“I believe in God, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
Held in secret for over half a century, here is the confession of a true nerd: Reading the genetics section of the Biology 101 textbook, I came to the part about the discovery of the DNA molecular structure and I cried tears of joy. It was so beautiful, so intricate, so unexpected…and so perfect.
I know, it seems like a nutty response. Me, sitting in a corner of the Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota, sniffling over a textbook. That’s why I never mentioned it until now. But today maybe some of us should remember that the world around us is all those things–beautiful, intricate, unexpected, perfect–in a word, miraculous.
And this is important, why?
Because if you understand the world as miraculous, you understand yourself as a miracle, a creature of destiny and purpose. If you are content to limit your understanding of the universe to the description of the mechanical moving parts and deny the spiritual forces that created those moving parts, you will understand yourself as a random being in a purposeless universe. You may call yourself a scientist of sorts, but you will have given up the greatest purpose of science, which is to understand the miraculous. And you may have given up on your own destiny.
Our best science has always come from people seeking the truth about creation and, therefore, the truth about God. Copernicus, a Catholic scholar in the sixteenth century, is the scientist who demonstrated that the Earth revolved around the Sun, leading to our future understanding of our solar system, our place in the galaxy and our galaxy’s place in the universe. Georges LeMaître, another Catholic scholar, working in the twentieth century, was the first to formulate the theory he called “The Beginning of the World,” and what we now commonly call “The Big Bang Theory.” (Edwin Hubble confirmed his calculations two years later.) And in modern times we can look to Frances Collins, MD, PhD, who led the Human Genome Project and was director of the National Institute of Health from 2009 to 2021 (for a full review of his faith journey, read his book “The Language of God”).
The Bible, in Genesis 1:1, tells us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The phrase is so familiar that it is easy to skim over with a “Yeah, yeah. Everybody knows that. Let’s get to the good part.”. But the verse says two important things that are not givens. The first is that there is a beginning. A beginning to time and a beginning to space and a beginning to matter. Alternatively, some religions propose that time is circular, that we are on a “wheel of time.” Other religions skip a true origin of time and space, apparently making an assumption that these things have always been around, then go on to start on origin story with the creatures or gods that populate the earth. This verse clearly says there is a beginning.
The second thing this verse says is “God created…”
Compare this first verse of the Bible with what creation science tells us. The Big Bang Theory proposes that time and space and matter indeed had a very specific beginning, and a power beyond our comprehension brought an ordered universe into being out of nothing. Because Science tells us about the How, never about the Why. Science describes what the power beyond our comprehension did, but doesn’t call that power God. The Bible doesn’t have to limit itself to description; it can go on to the Why, to the Truth.
Then galaxies formed, our own Milky Way formed, our own earth formed. The first verse of Genesis doesn’t give a timeline, but our best scientific guesses are that the “Big Bang” occurred fourteen-and-a-half-billion years ago. After the Big Bang, say about a billion years or so, galaxies like our Milky Way started to form. After another eight-and-a-half billion years, our own Sun took shape. Another three billion years later, the Earth was formed. That would be about four and a half billion years ago. The Biblical first day had not yet occurred.
Then Genesis 1:2 tells us that “Now the Earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Creation science describes the primordial Earth less poetically, but only a little imagination is required to envision the same thing Genesis 1:2 describes. Our atmosphere was primarily water in the form of steam and the surface was an ocean of liquid magma (molten rock), e.g. “darkness over the surface of the deep.”
Genesis 1:3 tells us “God said, ‘let there be light,’ and there was light.” Science tells us that the earth cooled, the steam atmosphere condensed to water and clouds and sunshine reached the surface. In other words, there was light.
Genesis 1:4 tells us “God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” Science tells us that the Earth rotated, perhaps at the same rate that it does today, perhaps not, but clearly in a rotating pattern of light and darkness. This is not true of our moon and not true for all planets; it is true specifically for Earth.
Genesis 1:5 tells us that “God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” From this point on we can argue what the term “day” might have meant in prehistory. Is a day a prescribed twenty-four hour period? Was it a single rotation of our planet, and if so, did our planet rotate at the same interval a billion years ago as it does now? Or is a day a metaphor for an era or an eon?
I personally don’t feel the need to argue about the definition of day in this context. But what is inarguable is the sequence of events described in Genesis 1:1-27. The waters separate from land, vegetation appears, the sun and the moon and the stars become visible, sea creatures populate the oceans, then birds appear, then land animals, and then lastly, man.
And this fact is in itself amazing: that our most ancient record of our creation in the Book of Genesis outlines exactly the sequence of events that modern science confirms, the same separation of waters and land, vegetation, then sea creatures, then birds, then land animals and then, at last, homo sapiens, mankind. In other words, science confirms what the Book of Genesis has already told us.
I like to imagine God the Father conveying a vision of His creation to an individual or group of individuals before they had the mathematics and the telescopes and the language to figure it out for themselves. Because it was important. Because each individual was created in the image of God with purpose and destiny, and they should know that first. And if God wanted to convey a vision of His creation that looks like modern creation science has envisioned, it would look a lot like the first chapter of Genesis.
There is more, of course. I want to rant on about the creation of life on earth, abiogenesis, the miraculous transformation of primordial elements in prehistoric Earth coming together to form proteins and nucleic acids and cell walls and mitochondria—something about as likely as putting chunks of aluminum, copper, plastic and silicon in a bag, zapping it with a bolt of lightening and expecting a MacBook to appear.
I want to rant about evolution, the miraculous continuing creation of life in its various forms, the miracle of DNA and the miracle of every single species created.
I want to rant about the limits of physics, dark matter and dark energy, the unknown other end of the universe that will always remain unknown, the huge question of the Higgs field that all matter must pass though to gain mass and the mystery of what lies beyond the Higgs field.
But I’ve ranted enough. Those are knowledge-based arguments. Creation is also a personal thing, an experienced thing.
I haven’t gotten too emotional about molecular structures lately, but I have been awestruck by quiet, northern lakes at dusk, raging ocean waves on the edge of hurricanes, and the sky on a clear, moonless night in the wilderness. These are mysteries and miracles. They strike me with awe. If I ponder them for a moment, I am driven to humility. I am a speck made up of billions of delicate and intricately designed molecules. I am able to be conscious of a universe that is huge and beautiful. I believe in the creator of heaven and earth.