Barriers to Understanding the Truths of Creation


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Why do so many God-fearing people reject new interpretations of scriptures relating to how the universe, the world and mankind were created by God? How does one define – what is true? What is truth? For each person – early in life, truths are based on what they have been taught to believe by parents and other authoritative persons. Later, what one views as truth – on important matters – this may change based on new information (data) and/or personal experiences.

Sometimes individuals resist believing changes in matters they hold very dear. They often allow their emotions rather than their intellect to control what they believe. Their truths are the same truths their families have held for generations and they will be defended at all costs. They may not be open to new information and will avoid addressing unfamiliar and complex ideas because their educational background limits what they are prepared to evaluate and attempt to believe.

The beautiful stories of beginnings given to us in the early chapters of the book of Genesis express broad and general information that people of the Old Testament could understand.  The powerful and central message was that “God created the Heavens and the Earth.” This landmark statement establishes the foundation and source of beginnings through the power and creative nature of our heavenly Father. Somehow, some way, the Holy Spirit gave to Moses and other early biblical writers, the next level of detail, seven sequential events that broadly describes how God created the universe, the earth and then all living creatures. These allegorical writings set the stage for later understandings of God’s creation processes. The detailed knowledge of how the world came into being could not possibly be understood by the first generations of ancient people. At this point in pre-history, science did not even exist as a known discipline. Over three thousand years of evolutionary history would be required by scientists to discover and understand the mechanics of how God put together the complete story of creation. To reach our current level of understanding, God would allow and help create multiple scientific fields of study such as: biology, physics, chemistry, geology and paleontology (to name a few) to evolve and identify the detailed pieces of God’s creation plan.

It has taken the International Scientific community over the last several hundred years to recognize and agree that: the Universe is 13 billion or more years in age, the earth is 3 to 4 billion years old and mankind struggled through several million years of evolution to become fully human. To be fully human, God’s upright, bipedal creatures had to slowly acquire brain sizes that finally attained the knowledge to discern the difference between right and wrong, the power to love and care and thus gain a human conscience. Most Christians believe the Holy Spirit was involved in this first awakening  of fully human beings. This broad and general description of God’s evolutionary process is recognized as fact – not just theory – by the overwhelming majority of informed scientists in every country in the world. Wow, what a marvelous beginning!

So today, turning a page to national statistics, we learn (in 2014) that only about 27% of our adult population have a bachelor’s degree or higher in some discipline. This means that about two-thirds (or more) of all students have not had any chance (maybe a little in high school) to be exposed to the details of this evolutionary process. In some rural areas, this percentage is even larger.

If these statistics are true, there is good reason to understand why so many fine Christian people reject or simply avoid scientific reports of God’s creation that seem to negate their traditional understandings and the literal words of the Bible. Many would conclude that accepting modern scientific creation explanations is a vote against the Biblical story. In reality, this is not true – one must learn to understand that God’s Word in the bible and later scientific interpretations are very compatible.

It may be helpful to reflect on the Christian values received from the Bible. While many of God’s important messages are wrapped in ancient historical stories, one must remember that God’s Word in the bible is about: purpose, meaning and God’s struggle to evolve a primitive civilization to believe in one God. The Bible was never meant to be a science book. To attempt to interpret scripture as a scientific explanation of creation is a mistake practiced by many good folks expecting the writers of the bible to literally explain the details of God’s complex creation process. It is only through intelligent and prayerful thinking that God’s people may begin to understand how the broad and beautiful report of beginnings, recorded in the book of Genesis, may be reconciled with the abundance of new and detailed facts which the scientific community has accumulated over the last millennium.

In the middle of intense debates about creation, some well-meaning Christians rationalize that understanding the truths of God’s creative processes are of little importance.  They suggest that the center of our Christian faith is given to us in the New Testament through the life, teachings and sacrifices of Jesus, and thus, the details of Creation do not seriously impact our Christian faith. I disagree with this conclusion.. If the Christian faith is about anything meaningful, it is about seeking to understand truths. The real creation story discovered by the full world scientific community is absolutely true – even if some of the details are not yet fully understood. It is the most exciting, logical and inspiring story anyone could ever imagine.

John Wesley, gave us the Wesleyan Quadrangle containing the proper elements for making serious decisions:  Reason, Tradition, Experience and Scripture. Surely, the more knowledgeable all Christians become regarding the real truths of God’s evolutionary creation, the more attractive the Christian faith should become for all intelligent and educated people. Think about this:  Why would a young college educated Christian want to be associated with a traditional church that hangs on to the literal words of the bible suggesting that the universe and mankind were created in seven, twenty-four hour days? And we wonder why many young adults are leaving or avoiding the churches of their parents.

As for all dedicated Christians who, for whatever reasons, do not have the fortune of advanced education, please study when you can, keep an open mind, and pray that God will help you to believe these scientists that have given us all so many beautiful, complex, and useful scientific inventions to enjoy. Although we trust but do not always understand their creation. God surely blessed us with many wonderful scientific discoveries long after the Bible was written.

Please know that all of this written presentation is meant to inform, wake up traditional thinkers, strengthen their Christian faith and hopefully help our traditional churches, in every denomination, to survive and grow. “O Lord, please help us all to accept these truths!”

Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

W.F. Peck, Jr.

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A Rudimentary Summary of How Stars Contributed to Life in the Cosmos

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Have you ever wondered how the universe initially produced life –leading to our human existence?  It is said that we are the product of stars. How could that be true? After considerable study over many complex scientific writings, I shall attempt to convey a layman’s very imperfect and brief summary of how we are indeed “products of the stars”.

If you wish to gain a more accurate and complete report on this subject, may I refer you to at least two outstanding books:

“Big Bang” – The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh and “The Stardust Revolution” – The Story of Our Origin in the Stars by Jacob Berkowitz. These and many other books are marvelous outlines written by super scientists far more qualified than I am to report this prehistoric history.

Most students begin their inquiries by asking: “What existed before the Big Bang”?  The answer is – only God – for there was no universe before the Big Bang. Second, many young students of science question the origin of the basic scientific building blocks of the universe:

  • Gravity
  • Electro- magnetism
  • The Strong Nuclear force
  • The Weak Nuclear force

From what I know, God created and mobilized these basic forces in the universe at the time of the Big Bang. They are the initial products of God’s physics and chemistry plan. We must just accept these facts and move on in our discovery of how the universe evolved and produced life as we know it.

I shall assume you are prepared to accept that the universe started when God released the “Big Bang”!  If you do not accept this scientific conclusion, supported by the vast majority of scientists all over the world, then you will have trouble understanding and believing in the facts regarding the role stars play in the creation of life.

The scientific community unanimously accepts that the universe has been and continues to expand – thanks to the knowledge gained from the development of large, powerful telescopes and the discoveries of Edwin Hubble. Scientists measuring the rate of universal expansion are able to trace back (in reverse) the cosmos to its beginning at a specific point in time. It is generally accepted that the beginning occurred about 14.7 billion years ago as mind boggling quantities of heat and energy erupted to initiate the universe. Believe it or not, our best scientific minds understand initial conditions within seconds after the Big Bang event and have traced it backward and then forward to our present day. There’s not enough space or time to explain how astro-scientists are able to measure the sizes, contents, temperatures and distances of stars and planets in the early universe – but they can!

The enormous heat and pressures associated with the early cosmos released from stars humungous amounts of hydrogen and helium into the expanding atmosphere. This continued for millions of years until atmospheric temperatures began to gradually decline. The universe was initially a mass of clouds, gases and dust particles that spewed wildly across the expanding universe. As temperatures continued to drop slowly over millions of years, dust particles, feeling the forces of gravity and electromagnetism began to accumulate into globs of atomic elements gaining mass as they grew larger.

A billion or more years pass as clouds of elementary dusts bond together creating the first stars. Gravity continues to pull masses closer together creating nuclear forces and raising star temperatures to boiling levels. Simultaneously, stars begin to move and form magnetic fields, collide and breakup forming second generation stars. 

Different stars, under varying conditions of heat and gravitational pressures, created tremendously hot nuclear furnaces that over long periods of time chemically change helium and hydrogen into other elements – including metals.

Thus, the cosmos first dust probably appeared as these stars burned and exploded as supernova ejecting vast quantities of all the chemical elements into the early atmosphere thus forming the first solids that became our rocky planets.

At some point, several billion years ago, our most famous star – the Sun was formed as vast quantities of nuclear materials bonded together creating our Solar System. Fortunately, our Sun still contains vast quantities of burning hydrogen that will last several billion years more.

Other masses of cosmic materials containing solid metallic cores are pulled by gravity to rotate around our very hot but stable Sun. One of these rotating planets, having accumulated rich deposits of organic dust (and water) settled into orbiting about our Sun and became our one and only Earth about 3.5 billion years ago. Over millions of additional years the earth grew in size by acting as a dust collector plus bonding with meteorites during numerous collisions. Now our modern knowledge of geology becomes joined together with the stars. We read that the universe contains about 75% hydrogen, and 23% helium leaving but 2% for the hundred or more remaining elements.

However, our human bodies are made up of four key elements:

  • Oxygen 65%
  • Carbon 18.5%
  • Hydrogen   9.5%
  • Nitrogen 3.2%
  • All other elements 3.8%

Totaling  =          100%

The origin of organic material on earth, appears to have been molecular dust transported to us from outer space. The stars are our direct ancestors. The very substances of our bodies were formed from chemical elements contributed from stars – first as earth materials and later as building blocks in the formation of living organisms. Remember that our Holy Bible in the book of Genesis allegorically creates human kind from symbolic earthen dust.

One must pause and reflect on the missing link. Within the complex processes of evolution, God, at some point in our history, through the power of the Holy Spirit, breathed life into multiple living creatures and finally into organic bodies of hominids.

It was no causal accident. God, through the deliberate Big Bang event, brought the building blocks of life, chemical elements, to us from billions of stars – leading to the creation of planet earth.

Praise be to God for the magnificent role stars play in the building of life on earth.

By  W.F. Peck

The Beginning of Human Life

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As Christians, we look to the biblical stories in the Old Testament seeking to understand God’s messages regarding how mankind first began. A literal reading and interpretation of the “Adam and Eve” story seems to produce more questions than answers regarding how mankind first evolved. Tradition labels their act of disobeying God as a negative experience with God reacting punitively against them and the symbolic serpent. One could easily surmise that their disobedience doomed the development of the human race – but the reverse interpretation makes more sense.

Prior to Adam and Eve’s defiance of God’s directives, they are described as mere happy, naïve and comfortable children, or angels or partly evolved homo sapiens with little understanding of who they really were or who they were destined to become. God chose the events needed to create fully human kind through a beautiful allegorical story that allowed our first symbolic humans (Adam and Eve) to make decisions that opened their eyes (for the first time) and awaken  them to recognize the differences between right and wrong. In Genesis, chapter three, God says: “they became like me (god) with the power to decide what is right and what is wrong!” This is the positive interpretation of this ancient story and it fits well with our modern understanding of how up-right, bipedal hominids over thousands of years, evolved brain sizes and cultural relationships that came to fruition when God breathed his Holy Spirit into his developing creatures and they became fully human! Human life truly began when the first humans realized they were in direct relationship with God as well as with one another. 

Whether we like it or not, God chose to create humans as imperfect beings with the freedom to make good or bad decisions. Mankind could not exist without the power to exercise a “free will”. This was not man’s decision – it was God’s decision. To suggest that “the devil made us this way” – is to conclude that God was not fully in charge of man’s creation. Surely, we do not believe this!

From this creation event forward, the Old Testament presents numerous stories, generally organized chronologically, that picture God’s struggles to teach his wayward people how to grow in their understanding of a “one God  (Yahweh) concept”. We are allowed to witness multiple triumphs and failures in the Old Testament as God’s chosen people slowly move, over more than two thousand years, from paganism to the one and only true God. His people finally are blessed with the presence of God through the life, teachings, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.

This inspiring interpretation of human beginnings in the early chapters of the book of Genesis provides a sensible and solid foundation for the building of the Christian faith.

Written by W.F. Peck

Modern Beliefs About Creation

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Modern day Christians need to adjust their theological understandings of the biblical story of beginnings as new scientific facts are uncovered. We have all been raised and “schooled” to accept the traditional and cultural interpretations of the early chapters of the book of Genesis – that is, God created the universe and the earth in a short period of time (one week).

Current scientific facts clearly disclose that the universe, and later, planet earth, to be billions of years old. Are these scientific facts reliable? Have they been proven beyond any doubt to be accurate? Yes they have! But rather than trying to understand a set of complex scientific proofs, most layman would opt to believe what a majority of competent scientists believe. International statistics consistently report that 95% of all informed scientists – across the entire world- believe in these evolutionary facts. Additionally, most educated adults accept these scientific facts as being true, even though they may not understand the technical details. Also, the vast majority of our most highly educated clergy (in all denominations) believe in the evolutionary process.

So do these new scientific discoveries undermine or discount the value of the Bible? Of course not! God has continued to reveal more and more about his beautiful creation every year through modern science. God’s biblical messages regarding creation are still true. Although modern knowledge of the processes have been refined- God is still at the center of Creation!

Even so, many traditional Christians still have trouble accepting new scientific information. Most layman do not understand the scientific processes – that appear to contradict the Bible. Well, can we agree that many of God’s best messages are often hidden behind the literal words of the Bible – in metaphorical or allegorical stories? Jesus used similar teaching methods through parables. If one cannot accept this premise, then surely one will find interpretations of certain scriptures to be troublesome. Please remember, St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the founding fathers of Christian theology – in about 300AD – stated: “When scientific facts appear to be in conflict with scripture, it is time to reinterpret scripture.” Traditional thinking has not been wrong, it simply requires intelligent updating.

Since some would suggest that none of this discussion impacts our central beliefs regarding the life and teachings of Jesus, why worry about it? I disagree. Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. If Christianity is to remain viable in the lives of human kind, it must be about truth. Our young people are progressively exposed to more and more scientific information. They are smart, analytical and perceptive. Their school training is complex and comprehensive and includes studies of scientific creation. They are far ahead of most mature adults in their learning. It only takes a few years of college training or experience in the work place for them to discover many new truths about God and his creation. How can we expect them to remain loyal to their traditional family churches that tend to hide from or give lip service to scientific truths? This topic is crucial to keeping our traditional churches viable and growing for future generations.

As I view it, there are five (5) related reasons why scientific truths are ignored or suppressed by many Christian churches:

1). Many pastors cling tenaciously to the literal interpretation of all scriptures because it fits well with the educational level of the majority of their church members. Tis far easier to promote peace and harmony than intellectual analysis.

2). Many pastors, who intellectually believe in scientific evolution, will admit it privately, but stay away from it in their public pronouncements. Why is this? Pastors have to weigh carefully what they say from the pulpit – regarding nontraditional matters, for fear of confusing or losing many loyal church members. In my view, they are placating the older traditional members while risking the loss of their now grown children. Carefully planned and objectively presented educational programs are the answer.

3). Knowledge of Scientific Evolution is very complex and continuously changing. Even the scientific community cannot provide clear and simple answers to many creation questions. Most people do not have the educational background to grasp highly technical concepts. Our public libraries offer dozens of well written books on scientific creation, written by both theologians and scientists, that most layman can understand. Unfortunately, most senior citizens do not care or will not change their traditional beliefs regarding creation.

4). The fundamental movement across America attracts many people who prefer a simple, literal and traditional interpretation of all scriptures. It seems sad and wasteful for so much time and energy to be expended defending outdated and inaccurate interpretations of scripture.

5). Scholars (on both sides – scientific and religious) have for centuries had great difficulties blending our beautiful Christian beliefs with new and ever changing scientific knowledge. This must be done. Substantial progress has been made in the last few years toward understanding God’s real processes of creation. Fully understood, the scientific explanations for God’s processes of creation are exciting, rational and inspiring. The future of our wonderful, traditional churches may be dependent on this encouraging trend.

 

Written by W.F. Peck

Key Theological Messages from “Making Sense of the Bible” By Adam Hamilton

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Adam Hamilton is not only a great speaker and writer, but he is pastor of the largest Methodist church in the world in Leawood, Kansas, The UMC of the Resurrection. I am attracted to his theology because it makes great sense and answers many troublesome questions Christians face today in a world where understandings of the bible range from super conservative “fundamentalists” on one end to “progressive or liberal thinkers” on the other end. My theology has evolved through the years from lessons learned from a devoted Christian mother who was a traditional fundamentalist –  raised and taught in small Methodist churches in the South. Over time, study, prayer and counsel with theologians, I have developed a more liberal view of the Bible but still hold tightly to the messages of Jesus presented to us in the gospels and in many of Paul’s writings.

The most troublesome scriptures, for me, are found in the Old Testament. One must start by asking this question: Is the God of Old Testament the same God as the God of the New Testament? And the answer has to be – of course he is – God does not change, but perhaps people’s understandings of him change.Most of us were taught at an early age that: “The Bible is God’s Word”. Well, in a broad sense, this statement is okay – but it can cause problems if the reader interprets this to mean – every single word in the Bible comes from God. I do not support this position. In the Torah, the Mosaic Law says: “Thou shall not work on the Sabbath subject to the death penalty.” Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man – not man was made for the Sabbath”. It makes more sense to say: “The Bible contains God’s Word”. There are just too many passages written by priests, scribes, prophets and historians in the first century AD, that just do not ring true to the messages given to us by Jesus in the New Testament.

Adam Hamilton presents a strong case in explaining that “divine Inspiration” does not mean that God commanded or directed or even wrote any of the words of scripture. The word “inspiration” applied to scripture should be understood the same as “inspiration” received by pastors and Sunday school teachers in our modern world. They all pray for guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire their thoughts and biblical messages.

Some still think “inspiration” means that God composed the bible word for word. But the word “inspiration”, at least in English, is quite different in meaning from the words “composition or dictation”. “Inspiration”, at least in English, does not mean perfection.
Adam Hamilton said: “Just precisely how does inspiration work? We feel moved, provoked, aroused, stimulated, influenced, urged to do something. Paul may be saying: each biblical author was moved , provoked, roused, stimulated, influenced or urged to write. “

Here are further quotations from Adam Hamilton that have helped me understand “inspiration”: “Many Christians read the word “inspired” or “God breathed” in 2 Timothy 3:16 and immediately give a definition that Paul himself did not give. To them “God breathed” means something very close to “God dictated”. This doctrine is often referred to as verbal, plenary inspiration. Verbal, plenary inspiration is not taught in the Bible” ….. “Plenary” means – complete in every respect and absolute. “ It was a way of building a fence around the Bible and making it impossible to question it or any doctrine built around it” – says Hamilton.

Verbal, plenary inspiration and the doctrine of the inerrancy and infallibility of the bible go hand in hand” – Says Adam Hamilton. “This new foundation for the Christian faith, namely that Christianity is true because the Bible is infallible, inerrant, totally true and trust worthy, feels to me like a house of cards that can easily be brought down.” John Wesley gave us direction to make serious decisions or interpretations of scripture using a combination of; Tradition, Experience, Reason and Scripture.

The people who wrote the various books of the Bible shaped their views according to the times in which they lived and the limitations of their knowledge. To those of us who teach Bible, it involves reading, praying and interpreting scripture with the help of our faith, the experience of the Holy Spirit and the use of human reason. We are then able to view the bible, to hear God speaking through it, but to still understand that we may question certain things presented in scripture that may not represent God’s true character nor his will for our lives today. It seems fair to conclude that the words of the bible reflect in some places, the limitations, biases and interpretations of its human authors.

Hamilton tells us that God speaks to us in many ways other than the Bible:

  • Through the created world
  • The whisper in our hearts
  • Through human prophets, teachers, and preachers
  • Through friends and parents
  • Other written words – outside the Bible
  • Through music – both contemporary and classical
  • Through visions and dreams

Another outstanding quote from Hamilton’s book is:
“So the phrase “the Word of God” as it is used in the Bible is almost always a message from God, disclosed at times through angels, sometimes directly to the heart of the individual, sometimes through dreams and visions, often through preaching and teaching and at times through a whisper. The phrase is used to describe a message conveyed, most often, through human beings, but which is believed to express or reveal God and God’s will.”

“The bible is not an autobiography. You can read God’s actual words in many places, but you can also hear the human author’s reflections upon God and their attempts to put into words the nature, character and will of God” – says Rev. Hamilton.

When Biblical authors wrote, they did not enter into a trance like state in which God dictated the scriptures word for word. Paul wrote what was on his heart and mind. He did not claim to be speaking directly from God. He assumed the responsibility for his own sermons and writings. Luke or John, in their writings, did not claim that God told them what to say.

Many fine Christians hold strongly to a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. Adam Hamilton had the courage to state: “If by Biblical inerrancy we mean that “those truths that God wants humanity to know, are preserved without error in the Bible, I’m ready to sign on. But if by Biblical inerrancy we mean that the bible contains no errors, no logical inconsistencies, no facts that are not historically accurate, I’d have to say, no, the Bible is not inerrant.”

Some would argue: if there is an error anywhere in the Bible, how can we trust anything it says? The answer is simple – we are constantly trusting the words of people whom we have found to be trustworthy, even though none of them are inerrant or infallible.

He further said, “No pastor is infallible or inerrant. God knows this and chooses to use fallible people to do his work. God doesn’t make them infallible when they step into the pulpit, yet God works through them nonetheless. The divine inspiration of scripture was not God dictating the scriptures but God working in the hearts and minds of the biblical authors”.

It is important to remember that as we work to interpret scripture, we must not discount what is inconvenient or challenging simply because it is difficult. When we find something that is inconsistent with the way God reveals himself through Jesus Christ, we may legitimately ask questions. It is Jesus and his teachings that serve as the final Word by which other words are to be judged.
Adam Hamilton speaks eloquently about the story of beginnings. Genesis 1 is a majestic, beautiful and poetic. It is not a lesson in cosmology, it is a creed. It is not a science lecture – it is poetry. It makes a claim not about scientific knowledge but about truth and theology. As a creed, a hymn of praise to God, and a theological lesson about the ultimate nature of existence – yes – but as a scientific text – no. … It tells us what late Bronze and Iron Age people of the ancient Near East believed about the order of creation. When we treat this text as a scientific account, we miss the point, and we end up with bad science.

“I appreciate Darwin’s Theory of Evolution”, says Hamilton. “Evolution does not diminish God’s glory, as some Christians seem to believe. To me it magnifies God’s glory. Science teaches one kind of truth, and it is really important and wonderful. The Bible teaches another kind of truth – about the meaning of existence, the nature of God and what it means to be human.”

“Sometime, maybe as early as, 35,000 to 45,000 years ago, there was an upright, bi-pedal hominid that began to think in ways other hominids did not. The biblical language for what was taking place is that God breathed into these hominids the “breath of life”: and they became “living beings” – fully human and made in the image of God. The story of Adam and Eve, their temptations and mistakes, is the story of all of us. It is the story of the earliest modern humans and how God gave them a soul and of their initial choice of “free will” that lead them to act against the will of God.

And then we have the story of Noah and his ark. Did God destroy every animal and every human being on the earth –except Noah and his family on the ark about 4300 years ago? Hamilton says – “I don’t think so”. The story seems to be anchored in historical events that happened at the end of the last Ice Age when floods and volcanic eruptions were common. But is the story of Noah’s ark true? Well, literally – no – but in a theological sense – yes, it is absolutely true! Like the Creation story, this story teaches profound truths.

So in summary, from what we have learned, we can state without any doubt that:

  • The vast majority of scriptures reflect the timeless will of God for human beings.
  • There are other passages that reflect God’s will in a particular time but not for all time, including much of the ritual law of the Old Testament.
  • There are scriptural passages that reflect the culture and historical circumstances in which they were written but never reflected God’s timeless will, like those related to slavery.
  • The bible is not a theological textbook, a book of praise or an owner’s manual. It is a compilation of various types of literature, including short stories, poetry, wisdom sayings, prophetic warnings, gospels and letters written over the course of 1,400 years.
  • The words of Jesus are the words by which all other words should be interpreted and understood.
  • You are not dishonoring God by asking questions of scripture that seem inconsistent with modern scientific knowledge or geography or history.
  • You are not being unfaithful to God if you ask questions of a verse that seems inconsistent with the picture of God seen in life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • The Holy Spirit prompts and inspires you, but it does not dictate what you think, say or do.
  • You are not judging God by wrestling with the Bible, you are asking questions of the human authors of scripture.

This writing does not do full justice to this marvelous book: “Making Sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton. It has been a blessing in my life and I’m sure it would be the same for any open minded Christian.
W. F. (Bill) Peck

What are the Possible Reasons Why Some Christians Emphatically Defend the Literal Interpretation of Scriptures?

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  • They have been trained since childhood to believe that the “Bible is God’s Word” rather than the more modern and accurate statement “The Bible contains God’s Word”. How could any thinking Christian believe God directed or approved of all the heinous acts in the Old Testament? They may have occurred as acts of man, but my God did not will them to be done.
  • They fear that to question or to assign portions of the Bible (especially in the O.T.) to allegorical or metaphorical interpretations is discrediting the Bible.
  • They hold rigid literal interpretations of God’s Word and are not open to considering new scientific information.
  • They feel that fundamental traditions are more valid than new scholastic interpretations of scripture.
  • They may feel that it is a sin to not except the entire Bible as it is literally written.
  • They may think they are better Christians by  accepting the Bible as written which also allows them to not deal with current scientific knowledge that may be complex and difficult to understand.
  • There may be other reasons.

My research resources include fifty books written by: scientists, theologians, historians and even some who are both scientists and theologians plus numerous conversations with senior Methodist ministers and several professors of Christian theology.

 Bill Peck
 

How Did the Universe Begin?

Earth_Mars_ComparisonPurpose:  

Why would a retired,  civil engineer/management consultant and  Christian layman attempt to write about such a complex and controversial subject? Some may suggest that I’m trying to impress others. Well, maybe this is part of my motivation – but I think my reasons go much deeper. Here are my sincere reasons for attempting such a difficult writing:

  • My past technical education through Ga. Tech cultivated in me a drive and passion to research and attempt to understand issues related to the earth, evolution and God.
  • I have for decades sought to better understand the Bible and the deeper truths within scriptures.
  • I have a sense that our better understanding of God’s creation and how we can reconcile the Word with mountains of current scientific knowledge will bring us more inspiration and a stronger Christian faith. I have a natural inclination to teach – I love trying to help others.
  • Researching and forcing myself to commit to writing what I have studied helps me learn and remember.
  • I pray that all that I present to others through my writings and teachings will somehow be of value  but foremost that I am in tune with God’s will for my life.

The Beginning:

“The Christian Bible opens with these magnificent words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” …..  We who are of the Christian faith believe there was a beginning of the universe and then the creation of our planet earth. God was the creator of it all –  but how he developed and evolved the universe, stars and the earth has always been a controversial issue. The truth is even our best scientists do not have all of the answers. In ancient times many powerful thinkers such as Aristotle thought that the universe was eternal while others described “beginnings as “ex nihilo” – meaning “created from or out of nothing”. The Bible states, and the scientific community confirms, that there was a beginning. This writing is a layman’s summary and understanding of how the universal beginning can be explained scientifically.  Some of the terminology is beyond my clear understanding – so frequent quotations are given from several books written by renowned scientists – usually astrophysicists or exceptional  technical scholars. One of the most frequently quoted references is: “Big Bang” by Simon Singh. In some cases, I paraphrase their comments rather than a direct quote. 

Early Research:

Albert Einstein’s General Relativity theory in the early 1920’s established the framework and foundation for other scientists to develop research and build models of how the universe was formed. Early on, international scientists such as Alexander Friedman, a Russian mathematician and George Lamaitre, a Belgian priest and scientist envisioned that in the beginning all initial atoms were squeezed into a super compact state dubbed the primordial atom. “Thus the moment of creation occurred when this single all encompassing atom suddenly decayed generating all the matter in the universe.”

To Lamaitre, Einstein’s General Relativity model implied that the universe was expanding.  “If the universe was expanding, Lamaitre concluded that the universe must have started from a highly compact state, the so called primeval atom of small but finite size. To him, this was the moment of creation.” If we fast forward the tape to 2009, the best available measurements suggests that the initial conditions of creation occurred around 13.3 to 13.9 billion years ago and the universe continues to expand  to this day. These dates agree astonishingly  well with geological dating methods using radioactive isotopes.

Later Research:

Over the first half of the twentieth century, the world wide scientific community debated intensely regarding the best model explaining the universe’s beginning. In 1920 Harlow Shapley believed all nebulae  existed within the Milky Way galaxy while his adversary, Heber Curtis held that nebulae (now known as galaxies) were independent galaxies outside the Milky Way. You will recall that our planet earth resides in the Milky Way galaxy. The debate continued unresolved for  years. Evidence that multiple galaxies existed beyond the Milky Way would support an expanding universe.

One of the outstanding contributors to cosmic observations was Edwin Hubble. Using a 100 inch Hooker Telescope at the Mt. Wilson Observatory in California, Hubble discovered in 1929 that multiple galaxies were moving further away from the earth and thus the Milky Way. The great theoretical debate was now settled by direct observations. Further calculations based on telescopic observations concluded that the Milky Way was 100,000 light years distance  in diameter. Recall that a light year is the distance that light travels through space at 186,000 miles per second. Also, the nearest galaxy to our Milky Way, Andromeda, was 900,000 light years from the earth. These distances are mind boggling- almost beyond human comprehension. None of this research could have been possible without the invention of telescopes by Galileo and others many centuries earlier, and their improvement overtime. Today, our most modern telescopes have 200 inch focal lengths and super powerful lenses that reach out a million light years and more!

Another scientific debate pitted a “Steady State” model of the universe against the “Expanding Universe” model. For years many renowned scientists supported the Steady State model – including Einstein. Fred Hoyle, the scientist that labeled the  universe’s initial condition as the Big Bang, held tenaciously to the Steady State model – even after the vast majority of scientists changed their support to the Big Bang theory. After visiting with Edwin Hubble at the Mt. Wilson Observatory and reviewing Hubble’s observations, Albert Einstein finally recanted, admitting he had been wrong – the universe was expanding and the galaxies were receding.

There were still many unanswered questions regarding the universe’s initial elemental content. What was the chemical elements of cosmic space? When and how was solid matter formed? How were stars and planets formed? Scientists have known for a long time that the lighter elements of hydrogen and helium initially emerged into the universe. Research continued through the 1930’s by dedicated scientists such as Alpher, Gamow, joined later by Herman, revealed many new facts. They discovered that the initial atoms in the universe were distributed as follows:

Element Relative Abundance

Hydrogen 10,000

Helium   1,000

Oxygen 6

Carbon 1

All others       < 1

Alpher and his associates calculated that during the initial 300 seconds of the Big Bang, hydrogen and helium were injected into space as a primordial plasma. And according to their research, all other chemical elements were created out of this primordial fluid in the first hour of creation. They further calculated that a hydrogen/helium plasma cooled to become real atoms at 3000 C degrees. It would take about 300,000 years for the universe to cool to this temperature.

They further surmised that the tremendous explosive processes produced continuous and intensive light that must have flashed over the entire expanding universe. The universe was thought to be “isotropic” – meaning the universe looks the same in all directions. If these assumptions are true, there should be remnants of this early intensive light every where in the universe. Since they could not convince anyone to financially support further research to find the “echo” of this cosmic light, their work ceased and each scientist moved on to other  scientific endeavors.

Discovery of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation

There was little scientific interest in searching for this illusive “cosmic microwave background” radiation until Bell Labs. began to work for the military in the 1940’s  to create radar systems and methods of jamming German radio transmissions during WWII. They found that “radio waves”, like waves of visible light, are part of the electro-magnetic spectrum. However, radio waves are invisible and have wave lengths that are much longer than those of visible light. This new knowledge would later help solve the CMB mystery.

In 1963 Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson joined forces at the Bell Labs. and soon isolated a radio noise (similar to the static we hear on our radios) detected using a special telescope. “The echo from the Big Bang had transformed itself into radio waves  and was being detected as noise by Penzias and Wilson’s radio telescope.” These waves came from the radio spectrum known as microwaves. Thus the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation was identified and Penzias and Wilson would later receive a Nobel Prize for this significant discovery that further  confirmed the Big Bang model.

Measuring Cosmic Distances

In the 1940’s and 50’s other studies by Baade and Sandage involved measuring distances to remote galaxies. Distances to far-off galaxies were absolutely critical in estimating the age of the universe according to the Big Bang model. Through years of telescopic observations and complex calculations, it became eventually clear that the universe was 10 to 20 billion years old.

Unless one has a substantial background in physics and mathematics, it is difficult to understand how distances between the earth, the moon, the sun and millions of stars can be calculated. Cosmic distance measurements begin with the use of basic trigonometric triangulating, then an understanding of parallax and finally comparative analyses of the brightness of stars. Much of the math is beyond me, but I understand enough to know that astrophysicists  know what they are doing.

Creation of Chemical Elements:

Research by Arthur Eddington on nucleosynthesis brought about new discoveries of how chemical elements were initially formed in the universe. Nucleosynthesis  is a cosmic process whereby the production of a chemical element from  simpler nuclei occurs (as of hydrogen especially in a star). “The temperature of stars was estimated to be a few thousand degrees at the surface and a few million degrees at the core. Creating neon atoms would require a temperature of three billion degrees and creating heavier silicon atoms would require a temperature of thirteen billion degrees. It became apparent that each type of star could act as a crucible for creating several different elements because stellar interiors changed dramatically during the course of a stars life and death. Hoyle’s calculations could even account for the exact abundances of almost all elements that we see today, explaining why oxygen and iron are common, while gold and platinum are rare.” Many have said: “our physical bodies are truly products of the stars!”

The Origin of Solid Matter:

Students of physics learn that the basic building blocks of creation are:

  • Strong Nuclear Force: holds the protons and neutrons together in the nucleus of an atom
  • Weak Nuclear Force: responsible for radioactivity
  • Electromagnetic Force: interacts with electrically charged particles like electrons and quarks
  • Gravitational Force: every particle feels the force of gravity according to its mass or energy

The source of these forces in nature is still a mystery. They simply exist and drive the creation of the physical universe and hold the cosmic system, including the solar system in place. I’m sure God either created these forces or blessed their creation within his developing universe.

We have reported that the early universe consisted of a very uniform and bland plasma (soup). If so, how did this initial condition evolve into a universe populated by stars, planets and massive galaxies? While initially very uniform, cosmologists believed there would be sufficient variations in density in the cooling of the universe to trigger the evolution of solid matter. Without some evidence of slight variations in density, the forces of nature, particularly gravity, could not attract and pull particles together to form stars and later full galaxies. Such a proof was essential to further verifying the Big Bang model.

After 300,000 years scientists knew that the temperature of the universe had cooled sufficiently to allow electrons to slow down, latch onto the nuclei and form fully developed atoms. The physical presence of atoms leading to small changes in density should interrupt the reflection of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) in these denser areas. So the obvious place to look for fluctuations in density in the early universe would be to search the universe for variations in the CMB radiation. Extensive observations for many years found no variations.

In 1976 NASA joined the search launching measuring devices on board a U-2 high altitude jet. Within a few months Smoot (the project leader) and his colleges discovered variations in the CMB radiation. But more sensitive measuring instruments were needed. The research continued and in 1991 NASA launched a Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite (COBE).

In December 1991, after making 70 million measurements, a variation of 1 part in 100,000 in the CMB radiation was recorded. Even with this tiny variation scientists now knew that variations did exist!  They were just big enough to indicate density fluctuations in the early universe that were sufficient to seed the subsequent development of stars and thus galaxies. The COBE satellite had found evidence that roughly 300,000 years after the moment of creation, there were tiny density variations across the universe that would expand over time and ultimately result in the formation of all the galaxies we see today. These were the primordial seeds of modern day cosmic structures including our earth. At last the challenge to prove the Big Bang model was over!

Conclusions:

It is important to remember that this explanation of the history of  creation and the evolution of the universe is backed up with mountains of concrete evidence supported by the vast majority of the international scientific community.

The question always raised is: What existed before or initiated the Big Bang? What came before the Big Bang is impossible to answer. The Big Bang theory cannot and does not provide any explanation for such an initial condition, rather, it describes and explains the general evolution of the universe since that instant. Matter, time and space did not exist prior to the Big Bang event.   Only God existed prior to the Big Bang.

And Christians every where  should ask: What was God’s role in this complex and magnificent process? Surely, God was the Master Architect, setting the creation process in motion. We know God was involved and we praise him for releasing the forces leading to the creation of the universe and for breathing life into us all.

W.F. Peck

aka Bill