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In Theory: Do reports on Earth's life span fit with faith?

Tra Thomas

A pair of scientific reports released in recent weeks are related to life on Earth: One raises the possibility that the planet was jump-started by a comet, and the other calculates that Earth will end in 1.75 billion to 3.25 billion years.

Q: How do these reports fit in with your teachings or beliefs?

There’s a joke about some scientists who tell God that he’s no longer needed because they believe they have the knowledge to make a man just as God reportedly did in the Bible. God accepts the challenge, but rules that they must use the same ingredient he did “in the beginning.” They all agree, then they squat down to scoop up some dirt, and God says, “Nope, get your own!” Really, even amino acids have origins, as did the comets that scientists suppose brought them.

I tire of hearing fanciful origin explanations by pagan scientists who discount God and make leaps of faith to comets, aliens or life which just popped out of nowhere by chance and grew to the complexities we experience today without any design or intelligence but somehow “knew” to evolve upward rather than sitting there and amounting to nothing.

Will the world be destroyed in a billion-plus years? Who cares? The Bible says, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2Pe 3:10 NIV). Does that mean when Jesus comes, the earth will be sun-scorched, or does it mean that the time for God to infuse some divine adjustment is at hand? Either way, it’s covered.

Heaven is forever, and man is a physical creature requiring “a new earth” (2Pet 3:13 NIV) so I’m not worried, and I really don’t believe there will be a future generation dealing with some cosmic cataclysm. Besides, if man is just a bunch of evolved amino acids, how important are we really to warrant such concern? If God is in it, there is concern, but not for us Christians. Hallelujah!

The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
Montrose

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Certainly the end of the earth theories coincide with the New Testament’s prediction found in 2 Peter 3:10, namely that the earth will be destroyed by fire. The Bible (Matthew 24:36, Mark 12: 13) also seems to agree with graduate student Andrew Rushby of the University of East Anglia in Britain, when he writes that no one knows the exact day or the hour of the earth’s end.

As to the beginning of the earth, here is where I locate myself. Rather than being an absolute evolutionist directly opposed to absolute creationists, I believe that for 21st century people of the Spirit, the marvelous and beautiful Biblical stories of how the earth came into being — for instance Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and at the beginning of the Gospel of John — all of these narratives are creative ways to anthropomorphize the holy and creative spirit that causes life to exist.

Perhaps the most complex concept that ancient humans might have been able to imagine with reference to that life-giving spirit was to imagine a highly organized life form that physically resembled humans themselves, perpetuating life in its many varieties in the universe. For me that would mean, time constraints aside (13 billion years or six days), there was some intention somewhere in that “big bang.” Therein lies the mystery of God.

Albert Einstein, well known for his theory of relativity said: “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.” He also said this: “We all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”

The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel
Burbank

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How we got here and how long we'll last is endlessly fascinating to me but if there are profound conclusions to be drawn by considering these very disparate studies in tandem, they escape me.

A comet bringing amino acids to earth makes as much sense to me as any other explanation I've heard for life's origins here. Modern cosmology seems to have settled on the big bang theory to explain how the universe came to be.

From the earliest eras, pre-science, and continuing today despite scientific advances, humans have invented and continue to reinvent religion, attempting to explain the unexplainable. I understand this impulse, yet I believe that no magical or supernatural powers created or sustain the universe and its life.

As far as Earth having another 1.75 to 3.25 billion years to go, Martin Rees, widely described as one of the world's most eminent astronomers, astrophysicists and cosmologists, in his 2003 book “Our Final Century,” said, “I think the odds are no better than 50/50 that our present civilization will survive to the end of the present century.”

I'm still buying green bananas, but maybe we should put more thought and effort into the here and now.

Roberta Medford
Atheist
Montrose 

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The same book that gave us the widely accepted principles that “God is love,” that we should “Do unto others” and observe the Ten Commandments as fundamental moral principles definitively teaches us that God himself is the creator of the Earth and all life upon it. Scripture also teaches us how the current universe will come to a conclusion, though we’re not told exactly when.

God is eternal. He has existed from eternity past and will always be. Genesis tells us that God created the universe ex nihilo, or “out of nothing”. God spoke and brought forth plant life on the Earth, he spoke and created sea life and birds, then land creatures, and finally God made man in his own image. God took the dust of the ground, formed it into a body and breathed life into it. Thus Adam was directly created by God. From Adam’s rib God formed Eve, the first woman. Life certainly did come from above, but it was from our Creator, not a comet.

“The day of the Lord will come like a thief”, says 2 Peter 3:10, “in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” Revelation 20:11 teaches that earth and heaven will flee away from the “great white throne” and “Him who [sits] upon it”, from God who has promised new heavens and a new earth that are ruled by righteousness. We’re not told exactly when this will be, but we’re taught that it is imminent, and not billions of years in the future.

Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church
Burbank

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The Scriptures teach, and I believe, that God created the Earth and placed life upon it. However, we are given very few specifics on just how this was done.

Questions about the creation and whether life may someday end on Earth are interesting but spiritually irrelevant. The purpose of life is to draw near to Christ by refining our desires and purpose to resemble his, to the extent that this is humanly possible. Knowing how life began won’t bring us closer to this goal. Learning to live in a way that blesses the lives of others will.

Scientists have over the years produced a number of theories to explain what transformed the elements of the universe into life. I have great respect for science and for very intelligent men and women who seek answers to these questions, but the truth is, they don’t know. Nor do they know when life will end. The range given for Earth’s demise in the graduate student’s paper, 1.75 billion to 3.25 billion, highlights the uncertainty of science in these areas.

We believe that God works through natural laws. The great difference, of course, is that he understands them perfectly. Mortal scientists are, at best, working at the periphery of God’s knowledge. It is fascinating to read about these and other projects and to consider how they might fit into the framework of God’s creations, but they really don’t pose a challenge to religious faith.

Michael White
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
La Crescenta

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How we got started, whether by a comet or some other “big bang” isn't that important to me. What is important is that we are here, in my opinion, by the will and grace of God (no “Will & Grace” joke intended). The fact that the Earth and the universe will come to an end some day is at first glance startling — but if we think about it, every single thing we know of has a beginning and an end.

Our sun will burn out in about 4 billion years, give or take, and when our closest star becomes an ice cube, so shall we! I have said before at funeral services that life is strange: We're born, we live a little while, maybe reproduce, and then we die. But my faith tells me such a life-and-death cycle is all part of God's plan, and again, if you think about it, everything eventually dies.

As a person of faith, I believe this life isn't the end, and once this life is over, I'll be with God in some way and however God chooses. I'll leave the how and the where up to God; I have no idea what the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah's term) has planned for me. I just know that I'll be with God in some way. But Earth, the sun, the moon, the stars and everything out there that we can't see? All doomed, but I'm fine with that because that's how God made things: to live for a time and then to cease living. Thanks be to God for his unfathomable wisdom.

The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge

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