“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,”
These were the words of David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), at a press conference in Washington, on one of, if not the most significant discovery in physics so far this century (Professor Higgs may choose to argue that point).
First things first; I don’t have the first clue what this means or why it’s so important. My physics studies finished in 1989, even then I only got a C grade and we didn’t touch any of the theoretical stuff.
However, I am aware that this brings us closer to understanding the origins of the universe and further validates the work of Albert Einstein; a man who my wife describes as “rather clever”. I am also aware that it gives greater proof to the generally accepted age of the universe, amongst the scientific community at least, of around 13.8 billion years.
This causes an issue for some within the religious community. At least, it causes an issue for creationists who take the age of the universe, from a literal reading of the Bible, to be around 10,000 years.
Well, you would think it would cause an issue. Then again…
Glossing over the complete lack of even the most basic understanding of evolutionary theory needed to make that point, this is not an isolated case and really paints a worrying picture of religion in general, and Christianity in particular. We are regularly accused by anti-theists as irrational, unthinking sheep, blindly accepting the myths of an ancient nomadic people who had no other way of explaining the world around them. Sadly, when views like this are espoused, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, it looks like the anti-theists have a good point.
The first chapter of Genesis is a truly wonderful piece of writing. From its first word, bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית) – in the beginning, which is so different to other creation myths in that it doesn’t begin with a huge battle in the heavens for supremacy or a series of gods putting together their own little domains. Rather, it starts not at a beginning, but the beginning. It accepts, at the very outset, the idea of the beginning of everything; not just of “the heavens and the earth”, but the beginning of space and time themselves. That is a concept the scientific world is still getting to grips with, but the Bible’s first word not just accepts it, but assumes it.
Then the second word, Elohim (אֱלֹהִ֑ים) – God. In the beginning, God. Before plants, animals, matter, heavens and earth, He was. All that followed, in the 13.8 billion years since the beginning, was down to Him.
And that was because he bara (בָּרָ֣א) – created, the third word. This Hebrew word, bara, only appears in the Old Testament as a creative act of the ultimate creator. He created because it is what He does, from the beginning of everything. For the joy and the love of it.
Hashamayim ha’aretz (הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם הָאָֽרֶץ׃) – the heavens and the earth. Not just these, though, this means so much more. Just as you say you’ve looked “high and low” when you’ve looked everywhere, or your marriage vows were “in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer” meaning at all times; the use of the extremes of the heavens and the earth means everything.
In th beginning, the very beginning of everything, God – the ultimate creator – created everything; everything that is, was or ever will be.
Now, this is amazing if you think of it being in a supernatural manner 10,000 years ago. However, how much more incredible, awe-inspiring and beautiful is it if you realise that He did this 13.8 billion years ago, using an infitessimally tiny piece of energy exploding and forming atoms and molecules and gases and dust and rocks and stars and black holes and quasars and gravitational waves and galaxies and planets and oceans and land and plants and clouds and animals and bacteria and fungi… and us?!
Because the Genesis story (the Greek name, by the way. The Hebrew name is Bereshit – In the beginning) is a myth. It is an illustration of the creation of everything by those who didn’t have the scientific knowledge to understand fully. But it is also a true story of who did it and why He did it. He did it because He does that, He creates and creates and creates… and He never stops.
But to deny the scientific discoveries and evidence is to deny how He did it, and is, therefore, to deny some of the most miraculous, wondrous aspects of a God who we cannot even hope to fully understand. In our arrogance we think that we can pigeonhole Him into stories and illustrations, but He breaks out of all the confines we try to put Him into. And He tries so hard to break us out of those same confines, but so many times we try to resist and to stay within our nice safe, comfortable stories.
But it’s not our story we are living, it’s His. And it’s is bigger, wider, deeper and much, much, much longer than we can ever fathom. Let’s all start living it.