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What does the Bible say about the Big Bang theory? 

In some pockets of the world, Christianity, and more specifically, Christians, have the reputation of being anti-intellectual, at least to some. Because to some people, holding to the claim that God created the earth and everything that exists in six literal 24-hour solar days is a contradiction of modern scientific evidence, and it flies in the face of all of the available evidence, at least to them, so this is an anti-intellectual claim. To such a person, they believe that you have to turn your brain off in order to be a Christian. 

Now in principle, we can demonstrate that the Bible, and the New Testament especially, does not have this idea of needing to not see evidence in order to believe. In fact, John’s whole gospel is written so that we might know, and in knowing come to believe or trust in the son of God, Jesus. Numerous other times in the New Testament we have examples of Paul making a case and wanting people to know, to understand, to reason through things, to use the mind in order to come to faith or trust in Christ. 

The standard set by the New Testament isn’t anti-intellectual, but to some people the young earth claim of six literal 24-hour days is an anti-intellectual claim. Now that isn’t a reason to reject it. Just because it flies in the face of science, that doesn’t make it not true. However, we’re left with the question: What does the Bible say about the Big Bang theory: the idea that something like 13.8 billion years ago everything came into existence, that it started out very dense, very small, very hot and rapidly expanded, and that it’s still expanding today? The universe had a beginning. That is what the Big Bang theory points to, that all matter came into existence at a point in time in the finite past.

Now what does the Bible have to say about this, you may ask. Well, not much. I also don’t think the Bible says much at all about a young earth either. I’ve written about this before: http://brianseagraves.com/blog/context-the-often-forgotten-consideration-when-reading-genesis-1 Here’s the highlight. Genesis, the first book in the Bible, starts with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Some people have read this like it’s a summary or like a chapter title of what’s to come. Then the book goes on to describe the actual creation of the heavens and the earth. 

However, better scholarship points to a different conclusion, that this is its own distinct event, that God creating the heavens and the earth is literally how the Hebrews would have considered God creating the universe. For when they spoke of the universe, they used the term heavens and earth. In other words, everything that exists, things under our feet and things above. The first verse in the Bible starts with “God created the heavens and the earth.” Then we focus in on that creation, specifically on earth. It says, “And now the earth was formless and void.” 

What amount of time could have passed in that gap there between the creation of everything and zooming in to focus on each, in what we might call special creation on earth? Who knows how long that time gap could have been. But I don’t think there’s any good biblical reason to reject what science says about the age of the universe. God could have created the earth and everything on it in six literal days, and the universe be 13.8 billion years old. Even everything on earth could have been created 6,000 years ago and the universe could still be 13.8 billion years old. Now you may ask why such a long gap in between creating the universe and earth. But what is time to a God who has always existed? What are a few or multiple billions of years? They’re nothing; a blip on the radar. 

Just because there’s a large amount of time, or at least a large amount of time to us, between what could possibly be the beginning of the universe and the creation on earth, this shouldn’t make us reject the idea. Since Genesis 1:1 is its own event — the creation of the universe — we don’t have to reject the idea that the universe is billions of years old. 

People want to say that the Bible is our only source of authority and knowledge. However, It should be our primary source of authority, but Christianity has never regarded it as the only authority. In the same way, Christianity has never regarded scripture as the only source of knowledge. 

Paul speaks of natural revelation in Romans 1, that through creation we can know that there is a God. The Psalms speaks of the heavens testifying to the handiwork of God. We can know about things from natural revelation, from outside of the Bible. Because all truth is God’s truth. The truth we come to learn from the natural world is no less true than what we read in scripture. 

Now, we are left with how do we reconcile potential differences between the natural world and what the Bible says. Here’s the point. If all truth is God’s truth and the Bible is God’s inspired and infallible word to us, then the book of God’s words – the Bible – is not going to contradict the book of God’s works. In other words, nature, what God did, what God has created. We should always be seeking to harmonize scripture and our understanding of the world. Now sometimes scripture is going to correct our understanding of the world. It’s going to say no, this scientific conclusion cannot be true because of what we have clear evidence for in scripture. 

Other times, what we come to understand about the universe, God’s universe, through God’s creation, using the gift of reason God has given us, will help us better understand what is meant in scripture. In principle we do this in a variety of ways. For example, we come to better understand the Ancient Greek language. This helps us better understand scripture. In the same way, as we come to better understand the universe, we can actually see that it’s possible the universe is billions of years old.

 But,  there is something that the Bible tells us is strictly important, and we should never reject through anything a scientist may tell us. That is that God did the creating. There’s disagreement from reading scripture and taking Genesis 1 seriously as to the age of the earth. Maybe we’ll get into this later in more detail. However, it does start out in the very first book, in the very first chapter saying, “God created the heavens and the earth.” That leaves no room for uncaused causes. It leaves no room for evolution or creation by chance, for such a thing is a contradiction in terms. It doesn’t leave room for that. Scripture is exceedingly clear on God doing the work, God taking credit for creation, and creating to his glory alone. When we try and redefine that in terms of some naturalistic, unguided, random process that had no cause for no reason, we deprive God of the glory due his name, for creation testifies to the majesty and power and glory and splendor of God. 

One thing we must be very clear on, God did the work of creation. If the Big Bang did happen, which I think is the most reasonable understanding of all of the evidence both biblical and scientific, well then what does that mean? That means the universe had a beginning, which means the universe had a cause. The Big Bang theory doesn’t actually make sense without God. Now I’m not just trying to plug got into a gap in science, but scientists have said before that the universe came into existence from nothing, with no cause, and from nothing, and for no purpose. 

Now how does any of that make sense? Something coming from nothing without a cause? That’s just ridiculous, honestly. Now what makes more sense? That there was a cause for the universe. In a previous episode we’ve talked about an argument for God’s existence, the cosmological argument. It’s very simple. I’m going to leave you with this thought today, an example of how the Big Bang theory actually supports an argument for the existence of God. Here’s how this argument, very simple argument, goes. 

1. Everything that begins to exist must have a cause. 2. The universe began to exist. (Scientific evidence and philosophical evidence all point to this. In conclusion, the argument would say:) 3. the universe had a cause. Now the universe can’t have caused itself. Things don’t cause themselves. Parents don’t give birth to themselves. Knocks don’t knock themselves on the door. Rhinoceroses don’t appear out of nothing. Everything that begins to exist has a cause, and that cause cannot be itself. That cause must be outside of itself. 

What we understand when we look at the natural world is the universe, the Big Bang, must have had a cause, or as Greg Koukl likes to say, “a Big Bang needs a big banger.” It needs someone to set it off. The most reasonable explanation for that is God. This is exactly what we find in Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” I hope that’s something to think about that maybe helps you in conversation as you’re trying to maybe do a couple of things: put together what you see in science and what you see in scripture, and also use science to support a premise for God’s existence using the cosmological argument. I’ll talk to you next week on Unapologetic. 

4 thoughts on “Episode 38 – Is the Big Bang Theory Compatible with the Bible?

  1. Brian, EXCELLENT MESSAGE!
    Allow me, if I may, to suggest additional support for what you’ve said. First, Heb 11:3 (NIV) "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." That is another was of describing "The Big Bang". However, the Big Bang is a misnomer because it sounds like an explosion, and explosions don’t create things, they destroy things. The Big Bang was an incredibly well organized expansion from an invisibly small point, not an explosion. (How the entire universe could come out of such a point is another one of God’s miracles, as best I can tell!)
    Seondly, my denomination, Anglican, and some others adhere doctrinally to a 2 book description of God’s Works: book 1 is God’s General Revelation, i.e. the universe and all that’s in it, book 2 is God’s Special Revelation, i.e. the Bible. Both are fully trustworthy and cannot contradict each other because God is NOT a liar!
    Thirdly, scientific evidence about the universe, when properly understood and trusted, does not support biological evolution (the universe evolves, but only as created by God and causes it to by the operation of the natural laws He created). Nor does the scientific or Biblical evidence support a 6-24 hr day interpretation of Ge. 1.
    For mountains of evidence supporting what I’ve said above, go to http://www.reasons.org. That’s the website for Reasons To Believe, an organization dedicated to showing that the Bible and the universe are in complete agreement on things they "speak" about.
    Your brother in Christ,
    Ken Klos

    1. Hi Ken,

      Thank you for the feedback! I actually agree with everything you said! I too find the Hebrews 11 passage quite interesting (and helpful) when considering this topic. I’m sure we’ll get into the other topics (and this one in more depth) as the podcast progresses.

      I appreciate you listening and weighing in; don’t be a stranger! 🙂

      Brian

  2. Okay, just shooting from the hip here. Please bear with me…

    1.) What does God being timeless have to do with the age of the universe? Are you saying that God created ex-nihilo all the matter in the universe and then chilled out for billions of years? (I don’t mean to sound snarky here. I’m being serious.) And are you saying that Genesis is literal and that God created exactly as stated roughly 6,000 years ago—and that just space and matter existed before that?
    2.) What about sin bringing pain, suffering, disease and death into the world?
    3.) If all of creation groans and is decaying because of sin—what about all the destruction we see in deep space that supposedly took place billions or at least millions of years ago?
    4.) Shouldn’t we be careful when using the term ‘big bang’? What do you mean when you use it? Because nothing about the big bang theory comports with biblical creation… as far as the order of events goes. Do you mean just… ‘beginning’?
    5.) Don’t they try to determine the age of the universe by the matter in the universe? (How could you ever date empty space?) But if the Sun, moon and stars weren’t created until day 4…
    6.) If God is non-arbitrary, what reason can we think of—could there possibly be for God to create all the space and matter (space and matter require time in which to exist) billions of years in advance… and then stop for billions of years?
    7.) Is it possible that scientists have gotten the science wrong (as has happened so many times before) and that Genesis is literally true and day means day and the universe is only 1,000s of years old? Is that impossible?
    8.) Why does the age of the universe matter to the secular world? Why does it matter to anyone? And isn’t it true that many of the evolutionists interpreted the evidence and formulated their arguments about age biased on the theories need for long ages?
    9.) I’ve seen several debates where some great Christian minds like Lennox, Craig, and others have debated atheists—and it seems the atheists always gets a gleam in his eye when they see the Christians willingness to compromise on a straight-forward reading of Genesis.
    10.) What about all the evidence that doesn’t comport with an old earth view?
    11.) Finally, if Genesis isn’t to be taken literally, what is the method by which we determine which parts of Genesis are literal and which aren’t?

    I’m sorry, there are just a few of the questions I’m always asking and I just haven’t found the explanations that I’ve been given to be very compelling.

    Is the billions of years view a matter of empirical science or must the evidence be interpreted by scientists? Until I have an empirically verifiable reason—I’m going with a literal reading and accepting Genesis as written as literal history and an age that is consistent with biblical geneology.

    1. Hi Jesse,

      I apologize for the delay in getting back with you! While I have much longer and complete answers than I’m able to provide right here, I am going to try to respond to your questions, and at least give your some ideas to think about. 🙂

      1A. I don’t think God is timeless (now). My point was that we shouldn’t reject the idea of progressive creation, where some stages have billions of years between them, just because that seems like a long time. It isn’t a long time for an eternal being. 1B. I think Genesis conveys truth that is literally true, but does it in a non-literal way. Not all of scripture is literal, and we misunderstand some parts of it when we read it literally when the original intent wasn’t literal. (I hate to say this, but my book spends a fair amount of time on why I think it’s non-literal. I’ll try to cover it in more depth on a podcast soon too! 🙂 )

      1. The only contexts that is used in reference human death, and as such animal death before the fall (which I do believe to be a literal event) is not what scripture is talking about. God clearly designed some animals to eat other animals in order to survive.

      2. Can you provide some more detail on what you’re referring to, just so we’re on the same page?

      3. I mean "big bang" in the way that it is commonly used in the modern scientific community, as I explained in the episode. I do believe that the universe came into existence > 13 Billon years through the event commonly (and unfortunately) call the "big bang". If you’re right and genesis is meant to be read literally, that still doesn’t rule out the big bang as an event. It could well be what is described in Genesis 1:1 – The creation ex nihilo of everything. It doesn’t commit us to believing in evolution. Why doesn’t the big bang fit with biblical creation?

      4. There are a few ways, 1 is via the size of the universe, which is expanding.

      5. See answer 1. I don’t think any argument based on the length of time something takes to be persuasive here. Time, in principle, doesn’t matter to him For example, He took thousands of years to work together his plan of redemption – that’s not exactly quick, especially with humans in view.

      6. Not impossible, but much less likely. To be clear, I don’t reject the literal reading of Genesis because of science, I actually think it’s the wrong way to read the text on its own: Why should we think that the very first thing God communicates to his people after their Egyptian captivity is how he created the universe, instead of that he (and not the egyptian gods) created it?

      7. Well, it seems to matter to you! 🙂 (said nicely) I think it’s because we live our lives analyzing evidence and coming to conclusions, and this process works very well. So, when that process consistently tells us something that contradicts an understanding of scripture, then we appear to have a contradiction between the book of God’s words and works, which needs to be resolved.

      8. It’s only a compromise if the literal reading is right. When Jesus said he was a door, does that mean he had hinges? The Bible doesn’t only contain literal, propositional truth statements. (1B)

      9. I feel like we’re collapsing the conversation some. There are multiple ages to consider: Universe, earth, earth feature, life (which could have multiple sub ages). There certainly is evidence for the young earth position, but the issue comes down to which side has the weight of compelling evidence.

      10. That’s a great question, and the answer is involved. We need to look at the genre, and context (which will/can include non-biblical writings of the day), and consider how it fits with the natural world too. In a single Gospel, there are non-literal parts (Jesus being a door) and literal parts (born of a virgin). We must apply standard and consistent interpretative principles to come to conclusions. Also, it’s worth while to survey historical Christian though to see how something was understood through history. And the old-earth view is not a new view. Why do you believe Genesis 1’s ordering of events of Genesis 2’s?

      I appreciate the opportunity to interact on this issues, and I do apologize for the brevity!

      Brian

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