“Then God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
I read a lot of news. Well…I read a lot of headlines. Actually, I read a lot of headlines from the Bing search engine website from Microsoft. I don’t mean this as a commercial, but I signed up to earn Bing points for doing basic internet searches. Every so often I cash in the points for free gift cards. Bing raises their search profile and I get free stuff for my family. And I stay broadly informed of what’s happening in the world. Not a bad deal. In any event, the easiest way to do this is to click through the headlines that Bing posts each day on their main page. Usually I just click from one headline to the next without paying too much attention. On occasion, though, something grabs my attention. This morning I want to share with you about one headline that grabbed and hasn’t let go.
There are some scientists who spend most of their time looking at old stuff. Really old stuff. These folks are interested in understanding how we got here and why everything looks and works the way it does. It’s basically an organized way of seeking an answer to the big worldview questions of our origin and purpose. At the risk of profoundly oversimplifying things, they basically study layers of really old dirt and the things buried in it in hopes of finding clues that will unlock of mystery of how we got here.
Usually this kind of research completely escapes the attention of the vast non-scientist world. And, to be honest, it can be pretty dry unless you’ve got an interest in it. Every so often something will be uncovered that makes a splash. Often this is a set of bones that get declared decisive evidence that humans are in fact descended from apes and that the Christian claim of some sort of a divine creation is all religious nonsense. What doesn’t make the headlines is the news that trickles out a few weeks or months later that upon closer inspection the evidence isn’t nearly as decisive as they initially believed. By then, though, the damage is already done.
Now, in the world of archaeology things have tended to go a bit better for the claims of the Scriptures. One find after another uncovers evidence supporting some passage or another that had been declared mere fabrication. It’s almost to the point you would think critical scholars would be a bit more hesitant to characterize any part of it as false, but you would be wrong. They must be gluttons for punishment.
Every now and then, though, something pops out of the world of ancient origins that is worth our time and attention. The latest news which made Bing’s headline feed on Tuesday of this week, is one of these stories. Allow me to quote a bit from the article appearing on Space.com: “What did Earth look like 3.2 billion years ago? New evidence suggests the planet was covered by a vast ocean and had no continents at all. Continents appeared later, as plate tectonics thrust enormous, rocky land masses upward to breach the sea surfaces, scientists recently reported.”
Apparently, some paleogeologists were digging around in some rocks in Australia and discovered something that led them to conclude the earth’s surface was once one giant ocean. The particular evidence was a higher than expected concentration of one oxygen isotope (oxygen-18) than another (oxygen-16). The ratio led them to the conclusion of the massive sea surface. Admittedly, I don’t understand the science here, but the conclusion published in the journal Nature Geoscience (barring more clarifying research) seems to be clear: The earth may have once been completely covered in water. This would fly in the face of the current model which suggests that the earth’s surface was mostly land and life arose from ancient puddles sitting on the surface.
Now, these scientists aren’t questioning whether the complex life we have around today evolved from simpler life many eons ago. That’s dogma for much of the scientific world today. What they are questioning based on this evidence is whether that simple life first arose in ponds and puddles on an otherwise dry surface, or deep in thermal vents at the bottom of the ocean. This evidence points them in the direction of the latter.
That doesn’t bother me. In fact, I wouldn’t expect any different. I don’t agree, but I don’t have to agree. They didn’t ask me. My faith isn’t challenged by this at all. As a matter of fact, it’s encouraged. Here’s why.
Leaving aside for now a debate about the age of the earth that can at times get a little heated in church circles, as I read this news, something flashed in my brain. Whatever your take on the first creation narrative in Genesis, on the third day something happened that should sound pretty familiar in light of what these scientists are claiming. I read it to you just a second ago. Shall we revisit it?
“Then God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” Got that? Let me unpack this just in case you don’t. On the first day of creation, God created light. On the second day, He separated the watery mess that was the earth into waters above and waters below. This created a division between the earth’s surface and the sky. On the third day, then, God still hadn’t made any dry land appear. In fact, the whole surface of the planet seems to have been covered in one giant ocean…just like these scientists are now claiming. Hmm…interesting, isn’t it?
All this time spent looking and digging and what they find accords perfectly with the Genesis account. It’s almost like God left clues for us to find that would point us repeatedly back to Him the harder we looked. Oh wait…He did. Now, does this prove definitively that God exists and that Genesis is totally true. No. But we didn’t need for it to do that in order to follow Jesus. It just offers us one more little clue that we really can trust what we read; one more clue that the God who preserved it for us is trustworthy. That’s a stone worth having in your sling. We’ll get back to Habakkuk tomorrow, but I thought this was worth your time today.