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What does it mean that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)?

in the beginning God created

The significance of Genesis 1:1 is well articulated by apologist Frank Turek in his book Stealing from God (NavPress, 2014). He asserts, “The greatest miracle in the Bible is the first verse: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ If that verse is true, then every other verse in the Bible is at least believable” (p. 187).

God’s act of shaping the world forms the basis for Christianity. If a Divine Being created this world, then that Being would be the center of our existence. Similar to how we create things for specific purposes, this Being would have had a reason behind making the world and humanity. Our main goal should be to discover the right revelation of this Being and align with His desires.

Many other Bible verses support the concept of God creating the world in the beginning. An example is Colossians 1:16, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Also see Psalm 33:6; Hebrews 11:3; John 1:3.)

The Bible takes Genesis 1:1 as an established fact, which aligns with the cosmological argument for God’s existence. By combining scientific facts and philosophical reasoning, one can reasonably conclude that the universe had a beginning and a cause. The cosmological argument can be summarized as follows:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

The first two statements are uncontroversial. Premise 1 is based on the law of causality, which states that every event has a cause. The second statement is supported by evidence such as the second law of thermodynamics, the expanding universe, and the big bang theory. Philosophers, both past and present, have also presented viewpoints for the universe’s beginning, with the kalam cosmological argument by William Lane Craig being a popular modern example.

The main point of contention lies with the third statement. Should we posit that God is the First Cause of the universe? Once again, we can draw insight from Frank Turek, who argues,

If space, time, and matter had a beginning, then the cause must transcend space, time, and matter. In other words, the cause must be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial. This cause also must be enormously powerful to create the universe out of nothing. And it must be a personal agent in order to choose to create, since an impersonal force has no capacity to choose to create anything. Agents create. Impersonal forces, which we call natural laws, merely govern what is already created, provided agents don’t interfere (ibid., p. 2).

The implausibility of something arising from nothing also lends support to the first verse of the Bible. If the universe is not eternal, then it either came out of nothing or was created by a self-existent Being called God. The latter is more reasonable, especially when considering other evidence such as fine tuning, objective morality and the irreducible complexity of cells.

Therefore, we can reasonably say that the first sentence of the Bible is true and that the Creator God aligns with the theistic worldview. The truthfulness of the statement that God created the heavens and the earth also makes miracles possible. Genesis 1:1 lays the foundation for other truths.

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Questions about Genesis

What does it mean that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)?
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This page last updated: June 22, 2023