Data from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer has revealed that more "little stars" (many the same size as ours) are out there whose existence had been masked by the light of massive, brighter stars. So in some regions there are four times more stars than astronomers had previously estimated.
Galaxies demand a stellar recount
A look into the hellish cradles of suns and solar systems
Space telescopes find trigger-happy star formation
According to the Bible, God made the stars on the fourth day of creation. But even more remarkable is the fact that He is creating them still, though the latter miracle is considered not worth mentioning by any of the Bible’s authors.
CREATIONISTS ADMIT THE EVIDENCE FOR STELLAR EVOLUTION POSES PROBLEMS
The order of creation in Genesis 1 is farcical from a modern astronomical viewpoint. Our earth is a child of the sun. The offspring could not have existed before the parent.
The sun, moon, and stars were “made and set” in heaven “to give light upon the earth?”
When the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras dared to suggest that the sun was as large as the southern part of Greece he startled his Greek contemporaries. What must have been the notions of a grossly unscientific people like the Jews? For them it was easy to regard the sun, moon, and “the stars also,” as mere satellites of the earth, as lanterns for the human race.
George William Foote, “The Creation Story,” Bible Romances
GIMME THAT EARTH-CENTERED CREATION, IT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME
Genesis 1:3-5 describes the first act of creation:
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
At this point in the biblical creation process, not only has the sun not yet been “made and set in the firmament,” but the earth is also still “without form.” In other words the Bible depicts the establishment of “Days” (days-nights-evenings-mornings) before anything else, which is about as earth-centered a creation story as one can possibly conceive, and about as far as one can leap in the direction of ancient thought as opposed to modern scientific conceptions of the cosmos.
Daytimes or weekly times (i.e., approximately one quarter of the lunar cycle) experienced by earth dwellers would naturally appear central to them, such as the earth-dwellers who composed the Genesis 1 "creation story." But think of how geocentric the beginning of such a story is, with all of creation revolving right from the beginning around the earth's time schedule. Perhaps creationists do not realize the story fits ancient views of cosmology (with the earth as creation's foundation and heaven above) far better than modern Copernican ones. A day, night, evening or morning, or even numbered days of the week on earth are not of any central cosmic significance since we know the earth is not the foundation of all creation. All creation does not revolve around "earth days." The earth is merely one of nine planets (with many more planets circling distant stars) whose "days" (as they spin on their axis around their respective stars) vary considerably in length.
Yet Genesis and Exodus agree in depicting these as literal days and nights as understood in earth terms:
"God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation" (Genesis 2:3)
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God...For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and sanctified it." (Exodus 20:8-11)
The point of dividing the creation process into days, a feature that could easily be omitted without affecting the sense of the story, is to reinforce sabbath observance. These "days of creation" were therefore accepted as normal days of the week by the ancient Hebrews, and illustrate another way in which they viewed the earth as the flat firm base of all creation.
Speaking of God "resting," the priestly author of Exodus 31:17 may have elaborated a bit too much on the meaning of the Sabbath when he wrote, “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested AND WAS REFREHSED.” "Rested and was refreshed?" This passage adds that after God had ceased from His labor of creating everything His soul-life [or breath/nephesh] was replenished, refreshed (cf., Mark S. Smith, The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1, Fortress Press: 2009, p. 97), or, as translators of a Bible published in 1774, put it, “on the seventh day God rested and fetched breath.”
AN EVEN GREATER MIRACLE IS HOW GOD TOOK IMMEASURABLE PAINS TO _NOT_ LIGHT THE EARTH WITH THE REST OF THE COSMOS
If the sun, moon, and stars were created “to light the earth,” then why create over a hundred billion galaxies whose light is invisible to the naked eye? (Out of billions of galaxies only two relatively close ones galaxies can be seen with the unaided eye, and they appear no brighter than two dim stars in our sky.) In other words, over a hundred billion galaxies produce light that can only be seen with our most powerful telescopes, and it took telescopes recently mounted in space to detect 99/100ths of those galaxies. And our galaxy is composed of about a billion stars, some of which are far larger than our sun. Therefore, the creation story in Genesis would be even more believable if it told us how much trouble God went through to “NOT light the earth” with the rest of creation.
Astronomers are even hypothesizing that the cosmos may contain “dark” matter and “dark” energy, so much of the stuff in fact, that most of the cosmos might still be invisible to us even with our satellite telescopes surveying it to a depth of thirteen-billion light-years in every direction. Again, that’s a lot of work to do to “NOT light” the earth.
AN EVEN GREATER MIRACLE IS HOW MANY _MORE_ LAMPS RULE THE NIGHTS AND PROVIDE FOR SIGNS AND SEASON ON OTHER PLANETS
Genesis 1:16 depicts the sun and moon as “two great lamps” [literal Hebrew translation]. Those “great lamps” were made to “light” the earth, to “rule” the earth’s days and nights, and, “for signs and seasons” on earth. But a couple thousand years after the Bible was written, astronomers discovered a curious thing about that “great lamp” the moon. They discovered that Mars has two moons. Yet Mars has no people who need their steps “lit” at night, or who need to know the “signs and seasons.” Even more curiously, it was discovered that Neptune has four moons, Uranus has eleven, Jupiter has sixteen, and Saturn has eighteen moons (one of them, Titan, is even larger than the planet Mercury). The earth was created with just one moon, and it “rules the night” so badly that for three nights out of every twenty-eight it abdicates its rule and doesn’t light the earth at all--at which time creationists bump into each other in the dark.
GALACTIC HABITABLE ZONES IN THE COSMOS
What fraction of stars in our Galaxy might play host to planets that can support multi-cellular life? Lineweaver and others have calculated the probable extent of hospitable space for complex life in the Galaxy, called the “Galactic habitable zone.” The criteria include distance from deadly supernovae, enough heavy elements to form terrestrial planets, and enough time for life to evolve. Based on these criteria, the Galactic habitable zone is an annular region between 7 to 9 kiloparsecs from the Galactic center and contains about 10% of the Milky Way stars with ages between 4 to 8 billion years old. [The Milky Way, like most of the 100 billion other galaxies in the cosmos, contains roughly a billion stars.]
- Science, Vol. 303, Jan. 2, 2004 www.sciencemag.org
Keeping in mind the above “odds,” there may be plenty of possible planets on which life might exist. But what does that imply about the Bible’s understanding of the cosmos when interpreted literally as in Genesis and the New Testament? See the following quotations to understand the questions raised by the notion of “[intelligent] life elsewhere in the galaxy.”
“A NEW HEAVEN?” EVEN FOR PEOPLE LIVING IN DISTANT GALAXIES?
According to the book of Revelation a “new earth” and a “new heaven” will be created after Jesus returns. Occupants of other planets throughout the hundred billion galaxies of our present “heaven” will no doubt be surprised to receive such an unearned favor, all because of what happens on our little world. Or is this simply another example of how the Hebrews viewed the earth as the flat firm foundation of creation with the heavens above created simply for the earth below?
Though it is not a direct article of the Christian faith that the planet we inhabit is the only inhabited one in the cosmos, yet it is so worked up from what is called the Mosaic account of creation, the story of Eve and the forbidden fruit, and the counterpart of that story, the death of the Son of God--that to believe otherwise renders the Christian system of faith at once little and ridiculous, and scatters it in the mind like feathers in the air.
Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
So long as people believed, as St. Paul himself did, in one week of creation and a past of 4,000 years--so long as people thought the stars were satellites of the earth and that animals were there to serve man--there was no difficulty in believing that a single man could have ruined everything, and that another man had saved everything.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Fall, Redemption, and Geocentrism,”Christianity and Evolution
Did Jesus die uniquely to save the sins of human beings on planet Earth, or is he being strung up somewhere in the universe on every Friday?
Michael Ruse, “Booknotes,” Biology & Philosophy, Vol. 14, No. 1, Jan. 1999
THE NEW JERUSALEM
The last book of the Bible mentions a fabulous city called the “New Jerusalem”:
"And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth… twelve thousand furlongs [about 1500 miles according to most commentaries]. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal."
- Revelation 21:16
In other words the New Jerusalem is a gigantic cube and it is depicted as descending out of heaven above and landing on the earth below. The author who wrote about the city may have made it of such gargantuan proportions so that the length of just one of its sides was equal to the distance from Jerusalem to the capital and heart of the Roman Empire. Perhaps the author had in mind that God meant to flatten Rome just as Rome had flattened God’s holy temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.?
However the author of Revelation does not seem to have paused to consider that a cube that was 1500 miles on all sides would simply see-saw on the earth’s curved surface, since the earth is not flat, but a sphere. Even if it didn’t see-saw and settled onto the surface of the earth gently, such a massive object would probably make the earth’s crust buckle or crack beneath it and initiate earthquakes and eruptions; or cause the rotating earth to wobble (just try gluing a small cafeteria-sized carton of milk to a large bowling ball and spin the bowling ball to see what I mean) How could a cube that was 1,500 miles on each side maintain its cubic shape since much smaller objects in space that are merely 400 miles in diameter collapse into spherical shapes due to the force of their own gravity? And, what would prevent the city, after it landed, from growing as wide and flat as any mountain range due to its mutual attraction with the earth’s own gravity?
This "New Jerusalem" is so depicted as being so tall that it would extend 1,300 miles further out into space than the International Space Station that is situated only about 200 miles above the earth. In fact the New Jerusalem would block jet streams in the upper atmosphere, and be pummeled by natural and man-made objects orbiting the earth, as well as its topmost floors being hit by solar winds and radiation. If you happen to live on any floor higher than merely the first 100 miles above sea level, I wouldn’t suggest opening your windows without first donning a space suit.
The author of the book of Revelation also depicted the “twelve gates” of the New Jerusalem as “twelve pearls; every gate is of one pearl.” (Rev. 21:21) Hence the slang expression for heaven, “The pearly gates.” (I’d pay money to see the oyster that popped those babies out.)
Of course some Evangelical Christian creationist apologists like Grant R. Jeffrey assume that the description of “The New Jerusalem” must be true without a doubt because “what reason would God have for describing such details so precisely unless they were true?” [Apocalypse: The Coming Judgment of the Nations--Bantam Books, Toronto, 1994), p.351] But then, who ever said “God” was the one describing such details? And who ever said that human writers didn’t have imaginations capable of adding details to a story? Maybe the author of the book of Revelation assumed like most people of his day that the earth was flat [see NOTE], so a cube-shaped object would sit securely and squarely on it? He probably also made the New Jerusalem a cube because that’s how the holy of holies of Solomon’s temple was shaped. The author of Revelation, probably had no idea that the enormity and shape of such a city might raise questions in the minds of "latter day" readers, especially since he probably assumed that the heavenly abode of God and angels existed not very far overhead, instead of that region being filled with orbiting bits of matter, solar radiation, and the vacuum of space?
Finally, maybe Grant R. Jeffrey should cease making a career out of trying to anaesthetize the frontal lobes of people’s brains, and embark on an expedition to find that oyster that pops out pearls as big as city gates? And he had better hurry and find that whale-sized oyster before King Kong enjoys it as an appetizer. (But where is Kong going to find a lemon large enough to squeeze on it?)
[NOTE] The author of the book of Revelation wrote completely in accord with a flat earth view of the cosmos: “I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth” (Rev. 7:1); and added elsewhere, “There was a great earthquake...and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts her figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” (Rev. 6:12,13). “Stars of heaven falling to earth” after the earth below has been “shaken,” mirrors the way that the sun, moon, and the stars are portrayed in the creation story in Genesis, being “made” and “fixed” above the earth. And just as those stars were “fixed” there, they might one day “fall to earth” like “figs” from a tree after the earth below had experienced “a great earthquake,” because to the ancient Hebrews the whole of creation consisted of a cosmos whose two halves were the earth below and the heavens above.
ARE THERE CREATIONISTS ON OTHER PLANETS? Do they quote from a book somewhat like our earth-centered book of Genesis? And, supposing that the name of their planet is "Zontar," does their book read something like this...
In the beginning God created the heavens and ZONTAR, and the spirit of God moved on the face of the waters OF ZONTAR and God said let there be light, and there was the first evening and morning [on ZONTAR]. And God separated the waters and caused dry land to appear, and he called the dry land ZONTAR, and there was a second evening and morning [on ZONTAR]... And God made TWO GREAT LIGHTS, one to rule the day ON ZONTAR, and one to rule the night ON ZONTAR, and he made the stars also, and set them in the sky to light ZONTAR and for signs and seasons [on ZONTAR], and there was a fourth evening and morning. And God made animals ON ZONTAR, and there was a fifth evening and morning. And God made beings IN HIS OWN IMAGE, and he visited them in the garden where He and they left slimy trials as they moved and talked to each other via their antennae, and there was a sixth evening and morning. And on the seventh day God "rested" from creating the heavens and ZONTAR.
Of course, we earthlings, being raised on our Bible, would know that God needed to "rest" after creating ZONTAR, so He could regain enough energy to trek to another part of the cosmos (near one of those stars he'd created "to light ZONTAR") and create a place called "earth."
WHAT DO EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN PROFESSORS OF OLD TESTAMENT THINK ABOUT GENESIS 1?
Several Evangelical Christian professors have recently argued that their fellow Evangelicals ought to relinquish "scientific creationist" interpretations of Genesis 1, and that the creation story in Genesis 1 ought to be interpreted in a mythical/spiritual/analogical or metaphorical fashion. Such figures include:
John Walton, Old Testament professor at Wheaton College (author of The Lost World of Genesis 1: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate ) The blog, Jesus Creed, has devoted separate blog entries to examining all 18 propositions in Walton's book, beginning here.
Peter Enns, Old Testament professor at Westminster Theological Seminary (author of Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament)
Kent Sparks (author of God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship)
Not to mention statements by popular bibliobloggers including:
R. Christopher Heard, Old Testament professor at Pepperdine University and lifelong member of Churches of Christ (author of the succinct post, "Why I Am Not A Creationist")
Chris Tilling, post-grad N.T. theology student (author of the post, "From Creationist to Evolutionist - my story")
QUOTATION FROM JOHN WALTON'S NEW WORK, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate
The Israelites received no revelation to update or modify their “scientific” understanding of the cosmos. They did not know that stars were suns; they did not know that the earth was spherical and moving through space; they did not know that the sun was much further away than the moon, or even further than the clouds or high flying birds [able to "fly across the face of the firmament" per Gen. 1]. They believed that the sky was material (not vaporous), solid enough to support the residence of the deity as well as hold back waters. In these ways, and many others, they thought about the cosmos in much the same way that anyone in the ancient world thought, and not at all like anyone thinks today. And God did not think it important to revise their thinking.
CREATION AND THE PSALMISTS
Ancient Hebrew psalmists drew a parallel between the height of the “clouds” and the wondrous height of their Lord’s “truth”: “For Thy loving kindness is great to the heavens, and Thy truth to the clouds.” (Psalm 57:10). The height of clouds appeared so near to the holy heavens that they excitedly strung such phrases together to praise God in a way we do not react to today in the same way because we are able to fly above the clouds and also know how high “the heavens” can be, in light-years, making the height of clouds seem not comparable at all.
A psalmist wrote, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) Yet today we know we can walk from east to west and wind up right back where we started.
A psalmist asked, “[Can] the heavens above be measured?” (Jeremiah 31:37) Yes, it’s someone’s job to measure such things—from meteorologists noting the heights of certain clouds, to astronomers measuring distances to the sun and moon, even distances to the furthest galaxies.
A psalmist wrote, “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord; But the earth He has given to the sons of men” (Ps. 115:16) One of NASA’s satellites passed Pluto several years ago, not to mention telescopes peering into “the heavens of the Lord.” We have even launched spacecraft named after pagan gods (Mercury, Gemini and Apollo) when the Bible forbids mentioning even the names of “other gods” (Exodus 23:13).
A psalmist wrote, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou are mindful of him? (Psalm 8:3-4) The “heavens” referred to the clouds, and to the sun, moon and stars that the psalmist believed did not lie far above the clouds, along with the angelic heavenly realm lying not far above the sun, moon and stars. Any similarities between such ancient verse and modern day cosmic angst are merely relative. Even the clouds felt intangibly high to the ancients, but then, none of them could even guess what lay beyond the horizon. In fact it may be that their cosmos felt more intangibly huge to them than our cosmos does to us because we can fly round the globe, above the clouds, gaze at photos of outer space, and open a book and read the distances to stars and galaxies set down for us in tangible numerical form.
“Those little heaven-encrusted universes of the Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Hebrews seem quaint enough to us, who have formed, thought by thought from within, the immense modern Cosmos in which we live—planned in such immeasurable proportions, and moved by so pitiless a mechanism... Yet what a splendor dazzles us in these great halls! Anything less limitless would now be a prison.” (Logan Pearsall Smith).