Skip to comments.Finding Darwin's God OR Evolution and Christianity are Compatible
Posted on 02/02/2005 6:19:41 PM PST by curiosity
The great hall of the Hynes Convention Center in Boston looks nothing like a church. And yet I sat there, smiling amid an audience of scientists, shaking my head and laughing to myself as I remembered another talk, given long ago, inside a church to an audience of children.
Without warning, I had experienced one of those moments in the present that connects with the scattered recollections of our past. Psychologists tell us that things happen all the time. Five thousand days of childhood are filed, not in chronological order, but as bits and pieces linked by words, or sounds, or even smells that cause us to retrieve them for no apparent reason when something "refreshes" our memory. And just like that, a few words in a symposium on developmental biology had brought me back to the day before my first communion. I was eight years old, sitting with the boys on the right side of our little church (the girls sat on the left), and our pastor was speaking.
Putting the finishing touches on a year of preparation for the sacrament, Father Murphy sought to impress us with the reality of God's power in the world. He pointed to the altar railing, its polished marble gleaming in sunlight, and firmly assured us that God himself had fashioned it. "Yeah, right," whispered the kid next to me. Worried that there might be the son or daughter of a stonecutter in the crowd, the good Father retreated a bit. "Now, he didn't carve the railing or bring it here or cement it in place. . . but God himself made the marble, long ago, and left it for someone to find and make into part of our church."
I don't know if our pastor sensed that his description of God as craftsman was meeting a certain tide of skepticism, but no matter. He had another trick up his sleeve, a can't-miss, sure-thing argument that, no doubt, had never failed him. He walked over to the altar and picked a flower from the vase.
"Look at the beauty of a flower," he began. "The Bible tells us that even Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed as one of these. And do you know what? Not a single person in the world can tell us what makes a flower bloom. All those scientists in their laboratories, the ones who can split the atom and build jet planes and televisions, well, not one of them can tell you how a plant makes flowers." And why should they be able to? "Flowers, just like you, are the work of God."
I was impressed. No one argued, no one wisecracked. We filed out of the church like good little boys and girls, ready for our first communion the next day. And I never thought of it again, until this symposium on developmental biology. Sandwiched between two speakers working on more fashionable topics in animal development was Elliot M. Meyerowitz, a plant scientist at Caltech. A few of my colleagues, uninterested in research dealing with plants, got up to stretch their legs before the final talk, but I sat there with an ear-to-ear grin on my face. I jotted notes furiously; I sketched the diagrams he projected on the screen and wrote additional speculations of my own in the margins. Meyerowitz, you see, had explained how plants make flowers.
The four principal parts of a flower - sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils - are actually modified leaves. This is one of the reasons why plants can produce reproductive cells just about anywhere, while animals are limited to a very specific set of reproductive organs. Your little finger isn't going to start shedding reproductive cells anytime soon. But in springtime, the tip of any branch on an apple tree may very well blossom and begin scattering pollen. Plants can produce new flowers anywhere they can grow new leaves. Somehow, however, the plant must find a way to "tell" an ordinary cluster of leaves that they should develop into floral parts. That's where Meyerowitz's lab took over.
Several years of patient genetic study had isolated a set of mutants that could only form two or three of the four parts. By crossing the various mutants, his team was able to identify four genes that had to be turned on or off in a specific pattern to produce a normal flower. Each of these genes, in turn, sets off a series of signals that "tell" the cells of a brand new bud to develop as sepals or petals rather than ordinary leaves. The details are remarkable, and the interactions between the genes are fascinating. To me, sitting in the crowd thirty-seven years after my first communion, the scientific details were just the icing on the cake. The real message was "Father Murphy, you were wrong." God doesn't make a flower. The floral induction genes do.
Our pastor's error, common and widely repeated, was to seek God in what science has not yet explained. His assumption was that God is best found in territory unknown, in the corners of darkness that have not yet seen the light of understanding. These, as it turns out, are exactly the wrong places to look.
By pointing to the process of making a flower as proof of the reality of God, Father Murphy was embracing the idea that God finds it necessary to cripple nature. In his view, the blooming of a daffodil requires not a self-sufficient material universe, but direct intervention by God. We can find God, therefore, in the things around us that lack material, scientific explanations. In nature, elusive and unexplored, we will find the Creator at work.
The creationist opponents of evolution make similar arguments. They claim that the existence of life, the appearance of new species, and, most especially, the origins of mankind have not and cannot be explained by evolution or any other natural process. By denying the self-sufficiency of nature, they look for God (or at least a "designer") in the deficiencies of science. The trouble is that science, given enough time, generally explains even the most baffling things. As a matter of strategy, creationists would be well-advised to avoid telling scientists what they will never be able to figure out. History is against them. In a general way, we really do understand how nature works.
And evolution forms a critical part of that understanding. Evolution really does explain the very things that its critics say it does not. Claims disputing the antiquity of the earth, the validity of the fossil record, and the sufficiency of evolutionary mechanisms vanish upon close inspection. Even to the most fervent anti-evolutionists, the pattern should be clear - their favorite "gaps" are filling up: the molecular mechanisms of evolution are now well-understood, and the historical record of evolution becomes more compelling with each passing season. This means that science can answer their challenges to evolution in an obvious way. Show the historical record, provide the data, reveal the mechanism, and highlight the convergence of theory and fact.
There is, however, a deeper problem caused by the opponents of evolution, a problem for religion. Like our priest, they have based their search for God on the premise that nature is not self-sufficient. By such logic, only God can make a species, just as Father Murphy believed only God could make a flower. Both assertions support the existence of God only so long as these assertions are true, but serious problems for religion emerge when they are shown to be false.
If we accept a lack of scientific explanation as proof for God's existence, simple logic would dictate that we would have to regard a successful scientific explanation as an argument against God. That's why creationist reasoning, ultimately, is much more dangerous to religion than to science. Elliot Meyerowitz's fine work on floral induction suddenly becomes a threat to the divine, even though common sense tells us it should be nothing of the sort. By arguing, as creationists do, that nature cannot be self-sufficient in the formation of new species, the creationists forge a logical link between the limits of natural processes to accomplish biological change and the existence of a designer (God). In other words, they show the proponents of atheism exactly how to disprove the existence of God - show that evolution works, and it's time to tear down the temple. This is an offer that the enemies of religion are all too happy to accept.
Putting it bluntly, the creationists have sought God in darkness. What we have not found and do not yet understand becomes their best - indeed their only - evidence for the divine. As a Christian, I find the flow of this logic particularly depressing. Not only does it teach us to fear the acquisition of knowledge (which might at any time disprove belief), but it suggests that God dwells only in the shadows of our understanding. I suggest that, if God is real, we should be able to find him somewhere else - in the bright light of human knowledge, spiritual and scientific.
Each of the great Western monotheistic traditions sees God as truth, love, and knowledge. This should mean that each and every increase in our understanding of the natural world is a step toward God and not, as many people assume, a step away. If faith and reason are both gifts from God, then they should play complementary, not conflicting, roles in our struggle to understand the world around us. As a scientist and as a Christian, that is exactly what I believe. True knowledge comes only from a combination of faith and reason.
A nonbeliever, of course, puts his or her trust in science and finds no value in faith. And I certainly agree that science allows believer and nonbeliever alike to investigate the natural world through a common lens of observation, experiment, and theory. The ability of science to transcend cultural, political, and even religious differences is part of its genius, part of its value as a way of knowing. What science cannot do is assign either meaning or purpose to the world it explores. This leads some to conclude that the world as seen by science is devoid of meaning and absent of purpose. It is not. What it does mean, I would suggest, is that our human tendency to assign meaning and value must transcend science and, ultimately, must come from outside it. The science that results can thus be enriched and informed from its contact with the values and principles of faith. The God of Abraham does not tell us which proteins control the cell cycle. But he does give us a reason to care, a reason to cherish that understanding, and above all, a reason to prefer the light of knowledge to the darkness of ignorance.
As more than one scientist has said, the truly remarkable thing about the world is that it actually does make sense. The parts fit, the molecules interact, the darn thing works. To people of faith, what evolution says is that nature is complete. Their God fashioned a material world in which truly free and independent beings could evolve. He got it right the very first time.
To some, the murderous reality of human nature is proof that God is absent or dead. The same reasoning would find God missing from the unpredictable branchings of an evolutionary tree. But the truth is deeper. In each case, a deity determined to establish a world that was truly independent of his whims, a world in which intelligent creatures would face authentic choices between good and evil, would have to fashion a distinct, material reality and then let his creation run. Neither the self-sufficiency of nature nor the reality of evil in the world mean God is absent. To a religious person, both signify something quite different - the strength of God's love and the reality of our freedom as his creatures.
As a species, we like to see ourselves as the best and brightest. We are the intended, special, primary creatures of creation. We sit at the apex of the evolutionary tree as the ultimate products of nature, self-proclaimed and self-aware. We like to think that evolution's goal was to produce us.
In a purely biological sense, this comforting view of our own position in nature is false, a product of self-inflating distortion induced by the imperfect mirrors we hold up to life. Yes, we are objectively among the most complex of animals, but not in every sense. Among the systems of the body, we are the hands-down winners for physiological complexity in just one place - the nervous system - and even there, a nonprimate (the dolphin) can lay down a claim that rivals our own.
More to the point, any accurate assessment of the evolutionary process shows that the notion of one form of life being more highly evolved than another is incorrect. Every organism, every cell that lives today, is the descendant of a long line of winners, of ancestors who used successful evolutionary strategies time and time again, and therefore lived to tell about it - or, at least, to reproduce. The bacterium perched on the lip of my coffee cup has been through as much evolution as I have. I've got the advantage of size and consciousness, which matter when I write about evolution, but the bacterium has the advantage of numbers, of flexibility, and most especially, of reproductive speed. That single bacterium, given the right conditions, could literally fill the world with its descendants in a matter of days. No human, no vertebrate, no animal could boast of anything remotely as impressive.
What evolution tells us is that life spreads out along endless branching pathways from any starting point. One of those tiny branches eventually led to us. We think it remarkable and wonder how it could have happened, but any fair assessment of the tree of life shows that our tiny branch is crowded into insignificance by those that bolted off in a thousand different directions. Our species, Homo sapiens, has not "triumphed" in the evolutionary struggle any more than has a squirrel, a dandelion, or a mosquito. We are all here, now, and that's what matters. We have all followed different pathways to find ourselves in the present. We are all winners in the game of natural selection. Current winners, we should be careful to say.
That, in the minds of many, is exactly the problem. In a thousand branching pathways, how can we be sure that one of them, historically and unavoidably, would lead for sure to us? Consider this: we mammals now occupy, in most ecosystems, the roles of large, dominant land animals. But for much of their history, mammals were restricted to habitats in which only very small creatures could survive. Why? Because another group of vertebrates dominated the earth - until, as Stephen Jay Gould has pointed out, the cataclysmic impact of a comet or asteroid drove those giants to extinction. "In an entirely literal sense," Gould has written, "we owe our existence, as large and reasoning animals, to our lucky stars."
So, what if the comet had missed? What if our ancestors, and not dinosaurs, had been the ones driven to extinction? What if, during the Devonian period, the small tribe of fish known as rhipidistians had been obliterated? Vanishing with them would have been the possibility of life for the first tetrapods. Vertebrates might never have struggled onto the land, leaving it, in Gould's words, forever "the unchallenged domain of insects and flowers."
Surely this means that mankind's appearance on this planet was not pre-ordained, that we are here not as the products of an inevitable procession of evolutionary success, but as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out. What follows from this, to skeptic and true believer alike, is a conclusion whose logic is rarely challenged - that no God would ever have used such a process to fashion his prize creatures. How could he have been sure that leaving the job to evolution would lead things to working out the "right" way? If it was God's will to produce us, then by showing that we are the products of evolution, we would rule God as Creator. Therein lies the value or the danger of evolution.
Not so fast. The biological account of lucky historical contingencies that led to our own appearance on this planet is surely accurate. What does not follow is that a perceived lack of inevitability translates into something that we should regard as incompatibility with a divine will. To do so seriously underestimates God, even as this God is understood by the most conventional of Western religions.
Yes, the explosive diversification of life on this planet was an unpredictable process. But so were the rise of Western civilization, the collapse of the Roman Empire, and the winning number in last night's lottery. We do not regard the indeterminate nature of any of these events in human history as antithetical to the existence of a Creator; why should we regard similar events in natural history any differently? There is, I would submit, no reason at all. If we can view the contingent events in the families that produced our individual lives as consistent with a Creator, then certainly we can do the same for the chain of circumstances that produced our species.
The alternative is a world where all events have predictable outcomes, where the future is open neither to chance nor to independent human action. A world in which we would always evolve is a world in which we would never be free. To a believer, the particular history leading to us shows how truly remarkable we are, how rare is the gift of consciousness, and how precious is the chance to understand.
One would like to think that all scientific ideas, including evolution, would rise or fall purely on the basis of the evidence. If that were true, evolution would long since have passed, in the public mind, from controversy into common sense, which is exactly what has happened within the scientific community. This is, unfortunately, not the case - evolution remains, in the minds of much of the American public, a dangerous idea, and for biology educators, a source of never-ending strife.
I believe much of the problem is the fault of those in the scientific community who routinely enlist the findings of evolutionary biology in support their own philosophical pronouncements. Sometimes these take the form of stern, dispassionate pronouncements about the meaninglessness of life. Other times we are lectured that the contingency of our presence on this planet invalidates any sense of human purpose. And very often we are told that the raw reality of nature strips the authority from any human system of morality.
As creatures fashioned by evolution, we are filled, as the biologist E. O. Wilson has said, with instinctive behaviors important to the survival of our genes. Some of these behaviors, though favored by natural selection, can get us into trouble. Our desires for food, water, reproduction, and status, our willingness to fight, and our tendencies to band together into social groups, can all be seen as behaviors that help ensure evolutionary success. Sociobiology, which studies the biological basis of social behaviors, tells us that in some circumstances natural selection will favor cooperative and nurturing instincts - "nice" genes that help us get along together. Some circumstances, on the other had, will favor aggressive self-centered behaviors, ranging all the way from friendly competition to outright homicide. Could such Darwinian ruthlessness be part of the plan of a loving God?
Yes, it could. To survive on this planet, the genes of our ancestors, like those of any other organism, had to produce behaviors that protected, nurtured, defended, and ensured the reproductive successes of the individuals that bore them. It should be no surprise that we carry such passions within us, and Darwinian biology cannot be faulted for giving their presence a biological explanation. Indeed, the Bible itself gives ample documentation of such human tendencies, including pride, selfishness, lust, anger, aggression, and murder.
Darwin can hardly be criticized for pinpointing the biological origins of these drives. All too often, in finding the sources of our "original sins," in fixing the reasons why our species displays the tendencies it does, evolution is misconstrued as providing a kind of justification for the worst aspects of human nature. At best, this is a misreading of the scientific lessons of sociobiology. At worst, it is an attempt to misuse biology to abolish any meaningful system of morality. Evolution may explain the existence of our most basic biological drives and desires, but that does not tell us that it is always proper to act on them. Evolution has provided me with a sense of hunger when my nutritional resources are running low, but evolution does not justify my clubbing you over the head to swipe your lunch. Evolution explains our biology, but it does not tell us what is good, or right, or moral. For those answers, however informed we may be by biology, we must look somewhere else.
Like it or not, the values that any of us apply to our daily lives have been affected by the work of Charles Darwin. Religious people, however, have a special question to put to the reclusive naturalist of Down House. Did his work ultimately contribute to the greater glory of God, or did he deliver human nature and destiny into the hands of a professional scientific class, one profoundly hostile to religion? Does Darwin's work strengthen or weaken the idea of God?
The conventional wisdom is that whatever one may think of his science, having Mr. Darwin around certainly hasn't helped religion very much. The general thinking is that religion has been weakened by Darwinism and has been constrained to modify its view of the Creator in order to twist doctrine into conformity with the demands of evolution. As Stephen Jay Gould puts it, with obvious delight,"Now the conclusions of science must be accepted a priori, and religious interpretations must be finessed and adjusted to match unimpeachable results from the magisterium of natural knowledge!" Science calls the tune, and religion dances to its music.
This sad specter of a weakened and marginalized God drives the continuing opposition to evolution. This is why the God of the creationists requires, above all, that evolution be shown not to have functioned in the past and not to be working now. To free religion from the tyranny of Darwinism, creationists need a science that shows nature to be incomplete; they need a history of life whose events can only be explained as the result of supernatural processes. Put bluntly, the creationists are committed to finding permanent, intractable mystery in nature. To such minds, even the most perfect being we can imagine would not have been perfect enough to fashion a creation in which life would originate and evolve on its own. Nature must be flawed, static, and forever inadequate.
Science in general, and evolutionary science in particular, gives us something quite different. It reveals a universe that is dynamic, flexible, and logically complete. It presents a vision of life that spreads across the planet with endless variety and intricate beauty. It suggests a world in which our material existence is not an impossible illusion propped up by magic, but the genuine article, a world in which things are exactly what they seem. A world in which we were formed, as the Creator once told us, from the dust of the earth itself.
It is often said that a Darwinian universe is one whose randomness cannot be reconciled with meaning. I disagree. A world truly without meaning would be one in which a deity pulled the string of every human puppet, indeed of every material particle. In such a world, physical and biological events would be carefully controlled, evil and suffering could be minimized, and the outcome of historical processes strictly regulated. All things would move toward the Creator's clear, distinct, established goals. Such control and predictability, however, comes at the price of independence. Always in control, such a Creator would deny his creatures any real opportunity to know and worship him - authentic love requires freedom, not manipulation. Such freedom is best supplied by the open contingency of evolution.
One hundred and fifty years ago it might have been impossible not to couple Darwin to a grim and pointless determinism, but things look different today. Darwin's vision has expanded to encompass a new world of biology in which the links from molecule to cell and from cell to organism are becoming clear. Evolution prevails, but it does so with a richness and subtlety its original theorist may have found surprising and could not have anticipated.
We know from astronomy, for example, that the universe had a beginning, from physics that the future is both open and unpredictable, from geology and paleontology that the whole of life has been a process of change and transformation. From biology we know that our tissues are not impenetrable reservoirs of vital magic, but a stunning matrix of complex wonders, ultimately explicable in terms of biochemistry and molecular biology. With such knowledge we can see, perhaps for the first time, why a Creator would have allowed our species to be fashioned by the process of evolution.
If he so chose, the God whose presence is taught by most Western religions could have fashioned anything, ourselves included, ex nihilo, from his wish alone. In our childhood as a species, that might have been the only way in which we could imagine the fulfillment of a divine will. But we've grown up, and something remarkable has happened: we have begun to understand the physical basis of life itself. If a string of constant miracles were needed for each turn of the cell cycle or each flicker of a cilium, the hand of God would be written directly into every living thing - his presence at the edge of the human sandbox would be unmistakable. Such findings might confirm our faith, but they would also undermine our independence. How could we fairly choose between God and man when the presence and the power of the divine so obviously and so literally controlled our every breath? Our freedom as his creatures requires a little space and integrity. In the material world, it requires self-sufficiency and consistency with the laws of nature.
Evolution is neither more nor less than the result of respecting the reality and consistency of the physical world over time. To fashion material beings with an independent physical existence, any Creator would have had to produce an independent material universe in which our evolution over time was a contingent possibility. A believer in the divine accepts that God's love and gift of freedom are genuine - so genuine that they include the power to choose evil and, if we wish, to freely send ourselves to Hell. Not all believers will accept the stark conditions of that bargain, but our freedom to act has to have a physical and biological basis. Evolution and its sister sciences of genetics and molecular biology provide that basis. In biological terms, evolution is the only way a Creator could have made us the creatures we are - free beings in a world of authentic and meaningful moral and spiritual choices.
Those who ask from science a final argument, an ultimate proof, an unassailable position from which the issue of God may be decided will always be disappointed. As a scientist I claim no new proofs, no revolutionary data, no stunning insight into nature that can tip the balance in one direction or another. But I do claim that to a believer, even in the most traditional sense, evolutionary biology is not at all the obstacle we often believe it to be. In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God.
When I have the privilege of giving a series of lectures on evolutionary biology to my freshman students, I usually conclude those lectures with a few remarks about the impact of evolutionary theory on other fields, from economics to politics to religion. I find a way to make clear that I do not regard evolution, properly understood, as either antireligious or antispiritual. Most students seem to appreciate those sentiments. They probably figure that Professor Miller, trying to be a nice guy and doubtlessly an agnostic, is trying to find a way to be unequivocal about evolution without offending the University chaplain.
There are always a few who find me after class and want to pin me down. They ask me point-blank: "Do you believe in God?"
And I tell each of them, "Yes."
Puzzled, they ask: "What kind of God?"
Over the years I have struggled to come up with a simple but precise answer to that question. And, eventually I found it. I believe in Darwin's God.
For a moment I thought effdot was back. I guess he is, in spirit.
Go to the link (did I leave one?) and look up the other articles::
I see, so what do you make fact that Genesis 1 says God made animals first and Genesis 2 says God made humans first?
Warm blooded: Birds are warmblooded with exceptionally high metabolism and food demands. While dinosaur metabolism is in question, all modern reptiles are cold-blooded with a more lethargic life style.
Yes. No one would confuse any modern bird with any modern dinosaur. But Archaeopteryx for one and Caudipteryx for two are so perfectly balanced between the clades that you can find find websites all over the place (including creationist websites) which disagree over whether they should be classed as birds or dinosaurs.
That's divergence. It's a tree. Back when one group forked from the other, they weren't that different. Not long after the divergence, birds with teeth and bony tails were still all over the place. Not to mention unfused and clawed forelimb bones.
Not true now. There's been time for further divergence and the different branches are farther apart. Evolution explains that, predicted it in advance. Creation shrugs and post-dicts "God could have left it looking like that."
Yes, God could have left anything looking like anything. This is not knowledge, not science.
I read enough to know it is pure nonsense. It is not as if I have not been reading Morris et. al for the last 15 years and getting a really good laugh out of it, too. ;-)
Been there, done that. Morris doesn't know what he's talking about, and/or he can't clearly express himself - either way, there's no reason to waste much time with a guy who thinks that birds don't exhale.
I see it takes a cryptologist to understand religion, and not faith in mushy stuff like love.
I was reminded more of medved's long never-linked spams.
|Contradictions Between Evolution & the Bible|
|Evolutionary Order||Biblical Order|
Be glad -- very glad -- that I keep the List-O-Links at my homepage instead of posting it. The thing has grown into a monster.
THEISTIC EVOLUTION AND THE DAY-AGE THEORY
- IMPACT No. 81 March 1980
by Richard Niessen*
© Copyright 2004 Institute for Creation Research. All Rights Reserved.
The Alleged Basis for the Day-Age Theory
Two elements are essential in any evolutionary scheme, whether it be theistic or atheistic: long periods of time and the assumed validity of the molecules-to-man evolutionary scenario. Atheists care little for the biblical account, except to ridicule its statements. Theistic evolutionists, however, profess a certain allegiance to the Scriptures and must attempt to harmonize the biblical account with the evolutionary scenario. The biblical text, at least to the unbiased observer, indicates a universe and earth that were formed in six days; evolutionists suppose at least six billion years. The mechanism by which theistic evolutionists harmonize the two is known as the day-age theory.
The key term in this attempted harmony is the word day as it is used in Genesis 1. The Hebrew word for day is yom, and, we are reminded, it is used in a variety of ways: (1) the daylight period in the diurnal cycle as in Genesis 1:5, 14, 16, 18; (2) a normal 24-hour period; and (3) an indefinite time period as in Psalm 90:10.
A passage that is invariably appealed to is 2 Peter 3:8: "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day." Also, it is claimed that too much activity took place on the sixth day (Genesis 2) to fit into a normal day: Adam's naming of thousands of animals, his perception of his loneliness, and the subsequent creation of Eve.
The claim, then, is that the days of Genesis 1 are really long periods of time, which correspond to the major periods of evolutionary geological history.
A Refutation of the Day-Age Theory
Most Bible-believing creationists maintain the day-age theory is an unbiblical option for the following reasons:
(1) An improper interpretation of 2 Peter 3:8.
It is axiomatic in hermeneutics (the science of biblical interpretation) that "a text without a context is a pretext." Just as a tape recording can be edited to make the speaker say whatever the editor desires, so the Scriptures can be juggled to suit a person's fancy or predisposition. For example, "And Jesus answered ... 'What is truth?' " (John 18:37 - 38). All the above words are straight from the Bible, but a closer examination discloses that it was actually Pilate who uttered the statement, and that the intervening words have been "edited" out.
2 Peter 3:3-10 is a unit. The context speaks of scoffers in the last days who will ridicule the second coming of Christ. Their rationale is uniformitarian in nature: Jesus promised to come quickly, He has not come yet, therefore He is not going to come at all. Peter refutes these uniformitarian assumptions with a reference to the Flood and the certainty of judgment for these scoffers. Then, responding to the charge that Christ has failed to fulfill His promise, Peter writes the words in question, and concludes by reaffirming the certainty of the second coming of Christ.
Verse 8 was never intended to be a mathematical formula of 1 = 1000 or 1000 = 1. The point is that God created time, as well as the universe, and therefore stands above it (cf. Heb. 1:2). While we mortals think 1000 years is a long time, God can scan 1000 years of history past and future as quickly as we can scan from one end of the horizon to the other. The verse could have equally been worded, "Five minutes is with the Lord as ten thousand years," and still have conveyed the same message. Note the use of the word as, describing similarity, is not the same as an equal sign. Conversely, God is able to do in one day what would normally require a thousand years to accomplish. A pertinent suggestion here, in light of the passage's reference to Creation and the Flood, is a possible allusion to the flood's rapid buildup of the sedimentary layers of the so-called geologic column. One day's flood activity could build up layers of sediments that would normally take a thousand years to form by uniformitarian (slowly acting) processes.
2 Peter 3:8 has nothing whatever to do with the length of the creation week. Genesis 1 needs to be interpreted in its own context and not by an irrelevant verse written 1500 years later.
(2) The inadequacy of a thousand-year day.
Let us grant, for the sake of discussion, the mathematical formula that the theistic evolutionists desire. In that case, day one is the first thousand years of earth's history, day two the second thousand years, etc. Consistency would logically dictate that each of the six periods be the same length, resulting in a 6000-year period of creation from nothing to Adam. But 6000 years is only a drop in the bucket compared to the time required to make the evolutionary system work. A lack of a vast time period is the death knell of the evolutionary process. So, let us try 1 day equals 10,000 years. No, 60,000 years is not enough time either. How about 1 day equals 100,000 years? 1 million years? 10 million years? 100 million years? 1 billion years? Ah, yes, that does it for the required time! But what does it do to language as a tool to communicate meaningful information? If words have this kind of infinite flexibility, then the art of communication is in deed a lost cause. These tactics would be laughed to scorn if they were attempted in any other field of study. We should certainly not tolerate them in the study of God's Word.
It appears that 2 Peter 3:8 is merely the wedge used to get the camel's head into the tent. The Hebrew word olam was available to communicate the idea of a long time period if Moses had intended to convey that idea. And the Hebrew word yom was available had he wanted to convey the idea of a 24-hour day.
(3) The demands of primary word usage.
Every language has certain words that are used, in different contexts, with different meanings. For example, Webster's Dictionary defines the noun ship as follows:
ship (n) 1: a large seagoing boat 2: airplane 3: a ship's officers and crew. If you were able to see the noun form of ship, in isolation and without a context, which of the three definitions would first come to mind? Obviously the definition listed as #1, or the primary definition of the word. If the context absolutely demanded it, #3 could be used, but it would certainly be an unusual usage of the word.
It is likewise in the biblical languages. The lexicons (Greek and Hebrew dictionaries) list the words and then the definitions in descending order of usage. The translation of Greek and Hebrew is not accomplished by the casting of lots, nor by the spin of a roulette wheel. The primary usage of any term is always given priority in any translation and secondary uses are tried only when the primary usage does not make sense in the context in which the term is set.
The Hebrew word yom is used more than 2000 times in the Old Testament. A cursory examination reveals that in over 1900 cases (95%) the word is clearly used of a 24-hour day, or of the daylight portion of a normal day. Many of the other 5% refer to expressions such as "the day of the Lord" (Joel 2:1) which may not be exceptions at all, since the second coming of Christ will occur on one particular day (1 Cor. 15:51-52), even though His reign extends over a longer period of time.1 Therefore, even without a context, an unbiased translator would normally understand the idea of "24-hour period" for the word yom.
(4) The demands of context.
Words generally do not hang in space and in isolation from other words. When they appear in writing, they are always surrounded by other words which serve as modifiers and/or clarifiers. Let us take the word ship used as an illustration in the last point. It is only necessary to add two words to not only differentiate between the noun and the verb forms, but to clarify which of the uses is intended within that form. For example: "The ship flew." The definite article identifies the form as a noun; the verb identifies the secondary usage of the word as an airplane rather than a boat.
We need not belabor the point by multiplying examples here. If I write: "I spaded the garden on my day off," it is clear from the surrounding words that this activity is confined to one particular day. So it is in Genesis 1: all the surrounding words convey, to the unbiased reader, the idea that each activity is confined to one of the particular 24-hour days of this creation week.
(5) The numerical qualifier demands a 24-hour day.
The word "day" appears over 200 times in the Old Testament with numbers (i.e., first day, second day, etc.). In every single case, without exception, it refers to a 24-hour day. Each of the six days of the creation week is so qualified and therefore the consistency of Old Testament usage requires a 24-hour day in Genesis 1 as well.
(6) The terms "evening and morning" require a 24-hour day.
The words evening (52 times) and morning (220 times) always refer to normal days where they are used elsewhere in the Old Testament. The Jewish day began in the evening (sunset) and ended with the start of the evening the following day. Thus it is appropriate that the sequence is evening-morning (of a normal day) rather than morning-evening (= start and finish). The literal Hebrew is even more pronounced: "There was evening and there was morning, day one. . . . There was evening and there was morning, day two," etc.
(7) The words "day" and "night" are part of a normal 24-hour day.
In Genesis 1:5, 14-18, the words day and night are used nine times in such a manner that they can refer only to the light and dark periods of a normal, 24-hour day.
(8) Genesis 1:14 distinguishes between days, years, and seasons.
And God said, "Let there be light-makers in the expanse above to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for the determination of seasons and for days and for years.
Clearly the word days here represents days, years represents years, seasons represents seasons. It is a red herring to claim that, if the sun did not appear until the fourth day, there could be no days and nights on the first three days. The Bible clearly says that there was a light source (apparently temporary in nature, Genesis 1:3), that there were periods of alternating light and darkness (1:4-5), and that there were evenings and mornings for those first three days (1:5, 8,13).
(9) Symbiosis requires a 24-hour day.
Symbiosis is a biological term describing a mutually beneficial relationship between two types of creatures. Of particular interest to us are the species of plants that cannot reproduce apart from the habits of certain insects or birds. For example, the yucca plant is dependent upon the yucca moth, and most flowers require bees or other insects for pollination and reproduction. The Calvaria tree, on the Mauritius Islands, was totally dependent upon the dodo bird to ingest its seeds, scarify its hard coating, and excrete the seeds before germination could take place. Since the dodo bird became extinct in 1681, no reproduction of this tree has taken place. In fact, the youngest trees are 300 years old! Many additional examples could be cited. According to Genesis 1, plants were created on the third day (vv. 9 - 13), birds on the fifth day (vv. 20 - 23), and insects on the sixth day (vv 24-25, 31). Plants could have survived for 48 or 72 hours without the birds and the bees, but could they have survived 2-3 billion years without each other according to the day-age scenario? Many birds eat only insects. Could they have survived a billion years while waiting for the insects to evolve?2 Hardly.
(10) The survival of the plants and animals requires a 24-hour day.
If each day were indeed a billion years, as theistic evolutionists require, then half of that day (500 million years) would have been dark. We are explicitly told in verse 5 that the light was called day and the darkness was called night, and that each day had one period of light-darkness. How then would the plants, insects, and animals have survived through each 500 million year stretch of darkness? Clearly a 24-hour day is called for.
(11) The testimony of the fourth Commandment.
It is a marvelous thing to observe the unity of the Scriptures and the orderliness with which God carries out His plans. Have you ever wondered why there were six days of creation, rather than some other number? In the light of the apparently instantaneous creation of the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21, and the instantaneous nature of the miracles of the New Testament, why is it that God takes as long as six days to create everything? And why is it that God rested on the seventh day? Was He tired after all this exertion? No, Psalm 33:6-9 state that "the heavens were made by the Word of the Lord . . . He spoke and it was done. He commanded and it stood fast." There is no hint of exertion here. Genesis 2:2-3 merely means that He ceased working because the created order was completed, not because He was tired.
The commentary on these questions is found in Exodus 20:8-11, and it reads as follows:
verse 8 - Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
verse 9 - Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
verse 10 - But the seventh day is the sabbath (rest) of the Lord your God. In it you shall not do any work...
verse 11 - For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day...
Verses 8-10 speak of man working six days and ceasing from his work on the seventh. These are obviously not eons of time, but normal 24-hour days. A key word in verse 11 is for, because it introduces the rationale or foundation for the previous command. It continues by equating the time period of creation with the time period of man's work week (six days plus one day) and states that God Himself had set the example in Genesis 1. That indeed is the reason why the creation week was 7 days no more, no less. The passage becomes nonsense if it reads: "Work for six days and rest on the seventh, because God worked for six billion years and is now resting during the seventh billion-year period." If God is resting, who parted the waters of the Red Sea in Exodus 14? And what did Jesus mean in John 5:17 when He said, "My Father is working until now, and I myself am working"?
Sometimes the claim is made by theistic evolutionists that we do not know how long the days were way back in Genesis 1. In the first place, Genesis 1 was not way back, but was only a few thousand years prior to the writing of Exodus. Since the earth is constantly slowing down in its rotation, the early earth would have been spinning faster and therefore the days would have been shorter, not longer.
But the day-age people have overlooked something even more obvious here: Genesis 1 and Exodus 20 were written by the same author Moses at about the same time (ca. 1500 B.C.). Therefore, the common authorship of both passages is evidence that he had the same time period in mind when he used the word day. Furthermore, we might note that the Fourth Commandment was actually written by the finger of God Himself on tablets of stone (Ex. 31:18; 32:16-19; 34:1, 28, 29; Deut. 10:4). If anyone should have known how long the days were, it should be the Creator Himself!
(12) The testimony of the rabbis.
The Talmudic literature contains commentaries on virtually every passage in the Old Testament. The liberties they take in interpreting some passages boggle the imagination and yet one thing is certain: they are unanimous in accepting a normal, 24-hour day for Genesis 1. If there were the slightest grammatical or contextual indicator within that chapter that would point to a longer period, you can be sure they would have spotted it and developed it at length. The fact that they do not is a strong testimony for interpreting the days as normal, 24-hour periods.
(13) The testimony of the church fathers.
It is sometimes claimed that the church fathers believed in long ages for the days in Genesis 1. That is a half truth. The only two who held to this view were Origen and Clement of Alexandria, and they were allegorizers who devised unusual interpretations for every part of Scripture. Their system of allegorizing led to the most unbelievable interpretations, which were bounded only by the limits of their fertile imaginations. Other early commentators on Genesis 1 include the Epistle of Barnabas, Irenacus, and Justin Martyr. Their remarks have frequently been misunderstood to mean that they believed in the day-age theory. That is not true. What they were doing was developing an eschatological framework which included a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth (the millennium). Their logic followed these lines:
a. God worked for six days and rested on the seventh.
b. One day is with the Lord as a thousand years (cf. 2 Peter 3:8).
c. The six days of creation and one day of rest therefore typify the six thousand years of human history that will be concluded by the one thousand-year millennium, followed by eternity. Creation took place on 4000 B.C. therefore the millennium should commence on A.D. 2000, terminate on A.D. 3000, and usher in the timeless period of eternity.
Whether or not we agree with their reasoning and the resulting prophetic framework, we conclude that these early church fathers were not denying the literal six-day creation, but were affirming their faith in it.
The view of the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, etc.) is that of a six-day creation, of 24 hours apiece.
Thomas Scott's commentary of 1780 generally mentions varying interpretations where they exist, but says nothing about any possibility of the "days" being other than 24-hour periods.
It is only since the middle of the nineteenth century that commentators began talking about long periods of time within Genesis 1 itself. That is truly amazing! The Pentateuch was written by Moses in 1500 B.C. The day-age theory is not mentioned by any serious biblical scholar until the 1800's A.D. For 3300 years this supposed secret lay hidden awaiting the craftiness of nineteenth-century scholarship to unlock its mysteries and reveal them to a waiting world! Something is wrong here. Either God does not know how to express Himself very clearly, or three thousand years' worth of biblical scholars were blind for failing to see this obvious truth, or . . . the whole day-age theory is nothing more than a modern contrivance.
Is there some event in the mid 1800's that would tie in with this? Indeed, there is. It was at this time that Darwin's Origin of Species, Lyell's Principles of Geology, and other evolutionary treatises were flooding the marketplace, resulting in a widespread popular acceptance of the major tenets of evolution. Instead of holding their ground and insisting on the authenticity of God's account of origins, many theologians made the evolutionary theory the criterion of truth and practically fell over each other in their wild scramble to compromise the biblical account of origins with the speculations of nineteenth-century atheists and agnostics. Where it comes to a contest between the Bible and the theories of men, it seems that there are always those who will lean over backwards to make sure the Bible gets the short end of the stick.
(14) The theological problem of sin and death.
According to theistic evolutionists, plant and animal life flourished and died at least 500 million years before man evolved. Their deaths have been recorded as the fossil remains embedded in the sedimentary rocks of the so-called geologic column.
Romans 5:12, however, does not agree: `Therefore as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so death passed to all men, because all have sinned."
The passage then goes on to identify Adam as the one man referred to in verse 12. There is nothing ambiguous about the passage; it means exactly what it says: Adam was the first man, and there was no death prior to the Garden of Eden incident recorded in Genesis 3. Either theistic evolution and its day-age theory are wrong, or Romans 5:12 is in error. There is no harmonizing or fence-straddling here; one must make a choice between holding to theistic evolution or believing the plain statements in the Bible.
There is yet another lesson to be learned from this New Testament passage. There is a tendency among neo-evangelicals today to make a false dichotomy between the Bible's statements of faith and practice and statements pertaining to science and history. The former, we are told, are accurate; the latter are riddled with errors of fact. This view is also known as the partial inspiration or limited inerrancy view of inspiration. Romans 5:12 shows that the above is untenable because the passage bases a theological doctrine (man's sin) upon a historical event (Adam's fall). Likewise 1 Cor. 15:45 bases the doctrine of the resurrection upon the historicity of Adam as the first man. Many other examples could be cited, but the lesson is clear: the theology ("faith and practice") of the Christian life is inseparably linked to and interwoven with the historicity and scientific validity of the narrative portions of Scripture. To deny one is to deny the other.
(15) The feasibility of the events of the sixth day.
One problem seems to be: how could Adam have named all the animals in one day? There are two factors to consider here.
First, only a limited number of animals are required. The purpose of parading this entourage of animals before Adam appears to have been to demonstrate to him that man was an entirely different order of creation than the animal kingdom and that none of them could ever serve as a physical and psychological companion to him. This obviously eliminates most of the organisms of the earth: insects, mice, lizards, and fish need not even apply for the position. Since God selected the animals here, He probably limited the number of candidates to those who would even conceivably be suitable. The text itself limits them to "all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field" (Genesis 2:20).
Second, Adam must have had an extremely high intelligence. Because Adam was capable of using 100 percent of his pre-Fall brain, he would probably have had an IQ of 1500 or better. Furthermore, Adam did not have to learn his vocabulary: God programmed it into his brain at the moment of his creation, and he was created as a fully functioning person. It was therefore with the utmost facility that Adam named the animals that were brought before him.
The second problem is due to a misreading of the biblical text where it says in Genesis 2:18 that "it is not good that the man should be alone." Being alone is not the same as being lonely. The latter requires some time; the former does not.
Unless one is predisposed, because of outside assumptions (evolution), to find fault with the passage, there is nothing inherently unreasonable about the events occurring on one normal 24-hour day, as indicated.
Much could be said about the scientific fallacies of the evolution model and the scientific superiority of the creation model3 but that is beyond the scope of this essay. The emphasis here has been on the professing Christian who is attempting to unequally yoke together two entirely opposing scenarios (creation and evolution) and who is using an unscriptural methodology (the day-age theory) to accomplish this unholy matrimony.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 speaks about a three-fold cord being not easily broken. This essay has woven together a fifteen-fold cord that is not easily broken. The day-age theory, according to the above evidence, is not permitted by Scripture and is therefore false. Elijah said, "How long will you waver between two opinions....(1 Kings 18:21). Each of us needs to decide where he stands on this vital issue.
1 There are very few, if any, of these "exceptions" that actually require the meaning of a period of time other than a solar day.
2 Note that the order of the Bible is not the order required by evolution. See the writer's article "Significant Discrepancies Between Theistic Evolution and the Bible." (Christian Heritage Courier, August, 1979). Also see John C. Whitcomb's book The Early Earth, (1972), and Henry M. Morris' book Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science (1970) - both available from CLP Publishers, P.O. Box 15666, San Diego, CA 92115.
3 See Henry M. Morris, Scientific Creationism (San Diego: CLP Publishers, 1974).
* Mr. Richard Niessen is Associate Professor of Apologetics at Christian Heritage College. El Cajon. California, and is a popular lecturer on Bible-science topics. He received his B.A., Th.B. (with honors) from the Northeastern Bible College. N.J.; his M.A. (cum laude) was earned at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois; and he is currently a Ph.D. candidate.
If you can find a modern dinosaur, that is. "Reptile" was meant where "dinosaur" flew off the fingertips.
Devolving thread placemarker.
What makest thou of this article, deacon?
Yep, this is really good evidence that the literalist interpretation of Scripture is wrong.
"If sound science appears to contradict the Bible, we may be sure that it is our interpretation of the Bible that is at fault." Christian Observer, 1832, pg. 437
Are you afraid people won't click links? Are links not "witnessing?"
This is ridiculous! You are turning this thread into a mirror-site for your favorite guru's website. Just post links. If anyone is interested, they can click on them.
Actually, no, I dont think you will go to the links.
That is why I posted the articles.
Faith, reason, and evolution are all compatible.
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