August 16, 2017

The Heavens Declare

George Mulfinger

Have you ever tried to count the stars? Jeremiah wrote: “the host of heaven cannot be numbered.”

The science of astronomy has given us much interesting information about the universe in which we live-the earth and its moon, the planets and their moons, the stars, and the sun. These findings should enhance the thoughtful Christian’s appreciation for God’s power and wisdom. Moreover, they should sharpen our awareness of the truth of some remarkable statements in the Bible about astronomy.

Most professional astronomers of the twentieth century label the Bible as a collection of strictly human writings, perhaps remarkable for the age in which they were written, but totally unreliable in matters of science. This is blasphemy against the Creator. Those who hold such a view must have either an imperfect knowledge of what the Bible says, a faulty interpretation of scientific observations, or both.

Long before astronomers had ever thought of peering through a telescope, God had revealed to man, through His Word, some amazing facts about our universe. The correlation of these Scriptural statements with scientific observations should not really be surprising. After all, their Author created the universe which modern astronomers observe.

The Size of the Universe

Fred Hoyle, a well-known British astronomer, has charged that the Biblical view of the size of the universe is far too limited. It is his opinion that “the cosmology of the ancient Hebrews is only the merest daub compared with the sweeping grandeur of the picture revealed by modern science” (The Nature of the Universe, Revised Edition, The New American Library, 1960, page 121). Obviously, Hoyle is woefully uninformed as to what the Bible actually does say concerning the scope and majesty of God’s universe. In Genesis 22:17, the number of stars in the heavens is likened to the number of grains of sand on the seashore: “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.” In Jeremiah 33:22, we read, “As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me.”

When we consider that the ancients recognized only a few hundred stars — those that could be seen with the naked eye-then we can appreciate the amazing declaration in the Bible that there are countless stars in the heavens. How could this be known before Galileo turned the first astronomical telescope skyward in A.D. 1609, except by God’s revelation? Galileo was dumbfounded at what he saw, and termed the stars “innumerable.” The Biblical statement-”the host of heaven cannot be numbered” had been penned hundreds of years previously.

The book of Isaiah gives still another lesson on the size of the universe. “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance” (Isaiah 40:15). This verse intimates the exact opposite of what Hoyle has suggested. The Bible speaks of a universe that is too vast to be comprehended by man’s finite mind.

The Ordinances of Heaven

God questioned Job, “Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” (Job 38:33). This question was recorded at least a millennium and a half before the time of Christ. Yet men did not even realize that such ordinances or laws existed until the time of the Renaissance, nearly 30 centuries later.

Many phenomena in the heavens seem capricious and unpredictable. However, the Bible declares that they follow definite laws-laws which science did not uncover until centuries later. Sir Isaac Newton set down the law of universal gravitation, the laws of motion, and many other important relationships. Johannes Kepler unraveled secrets of the planets — rules they must follow as they travel through their orbits.

But Newton, Kepler, and other scientists were only able to formulate these laws because God had already established this highly organized universe. Scripture stresses the orderliness of nature: “he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder” (Job 28:26); “he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth” (Proverbs 8:29).

The Nature of the Earth

The ancient Egyptians believed in a square, flat earth supported by five pillars — one at each corner and one at the center. The early Greeks had their legend of Atlas, a giant who carried the earth on his shoulders. An ancient Hindu legend placed the earth on the back of a gigantic elephant which stood on an immense turtle; the turtle, in turn, swam in the midst of a cosmic sea. But only the wisest men in all the Orient claimed to know what supported the sea. Surrounded by picturesque myths, the human writer of Job, who also lived in ancient times, wrote “He … hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7).

The roundness of the earth is hinted in other verses of Hebrew Scripture: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22); “When I made the cloud of the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it” (Job 38:9); and “he set a compass upon the face of the depth” (Proverbs 8:27). Luke 17:34-36, referring to the time of the Rapture (a split-second happening), indicates that some people will be sleeping during the night while others will be laboring in the fields during the day. Clearly, the Bible does not teach a “flat earth.”

Degeneration Processes in the Universe

The Bible states that the heavens and the earth “shall wax old as doth a garment” (Hebrews 1:11). On the contrary, evolutionists claim that the universe is constantly improving. There is staunch evidence for the Scripture’s assertion; three and a half centuries of telescopic observations have revealed that the universe is indeed running down.

Rather than evolutionary improvement, we observe degenerative events: stars are consuming their fuel at a voracious rate; the sun uses up four and one-half million tons of its fuel every second, converting it to radiant energy which is sent out in to space in all directions never to be recovered. More drastic degenerative events have been observed, such as exploding stars — novae, supernovae, and planetary nebulae blast fragments of their material into space at high velocity.

Within our own solar system, comets degenerate into meteors, and meteors are burned or pulverized to dust as they are swept up by the planets. The earth itself participates in this all-pervasive, downward trend of nature as it gradually loses its rotational energy. Even on the nuclear and sub nuclear levels, degenerative processes are readily apparent as unstable nuclei and particles decay to more stable forms.

Here, then, is a realistic portrayal of our physical universe — it is a complex system that is slowly but inexorably, running down. And most remarkably, this general trend of nature was described in Scripture many, many centuries before science became aware of it.

The Question of Origins

Contrary to popular opinion, the question of origins does not rightfully lie within the realm of science. True science is only based upon observation. However, no scientist was on the scene with notebook and pen in hand during the creation week. Moreover, there is no way that the necessary observations can be made today because we are told that God ceased from His creative activity on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:11). Thus, we are excluded from any means of direct knowledge of the creation. We must rely on the testimony of the One Who was present when it took place.

The laws God invoked during the creation week were most certainly different from the laws by which He maintains the universe today. For example, under the present order new matter never forms ex nihilo (out of nothing). Yet during the creation, this is precisely what occurred. We must make a distinction, then, between the “creative laws” of Genesis 1 and the “sustaining laws” of today. This distinction is a major stumbling block for many. Our finite minds tempt us to limit God to familiar methods and processes.

Creation was a miracle, or a series of miracles. We cannot hope to devise scientific explanations for such wondrous acts of God. Such a task would be as futile as trying to “explain” the feeding of the multitudes, the healing of the sick, or the raising of the dead. Could we explain such events, they would, of course, cease to be “miracles.” It is through such great mysteries and wonders as these that God has demonstrated His power to mankind. “Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend” (Job 37:5).

Limited Understanding

The Bible declares that even “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (I Corinthians 3:19). The failings of human understanding were amply demonstrated in recent months by predictions concerning the comet Kohoutek. For reasons still unknown to experts, the highly touted “comet of the century” was a grand fiasco, hundreds of times dimmer than its advance billings had promised. Instead of a spectacular, bright tail stretching one-sixth of the way across the sky, careful observers saw a small, fuzzy object scarcely visible to the unaided eye. Even viewed through binoculars, Kohoutek was a sorry spectacle! In fact, it was the least impressive of several comets that have appeared in the last 10 years.

How could the astronomers have been so wrong? If the most competent scientists can err so greatly concerning close objects within our own solar system, how far should we trust their speculations on the nature of the galaxies beyond? And if they fail to understand the present universe, how much less must they know about what it used to be, or how it came into being?

Temporary Knowledge

The recent comet fiasco is only one example of man’s inability to understand, theorize about, or predict concerning the wonders of the universe. In a few years his theories will be overthrown and replaced by new links in man’s vast chain of changing ideas. The best of his present hypotheses will be thoroughly outdated 50 years from now, if the Lord has not returned by then. In 200 or 2000 years how ridiculous man’s present ideas might appear! A well-known saying in astronomical circles warns that “a person who becomes wedded to the theories of one generation will find himself widowed in the next.”

Harmonizing the Incompatible

In spite of the short life span of human ideas, there are still those who find it appealing to hang onto their pet theory of origins with one hand and their Christian beliefs with the other. They deem it reasonable to seek out the most convincing theory, and to accept it, at least tentatively, as the method God used in structuring the’ cosmos. Before entertaining such a marriage of ideas, however, Christians should consider, first of all, that those who adopt these theories (and especially their originators) are decidedly hostile to the Word of God and its pronouncements on the subject of origins. Almost unanimously, it is their feeling that there is no longer any need (or room) for God. Indeed, the first such theory to gain serious recognition by the scientific world was developed by the atheistic French mathematician, Pierre Simon de Laplace (1749-1827). Since his time the overall trend has been, and still continues to be, away from God.

Secondly, it is pure double talk to attempt to weld together the rapid, miraculous creation of Scripture and a theory based on the action of blind natural forces acting over millions or billions of years. Such a position forces a figurative rather than a direct and honest interpretation of Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, and several other books which deal with the creation. Figurative, poetic, allegorical, and modernistic interpretations all stem from old-fashioned unbelief. That this type of distrust is a dangerous error was emphasized by the Lord Jesus Christ when He said, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me … But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46-47).

The Biblical Framework

There are many statements of scientific fact in the Bible that speak clearly of the divine intelligence that guided its writers. It is truly miraculous that the Scriptures were kept free from the errors of the ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians. Moses, the writer of the first five books of the Bible, was trained in all the ways of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22), yet none of their pagan ideas crept into his writings!

Astronomy has recently seen a great increase in the sophistication of instruments and techniques, accompanied by an almost complete loss of spiritual values. The Christian of today, however, is free to take the awe-inspiring findings of modern astronomy and incorporate them into his own framework of Biblical creationism. We are now in a position to appreciate more fully than ever the majestic splendor of God’s mighty works.

This article was originally published by Faith for the Family, May/June 1974. It is republished here by permission.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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