There are few stories that are more controversial than the first few chapters of Genesis. It seems that the very idea of God creating everything from nothing is antithetical to the human race. Atheists desire to undermine the notion of God’s existence, and there are many who argue about the age of the universe, or those who debate the mechanics of it all. Even some who call themselves Christians seem determined to reduce the Genesis record to a fable or a “just so” story. Does the story of creation as presented in Genesis deserve all this harsh treatment?
There are several things for us to consider. First is to take notice of how the rest of scripture treats the story of creation. There are many instances throughout the Bible of the creation story being used as an example, to formulate arguments, and being referenced as history. In the book of Job, God uses the creation to remind Job of his place, and goes through several of the things that he has made and that he has put in order. All of this starts in Job 38 and continues on for several chapters. It is put forth here as an example. In Exodus 20:11 the 7 days of creation are used as justification for a 7 day week and a 7th day rest. Hosea references Adam’s transgression of the covenant as an example for the people of his day (Hosea 6:6-7). Jesus refers to both Genesis 1 and 2 in his teachings on divorce in Matthew 19:3-9. Paul refers to the creation account many times, as in Romans 1, Colossians 1, and 1 Timothy 2:13-14. It is referenced by God, by Jesus, by the prophets, by the apostles, and by the psalmists. It is the basic assumption throughout all of scripture that Genesis records things as they were.
If we take out the first couple chapters, then we are left with a large number of people referring to events that didn’t happen. The justifications, and arguments, and expectations begin to unravel and fall apart. The very idea that God created the world and everything in it is foundational to the entirety of the Bible and Christianity as a whole.
For an idea that is so foundational, you would think that people have been thinking about it for a long time, and of course, people have been thinking about this for a long time. Back in the 1860’s William Paley advanced the watchmaker argument. This is based on the idea that a watch would automatically imply a watchmaker. A watch provides a useful function and is designed in such a way that a minor change would render it useless. In the same way, the universe shows all the same indicators. This implies a universe maker.
Alternatively we could go back even further to Thomas Aquinas in the 1200s. Thomas Aquinas proposed the idea that every effect has a cause. This seems normal to us, if a ball goes flying through the air, it is because someone threw it. If a tree grows, it is because there was a seed that got sunlight, water, and nutrients. This causes a problem if there is not infinite time (and physics seems to imply that there was a beginning). There at some point has to be a first cause, an uncaused cause. This, Aquinas, argued would be God.
There are many other arguments for the existence of God the Creator, because this has been a long running topic and debate. And as Paul says:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)
Paul is reminding us that through creation we can come to know the first cause, the maker of the universe. Take for example the organization of the universe. The very fact that the universe actually makes sense to us helps us to see that God himself is organized and does not leave things to random chance. If everything was left to random chance, there are so many things that could go wrong, from the force of gravity to the rate at which DNA mutates.
We can also come to understand God’s eternal nature. For he must be outside of whatever he created, and since time is dependent on space, matter, and speed, this too must be a part of the created universe and God must be outside of it. This is hard for us to picture or grasp, since we ourselves are caught in the midst of it.
However there are still going to be things about God that we cannot determine just by looking at his creation. No more than we can learn everything about an artist from the painting that he has created. This is why it would be necessary for him to give us more information in a way that we could process and understand. This is one of the basic stories of the Scriptures, the continuing revelation of the one who created everything.
At the end of all this, it is important to understand man’s motivation in trying to deny the creator. If the God of the Bible created the universe, as he says he did, then what does that mean for us? If we are the product of time and chance then there is no higher authority than ourselves. We can do whatever we want, however we want. If Genesis istrue, then we have turned away from the one who made us, we have denied him, and we have done everything in our power to go against his wishes. This is the basic problem of what sin is.
We do have this problem, as Hosea said, we, like Adam have transgressed the covenant, even though that was not what he wanted from us. It is outside of our power to fix our own problems, haven’t we proven that enough? God took it into his own hands by sending his son Jesus to become human and to show us what humans should be. It’s not a lesson that they liked two thousand years ago, and it isn’t a lesson that most like today. Still, he is the answer to bring the creator and creation back together again.