How would you respond to someone telling you this story?
As I sat in my chair watching the world around me, everything—trees, buildings, streets—started to move backwards, speeding up as they moved. An invisible force pushed me to follow them, but my seat kept me immobile. Eventually all those moving things just disappeared.
You might wonder if the person is in their right mind. Perhaps they are under the influence or recounting a dream. But your response would probably change if I told you they were sitting in an airplane, right? Establishing the frame of reference makes all the difference—especially when we look at Genesis 1.
Often, skeptics of Christianity cite the “scientifically inaccurate” description of the creation account in Genesis 1 as a reason to dismiss the Bible. However, in doing so, they neglect to take into account the frame of reference described in the early verses of the chapter. Genesis 1:1 starts with the creation of the entire physical realm (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth“) but then shifts to the surface of the Earth in Genesis 1:2:
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
This transition is important to recognize if we want to properly understand the rest of the creation account. When viewed from the proper frame of reference and with the correct initial conditions, the account given in Genesis 1 shows a remarkable alignment with our best scientific understanding. Rather than viewed from some position looking down on the earth, Genesis 1:2 reveals that the proper frame of reference is the surface of the earth (that’s where the Spirit of God was hovering). Viewed from Earth’s surface, the creation started out:
- Formless—with no structure
- Void—with no life
- Dominated by water
The Hebrew phrase for formless and void, “tohu wabohu,“ actually has a stronger implication that Earth’s surface was a desolate, undistinguishable ruin. Genesis 1:3 through Genesis 2:3 then describes how God transformed this wasteland into a variety of habitats teeming with life.
This formless, void, dark, water-dominated situation matches the scientific description of the early Earth very well. As I outline in chapter 11 of Is There Life Out There?, Earth grew by collisions of smaller bodies. The final major collision resulted in the formation of the Moon and liquefied the planet’s surface. As the outer gas giant planets migrated to their current positions, Earth was subject to many more collisions of asteroids and comets that would also liquefy the planet’s surface. Each time this happened, a tremendous amount of debris was delivered to the atmosphere. The debris and gases filling the atmosphere would block out virtually all the light from the Sun. As Earth cooled from the impact, oceans of water and massive amounts of water vapor would cover the planet and fill the atmosphere. In other words, for the first 500–700 million years of Earth’s existence, the planet would be dark, dominated by water, having no life and virtually no land.
In future posts, I will examine what happens on the six days of creation described in Genesis 1, as viewed from the proper frame of reference. But as shown above, the Bible’s first few verses provide a remarkably accurate picture of the early Earth—one that matches our best scientific description. And that’s just one example of how scientific advance buttresses the authority and reliability of the Bible.