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Friday, December 11, 2015

Genesis, The Book of Beginnings Part 5 - The Fourth Day of Creation (Genesis 1:14-19)

As we progress in this study, we see an order and pattern emerging in regard to Creation, and it is an order the defies human reasoning but also affirms that God had reasons for creating in the order He did, and as Christians it is not so much our job to try to determine what God's motives were (as most of that is not our concern anyway) but rather the fact that He did create the entire universe and everything in it, and that we are given the order in which He did so in Holy Scripture.  Over the centuries, the scientific record has also borne witness to much of this creative activity, and rather than contradicting the claims of Scripture, as the secularists and evolutionists would have us to believe, rather as more proof and evidence comes in almost on a daily basis, it is becoming more clear that science affirms the Biblical record on so many levels.  That is why we are doing this type of study, for in re-introducing the Creation narrative back into catechesis, it underpins so many other vital areas of our faith.

Before we begin to discuss Day Four, let us review what we have learned so far.  First, we now understand that the earth was created by God on the first day, and began to be formed on the second.  Second, we also note that this formation entailed three things:

1.  The separation of sea from land.
2.  The distinction between day and night.
3.  The creation of plant life.

Third, in creating plant life, God did so with the intention that plants were to provide nourishment for animals which would be created on Day Five, as well as for man on Day Six.  Finally, we come to Day Four, which entails the creation of the heavenly bodies (stars, moon, planets, the sun, etc.).  The heavens are important too, for as Psalm 19:1 reminds us, "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork."  In Hebrews 11:12, we read the account of how we all come from one ancestor (Adam), and that we are "as many as the stars of the sky in multitude," which reminds us that God created a lot of them, and they are all named by the Creator, as Psalm 147:4 reminds us that "He counts the numbers of the stars, He calls them all by name."  The created stars then are not randomly scattered, but are rather ordered by God, as is the rest of the universe.

When it comes to Day Four, it is important to discuss from the outset that there has been for centuries a debate among Creationists regarding what the center of the solar system actually is.  That debate is largely generated by the passage which is the focal point of this lesson today, and the reason for it is the order of Creation - because the earth was created before the sun, the debate then is over where the earth therefore sits in relation to the sun.  This has led to the evolution of two schools of thought.

1.  Geocentrism - This view contends that the earth is at the center of the solar system and that the sun and all the other planets revolve around it.  This view is one that is advanced by some traditional Catholic Creationist writers, notably Robert Sungenis, and there are some component parts to this theory that should be examined:

a.  According to this view, the stars give evidence of the fact the earth is motionless in space - in his book Geocentrism 101, Robert Sungenis contends that a phenomenon called parallax, which is a standard of measurement as to how starlight is received on earth (Robert Sungenis, Geocentrism 101.  State Line, PA:  Catholic Apologetics International Publishing, 2014. p. 41).  The means of affirming geocentrism, Sungenis argues, is via stellar aberration, whereas one star rather than many being observed from earth (Sungenis, p. 44)
b.  Another evidence given for geocentrism is the cosmic microwave, which is argued to be oriented not specifically around the Milky Way galaxy but specifically around the plane joining the sun and the earth (Sungenis, p. 178).

There are other evidences that a more thorough reading of material by Geocentrists could probably produce, but time and the scope of this lesson don't permit to engage all of them.  The point is that there are proponents of a Geocentric view of the universe, and they deserve some examination.

2.  Heliocentrism - This is the traditional view that the sun is at the center of the solar system, and that the earth and all the other planets revolve around the sun.



Although I respect my Geocentrist colleagues, and I especially share with them the strong Biblical view of Creation and that the first chapters of Genesis are to be taken literally, at the same time I personally feel that the evidence is stronger that the solar system is heliocentric, and it has been well-established and accepted that the earth revolves around the sun rather than the other way around.  However, like Old-Earth Creationists, Geocentrists should be seen as fellow Christians, and many of their proponents have written some excellent material on Creation science, and thus they are valued.  And, aside from the centrist aspect of their convictions, Geocentrists would pretty much hold to much of the same position as other Young-Earth Creationists.  Whether the solar system is heliocentric or geocentric is really not the focus of the Scripture passage, and believing one way or another on that in no way violates any cardinal theology or spiritual convictions - it's just that the physical evidence for me weighs more on the side of heliocentrism rather than geocentrism.  However in discussing this particular passage of Scripture, it is of interest to know that this debate is currently on the table, and it benefits us to understand that it's there and may emerge in a discussion we could have in any given setting on this issue, which is why it is important to be informed about it.

The question arises at this point, based on the heliocentric-vs-geocentric debate, as to why then did God create the earth before the sun?  And, why then on Day Three, with all this plant life being created, did God choose to wait to create the sun while providing supernatural light from Himself to nourish plants?  For that, I would like to revisit the construction analogy.  If you are building a house, you are not going to have it wired for light right away, especially if you are still working on its structural components.  So, before the wiring is in place, you will probably need a source of light to work and make sure things are where they properly should be, correct?  Therefore, to power your equipment, you utilize a power generator which gives you torchlight and also provides a way to operate the drills, saws, and other equipment you require to finish the construction.   In a similar fashion, God had his purpose for the order of Creation too, and provided the light from Himself as a sort of ultimate "power generator" until the source of light was created the following day.  That is why the created order therefore is as it is.

So, now we arrive at Day Four, and in verse 14 we read that God said "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from night, and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.   And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth."   Notice that there are three reasons why these "lights in the firmament of the heavens" were created, and all of them involved time measurement to some degree:

1.  To separate day from night.
2.  For signs and seasons.
3.  For days and years.

In separating day from night, St. John of Damascus in his work Orthodox Faith posed a question - is fire equated necessarily with light?  He notes that these luminous bodies (sun and stars) were not lights themselves but merely receptacles of light, endowed by God with the power to produce that light, in other words.  St Basil the Great, in his Hexamaeron, elaborated on this by saying the purpose of the heavenly bodies was not to make day or night (as God had already done that) but rather to order the days.  Basil defined the day as the air being lighted by the sun (which interesting enough later had some confirmation from scientific research!).  He also noted that the moon and the sun not only order days, but also years - even today, our own calendar is based still on lunar cycles.  St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Catechetical Lectures, noted that well-ordered movements of stars and their "unfettered courses" serve as agricultural as well as navigational guides.  It is St. Ambrose, however, in his Hexamaeron who gives us a true clue as to why God created the earth first - this order of creation should discourage worshipping of the sun and other natural phenomena as deity, and thus God's created order is a sound refutation of paganism.  In St. Ambrose's time that would make good sense, for it was in his time that the Emperors Valentinian II and  Theodosius I carried out a campaign against remaining pagan strongholds in the Roman Empire, which at this point was officially Christian.  One of the pagan cults was a sun-worshipping cult of Sol Invictus which was instituted by Aurelian some centuries earlier, and as St. Ambrose encouraged and supported Valentinian's efforts, it could be that Ambrose included the polemic against sun-worship as part of his commentary of the Creation account in Genesis to show how futile it was to worship something that is relatively new.  Of course, as Christians we would affirm St. Ambrose in that, and as God orders things, I believe it was God Himself who gave Ambrose that inspiration.  Along those same lines, St. Chrysostom noted (correctly I might add) in his Homilies on Genesis that Moses was inspired by the Holy Spirit to teach with great precision this order of Creation.  However, I would go one further than St. Chrysostom on that - Moses spent a lot of time in communion with God on Sinai, and I believe God told this to Moses Himself during those times - Scripture does record in Exodus that Moses would be up on that mountain for days on end, and he and God more than likely got to talk about a lot.  However, I also believe that Moses as well could have heard many accounts from oral tradition, and God clarified those too - as we will see later, people lived to great ages even up to Moses's time, and it would not be uncommon for someone to have their 600-year-old gggg grandfather, who was probably an eyewitness to some of the Flood events, alive to tell what happened.  In time, as we also will see later, some cultures corrupted some of the facts of these things to create the famous mythologies we have all read, but the myth at times can substantiate the truth, as at the core of every mythology is some fact that has been over time embellished and stretched in order to accomodate religious systems that are opposed to the Judeo-Christian worldview.  The belief that myth has a basis in fact is something called euhemerism, and I classify myself to an extent as an euhemerist.  We will surely see more of that too as we continue this study.  (References to the Church Fathers are taken from Andrew Louth and Thomas C. Oden, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture - Old Testament I: Genesis 1-11.  Downers Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press, 2001.  pp. 16-19).

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, in his classic commentary on Genesis 1-3 entitled On Creation and the Fall, engages in some Hebrew word studies based on his research into rabbinic sources, and what he tells us is that there are a couple of  Hebrew words, yehi/yiyeh, which denote that the light was created (yehi) on the first day, but ordained to be ordered (yiyeh) on the fourth day by their placing in the firmament.  Therefore, for St. Lawrence, the sun, moon, and stars are created to be vehicles of that primordial light God had created earlier (Craig R. Toth, trans, and Victor Warkulwicz, ed., St Lawrence Brindisi on Creation and the Fall - A Verse by Verse Commentary on Genesis 1-3.  Mount Jackson, VA:  The Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009.  pp. 65-66).  Likewise, we are reminded that the sun, moon, and other natural phenomena are created to serve man and glorify God, and they are not for man to worship.

We now look at the second reason, "for signs and seasons."  In his book The Real Meaning of the Zodiac (Fort Lauderdale:  Coral Ridge Ministries, 1989), late Presbyterian minister and theologian Dr. D. James Kennedy notes that a sign is something that conveys a message, although the classic definition of a sign in sacramental theology is "one thing that stands for something else, and does so actively."  In his book, Dr. Kennedy relates this to what we call the Zodiac, in that the stars do qualify as signs in that sense in that they are clearly known and understood via the constellations (Hebrew Mazzaroth) and that through them God originally meant to convey the essence of His Gospel, but occultists and superstitions have corrupted it over time.  The message God gave us through the stars, Dr. Kennedy notes, lays far beyond and behind the occultic corruptions we see in horoscopes and other such nonsense, and it goes back to the earlier reference to Psalm 19:1 - "the heavens declare the glory of God" (Kennedy, p. 8).  God gave to all the world a proclamation of the Gospel in the stars, Dr. Kennedy notes, and the satanic distortion of that via the occultic art of astrology has robbed mankind of a great witness.  To see where that corruption came from, we will note later when we study Genesis 6 that when the fallen angels appeared with and encountered man, an extrabiblical source, The Book of Enoch, recorded in detail what these fallen angels (called "Watchers") did - two named by Enoch as Barkayal  and Tamiel taught men about "observing stars" and "astronomy," while a third, Asaradel, taught "the motion of the moon" (Enoch 8:5-9 - from Richard Laurence, trans.  The Book of Enoch the Prophet. London:  William Clowes and Sons, 1883. p. 8.).  The leader of this fallen Host, Azazyel, was responsible for leading this group of fallen angels to corrupt mankind - whether Azazyel is synonymous with Satan remains unclear in Enoch, although in Enoch 7:9 their leader is actually noted as being one named Samyaza.  This discussion shows that one trick of Satan is to use something God created and called good and corrupt it to cause man to fall into sin.  God ordered the stars for instance, and He set them in the heavens to be signs for us.  But, as with many other things, Satan corrupts them and turns them into something evil and idolatrous - the real sin of horoscopes and astrology is in reality the sin of idolatry, in that it places faith in the creation in determining fate rather than in the Creator who knows our fate.  This is why rather than relying upon stars and other heavenly phenomena in an idolatrous role of dictating fate, we need to see them as a protoevaggelion, the beginning of the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Keep in mind also the Thomistic approach we have been talking about throughout other parts of this study in that God authored two "books" - Nature and Revelation - and the stars in this instance are in essence a Gospel message of the Book of Nature, as there is a clear Christological affirmation within them.  

We talk now of the third reason, "for lights."  As we move onto verse 16, we see that God created three of these "lights:" 

1.  The "greater light" to rule the day (sun).
2.   The "lesser light" to rule the night (moon)
3.  The stars

These were made, as we have seen, for a couple of purposes:

1.  They are set in the "Firmament of the heavens" to give light unto the earth (v. 17).
2.  They divide the light from the darkness (v. 18)

Although the sun is treated distinctly in the Genesis account, it must also be remembered that the sun itself is a star.  As a star, it is not even the biggest, but God gave the sun to the earth to provide light for it, and hence it takes more prominence in the Genesis account. To demonstrate this, let us first take some basic mathematical formulae to calculate just how the sun measures up to other stars.  The largest star in our universe charted thus far is called UY Scuti (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/UY_Scuti - accessed November 21, 2015). The radius of the sun is measured to be 432,450 miles in circumference.  To calculate the immensity of the largest star, UY Scuti, which has a diameter of 1.5 billion miles, the square radius of the sun would have to be divided by the radius of UY Scuti, and if this happens, it comes out to 1708 - that means that this large star is about 1708 times larger than our sun!  The ninth-largest star so charted currently, Betelgeuse, is 1200 times larger (www.space-facts.com/how-big-is-the-sun-million-earths - accessed November 21, 2015).  The sun, by comparison, is equivalent in mass to about 1.3 million Earths.  With those figures, the largest known star then (and who's to say - there may be larger ones out there!) could hold a capacity of about 2,220,400,000 Earths!   Let us set this in scale perspective - if you pictured the earth as a BB, and the sun as a watermelon, that would be about how immense the sun is.  Now, take the watermelon, and scale it to an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and that gives you an idea of how big in comparison the largest star is in relation to the sun.  



What this immensity of heavenly bodies should be reminding us is that God's greatness is immeasurable - He created all of that, after all!  The sheer immensity of a star such as UY Scuti, which to us probably looks like a dot in the night sky, should be cause for marvel at the immensity of God's created universe.  By comparison, look at us as people - if the earth is represented by a BB, then we would be essentially smaller than the smallest electron by scale.  Yet, as we will see on Day Six, God created us in the vastness of this great universe uniquely in His image, and His love for us is even more profound when we realize how small we truly are in lieu of these great entities of Creation that exist.  And, in the time God took to create all of this - six mere days! - it demonstrates again to us that our natural universe indeed does have a supernatural beginning.

Now that we talked about the "greater light" (the sun) and the stars, let us now look at the "lesser light," or the moon.  The moon generates no light of its own, but rather reflects the light endowed to the sun by the Creator.  There is a very profound Christological typology here in that as the moon radiates a light belonging to another (the sun), so too the Church radiates a light belonging to the Son, Jesus Christ.  Dr. Regis Martin, who was one of my Theology professors recently at Franciscan University of Steubenville,  writes about this the following:  "In fact, the Church, like her analogue the moon, radiates a light belonging to Another, to Christ.  One does not draw near to an institution whose structures magically emit light and life; one draws near to a person, to Christ, Whom the structures are meant to mediate" (Regis Martin, What Is the Church.  Steubenville, OH:  Emmaus Road Publishing, 2003. p. 44).   This imagery was not lost on the Church Fathers either, as the master allegorist Origen noted in his Homilies on Genesis that "from Christ's light the Church has been enlightened."  The moon is a "lesser light" simply because it reflects the "greater light," that being the sun.  So too do we, as a lesser, less-than-perfect light, reflect the witness of Christ to others - we are not the light ourselves, but it reflects in us.  This also affirms the fact that Christ is eternal, and His presence is seen in the literal creation itself. 

When the passage in Scripture talks about the "rule" of these "greater and lesser lights," the word here used is from the Greek, and it is the word arcei, which is a term that means both rule and dominion as well as denoting the beginning of time.  We now return to St. Lawrence of Brindisi here, who notes that the moon is not an opposite of the sun, but rather doesn't reflect the full light of the sun unless it is positioned opposite of it in the night sky, and that they are not "great lights" because they are necessarily larger (indeed, as we have illustrated, there are stars immensely larger than the sun out there!) but rather because they appear larger to us.  And, they appear larger, as modern astronomy demonstrates, because they are closer than some of the even larger bodies out there - God had that in mind too, because a large star like UY Scuti, if it were in our solar system, would incinerate everything in close proximity to it.  Maybe that proves to the atheist and scoffer that God does exist and knows what He is doing - perhaps He should be given the benefit of the doubt then!

On the opposite extreme, for those who try to deify these heavenly bodies, there are warnings.  In St. Augustine's Letters, he cautions that occultic astrology is not possible to forecast future, and that it is distinguished from agricultural uses of the stars to plant and harvest because God ordered the latter and gave man wisdom to discern the seasons.  The stars are also ordered and in place to aid in navigation, as God fixed their positions in the heavens to aid in that discipline as well.  Astrology and horoscopes therefore are as we discussed earlier corruptions of Satan, and people who trust in those occultic practices are essentially trusting in and worshipping the stars themselves, which is why astrology is condemned in Isaiah 47:13, when the prophet said that their "arts" are folly and he mocks them effectively in that passage.  Also, unless you're a farmer or a sailor on the sea, the stars don't exert any influence upon you unless you are using them to determine planting seasons or as directional signals in travel. The Zodiac does exist, no doubt, although the constellations themselves bear little resemblance to the things they represent, and it is rightly to be seen as a testimony of God's greatness, as well as a revelation of the true way of salvation in Jesus Christ.  

In verses 18-19, God saw that these heavenly bodies He had created were good, and in that the fourth day ends.  But, there is one further Christological thought here that we note from the innumerable count of stars themselves.  Not only are the stars vast in size individually, but there are so many of them that it is almost impossible to count them.  Dr. Morris though has an interesting insight on this which bears some light into why Jesus desired to save us.  This hearkens to Genesis 22:17, when God is making the covenant with Abraham, and said that Abrahams descendants would be as the stars in the heavens and the sand of the seashore.  Dr. Morris notes on page 94 of his text that the approximate number of sand grains actually equal the calculated number of stars, and he uses this formula to come to that conclusion:

Average size of sand grain x average number of grains in a cubic meter of sand x the cubic thickness of the earth's crust = the total number of sand grains on the earth.  

It would truly take someone with a lot of time on their hands to even attempt to do this, as in reality who actually knows what the size of a grain of sand is anyway??  The point here is, and will be addressed further when we study Genesis 22, is that the spiritual seed of Abraham (the Church, represented by the stars) and the physical descendants of Abraham (Jews, Arabs, and others, represented by the sand) will be many.  That is one observation.  Another observation that should blow away the evolutionist is the fact that no one has actually seen a star being born - we see them die all the time, as they go "supernova" after a certain amount of time, but never generating.  The reason for this is that God created them all on Day Four, He ordered them, and He knows each one individually.  The conclusion here is that it is much simpler, even based on the standpoint of secular philosophy, to believe that an effect can never be greater than its cause.  Therefore, if the universe is the product (effect) of one Creator (cause), then by logic evolution, paganism, and pantheism are all impossibilities, which is a true message of the stars to us.  God bless you until next lesson.