In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
“The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” -Carl Sagan.
Co-opting biblical phraseology, famed cosmologist Carl Sagan declared the maxim of materialism: that nothing but the material universe exists. It’s all that ever existed. It’s all that ever will exist. In other words, reality reaches no further than the physical world that we can see through the tools of science. No spiritual, invisible, immaterial world is to be seriously considered. Notions like that are the wandering, wishful dreams of naive, anti-scientific children.
It would certainly reword the Bible’s opening line. Imagine the first sentence of the Bible if prophet Carl wrote it: “In the beginning was matter.” His declaration that the cosmos is all there is or ever was or will be is actually a theological statement. He is essentially saying, “There is no God, never was, and never will be.”
But the Bible does not start with matter. Nor does it start with men. It starts with God. “In the beginning God…” That first sentence is a brutal assertion of God’s existence. And not just His existence, but, His pre-existence, which is to say His existence eternally in the past before anything else came to exist. “In the beginning God…”
The word for “God” there is the Hebrew word “Elohim”. This is a very specific and yet a very generic term. On the one hand it is used throughout the Bible specifically referring to the true God of Israel. But it is also used of angels, idols, false gods, even man.
This isn’t really a complicated problem for us. For instance, take the word “Theology” and the way we use it. On the one hand we use it in a general sense to refer to someone’s whole set of beliefs. Everything from their views of the Bible, to salvation, to the Trinity, to the end times, to church government, to spiritual gifts and so on. All of these together fall under the heading of “theology” in a general sense.
Yet the word “theology” is used in a very specific sense and refers to one’s beliefs specifically about God. In this sense it’s not referring to your position on the Millennium, or predestination, or speaking in tongues, but, God – His nature, essence, character, purpose and so on. The word theology comes from two Greek words: theos means God and logos means the knowledge of. Theos and logos: put htem together and you get “theology”, which means the knowledge of God, or, the study of God. Our series this summer “Knowing God” would be in this category.
So in coming to Elohim, it has a generic use which allows for creatures to be called Elohim. But, it is used very specifically for the one true Creator-God of Israel.
The interesting part, which we explored this summer in our Knowing God series is that Elohim is in the plural form. “In the beginning, Elohim (plural) created the heavens and the earth.” To explain the importance of this I’ll quote from that sermon:
The word “God” is the word “Elohim” in Hebrew. It is written in the plural form. Not the singular. Now this is never understood to mean many gods, but, the plural form is meant to emphasize the majesty of God. However, this plurality lays the foundation for later revelation that will give us more detail about what God is like as One God, Three Persons. In other words, while we don’t “get” the Trinity in this verse, when we get it later we see that it doesn’t contradict what we had earlier in Genesis.
Now so far in that sentence we have God and we have something else other than God. We have “the beginning”. This is not the beginning of God because God does not have a beginning. And that is not how the sentence is even leaning. It is clearly conveying that God is there and then while God is there a beginning begins. These first words of the whole Bible are intersecting the God who eternally “is” and something else that He is beginning: His creation. Hebrews 11:3 announces: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Acts 17:24 declares: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth….” He is the power behind this beginning. With its very first words the Bible picks up with God already on the scene about to get on with the business of doing what a Creator God does: which is creating.
And so we read: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
First, isn’t it interesting where the Bible begins? There is no explanation of what this eternal God was doing before there was the heavens and the earth. We know from the full revelation of the Old and New Testaments that God is a Triune God, existing eternally as one God yet 3 equal divine Persons. So what were these 3 members of the Triune Godhead occupied with for all that “time” prior to bringing everything else into creation? We’re not told. It’s blanketed in mystery, remaining part of that knowledge which God has not decided to bring into the light for man to know. All man needs to know, apparently, is that before everything there was God.
Second, we can actually see that it is rather appropriate where the Bible does begin. It begins with the intersection of God’s existence and ours. And it should, since the Bible is God’s revelation to us it should begin where it most certainly concerns us: our beginnings. We began because God decided we should. He is the Ultimate Reality behind our reality.
Third, we have a choice. We have a choice of what to believe. We can either believe Carl Sagan or we can believe the Bible. Carl Sagan is not making merely a scientific statement, don’t be fooled. He wants you to see the science so that you will then see his theology. He wants you to see the science because he believes once you do you will no longer see God.
Of course, Carl couldn’t be saying that matter is eternal as science has already demonstrated matter, space and time had a definite beginning. Thank you Edwin Hubble and Albert Einstein.
So all Carl has left is that the beginning of our universe began to exist, but, without an intelligent Creator to bring it about. But, we have to ask Carl how that could be scientific: “How, Carl, could it be scientifically asserted that the universe began to exist without any cause at all?” After all, all of science is a study of causes. What causes the things we see? The sudden, explosive materialization of everything out of nothing we are supposed to believe happened for no reason? There is no causal explanation and none is needed? So these scientists tell us? Perhaps here we consider the humble reminder of eminent scientists that science has limits and cannot answer many important questions about life. Quote from Lennox 41-2.
So here we have a choice: do we believe that God exists eternally and created everything or do we believe God does not exist and everything got here without any God? Do we believe the God’s Scriptures or Carl Sagan?
Fourth, we have in this sentence the overture of all the rest of the Bible. What can we possibly understand in all the rest of Scripture if we don’t understand this first sentence. God is, and, because He is, we are.
Not only will we have an understanding of all the rest of Scripture from Genesis, but, all of life. What we have is the foundation for understanding everything in our world today. Do you have questions about:
- Your origins? Where you come from? Where it all comes from?
- Does God exist?
- Does science and the Bible conflict? Do I have to choose to believe one or the other?
- How many genders are there?
- Can men be women and women be men?
- How should I see abortion?
- Why is there evil & suffering? Why do bad things happen?
- What is marriage? Why is it important?
- How should I view sex?
- How should I view sexuality?
- Why is work part of life and why is work important?
- Should we go with Elon Musk to explore space for other planets to go live on?
- Are there too many humans alive on the earth?
- Are humans going to destroy the planet through anthropogenic climate change?
- Are humans going to go extinct unless we do something about climate change?
- What is my purpose? What is my life’s meaning? Does my life matter?
- Is evolution true?
- Did God create the world in 6 literal 24 hour days or were the days long periods of time?
- Is there gap of time between the first and second verse of the bible?
- How is man supposed to relate to God?
- How is man supposed to relate to his wife? A wife to her husband?
- How is man supposed to relate to his environment? The animals?
- Is Satan really real? Was that serpent really a serpent?
- What does “the image of God” actually mean?
Can you see how Genesis is relevant? It most certainly is. And it will always be so.