Book Review: The Creator Revealed by Michael G. Strauss
The Creator Revealed:A Physicist Examines the Big Bang and the Bible by Michael G. Strauss provides a concise and easy-to-understand look at the relationship between science and faith through the eyes of a physicist. Strauss sets the stage by explaining his position: God both wrote the Bible and created the universe, and the two should agree with one another. Furthermore, Strauss argues that the very character of God is revealed by the facts of this universe that are discovered by scientific research, and as a result, the Christian who studies God’s creation is better prepared both for their own personal faith and for reaching others.
Strauss opens up his discussion of the science with the Big Bang. The Big Bang, as summarized by Strauss, is the claim that everything within our universe began to exist at some time in the past. Strauss provides four lines of evidence demonstrating that the Big Bang did occur. First, the phenomenon of redshift in galaxies light profiles shows that all galaxies are moving away from the Milky Way, and the farther a galaxy is from us the faster it is moving away. The best explanation of this phenomenon is that the universe itself is expanding. When this expansion is extrapolated backward in time, we can not only determine that the universe began to exist we can also determine when it began to exist.
Second, a universe that began in a hot and dense state prior to undergoing rapid expansion would leave behind a background radiation that permeates all of space. This radiation is called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), and the experimental observation of the CMB matches theoretical predictions to an impressive degree of accuracy. Third, the ratio of light elements in the universe matches exactly what is predicted by the Big Bang model of the universe. Finally, Physicists Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin published a paper demonstrating that any universe that has been, on average, in a state of expansion, must have a beginning. When all of this is considered, one thing is for certain; whatever ultimately explains the universe must transcend the universe.
Next, Strauss discusses the remarkable fine-tuning of the universe. After discussing a couple of fine-tuning examples, such as the strong nuclear force and the presence of carbon, he argues not only that this fine-tuning points to design in the universe, but also that it highlights characteristics of the creator responsible for such design. Both when we look at our place in the galaxy, as well as our planet’s place in the solar system,we find the conditions that make life possible. In other words, God has created with a purpose, and His purpose is seen in the care for humankind implied by His creation.
Strauss begins by making two points about understanding scripture. First, every story is given from someone’s perspective. Second, more than one reasonable interpretation exists for many passages of scripture. For example, when it comes to understanding the creation narrative, one must understand the language and culture in order to know whether to take it literally or metaphorically. The goal is to understand the point that the author intended to convey, not whatever matches with our modern ideas. In many cases,the passage in question exists within a particular literary and historical context, ripe with figurative language. If these are not adequately understood,the real meaning will be lost.
As for understanding Genesis 1, Strauss employs the aforementioned principles to demonstrate how the scriptural data coheres with the Big Bang Theory. First, the word yom (translated as “day”) is shown to have a plethora of meanings, and Strauss argues that in the context of Genesis 1, it never refers to a literal 24-hour period. Instead, the length of these “days” are undefined, and therefore scripture alone does not tell us when the creation occurred. Instead, the meaning of the passage must be understood from the perspective of the only one present during the process: God. More specifically, it must be understood through God’s perspective as viewed from the surface of the Earth.
Given his understanding of how to approach Genesis 1,Strauss then moves through the chapter, explaining how each day lines up with the scientific model for the development of earth. The correlation is summarized as follows:
Day 1: The sky becomes translucent, previously having been opaque. This allows light to reach the surface, at least enough to distinguish between daytime and nighttime.
Day 2: God establishes the water cycle, with the clouds (waters above) forming being separated from the oceans (waters below) through the process of evaporation.
Day 3: God created dry land by allowing continents to emerge. Additionally, vegetation began to appear on this dry land.
Day 4: The sun, moon, and stars became visible as the sky became more transparent.
Day 5: God created the soulish animals, but not necessarily all kinds of animals. Strauss limits this to the types of sea mammals and birds that could be considered pets.
Day 6: The earth brings forth more soulish animals, particularly those that interact with human beings in some way. Also, on day 6, human beings are created.
Strauss then takes a look at the type of world described by scripture, and shows that it better aligns with the idea that God created using the big bang theory than via special creation 6,000 years ago. For example, earth is described as very good, but not perfect. Strauss, therefore, takes issue with the notion that the fall of man introduced death into an otherwise perfect world. He argues that in order for the punishment of death to have any meaning to Adam before the fall, he would have needed some understanding of what death was. While this wouldn’t make sense on a perfect world, if we instead assume a very good world, the presence of death prior to the fall of make is reasonable.Furthermore, Strauss highlights how the consequences of Adam’s sin pertained to the spiritual death of mankind, and therefore doesn’t imply that the fall of man altered the physical laws of the universe, sending it on a trajectory of decay.
A Personal Note
Strauss’s final chapters function somewhat as a plea to his readers. Through the telling of personal anecdotes, he demonstrates that Christians serve a God of truth, and therefore searching for truth ought to be of utmost importance. When a Christian appears not to value truth, the Christian message as a whole loses credibility. Instead, the Christian should be searching for truth wherever he can find it, including the sciences, and he can do so with the confidence that it will ultimately support the revealed knowledge of God. Furthermore, the Christian has an obligation to engage the faith intellectually. We are commanded to love God with our minds, not just our emotions. This means we ought to engage our studies in science class with the same passion with which we engage our emotions during Sunday morning church service. When this happens, when both the heart and the mind are fully engaged, lives are transformed.
The Creator Revealed is then rounded out with two appendices. In the first of these Strauss briefly addresses the objections raised by atheists in response the arguments presented in this book. Here he argues that these objections largely constitute an “atheism of the gaps” fallacy whereby they appeal to the gaps in scientific knowledge to avoid the theistic conclusions of the arguments. In the second, Strauss touches on the topic of evolution, concluding that progressive creationism best matches the available evidence.
In the Preface to The Creator Revealed, Strauss mentions that he wrote the book in order to address the relationship between modern science and scripture using language that the layman could understand. With respect to this goal, Strauss certainly succeeded. This book is not an exhaustive study of science and religion, but throughout The Creator Revealed, Strauss covers all the main topics one needs exposure to in order to understand the relationship between science and Christianity, and he does so without requiring any previous knowledge on the topics discussed. Therefore, anyone wishing to begin studying the relationship between science and Christianity, especially as it pertains to physics, will want to read The Creator Revealed.