Kathryn Applegate
 on June 03, 2021

When My Daughter Learned About the Universe

Even with all of Kathryn's history at BioLogos, when encountering the Big Bang in school, her daughter wondered whether she could believe both science and the Bible.

purple nebula

This year we’re homeschooling. We’re doing it together with a friend and her daughter.

I was in the office the other day when my friend texted: “Science book is going into creation of the universe being from Big Bang theory. Wasn’t sure if I should continue?”

“Yes, please!” I replied, pleasantly surprised that our Christian curriculum included material on this topic.

A few minutes later, she wrote, “Kids have lots of questions about the Big Bang! I think you could answer them better than me so I just told them to chat with you later about it. But I read to them what the book said.”

As I was making my 9-year-old daughter Lucy a snack that afternoon, I casually asked her what she had learned about the Big Bang. She looked at the floor. “Scientists say a big explosion started the universe. But that can’t be right, because we know God made the universe. That’s what the Bible says. I don’t have to believe that, do I?”

star cloud

“Well, no…” I paused, trying to figure out which way to take this conversation. “You don’t have to believe in the Big Bang, but can I tell you what I think? There’s actually a lot of evidence for that big explosion, and I think that’s how God started everything.”

“But the book didn’t say anything about God. It isn’t a Christian book,” Lucy countered.

“It’s OK that it didn’t mention God,” I said. “It’s a science book. Science simply explains how things work in the world God has made. Let’s think about another example. You believe God made Teddy [our dog], right?” “Yes,” she said. Teddy is the subject of many of our family conversations.

“Me too. God made Teddy. But Teddy was born in a natural way, with dog parents. We could talk scientifically about how puppies are born, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t involved. I think it’s the same for the universe. God is the creator of everything, but it seems he got everything started with a big explosion.”

“Oh. Ok. Can I go watch a show now?”

And just like that, our conversation was done. There is so much more I want to share with her, like that Georges Lemaître, sometimes called the Father of the Big Bang, was a devout follower of Christ. For now, though, I think it’s a Christian parenting win if she gets two messages—First, scientific explanations and God explanations aren’t in competition. Science is simply a way of describing God’s world. Second, books (or music or movies) that don’t explicitly mention God aren’t necessarily anti-Christian. Since every square inch of creation belongs to God, we can see his fingerprints in everything that brings him glory. The study of our universe’s beginnings definitely does that!

I followed up with my friend later and shared how the conversation with Lucy had gone. I also apologized for having her teach about something she wasn’t comfortable with. It would have been better to have a conversation first to see how we should approach this topic. She acknowledged she had been uncomfortable, but it prompted her to look into the topic further. She replied:

I actually did some research of my own on this last night. Many articles from BioLogos popped up! It was quite fascinating. I don’t have much experience with doing my own study of the Big Bang or evolution. I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, and my first Christian community was at college. Students talked all the time about “hot topics” like these. I was a fly on the wall for these conversations and gained my understanding from what I overheard. The conclusion about the Big Bang and evolution was always the same, that it absolutely couldn’t be true. I never heard anyone speak about the science of it. The more I heard, the more I accepted it as truth. I never had anyone telling me otherwise. I also knew that the Big Bang and evolution were what non-Christians believed in. It therefore felt very black and white. However some research last night showed me that is not the case. Definitely something I’d like to look into more!

Many people can relate to this, I am sure. Christians are often told you can either believe in science or God, but not both. Many never hear a positive account of how scientists arrive at their conclusions. How sad!

When Lucy asked so nervously if she “had to believe” in the Big Bang, my heart sank. If only I’d been the one teaching that lesson, we could have avoided this conflict, I thought. But my very next thought was this: It’s good we’re having this conversation about how science and faith fit together. It’s as much or more important than what she specifically thinks about the Big Bang!

dad reading book to child at a table

Soon I’ll pull out my friends Steph Bryant and Lizzie Henderson’s little book God Made Space, and hopefully have a similar conversation with my 7-year-old son. I’m grateful for resources like this and the years of conversations I’ve had at BioLogos, all of which gave me some language for these conversations.

If you’re new to this conversation, take heart! Come and share your parenting challenges on the BioLogos Forum. You’ll find many sympathetic ears and lots of wisdom in our community.

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About the author

Kathryn Applegate

Kathryn Applegate

Kathryn Applegate is a former Program Director at BioLogos. While working on her PhD in computational cell biology at  Scripps Research (La Jolla, CA), she became passionate about building bridges between the church and the scientific community. In 2010, she joined the BioLogos staff where she has the privilege of writing, speaking, and working with a wide variety of scholars and educators to develop new science and faith resources. Kathryn co-edited with Jim Stump How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity Press, 2016). Among many other projects during her time at BioLogos, Kathryn most recently led the development of Integrate, a new science and faith curriculum for home educators and teachers at Christian schools. Kathryn and her family enjoy exploring the beaches and state parks of Michigan and are helping to plant a new PCA church in Grand Rapids.