17 November 2009

Thanks for the universe (Thanks from Genesis 1:1, part one)

by Dan Phillips

[Not sure why the title reformatted itself; nothing I did. I think it's the RefTagger program, that automatically identifies all Bible references - even in titles, evidently.]

Preface. It seems as if, with each passing year, I see more significance in Genesis 1—3 generally, and Genesis 1:1 specifically. It has been well said that anyone who accepts Genesis 1:1 as true is prepared to understand and believe the rest of the Bible. Deny it, and all falls apart.

So when I introduced this Valerie-inspired series on thankfulness, my mind turned first to Genesis 1:1. I just may not have to go anywhere else, by Thursday the 26th (Thanksgiving Day in America).

Basic assumptions. Genesis 1:1 is probably the best-known verse in the Bible: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. For this series, I am going to assume without debate that this is the sense of the verse:
  • Genesis 1:1 points to the first and only beginning of all things
  • Genesis 1:1 is not a summary-statement nor a title
  • Genesis 1:1 relates God's first act, followed immediately by the seven days narrated in 1:2—2:4
  • Genesis 1:1 describes ex nihilo creation
Today's item for thanks. The Hebrew phrase "the heavens and the earth" form a merism. In a merism, one names two poles, thereby including everything in-between. For instance "young and old" means all ages. Other merisms might include "root and branch," "here and there," and "night and day."

Thus in Genesis 1:1, "the heavens and the earth" means the universe (cf. Genesis 2:4; 14:19; Psalm 69:34; 148:13, etc.). In the beginning, this one true and living God created the universe in an unformed and undeveloped state, then set about to order and define it.

This verse, then, asserts that one God is responsible for the creation of all things. There is no created thing that did not come from His hand; all created things trace their origin to that one, original burst of command. The infinite-personal God of Scripture had conceived of a "plan of the ages," which He made in Christ (Ephesians 3:11, Greek), and now He began its execution with the creation of everything from nothing.

What this means, then, is that we live in a universe, not a multiverse. There are not many realities competing with each other, vying for dominance. It is one universe, from the hand of one God. It is all defined and ruled over by Him.

Ironically, atheists — who have made "doing Science" their sacrament — depend on this truth, even as they deny it. Repetition only has meaning in a universe. Generalization from particulars only has meaning in a universe. If we can't proceed from the premise that everything is united by a common origin, we can neither predict nor generalize. In that existence, even if a series played out identically a hundred times, a thousand times, a million times, we would have no basis for predicting that it would proceed the same the next time. And even if it proceeded identically with our test subjects, no matter how large the sample, we could never justifiably assert that it would proceed the same with any untested subject.

Put it another way. Last Thanksgiving, you fed your family untainted, normal turkey (or pizza). They lived and thrived. How do you know that, if you feed them untainted, normal turkey this year, they won't die, or explode, or burst into flames because of it? How do you know that, when you poke your fork into some pumpkin pie, your house won't fly out into space as a result? How do you know that, when you click in the "Leave your comment" box, so that you can argue with me, your face won't be torn off and your veins filled with acid as a result? In fact, how could you even form an argument, attempting to arrange reasons in any logical or compelling form, with any thought that shapes on a page would even appear the same to each viewer, and convey meaning to rational readers?

Because of Genesis 1:1.

So there's the irony of the atheist. If Genesis 1:1 were not true, he could never deny that Genesis 1:1 is true.

So back to us. As you live your life in this one universe, with its designed predictability and order; and as you pursue your life confident that it is even possible to find meaning and live meaningfully — thank God for it. Thank Him for making a universe for you to live in. Thank Him that, because of Him, even the bare concepts of meaning and purpose and cohesion are not only intelligible and possible, but discoverable.

Discoverable, that is, if we proceed on the premise that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Which, thank God, we can.

Dan Phillips's signature


NoLongerBlind said...

A hearty AMEN! Very well said!

Dovetailing off this thought, could it not be said that even God's creation is looking forward to giving thanks in that day?

"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God." (Romans 8:19)

SandMan said...

Great post, Dan! God's creation becomes even more exciting when I consider that we haven't seen all of it yet.

I Corinthians 2:9--

but just as it is written,

Rob Peck said...

Well said Dan. Sandman, I just love that scripture! Thanks!

The Blainemonster said...

What in incredible, irrefutably logical, and, well, COOL point to make! Well done, and indeed, thank God!

J♥Yce Burrows said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J♥Yce Burrows said...

Try again, Joyce.

So awesome to be enabled to learn and be grateful for those He teaches to teach, inspires to inspire. Great post, as are others! Abounding thanksgiving ~ to God for Valerie and you. Paramountly the Word.

New word this merism ~ lovely you care to share. Alpha & Omega? Strong's 571...first & last letter of alphabet with middle letter in the middle of original langugage(the sum of it) = truth...is that one, too? Guilty...bunny trail and dovetail.

Craig and Heather said...

How do you know that, if you feed them untainted, normal turkey this year, they won't die, or explode, or burst into flames because of it?

I dunno. Some people have a knack for following a tried and true recipe 20 times and somehow getting a different result every. single. try.

Good post. I am thankful that God does not change and we can trust His word as 100% true at all times.


Aric said...

Great point about the universe. I had never thought of it that way before. Definitely much to be thankful. Thanks DJP.

"How do you know that, when you click in the "Leave your comment" box, so that you can argue with me, your face won't be torn off and your veins filled with acid as a result?"

I don't, but it's worth the gamble. Oops, mixing the posts. Sorry, couldn't help myself. :)

Pedro said...

Well put and logically tight and simple.
My techie brain loved it.
Thanks DJP

Aric said...

That's "Much to be thankful for."

I'll go back to my usual place on the sidelines and not commenting.

Mike Riccardi said...


Really well-done. I'm grateful for the fruit of your meditations. I'm sure the meditating was a joy for you as well.

Thanks brother.

Stefan Ewing said...


I firmly, adamantly believe in a single, created universe.

For the sake of argument, however, I suppose that those who argue for parallel universes (that is what you're referring to, right?) would assert that within each individual universe, a consistent set of physical laws and rules apply. Thus, within this particular universe, we can predict that given cause X, effect Y will or will not occur.

That being said, I'll stick by Genesis 1:1 and Hebrews 11:3:

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

DJP said...

To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, it's hard to compete with people who make things up. I decline.

Stefan Ewing said...

It's also tempting to believe that the whole concept of parallel universes is just a fancy way of getting around the "anthropic principle," that the universe is infinitessimally finely tuned to support human life.

Paula said...

There you go again, DJP, disagreeing with The Vatican!

The Pope's astronomer, José Gabriel Funes, a Jesuit priest, told L'Osservatore Romano that there would be nothing surprising about the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrials.

"Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on Earth, so there could be other beings created by God [beyond it]," he said. The interview suggests that the Church's hierarchy may be paving the way to showing that Pope Benedict XVI is more open to the ideas of modern science than he has previously seemed to be.

Pope Benedict has spoken in favour of "intelligent design" in the past and has damned evolutionary ideas that leave no room for God.

Fr Funes, in the interview, admits that, for him, evolution is a given. He also said that he believed in the Big Bang theory as the most likely explanation for the origin of the universe, and that the Bible should not be held to account for its lack of scientific accuracy. "Fundamentally," he said, "the Bible is not a book of science... It's a love letter written by God to his people in the language of two or three thousand years ago... So one cannot ask the Bible for scientific responses."

The existence of alien beings would not create a problem for believers, he insisted, "because one cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God... They would be part of creation."

SandMan....is that what you're getting at? : )

Mike Westfall said...

Speaking of Genesis, has anyone seen this youtube video that's been making the rounds on Facebook? Is there anything to it, or is Missler making it up?

SandMan said...

Hi Paula,

Not really. I was referring to the verse I referenced above that tells us (paraphrase): that we cannot even imagine, nor is there anything in all we can see in the universe, that would compare to what God has waiting for us in Heaven. The idea of extra-terrestrials is interesting, I guess, but I don't really care about that when I think about Heaven. Thanks for asking. Sorry if I was unclear before.

DJP said...

MMike - Chuck Missler? If I check that out later and find out and that it's some lame deal of adding up people's names in the KJV and dividing by 666 or something, I will personally come over and slap your head. Someday.

Mike Westfall said...

Yeah, Chuck Missler.
No, it's not that, but I worry that it's probably just as lame.

Mike said...

Great post Dan (no surprise there!).

I listened to the Bahnsen/Stein debate over the weekend so this presup apologetic thing is on my mind at the moment.

I like the way you have summarized the main points in a very understandable way

Stefan, you said "It's also tempting to believe that the whole concept of parallel universes is just a fancy way of getting around the "anthropic principle,

actually, the proponents of multiverse theory openly admit that that is their motivation, to explain away the apparent design and fine tuning of the universe.

Cheri Michelle said...

Thanks for that. Sometimes I slip into a hazy place where I can't see God's glory clearly. I loved the mention of how atheists can't say they don't believe in creation, because by saying that, they just admitted that they DO believe it. Enough to deny it anyway. The irony!

Susan said...

Dan said: How do you know that, when you click in the "Leave your comment" box, so that you can argue with me, your face won't be torn off and your veins filled with acid as a result?

(Are you trying to tell us something...?)

donsands said...

"Thank Him for making a universe for you to live in."

And for one He has graciously given us to inherit.

I looked up at the sky tonight, and saw the clouds, stars were out, and it was breath taking, and then i thought, "Lord you have made me an heir to all this, and so much more. Thank You. I am so undeserving of your mercy."

thanks for the good post. Another fine word for the people of Christ, and unbelievers as well.

Bob Johnson said...

Happy to report I clicked on the "Leave a comment" button without ill-effect.

DJP said...

So far.

trogdor said...

Well, sometimes I write a comment, then read the responses, and I feel like I'm getting an aneurysm. Does that count?