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Evolution

The question of evolution is a complex one. There are believers of different faiths who state unequivocally that evolution of species is absolutely false because God created our world, “as is” in six literal days as stated in Genesis chapter one. Others state that proponents of a young earth are misreading the text, saying it says more than it does, and there is nothing in scripture that makes evolution impossible. This debate, like so many of the others concerning these dividing doctrines, gets very heated at times, with accusations of apostasy hurled at opposite sides of the fence

A recent Gallup Poll says that only 12 percent of Americans believe that life evolved on earth without divine guidance. Thirty-one percent believe that evolution has been guided by God. Fifty three percent of Americans are creationists. (This suprisingly is reported by someone who stands against the Christian faith.)i

The first question comes down to whether the first chapter of Genesis is literally true. Believers, as a rule, believe that God created everything, planets, stars, minerals, plants, animals, people, etc. The question for a lot of believers is whether he did it in six literal days, or are those days some kind of figure of speech symbolizing the millions of years that life as we know it evolved to its present state. Or is there a third scenario? Perhaps the Lord created animal species millions of years ago while he created man thousands of years ago?

If we ascertain that Genesis chapter one is not six literal days, then what do we do with the theories of evolution and the age of the earth. Do we accept them as is? If someone states that Genesis chapter one does not unequivocally proclaim a young earth does that mean that they automatically embrace evolution?

This dividing doctrine of a young earth then breaks down into questions of a young versus an old earth, besides whether God created all species as is, or his design incorporated a scheme where species were developed from other species.

The controversy is strong over this issue with people arguing vehemently on both sides.

The fundamentalist stand that chapter 1 of Genesis is literally true is a relatively recent phenomenon. There is no evidence that this was the dominant position any time in history. Believers in original Christianity took the days of creation as long periods of time, referencing 2 Peter 3:8. (See Early Church Fathers Viewed Days of Creation as Symbolic.)

Biblical Basis of Our Beginnings

The biblical basis for our beginnings is listed in Genesis chapter one (World English Bible).

1. In the beginning God {After “God,” the Hebrew has the two letters “Aleph Tav” (the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet) as a grammatical marker.} created the heavens and the earth.
2. Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep. God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.
3. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
4. God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness.
5. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. There was evening and there was morning, one day.
6. God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
7. God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse, and it was so.
8. God called the expanse sky. There was evening and there was morning, a second day.
9. God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear,” and it was so.
10. God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters he called Seas. God saw that it was good.
11. God said, “Let the earth put forth grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with its seed in it, on the earth,” and it was so.
12. The earth brought forth grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with its seed in it, after their kind: and God saw that it was good.
13. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
14. God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of sky to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;
15. and let them be for lights in the expanse of sky to give light on the earth,” and it was so.
16. God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He also made the stars.
17. God set them in the expanse of sky to give light to the earth,
18. and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good.
19. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
20. God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of sky.”
21. God created the large sea creatures, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good.
22. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”
23. There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
24. God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind, cattle, creeping things, and animals of the earth after their kind,” and it was so.
25. God made the animals of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind. God saw that it was good.
26. God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27. God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.
28. God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
29. God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food.
30. To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food.” And it was so.
31. God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. There was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The story of creation is not over despite the break in the chapter. The story continues in chapter 2:

1 And the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it he rested from all his work which God had created and made.

The next verses in chapter 2 reiterate the start of the creation account, and then expand on the placement of man in creation. It continues with the stories of the garden of eden, the forbidden fruit, temptation, and the fall of man.

There are other less substantial references to creation in scripture. Here is a sampling:

For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.Psalms 8:5

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,Psalms 8:6

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.Psalms 19:1

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.Isaiah 40:28

For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.Isaiah 45:18

‘I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me.Jeremiah 27:5

Flaws

There are many books written about the six day creation versus evolution argument. This article will not deal with all the subtle nuances on both sides. It will, rather, focus, on arguments made at a broad level.

First, it is not only accepted that the bible speaks figuratively when it comes to passages of time it is expressly stated. 2 Peter 3:8 reads:

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

So it would not be consistent with scripture in general to have Genesis be a figurative passage of time that emphasizes God as the creator and his acts of creation rather than a chronological account of the development of man on earth in relationship to all of creation.

Literal Genesis one proponents of a young earth cite the use of the term “the evening and the morning” to prove that this was a literal twenty four hour period. While this is consistent with a lot of the records using this terminology it is not consistent with all records using these terms. For example, in Daniel 8:26 it reads “And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. According to scholars this reference of “the evening and the morning” is singular and matches the text in Genesis chapter one. Yet it refers to many days. Here is a reference where the evening and the morning does not mean one day.

My original college major was mathematics. One of the principles of mathematics and logic is that for rule to absolutely true it has to be true in all cases. Consequently, in this case of interpreting “the evening and the morning” as a literal twenty four hour period, for it to be required to be a twenty-four hour period it has to be that way IN EVERY CASE. We have just seen that it is not. All you need is one case to invalidate a rule. The “evening and a morning” equaling twenty-four hours rule is not valid.

Other Symbols Used in the Creation Account

If Genesis is to be taken literally, then why don’t snakes speak today? Obviously, the snake is a symbol of the Devil. How do we know the serpent is the devil? John 8:44 cites Jesus as explaining that the devil was a liar from the beginning connecting the devil to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. 1 John 3:8 and Ezekial 28:13 also work to connect the devil to the serpent in the garden. If Genesis is to be taken literally then the devil can take the forms of other creatures. There is no evidence of this, and people claiming some creature they encountered is the devil, even in Church, are at risk to be admitted to psychiatric institutions.

What about the trees of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life? Any pictures drawn depicting the temptation in the garden always show a fruit like an apple. Obviously this is because there is no literal fruit of the knowledge of good and evil or life. These are symbols.

Stories are powerful tools that can teach complicated topics in a simple manner. When we really want a look at the story of creation in a literal sense, and include all the details from the beginning of anything until the point where there were men and women living together we will have to look at an incredible amount of detail, much more than is in the beginning chapters of the book of Genesis. On the other hand, if we want to make some important points, then just encapsulating those points in allegorical form makes more sense. Important points in the first chapters of Genesis include:

  1. God created the heavens and the earth.
  2. God worked six days and then rested the seventh.
  3. Adam and Eve were created without the knowledge of sin.
  4. They were deceived by the devil and sinned.
  5. As a result of their sin death came into the world.
  6. A Redeemer would be needed to redeem them from their sin.
  7. A Redeemer was promised
  8. Adam and Eve were forced to leave their original garden, and came into the world of sin and death that we now know.

Reading More into It than is There?

Then it becomes a matter of interpretation. And that becomes a problem when people read more into the passage than it says. Biblical inerracists cite 2Peter 1:20-21 which says:

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Anyone using this verse to support biblical inerrancy must also be limited to what scripture says. Someone who reads things into verses that are not there is privately interpreting scripture, a definite no-no. So back to the record in Genesis chapter one we have a day defined in verse three. The day is defined as a period of darkness and a period of light. There is no mention of twenty-four hours. In fact, our “day” of twenty-four hours is dependent on one revolution of the earth as it revolves around the sun. The sun was not it place on day one. In fact, the text reads that the sun wasn’t even made yet. Genesis 1:14-19 reads:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.Genesis 1:14-19

It is not inconsistent with logic then that a day, an “evening and a morning”, was a million, billion, or a zillion years.

It’s Not Six Day Creation or Godless Evolution

That does not make evolution true by default. Evolution is a very interesting theory that explains a lot of things without conclusive proof. Dating methods used by “old earth” scientists have major flaws. Carbon 14 has a relatively short half life. Some dating methods are dependent in radioactivity in the material surrounding the artifacts, not in the actual artifacts so you must ASSUME that the artifact was placed there as the geological material was formed, not placed there later.

Radioactive decay rates are dependent on today’s earth atmosphere. How do we know that the atmosphere wasn’t radically different before the flood, or 500 million years ago in ways that make dating by radioactive decay impossible until we know what those atmospheres were?

There are no examples of macroevolution taking place that we can actually see. There are a number of possibilities, for example, interesting skulls, but it requires a leap of faith to conclude that the relatively small number of skull pieces we have proves evolution. There are obvious closely related species, dogs, wolves and other canines, for example, without any actual witnessing of the events over time we are stuck with theories. And theories, even the best of them, have an uncanny knack of being at least partially wrong.

The theory of evolution has already been revised a number of times. Only macro evolution is at the center of the dispute. Interestingly, no one disputes variations within species, so parts of evolutionary theory are accepted by all. There are some elements of evolution that are scientifically proven. Perhaps if the indignation that arises when the cries ring out, “my ancestors weren’t apes”, and “kids that aren’t taught evolution are given a substandard education” could be toned down then a better dialogue could happen.

Conclusion

I found this argument to be cleverly divisive where “young earth” creationists battle “old earth” evolutionists vying for peoples attention as if they are the only two choices. I do not accept all evolution as good science, i.e., good “knowledge.” It is flimsy at best, and while it is an interesting and far reaching ideological construct, to take it beyond any theoretical level to any accepted level of fact is a reckless disregard of scientific principles. Neither do I embrace that the bible says that an evening and a morning, a day in Genesis is a literal twenty-four hour period. Both of those arguments lose in getting my attention because they are faulty in their logic.

So what is my answer? My answer is that “I don’t know” My answer is that I was not there where God did the creating so I don’t know how he did it, nor how long it took.

And I say that this is similar to God’s response in Job to this question, that we would all do well to acknowledge. Lets read in Job chapter thirty-eight of God’s reproof to men who pretend to know more than they know:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?

Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—

while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,

when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,

when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,

when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?

“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,

that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?

The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.

The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.

“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?

Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.

“What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?

Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!

This is a smoking reproof to men who presumed to understand things beyond their capacity to know. The simple fact that we can never witness the genesis of life severely limits our ability to know what happened.

Besides, the important thing in my life is that Jesus Christ is my savior. He is my Lord. As far as our beginnings, the Genesis story is that God created the heavens and earth. The particulars are not there, and I suspect that there is a reason for that, too. Let’s get away from this argument. If it is a question of whether your children are going to be taught an atheistic world view, then the question should be whether you should be sending your children to that school. Perhaps home schooling or Christian school is what you need to provide for your children

If this is a question of scientific work, then another guideline that applies is for us not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. It is a good thing for Christians who are scientists to work with other Christians so that the purpose and direction of their work is godly. But in applying God’s word to our work let’s not read more into scripture than what is actually there.

i. LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION, Sam Harris, Alfred A Knopf, Toronto, 2006, p. x

(c) 2009 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

May 7th, 2009 Posted by | Divisions | no comments

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