Richard Johnston is a writer and researcher with several articles featured in Activated.
Q: How did the universe and all that is in it come into existence? Did some inexplicable event set off the process or was it the work of an intelligent designer?
The two sides of the debate
True science is based on what is known as the “scientific method,” by which knowledge is advanced by formulating a question, collecting data about it through observation and experiment, and testing a hypothetical answer. Only after such experimentation has proven a scientific theory to be true by producing observable and repeatable results does the theory move into the realm of scientific fact.
“Abiogenesis” is a term that was apparently coined by Thomas Huxley in the 1860s. Commonly referred to as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his aggressive promotion of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Huxley attempted to patch the most obvious and fundamental hole in the theory by stating that life arose from non-life—that it was the result of the process of abiogenesis—in the long-distant past of the earth’s primeval existence by some natural reaction that was possible then but impossible now.
I’m decidedly squeamish, so when the Psalmist tells me that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), I’m inclined to take his word for it. Let what goes on beneath my skin remain unseen and largely forgotten, I say, while I go about my business in blissful ignorance. Not everyone is so inclined. In the past two or three hundred years—about three thousand years after ancient Israel’s awestruck King David sang those praises to his Creator—some more inquisitive and decidedly less squeamish types have made some amazing discoveries that give us reason to exclaim with David, “How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (Psalm 139:17,14).
The Greek word translated “image” in most English versions of the Bible is eikon, from which we get the word “icon.” It is used in the Bible both literally (e.g., Matthew 22:20, where Jesus asked whose image was on the Roman coin), and figuratively (e.g., Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3, in which the apostle Paul says that Jesus is the express image of the invisible God). The Septuagint, which was the first standard translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, called Adam the “eikon of God.”
The sculptures, paintings, and carvings in orthodox churches are called icons—the anglicized rendering of eikones. So are people who are greatly admired or considered so good at what they do—entertainers, sports stars, entrepreneurs, etc.—that they have practically become synonymous with their area of expertise. No sooner were computer screens invented, it seems, than they began to get cluttered with little pictures that are called icons. Some have even taken on a life of their own, like the yellow smiley face and its dramatic derivatives, which are called emoticons.
The issue of climate change is a charged one, but also one that can’t be ignored. We can debate the causes and culprits till the cows come home, but the fact remains that this planet is our collective home for now, and we each share in the responsibility for it.
I’ve read articles by several Christian writers who have, I think, taken a sensible and scriptural approach: God has appointed us stewards over His creation, and it is our responsibility to care for it and manage its resources.1 On the other side, I have read what I think is an irresponsible approach, based on a skewed application of certain other Bible passages. It goes like this: Earth’s surface and atmosphere will one day be destroyed in a global conflagration, and God will create a new and better world on the remains of the old,2 so it doesn’t much matter what we do to it now; it’s all going to burn up anyway. Why bother ourselves with trying to preserve it if God has other plans?