Genesis is unique, not borrowed mythology

Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink

In a previous post, I countered some claims of an atheist critic who tried to dismiss my testimony. Two of these claims — criticisms of Schroeder’s model and the uniqueness of Genesis — I wanted to address separately, since they are important. In this post, I counter the claim that Genesis is borrowed from earlier mythology. The following includes excerpts from a book I’m currently writing on how Christians can defend themselves against atheist attacks.

[Update: a brief summary of this article is here.]

How many times have you heard the claim that Genesis is just borrowed from different ancient mythologies and isn’t the unique record of God’s creation of the universe you were taught as a Christian? I’ve heard it so many times I’ve lost count. To me, it’s such a silly claim that I didn’t see any need to counter it. However, the sad fact is, I know people who say they began to lose their faith after hearing this from their professors. It turns out to be not only a fable, but a dangerous one. As I said in my previous post, it needs to die a horrible death.

Here is what my critic claims:

The book of Genesis was composed by unknown authors.  It’s a mash-up of numerous sources from a number of different traditions.

This is a typical way to ridicule belief that the Bible is the word of God. Atheists claim the Bible starts off with a myth the authors of Genesis were too incompetent to come up with on their own, so the ancient Hebrews had to borrow much of it from the myths of earlier civilizations. In other words, Genesis is not a unique and true expression of God’s work, it is an act of common plagiarism.

The claim of plagiarism dates back to the 19th century archeological discovery of clay tablets in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Nineveh. Some of these tablets detailed the Babylonian creation story, now referred to as the Enuma Elish. When scholars studied this story, they discovered it had some similarities to Genesis, including the theme of darkness and chaos preceding order, the appearance of light before the Sun, Moon, and stars are made, and a progression of the development of the world that culminates in the appearance of humankind and God/gods resting.

The composition of the Enuma Elish dates back to around the 13th century B.C., predating the earliest written account of Genesis. Taken at face value, the timing and the similarities give the impression that Genesis borrows from the Babylonian myth. However, this ignores significant differences between the creation accounts as well as historical and cultural context. The similarities arise from what biblical scholar Peter Enns calls “a common, ancient, way of speaking about the cosmos.” He reminds us that, though Genesis is scripture, it’s still “an ancient story that reflects ancient ways of thinking” that would have been shared amongst all Mesopotamian people of that time.

As interesting as the similarities are, the differences between Genesis and the Enuma Elish are far more striking and informative. I’ll go over those in detail below.

It is important to refute this athiest fable, because Christians will encounter it over and over, particularly young Christians who go to university. Barbara Sproul is a good example of what young people face when they enter the academic world. She’s a professor of religion at Hunter College of the City University of New York, and she wrote a book about creation myths from around the world. In her book, Primal Myths, she describes the similarities between the Genesis account of creation and earlier myths this way:

The parallels between the first creation account in Genesis and the Mesopotamian epic are not confined to their naming process. Not only are there marked similarities in specific details but also the order of creation events is the same, leading many to presume a dependence of the Old Testament account of that of the Enuma Elish or similar Babylonian documents.

Atheists also vigorously promote the argument that the Genesis account of creation is completely at odds with modern science, which I have refuted here and here.

Christians can defeat such assaults on their belief, because, as Enns points out, the evidence shows that Genesis 1 is unique among the thousands of creation stories that have been told through the ages.

Sproul describes the Genesis 1 account as:

  • God-centered
  • with little interest in human personalities
  • having a general flatness of tone
  • and austerity of prose.

She is correct in these observations. Genesis is completely different from all other creation stories in its style of writing.

Genesis is also completely different from every other creation account in its content. Compare this passage from Genesis 1 with the passage from the Enuma Elish that follows.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (2) The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. (3) And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (4) And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. (5) God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

The truth of Professor Sproul’s assessment of the way Genesis 1 was written is obvious at once. The above passage and the rest of Genesis 1 are God-centered, matter-of-fact in tone, austere in the words that are used, and completely devoid of any description of personalities. If you read Sproul’s account of the creation myths of the world it is equally obvious that the biblical account of creation is not written in the same way that pagan creation myths were. Pagan myths are written in a completely different way, which should be obvious to you as soon as you read the passage below.

You can easily understand how weak the atheist claim of a plagiarized Genesis is by comparing the style and content of the Genesis 1 account of creation with the following passage from the Babylonian Enuma Elish that Sproul wants you to believe is so similar to the biblical account.

Discord broke out among the gods although they were brothers, warring and jarring in the belly of Tiamat, heaven shook, it reeled with the surge of the dance; Apsu could not silence the clamor, their behavior was bad, overbearing and proud.

But still Tiamat lay inert till Apsu, the father of gods, bellowed for that servant who clouds his judgment, his Mummu.

“Dear counsellor, come with me to Tiamat.”

They have gone, and in front of Tiamat they sit down and talk together about the young gods, their first-born children; Apsu said,

“Their manners revolt me, day and night without remission we suffer. My will is to destroy them, all of their kind, we shall have peace at last and we will sleep again.”

When Tiamat heard, she was stung, she writhed in lonely desolation, her heart worked in secret passion, Tiamat said,

“Why must we destroy the children that we made? If their ways are troublesome, let us wait a little while”

Then Mummu advised Apsu, and he spoke in malice.

“Father, destroy them in full rebellion, you will have quiet in the daytime and at night you will sleep.”

When Apsu heard the die was cast against his children, his face flamed with the pleasure of evil…

It is immediately obvious that the Babylonian account is the furthest thing from God-centered. The main character is Apsu who is described as the ‘father of gods.’ There is obviously more than one god. In later passages it turns out that the other major character in the story, Tiamat, is the personification of natural forces in whose ‘belly’ much turmoil is taking place.

The Enuma Elish is certainly not flat in tone with all of the ‘warring,’ ‘jarring,’ anger, malice, and individuals flaming ‘with the pleasure of evil.’ Nor is the Babylonian account in any way austere in prose when it uses words like clamor, bellowed, writhed, and secret passion.

The Babylonian passage, unlike the Genesis 1 account of creation, is all about the personalities involved in a titanic heavenly struggle. In this short passage, we are introduced to three important characters and given enough information to begin to understand their complex personalities and motivations. We are also told that there will be many more personalities involved in the Babylonian creation myth as it unfolds.

By Sproul’s own observations about Genesis 1, there are few significant similarities in the way the biblical account of creation and the Babylonian myth are presented. If you take the time to read the rest of Sproul’s book, it is evident that every other creation myth provided in Primal Myths sounds similar to the Enuma Elish and nothing like the true account of creation provided by Genesis 1. Just the brief, straight-forward, unemotional, and rational way the Genesis account was written makes it different from every other account of creation.

The differences between the divine Genesis account of creation and the thousands of other pagan myths about creation are even greater in regard to the events described and the order given for natural events. Once again the evidence provided in Primal Myths is conclusive. Contrary to Sproul’s assertion, there are no meaningful similarities between the details of the Genesis and Babylonian accounts of creation.

Here are a few of the more important differences found in Sproul’s book:

  1. Genesis tells us that God is prior to everything else. The Enuma Elish says that personified natural forces and the ‘father of the gods’ existed before the Mesopotamian/Babylonian gods.
  1. The Bible tells us that our universe came about as an orderly act of creation by a rational Deity. The Enuma Elish says that humankind and the world in which they exist came about as the result of a chaotic war between ill-behaved and overbearing gods, personified natural forces, and monsters made to destroy the gods.
  1. Genesis maintains that there is only one God. The Enuma Elish numbers the gods in the hundreds.
  1. Genesis locates God outside of and superior to the universe. The Enuma Elish locates the main god, Marduk, in the city of Babylon.
  1. Genesis says that humankind was made in the spiritual image of God and for a divine purpose. The Enuma Elish says that human beings were made unintentionally from the blood of the slain monster Kingu.

Considering these vast differences and the historical/cultural context, no reasonable and fair-minded reader could conclude that the similarities between Genesis 1 and the Enuma Elish, or any of the other creations myths described in Sproul’s book, mean that Genesis 1 is a mash-up of other traditions. On top of this, archeological studies are increasingly supporting the Pentateuch as factual, historical record, contradicting the notion that it is borrowed mythology. The argument that the biblical account of creation is a plagiarized myth is dishonest, based on ignorance, and unsupported by the evidence.

Sproul and her fellow atheists simply find only what they desperately want to believe. This false conclusion is then passed on to other atheists who don’t bother to investigate the claim for themselves, but simply repeat it. Worse, this groundless anti-Christian prejudice is passed on by academics like Sproul to unsuspecting and defenseless students in the guise of serious scholarly work. Christians must be able to confidently counter this atheist lie with the truth that Genesis 1 is a reliable account of the creation of the universe and life on Earth.

At this point, I want to offer you the perspective of a friend of mine, who is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and also a believer in Jesus as the Messiah. I asked him to comment on this article, originally intending to work his perspective into the main flow of what I’d written, but I think it’s best to let his words stand on their own.

The idea that the Genesis account is unique is critical and there is also something very fundamental and important to highlight as well, something which I think exposes a fundamental flaw in all of the other so called “accounts” of creation.

Creation ex nihilo is critical.  Creation through G-d’s Word is critical.  The Hebrew word b’reishit, translated ‘in the beginning’, proclaims that nothing existed prior to G-d’s act of creation.  The heavens and the earth were created only through G-d’s WORD … no other worldview, none, ever makes that claim.  Only through the Word of G-d.  This is mind blowing.  The Scripture teaches that the world came into existence from nonexistence.  Again, no other world view has taught or teaches this. If the claim is original and unique it wasn’t plagiarized. The Biblical claim is astoundingly so.  It is far more likely, that these Babylonian and other myths borrowed from the Torah’s account, not the other way around.

The cornerstone of all pagan belief up until this very day is the belief in the eternity of the physical world which we inhabit.  This Babylonian myth is clearly no exception and posits such a belief, which is false.  This belief is a metaphysical falsehood.  It is a gross misrepresentation of the origin of the universe, and worse yet this belief undermines and denies all morality.  This belief, the cornerstone of paganism, also negates freedom in both G-d and man.

The false belief is based upon the assumption that matter antedated creation.  If that were true, then the Creator of the universe would have only been able to fashion from the material already available and given to Him, and not a world that was absolutely good, as the Genesis account testifies and the other so-called myths do not; He would only have been able to fashion the best possible world within the limitations of the material provided Him.  Again, the Biblical account is unique and original in this regard and paganism’s account is never based on these claims, no matter which myth is cited.

Again, if the pagan world view were true, then G-d would not be the master over the material of the world, and man would not be master over his own body.  Freedom would disappear and the entire world, including its G-d and the men who live in it would be animated, constrained, and propelled by a blind, immutable fate.  This pagan conception as evidenced in the Babylonian myth and others like it, is dispelled by the Torah with its very first words: b’reishit barah Elohim!  In the beginning G-d created ….!  Absolutely everything that follows hinges on these words.  Everything – the matter and form of all that exists – was created by the free Almighty Creator.  And He still rules freely over all matter.  Paganism never made such a claim nor could they even have invented such a claim.  Such a claim is understood from the revelation given to us by G-d, Who of course is the Creator and originator of the claim.  He rules over every existing thing, over the laws by which those forces operate, as well as the resulting forms.  And men hate being ruled, so they developed their own myths and pagan beliefs to circumvent these uncomfortable truths (cf. Romans 1).  His will set the laws by which forms are fashioned.

Therefore, the world that was created is not the best possible one that can be fashioned with the given material – but according to a careful and thoughtful reading of the Genesis account, is the only good world.  Paganism makes no such claim.  Not even close.  So, it follows that this world corresponds with the wise plan of the Creator and He most certainly could have created a different world, has such a world corresponded with His will.  Remember, everything was created according to His Word … G-d spoke, G-d said, Let there be .. and there was.

The world was created wholly by G-d’s Word,and this cannot be emphasized enough.  Our sages relate that b’reishit is the very foundation of our awareness of G-d, world, and man.  When man forfeited this awareness, it had to be reestablished.  According to our sages, this was the purpose of the revealed miracles: to demonstrate G-d’s free and unbounded mastery over the world with all its elements, forces and laws.

Barah, created.  This Hebrew word denotes aspiration to emerge, emergence from potentiality into actuality, or release from bondage.  Barah also denotes bringing to light, actualizing and bringing something out into external reality.  Even in Aramaic (the language of Babylon) it means “outside”, “that which is outside”.  Barah then means to carry out and actualize  thought, which is hidden in the inner recesses of the mind.  Barah denotes creation, preceded only by thought and will, which clearly couldn’t be further from a pagan conception of things as evidenced in the so-called myths.  This is precisely the concept of creation.  Accordingly, beresheit, in the beginning, is applied only to G-d’s creation.  In other words, before the world existed, this world had existed only as a thought in the mind of the Creator.  It is the act of creation, therefore, that actualized this thought and brought it out into reality, thereby giving it an external, concrete existence.  The entire world, as a whole and in all of its parts, therefore, is nothing more than the materialized thought of G-d.  Again, this conception is unique to Biblical account recorded in Genesis.  The pagan accounts brook no such conception.  Not even close. Imitation indeed.  They look like blind handicapped children crawling around in the nursery by comparison.  This same idea that we have just elaborated in relation to barah is also presented in the root hayah, the Jewish term for being (cf. verse 2).

(Interestingly, this meaning of barah, to become external, concrete, tangible – is related to another meaning of barah: being healthy and stout.  And from this meaning is derived the term for the first meal of the day in the morning after a fast.  It is the meal which refreshes the person physically and makes him feel strong again.)

Let’s briefly consider paganism, of which the Babylonian and other myths represent.  Paganism fragments the whole world into many groups and spheres.  At the head of each sphere stands a ruler who has concentrated into his respected hands special powers.  This pagan conception, this pagan idea, this pagan notion is a direct consequence of the basic error we have been alluding to.  If matter had existed before creation, then the god who shaped this matter was bound and limited to it.  Consequently, the concept of god is lowered,and god is transformed into a natural power who is unfree in the act of creating.  Such a god is unable to create true contrasts and fundamentally different phenomena; accordingly it must have been established  by many gods (as the creations myths of the Babylonians and others often posit) – as many gods as there are groups of opposing phenomena.

Not so the Biblical account.  The Bible, in point of fact, denies the existence of these numerous gods, and ascribes the power that is attributed to them to the one and only G-d.  He alone is called Elohim.  The Bible then unites all the attributes of power that were separated by paganism.  The unification of these attributes in the one G-d raises the one G-d of Israel above any notion and limitations of a mere natural power.  For, our sages are clear, only the free and omnipotent will of a single being can create a world of contrasts; and only He can unite these contrasts into one great purpose.  Elohim refers to a single individual Who unites in Himself all the power and authority that give one control over a person or object.  Consequently, the person or object is under the exclusive authority of this individual in every respect.  Which helps explain why men are so keen to deny this authority and the Biblical account of creation.

Less than half of all scientists are atheist


The first rule of dealing with argumentative atheists is to fact-check everything they say, because if it isn’t an outright lie, it’s a half-truth or a manipulation.

Take, for instance, the oft-repeated statistic that “93% of scientists are atheist.” This is a half-truth — more accurately a tenth-of-a-percent truth. The 93% number applies to the membership of the National Academy of Sciences, which represents only 0.1% of scientists in the U.S. It’s a very elite group of 2,200 members out of millions of scientists employed in the U.S., and is far from representative of the entire scientific community.

So, what’s the real number? According to a Pew survey of scientists in the U.S., the number is about 41% non-believers vs. 51% who believe in God or some other higher power (7% didn’t respond on the survey).

If you look at these survey results in detail, you notice some interesting things. For instance, younger scientists are more likely to be believers than older scientists. That’s why I laugh when atheists tell me the remaining 7% of NAS scientists will eventually become 0% as people become more enlightened by science. It’s nothing more than wishful thinking. The most unbelieving age group of scientists is 65 and older, and this is reflected in the NAS statistic. The NAS is comprised of very distinguished scientists, most of whom tend to be “old” for obvious reasons — it takes a long time to carry out the sort of work that gets you noticed by and elected to the Academy. If the nomination and election process is even somewhat fair, then we expect the % of NAS scientists who are atheist to go down, not up, as these more spiritual younger scientists mature and distinguish themselves in their careers.

Now that we know the truth, that fewer than half of all scientists in the U.S. are non-believers, we can ask questions. Forty-one percent non-believing is still rather high given that only 4% of the general U.S. population identifies that way, so what’s going on? Given the atheist propaganda that religion and science are at war with each other, you might be tempted to think it’s because of science. However, once you dig into the reasons for non-belief, it turns out to have less to do with science than you might think. Elaine Howard Ecklund, a professor of sociology at Rice University, interviewed several scientists at elite research universities to determine why they lacked belief in God. She details her findings in her book, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think:

For some, not believing has everything to do with learning more about science. For others, science itself had little influence on their decision not to believe. In fact, for the majority of scientists I interviewed, it is not the engagement with science itself that leads them away from religion. Rather their reasons for unbelief mirror the circumstances in which other Americans find themselves: they were not raised in a religious home; they have had bad experiences with religion; they disapprove of God or see God as too changeable. For others, religion is simply irrelevant to their life’s passion of science.

She goes on to explore each of these reasons in more depth and provides anecdotes from her interviews with individual scientists. I found it particularly interesting that those who were raised in religious homes found that their parents and church mentors were unable to answer their questions about religion. This response leads me to believe that many of them are open to believing in God, but these naturally very curious people are not getting satisfactory answers to big questions. (Fellow Christians, do you see an opportunity here?)

Here’s what you should take away from all this. Never, ever, ever take anything an argumentative atheist tells you at face value. That goes doubly for atheists on social media; they are bored, frustrated, socially-atypical people who live to stir things up with Christians. They are almost always lying, bending, twisting, or otherwise manipulating the facts. Always check for yourself, and let the truth set you free.

Austin Event: John Lennox and Steven Weinberg

UPDATE: Sadly, Professor Weinberg has withdrawn from this event. Philosophy professor Daniel Bonevac will take his place, and the event will proceed as planned.

Also, for some reason, “Veritas Forum” has been scrubbed from the promotional materials, so the new poster is below.

For those of you in the Austin, Texas area, the Veritas Forum is hosting a dialogue between John Lennox and Steven Weinberg Daniel Bonevac. For those who can’t make it, Veritas tends to post videos of their events on their website, so check in with them afterward.



Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss the differences between religions and cults.

NVH, an atheist, asks:

What’s the difference between religions and cults? Aren’t they the same thing?

When I think of cults, I tend to think of Scientology or Heaven’s Gate or the Rajneeshees in Oregon back in the 1980s. These groups seem outwardly rather kooky to most of us, but the question of what really distinguishes them from traditional religion is a legitimate one, especially considering that at least some traditional religions were initially considered very strange by the larger culture (think Christians and Romans). There are similarities between religions and cults — and cults can form within religions — so it can get confusing, but there are three key ways to distinguish between the two. We’ll compare Christianity specifically with cults in general to demonstrate, since that was the context of NVH’s question.

Let’s first look at the similarities:

Christianity explains:

  • the origin of the universe
  • the origin of human life
  • the meaning of life
  • why things are the way they are / how the world works
  • what’s going to happen in the future.

Cults attempt to explain the same things as Christianity or any other religion.

The first key difference is in their truths; in other words, how the explanations are presented. Let’s look at the differences between truths in Christianity and cults.

Christianity’s claimed truths are:

  • often evident in nature, the world, and ourselves; one can arrive at a basic understanding of most of these truths through observation, experience, and reasoning
  • consistent with what we observe in the world
  • preached openly by prophets, who were messengers of God; most were unwilling and/or faced opposition or martyrdom for preaching these truths
  • freely available to everyone.

Cults claimed truths are:

  • often not at all evident in nature, the world, and ourselves; one can only arrive at these truths through special revelation (see third and fourth items below)
  • at best speciously consistent with what we observe in the world, and at worst not consistent at all
  • revealed under special circumstances by spiritual leaders who have exclusive access to a special knowledge of reality; most actively seek to gain adulation, power, and fortune
  • available only to a select group through special revelation by the spiritual leader.

The second key difference is earthly goals and rewards promised by religions and cults.

Goals and rewards of Christian faith:

  • salvation
  • redemption / reconciliation with God
  • eternal life in the new world.

Goals and rewards of cult devotion:

  • material improvement and advancement in this life and/ or
  • greater power or improved status in the next life.

The third key difference is in how these goals and awards are achieved.

How to achieve the goals and merit the rewards of Christian faith:

  • you can’t achieve the goals on your own
  • you will never merit the rewards
  • simply accept that God will grant you these things through Jesus Christ.

How to achieve the goals and merit the rewards of cult devotion:

  • rituals
  • good works
  • payment or other sacrifice to the spiritual leader.

This is what makes Christianity not only distinct from modern cults, but unique amongst traditional religions. I came to Christian faith, despite virtually no contact with traditional religion growing up, through the evidence in nature and the world. That’s straight out of Psalm 19 and Romans 1:20. Ever since, I’ve devoted this ministry to explaining how the truth of Christianity is:

  • often evident in nature, the world, and ourselves; one can arrive at most of these truths through observation, experience, and reasoning
  • consistent with what we observe in the world.

If you’re wondering how, a good place to start is my presentation on the Six Days of Genesis and my comparison of Genesis 1 and Modern science.

A universe of fireworks

The following is a guest post by Dr. Elizabeth Fernandez, who is both a friend and colleague of Dr. Salviander. Dr. Fernandez is a Catholic, an astrophysicist, and a freelance journalist. She is interested how science affects society, interfaith dialog, and the overlap of science with ethics, philosophy, and religion. Dr. Fernandez’s participation in interfaith dialog has included radio and television appearances, and organizing panel discussions, lectures, and field trips. You can follow her on Twitter at @sparkdialog.


Is it possible to be devoted to religion, yet come up with cutting edge science? Georges Lemaître thought so.

Lemaître. Probably the greatest scientist you’ve never heard of. He hung out with the likes of Hoyle, Eddington, and Einstein. And he came up with one of the most controversial ideas of modern cosmology, an idea that fundamentally changed how we looked at the universe.

Oh, yeah. And he was a Catholic priest.

Georges Lemaître always had two passions in life: science and religion. He knew he wanted to be a priest when he was 10 years old. While he served in WWI with the Belgian army, he read the Bible alongside physics textbooks while huddled in the trenches. He earned two bachelor’s degrees — one in math, and one in philosophy. He attended graduate school at the same time he was in the seminary, and is one of those rare, very dedicated people who earned not one but two PhDs — one in math and one in physics. He was one of the first people to suggest that computers could be used to solve complex problems, and was one of the inventors of the Fast Fourier Transform, an often-used tool in mathematics and computing.

At the time Lemaître started his research, around the beginning of the 1920s, the preferred view of the universe was Albert Einstein’s static universe. In this universe, galaxies hang in a fixed constellation with respect to one another, unmoving through the eons. Of course, physics tells us that gravity should draw all of these galaxies towards one another, and, if you wait long enough, everything would come together in a catastrophic collapse. In order to keep this from occurring, Einstein added a “cosmological constant” to counteract gravity: some mysterious outward force that would exactly balance the inward pull of gravity. This universe has no beginning; in fact, it’s ageless — quite possibly always existing in the same configuration we see today.

But Lemaître had a different idea. Since 1912, another astronomer named Vesto Slipher noticed in his observations that many galaxies were receding from Earth quite quickly. This didn’t quite fit into the concept of a static universe. Some scientists thought this was just a fluke, and others thought of it as one of the great cosmological puzzles of the time. It was Lemaître who figured it out. After delving into relativity, he came up with a new model of the universe – a model where space itself was expanding. This expanding space had the ability to whisk galaxies along with it, which explained the recessional velocities measured by Slipher. It was revolutionary. According to Lemaître’s model, the universe could change.

A changing universe… it was an incredible idea, but most scientists didn’t pay much attention. Einstein, even though he respected Lemaître greatly, didn’t believe his hypothesis, saying to Lemaître, Vos calculs sont corrects, mais votre physique est abominable. (“Your calculations are correct, but your physics is abominable.”) Lemaître’s own PhD advisor, Arthur Eddington, left Lemaître’s paper sitting on his desk, either unread or forgotten.

But Lemaître did not stop there. Three years later, he proposed an even more radical idea. He extrapolated the motions of the expanding galaxies backwards, predicting that at some time in the far distant past, all matter was compressed to one single point, what Lemaître called the “primeval atom.” Not only was the universe evolving, but it had a beginning.

Just as when Copernicus proposed that the earth went around the sun rather than the other way around, Lemaître’s idea was not met with accolades. Eddington didn’t like the idea of the primeval atom. Einstein thought it was unphysical. Lemaître’s own friend, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, was a big opponent of the theory, explaining its shortcomings on public radio.

But, contrary to what most physicists of the day believed, Lemaître ended up being right. A couple of years after Lemaître made his prediction about the expansion of the universe, Edwin Hubble observationally confirmed Slipher’s discovery that galaxies are in fact moving away from one another. (Hubble is commonly credited for discovering the expanding universe because of these observations, even though Lemaître made his prediction years earlier. Oddly enough, when Hubble first observed these galaxies moving away from Earth, he vehemently stated these motions had nothing to do with an expanding universe, but rather should somehow fit into the static universe model.) And shortly before Lemaître died, he heard the final confirmation of his primeval atom hypothesis when astrophysicists, Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson, announced their discovery of the cosmic microwave background — the leftover radiation from the fireball of the universe’s creation. Now, Lemaître’s theory is so well known that it’s a household name — the big bang theory.

I wonder what many people would think if they knew one of the most well known scientific theories of our day was developed by a Catholic priest. Today, there is considerable debate if science and religion are compatible. Lemaître faced some of this controversy, but it did not distract him. To put it simply, he was in search for the truth: a truth that could be accessed through science, but also through religion. In the words of Lemaître:

Man’s highest activity is searching for the truth. It is the factor which distinguishes us from animals, and our specific activity is to grasp the truth in all its forms.

Once you realize that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes . . . The doctrine of the Trinity is much more abstruse than anything in relativity or quantum mechanics; but, being necessary for salvation, the doctrine is stated in the Bible. If the theory of relativity had also been necessary for salvation, it would have been revealed to Saint Paul or to Moses . . . As a matter of fact neither Saint Paul nor Moses had the slightest idea of relativity.

The universe is an amazing, complex place. Georges Lemaître, in his quest for the truth, saw past the prevailing theories of the day to discover something fascinating and beautiful, a universe with a beginning, with galaxies constantly in motion, a universe that is, in the words of Lemaître, the “ashes and smoke of bright but very rapid fireworks”.

Which god is the Creator?

Speaking of anklebiters, ‘francisco’ asked the following in the comments to an article about quantum mechanics and the creation of the universe:

is there physical evidence that the cause of the universe is a superior been?
and if that was the case, which one of the thousands of gods the human has created is the cause of the universe?

I suspect he is not entirely sincere in his desire to know the answer to the first question (anklebiters are tediously reliable with their tells). In any case, francisco, if you’re reading this, I suggest you look through the archives of this website [here and here, especially] and read Gerald Schroeder’s book, The Science of God, to acquaint yourself with the evidence for God’s existence.

The second question is meant to show how arbitrary it is to believe in any one particular god as the creator of the universe, so, ha ha, aren’t we Christians a bunch of rubes. But it’s really just a silly question that betrays an ignorance of the basics of world religions and unforgivably superficial thinking.

Let’s consider the panoply of gods in Greek mythology. Each god governs an aspect of nature, or an abstract idea, an occupation, and so on. Zeus rules the skies, Poseidon rules the seas, Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty, and so on. None of them is a supreme being or creator god, so we can rule them all out. Likewise for the Roman gods, the Viking gods, the Babylonian gods, and so on. That narrows things down considerably.

That’s not to say that these religious traditions do not include creation myths. In fact, it’s become something of a secular fad to point out the similarities of the earliest creation myths with details of Genesis in an attempt to discredit the latter. However, once you examine these creation myths you begin to see that they invariably skirt the issue of the creation of the universe and deal instead with the establishment of the divinity of earthly rulers or the creation of a new world, land, or empire. Such is the case with the Mesopotamian and Egyptian creation myths that predate the writings of Moses, as well as others like the Greek, Roman, and Viking myths.

What we’re left with is three religious traditions that hold to a definite, coherent account of the creation of the universe from nothing by a supreme being. Furthermore, they are the only religious traditions I’m aware of that recognize the linearity of time and a timeline for creation that corresponds to the scientific record. These are, in order of their historical establishment, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. So, it really comes down to two supreme beings — God and Allah. There are ways to distinguish between the two as the most likely candidate for the creator of the universe, but I’ll save that for a later discussion.

Zombie science

There’s a simple reason for the corruption of biology and the social sciences: these studies are not based on Christian beliefs and faith the way science originally was and must always be. Modern science developed in only one place—Christian Europe. If you look up the great pioneers of physics and astronomy, you will find that they were almost all devout Christians, from Copernicus to Galileo to Newton to Maxwell to Planck to Lemaître.

The one glaring exception was Einstein, but even he famously said, “I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.” Even though Einstein was not Christian, he was the product of the Christian European culture that gave birth to science, and he was a willing participant in a process based on Christian principles:

But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. (Albert Einstein, 1941)

The prime motivation of Einstein and so many other great figures in science was to uncover divine truth and know the mind of God. People who feel they are doing God’s work are far less likely to succumb to human frailties and engage in activities that corrupt the search for truth. That tradition remains strong in physics, the original science. That is why the field of astrophysics was able to resist the degenerative effects of an increasingly atheist society. When the devout Lemaître conceived of the primeval atom (aka big bang theory) and demonstrated that the Genesis account of a universe with a beginning was scientifically sound, the stubborn resistance of scientists with a hatred for the idea of God was quickly overcome by the evidence.

The other branches of science have not fared as well. Atheists stole science from Christians in the mid and late 19th century with the false social science of Marx and behavioral science of Freud as well as the misuse of Darwin’s theory of evolution and the gross misrepresentation of Christian scripture. Over the last century and a half, secular humanists have successfully alienated Christians from the scientific method the faithful created and taken over most of its areas of study. Physics still has a substantial minority of Christians (and people with a general belief in God), and much good work is still being done. The social and behavior studies, on the other hand, are the tools of secular humanism and the zombies of the scientific world—active but not alive. Biology was bitten long ago and is gradually succumbing to the humanist infection. There is an easy way to tell a zombie biologist from a true biological scientist; ask him to say the following words, “Darwin was seriously wrong about some important things.” If he can’t bring himself to say this, you are speaking with one of the walking dead. Climate change ‘scientists’ are just garden-variety corrupt hacks who have sold out for money, prestige, and political favors. Bundle up for the coming ice age or thank the polluters for preventing it.

The lesson here is that the further any area of study is from the Christian foundations of true science, the more corrupt it is. The United States has been the source of a great deal of the productive science done in the 20th and early 21st centuries. It is also the most Christian of all developed countries. If atheists succeed in turning the United States into anything similar to what the formerly Christian European nations now are, science will die and humankind will experience a dark age.

Twisted history

Alex Berezow and James Hannam systematically dismantle a post by atheist evolutionary biologist, Jerry Coyne, who manages to get nearly every one of his claims about science and religion wrong. Example:


If you think of science as rational and empirical investigation of the natural world, it originated not with Christianity but with the ancient Greeks, and was also promulgated for a while by Islam.

Berezow and Hannam:

This is only half-true. Science is a lot more than just reason and observation. You need experiments too. For example, the Greeks, following Aristotle, thought that heavy objects must fall faster than light ones. It takes two seconds to disprove that by an experiment that involves dropping a pebble and a rock. But for a thousand years, no one did. There didn’t seem to be much point in testing a theory they already thought to be true. That’s probably why the Greeks were so good at geometry, as Dr. Coyne notes, because progress in mathematics is largely based on reason alone.

I’ll further point out that Aristotle — hero of humanism and champion of reason — was wrong about just about everything in terms of science, and the acceptance of his model of an eternal geocentric universe in particular held back progress in science for nearly two thousand years. Until it was revolutionized by a bunch of Christians.

Read the whole rebuttal.

The authors have not addressed all of Coyne’s claims, as, they have pointed out, there is “an impressive amount of error and misunderstanding [in] a very small space.” He certainly manages to cram a lot of error into the following unaddressed point:

If religion promulgated the search for knowledge, it also gave rise to erroneous, revelation-based “scientific” conclusions that surely impeded progress. Those include creation ex nihilo, the Great Flood, a geocentric universe, and so on.

By all appearances, the universe was created ex nihilo. Physicists have struggled to explain the origin of the universe in a way that avoids an ex nihilo creation event, without success. As this Reasons to Believe article points out, the Bible mentions a worldwide flood, not a global flood. A Great Flood, as described in Genesis, that wiped out all of human and animal life in the Mesopotamian region — the entire known world at the time — is scientifically plausible. And, geocentric theory began with the ancient Greeks. I suppose you could say that since the Greeks were religious, religion is therefore responsible for geocentric theory, but that would be a gross oversimplification. And, anyway, as Coyne is lumping this in with other biblical conclusions, one can reasonably assume he’s pinning this one specifically on Christianity. But, as we all know, Aristotle was responsible for promulgating the idea, which was later elaborated upon by Ptolemy. Yet, the erroneous notion persists that Christians were to blame for this faulty cosmology. As with the Galileo and Bruno affairs, this is the result of atheist myth-making.

The more commentary I read from atheists, the more I’m convinced that these self-styled champions of fact and reason are anything but.

Christians must reclaim science

Modern science exists because of the Christian faith. That is a provable fact. So, why is there so much conflict over the supposed conflict between science and Christianity? In terms of explaining the atheist myth-making about the supposed conflict — having once been an arrogant atheist, myself — I can tell you that it’s born of either total ignorance (as was the case with me) or the kind of hostility that makes a person blind to the truth or willing to distort it. In terms of Young-Earth Creationism, however, I’m still trying to figure that one out. Modern science is one of the many blessings of the Christian faith, and I can only surmise that YECs have allowed the atheists to frame the argument and have accepted a gross distortion — and outright omission — of historical facts.

The Stand to Reason Blog explains that, in contrast to atheist fables, science and Christianity go way back:

The myth begins with the notion of the “dark ages,” a time when the church suppressed education. It’s just not true. Scholarship was alive and well prior to Copernicus. In fact, scholars were working on heliocentric theories before Copernicus. He learned these in university and built on them when he published in final work. His theory didn’t emerge from a dark vacuum, but from rich science that had been nurtured in the universities, many of them established by the church.

In fact, as the article goes on to point out, sociologist of religion, Rodney Stark, found that 50 out of 52 of the key figures of the scientific revolution were religious.

Hugh Ross goes even further and explains how the scientific method comes straight from the Bible:

The Bible not only commands us to put everything to the test, it shows us how. Christian scholars throughout church history, from early church fathers to present-day evangelical scientists, philosophers, and theologians, have noted a pattern in biblical narratives and descriptions of sequential physical events such as the Genesis creation account. Bible authors typically preface such depictions by stating the narrative or description’s frame of reference or point of view. In the same statement or immediately thereafter comes a listing of the initial conditions for the narrative or description. The narrative or the description itself follows. Finally, the author describes final conditions and conclusions about what transpired.

Furthermore, there is not just one narrative or description of physical events in the Bible. There are dozens. Because the Bible is inspired by God––for whom it is impossible to lie or deceive––these dozens must be consistent with one another. Therefore, each of these dozens of descriptive accounts can be used to test the validity of the interpretation of the others.

In the near future, I’ll be posting an article about the concept of linear time that’s necessary for the emergence of modern science, and how it comes from Christianity.

It’s simple: the pillars upon which modern science stand — the notion of scholarship as a form of true worship, the scientific method, and the concept of linear time / cause-and-effect — were all built by the Christian faith. As the influence of the Christian worldview wanes in the West, replaced by a worldview that actively hammers away at the pillars of science, so will the quality of science diminish. This is why Christians must reclaim science instead of turning away from it.

Why are Americans skeptical of some scientific ideas?

A recent poll indicates that Americans are skeptical of evolution by natural selection, global warming, and the big bang theory. Surprisingly (for me, anyway), the biggest scientific loser is the big bang, with 51% of the respondents skeptical that the universe was created approximately 14 billion years ago.

Frankly, this astonishes me. There are sound reasons to be skeptical of the theory of evolution by natural selection (TENS) and anthropogenic (man-made) global warming, but the evidence and arguments for the big bang theory are excellent — and also consistent with the Bible, which is no small thing, since the poll indicated that religiosity is correlated with disbelief in the big bang.

So, why are most Americans skeptical of the big bang?

This is not a rhetorical question; it’s something I’m striving to understand. Some Christians make the argument that a literal interpretation of the Bible requires a young Earth and young universe, but it appears to me that this belief is inspired, or supported, by an argument against evolution. Many people who are skeptical of TENS (particularly evangelical Christians) believe that it requires billions of years to work, therefore if the universe and the Earth are only thousands of years old, TENS doesn’t work. Never mind that billions of years can’t even begin to help TENS, that doesn’t explain why more people are skeptical of the big bang than evolution.

In any case, scientists are, understandably, distressed by these results. Randy Schekman, a Nobel laureate in medicine at UC-Irvine, said, “Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts.”

Schekman is both right and wrong. If quizzed on why he or she disbelieves in certain scientific ideas, I’m confident the average individual would not be able to explain the best evidence and arguments for and against the ideas. However, I don’t believe it has anything to do with leaders (presumably, he means religious and political leaders) being antagonistic to facts, but rather a vocal minority of scientists and their advocates being openly antagonistic to religious belief.

The poll highlights “the iron triangle of science, religion and politics,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

And scientists know they’ve got the shakiest leg in the triangle.

To the public “most often values and beliefs trump science” when they conflict, said Alan Leshner, chief executive of the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. [emphasis added]

Of course values and beliefs trump science in a conflict. Unlike science, values and beliefs comprise an entire worldview, one that has been around much longer than modern science and has been much more influential.

But there was a time, at the beginning of the era of modern science up until the mid-20th century, when the Christian worldview and science largely went hand-in-hand. In the 17th century, many if not most natural philosophers (what scientists were called at the time) were Christians, and they saw their work as glorifying God. Mitch Stokes, in his brief biography of Newton, writes:

According to metaphor, God has written two books—Scripture and Nature—and He is glorified by the study of either one. This view, this “belief in the sacral nature of science,” was prevalent among natural philosophers of the seventeenth century. As Frank Manuel, one of Newton’s most important twentieth-century biographers, says:

“The traditional use of science as a form of praise to the Father assumed new dimensions under the tutelage of Robert Boyle and his fellow-members of the Royal Society, and among the immediate disciples of Isaac Newton. … In the Christian Virtuoso, demonstrating that experimental philosophy [experimental science] assisted a man to be a good Christian, Boyle assured readers that God required not a slight survey, but a diligent and skilful scrutiny of His works.”

Although Newton’s intensity while pursuing his work ranges from humorous to alarming, it is put into a different light if we see it as a measure of his devotion to God. For Newton, “To be constantly engaged in studying and probing into God’s actions was true worship.” This idea defined the seventeenth-century scientist, and in many cases, the scientists doubled as theologians. [emphasis added]

There was only occasional conflict for scientists like Newton in the form of struggling to understand how certain aspects of nature are consistent with their interpretation of scripture.

The antagonistic sort of conflict we see today goes back at least as far as Thomas Huxley using Darwinian evolution to undermine Christian belief. Huxley knew TENS had insurmountable problems, but he saw it as a useful weapon to attack Christianity, which he despised.

Unfortunately, this sort of practice has become increasingly commonplace into the 20th and 21st centuries. Global warming isn’t by its nature useful as a direct attack on Christian belief, but it does represent an attack on the Christian ideal of limited government. The historical misuse of biology as a weapon against Christian belief began with Huxley and continues with modern biologists and their supporters — so much so that the public has little idea how much the most recent findings of evolutionary biology support the Christian view of creation. The misuse of physics to undermine Christian belief, however, is relatively new. I find it distressing not only because it is my field of study, but because the field of physics has historically led the way for the other sciences and represents the greatest scientific support for the Christian view of creation.

As a scientist — and irrespective of my Christian beliefs — I find the behavior of the attackers perplexing. The majority of Americans are either Christian or hold some general belief in a supreme being, so why do some scientists go out of their way to alienate a majority of people who support science by sending their children to universities and by paying taxes for government-supported science programs? At some point, they’re just not going to see the value of either. And they’re certainly not going to make the effort to become more literate in a topic that they’re told is in opposition to their faith. Modern scientists like Stephen Hawking who use their considerable scientific knowledge to attack religious belief are therefore doing a tremendous disservice to science. I don’t know what Hawking’s motivation is, but if he dislikes Christianity to the extent that he’s trying to undermine it, as Huxley did, then he is only indirectly realizing this goal and at the cost of eroding confidence in good science.

Poll results notwithstanding, big bang theory is good science — in fact, it is arguably the crowning achievement of modern science — and it is not only compatible with Christian belief, but in my opinion mandated by it. (I will expand on this in a future post.)

Meanwhile, there’s no use blaming political and religious “leaders” for the lack of confidence in science, because, if history has taught us anything, it’s that they don’t tend to lead the way, but jump out in front of the direction in which people are already going. If good science is going to flourish in America, two things must happen. Christians must become scientifically literate — which is something I hope to encourage with my ministry — but scientists have got to stop the public antagonism toward Christian belief.