In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
Although Christians and members of other major religions once reacted angrily to scientific theories of creation, last week’s announcement of data that could bolster the Big Bang theory of the universe’s origins caused scarcely a ripple in religious circles. Scientists in Washington announced that satellite data appeared to represent radiation patterns from a period just after the cosmic blast, known as the Big Bang, that brought the universe into being. Spokesman for various religions in Canada said that the theory does not contradict the
biblical Book of Genesis, which contains a description of how God created the world in six days. Said Brian Stiller, executive director of the Unionville, Ont.-based Evangelical Fellowship of Canada: “At the heart of the idea of the Big Bang is the notion that creation came at some point in our history—and that is very consistent with the biblical view of creation.”
Christians did not always hold such a benevolent view of science. When Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1859, he launched on a collision course with the creationist interpretation of Genesis. Many Christian fundamentalists maintained that the Bible accurately defined a six-day period of creation about 6,000 years ago, and they accused Darwin of debasing humanity. Meanwhile, some scientists claimed that in the future, science, not religion, would explain life’s mysteries.
Since then, the religious and scientific streams of thought have increasingly tended to converge. Scientists concede that they cannot explain what force—or being—caused the Big Bang. And although some fundamentalists con-
tinue to believe in a six-day creation, most Christian and Jewish theologians no longer view Genesis as a scientific description of the origin of the universe. Said James Packer, an Anglican clergyman and professor at Regent College in Vancouver: “It isn’t that Christians have conceded anything to science, except in the sense that they ought never to have queried it. God’s creation is there for our study.”
For his part, Rabbi Gunther Plaut, now 79 and senior scholar at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple, said that about 50 years ago, he wrote to ask physicist Albert Einstein to describe his vision of God. “His answer to me,” said Plaut, “was that whatever divinity he saw in the universe, he saw in the sense of order manifested in nature.” Plaut added: “My tradition speaks of God creating the universe. The essence is not the details of the creation story, but the idea that the universe is not an accident.”
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