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Genesis, Creation of Moon and Modern Astronomy

In Genesis there is no mention of how the Moon was formed, except by God's "word." Though different Christians interpret the mention of God's "speech" in different ways. Some think that when Genesis says, "God said," it is a metaphorical way of saying that it was done by "God," and so God wasn't literally speaking a language and saying things. But of course, if you accept that the depiction of God "talking" in Genesis is a metaphor, that could lead one to doubt the literalness of the Genesis creation account in other ways as well.


Genesis 1:14-19 (NIV) depicts God saying: 14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning-the fourth day.


I find the passage above curious for a few reasons, not just for the fact that God is depicted as speaking a language (whatever that unknown language may be), but also because


1) Modern astonomy has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt today (if you look at all the photos and articles in Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, and the Astronomical Journal) that stars are still being created. In other words they were not simply "made" and that was that, though the passage above in Genesis seems to imply that's what happened (though of course different Christians will interpret it differently, but at face value it does seem to be saying that the sun, moon, and stars were made, and that was that, without any word in the Bible of the fact that stars are still being formed today.


2) Modern astromony has spotted rings of matter circling other stars near our own, and presumably such rings of matters may circle stars elsewhere in our galaxy and in other galaxies, sometimes younger stars as well, where the matter may be forming into planets and oons. The Bible does not mention such things, yet it strikes me as a miracle worth mentioning that planets and moons may very well be forming even today out there in the cosmos.


3) A couple thousand years after the Bible was written, astronomers discovered that Mars has two moons. Yet Mars has no people who need their steps "lit" at night, or who need to read the "signs and seasons." It was also discovered that Neptune has four moons, Uranus has eleven, Jupiter has sixteen, and Saturn has eighteen moons (one of them, Titan, is even larger than the planet Mercury)!


4) Also one last curiosity, the earth's moon, though described in Genesis as being made to "rule the night," apparently abdicates it's "rule" for three nights out of every twenty-eight, when it doesn't light the earth at all.


I believe that the evangelical Christian astronomer, science writer and professor at Calvin College, Howard Van Till, would completely agree with such points as those above. I have read his book, The Fourth Day: What the Bible and the Heavens are Telling us about the Creation (Eerdmans, 1986), and here's what one reviewer of that book had to say about Til's views:


As is appropriate for a book from a Christian perspective, Van Till begins by laying a Biblical foundation in five chapters grouped under the heading of "The Biblical View." These chapters draw heavily on the work of Meredith Kline and other Evangelical scholars. The principles of interpretation advocated include trying to understand the context in which the Scripture was written, and distinguishing its message from the vehicle used to deliver the message and the way the message is packaged. These principles should be obvious to anyone who wants to understand what God is saying in Scripture, yet it seems like many of our problems come because Christians ignore these principles and treat the Bible as a "magic book" that will answer all questions put to it, not just the ones the inspired writers were trying to answer. It is refreshing to see a rejection of such foolish Biblicism coming not from some wooly liberal but from solid Evangelicals such as Kline.


Genesis is viewed as primarily a covenantal document, establishing God's status as the Creator of all things (in contrast to idolatry of the cultures that surrounded the Hebrews, where things in nature were viewed as gods). The take-home point of these first five chapters seems to be:


The fundamental question addressed by Genesis 1 is "Who is the God who called Abraham, and how is he related to humanity and the natural world?" The answer, so beautifully and effectively illustrated in narrative form, is that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all their inhabitants, both celestial and terrestrial. And beyond that fundamental revelation, Genesis 1 provides the basis for the full Biblical revelation concerning what kind of a Creator our God is and what it means to be a creature who is covenantally related to him. [p. 85]


The next four chapters discuss science. After a brief discussion of how science works and how it fits into a Christian worldview, Van Till tells us about stars. The reader gets an accessible overview of what scientists have discovered in their investigation of stars, with particular emphasis on the life cycle of stars and the observation we can make today of stars in various stages of their evolution.


There's that word: "evolution." It appears a lot in this section, mostly in the context of "stellar evolution." A strong case is made that, for stars, "evolution" has happened, and that the natural explanations of stellar evolution describe how God made the stars. While reading about how well-established stellar evolution is as a description of nature, and about how that does not affect God's status as Creator, it was easy to think I was reading a defense of the more controversial area of biological evolution. That bothered me a little at first, but in retrospect it shouldn't have. Why is it that many people consider biological evolution a threat to Christianity, but are not threatened by stellar evolution? The descriptions of God's creative activity in Genesis 1 are similar; if anything, the language for God's creation of life is more "evolutionary." If it is theologically OK for God to create stars by evolutionary means, why not starfish? The inconsistency of this selective anti-evolutionism mystifies me . but I digress.


From an online review of Till's book, The Fourth Day


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