Why God Works Slowly
Science Mike (a.k.a. Mike McHargue) shares his view that like a master craftsman, the God who creates over billions of years is not in a hurry. Meticulous care goes into every creative action.
I was hooked on Genesis as a kid. It seemed like such scandalous knowledge–to have a God’s eye view of how everything came to be. Some itch was scratched every time I read those first couple of chapters. As much as I loved to hear about an explosion of light created from chaos, I tended to lose interest as the human drama entered the scene. My passion was for the formation of the Earth, the sky, trees, and birds.
I loved how God’s life seemed to be like mine. Genesis is written around the cycle of a week, and my grade school life was metered with the same rhythm. Like God, I savored the day of rest that followed a busy week.
Years later, I learned about a different story of our origins. In this one, our universe formed in billions of years, and life developed by a haphazard, wasteful process called Evolution. I found the idea more than absurd–it was offensive.
Why would anyone say God was unable to make everything in seven days? Why would they deny his hand at work forming life from the dust in all its stunning diversity?
Of course, the ancient universe made its case over time. I made a strong effort to understand the world through Creation Science, but cosmologists and evolutionary biologists are relentless with evidence to support their claims. The sky and the fossil record tell the story of a very old Earth, and a truly ancient night sky.
For people like me, people whose faith is rooted in the soil of a God who formed it all in a week, this transition is scary. Frankly, a lot of people turn away from God when this happens. They feel duped and foolish for accepting such a wild tale. I know I went through that.
But I think it’s much more interesting to ask, “Why does God work slowly?” After all, our life is all about speed. We have fast internet, overnight shipping, instant coffee, and airplanes that cross continents faster than we could once cross a town. A literal seven day creation fits our modern ethos quite well.
The universe formed slowly. It took almost 380,000 years for light to pass through the fabric of spacetime. Millions of years passed before the first stars were born, and millions more before those stars formed galaxies and planets.
Nine billion years passed before the Earth was formed. It was lifeless for as many as a billion years before the first life appeared on its surface. Life was primitive for several billion years after that–land animals and vertebrates only appeared 380 million years ago. Finally humans show up a couple hundred thousand years ago–but language and civilization would take even longer.
The formation of our universe and the creation of human life took an unfathomable amount of time. God works slowly–so slowly we can’t even imagine the timeline of creation. These days, I think this speaks of a God who cares deeply about creation.
In an age of just-in-time manufacturing and logistics, the finest things are made slowly. We place the most value on anything that was hand-made by a craftsman. Watches, furniture, even cars–the best ones are assembled by hand. We associate luxury with an investment of effort over time.
The slow, creative processes of Big Bang cosmology and Evolution reveal a grand Creator. This is a God unconstrained by any limit of God, who invokes a creation that continues to express that creative energy. Like a master craftsman, the God who creates over billions of years is not in a hurry. Meticulous care goes into every creative action.
Why would God make the universe faster than we make an exotic sports car? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure God could make the universe in six days. But the billions of years in which creation unfolded speak to more than just care–they speak to how the universe is different than anything humans make.
It isn’t finished. Our creation continues to unfold, and God trusts us to play a part. We’ve been entrusted with our own dirt, and we’ve been endowed by our Creator with our own creative energy. Our birthright as living things is the ability to make more life, just like stars make more stars.
We were placed in a cradle: a beautiful, pale-blue-dot cradle. This cradle reflects the decisions we make. We can build up the land and care for it, or we can exploit it and destroy. Likewise, we can build each other up, or we can follow our own self interests at the expense of others.
To do the careful work of building up is the Gospel. God came down and put on a face so we could know what God is like. And this God, Jesus, told us to love our God and our neighbor. He told us to forgive others, to be born again, and to feed his sheep–to take the narrow road.
These are slow, meticulous ways of living. Loving people well is an investment with a slow return. Turning the other cheek is an act of patience and great care. But it’s our invitation to follow Christ, and in doing so to be more like God.
And God works slowly.
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