The Beginning

Welcome to the FAQ for module 3—the beginning. The following questions include video and/or written answers and are also included in the guide for your leader. You may like to raise these questions during your group time, and we also place them here for you to explore and re-explore at your leisure.

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Q 1. Has the universe always existed? Or did it have a beginning?

Q 1
A biblical perspective:

According to the biblical story, the universe has not always existed because it began when God created it (Genesis 1:1).

 

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The Bible also indicates that the universe is wearing out and, because things that wear out cannot be eternal, the universe must have had a beginning. The Bible uses many different images to convey the idea that the universe is wearing out. Two of these are:

1. The picture of a leaf. A leaf will eventually wither and fall to the ground. The Bible uses this as a picture to help us understand that stars (like our sun), and the sky, will wear out. Isaiah 34:4 records, “All the stars in the sky will be dissolved… all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.”

2. The picture of clothing. A garment will become frail and eventually wear out. The longer and more frequently a garment is used, the sooner it will fall to pieces. That’s why clothing stores exist to continually replace our clothes. The Bible uses this as a picture to help us understand that the universe will not last forever but will wear out. Psalm 102:25–27 says, “… the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”

Things that wear out cannot, of course, be eternal. The Bible’s perspective is that the universe is wearing out and so the universe cannot be eternal. If it is not eternal, it must have had a beginning.

But what about science? Does it support the Bible’s perspective?

A scientific perspective:

The scientific Second Law of Thermodynamics certainly seems to support the Bible’s idea that the universe is wearing out. Simply put, this Law says that the amount of available energy in the universe is running out.1 Perhaps the following graph may help. It shows that the amount of available energy is continually decreasing.

Figure 1. Graph of the universe’s energy.2

Something that is eternal does not run out of useable energy. But the amount of useable energy in the universe available for things to work is running out according to this basic scientific Law.

Where does this leave us?

Given that the amount of usable energy is decreasing, the universe cannot be eternal. It must have had a beginning. This is one reason why Alexander Vilenkin, physicist at Tufts University, commented, “All the evidence we have says the universe had a beginning”.3 This quote from Vilenkin is very significant because it was presented at Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday party. Someone called these evidences for a beginning “the worst birthday presents ever”4 because Hawking (an atheist) doesn’t want to believe the universe had a beginning. But why doesn’t he want to believe this? Because, “If you have an instant of creation, don’t you need a creator?”5

World Winding DownFor further reading:

Carl Wieland, World Winding Down: Understanding the ‘Law of Disorder’and How it Demands a Creator (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2012).

This book explains the Second Law of Thermodynamics and explores why this Law means the universe must have had a beginning in easy- to-understand language.

A free study guide is available at creation.com/world-winding-down-study-guide

 


1 The Second Law of Thermodynamics can be defined as: the entropy (entropy is a measure of disorder) of an isolated system (an isolated system does not exchange matter or energy with its surrounds) never decreases. When defining it in terms of a closed system (that exchanges energy, but not matter, with its surroundings) or an open system (that exchanges energy and matter with its surroundings) the Law states that the entropy of the system plus its surroundings never decreases. For an excellent non-technical discussion about the Second Law of Thermodynamics see: Carl Wieland, World Winding Down: Understanding the ‘Law of Disorder’—and How it Demands a Creator (Powder Springs, GE: Creation Book Publishers, 2012).
2 Graph adapted from: Wieland, World Winding Down, 63.
3 Lisa Grossman, “Death of the eternal cosmos–From the cosmic egg to the infinite multiverse, every model of the universe has a beginning”, New Scientist, vol. 213, issue 2847, (2012): 7.
4 Ibid.: 6.
5 “In the beginning…” (Editorial), New Scientist, vol. 213, issue 2847 (2012): 3.

 

Q 2. Did the universe spontaneously come into existence by itself? If not, then what brought the universe into existence?

Ep 3 Q 2
Short answer:

We know that the universe had a beginning (see Q 1 above). But is it possible that the universe could have spontaneously come into existence all by itself? There is good reason to think that this idea is impossible.

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A scientific perspective:

The Law of Causality (every effect must have a cause) is one of the most basic concepts in science. All scientific investigation presupposes the truth of the Law of Causality (without it, all scientific thinking would be impossible!).

Here is why this Law is relevant to our discussion: the idea that the universe came into existence (an effect) all by itself (without a cause) contradicts this most fundamental idea. This can be presented in the following way:1

1. Everything which has a beginning must have a cause.

2. The universe has a beginning.

3. Therefore the universe must have a cause.

The idea that the universe spontaneously came into existence by itself would mean that the universe would have no cause. But this is clearly impossible.

Further evidence:

If the universe had just erupted and spontaneously brought itself into existence, this would mean that nothing had suddenly become something—an entire universe in fact! But this could never have happened because…

… something can only come from something—it can’t come from nothing.

We know the idea that ‘something comes from nothing’ is absurd… it never does and it never has. Maria in The Sound of Music was right when she sang, “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.”

The truth is that something that doesn’t exist cannot do anything at all—much less create itself! And if that’s the case, then the universe couldn’t have spontaneously come from nothing and couldn’t have caused itself to exist.

Where does this leave us?

If the universe must have had a cause, and must have come from something, then what is that cause? And what is that ‘something’? It seems that whatever brought the universe into existence must have been:

1. Distinct from the universe, because it must have existed before the universe did.

2. Greater than the universe, because it must have the intelligence and power to create the universe.

If the universe could not cause itself to begin (a natural cause), then there appears to be only one other possibility—the universe must have been caused by something distinct from the universe, that existed before the universe and that is greater than the entire universe. It seems this leaves us with a supernatural cause (God). The biblical story records, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The universe didn’t come from nothing. It came from something… a  someone! That someone, according to the Bible, is the supernatural Creator God, who is distinct from and greater than the universe. Because he is distinct from the universe, he is in a position to create it. And because he is greater than the universe, he has the intelligence and power to create it.

World Winding DownFor further reading:

Carl Wieland, World Winding Down: Understanding the ‘Law of Disorder’—and How it Demands a Creator (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2012).

This book explains the Second Law of Thermodynamics and explores why this Law means the universe must have had a beginning in easy- to-understand language.

A free study guide is available at creation.com/world-winding-down-study-guide

 


1Jonathan D. Sarfati, “If God created the universe, then who created God?”, Journal of Creation, vol. 12, no. 1 (1998), 20–22.

 

Q 3. Who made God?

Ep 3 Q 3
A biblical perspective:

Perhaps we have heard someone ask the question, “If God is the Creator of the universe, then who created God?” Or perhaps we have even asked that question ourselves.

As we discovered in module 3—the beginning, the Bible presents God as the uncreated Creator of the universe. He is “the eternal God” (Deuteronomy 33:27). Isaiah 57:15 says that God is forever. He has no beginning and he has no end—“For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy”. God has always been the eternal God; therefore, no one made God.

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A scientific perspective:

If everything that had a beginning needs a cause (see Q 2 above), then God doesn’t need a cause, because he is eternal. We can see this by the following:1

1. Everything that has a beginning must have a cause.

2. God has no beginning.

3. Therefore God has no cause (no one made God).

What this means is that the question, Who made God? is actually the wrong question to ask, because God, by definition, has no beginning. To ask, Who made God? is like asking, Who is that bachelor married to? Both are misstated questions.

Where does this leave us?

Sometimes we can struggle to understand the idea that God is eternal. But since something cannot come from nothing (see Q 2 above), and since something is here (e.g. the universe), there must have been something/someone that was eternal. When we ‘boil it down’, we have only two options:

1. The universe is eternal. But it can’t be (see Q 1 above).

2. A supernatural Creator (God) is eternal, and the universe came from him.

What do you think?

 


1Jonathan D. Sarfati, “If God created the universe, then who created God?”, Journal of Creation, vol. 12, no. 1 (1998), 20–22.

 

Q 4. Is it possible to be a Christian and believe in evolution?

Ep 3 Q 4

Short answer:

Yes, it is possible to be a Christian and believe in evolution. Some Christians believe that God used the evolutionary process to bring the universe and all life into existence. To be a Christian is to be rightly related to Christ—not to creation (John 1:11–13; 3:16; 8:24; 14:6).

The relationship between the biblical story and evolution can be a tricky topic for many people and can be one that requires exploration in greater depth. The following information is designed to help you begin this exploration.

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The biblical story and evolution:

While it is very possible to be a Christian and accept evolution, there are some difficulties in trying to fit evolution with the biblical story. Here are just three of these problems:

1. The problem of death and suffering. Genesis 1 is describing a “very good” (Genesis 1:31) paradise earth. Humans were not experiencing death (human death does not arrive until Genesis 3) and God’s living creatures were created to live, not to die (Romans 8:19–21).1 This earth was without life-devastating events like floods, tsunamis, plagues, famines and earthquakes—‘natural evil’ events that cause chaos and death. Nor was suffering of any kind a part of this paradise earth. For example, animals were not causing other animals to suffer by attacking, killing and eating each other because God commanded all the animals to be vegetarian (Genesis 1:30). This is at variance with evolution that has suffering and death (‘survival of the fittest’) as a ‘natural’ part of the long evolutionary process.

2. The problem of natural evil and a good God. Evolution is a long process where the ‘natural evils’ of suffering and death are necessary for new life forms to evolve. The non-Christian scientist Jacques Monod, himself an evolutionist, recognised evolution as “cruel… because it is a process of elimination, of destruction. The struggle for life and elimination of the weakest is a horrible process…”2 Each of us knows deep within ourselves that death and suffering are not very good, but are very evil. If God set up and used the evolutionary process, then he would have been the direct source of suffering and death. But he isn’t because he is good and saw that everything he made was “very good”. This means that God could not have used the evolutionary process.

3. The problem of the order of creation. The order that God is said to create in Genesis 1 is different from the evolutionary order. For example, in Genesis 1 whales were created on day five before the land animals were created on day six. But the evolutionary order has whales evolving millions of years after the first land animals. This makes the order of Genesis 1 and evolution incompatible.

Are there alternatives to the evolution story?

For many of us, evolution was a topic we learned in school without any alternative. But an increasing number of scientists now question the validity of evolution, some of whom are Christians, while others are not.

Why is it that scientists who are equally trained, with PhDs in their respective fields, can disagree so much on this topic? It might be surprising for us to hear, but the reason is that both scientists who accept evolution and those who don’t have the same evidence—it’s just that the worldview that each scientist has is different, and so each scientist interprets the evidence differently, based upon their worldview. Perhaps a simple example may help explain this.

All living things have DNA, the information coding system within their cells. But why is this? Many of us at school were taught that this is because, approximately 3.5 billion years ago, the common ancestor of all living things used DNA as its information coding system. This common ancestor evolved into all living things today and passed down this information system. This is why all living things today have DNA: they all evolved from a common ancestor.

But, it might surprise us that this is not the only explanation. Another explanation is that the Creator God used the same information-processing system (DNA) when he designed all the basic types of living things. An analogy is that an architect will often use similar design principles when designing different buildings, or an automotive engineer will design and use similar (or even identical) parts across different models of cars. This is why all living things today have DNA: they were designed by a common designer.

So, here we have the same evidence (all living things have DNA) that can fit two alternative explanations: common ancestry (evolution) or common design (creation).

 

For further reading and viewing:

Book: Robert Carter (ed.), Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2014).

Blu-ray & DVD: Evolution’s Archiles’ Heels. 2014. Directed and produced by Gary Bates and Robert Carter. USA: Creation Ministries International, Blu-ray & DVD.

Nine PhD scientists (the book) and 15 PhD scientists (documentary film) in their respective science fields explain why they think the evidence best fits the creation explanation. The book and film will let you explore:

  • Natural selection is a fact. But does it support the evolution or creation explanation the best? What about mutations?
  • Genetics and DNA. What about DNA similarity between apes and humans?
  • The Origin of Life. Why did the well-known evolutionist, Paul Davies, write in New Scientist, “How did stupid atoms spontaneously write their own software?… Nobody knows”?3
  • The Fossil Record. What did Charles Darwin expect to find? What have we found?
  • The Geologic Record. How consistent is this with evolution?
  • Radiometric Dating. What do carbon dating and other dating methods reveal?
  • Cosmology. Could the entire universe have evolved?
  • Ethics and Morality. So what?

1 In this passage the early Christian author, Paul, writes that the creation is waiting for the time (like it was at the beginning) when it will no longer be subjected to “its bondage to decay” (death), just as humans are looking forward to the time (like it was at the beginning) when they too will no longer be subjected to decay and death.
2 Jacques Monod, “The Secret of Life”, Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) radio interview (1976).
3 Paul Davies, “Life Force”, New Scientist, vol. 163, no. 2204 (1999), 27–30.

 

Q 5. How do I become aware of God?

Ep 3 Q 5
Short answer:
There are at least two ways in which we can become aware of God. The first is through God’s created world; the second is through the Bible.

 

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Discussion:

We will explore two ways in which we can become aware of God:

1. Through creation. The great thing is that God wants to be known. He is not hiding away where he cannot be found but has clearly revealed himself through creation. Romans 1:19–20 states, “what may be known about God is plain… because God has made it plain… For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made”. This verse is music to the ears of those who want to become aware of God because, through creation, God has made his eternal power and divine nature so easy for everyone to see and understand.

2. Through the Bible. The Bible claims that within its pages, God has told us what he wants us to know about himself! And—even more—it tells us how to come to ‘know’ him (not just know ‘about’ him). It’s an amazing and beautiful claim—and one that we’ll continue to explore during the Long Story Short course. There’s no greater way of becoming aware of God than through the Bible.

 

Q 6. What about the Trinity?

Ep 3 Q 6
Short answer:
As the biblical story unfolds, we find three distinct persons referred to as God: the Father (e.g. Romans 15:6), the Son (e.g. John 1:1; Hebrews 1:8) and the Holy Spirit (e.g. Genesis 1:2; 2 Corinthians 3:17). But the Bible is very clear that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Christians use the word ‘Trinity’ or ‘tri-unity’ to explain how God can be one and three. Christians describe God as one ‘being’, who exists in three ‘persons’. But what does this mean?

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Discussion:

1. Perhaps conjoined twins (sometimes known as Siamese twins) can help us understand how God is one ‘being’ but three ‘persons’. Some conjoined twins share one body but they are two persons: two distinct personalities. One twin might like blue and the other might like red. One might favour sweet foods and the other might favour savoury. Sometimes conjoined twins share essential organs like the heart or digestive system. As a result, they cannot be separated. They are two persons in one body. In this way, conjoined twins can show us something special and unique about the triune God. What we are saying is that God is one ‘being’ but exists as three ‘persons’, just like conjoined twins have one body but are two persons.

2. There are some indications of that God is more than one person in Genesis 1.

a. The word ‘God’ in Genesis 1:1. The word translated ‘God’ here is the Hebrew word ‘Elohim’. This is very unusual. What makes this word so unusual? It’s a plural noun and could be translated as ‘Gods’. But the next word in the sentence, ‘created’, is a singular verb. Putting it together, a literal translation of the first words of the Bible would read, “In the beginning Gods he created…” Of course, this is incorrect grammar! How can we explain this unusual start to the Bible? It’s possible that the plural word ‘Gods’ but singular word ‘created’ are used here because they’re indicating that, while there is only one Creator, there is more than one person who makes up this Creator.

b. The phrase ‘the Spirit of God’ in Genesis 1:2. This seems to be a specific reference to the Holy Spirit (the ‘Spirit of God’ is another way of speaking about the Holy Spirit). The Spirit of God is also referred to in the first few books of the Bible in Exodus 31:3; 35:31 and Numbers 24:2.

c. The sentence “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” in Genesis 1:26. If God were only a single person, we might expect the verse to read, “Let me make mankind in my image”. But it doesn’t. So the plurals (“us”/“our”) in this verse most likely represent God as more than one person.1

1 Biblical scholars explain the words ‘us’ and ‘our’ in different ways. Some think that when God said, “Let us make mankind”, the “us” referred to angels (but mankind is not said to be made in the image of the angels, nor do angels create anything). Some think God was talking to himself as he thought about his decision to make humans (but this is doubtful because when God is reflecting on something he speaks in the singular, not the plural, e.g. in Genesis 18:17, God said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”). Some think the plural is like ‘the royal we’ (but it is doubtful because of Hebrew language problems). So it’s most likely that the plurals in Genesis refer to God as more than one person.

 

Q 9. Is creation part of God?

Short answer:
The idea that creation (or the universe) is a part of God is called ‘pantheism’. This idea is found in many of the world’s religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Bahá’í and Scientology. And many other people who don’t identify with any of these religions embrace this idea.

But there seems to be a big problem with this idea—the universe is not eternal.

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Discussion:

1. What is pantheism? The word ‘pantheism’ comes from two Greek words, pan meaning ‘everything’ and theos meaning ‘God’. So, pantheism is the belief that ‘God is everything and everything is God’. In this view, the creation (cosmos) is God, and God is the creation (cosmos). (This means that the table I am sitting at is God, you are God, I am God, the cat is God, the universe is God.) So we should really talk about the Cosmos-God. This can be illustrated by the following diagram:

Q 9 Fig 1

Figure 1: In pantheism, there is no ultimate distinction between the Cosmos and God.

2. The Bible teaches that there is a sharp distinction between God and the universe. This is exactly what is meant when the Bible speaks about God being holy—because holy means ‘distinct’ or ‘set apart’. God is completely distinct and separate from creation. This can be illustrated by the following diagram:

M 3 Q 9 Fig 2

Figure 2: According to the Bible, there is a huge distinction between the Creator and the creation.

3. A problem with pantheism—the universe is not eternal. A central belief in pantheism is that the Cosmos-God is eternal, and because the Cosmos-God is eternal, it was never created. But there’s a problem with this view. Since it’s certain that the universe isn’t eternal, then the universe had a beginning (see Q 1 above). And why is this a problem? Because the universe must have been created by a Creator (see Q 2 above). What this means the Creator must be distinct from the creation—because the Creator needed to exist before the creation he created! It simply looks like this:

M 3 Q 9 Fig 3

Figure 3: The Creator existed before the creation.

 

Q 10. Is there any scientific proof that God exists?

Short answer:
Ultimately, there is no absolute scientific proof either for or against God’s existence but Christians believe there is very good evidence for the existence of God.

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Discussion:

1. Science is constantly changing. Scientific findings are constantly revised, and what we thought we knew yesterday may be completely changed today! That’s the nature of science—it progresses, new evidence comes in, better interpretations of the data are made, and on and on! So it’s a bit shaky to say, “This absolutely proves/disproves God’s existence.” Tomorrow the statement may be out of date! In the final analysis, then, both atheism and theism (the belief that God exists) are faith positions (Hebrews 11:3).

2. There is available evidence for God’s existence. However, that doesn’t mean we can only throw our hands up in the air in despair and hopelessness that we could ever know with confidence the answer one way or the other. In the absence of ultimate scientific proof, people decide for or against God based on available evidence. Christians claim that the evidence for the existence of God is greater (in both quantity and quality) than is the evidence against God’s existence.

3. Examples of evidence for God’s existence. For instance, there is the evidence provided by creation: since nothing comes from nothing, creation must have come from a source older than the universe, greater than the universe (so it could bring this universe into existence) and a source with incredible intelligence sufficient to account for this universe with its amazing design and meticulous order (see Q 2 above; Romans 1:18–23; Psalm 19:1–6). Then there is the evidence provided by Jesus of Nazareth—a man who claimed to be God and whose claim was substantiated by his amazing teaching, his incredible miracles and his sinless life.

Conclusion:
While we cannot absolutely prove God’s existence, Christians believe that the available evidence is thoroughly consistent with and strongly supports the Bible’s opening line—“In the beginning, God…”

 

Q 11. Why can’t I see God?

Short answer:
We cannot see God because he is spirit, not matter.

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Discussion:
“No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18). God is spirit and not matter (John 4:24). Our physical bodies are able to interact with the physical world God created. Our senses of smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight allow us to interact with this physical world. Because God is spirit, we cannot see him as we can a waterfall, or smell him as we can a rose, or taste him as we can a freshly cooked gourmet dinner.

 

Q 12. Is God male or female?

Short answer:
God is neither male nor female. God is spirit (John 4:24) and not matter and so is biologically neither male nor female.