In the Beginning … 6 Stories to Illustrate the Origin of Life and the Universe to Kids
A while ago I shared some activities I’d done with our kids to help them understand some of the evidence for God that we see in science and the natural world. I called the series of activities Finding the Fingerprints of God (you’ll find links to these activities on this page).
The Finding the Fingerprints of God activities focus a lot on what didn’t happen – e.g. the universe couldn’t have sprung into existence unaided; life couldn’t have formed spontaneously in some warm little pool; etc. What the Fingerprints of God activities didn’t answer was what did happen.
I’ve been wanting to discuss the various explanations (often called ‘theories’ in pop culture) for the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the emergence of humans with my kids ever since. Two weeks ago on a PD Day, I finally did.
Do you know how many different explanations there are to account for the origin of the universe, the origin of life, the emergence of humans?
If you said two – creation and evolution – you’ve got too few.
If you think there are three – creation, evolution, and theistic evolution (God exists but uses evolution in various ways) – you still have too few.
How about four – old-earth creation, young-earth creation, theistic evolution, and evolution? Getting closer, but you’re still not there.
Gerald Rau, in his book Mapping the Origins Debate argues for six explanations: old-earth creation, young-earth creation, naturalistic evolution, and three categories of theistic evolution because this category has such a broad range of ideas on the beginning of everything that it can’t be treated as one category.
To make this whole exercise fun and memorable, I rewrote the Genesis 1-2 account from the viewpoint of each of these explanations.
I read these accounts out to our kids one morning after breakfast and then we did an activity based on them. I’ll share that activity in my next post.
In the beginning, about 6,000 years ago, God created the heavens and the earth. He created it in six 24–hour days – days that are exactly the same length as our days today. On the first 24-hour day, He created light, day, and night. On the second, He created the sky. On the third, He created the dry ground and the seas as well as all vegetation on earth. On the fourth, He created the sun, moon, and stars. On the fifth, He created all the creatures of the sea and all the birds. On the sixth, He created all the land animals. On the same day He also created humans in His own image and likeness to rule over all the creatures of the earth. He did this by forming a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. He formed a woman from the rib of the man. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. On the seventh day, He rested from all his work. God is still actively involved in the physical world and in the lives of humans.
In the beginning, about 13.8 billion years ago, God created the universe. God first created light. There was a time gap and then He created the sky. After another time gap, He created the dry ground and the seas as well as all vegetation on earth. After some more time, God created the sun, moon, and stars. About 3.8 billion years ago, He created all the creatures of the sea and every winged bird, starting with single celled organisms and creating new, fully formed creatures of greater complexity slowly over time. Later, He created the creatures that live on the land. Finally, after even more time had gone by, He created Adam and Eve in His own image and likeness to rule over all the creatures of the earth. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Then He rested from all his work of creation, but He is still actively involved in the physical world and in the lives of humans.
Directed Evolution (the most teleological form of Theistic Evolution)
In the beginning, about 13.8 billion years ago, God created the conditions for the universe and life to begin. God upholds the natural laws that He put in place to support life and God has a purpose for His creation. At different times over billions of years, God stepped in and used some of the natural laws He designed to create certain life forms. At first He created the universe (planets, sun, moon, stars, earth, light, sky, etc.) over a long period of time. Then about 3.8 billion years ago He began to fill the earth with life (plants, animals, and humans). He started by created single-celled organisms and then directed or created the changes necessary for the single-celled organisms to evolve into more complex life – culminating in human life. Adam and Eve were real people and were the parents of all human beings, but the beginning chapters of Genesis are symbolic only. God is still actively involved in the physical world and in the lives of humans.
Planned Evolution (a mid-stream form of Theistic Evolution)
In the beginning, about 13.8 billion years ago, God created the conditions for the universe and life to begin. God also set out the natural laws and processes needed to achieve His purposes – natural selection, gradual evolution, descent from a common ancestor, and mutation – and then He left these evolutionary processes alone to produce the outcome He had in mind from the beginning. Life began about 3.8 billion years ago. God used evolutionary processes to enable humans to evolve from single celled organisms. Adam and Eve were not real people, and the beginning chapters of Genesis are a poem. God does not intervene in nature, but He does intervene in people’s lives by answering prayer, performing miracles, and acting to redeem people.
Non-teleological Evolution (the most naturalistic form of Theistic Evolution)
In the beginning, about 13.8 billion years ago, God created the conditions for the universe and life to begin. Even though God set out the natural laws to initiate the universe and life, but He did not know how creation would unfold and He did not direct it in any way. The first single-celled life arose by chance about 3.8 billion years ago, but it was very likely that life would evolve given how God had created the natural laws and conditions for the universe in the first place. God had no idea what humans would look like or what their nature would be. Adam and Eve were not real people, and the beginning chapters of Genesis are meaningless.
There was no beginning. There are many – possibly billions – of other universes. About 13.8 billion years ago, our universe sprang into being from a different physical dimension that has always existed. Our universe happened to have all the natural laws necessary for the universe to support life. Life originated completely by chance as a single-celled organism about 3.8 billion years ago. Over billions of years, that first form of life evolved through natural selection, mutation, and gradual evolution into all the complex life forms that we have on earth today. There is no God, and Adam and Eve are human inventions.
Are you surprised at the variety in the different explanations? Which do you most closely align with?