Gav once asked me what I thought about a 13.7 billion year old universe. I gave him an answer which lasted almost as long. Came across it in comments recently and thought I’d repost it…
The 13.7 billion year old story is told with some very important background assumptions. These assumptions are that all reality has come about through chance and time. (Even if a scientist believes that there is more to the universe, as scientists they operate as though this were the case). But those are the only two ingredients – time and chance.
Now given the astronomically small odds of such an astronomically complex cosmos arising by chance then you’re going to have to have astronomically long periods of time to give rise to it. This is the only real option when time and chance are the only two factors. Small chance must mean big time. The smaller the chance, the bigger the time.
And, to be honest, the story still has immense problems. For one thing, you can give nothing as much time as you like – ‘nothing will come of nothing’ as King Lear once said. And you might also want to ask in a universe characterized by entropy and the overwhelmingly *negative* effects of genetic mutations, whether ‘time’ is really on our side?? But perhaps all those other problems are for another time.
My main point is to say that the ‘time and chance’ story could never be anything other than cosmically long-winded! If time and chance is all there is then the story *must* posit inconceivably long periods of time – there is no alternative.
The Christian story looks very different. This is because time and chance are not the main players in this story. The Christian story begins with a purposeful Creator Father who makes all things in and through and for His Son, Jesus, in the power of His eternal Spirit. Already you can see that the Christian’s story of the world will be very different. You simply don’t need to invoke ‘time’ as the explanation for the world’s complexity. The universe is as weird and wonderful as it is because it’s the love gift of the Father for His Son. It’s as broken and vandalised as it is because of our rebellion against Christ – the Logic of the universe. Time’s just not a big player in this story.
Many Christians (myself included) say the earth is 6000 years old (many others say 10 000. Many also go with the billions of years story as well as the Christian story, though I think there are problems with this). But this comparatively ‘young’ earth position is the result of doing good science. Not, first of all, the empirical observation kind (though that may well come in later.) First the Christian will be a good scientist of the word.
All science operates according to methods that are appropriate to the object of study. If you think the speaking God made the world then listening to His word seems an extremely fruitful line of enquiry. So good science will mean good bible study.
The bible itself gives us genealogies from Adam all the way through to the time of Christ’s incarnation – the first Christmas. The bible is extremely keen to trace this through for us (I’ll say why in a second). But what it means is that the evidence is there for all to see. Good science means taking the evidence seriously and on its own terms. Doing so yields an age of 6000 years (or 10 000 if you think some of the genealogies leap-frog generations, which is possible).
Now why is this important?
The bible tells the story of the universe as the story of two men. Adam and Christ. In Adam the creation fell into frustration and death. In Christ, the One who made the world – the eternal Logos (the Logic, the Word) – He enters His world, takes it to Himself and redeems it, bringing glory and immortality. And just as Adam was a real man who really rebelled and really took creation with Him – so Christ is a real man who really obeyed God and really redeemed us. Ever since Adam rebelled the promise of Christ coming to save echoed on down through the Old Testament. The genealogies are carefully recorded to cultivate hope and to show the path from death (in Adam) to life (in Christ). Unsurprisingly, as soon as Jesus is born the bible doesn’t bother with genealogies ever again. But whereever there are genealogies they are emphasizing for us the concreteness of the bible’s story. This isn’t a mythic tale about some heavenly bust-up. In the real world the real man Adam really rebelled. And in the real world, the real man Christ really redeemed.
The Reason for everything is not hidden in dark matter or found in a ‘God particle’. And neither is He unattainably beyond our world. He has entered in to be known – really entered as a real man. You really can know the heart of the universe – and it’s not a sub-atomic particle. The real explanation for reality is not an equation or an explosion, it’s a Person. And because He’s a Person, He can be known. And His story is a story you can enter.
In a sense you can enter it by being a good scientist. Not running off to the Large Hadron Collider (although I’m sure it’d be great fun to go!). But the science I’m talking about is picking up the bible and asking God to show you His Face who is Jesus Christ. When you see Him walking around planet earth like He owns the place you know you’ve come to the real heart of the matter. To understand and know Him is to have your finger on the pulse of reality.
It might mean leaving behind the old stories – but Jesus gives us a better world to inhabit.