Those of us who are prepared to accept God's declarations as final and authoritative will have no quarrel with this statement, for if He has said so it is sufficient for us. Yet it is both desirable and instructive that we should seek out the relationship between God's declarations and those scientific facts which can be proven and established.
It can be demonstrated that the Scriptures are never out of harmony with any established scientific fact, and that all the theories of science which contradict or deny the Scriptures cannot be proved. Though there may be bodies of opinion which incline favorably to the latter, there are always equally weighty opponents which refuse to accept them.
Until we have a more reliable translation of the Hebrew Scriptures it is impossible to say what were the real terms used by Inspiration in regard to this theme--for the Authorized Version is a rather unsafe footing upon which to proceed. Fortunately, we have an accurate translation of the Greek Scriptures, and though our thoughts on this theme must be regarded as tentative rather than dogmatic, there are indications which assist us to form a logical relationship between God's declarations and certain facts which have been ascertained with regard to this universe.
There is a prevalent idea that faith involves the unquestioned acceptance of creedal dogmas, and any attempt to prove that true faith is logical and rational is frowned upon as unnecessary; nevertheless this is a universe of law and order, and it is presumable therefore that the Divine revelation will conform to the same design, and will be found to make no demands upon credulity, but will give the same satisfaction to the mental powers of man as it does to the spiritual faculties.
The danger is that we so often approach these problems from the wrong end by seeking to find confirmation of the philosophical guesses of men in the inspired Word, whereas the true method is to take God's declaration as the basis, and then to see how far the findings of science are in harmony with it.
I repeat that everything that man can definitely prove will be found to be scripturally acceptable, and where his theories appear to deny Scripture his proof is always lacking. Where the Scriptures are silent we cannot know if human philosophy is right or wrong with any certainty, yet to those who are spiritually mature it will be apparent if the general trend of any scientific theory is contrary to or in harmony with what we know of God's working.
It is important that we should learn all we can of what God tells us regarding creation, for our conception of the divine purpose in its inception will influence our thoughts concerning its consummation, and if we have wrong assumptions in regard to the foundation, the edifice erected thereon cannot be other than insecure. There are practically no doctrines of Scripture our understanding of which will not be either clarified or obscured by the nature of our views on creation.
It is not possible to enquire as to how creation came about, for it is beyond the scope of our limited finite minds to comprehend the Infinite. The question which we seek to answer is, What constitutes creation, of what does it consist?
The answer given in our Authorized Version in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews will not assist us:
"By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (11:3),for a concordant translation would render these words as follows:
"By faith we are apprehending the eons to have been readjusted to a declaration of God, so that what is being observed has not come out of what is apparent" (CV).This passage is not referring to creation at all, but to time, which has been readjusted to allow for the present economy to intervene between the promises made to the fathers, and their fulfillment.
But it is largely upon this passage that the philosophical- religious doctrine of creation out of nothing is based, a doctrine which has been readily subscribed to by religious people in the past, and which is so absolutely unacceptable to science.
We ask ourselves if there is anything in the Scriptures which will confirm this widely held doctrine? Many believers will, when asked, readily affirm that God made the world out of nothing, but they cannot point to any Divine declaration to substantiate their statement, for no such declaration exists.
The idea itself is quite unthinkable, like many another orthodox doctrine, and God never asks us to strain our faith in the acceptance of the irrational, "Thinking is a positive process which annihilates itself when it seeks to comprehend the nothingness of nothing." There is, in fact, nowhere in Scripture any passage which even so much as implies that this self- contradictory dogma could be true.
In reply to the suggestion that God is omnipotent and therefore equal to the task of creating something out of nothing, however it may defy our reasoning powers to comprehend it, the late Alan Burns wrote, "God can neither contradict Himself nor do that which is self-contradictory. He cannot lie. Neither can He do in physics what would answer to a lie in morals. When we can think of God's omnipotence as involving the power to make square circles, or round squares, then we may accept the suggested interpretation of what Divine omnipotence means. To create something out of nothing would be to perform a physical untruth, and it is impossible for God to lie."
There is an alternative theory, which does not command much support, and that is that the universe was never created, because matter is eternally self-existent. We must at once reject this view, if only on the ground that its acceptance would strike at the root of our fundamental conception of God, as He reveals Himself. God alone is self-existent, and to elevate matter to the same rank is to imply that it, also, is Deity. There is only one God.
We are left, then, with the conclusion that this material universe is created out of something; can the Scriptures determine for us what that "something" is?
The record of God's creative acts in the book of Genesis always shows Him as using existing substance--man was created out of the soil, woman was created out of man; in other words, men and women are soil in a new form.
Now it is a striking scientific fact that with all the marvelous variety in the form and physical state of that which constitutes our universe, it can be demonstrated beyond the possibility of doubt that all matter within the universe is built of the same elements.
No chemical element is revealed in the spectrum of the sun or of any star that has not been handled in our laboratories. For a time, it is true, helium, first recognized in the sun's atmosphere, was unknown on earth, but now airships are floated with it; "nebulium," long known only from its lines in the spectra of nebulae, proves to be our common nitrogen and oxygen, in special states of ionization, that is to say, electrically charged.
This discovery has revolutionized the scientific concept of the nature of matter, and incidentally is in harmony with the implications of Scripture.
All matter, on earth, in the sun, and in the stars, in our own stellar system and in all other stellar systems, is built up of the same fundamental units. For all the bewildering complexities of its structure and motions, for all its gigantic dimensions, all the endless variety of its contents, our great stellar system, our universe so far as it has come within the range of human observation, is an organic whole, exhibiting an underlying structural symmetry, built up throughout of the same basic elements, and governed by the same great laws.
What do we know from Scripture concerning the Universe? We are told that it is created out of God. "All is out of Him and through Him and for Him" (Rom.11:36). This is in full accord with the fundamental fact with which we started, that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but the scope of this declaration is much wider, for it informs us that the whole of creation not only had its source in Him, but has its course in Him and finds its consummation in Him.
All is out of God. Then creation is out of God, not out of nothing, nor eternally self-existent.
But what do we know of God's essential being? We are told that He is Spirit, He is Light, and He is Love. Then creation is out of Spirit, Light and Love--Love which purposes, Light which reveals and Spirit which energizes.
What is spirit? It has been defined as "the invisible, intangible power of all life, action and intelligence." There are many modes or expressions of spirit, e.g., the spirit of man. These are all necessarily inferior to the One Great Spirit, the Spirit of God, Who is the Father of Spirits. The Spirit of God, then, is the Divine power which is operative in creation, so that all that makes up this universe is spirit expressed in a tangible form which we know as matter.
How far does this conclusion justify the findings of science concerning matter?
The following significant observations are made by James Arnold Crowther, M.A., Sc.D., F.Inst.P., writing on "Radiation":
"Perhaps it would be wiser to confess that our experiments have carried us into waters too deep for our present intelligences to fathom...For the present we must be content to regard these fundamental realities of the universe, photon, electron and proton, as abstractions, something beyond our power of direct conception...The veil which science used to draw between matter and energy is wearing very thin.Thus man joins his witness that the Scriptures are true. God says that the universe is created out of Himself, it is an expression of His spirit, of His power, and those among men who seek to discover the secret of creation testify that it is too profound to be expressed in words in its entirety, but the nearest definition they can give is that it is pure energy, conforming throughout to one great Unity, and conceived in one stupendous design.
"It is well known, it is in fact Implicit in the terms `positive' and `negative,' that if we place equal quantities of positive and negative electricity on the same conductor the electric effects vanish. Thus if we could bring a proton and an electron into real contact their two charges should simultaneously disappear, and we might be left with a single flash of radiation.
"The physicist in a terrestrial laboratory has so far failed to achieve this union. Every atom consists of proton and electron in exactly the right proportions to annihilate each other's charge, and every proton has a very strong attraction for each of the electrons which surround it.
"Close as they are, and strong as is their mutual attraction, these particles under terrestrial conditions never meet. Nature seems to have laid down some immutable fiat saying, Thus far but no further. What the mysterious force is which keeps them apart we do not know. If this force were mysteriously to vanish of its own accord this world of ours would vanish too in one stupendous blaze of illimitable light.
"Science since its beginning has travelled many paths and explored many territories. It has asked many questions, seeking to sift gold from dross, truth from illusion...Now the wheel seems to have come full circle, and modern science, face to face with the mystery of the act of creation, finds no words more appropriate than those of the great Hebrew Poet, `And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.'"
Because God is One, His creation is a unity. It may be described as a Thought of God. The Infinite Mind conceived a universe wherein His Light should reveal His Love; and His Spirit expressed that Thought in material form--thus were all things created. If we read the book of Genesis with this idea in our minds we shall see that its revelations entirely confirm this point of view.
If matter is an expression of spirit, that is to say, if matter is created out of spirit, it is within the realm of logic to conclude that matter is capable of still further changes, so that the creation of man out of the dust of the earth becomes a belief for rational acceptance, and in the scriptural doctrine of death as a state of unconsciousness it can be seen that one form of matter, man, is returned to its previous form, earth.
And the spirit of man, when God withdraws the spirit of life, reverts to its previous unconscious state.
So shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God Who gave it (Ecc.12:7).The Scriptures forbid our taking a materialistic view of creation, and the findings of the scientist force him to the conclusion that behind and beyond all visible phenomena there is an invisible and intangible Power.
Christ, our Lord, is the One in and through Whom God acts,
seeing that the universe in the heavens and on the earth is created in Him---the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or sovereignties or authorities---the universe has been created through Him and for Him, and He is before all, and the universe has its cohesion in Him (Col.1:16,17).He is God's Creative Original, and God has appointed Him as enjoyer of the allotment of the universe, and it is He who carries on the universe by His powerful declaration, (Heb.1:2, 3) for His words are spirit. By virtue of His office Christ is able to subject the universe to Himself (Phil.3:21), and it is God's revealed purpose to head up the universe in Christ, to reconcile the universe to Himself in Christ, and to this end He is operating the universe in accord with the counsel of His will (Eph.1:9-12).
Hear Paul's grand declaration (Acts 17:24-28):
"God, Who makes the world and all which is in it, He, the Lord possessing heaven and earth, is not dwelling in temples made with hands, neither is He, requiring anything, being attended by human hands, Himself giving to all life and breath and all. Besides, He makes out of one every nation of mankind, to be dwelling on all the surface of the earth, specifying the setting of the seasons and the bounds of their dwelling, for them to be seeking God, if, consequently, they surely should grope for Him and may be finding Him, though to be sure, He is existing not far from each one of us, for in Him we are living and moving and are..."Thus from the dawn of creation, through all the travail of the years, by the way of the cross God works out His purpose of revealing His heart, that He may ultimately be All in all. He has declared it, and the human heart reaches out for the fulfillment of His declaration, even though eons must take their course ere all be brought to a consummation. Out of Him, and through Him and for Him are all things: to Him be glory for the eons!
"Give me, O God, to sing that thought,
Give me, give him or her I love this quenchless faith
In Thy ensemble; whatever else withheld, withhold not from us
Belief in plan of Thee enclosed in Time and Space,
Health, peace, salvation universal. Is it a dream?
Nay, but the lack of it a dream,
And failing it, life's lore and wealth a dream,
And all the world a dream."