Creation: A Simple Explanation for Children

Son: Dad, you got a minute?

Father: Sure, kiddo, what’s up?

Son: I’ve been reading Genesis, and …

Father: Whoa, hold on. You’ve been reading Genesis?

Son: Well, yeah, and …

Father: [sotto voce] Thanks be to God.

Son: … I’m worried about it.

Father: OK, no problem [girding his loins]; what are you worried about?

Son: Well, it just didn’t happen the way it says in the Bible.

Father: And you know that because …

Son: Well, my teachers told me how it happened.

Father: [grinning sardonically] And they know better than the Bible because …

Son: Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s one just so story versus another. I get that. And my teachers are … well, they are less – I’m not sure how, but lots less – than the Bible. But seriously, how can we reconcile the account in Genesis with anything we now know – or, sure, OK, anything we now *think* we know – about the early history of the universe?

Father: [chuckling] OK, I grant you, it’s not an easy problem, unless you want to do a gross injustice to either perspective – the modern, or the Biblical. Neither camp is going to be quite content with that sort of settlement. What do you think happened?

Son: The current scientific story looks awfully tight to me. Or something like it, adjusted here or there as our knowledge grows.

Father: Sure. OK. I’m not going to say that the current scientific model of the history of the cosmos – of its cosmogony – is any less accurate than honest scientists would suggest that it is. Just bear in mind that most honest scientists would also suggest that our current model of cosmogony is probably quite wrong in many ways, and subject to change. Perhaps those changes will be quite important. But, never mind that.

Son: Why not?

Father: Well, because it just doesn’t matter what our current model of cosmogony is. No cosmogony we might come up with would matter.

Son: Why?

Father: Well; hm. It’s a long story. OK: first, remember that there are two Creation stories in Genesis. The first is about the establishment of the cosmos [Genesis 1:1-2:3] and the second is about the story of the Fall, in Eden [Genesis 2:4-25]. Here’s the thing: the second story presupposes the first. The story of the Fall happens *within* time. When it begins, the Earth has already been formed. But the first Creation story in Genesis is about *the creation of time itself.* If the events recounted in the first story had never happened, the second could not have made any sense, because there would not have been a world in which they might have happened.

Son: I never noticed that.

Father: Almost no one does. Probably because the first story is told in terms of days. People naturally interpret those days in Genesis as representing ages within the cosmos. So the literature is rife with attempts to map the first Creation story onto this or that series of cosmogonic epochs – the First Day in Genesis is a phase in the first instant after the Big Bang, in which light first appeared, and so forth. Brilliant minds have been coming up with such maps for thousands of years, according to the best science of their own days. And many of them are quite ingenious. They may even be right!

Indeed, some such mapping must be right, whether or not we’ve yet figured it out. If that first Creation story in Genesis is true, then on its own terms, it must map properly to everything, after all. So, perhaps all those mappings are correct, each in its own partial way. The mappings can’t be right on their own temporal terms, of course. They can be right only on the terms of eternity … for, time cannot but echo formally the eternity upon which it supervenes … [silence falls … continues …]

Son: Dad!

Father: Sorry, sorry. Got distracted there.

OK, where was I? Oh yeah: nevertheless, the first Creation story is about how there got to be such things as cosmic epochs in the first place. It is about the creation of a world that evolves through its own internal time, that has epochs, and moments, and instants, and events; such as this talk we are having right now, or the scent of this whiskey we both now smell. Outside this world, the time of this world simply has no relevance. Time is a measure that can make sense only within this world, and relative to one thing or another within it. So we can’t measure events in eternity by time. It has to go the other way.

So, it is not quite right to try to map the first Creation story in Genesis to our cosmic epochs as we now understand them, in order to make it credible to such people as we are: modern, sophisticated, scientifically educated people, who (through no very great fault of their own) know nothing about the necessity that time be first created in order then to transpire. In fact, that effort is wrongheaded, even when it succeeds. The first Creation story in Genesis is about the creation of time itself, and of everything that was needed for time: causation, light, space, division of one thing from another, and so forth. The second Creation story in Genesis, and everything that comes afterward, are about events within the time that is created in the first Creation story.

Son: So, the second Creation story in Genesis is happening within time, but the first Creation story is happening in eternity.

Father: Yes. Exactly. So, it is a mistake to interpret it in the terms of the natural law that holds within our cosmos. It is the story of the establishment of that natural law, and so it cannot be explained within the terms of that law.

Son: What about the animals?

Father: What do you mean?

Son: On the Sixth Day of the first story, God created the animals. So the animals came about within time, but the Sixth Day is eternal.

Father: Oh, sure, yeah, right. But that’s no problem. Remember, the first story is setting the stage for the second, in which man – and all the other animals – are introduced to a world that already exists. In order for the second story even to begin, everything that happened in the first story had to have been under way already. The account of Adam’s creation in the first story is repeated in the first stage of the second story.

Also, remember that from the perspective of eternity, events within time are all happening at once. So, from the perspective of eternity, the creation of the animals is not before the creation of Adam in time, but only in logic.

Hm. “Only” in logic. As if … [silence falls … continues …]

Son: Dad.

Father: Hm.

Son: Dad!

Father: Hmph! Sorry what? Oh, OK. Animals, right. Think of it this way: on the Sixth Day, God created the animals and man. Is the creation of the animals and man done with?

Son: What do you mean?

Father: Have man and the other animals stopped changing yet? Have they all died?

Son: No, of course not. OK, I see what you are getting at. Man and the other animals are still a work in progress. So they are still being created.

Father: You got it. Creation won’t be over until the cosmos is over. So, right now we are still in the Sixth Day. And we will be in the Sixth Day until the history of the cosmos is entirely written. So when God creates the animals and Adam in the second Creation story, it happens in the Sixth Day in the first Creation story. God is creating you, right this instant.

Son: So God is not resting yet?

Father: Not as we measure things in time. But as he measures things, yes, he’s always in the Seventh Day; and he’s also in the First Day, and all the Days in between. They are all now to him. So far as we can understand such things, anyway.

Son: I get that. Well, no, I don’t, but you’ve been explaining that to me since I was little.

Father: Yeah, I don’t really understand it either. It’s one of those things that we can see must be true in its own proper logical domain, but that we can’t comprehend. Like imaginary numbers, or 5 dimensional spaces. We can do the math, but we can’t quite know what it actually means.

Son: OK, I think I’m with you so far, but I have one question about the first Creation story.

Father: Yeah?

Son: Well, I get that in the very beginning, before God got to work, the Earth was formless and void. There was no Earth there at all, or any other solids. But there was the Deep, and the Spirit of God moved over the surface of it; so there must have been space, right, containing the Deep, with up and down and everything? What was the Deep?

Father: Oh, good question. The word translated as “Deep” or “Abyss” is tehom, which means those things and also “sea.” The word seems to have come from the name of an ancient Near Eastern chaos monster, the gigantic sea serpent Tiamat, whom the Creator in various ancient creation stories vanquished in battle, thus securing the order of the cosmos. Tiamat is chaos personified. In some of those stories, Tiamat is tied up at the bottom of the ocean, and threatens always to break free. This is why the ocean – and water in general – is so often associated with disorder and dissolution in ancient thought. I mean, apart from the storms and stuff, and the obvious effects of erosion, and the fact that we can’t see to the bottom of it – it is murky, unlike the sky.

So anyway, you can think of the Deep in Genesis as just Chaos: the complete absence of any order.

OK, bear with me now, because this will take a minute to explain. Does a thing without any order at all have a definite form?

Son: No.

Father: So is it a definite thing?

Son: No. It is nothing definite. It is formless. So, I guess that means it is void, too, right?

Father: Yes. So what is it?

Son: It is nothing.

Father: Correct. It is nothing at all. So, does it have a certain shape?

Son: No. It doesn’t have anything at all.

Father: So it is not contained in anything the way that water might be contained in a pitcher or a balloon.

Son: No.

Father: So is it in a space?

Son: No. It isn’t in anything. It isn’t anything.

Father: So far so good; excellent. All right then: before God creates anything, what is there?

Son: There is nothing but God.

Father: Yes. Just so. What was the Spirit moving over, then?

Son: Nothing. Is this where we get the idea that God created the world out of nothing?

Father: Yes.

Son: So, no space, no water. Nothing other than God. But then what did God use to create the world?

Father: Well, I suppose it follows that he used nothing other than God.

Son: I guess so. But what is the world made of, then?

Father: I think you are confusing the making of things within the world, and the making of the world itself. When you make things within a world, you must make them from other things of that world. That’s because within a world, each thing must be connected to every other thing, so that the whole shebang hangs together and is an orderly world in the first place.

But a world as a whole is different. It is not made of anything other than itself. If it was made of something other than itself, why then that other thing would also be a part of that same world; the raw material of the world and the finished product would both be aspects of the single world system.

Think of the single particle that was the seed of the Big Bang. It was not somehow outside our world. Together with the laws of physics that ordered it and its subsequent career – that enormous explosion we are now in the middle of – it was our world. The same goes for anything that might have been the precursor to that seed: all part of our world system.

So it is a mistake to look for the raw material of a world outside of that world. The world is made of nothing but itself. Nevertheless it is made, for sure.

Son: OK. Wow. I think I get it. Well, no, I don’t. I’m going to have to think about this for a while.

Father: Take your time. I’ve been thinking about it for decades. Shall we talk about the second Creation story now?

Son: Not yet, thanks, Dad. I want to think about the first one for a while.

Father: OK, kiddo. I’m proud of the way you grapple with this stuff. It isn’t easy.

Son: Thanks, Dad!

17 thoughts on “Creation: A Simple Explanation for Children

  1. Cool story but instead of that I just told my son, “If having an answer to how everything started really matters to you as you go about trying to be the best person you can be, you’ll just have to decide if you want to believe what God says or some pedophile faggot scientists who hate Jesus.”

    He’s younger (he can’t read yet) so his thought processes are a bit simpler. He told me “I’ll believe God because people who hate Jesus are bad guys and I’m going to be a dragon and eat them.”

    • My wife doesn’t like that our son calls people “pedophile faggot” now but I’m like, hey, we agreed we want to teach him to tell the truth.

    • That’s funny, and I get where you are coming from. But I think your wife is right; it would be better to be more circumspect, and to exercise more discernment of the truth. It is for example almost certainly false that modern scientists are by nature paederasts. We have a couple scientists on our masthead as Orthospherean contributors. So it’s unjust to paint them all with that brush; and, as unjust, so therefore unwise.

      Your strategy also leaves your son without apologetic weapons of his own to wield, and ignorant about how to use them, as he finds himself later in life forced by circumstances to defend the faith. To be able to defend the faith, we *must* grapple with the current scientific account of the world, whatever it might be. And this, the Church has usually done – being herself, after all, the font and origin of science.

      Science per se is not a problem for the faith, nor are scientists as such opposed to it. The problem for the faith is the lies of all sorts – about reality, about science, and especially about the faith – that are propagated by enemies of the Church. Those enemies are to be found in all walks of life – including the ecclesial walks, alas.

      • If I may quote Matthew Fontaine Maury (discoverer of the science of Oceanography and) “Pathfinder of the Seas” in this connection:

        […] I have been blamed by men of science, both in this country and in England, for quoting the Bible in confirmation of the doctrines of physical geography. The Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes, and is therefore of no authority in matters of science. I beg pardon! The Bible is authority for everything it touches. What would you think of the historian who should refuse to consult the historical records of the Bible, because the Bible was not written for the purposes of history? The Bible is true and science is true, and therefore each, if truly read, but proves the truth of the other. The agents in the physical economy of our planet are ministers of Him who made both it and the Bible. The records which He has chosen to make through the agency of these ministers of His upon the crust of the earth are as true as the records which, by the hands of His prophets and servants, He has been pleased to make in the Book of Life.

        They are both true; and when your men of science, with vain and hasty conceit, announce the discovery of disagreement between them, rely upon it, the fault is not with the witness of His records, but with the worm who essays to interpret evidence which he does not understand.

        When I, a pioneer in one department of this beautiful science, discover the truths of Revelation and the truths of science reflecting light the one upon the other, how can I, as a truth-loving, knowledge-seeking man, fail to point out the beauty and rejoice in its discovery? Reticence on such an occasion would be sin, and were I to suppress the emotion with which such discoveries ought to stir the soul, the ‘waves of the sea would lift up their voice,’ and the very stones of the earth cry out against me.

        As a student of physical geography, I regard earth, sea, air, and water as parts of a machine, pieces of mechanism, not made with hands, but to which, nevertheless, certain offices have been assigned in the terrestrial economy; and when, after patient research, I am led to the discovery of one of these offices, I feel, with the astronomer of old, ‘as though I had thought one of God’s thoughts,’ and tremble. Thus, as we progress with our science, we are permitted now and then to point out here and there in the physical machinery of the earth a design of the Great Architect when He planned it all. […]

      • There are apologetic weapons and there is apologetic armor. That armor can be the finely-wrought chain mail of critical thinking, but it is in other cases the the riveted iron plates of ridicule. Modern skepticism caused more apostasy with ridicule than it did with reason. William Blake was wrong when he wrote: “Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau:
        Mock on, mock on: ‘tis all in vain!” ‘Twas not in vain, but rather extremely effective, particularly with the young who are most afraid of becoming figures of fun.

        Describing scientists as “pedophile faggots” will eventually run up against the problem of disconfirmation, but apologetics does become easier when your eyes are open to the ludicrous aspects of Scientistic scientists. When I was young, the atheism of Carl Sagan was rendered far less fearsome by people mocking his “billions and billions.” Ridicule is not a substitute for critical thinking, but a little scornful laughter at our enemies is like a small but heartening dram before battle.

      • Sure. But if you want your jeers to adhere to their target, to an ultimate rhetorical and thus social effect, it helps to be able to show just how the absurd ideas of your adversaries are absurd; and to do that, you must be able to parse the ideas yourself, so that you are not just sticking your tongue out at an adversary, but sticking your rapier into him.

        I’ll brag on my own son, by way of illustration. When he was a freshman in high school, one of his classmates sighed sophistically that there is no such thing as absolute truth, but only each person’s relative truth. My son instantly replied: “Is that absolutely true?”

      • I’d imagine your son resembles his dad in that he wears a size nine hat and could checkmate the devil in a battle of wit. I’m glad to have him on our side. But healthy prejudice is all a pinhead has to protect him against sophistic error. I say that as a man who is pinheaded in many respect, and who is a relative pinhead in all respects. If I am taxed by a very subtle atheist, I take refuge in my prejudice against the way he eats asparagus or combs his hair. Without prejudice, I am doomed to believe the last super-smart guy that I heard or read.

      • LOL! What I really hate about those turds is the way they comb their asparagus and chew on their hair. Disgusting.

        Seriously, there is room also for disgust in this visceral tool chest that Thomas D. has not inappositely opened. To any more or less properly formed human mind, e.g., homosexual sex is simply revolting. There is nothing intellectual about that reaction. The guts simply rebel. Likewise, the thought of abortion honestly reckoned for what it really is and how it actually works and what it concretely does to babies must properly give urgent rise to the gorge, not just of horror, but of bile; and then, of rage. And, back in the day, the sight of a foreigner was rather sickening, albeit not without some inherent fascination, and thus some charm of mere novelty. No kidding; I remember such days.

        Hell, that’s how the liberals feel about Steve, Erik, and Becky, who in their competence regarding concrete objects keep the country running; not to mention such horribles as we reactionaries, whom they do not even know about, and whom they could not comprehend if they did. They hate our guts *with their guts.* It would be odd indeed, and somewhat inhuman, so therefore at least a bit wrong, were we not to reciprocate. Tit for Tat is, after all, the basis of cooperation; of society. So, Thomas D., & alia, reciprocate away!

        Not forgetting, of course, to pray always for their salvation, and – armed with the right apologetical weapons – to struggle for their release from their delusions, and their conversion to Truth.

        My son is smarter than I. He is smarter even than my wife, compared to whom I am but a pinhead. His forehead is broad indeed, and deep. Hard as a rock, too; the apotheosis of Neanderthal prognathy.

      • Good old Maury. He never disappoints, does he?

        Not until one realizes he fought on the “wrong side” in the WBTS. Only then does anything and everything he ever said or did become overwhelmingly problematic. Ha, ha.

        As it happens my two youngest – Hannah (9) and Joshua (10) – and I have been reading and studying the book of Genesis together of late. They do the bulk of the reading, while I do the bulk of the interrupting and lecturing – “Wait. What does it mean to say ‘the earth was without form and void,…'” and that sort of thing. I don’t know whether our resident Geographer – Prof. Smith – would approve of this or not (I would hope so, but would not change it solely based on his disapproval in any case), but I long ago made the study of Geographical Science the central subject of our little curriculum.

        As both of you know full well, God has given us (mankind) two revelations that we have come to denominate “general” and “special.” We all know the difference between the two, so I won’t define the distinction here; but I would point out that the study of each is of equal importance in discovering and understanding truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God; that to focus on the one while neglecting the other is a mistake. Which is why the kids and I don’t just study the Biblical account of the creation, the fall, the narrative of the flood event and so on, without also studying concordantly the works of eminent geographers of the past – Maury, Guyot, Humbolt.

        I could quote Maury in a similar vein, but let me paraphrase Guyot here: ‘the earth may be studied in two different yet overlapping lights: (1) In itself as a masterpiece of Divine Workmanship, perfect in all its parts and conditions, and (2) as the abode of man; the scene of his activity and development’ and so on.

        I like that you make the distinction between the two creation events. I never thought of that before, although, having read your iteration, it seems rather implicit in my studies with the kids. I’m going to mention it explicitly to them just to see what they will say.

      • I’ll be interested to hear of their reactions, if you don’t mind passing them along.

        Be sure to point out to them – I should have stated this more emphatically in the essay – that there are not two Creation *events,* but rather two Creation *stories,* about the same set of events, but with different emphases and told from different perspectives: the first from the perspective of eternity, the second within the perspective of time.

      • Kristor: Stories, not events. Yes. Duh. That was clear enough in the essay, I just misstated it in my post. I’m glad you raised the issue though; it makes for a good reminder not to make the same mistake in my discussions with the kids. And, yes, I will pass along their individual reactions to the revelation.

  2. In discussion i like to use the opposite archetypes of the Peasant Faith and the Theologians Faith. I think this is very helpful for reminding the theologians among us how to follow their tracks back to the peasants faith.

    “I do believe, Lord; help my unbelief!”

    Thank you for this!

    • It is remarkable that even many brilliant theologians have a hard time with the distinction between time and eternity – let alone aeviternity. The recourse of the innocent mind to mystery and wonder is in many ways more sapient than the befuddled, often circular hand waving of the theologians.

  3. Pingback: Creation: A Simple Explanation for Children | Reaction Times

    • Just so. As he also noted, time is absurdly hard to think about – especially in temporal terms.

      One of the interesting things about climbing into the concept of eternity and remaining there a while, as it were in a tree house, is that you then begin to see how the various theories of time – the A and B theories, presentism versus its contrary – are at odds only because they are trying to figure out what is real from within a temporal perspective. But the ultimate determinant of what is real can only be the infinite, eternal, perfectly accurate, completely comprehensive and perfectly objective perspective of Omniscience. From that eternal perspective, the conflicts between the different theories of time vanish.

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