Little Chicken and Egg
Which came first, me or you?

An interesting but usually fruitless discussion is to consider which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Even though this “debate” is so old it has hair on it, a counterpart to it exists in modern discussions about the relationship between science and Christianity. It has applications to two major theological or philosophical questions: How old is the universe and when did (human) life begin?

One of the arguments made against a young universe is the fact a multitude of stars[1] are perhaps hundreds of millions of light-years away from the earth, yet we see the light that came from them[2].  The logic then seems rather elementary.   Given the speed of light, it would take 3 billion years for the light of the farthest star to reach the earth.  The materialistic scientist then concludes the star is at least 3 billion years old. The unspoken assumption is that the laws of nature are immutable.

The scientist would argue that all laws in the Universe continue the same as they always have without interruption. In fact, he would further argue that they MUST continue or we could not do science at all.  He says that if laws are mutable we could not rely on them. How could we put gasoline in cars if it cannot be trusted to behave the same way tomorrow as it did today? Practically no science or medicine could take place if things changed on a whim.

Let us grant in general this last supposition, as well.  Christians are no radical relativists who reject objective truth.  We don’t believe the idea that tomorrow the sun may turn into a head of lettuce. In fact, the opposite is true.  We believe there are some things that never change:  Particularly, God Himself.  The rub comes because Christians also believe in miracles, and in a starting moment for creation. For reasons already given, the materialist rejects both the idea of miracles and a God who created everything, including – perhaps I should especially – man.

So how does the Christian walk between the lines drawn by the relativist and the materialist? A brief explanation of the Biblical idea of miracle will help explain it.   If the relativist’s views are correct there can be no miracles.  For miracles, in Scripture, are also called signs and wonders. They are signs because they point to God[3]. But for our purposes, the fact that they are called wonders is also important.   True miracles are called wonders because they appear to go against the normal, expected laws of nature. They shock us because they are unexpected.   Miracles are only seen as miracles with the backdrop of a regular, orderly Universe.

Now the materialist would jump in here to say this proves nothing, because obviously people wonder at all kinds of things that are not really miracles. In fact, he would say, science itself brings about wonders. Granted.  But my point is not to prove miracles here, but to define them.  And part of that definition includes the idea that miracles are acts of God contrary to or above the normal laws of the Universe as described in the Westminster Confession:

“God in his ordinary providence maketh use of means, [Acts 27:31,,44; Isa 55:10-11; Hos. 2:21-22] yet is free to work without, [Hos 1:7; Matt 4:4; Job 34:10] above, [Rom 4:19-21] and against them, [2 Kings 6:6; Dan 3:27] at his pleasure.”

Ordinary providence then is God’s use of laws He created.  So then, a Christian can be a scientist and believe in miracles. Atheists are very disappointed when surveys come out showing that more medical doctors than not believe in miracles.

Now let us return to discussion of the stars. A Christian can easily conclude that stars are millions of miles away and postulate that perhaps God created the light beams at the same time as the stars.  This is speculative I admit, but it is plausible.  Isaiah 45:12 says: “I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.”

The skeptic objects because he thinks he knows how God would or should act, even though he claims to have no knowledge of Him. I once had a colleague answer my theory with the statement that this would make God a deceiver, making the Universe appear older than it is.  However, if a father bought his son a new gift and put it in an old box, no thinking child would accuse his father of dishonesty, even if the child mistakenly thought the gift was old.

This brings us to the chicken.  A “controversy” exists over whether Adam had a belly button or not since he did not come from his mother’s womb, and therefore no umbilical chord was needed.  But the argument does raise an important point, relative to our discussion.  If God created Adam as an adult, would he be deceiving Adam?  According to my professor friend’s standard, yes.

To meet the unreasonable demands of the skeptic, God would have to create man without the appearance of age.   What if God had created a baby?  Even the newborn baby has age. He or she will appear to have existed for nine months.  One must take the child back to the moment of conception (a zygote) to appear to have “no” age. But that wouldn’t satisfy the skeptical scientist.  Conception implies the pre-existence of sperm and egg and post-adolescent people who produced them.  In fact, since Adam was presumably created with DNA, his very structure implies the laws of reproduction and the existence of parents.  This whole argument parallels the original chicken or egg debate.  Chickens come from eggs.  Eggs come from chickens. Which came first?  Since God apparently created man as an adult, it is safe to say he probably created chickens as adults.


[1] We will not question the estimate that the farthest star visible with the Hubble telescope is 3 billion light years away from the earth. 

[2] I use the past tense because it is plausible that the light we see is coming from a star that has since “died out”.  We don’t usually think this way because light travels so fast it appears to take no time at all to “travel”.

[3] When Christ walked the earth, His miracles pointed to Himself, showing Him to be God in the flesh.

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