God and Cosmos, A Christian View of Time Space and the Universe, by John Byl, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, paperback, 255 pages, £6.50, obtainable from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom.
We live in an age when God is ignored, an age when, it is assumed, the universe – the cosmos – came into existence, and developed, entirely without any supernatural influence. This book, by a professor of Mathematics at a university in British Columbia, examines, in the light of Scripture, modern ideas about the universe and its origin.
Much has been said in many quarters about the supposed clash between science and the Bible. However, as Professor Byl points out, “clashes arise primarily between the Bible and scientific theorising”. He emphasises that “scientific theories, particularly regarding origins, are highly speculative, subjective, unverifiable and constantly changing. By no means can they be given the status of divine truth.” The data gleaned by observation, “by contrast, stand on much firmer ground. They can be considered as essentially factual.” However, “we have no direct observations of the distant, pre-historic past. Hence we have no genuine scientific facts about origins. All scientists can do is speculate.” Or turn to the Bible. Which is what the author is fully prepared to do. He argues strongly against any notion of treating the six days of creation as anything but normal 24-hour days. It is interesting to note, in view of the great effort being made to discover it, that the author argues against any possibility of extra-terrestrial life and, in particular, extra-terrestrial intelligence.
“What is really at stake, then,” Professor Byl points out, “is nothing less than the authority and interpretation of God’s Word. If humanistic thinking is to dictate a reading of Genesis 1, then we have surrendered the basic principle that worldly wisdom is to be judged in the light of Scripture, rather than vice versa. If we cannot believe the Bible in all that it says, even in seemingly minor matters, how can we believe it in anything it says?”
It has to be acknowledged that there are difficulties in explaining astronomical observations. For instance, how has light from distant stars reached this world during the space of only thousands of years? Professor Byl quotes various explanations, none of which satisfy him, and falls back on the suggestion that “the light from distant objects is created en route”. To this reviewer, it is a highly questionable suggestion. However, as the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches us, it is “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God”. Accordingly, we can live with the difficulties until such time as some other theory can be demonstrated to be more convincing.
This book demands no scientific knowledge, but even a slight acquaintance with science would help. It is recommended for those who wish a biblically-oriented survey of modern, and historical, opinions on the past and future of the universe. One final point: it is refreshing to find a present-day book which quotes consistently from the Authorised Version of the Bible