm like I'm going to go through a drive-thru and I'm trying to pretend we're being as healthy as possible. So how about Jimmy John's right, like that's better than some others, I tell myself. And he loves looking at menus before he makes a decision. So he's online looking at the menu, trying to decide what he wants. And in the meanwhile, I remembered that way back a million years ago, they used to have bread, like actual bread, to make sandwiches and then subs, right. So I just start talking and I say, hey, do you remember when they used to have bread instead of just the subs? And he's like, oh yeah, they do sell their bread. Did you want to just get some bread? And then you could stop at the store and get the supplies for sandwiches and we could make them. And I'm like, no, what are you not understanding? But I'm not making dinner, I'm not even going in the store, I'm going a little bit further so I can go to the drive-thru, so I don't have to get out of my pajama bottoms Like you are missing the point. Thankfully, in that scenario I talked long enough to undo the bread damage I had done. But sometimes, you know, it can get crazy and I think this is kind of the thing that happens a lot of times. When we look at our Bible, specifically the beginning of Genesis, right In Genesis 1, if you're unfamiliar with Genesis 1, it's the very, very beginning of the Bible and it addresses all of the beginnings, right, the beginning of all things, creation and the beginning of the universe, the beginning of life on earth. And this one is a tough one for me, right? Because if you know me at all, you know that I love facts, I love research, I love when I can confirm biblical accounts with history and facts. And no one was there to witness the beginning of time. And at a glance it appears that the biblical account of creation conflicts with scientific evidence, and I don't love that at all. Yet here we are. Stephen was nice enough to assign me this chapter and then not be here. So here we are talking about creation. Yay, us People have really strong opinions about this too, right? People get in very serious arguments. They stop talking to people that they know and love over this, and I think we could spend an eternity trying to figure out all of the questions that pop up about the Bible and science. And do they conflict? Can they coexist? If I believe that the Bible, if I believe the Bible, does that mean I'm ignoring science? And if I believe what science says, does that mean that I don't believe the Word of God? And could they possibly somehow both be right? We can get so laser focused on the details that we miss the entire point. So I want to have us focus for a little bit about why this is in our Bibles, right? What is the point of Genesis? What should we be taking away from this controversial topic? We can know that the purpose of the book of Genesis is to trace back the beginnings of history. Right, the whole Old Testament documents the history of the Hebrew people. It relates the promises that God made to Abraham. It records the supernatural beginning of their nation with the birth of Isaac. It chronicles their history as they went through Egypt. The scriptures record miraculous delivery from Egypt Several hundred years later. It took right Then their journey to the Promised Land, and I imagine that at some point people started asking questions. Right, they just naturally come up for us. They want to know where did their nation come from? What exactly were these promises that were made to Abraham? Where did they live? What was the nation's special relationship to God? Where did the patriarchs come from? Where did humanity originate? How did the universe begin? Where did animal and plant life come from? Did God create the universe for a purpose or was it just some kind of fun little idea? Is there really only one God, or were there many gods, like the Egyptians and many other nations believed. And I think, if we're honest, we have a lot of those questions too. So we have to look at the book. So let me back that up. So we have the book of Genesis to bring us some of the answers to those questions. So, if you want to follow along with the text, we're going to be in Genesis, chapter one, today. I know that there's some paper bibles laying around, but also most of you have an app on your phone. You can actually look it up, or even just Google Genesis one. It'll pop up. Genesis one starts out with in the beginning, god created the heavens and the earth and as the chapter goes on, we can see that. We can see that God is creating light and he's separating light from dark. We see God creating space between the sky and we see him creating space between water, and then we see land and seas. I'm just going to kind of give a brief overview of this. By the way, we don't want to spend all day here reading verses 11 through 13. Already we're at. We is where we see God creating plant life, followed by the next few verses where we see God putting the sun, the moon, the stars into their places and that creates days, nights, seasons, years. Verses 20 through 25 tells us that God created all the wildlife, right? All the fish and the things in the sea, all of the air, things flying around, birds, insects. I don't know, you probably could have done a better way of that, but it's just me. He also created all the animals on the land and all the little creepy crawlies. Then we finally get to the part that we care the most about us, right, the creation of human beings. We're not told right here in Genesis one how humans were created. That's later in Genesis two. We, just in Genesis one, have the simple fact that humans were created and they were created by God in the image of God, created in God's likeness. Some versions say humans were created to reflect God's nature. The how, again, that's in chapter two, if you're interested. But we're going to kind of just keep our focus in chapter one. And before we get too far into this, I want to make sure that we can all agree that this is a safe space, right, madison Church is a safe space. Madison Church is about loving God and loving each other, right, right? So by default, this makes Madison Church a safe space to have some of these conversations, even if they're lively, even if we disagree, right? Safe space guys. So in this safe space we're going to talk about the beginning and I know some of you feel very strongly in a six day creation scenario. You believe creation happened literally as it is written here, and I know some of you believe that science has proven otherwise and therefore the creation account in Genesis cannot be accurate, or maybe this was before time was established. So the days talked about here aren't 24 hour days as we know them. And I know there's a third group those of you who are conflicted when presented with these two choices and you're not really committed to either one, because who the heck can know? And it's confusing and people get mad and you don't like conflict, right? So it's better to not take a stance. That's a group here too. I know this. So we have some differing beliefs right here in the room and that's normal and it's OK, and we can still be friends. We can still be a church family, even this is not Thanksgiving dinner with your crazy political extremist uncle. Ok, that's not what this is. We love God and we love each other. We'll get through this. I have seen compelling arguments made for both young Earth theories and old Earth theories and some that land kind of somewhere in between. There are Christian scholars and scientists out there who can convincingly explain in their own professional opinion how the creation of Earth could have been a literal six-day process, concluding that the Earth is 6,000 years old. And there are other scientists who are able to, in their professional opinion, explain how a longer evolutionary Big Bang creation fits into the biblical narrative. And then, of course, there are people who just outright refuse to believe in a Creator God, based on the current available science that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old and therefore they have determined that the Bible is a myth. And you can really go down a rabbit trail here exploring this topic, and trust me when I say I have, and then I've done it again, and then I've done it again. I feel confident that I could stand up here and I could give a decent argument for any one of those scenarios. But I'm not going to do that, okay, because I don't think that's the main point. I feel like it feels like it's a really big deal, right, but it misses the main point presented here, and I'm not in any way, shape or form trying to tell you not to do your own exploring on this topic, because I feel like you should. I really do. I just caution you to not get stuck there, right? Because there are people who devote their entire lives to this, to trying to prove that their Earth theory, their Earth Age theory, is the correct one, and they spend time picking apart other theories and, honestly, sometimes they get downright mean with the people with opposing views. Some will even move from here's why this theory is wrong to this specific person is wrong. And here's an example of them being completely brainless. And anyone who agrees with them doesn't deserve to breathe, right? This is a great way to cause harm. This doesn't help anybody. I bet nobody has ever convinced you of anything, gotten you to change your mind based on telling you how ridiculous you are. It's never happened. Debates can be fun, but they're not for winning friends and influencing people, right? If we're spending significant time trying to win the argument for our favorite Earth Age theory, we're missing the entire point of the creation story in Genesis. We're causing harm. We're leaving people with a bad taste in their mouths about us and about God. Why would they want to be a part of a faith community like that. They don't. Yet we still want to know, don't we? We want to know. What is God actually showing us here? People are still asking is it a six-day creation and a 6,000-year-old Earth, or is it more of a description of periods of time rather than literal days? Is it creation or evolution, or a combination? Well, what if I told you it's not really worth debating, right? What if we come to this humbly with an? I'm not sure is that acceptable in our faith? Because arguing for the right Earth Age theory doesn't change anything. It doesn't change the main thing. Right? Our God could have created the universe in a number of ways. He could have done it in six 24-hour periods. He also could have done it over a million billion, trillion gazillion years. The point being made, the big idea, is that God created. God created it all with a plan. He created it with a purpose. God didn't leave it up to chance. He didn't have helper gods doing little things here and there. Right, god created it all. That's the point being made here, and when we get stuck trying to argue how God did it or how long it took, we're stuck in a place of confusion. We're stuck trying to be certain of something that's not clear, which, honestly, I think that's exactly where the enemy wants us. The enemy would love for us to be stuck in an argument instead of focusing on who God is. The enemy would love for us to keep our faith to ourselves because we fear, if someone asks us a question, we don't have answers, instead of sharing our faith with other people. Pete Ends is the author of the Bible, tells Me so, and he says this. I think part of what it means for God to reveal himself is to keep us guessing, to come to terms with the idea that knowing God is also a form of not knowing God, of knowing that we cannot fully know, but we only catch God in part, which is more than enough to keep us busy. Oh guys, this is really hard for me. Maybe it's hard for some of you too. Again, I like to study, I like to research, I like to come to conclusions, I like to know that I know the truth, and I don't like that in between space. I don't like the uncertainty of not knowing that I know what I know. Here we can see God is revealing himself. He is revealing himself in Genesis. God is showing us who he is. He's showing us. He created us. God is showing us the beginning of all things and yet, unfortunately for my opinion, god's ways are not our ways, right? Isaiah 55, 8 through 9, tells us my thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord, and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts. So there we have it right. We need to come to terms with the idea that we don't get to fully know. God's ways are far beyond anything we can imagine. Like that song said, the second song that we just worshiped to God does impossible things. And if it's impossible, we don't get to know sometimes how it happened. Genesis 1-1, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and I believe wholeheartedly that God created all of the heavens and all of the earth and God created the universe. But it says in the beginning and that is a beginning which you can't put a date on. There isn't any clarification here. It could be trillions of years. We aren't told. We don't get the full answer. We can't explain how God spoke all of these things into existence. God didn't give us all these details that I wish he would have given us. He just didn't give them to us. But we do get to know that God is the one who did it, and we do get to know God, and we do get to know that God had a plan and a purpose. He had a plan and a purpose then, and he has a plan and a purpose today. God had a plan and a purpose for Moses, for Abraham, isaac, jacob, and God has a plan and a purpose for you. He has a plan and a purpose for me, for Madison Church, and we get to participate in that plan. We get to trust that the God who created all of this loves us, because he is about relationship with us. He is about loving us and us loving him and us loving each other. So how can I be certain, even in my uncomfortableness, that these unspoken details aren't really something that's worth debating? What makes me think this is true? Well, I know, and you probably know, that when something is important to somebody, they spend a lot of time talking about it. They will go into great detail about something that they're passionate about, compared to a small amount of time that they spend talking about something that they don't find as important. I mean, have you ever talked to somebody who's got a new crush or in a new relationship and they bring that person up all the time and it just makes you want to roll your eyes because you're like, please, and they're like this sip of coffee reminds me of that time that they made me laugh so hard. It came right up my nose. It was so adorable. Okay, right, they're talking all the time because it's something that's on their mind, it's something that's important to them. It's just what we do, and when God intends something to be clear, we have details in the Bible. When we look at the book of Genesis, we can see two distinct parts. We can see the first 11 chapters covers a minimum time span of 2,000 years. It could be more again, but it's minimum 2,000 years. The second section of the 39 chapters covers only 350 years. In fact, if you look at the beginning, starting at chapter 12 in Genesis, running the rest of the way through the Bible. So if you're looking at the book, chapter 11, this much rest of the Bible, this much, right, there's 2,000 years in the first 11 chapters and then 2,000 years in the rest of the whole dang Bible. Okay. So something should suggest to us that this part wasn't the important thing, the timeline wasn't important to him for us to know. Anyway, it should suggest to us, it should resonate in our hearts and minds that God has given us this for a purpose, right? But he also had a purpose in keeping it short. It's evident that God put an emphasis on that last part. The first section has to do with the universe and creation, but the second, the longer part, the more detailed part, it deals with people, with nations, with the person of Jesus. God was more interested in Abraham than he was in the entire universe, creation and you guys. God is more interested in you and he attaches more value to you than he does the entire physical universe. Similarly, there are 89 chapters in the four gospels, in Matthew, mark, luke and John, and yes, I had to count those on my fingers. Apparently, four of those chapters cover the first 30 years of Jesus' life. 85 chapters cover the last three years, right, so we can see where we're going. Those last three years are really important, but 27 of those cover the last eight days. So where is God placing the emphasis? I'm pretty sure we can all agree. The emphasis is on that last part, the last eight days, those last 27 chapters. It's the part about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the big, important part of the gospel Right. God gave us the gospels so that we can know that Jesus died for us, for our sins, and was raised for our forgiveness and for our salvation. That's the big idea, that's the all-important truth, that's the point. So I'd like to suggest to you that this first part of Genesis is merely an introduction to the Bible. It's a very brief overview of creation and we kind of need to look at it that way. This doesn't mean that we should ignore those first 11 chapters. I mean, this is where we find the beginning, the source, the birth of all things. Genesis leads us to a better understanding of the rest of the Bible, but let's not get hung up on creating details when there aren't any, where their details were never intended to be inserted or even understood. They are not the point. I mean, what if God wasn't intending for us to do the math based on the genealogy charts in Genesis, to determine the age of the earth? What if, sometimes, in our quest for understanding and answers, we draw conclusions that weren't meant to be made and we're willing to die in a hill for those conclusions, we miss the entire point. I imagine that God is watching us do this and he's just shaking his head. I imagine him thinking how did you take this account of creation, where I was the one that created all of this? I created the planets, the animals, the earth, the sky, humans, life and you turn it into a debate about how long it took and how I did it, how long ago it was? Come on, he's got to shake his head at that. Does it really matter if the earth and the universe were created 6,000 years ago or 5 billion years ago? Does it change anything? I mean, god has eternity behind him. He's been busy, right? He didn't tell us a whole lot here. We can all agree to accept the biblical creation story. Takes faith, right, it takes faith to read this and say, okay, it says here that God did this, so he did. But can we also agree that accepting the science of the Big Bang Theory and evolution take faith too, faith in the process of the mathematicians, the calculations, the extrapolations that they found using methods that most of us don't understand fully and can't necessarily perform ourselves, and we're forced to take the word of others and trust what they have determined to be truth. Yet we've all seen science change now and then right. Every once in a while it happens. I was reading a TEDED post on the topic by Lisa Labrecco and she said this we weren't handed a universal instruction manual. Instead, we continually propose, challenge, revise or even replace our scientific ideas as a work in progress. Laws usually resist change, since they wouldn't have been adopted if they didn't fit the data, though we occasionally revise laws in the face of new, unexpected information, and that's how it should be right. If a long-held belief is proven to be faulty, we should absolutely revise it. We should revisit that. I'm not saying it's wrong to do that. I'm just saying it takes faith once again to now believe the new theories and the new laws, the new truth. Recently, the James Webb Space Telescope has provided information and images that challenge some of the long-held theories about how the universe has evolved, and scientists are saying that we're going to need something new about the galaxy formation, and there are some theories floating around that possibly the universe was expanding faster than they had previously thought and that might require some new forces, some new particles. So there are unanswered questions here too, just like there are unanswered questions with the biblical account of creation found in Genesis. It takes faith to believe that either or both are true. Even science can't tell us how something can be made out of nothing. Even the Big Bang Theory consists of the idea that the universe expanded from this minuscule, dense collection of energy and matter that already somehow existed. It doesn't tell us where that energy material came from. Right and science can't explain how a collection of matter and energy came to life, and it cannot account for the gap between life and humanity, a self-conscious human with free will. Aside from when and how, I think a more important question we can be asking is why? Why did God create the universe? Why did God create the Earth? Why did he create humans? We're a mess. Why would he do that? We love to argue about extra biblical things, but this legalism causes division and it's way more harmful than whether we're right or wrong. We can have robust, fun debates about these and other biblical things, as long as we don't forget the main points. Right, we should be making sure we understand what the original authors wanted us to understand and be okay with the unknown, as difficult as that may be for us. We should be striving to follow the example Jesus gave us and put love first in all things. When ideas are what we believe about God become more important than people, we are missing the point.

Understanding the Purpose of Genesis
Debating Earth's Age, Focusing on God
Questioning Science and Faith in Creation