God's Great UniverseErwin W. Lutzer | February 15, 2009
Selected highlights from this sermon
The Bible says that our world, created by God, declares His glory. When evolutionists deny Him as Creator, they’ve stolen away His rightful glory.
God made the world then prepared Earth for its human inhabitants. The created realm is woven together with incredible complexity, harmony, and immensity—and it points us to the unfathomable wisdom and power of God.
The heavens declare the glory of God, but there are many people who want to rob God of his glory, and because of this we are in a battle as we outlined in the last message, a very important battle where ultimately everything is at stake. It’s not because we as Christians should be unscientific. As a matter of fact we ought to lead the world in science. When you look at the world and you think of the history of science you discover that most of the great scientists had a Christian framework, Whether it was Kepler, whether it was Newton or Galileo or Francis Bacon, all of them believed that God created the world and created the laws that are to be investigated and understood as far as we are able, but along came Darwin, and Darwin postulated in his Origin of Species the idea that evolution could account for much of what we see in creation today.
Though Darwin himself was never really an atheist, at least in his first edition he spoke of the creator who was part of the process. It is true that Darwin has given many other people permission (quote permission) to become atheists; men such as Richard Dawkins for example, and it is in this area where we are invited, as in no other area, to give up all rationality, and to somehow suspend our reasoning that we use in everyday life in other circumstances. We’re to put all that aside and believe what many people I believe understand to be the impossible.
For example, let us suppose that you were going to build a sandcastle on a beach. So you dig four or five feet into the sand and there you come across a clock. Now what would you say? Would you say, “Well, you know this is just the kind of thing that happens; given enough time and given enough chance and enough elements over a long period of time there is this clock. Clearly it didn’t need intelligence to put it together.” You would never say that. Yet here’s Dawkins who has written a book entitled, “The Blind Watchmaker” in which he says we can have design without a designer. We can have all this without a creator. We’re supposed to believe it all just happened, and of course we know what the motivation is. Last time I introduced you to a quote. I’d like to add a couple of the sentences that are a part of the context by Richard Lewontin. He said, “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance in the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories because we have a prior commitment to materialism,” and then he says, “No matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated, we accept therefore the conclusions of science. Moreover, he says, “That materialism to which we are committed is absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.” So because of that, evolution, and I’m speaking now about atheistic evolution, is of course accepted by many people.
Now you may ask, “Well, if you are an atheist, where did it all come from?” It was Carl Sagan who postulated the Big Bang Theory because supposedly the Universe is continuing to expand, and so that meant that it had a beginning fifteen billion years ago. And this is presented as fact and now taught in university textbooks. Some time ago I looked up the Young Oxford Book of Astronomy and it says that at one time all matter and radiation were concentrated into a tiny region of space much smaller than the nucleus of a single atom, and then it all began. And now I’m quoting this book on astronomy. “By the time the Universe was about a millionth of a second old much of the energy had been converted into protons. In the next millisecond electrons formed and these collided with the protons to make neutrons. Neutrons survive only a thousandth of a second as independent particles so the next few moments were critical. Within the first quarter of an hour the protons reacted with the neutrons, which were fast decaying to make the nuclei the helium atoms. In a race against time as the Universe continued to cool and expand, the Universe managed to convert about a quarter of its matter to form hydrogen into helium. The remaining hydrogen was used to make the stars.” Oh, okay. [laughter] All right.
This creation, the authors contend, was not out of nothing, but to use their words, “out of next to nothing.” Wow! Next to nothing! Steven Hawking wrote, “At the rate of expansion, one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million the Universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present state.” No wonder physicist, Joel Primack, of the University of California, says, “Humans seem to have hit the jackpot in a cosmic Las Vegas,” and in 1973 Edward Tryon, professor of physics, proposed the idea that matter actually created itself ex nihilo. He says there was nothing according to established laws of physics. Well, where do the laws of physics come from? But anyway, there was nothing, and then out of nothing something came. Is that believable? Out of nothing, nothing can come? But remember you cannot allow a divine foot in the door.
Well, after that introduction, let’s find out what really happened. Let’s turn to the book of Genesis – Genesis Chapter 1. In Genesis 1 we have a marvelous, marvelous account of creation, which we believe was inspired by God. Moses most likely wrote the book of Genesis, but he was inspired by God, and what a lovely account. Rather than seeing in it some parallels to ancient myths we should notice its striking differences, the sublimity; the holiness, if I can put it that way, of this account actually takes our breath away.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Ten words, and in those ten words you have the whole foundation of science. It is all there. In the beginning introduces us to the concept of time. God introduces us to personality. Created introduces us to force and energy, and the heavens refer to the space and the earth is matter. There it all is – ten words. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and Henry Morris has pointed out that not only these ten words have those elements, but also that it contradicts much of what we find today throughout the world. It contradicts atheism and pantheism. Pantheism is the idea that God is all and all is God, and this verse destroys that because God is independent from the Universe. He is transcendent. Also it contradicts polytheism, the idea that there are many gods. No there is one God and he created. It contradicts humanism because God is the final reality in the Universe and not man. It contradicts, of course, evolution, because God did the creating.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Wow, what a statement! Now the next verse says that the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. There are some people who believe that this indicates that the earth was under judgment, that there was some kind of a fall before Genesis chapter 1 happened. Actually you don’t have to interpret it that way. I think what it means is that when God first created the heavens and the earth that of course is the summary statement. Now what follows are all of the details that come under that summary statement, and one of them is that the earth was without form and uninhabited. I take it that God created the earth and it was just like a blob and darkness was upon the face of the deep. The Spirit of God is moving upon the waters, which already is a hint, right in Genesis 1:1 and 2 regarding the Trinity, but there you have God now having created this world, he begins to tell us how it all happened from there.
So let’s go through the days of creation, and of course, I can’t mention that without saying that there is a great deal of controversy regarding the days of creation because the question is, should they be taken literally? Are we talking about six twenty-four hour days of creation? Now I happen to believe that that’s exactly what the text teaches, but I do need to say that there are many people, many Evangelicals, who take a different point of view. In fact, this past week I heard of Evangelicals who used to believe in twenty-four hour creation who are now changing their minds because of the pressure of science, and I understand that and I respect their point of view so I’m not being overly dogmatic here, but if you were to simply read Genesis 1 without modern science in your mind, there’s no doubt that you would conclude that we’re talking about twenty-four hour days.
Let me give you some reasons. First of all, wherever you have the word day mentioned of course when there is specificity like the first day and the second day and the third day, you’re talking about twenty-four hour periods. This is true throughout the Bible. Of course we use the word day differently. We may say, “In my day we used to do this or that.” That’s a different use of the word day, but where you have day number one, day number two, think of it. Jesus rose on the third day. Does that mean some kind of an eon, some kind of a millennium, some kind of a long period of time? No, we know exactly what the Bible says when it says that Jesus rose on the third day, and that’s the kind of language you here in Genesis 1. That’s one reason.
Let me give you another reason why I believe that they are twenty-four days. When the Ten Commandments were given it says in Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy.” So God says, “I rested on the seventh day. You rest on the seventh day.” Now did God rest in a period of eons, these long day ages? No, I think he rested, even though it’s not because he was tired obviously. It was because he wanted to indicate that his work was finished, his creative work was done. Nothing more needs to be created after God has created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, and the stars and therefore, God rests.
And now God says, “You rest also on the seventh day.” So because of those reasons I believe we’re talking about twenty-four hour days. Now if you ask the question of how old the earth is I will make a comment about that, but I’m not an expert in these matters. But later on in this message you’re going to hear something that will help us to think differently perhaps regarding the age of the earth.
All right, that by way of introduction. Let’s plunge in and let’s look at the six days of creation, and what days they were. Verse 3 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Hmm, would you expect anything else? I mean God is talking. Let there be light and there was light. “And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”
Now don’t be upset or concerned about the fact that the stars and the sun and the moon were created on day number four. This was some kind of a light, perhaps an ethereal light that was temporary, but right out of the chute, God wanted his number one creative work to do a number of things; first of all, to dispel the darkness. Right there, there was victory because darkness was upon the face of the deep and now “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Let me say also that God wanted to have an evening and a morning, and that God, therefore, used this light to separate light and darkness, and instantly he created this wonderful thing that we call light that scientists cannot understand. For example, no one has ever seen light. You cannot see light. It is invisible. All that you can do is to see where it lands. If you were to shine a flashlight in space in outer darkness without any thing, with no atmosphere there, you would see nothing but darkness, and yet light was created by God to shine on the earth, to illuminate, and that was God’s first creative work. And the evening and the morning were day number one.
Well, let’s look at the second day. The second day he separated something else. He says in verse 6, “‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven.” Here he’s creating the atmosphere, because remember God is readying the earth for animals, yes, but primarily for mankind, and so in order to do that he creates the atmosphere, and apparently the earth was engulfed in water. Water was upon the face of the deep, so what God did was he separated it and you have one layer of water going up and that may have been a canopy upon the earth until the time of the flood. Some people believe that that’s the case, but also there was water below, and in so doing now, the atmosphere is being readied because animals are going to have to breathe and life is going to have to function on this planet. That’s day number two.
Day number three is dry land and the oceans and vegetation. Verse nine says, “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into once place and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas, and God saw that it was good. And God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.’” That’s very important. Different kinds of trees, yes; development of trees, yes; but a fruit tree never becomes a giraffe. What you find is that the trees are according to their kind. Tomatoes never become oak trees; everything is according to its kind. And so this was the creation of the dry land and the ocean and vegetation.
Day number four in verse fourteen, “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be as lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. And God made the two great lights -- the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night -- and the stars.” Talk about an economy of words. Oh yeah, and the stars!
Some time ago another staff member and I drove up to Wisconsin to talk to an astronomer. He had heard our program and we drove up to meet him, and he has telescopes by which he looks into the stars. He showed us pictures of the stars, and I asked him, “Is it true that there are probably more stars in the heavens than there may be grains of sand on the seashores of the world?” and he said, “It’s possible.” Hundreds of millions upon millions and millions, and huge stars! Oh yeah, he created the sun, the moon and the stars. Don’t you love this God who can speak and the stars are in the heavens? That’s day number four.
Well, what about day number five? Day number five the sea animals and the birds are created. You’ll notice it says in verse 21, “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm….” You have such things as sea serpents – all kinds of huge things. We’re talking about whales and dolphins. My wife and I saw a documentary of some of the things that exist at the bottom of an ocean. It is just amazing. It is endless, and God just decided to create it. “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply upon the earth. And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.”
And then we come to the sixth day of creation. Verse 24 says, “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds -- livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth….’” Obviously he created the dinosaurs according to their kinds and it was so. “And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”
And then we read in verse 26, “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image.’” And that actually is the subject of the next message in this series. The creation of man is just absolutely critical – who we are, how this is to be distinguished from other philosophies of man and the implications. That’s the next message in this series.
So, here is God and he creates all of these things in six twenty-four periods and suddenly all the creation is finished. You say, “Well, when did he do the creating?” and the answer is that we don’t exactly know how old the earth is, and because I’m not an expert in these fields I refrain any judgment regarding the age of the earth, but I do want you to think about this creation account.
Let me ask you a question. If you were to meet Adam and Eve after they were created – let’s suppose that they were created in the morning and Adam, of course, was created first, and then Eve later, and let’s suppose that she was created in the evening, and then the next day you were to meet Adam and Eve, and you had the opportunity to talk to them, how old do you think they would look? Well, they may look about 21, 22, 23, 24, or 25. They may look that old, but how old are they? Well, they were just created the day before. Obviously God had to create the earth with the appearance of age. There’s no other way that I know of that he could have possibly done it. How do you create something full-blown unless it looks older than it really is? Now, I think that it’s entirely possible when the Bible says, “and God made the stars also,” that he created the stars already shining on the earth, so that you have a star that is one hundred thousand light years away, and it’s light is on the earth because God says, “I’m making the earth ready for man,” so all of those eons of evolution, the billions and billions of years, the length of time that it takes for light to come from stars to us God just sped it up like a fast movie camera. “Boom! I speak and it’s already for man.” [applause] So because of that, the earth could be much younger than all of our dating processes would indicate.
Now, what I’d like us to do is to look at creation for just a moment, and I know we’ve gone through this account very rapidly, but I want us to just think for a moment about this creation ex nihilo – out of nothing. God speaks and it’s there. I mean, think about the power of his word. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and the host of them by the breath of his mouth,” said the Psalmist. Imagine! Imagine out of nothing it all happened.
But I want us think about first of all its complexity. I need to tread carefully here because these are areas in which I have very, very little knowledge, but what I did about a week ago is to watch a video on the human cell – just a cell of your body, and I was absolutely astounded. You know that every single cell has in it factories. It has delivery systems. It has recycling plants. It has on it a code that has to be in a certain order. You know that if you are reading something, the juxtaposition of letters means absolutely nothing unless they are all in the right order, so we’re talking now about the complicated intricate process of the DNA, and who we are as persons, and we have these cells and we have many, many of them. And by the way, evolutionists are sometimes impressed with the fact that our cells are similar to the cells of other animals. I was reading an evolutionist who said that what convinces him is the unity of all created life. I should have really pointed this out earlier, and we should not be surprised at that. We should not be surprised that many of our cells are similar to that of mice, for example, because God is creating life and he’s creating life to be on this earth, and we share with the animals the need to be able to breathe and all of the things that are a part of our atmosphere, so these cells may be similar to that of animals, but that does not make us animals. And that does not mean that within time we somehow are going to become something else, but back to this single cell.
As I looked at it (and they showed pictures of its intricacy and how it all has to come together), I was thinking of the fact that we have millions and billions of cells in our body, and I just thought, “Wow! I can’t get over this.”
Now to understand the complexity of believing that this was chance, you know that they have cereals today that have every letter of the alphabet in them – alphabet cereal. Let us suppose that you came home and you had left a bowl of dry alphabet cereal on the table, and you noticed that on the floor your name was accurately spelled. You address was accurately spelled, and then underneath it said, “Welcome home.” [laughter] Would you say to yourself, “I know what happened. It was our cat. He just happened to take that bowl of cereal and obviously threw it on the floor, and it just happened that that’s the way it came out – chance. It was a statistical probability. Oh I know that it’s really off the charts in terms of probability, but we as humans hit the cosmic jackpot, and we know that there’s one chance in a hundred trillion that this could happen. I wish I had brought the statistics that I read this past week about one scientist who was trying to calculate the possibility that all this could have happened. He said, “I know that it’s one in a hundred trillion with a whole bunch of zeroes, but you know it did happen.” You’d probably say, “No, that’s irrational. I can’t ascribe this to my cat. There’s got to be some intelligence that did this,” and there are scientists who are looking at the human cell and attributing it all to blind chance – the blind watchmaker. Wow!
We have to look at the complexity of creation – the harmony of creation. You know that if this earth were tilted differently we couldn’t live on it. If the moon were closer or farther it would affect us greatly. As a matter of fact, if the force of gravity were acting just a little bit differently, and if the earth were five percent closer to the sun or five percent further, we couldn’t live. Now, Hugh Ross, who has done an awful lot of work in astronomy and gives lectures to astronomers, has figured that there are 322 parameters that are absolutely necessary for life, and that our planet is so finely tuned. You know you see some of those boards that are used for sound systems, and you have all of these knobs. Every one of these knobs has to be tuned a certain way in order for life. He estimates that there are at least 322 that all have to be in place and work together, and he says the possibility of this being a work of chance mathematically is ten plus 340 zeroes – one chance out of ten plus 340 zeroes. Could this all simply have happened? The harmony of the Universe is unbelievable.
Let me say also a word about the immensity of the Universe. You stop to think of the sun and the moon and stars, and that God just spoke and it was all there. It’s unbelievable. You know that the sun is 93 million miles away, and you know that it is our closest star of course, and the next nearest star is 250 thousand times farther from the earth. Let us suppose I were to have an 8-1/2 by 11 piece of paper up here and you were to draw on it a sun, say the size of a golf ball, and then over here on the bottom of the piece of paper you were to put a dot, and that dot represents our earth. If you were to use the same proportion, our closest star would be forty miles away. You can’t get your mind around it.
Imagine being in a space ship traveling 186,000 thousand miles a second around the earth about seven times every second. So a second has elapsed and you are around the earth seven times, and then imagine that space ship going off into space, traveling at that unbelievable speed, and you travel for 450 years, and then a thousand years, and then 10,000 years and then 100 million years, and then a billion years, and on and on it goes, and you say to yourself, “I cannot get my mind around it,” but remember God never created anything that was bigger than he was. So no matter how far we go to the outstretches and the outreaches of the Universe, God is always beyond that, and you say to yourself, “I can’t get my mind around God.”
Now the Bible says, “The heavens are telling the glory of God. The firmament shows his handiwork. Day unto day it is uttering speech; night unto night it’s showing knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice isn’t heard.” Everybody who walks out at night knows that there is a God, and that it all couldn’t have just happened. It’s a language that is spoken around the world. Let’s use our imagination just for a moment. I can imagine that one day Satan – Lucifer – got all of his cohorts together (all of these demons) and said this, “Look, we all know that the heavens declare the glory of God. Let’s rob God of his glory. Let’s come up with a theory that it all happened by chance. In fact, let’s say that the Universe created itself. Let’s say that it was just some excess hydrogen from an explosion that suddenly created all the stars.” I can imagine the demons looking at one another and saying, “Nobody would believe that.” And I can imagine wise Lucifer saying, “Never underestimate what people are willing to believe if they really want to.”
I quote the words of a scientist by the name of D.S. Watson. “Evolution is a theory universally accepted, not because it can be proven by logical coherent evidence to be true but because the alternative special creation is clearly untenable.” We cannot allow a divine foot in the door. Wow!
You know that when we sing the song, “How Great Thou Art,” as we will in a moment, and when we talk about the starry heaven – “I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder” - we think to ourselves, “That’s God,” and it is God, but you know that’s not the greatest stanza in that hymn. A number of years ago there was a preacher by the name of E.V. Hill, and what a preacher he was. I remember he preached a sermon entitled, “God At His Best,” and this great African American preacher went through and said, “Was God at his best when he created?” and then he described creation and said, “No, that wasn’t God at his best,” and he went through it all, and he said, “Do you know what God was at his best?” It’s when God came to a little boy in a poor home and saved him. That was God at his best.”
And that’s why the third stanza of “How Great Thou Art” is so important, and it is the most magnificent. “When I think that God, his son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in, that on the cross my burdens gladly bearing he suffered and died to take away my sin.” Do you know why that is a greater example of God than creation? It is because in creation we see the power of God, his eternal power and Godhood, as the saying goes. That’s what we see in creation. But when we see the cross, we see the love of God and the compassion of God, and the desire that God has for us to fellowship with him. We begin to see that and then we begin to understand that when God spoke in Genesis 1 (and I know that God is always at his best technically speaking), that was his creative work, but when you think of his redemptive work. The stars are the creation of his fingers, but salvation, the Bible says, is his mighty arm. The God that we just described here so imperfectly today is the God who desires to have fellowship with you, the God who desires to save you, the God who desires to take away your sins so that you can live with him forever. And that’s why when we sing stanza 3, as we shall in a moment, of How Great Thou Art, it is time for you to lift your voice to God and to say (if you’ve never received him as Savior), “I accept what you did on the cross for me, and I accept not only that you are a God of power, but you are also a God of love.
Lord, we ask in the name of Jesus that you will help us to understand and to know that you are a God who creates, but you are also a God who redeems. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior we ask that you will draw them to yourself as they think of your love and not just your power. We thank you today and we ask that as we worship you now in singing this marvelous hymn that it may be to your glory and to your honor. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.