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SCIENCE AND RELIGION (TOPIC 3)
Christian ideas about the origins of the world and of humanity
The Bible gives its own story about how the world was made, and this is different from the views held by most
scientists. The book of Genesis, which introduces the Bible, teaches that the universe was made by God, and that God
made it all out of nothing;
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was
over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be
light,' and there was. (Genesis 1:1-3)
Genesis describes, in two stories how God made the world for people to live in. God planned it all, and then made it
exactly according to plan, putting everything in its place. Nothing happened by chance or by accident. It was all made
because that was what God intended. Everything in the world exists for a reason, and God has a purpose for it.
According to the teachings of Genesis, all of the different species were there from the beginning:
And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along
the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.' And it was so. God made the wild animals according to
their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to
their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:24-25)
In Genesis, God made men and women as a special creation and gave them pride of place. They were made in the
image of God, and given the Garden of Eden in which to live. Everything was perfect until Adam and Eve disobeyed
God made all the different animals, and presented them to the first man so that he could choose names for them,
showing that from the very beginning, people had control over animals:
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought
them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its
This teaching has presented difficulties for some Christians, who realise that the story in the book of Genesis
contradicts scientific ideas about evolution, because it says that all the different species were there from the start,
rather than evolving gradually. It also contradicts scientific theories about how the universe began, because it does
not mention any explosion or expanding universe. It gives the impression that the Earth existed in the way we know it
today, right from the start, rather than gradually cooling over millions of years.
Many modern Christians believe that the scientists are probably right, and that the universe began with a Big Bang.
They also believe that people evolved gradually, rather than being created in the beginning as a completed species.
These Christians believe that the creation stories in the Bible are a poetic way of describing important truths, but that
they tell the truth using myth-stories which contain important truths, but do not necessarily describe exactly what
happened historically. The events in the Bible are not always meant to be taken literally. The Bible accounts are
perhaps rather like a hymn, praising God for creation rather than giving accurate details about how everything began.
Some Christians, however believe that the Biblical accounts are literally true. The Bible, they believe, comes from
God, and God does not make mistakes. If God says that this is how the world began, then it is true, whatever the
scientists might think. These Christians believe that interpreting Genesis as a myth is dangerous, because people
might then interpret a lot of other important events as myth too, such as the Virgin Birth or the resurrection of Jesus,
and say that they did not really happen.
Christian views about people and animals
According to Christianity, people are different from the rest of the animal world, because unlike animals, they have
souls. In Genesis, when God makes the other animals, they are made just as the plants are made; but when Adam is
created, he is special. Humanity is made 'in the image of God':
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
In Genesis, people are seen to be a special creation, different from everything else in the world. It is not clear what it
means to be made 'in the image of God'. Perhaps it means that the writers of Genesis though that people actually
looked like God; or perhaps they meant that humans share something of the nature of God. When Adam is created,
God gives him something extra, which the animals do not have, and this is symbolised as the 'breath of God'.
The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and
the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
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Christians believe, that people, unlike animals, have a soul, something which does not die when the body dies, but
can live on after death. For this reason, people are different from other animals, in Christian belief. Their lives are
sacred, and they have special rights and duties which other animals do not share.
Christian ideas about stewardship
Christians, like Jews, believe that people were put on the earth to act as 'stewards'.…read more