Make no mistake, God created the cosmos, and every cubic inch of it is under his control. The Scriptures say so, and, according to the same, nature itself says so. So, why are so many evangelicals reluctant to dialogue about, say, Big Bang/inflation theories and discoveries said to support them? Case in point—the once-hypothesized gravitational waves found and measured as a remnant of the Big Bang’s aftermath, announced March 17.
The usual approach is this: Never associate a given scientific theory with what the Bible says about origins. OK, but couldn’t the inverse be true as well? Never disavow the possibility of arriving at a model of cosmic origins that integrates the once-disparate perspectives of faith and science. This seems better to me.
Considering this, here are five things—cautionary in nature—evangelicals shouldn’t say or do in response to what the natural sciences tell us about the universe and its beginning.
First, Christians differ over whether the six creation days of Genesis 1 designate consecutive 24-hour periods. For every evangelical scholar who says they do, there’s another who says they don’t. This debate likely never will result in a clear winner. Fellow believers should be able to disagree without fear of reprisal.
Second, don’t fall prey to the notion unbelieving scientists as a whole are out to destroy our beliefs about God and creation. Some Christians claim, “Those guys distort the data from their observations on purpose so that their anti-God worldview can keep an intelligently designed universe out of the picture!” This simply isn’t the case. Some are guilty of this and then write a bestseller! But most scientists don’t carry out their life’s passion with such fanfare and lack of integrity. It’s a fallacy to say what’s true of some particular part is true of the whole. If they’re all out to get us, it’s a conspiracy of huge proportions. Most don’t care.
The doctrine of common grace
Third, few evangelicals understand the doctrine of common grace or attempt to discern how it works. God gifts all people, whether or not they come to acknowledge the source. It was no accident Albert Einstein, not a Christian believer, came along to unveil for us the theories of special and general relativity, both now so empirically verified they can’t be disputed.
Through common grace applied to math and science, God raised up Einstein for this purpose. So, it’s not too farfetched to consider that God now is revealing the “how” of cosmic origins to us, albeit via an unbelieving majority. If it involves Big Bang/inflation theories, then so be it! There had to be a means, and God is glorified nonetheless. Evangelicals shouldn’t be hasty to ignore such possibilities, even in light of solid biblical interpretation.
Fourth, evangelicals never should belittle or vilify the uniqueness of the relationship between general and special revelation. They’re different yet meant to work in tandem. Each “book” reveals truths about God and his purposes for creation. But here’s the rub: Christians don’t come with a money-back “truth” guarantee: “You are born again, a loved one, so that makes you 100 percent right about everything!” Instead, believers often misinterpret their Bibles and the world too.
Special and general revelation
Same deal—unbelievers misinterpret the Bible and the world to boot. But each group gets a lot right! It boils down to special revelation partnering with general revelation to get to the truth of matters, the hermeneutics of the Bible and of nature. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2).
Fifth, evangelicals never should fail to distinguish between cosmic development and biological evolution. Many Christians rightly reject naturalistic and theistic evolution to explain the existence of life. But regarding a nonsentient universe, the evidence points to cosmic development with a special biological creation of a recent Adam and Eve much later. Perhaps Genesis 1:1 is a summary statement into which all of cosmology and deep time can be inserted.
To illustrate, a baby is birthed in nine months and grows up over time by natural processes. Similarly, a universe is birthed by a supernatural Big Bang/inflationary start and gets configured into its present form over eons of time, also by natural processes.
With God outside of space-time, he wasn’t just sitting on his throne for billions of years until it was “time” to create Adam and Eve. Rather, he’s so beyond us, that what seems incomprehensible to us mortals—billions of years going by—was just status quo for him, so unaffected by the passage of moments. Could God get any bigger, any more boundless? Vast time seems to illustrate his infinity for all to see.
A talk whose time has come
If evidence for the Big Bang/inflation model should continue to accumulate, evangelicals don’t wish to show up D.O.A. at the next great conversation about “In the beginning ….” It’s a talk whose time has come, and we don’t want to be embarrassed if the facts, correctly interpreted, tell us to adjust our thinking about what we’ve previously accepted, but we fail to do so. (Think Galileo!)
Either way, God still is the author of all truth.
Hal Ostrander is adjunct professor of religion and philosophy at Wayland Baptist University in San Antonio, Texas.