Before the origin of the universe there was nothing. Then there was an incredible release of energy and all the matter that will ever exist in the universe came into being in a very short period of time. Inorganic (non-living) matter came first and was followed by organic (living) matter later. The universe as we know it will one day cease to exist.
This statement is a macro-narrative of the universe, or as some would say it is the big picture of things. Is this statement the view point of theoretical physicists, the Bible, neither, or both? If your answer is “both” you are correct. This macro-narrative of the universe is held by theoretical physicists and the Bible.
I share this observation to show the Bible is not necessarily inconsistent with the theories of the scientific community and the factual discoveries made by scientists. The two do not always agree though and here is why.
Science is the discipline of observation whether it is observing natural phenomena in the field or experiments in a laboratory. Scientists are very good at observing, qualifying and quantifying what they observe, especially given the technological advances in the tools used in their continued research. They are very good at observing, but not so at speculating.
When scientists theorize about what happened in the distant past, or what will happen in the future they are speculating about things beyond their ability to observe. In almost every instance where scientists have speculated about the past and the future, they have repeatedly been proven wrong once their speculations were subjected to objective verification.
As long as the coelacanth was thought to be extinct for the last 60 million years, it was easy for scientists to speculate that its three pairs of flesh-lobed ventral fins were rudimentary legs, making it a transitional life-form between fish and amphibians. They speculated it could walk on land, dwelt in shallow, coastal areas, and had lungs as well as gills. Those speculations collapsed like a house of cards hit by a leaf-blower when a native fisherman caught one in his net between the waters of South Africa and Madagascar in 1938.
Here is the first wrong speculation and it’s a biggy. They said the coelacanth was extinct. Mark Twain once said, “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” In like manner, scientific reports that the coelacanth is extinct have been greatly exaggerated.
Beginning in 1986 Hans Fricke began observing (take note of that word) the coelacanth in its native habitat. His observations revealed the coelacanth is a pelagic, an open, deep seas fish, and does not inhabit shallow, coastal waters. The coelacanth swims everywhere it goes and never attempts to use its three pairs of lobed fins to walk, even on the ocean floor. Autopsies of dead specimens reveal it is a true fish with gills and no lungs.
Fricke remarked that the coelacanth has been resistant to evolution remaining “virtually unchanged” for more than 60 million years. That is a scientific observation that corroborates what the Scriptures declare in Genesis 1:24, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind.” In other words God created living creatures to replicate themselves, not to evolve.
Ichthyologists, people who study fish, are already speculating about the future of the coelacanth which will probably prove to be as accurate as their speculations about its past. But I think God will be proved right again; the coelacanth will probably remain virtually unchanged.
The Bible is not a science textbook, but when the revelations contained in it overlap into a statement on the realities we observe to be true, it has never been proven to be wrong. For instance, Job 26:7 says God “hangs the earth on nothing.” The fact of the earth floating in space without support was proclaimed in Scripture thousands of years before the telescope was invented or Galileo published his findings.
And the truths declared in the Bible remain unchanged, whereas modern science remains in a state of constant flux. Theoretical physicist once thought the universe began with a Big Bang 13.7 million years ago, but since the discovery of the Higgs Boson, also known as the God particle, they now say the universe is probably 13.81 billion years old.
As science gains more knowledge those time frames are subject to change, but the Scripture’s revelation in Genesis 1:1 remains unchanged, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Whether that beginning was earlier or later than 13.81 billion years ago means little to me. What is important to me is God was there.