Our culture, and even the Christian church today, seems to view science in a way similar to how a Roman Catholic views the Pope. If the scientific community says it then it must be true! I know that I’m beginning to wade out into deep and dangerous waters here, and I do not intend to go much further. For now I wonder I could draw your attention to three things. One, I hope you would agree that our observation of the natural world can only take us so far. There are some things that science will never be able to answer. There are certain questions that science is ill equipped to answer. Two, have you considered that the scientific consensus is ever changing. As it is with the Pope of Rome, so it is with science. When someone claims that one or the other speaks infallibly and authoritatively one only has to point out how quickly and how frequently the declarations that come from these institutions, be it the Papacy or the scientific community, have changed. Neither of these institutions should be trusted as our final authority in matters of faith, and their fickleness proves it. Three, would you please acknowledge that even scientists bring presuppositions to their work. Scientists, like Christians, have a worldview of their own. They are not as free from baggage as they might lead you to believe, but come to the task of interpretation with presuppositions.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1–2, ESV).
The Earth Was At First Uninhabitable
Notice that in verse 2 we are told that the earth was at first uninhabitable. There we find three descriptors of the earthly realm as it was originally. One, the earth was without form and void. Two, darkness was over the face of the deep. And three, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. What do these things mean?
What does it mean that the earth was “without form and void”?
In the Hebrew the phrase is תֹ֨הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ. The word תֹ֨הוּ֙ means emptiness, wilderness or wasteland. The word תֹ֨הוּ֙ carries a similar meaning. Together the words communicate that the earth was at first desolate and uninhabitable.
Isaiah 45:18 confirms this interpretation when it says, “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other’ (Isaiah 45:18, ESV). This verses is saying that though the earth was at first תֹ֨הוּ֙ (empty), this was not God’s purpose for it, so “he formed it to be inhabited.”
What does it mean that “darkness was over the face of the deep”?
It means that there was no light at all, but only darkness covering the primeval waters.
The scene is rather terrifying, isn’t it? Far from warm and homey, the world was at first dark, cold and threatening. I agree with E.J. Young who, in his book, “Studies in Genesis One”, says that it is not appropriate to refer to this condition as a chaos. Chaos implies that something was out of control. That idea is found nowhere in the text. Everything is, in fact, portrayed as being perfectly under God’s control. This world, even as it is described in Genesis 1:2, came from the hand of the Almighty. It was under his care and direction. So the world was not chaotic at this stage, but certainly it was no place for life. It was not yet formed into a home suitable for man.
What does it mean that the “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”?
The image is that of a bird fluttering or brooding over her nest to protect her young so as to bring forth life. I appreciate the words of Geerhardus Vos who, in his “Reformed Dogmatics” says, “The Spirit here is not a ‘wind from God…’” The word for Spirit and wind are the same in the Hebrew, and so some have proposed that this should be translated as “wind” –the wind of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Vos rightly says no.