Intersections: Where Science Meets Scripture – sermon on Genesis 1:1-5, 27 – 2:22

We’re in the middle of a series of sermons based on topics you have
requested, as we look at places where faith intersects with life. We started off learning how to wrestle with God. When God shows up in
your life, confronting you with your past, preparing you for your future,
the only option for your present is to grab hold of God and hang on. We
also learned that, any time you wrestle with the living God, you will be
changed, and God will bless those who engage in the struggle.

Last week, we looked at the intersection of faith with doubt. We
considered the possibility that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but  certainty, because if we insist on being certain, we don’t really need faith.
Doubt keeps faith alive and active. When Jesus asks us, “Why did you  doubt?” it’s an invitation to examine why we choose to believe.

Next week, we will examine how we can be faithful Christians who are ‘in
the world, but not of the world,’ and at the same time, connect with
people who need to know Jesus, but who see Christians as hypocrites or
snobs.

But this week, we get to tackle a topic that might be the most
controversial of all: how do we reconcile the biblical accounts of creation
with a scientific understanding of how the world came to be? Are science
and scripture mutually exclusive? Can you be a good Christian and still  accept that the earth is billions of years old, as scientists claim?

Everything we’ve learned so far about wrestling with God and embracing
our doubts will help us as we navigate this complex question. The
psalmist got it right when he wrote Psalm 19, which we used as our call to
worship . That psalm begins with, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
And it ends with this prayer: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and
my redeemer.” With that prayer in mind, let’s dig in. The book’s name, Genesis,
means “beginning” – so let’s start there:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the
earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep,
while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw
that the light was good; and God separated the light from the  darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.  And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. … 

God continues creating for six days. God makes plants, fish, birds, and
animals. The story continues in verse 27.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our
likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over
the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of
the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he
created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and
fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves
upon the earth.” 

God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon
the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall
have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird
of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that
has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”  

And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it
was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. 

Now, I am not a scientist, but I have a healthy appreciation for scientific
method, because I am, at heart, a learner. Is science a valid pursuit for
faithful people? Some might ask, “If God didn’t want us to ask questions,
why did he give us curiosity and the ability to reason?”

Doesn’t it make sense that the God who made us in his own image might
want us to think in the same creative ways God thinks? Doesn’t it stand to
reason that the God of wonders might encourage us to wonder? Could it
be possible that science is one way for God’s purpose to be made known
to us?

• Science teaches us to ask disciplined questions, to follow methodical
steps in order to arrive at a verifiable conclusion.

It’s a way for us to recognize that we don’t know everything, that, as
the Apostle Paul wrote, we see “through a glass dimly;” that now we
only know in part, but one day we will know fully, even as we are fully
known. (1 Cor 13:12).

• It’s a way for God to reveal himself through the natural world.

• Science can be a means to discover God, and experience awe.

But there’s another aspect to engaging in scientific inquiry for us
Christians. As we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, we have a responsibility to impact culture,
instead of letting it influence us. But when we deny the discoveries of
science, the world questions our validity in spiritual matters as well.
We have to engage in science if we are to connect with the world Christ
died to save. The trap into which we can easily fall, however, is trying to
squeeze science into the Bible, or trying to squeeze the Bible into science.
The Bible is not, and was never intended to be, a science textbook; it is
God’s revelation of himself and his desire to be in relationship with us.
Biblical truth is all about that relationship, so this is where we need to
focus our attention as we examine the story of Creation.

Is the Bible true? It’s a fair question.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “Indeed, the word of God is living and active,
sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from
spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions
of the heart.”

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he writes, “All scripture is inspired by
God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training
in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient,
equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In other words, the purpose of scripture is to train us for righteousness,
to judge the intentions of our hearts. The Bible is less concerned with
measuring dead facts, and more concerned with establishing living truth.
The question science asks of faith is, “Is the Bible true?” The question the
Bible asks of science is, “Are you paying attention to what really matters?”
As we dive into the discussion, we find that there is no “science versus
scripture” in this conversation. Science and scripture teach us different
things, and one informs a fuller understanding of the other.

So, as we look at the first chapter of Genesis, science offers some
questions for consideration:

Where did the water come from? We’ll look at a second account of
creation in a moment, but neither account has God actually creating
water. He separates it, but it’s already in the picture when he starts
moving over it. How do we explain that?

How do we explain the existence of light and dark, day and night, before
the Sun was created? For that matter, how do we explain the creation of
earth before the creation of the Sun and other heavenly bodies?

Why do the two stories in Genesis follow different patterns for the created
order? Which one fits more closely with a scientific understanding of the
order of creation, and what is the purpose behind the other version?  These are great questions, with deep theological implications.

Let’s look at the order of creation described in Genesis 1:

• “On day one God created light and darkness (vv.3-5)

• On day two God created an atmosphere (vv. 6-8)

• On day three God created dry land and plant life (vv.9-13)

• On day four God created the sun, moon, and stars (vv. 14-19)

• On day five God created the fish in the sea and the birds in the air
(vv. 20-23)

• On day six God created all other animals and, lastly, human beings
(vv. 24-31)

• On day seven God rested from his labor (2:1-3) (Adam Hamilton, Making Sense of the Bible, 188-189.)

Maybe this reflects what was known about the natural world in ancient
times. It certainly tells us that primitive life forms were created before
more complex came to be. But it raises some questions.

To make matters even more confusing, let’s look at the second account of
creation given in Genesis, chapter 2. You might want to open a pew Bible
to the second chapter of Genesis and keep it open in front of you, as we
put Genesis 2 side by side with Genesis 1:

In Genesis two, God creates the heavens and the earth all in one day.
(vv. 4-6)

Then God creates the man, Adam, who isn’t named in Genesis 1, by the
way, nor are any of the animals. (v. 7)

Then God plants the garden, including the Tree of the Knowledge of Good
and Evil. (vv. 8-9)

There is a description of rivers in verses 10-15, but again, the water
appears to already be present on the earth. In verses 16-17, God warns
Adam to avoid the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, so that he will not die.

Then God creates land animals and birds, to find a partner for Adam.
(vv. 18-20) There are no fish or sea creatures in the Genesis two version.

Finally, having found no acceptable companion for Adam among all the
other created beings, God makes Woman out of Adam’s rib. (vv. 21-22)
Eve is given a name that means “Life” or “bearer of life.” There is no  mention of humans being made in God’s image. And there is also no
indication that God rests after finishing his work.

So why are these two accounts so different? And how do we reconcile
those differences with what science has begun to show us about the way
God created the universe? This is extremely important for us, as people of
faith, to understand. Because as we bear witness to what we believe to be
true as found in God’s Word, we need to be able to explain to non-
believers how we have reached our conclusions.

First, as I mentioned before, we need to be careful to look at scripture as
scripture, not as a science textbook. Scripture reveals God to us, in the
way God wants to be revealed. The two stories of creation have very
different purposes in this revelation process.
The first describes a creative, loving God who draws order out of chaos.

There is balance in this created order. The poetry of Genesis 1 draws us
into the story with its repetition of the refrain, “and God saw that it was
good.” We begin to see that we are part of this planned order, and
God’s intention is for our good. People are meant to reflect God’s own
image.

Genesis 2, on the other hand, tells the story of human brokenness the
power of temptation, and the imbalance to created order that happens
when we choose to step out of God’s plan for us. It talks about the
relationship God intended to have with created things and people, and
how that relationship was disrupted by the desire for what is forbidden.

Its style is not poetic, there is no symmetry or balance in the elements of
creation. In fact, some details are skipped over entirely, while others
seem to be out of place. This isn’t an accident. And it isn’t intended as
a science lesson, either. Both Genesis 1 and 2 tell the same story, but
from different perspectives. One gives us God’s intention, while the other
shows how human beings broke the perfect world God planned.

When we understand this, it suddenly doesn’t matter that Genesis 2
leaves out fish and sea creatures, and it doesn’t matter that water seems
to exist before God even begins to create. The water that was from the
beginning is the same water that flowed over the world to destroy it in
Noah’s time, and the same water that Jesus entered as he was baptized in
the Jordan River.
It is the water we drink and use to wash our clothes.

It is the same living water that Jesus offered to the Samaritan woman at
the well. This water is more than a collection of hydrogen and oxygen
molecules. The same eternal water that God separated from land at the beginning of creation, is “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the
street of the city” of God at the end of time. (Revelation 22:1-2)

When we understand this, we begin to see that the story of creation is the
story of how God loves us. Adam Hamilton writes, “In this story and
God’s care for and response to Adam and Eve, we find God’s care for and
response to us when we turn from him. … God looks at us with
compassion and love. God warns us against things that will bring us pain
and shame. When we inevitably succumb to temptation, there are
consequences. Yet despite the alienation and pain that results from sin,
God continues to care for us just as God did for Adam and Eve” (Hamilton, 194).

Genesis 1 and 2 teach foundational truths about our humanness, but
more importantly, they teach us about the character of God. “These
lessons are not in conflict with science. They are the deeper truths about
the nature of the universe and our place in it.” (Ibid.)

God made the universe, and everything in it, to be in loving relationship.
That includes you. It includes me. Psalm 139:14 reminds us that we are
fearfully and wonderfully made. The question is not about reconciling
science with the biblical accounts of creation. The question is simply this:
will you be reconciled to God?

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