A Bit to Read
According to Genesis 1, God created the world by His Word of command. “God said, ‘Let there be light; and there was light…. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” Again, “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass…’; and it was so…. So the evening and the morning were the third day.”
When God commanded the existence of light, how long did it take for the light rays to appear? When God commanded the earth to bring forth grass, how long before clover covered a given space of ground? We are accustomed to answering those questions with, “Instantly.” To justify such an answer, we appeal, eg, to Ps 33, where the Holy Spirit has the psalmist say concerning God’s work in creation that “He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (vs 9). Instant.
But we live in today’s world. Our world has embraced the theory of evolution, and so believes that this earth evolved over a space of billions upon billions of years. We realize that this evolution theory has no place for God; evolution assumes that heaven is empty and the world developed by chance. That puts the evolution theory at opposite poles to Christianity, for Christianity insists that God does exist. The two worldviews, then, appear to be mutually exclusive.
But did you know: there is also a half-way position between the evolutionists and the Christians? This halfway position says: the Bible tells us that God created the world, but doesn’t give us details on how He did it. Genesis 1 isn’t, we’re told then, a literal account of how God formed this world, but is a poetic account meant to teach an uneducated people (that would be unscientific Israel) that the entire world comes from God’s hand. But, this halfway position continues, science has learned that the world has existed for billions and billions of years, and that over the span of these billions of years plants and animals evolved from primitive matter to the complex organisms we see around us today. So we’re driven by the discoveries of science to conclude that the Lord God created this world by means of the evolution process. This teaching is called Theistic Evolution, a phrase that translates to mean: God-driven evolution. So, says this teaching, we have to understand that the Lord God determined to make light, and in the course of millions and billions of years the light God wanted evolved to the point as it exists today. Similarly, God determined to make grass, and in the course of millions and billions of years grass evolved from initial single-celled living matter into the clovers and rye grasses we know today. It’s all God-made – through the process of evolution.
What are we to think of this teaching? Is this a responsible way to read the Bible and a reasonable way to merge scientific conclusions with Biblical revelation? More: does embracing this take on things influence daily living?
There are a few things that need to be said in reply. Consider the following:
1. The Lord God uses the word ‘day’ various times in the course of the Bible. It’s very obvious that the term ‘day’ in the gospels describes a normal day, as we are used to it. It’s also clear that the Lord Himself does not give any indication that the term ‘day’ in Genesis 1 means something different from the customary loading it has elsewhere in the Bible. It’s only because of the conclusions of scientific research that we come to the realization that ‘day’ in Genesis 1 means something different than elsewhere in Scripture. But if the true meaning of a term is finally made clear through scientific research, might it be that one day science will find evidence that compels us to redefine the meaning of the term ‘resurrection’ in relation to Easter? What’s left of the certainty of Scripture’s message?
2. Evolution would have us understand that animals and plants have changed with time. The changes, it’s said, result in improved species. But the changes that happened were not only good changes; there were bad mutations too, but they died out – survival of the fittest. Now, if this evolutionary process is God-directed, it is God who directs both the good and the bad mutations, that is, makes the ones that survive and the ones that don’t survive. It’s a picture of God making mistakes, of trial and error – and over the span of millions of years God gets it right so that today’s world is populated by the species that exist. What picture does that present of your God? Is the God who says He has you safe in His hands subject to trial and error? Would you feel safe in the hands of such a God?
3. If God created this world through a process of evolution, where does death come from? And sickness? And sin? If apes became humanoids, and those early humanoids became Adam and Eve, those ancestors of Adam and Eve must have died off over the years. These ancestors would have been as subject to sickness and storm as we are today. That is to say that the God who directs the evolutionary process (as Theistic Evolution claims) would be the Author of sickness, suffering, the struggle for survival, and so of death. This is a far cry from the way God has revealed Himself in His Holy Word.
4. In connection with the previous point: the Bible teaches not just that Adam and Eve had no parents (let alone monkeys for parents), but that they lived in a Garden of perfection free of toothaches and broken bones and sickness. They knew no fighting, knew only the peace that comes with being friends of God. But they rebelled against God, sinned, and so brought sickness and grief and death into the world. My point: if you dispute the reality of Genesis 1, you must dispute the reality of Genesis 3 also. But if Genesis 3 is not real history, why did Jesus Christ have to come into the world? And why did Jesus Christ do His miracles of healing the sick and raising the dead if there’s no connection between sickness and death on the one hand and the fall into sin on the other? And why does the Bible promise a Paradise Restored if there never actually was a Paradise Lost?
You see, an effort to merge creation and evolution affects much more than just Genesis 1; it affects the entirety of the Bible and the need for the gospel of redemption. It undermines the comfort we need so very much to carry on living joyfully in this vale of tears.
Perhaps you say: but the evidence of science is so clear that the earth is obviously much older than the 7000 or so years the Bible suggests. It seems to me that in response there are three things to bear in mind.
1. People are finite creatures, and sinful too. Human work is always human work, and so subject to error. We can demonstrate that the earth is round today, but science cannot prove today whether the earth was round 5000 years ago or at what rate its roundness then was changing. How much more so is this true of 50,000, 500,000 or 5,000,000 years ago.
2. If a medical doctor had examined Adam in the Garden in the first week after his creation, how old would his research have shown Adam to be? If a vet had checked the age of that horse in the Garden, how old would its teeth have shown the horse to be? If an officer of the Department of Forestry had cut down that towering oak tree over by yonder river, what age would the rings in that tree have suggested to this expert? In each case, the answer would not be ‘one week’. But if Adam and that horse and his trees were mature at creation, why could the earth itself not be mature at creation – complete with oil fields and fossils and leached soils, etc? That science finds evidence that the earth looks immeasurably older than the Bible indicates does not mean that a literal reading of Genesis 1 is incorrect.
3. The apostle Paul wrote of the judgment God sends upon those who “refused to love the truth and so be saved.” He says, “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie…” (2 Thessalonians 2:10,11). Why can the evidence of earth’s extreme old age that unbelievers insist in seeing in fossils and oil fields, etc, not be (partial) fulfilment of this prophecy?
It comes down to the word of the apostle in Hebrews 11: “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command.” And that’s to say: I believe that the Lord God is big enough to create in an instant the sort of world I see around me. The God who has made me His child in Jesus Christ didn’t need millions of years to get things right – and He doesn’t guide my life either through a process of trial and error. That’s the comforting conviction of Lord's Day 9: I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
February 12, 2010