In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." That is how Genesis, the first book of the Bible, begins.
Is it history or myth, science or fable? Those are the questions that get everyone swinging. If Genesis is history, it is not the kind of history we write today. Its opening chapter is highly poetical. And if Genesis is science, it is not a science with theories and mathematical equations.
A strong case can be made that the earliest chapters of Genesis are both historical and scientific. They had better be. The meaning of the gospel story hangs on their truth.
On June 30, 1909, the Catholic Pontifical Biblical Commission agreed. It issued a decree interpreting the first chapters of Genesis as history, not myth. With the backing of Pope Pius X, the Commission declared that certain truths must be held no matter what the latest scientific theories claim to the contrary. These unarguable points are:
That God created all things at the beginning of time;
That man was specially created;
That the first woman came from the first man;
That all humans are of a single original race;
That our first parents lived in a happy state of justice, integrity, and immortality;
That God gave them a command to test their obedience;
That they disobeyed the divine command at the instigation of the devil who took on the form of a serpent;
That our first parents fell from their state of innocence;
And that they were promised a future redeemer.
Evangelical Christians would agree with these basic points. But skeptics will ask, does science confirm them?
Three of the Commission's assertions can be tested. Science backs up the Bible on all three. It shows conclusively that the universe had a beginning from nothing we know about. It shows that new life forms appear suddenly in the fossil record, suggesting special creation not just for men but for all creatures. Complex systems of life, in which every one of several pieces has to work perfectly together, demand an intelligent designer. Studies of mitochondria (granules in the cell that help it breathe and get energy) show that all living humans are descended from a specific, individual woman who lived less than 100,000 years ago.
There is no reason for Christians to be ashamed of the claims of faith. Science and the Bible came from the same hand and, when the dust settles, will always be found to agree.