How was the world made? There are many things that we do not know and cannot know in order to answer this question, because quite simply and obviously we were not there at the time. The world was made before we existed. So what can we know about it?
Everyone agrees that we, human-beings, standing at the height of visible creation, are far higher and far more complex than mere liquids, gases and solids, than microbes, plants, insects, fish, birds and all animals. This is why we were made only after everything else. When we make something, we start with the simplest things, the building blocks of life, as they say, and then we go on to other things that are more complex.
All this is why there are so many theories about how we were made, like, for example, the theory of evolution. If you were not present, then all you can have is theories. They cannot be proved, but sadly, such theories are often presented as facts.
In order to help us answer our question about how the world was made, even in part, we can refer to the oldest text that we have about it, that found in the first chapter (one page) of the first and oldest book of the Holy Scriptures, the Book of Genesis. (Genesis means Birth). This was written down thousands of years ago, on the basis of stories handed down by word of mouth for thousands of years before that. What exactly does it say?
Firstly, the first words in this Book say that God made everything. The existence of everything is therefore not an accident or a chance. All exists for a reason. All was made on purpose. If we can understand something about God, then we can understand why all was made. Now we are told by St John in his Gospel that God is Love. It is clear therefore that we were made to love one another. That is why we were made, that is the purpose of our life. Nothing is by chance, all is for Love.
Secondly, it is clear that everything was made in a special order. Just as we do not make a car by starting with the last details like the seat covers and then build the bodywork and the engine, so God too made everything in logical order. In fact, we are told that He made everything in six different phases. Firstly, He made space and time, with light and water (because, as we know, nothing can live without light and water). Secondly, He made the sky and the earth. This was so that, thirdly, He could make all sorts of plants and trees, which can only grow if there is earth. Fourthly, God made days and seasons, creating the sun, the moon and the stars. Fifthly, He made everything that lives in the water (fish etc) and everything that lives in the air (birds etc), each species or ‘kind’, as the Book of Genesis says, separately. In the sixth and final phase, God made all sorts of creatures that live on the land (animals and reptiles), again each species separately, and then He made the first man and the first woman. When He made each of these things, we read again and again that everything that He made was good. After all, why would God make anything that was bad? That would be very strange. Nobody sets out to make something that is bad, but something that is good, that works as it should.
One thing we should notice here is that God made animals and then, separately, the first human-beings. In other words, it is not true that human-beings are animals. Of course, it is clear that higher animals and human-beings are similar. For example, most animals have a head and a face, two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, and four limbs with muscles, as well as organs like the heart, the brain, the lungs, the liver, the kidneys, the stomach etc and there are an equal number of males and females (in itself a miracle), just like us. But this does not mean that human-beings are animals. The resemblances between our bodies only mean that we have the same Maker – God.
Some people especially notice the physical similarities between people and monkeys and say that we are descended from them. But if monkeys had changed into people, then monkeys would no longer exist! The fact that millions of species of plants and animals exist at the same time proves that there is no such thing as evolution. If there had been evolution, then nothing would exist except for people, according to the theorists of evolution the last stage of ‘evolution’. Of course, this does not mean that plants and animals cannot adapt. It is well-known that some butterflies change colour if they live near factories, their wings go darker. Also there develop different species of the same animal, some become bigger and some smaller. This is because, for example, they may live on big islands where there is lot to eat or small islands, where there is little to eat.
Such adaptation also exists among us. For example, in hot countries people have darker skin, hair and eyes in order to protect themselves. On the other hand, in cold countries people have pale skin and often have blond hair and blue eyes. This is all about survival in different climates, we adapt in order to survive. But this adaptation is not the same as some magical and quite unproven theory of evolution, where somehow microbes become whales, bees become eagles, kangaroos become elephants or chimpanzees become human-beings.
We also note that the human race began with one man and one woman, whom we call Adam and Eve: although we are all different, through adaptation to different climates, we all have one common father and mother, we all belong to the same family. This fact is confirmed by modern DNA testing. Why are people white, brown, yellow, black and have different colour hair and eyes, different sizes and heights, slightly different shape eyes, noses, lips and so on? Simply as the result of adaptation to cold and hot climates, to mountains and lowlands, and to diet.
Of course, we also know more about the past from what we have found in the earth.
For example, we now know that the universe is enormous; in fact, we did not know just how enormous Creation is until quite recently. This discovery has been made now, so that we can adore God’s work in wonder, rather than dismiss such a vast and complex universe as some random accident.
We also know that there were many creatures that no longer exist. Some animals have died out quite recently, hunted to extinction, others, like so-called ‘dinosaurs’, whose fossils we can find, lived a very long time ago and died out because of huge changes in climate. Nobody knows exactly when, and scientists disagree with each other about this, constantly changing their theories as they make new discoveries. Some people ask why the Bible does not mention such creatures that long ago died out. This is quite simply because they lived before people did, as the Bible says, animals were made first, so the only way that we can know about them is by discovering their fossils, which we have only done in recent times. The Bible records only the most important things about God and human-beings. We leave the records of disappeared animals like dinosaurs to those who dig up their fossils.
And, thirdly, we also know that although God made everything good, now there are many bad things: death, animals that kill each other, mosquitoes that kill people, rats that spread diseases. The reason for this is also related in the Book of Genesis. Here we learn that God made everything good, but when people disobeyed Him, they became bad. And because they became bad, they died. And this bad and death spread to all Creation, poisoning it.
We should be careful about saying much more than this, because then we would get involved in theories and ideas and so in arguments, which can never be proved one way or the other. It seems to us better to stick to facts.
The above was first published in the second issue of ‘Searchlight’, the ROCOR diocesan magazine for young people. It is available from Mary Kisliakov: firstname.lastname@example.org