In elementary school, I used to spend countless hours in the library reading books about space, the planets in our solar system and other celestial bodies. My favorites were selected books from Isaac Asimov’s Library of the Universe. I absorbed as much information on quasars, pulsars, black holes, white dwarfs and red giants as my adolescent mind could contain. Even as part of a mini science experiment assignment, I mapped out the changing positions of the stars in the sky every night for a week by placing a hand-marked graph on my living room window. It was during my experiment that I learned how the constellations in space continue to rotate around the sky even during the daytime.
As a young Catholic, I remember the first time my faith collided with what I learned after taking it upon myself to read the first chapter of Genesis. The glossary in the back of my family’s Bible also discussed the Firmament, and how it was like an upside-down bowl over the Earth with the sun, moon and stars hung in its fabric. At 10 years old, I remember having a conversation with my father about this subject in the midst of my confusion. He summarized it well in one quote,
“Science and morality are two different things. What we learn from science is what we observe with our eyes, whereas what we learn from how the Bible describes our universe is what we observe from the heart.“
Years later, even after leaving Catholicism to pursue Evangelical Protestantism at a young adult, this was a message I’ve always carried with me. While studying the Bible in my newfound endeavor to grow closer to Christ, I’ve always struggled to see eye-to-eye with my fellow Christian brethren regarding the science of astronomy or paleontology. Many of my friends at the church denominations I’ve attended were unapologetically and outspokenly young-Earth creationists. We’ve devoted entire Bible studies to watching presentations such as The Truth Project (which was a defense of intelligent design but from a young-Earth creationist position). And yet, whenever I read Genesis 1:3, “And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light,” to me, that doesn’t sound contrary to the Big Bang theory at all. Creationism as described in the Book of Genesis may very well be true, but probably not in the way we interpret it to be.
Though admitting to them that I struggled to accept young-Earth creationism would be almost synonymous with renouncing my Christian faith.
I think when Bible-literalists run into the contradictions between observable data and what’s written in Scripture, they often think taking scientific observations at face-value demeans God’s omnipotence as far as having the ability to will something into existence instantly. The are trees that are believed to be older than the projected age of a young Earth, such as the Jurupa Oak colony. If God truly is all-powerful, I have no problem believing such a being could create something instantly. This is why the six days of creation in the first chapter of Genesis are often interpreted literally by many Christians.
But this is also where Bible-literalism loses me. We know that Genesis was written by Moses as an account for everything leading up to the Exodus out of Egypt. But we also know, even though Moses is considered a prophet of God, he was not there when Creation happened. The Book of Revelation, which is John’s account of his own vision received by God, is often interpreted metaphorically since the beasts and horns represent temporal powers at work on Earth. Even the use of numbers in biblical eschatology bear weighty symbolism. What if the six ‘days’ of creation were not literal 24-hour periods, but what would seem more like six sets of millions of years of celestial formation? What I often wonder is why more Christians do not treat Moses’ revelation of Creation in Genesis in a similar manner as John’s Revelation.
A literalistic approach to the Genesis narrative is especially problematic when discussing something as simple as the Earth’s shape — which ties into the rising resurgence of promoters of flat earth. The idea of the flat earth comes from the geocentric model, which essentially asserts that the Earth is at the center of the created universe. For centuries, much of the ancient Jewish, Greek, Roman and Christian world subscribed to this belief. It wasn’t until the 16th century when Catholic astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus presented the heliocentric model (in which the planets revolve around the Sun) based on his observations. This was further defended by Catholic astronomer Galileo Galilei, which evolved into controversy with the Church over suspected heresy. Galileo continued to defend the heliocentric model, as he believed it did not contradict the biblical Genesis narrative. It wasn’t until after his death after being under house arrest for years that the Church began to dig deeper and finally accept the heliocentric model as true — and this affair still remains as a black mark on the Church’s history.
As far as geocentrism is concerned, what I often wonder is: what if God created other humans on other worlds? What would happen if scientists and astronomers discovered concrete evidence of life on other planets? If it were the case, I don’t believe this would render Christianity to be false. In my opinion, it may be possible that Jesus might have died for the sins of humans from other worlds. Or it could be possible that Earth may be the only planet that has suffered the consequences of Original Sin. Perhaps nowadays, an attachment to the geocentric model may be a symptom of unfettered arrogance in response to the possibility that Earthlings might not be the only life God had created in the universe — therefore we might not be the center of the universe we have long believed ourselves to be. Though this is all speculative thinking on my part, much to the humor of my non-religious readers.
Returning to the subject of young-Earth creationism, I’d have to acknowledge the Bible-literalist argument that projecting billions of years of material formation might lack an account for a series of disturbances such as asteroid impacts, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Even continental shifts have been debated whether they lasted millions of years or happened within a span of decades. Regardless of what may be true, it only shows that the human mind can easily fathom such catastrophic changes as more of a gradual process rather than instantaneous events.
This would be where some would question whether I believe the Bible is actually inspired by God, which I would answer with a resounding ‘yes.’ Non-religious folks would often claim that creationism is a myth, but what many people do not realize is that ‘myths’ do not equal falsehoods. People have often derived moral teachings from stories in ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Whether or not the the characters in the stories were actual gods is questionable, but the stories themselves could have been based on actual events.
What is also mind-boggling to me is a study from 2018 suggests that all humans may have descended from two people roughly 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. This would seemingly give credence to the possibility of an ‘Adam’ and an ‘Eve’ actually existing if this is what the Bible is referring to. It is also worth pondering whether the biblical account of Adam’s descendants living up to 900 years might have rather been symbolic numbers of what their actual lifespans were — which would have been drastically longer than the literal genealogical records from the Bible that would estimate the age of the Earth roughly 6000 years old.
Regardless of whether the Genesis account is literal, allegorical or metaphorical, something caused our world and us humans to exist the way we are today. If Original Sin and the Fall of Man is real, whether it was a glitch in human evolution or happened verbatim as written in the Scriptures, how we believe it happened should not be the fulcrum of where our salvation is determined. One way or another, something happened. And by acknowledging the fact that we as humans fall short of what we perceive to be a higher state of being should be telling enough that we were designed for a far greater purpose than to merely survive.
“The Bible teaches us how to go to Heaven, not how the Heavens go.”
— Galileo Galilei