Creation, science, Genesis: it’s time for a conversation

I was privileged to attend what I affectionately called “Science Camp” this past May, which was actually a gathering of pastors, theologians, and scientists, brought together for the purpose of discussing the intersection and interrelatedness of our various disciplines.  It was one of the great weeks of my career as a pastor as fellowship, stunning creation (via Gulf Island beauty), and intellectual stimulation blended together for a life changing experience.

My theology, though, was challenged profoundly.  Having grown up in a conservative Christian environment, I was taught that the Bible is authoritative and is to generally be read literally, unless there are clear reasons for viewing a section as poetry, metaphor, or parable. (I still believe that.)  Francis Schaeffer (a sort of theological mentor), especially, fought for the historicity of Genesis 1 and 2, arguing that to believe otherwise was a slippery slope.  I remember reading a word of his from somewhere (though I can’t site the exact location), where he said, “If Adam and Eve aren’t historical people in a time and space garden – then how can you know Jesus is a historical person dying on a time and place cross?”  Check – and mate!  With one word, the historicity of Genesis 1-3 was established as historical fact in my mind, a view reinforced by places like Creation Research Institute.

Not only was this stated positively as fact, but with it came a host of negative declarations towards anyone who believed in evolution.  It was, I was told, bad science.  It was, I was told, the key to atheism.  It was, I was told, the greatest deception ever handed down to humanity.

Over the years my views on this subject “evolved” (pun intended) to a sort of theistic agnosticism with respect to Genesis 1, whereby, when teaching Genesis, I’d present evidence for a young earth, old earth, theistic evolution, and the gap theory – ending with “we really don’t know,” but the important thing is that God created it. I continue to believe that the most important thing is God created it.

And then I read The Language of God by Francis Collins.  His science, history, and personal testimony has deconstructed my world.  As an atheist, scientist, and leader of the human genome project, Collins came to Christ in a remarkable way whereby the avenues of science, moral law, and the beauty of the Cascade mountains conspired to shout a grand invitation to which he responded.  He believes thoroughly in the theory of evolution, believes that the earth is terribly old, and believes that science and the Bible can co-inform each other, that science and faith should work together rather than adversarially.  He believes that we can worship God by looking through the lens of a telescope or microscope.  I’ve always believed that too, but with a bit of suspicion.  Collins, and the science camp experience have given me the freedom, even the obligation, to explore the relationship of science and faith, and so I trust and hope that you will join me in the conversation as offer several blog posts in anticipation of the upcoming sermon series. I need your comments in order to help clarify the issues.  Here are my assumptions at the beginning:

1. We need to stop offering a false choice for young people between the life of faith and the life of science.  Yet this is precisely what we do when, in the face of overwhelming evidence, we cling to weak science out of a fear that the entire faith enterprise will come tumbling down if the earth is older than 6-10 thousand years. Collins (again, a deeply devoted Christ follower, evangelical Christian) writes: By any reasonable standard, Young Earth Creationism has reached a point of intellectual bankruptcy, both in its science and in its theology.

2. We can take the scriptures at their word.  This surely must include Psalm 19, which tells us that the heavens are declaring the glory of God.  If these heavens are declaring the glory of God, would they actually lead honest enquirers to believe that God has deceived us, by providing overwhelming evidence for a big bang, and incredible nuances and variations in the cosmos that conspire to create the perfect conditions for sentient life on earth and yet teaching us in His book that the earth is young?

3. The idea of an older earth is older than evolution.  None other than St. Augustine believed that the creation narrative stood outside our normal 24 hour days.  Further, he warned against prematurely developing dogma in interpretive matters about which we will always, necessarily, have limited knowledge.  He writes, “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received.  In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it.”  Yet this is precisely what we do when we make young earth a basic dogma of faith.  Pity the student who then is persuaded of other possibilities, for she may will then face the very problem Schaeffer feared above.  Linking the historicity of Genesis with the historicity of the resurrection, she may well toss both aside – and that would be a needless tragedy.

4. We’ve played this movie before.  The church was fully convinced that Galileo was a heretic because he taught that the earth rotated around the sun.  He was excommunicated, his writings banned, and he lived out his days under house arrest.  Convinced of one interpretation, the church declared war on science.  It’s still happening today.

Oh, and yes, the church finally apologized to Galileo.  In 1992.  I hope it doesn’t take the creation/evolution debate 500 years to come to a close.  With that in, please join the conversation and share, respectfully, your thoughts about why science and faith are so often adversaries, and what can be done address the problem.

 

 

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • fluger

    Great post! You evolution of thought on this subject mirrors my own. I’m still hard pressed to come up with a good way to mesh original sin and the idea of a fallen world with the process of theistic evolution. Essentially: for Evolution to occur, you are required to have death and conflict; if you believe death and conflict existed prior to Original Sin, it weakeness the whole premise of the world needing a savior or even that original sin was so damning.

    That’s the last hurdle for me and I’ve yet to hear an argument for it that reconciles it satisfactorily for me.

    Thanks for this post, Richard.

  • http://godseagerbeaver.blogspot.com Rachel

    I don’t believe in evolution.. It is a theory and there is no proof that it is true.There is no proof that the earth is billions of years old and there is no proof that fossils are billions of years old. None of the scientific methods are proven to be true. There are also many facts to oppose evolution. Do we ignore these facts. In science, nothing is a fact until there is no proof otherwise and there is lots of proof against evolution. I think that people try make the bible say what they want it to say so that they can believe in evolution. I dont mean to be rude, just getting my point across bluntly. Thanks for the blog and please visit mine. godslazybeaver.blogspot.com

  • http://jordanbrokaw.tumblr.com Jordan Brokaw

    Thanks for posting this, Pastor Richard. Too often, I feel we as the church have used non-salvation issues such as the earth’s age as a barrier to entry to those who might accept Christ. The stereotypical “science is the enemy”, anti-intellectual Christian stereotype is one that is killing the allure of Christ and the Church in my generation (college age). Sadly, the stereotype exists because of the rampant dogmatic behavior you mentioned. The need to construct ones’ faith solely on the white knuckle grip of certain doctrinal issues, I believe, shows an incredible lack of faith in our Father and savior.

    As you said above, as long as we approach these ideas with a good amount of suspicion, caution, and a firm foundation in God’s word, these discussions are beneficial not just for our sake, but for the sake of those unsaved as well.

    Thanks again for starting this conversation!

  • sp

    as you are asking for feedback, here’s some: 1) As you do your sermons, I would be interested to hear you elaborate on your comment “overwhelming evidence for a big bang”, as well as 2) “teaching us in His book that the earth is young”

    Looking forward to following along on this!

  • Bethany

    We must be careful when saying that evolution is “just a theory.” A scientific theory is comprised of observations, evidence and scientific laws that together are combined to create an explanation or model of a given phenomenon. (For example, gravity is a theory). A theory can not become a fact or a law, and does not become “true.” A theory can, however, be stronger or be supported by more evidence.

    As a science teacher, and a Christian, I really appreciate assumption #1: “We need to stop offering a false choice for young people between the life of faith and the life of science.” I definitely felt this conflict in my early adulthood and am now on the journey of understanding the relastionship between science and faith.

  • Matthew

    I think that young earth vs. old earth is not the only divide here, and is in many ways simpler than many of them. It seems to me that there are many kinds of sneaking mistrust between science and religion that go much deeper than an either/or with a lot of multi-disciplinary evidence supporting one of the sides.

    I see a kind of condescension towards anyone and anything sympathetic towards evolution that came come out if we are not careful. Vehemently denouncing evolution as “just a theory,” or as propaganda, has effects that are a lot more damaging to us than it appears at first glance. I think that it can give us a poor view of science, can cause us to try and use scientific knowledge as a weapon against others who disagree, and puts us in a defensive posture that is harmful in its own right.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, and have been feeling lately that I need to read/hear more controversial things. This could be good!

  • Mark

    As one who respects science and who has firmly rooted my identity, life, and being in the Bible, I often wrestle with how I can maintain intellectual integrity. I sometimes fear that the only way I can maintain my faith is to be what my tradition would label a theological liberal (and in my tradition, that is a very bad thing). I get nervous when I start to question whether or not Adam and Eve are historical people or if Genesis 1-6 are meant to be read merely as poetry that is intended to stand against prevailing Ancient Near East pagan world views of creation.
    I share fluger’s question about how sin enters the world with a theistic evolutionist old earth view of creation. Is it possible that physical death and pain were present before the fall (ie animals eating each other, etc) and that the death that was introduced was a spiritual one? At what point have I abandoned orthodox Christianity when I go down this road? I’m afraid I don’t have the ability to say, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” when there is so much evidence that calls into question a historical reading of Genesis 1.

  • http://godseagerbeaver.blogspot.com Rachel

    Thanks for the comments about theories. I’ll definitely take note of that. My point also is that it takes faith to believe in evolution- so much faith, that it is in my opinion, a religion on its on. I love science and i find it very interesting. It was my favourite subject in school. However, when we were learning about evolution, there were many things that did not make sense to me. I remember often asking my teacher relevant questions for which she had no real answer. Micro evolution has been proven but macro evolution hasn’t and to say that we can assume that macro evolution has taken place because micro evolution has been proven is not a good argument. The bible says that God created the universe in 6 days. I know the argument is that those 6 days may not literally be 6 days but they are surely 6 steps and these steps don’t coincide with evolution. In other words, God created animals and THEN God created man. Not God created animals and from animals, God created man. Also, the way that it is written suggests that it is written as fact. And just a “fun” sort question: why would God want or need billions of years to create the universe? And why do people ignore all the very important evidence against evolution?

    • raincitypastor

      Thanks for your reply Rachel… it’s important to remember that there’s very good historical evidence of people literally refusing to look through Galileo’s telescope, saying, ‘we don’t need to look – we already know’. I might even write a follow up blog about this, but the notion of not looking into the evidence, both for and against evolution and then making our own decision, would be closed minded. I’m writing these posts to say that some of the very best scientists, who are also Christ honoring men and women, have ‘looked into the telescope’ and decided that evolution makes the best sense as we attempt to answer numerous questions about origins.

      I don’t know you Rachel, so can’t assess your situation, but I do know that many people simply won’t look at the evidence because, as it was back in the days of Galileo, they trusted their beliefs so much that they were unwilling to look at any other evidence. This, though, isn’t truth seeking – it’s close-mindedness, and I fear that people of faith are often characterized that way.

  • Mike

    I have a bachelor’s degree in biology, and am currently working on a masters in environmental technology. Instead of my studies coming into conflict with my beliefs I find them complementary to it. When I see the awesome beauty of a cell’s kreb’s cycle or I think about why does grass grow from the roots while trees and other plants from their tips. The things that remind me of God’s complex an perfect design reminds me that there is a creator.

    I have come to understand evolution in a new light, that I think that many who don’t study science miss. Science changes with new discoveries and observations made. With that said, Lamarckian evolution is what i think most christians have in their head (going from bent over ape to walking upright hairless man), the Darwinian side is more evolution by natural selection, which HAS been observed and does occur. It is complex and muddled now, and the push is to create an explanation for the origin of all life. Which is???? Well, I say God, the perfect creator, but science doesn’t account for my faith.

    That being said, there are definitely gaps in the “theory of evolution” that all species on earth diverged from a single celled organism and developed into all the complexity we see today. which I don’t agree with. I definitely believe there is a creator, that designed everything in such a perfect and complex way that we are just coming to terms with how little we understand about God’s wonderful design.

  • http://godseagerbeaver.blogspot.com Rachel

    Thanks for the input. However, I have looked at the evidence for evolution. I have looked at arguments for and against evolution.I do see that I seem to be closed minded. In my mind (and many other christian scientist’s) Christianity and evolution are just not compatible. There are many other questions. And why does evolution make the best sense. Why could God not have just created the universe in 6 days. He is God after all. Also, evolution suggests that there was trial and error before the most advanced(us) were finally created. How can we call our God a trial and error creator? However, I do think that evolution is a lot more likely with a bit of help from God. It would explain a lot like how non- chemical thing become alive and how things that usually need other things to work can work without them, and how according to the 2nd Law of thermodynamics, things get less ordered in the world but in evolution, they become more ordered and structured and how they become more complex, how things are just added. God would definitely have to help a lot during the billions of years of evolution. I don’t think that evolution and christianity can be compatible but I do think that science and christianity can be.

    • Ken

      Rachel,

      The best come back to why God may have taken longer than 6 24 hr. days was the comparison to any contemporary master artist… Why would they bother painting a picture when they can just take a photograph? The joy is in the creation! Likewise we can look at the whole messiness of life and wonder why doesn’t God just say who’s in and who’s not and end it, getting on with a perfect eternity. That’s why the idea of why couldn’t God do all this in six literal days (of course He could) may not be the point.

    • TC

      Just a quick note, applying the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics to Evolution does not make sense. To be brief, the law says that systems must become more disordered over time (basically more time = more chaos). The problem with applying it to Evolution is that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics only works in a closed system, where no additional matter or energy enters or exits, criteria which the Earth does not fit. The Earth receives outside heat and light from our sun, fueling simple organisms so they are able to become more complex.

      Also, a question that always needs to be brought up when someone calls upon the 2nd law to argue against Evolution: What are the other laws of Thermodynamics and how do they support your use of the 2nd law in this manner?

  • http://godseagerbeaver.blogspot.com Rachel

    Please would you all support my blog. I’ve just started and would like to get it going.. Thanks

  • http://www.answersingenesis.org Joe Bear

    “I’m writing these posts to say that some of the very best scientists, who are also Christ honoring men and women, have ‘looked into the telescope’ and decided that evolution makes the best sense as we attempt to answer numerous questions about origins.” – Those guys need to turn their telescopes into microscopes….but absolutely true, they do have a different conclusion, but why?

    Do they start with God’s word, or do they start with man’s ideas? Everyone has a bias (only some are willing to admit it), everyone has to make a starting point assumption a-priori concerning origins because we weren’t there.

    So it’s a question of presuppostions or starting points. It’s NOT a question of God vs Science as it’s usually framed. It’s a question of God vs No God presupposition.

    One will start with their bias then look at evidence and make interpretations about a rock for example. A rock doesn’t come with a tag on it that says 15 billion years old. A person has to make an assumption. One may say, “well what about radiometric dating methods?” While I don’t have time to go into it, understand there are massive assumptions that go into that as well. As an engineer myself you learn quickly about garbage in garbage out.

    So this ultimately ties into a question of authority, are you going to trust man’s opinion over God’s word? The two paradigms are very different. One starts with no God, the other, God. Evolution for the unbeliever is the answer to the question of why we’re here, what our purpose is etc.. it is a religion by definition. One need only look at history to understand that it was the No God presupposition that got the idea of goo-to-you going. It actually started with the stoic philophers…Darwin popularized it, Christians like Thomas Chalmers compromised it. So to combine the two together, God vs No God, goo-to-you vs creation, is like an attempt to combine oil and water. (See Col. 2:8)

    (As a side note, Augustine allegorized most of scripture, if you look at history you’ll see the overwhelming majority, and particularly those who interpret scripture using a literal, grammatical, historical approach, always come up with the earth being about 6000 years old.)

    As far as evolution is concerned, terms should be defined. Rachael mentioned micro and macro evolution. I don’t even like those terms because they can confuse the issue. When a person says “evolution” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? More than likely “change”. …and change over time…ah those magic words… Time and change.

    But you should ask yourself, what type of change is necessary to go from a single-cell to a horse? In order for that to occur, you must have a change in DNA. Not just a change but a massive increase in information that is stored in the base 4 coding sequence. DNA is the information storehouse, the blueprints for an animal or cell. (Lookup Dr. Werner Gitt’s work on information theory)

    A protozoa has a very different instruction manual than a horse. Protozoa DNA does not contain the information for eyes, ears, and hooves. Something must be added within the code. Mutation and speciation through natural selection, (two legs of the of the three legged “stool” of evolution), can only act upon the existing dna code, it cannot add new information which is needed to go from protozoa to pony. There is no natural phenomena, no known mutation, no known anything that can naturally add information to the genome. And this is what is required in order for particles to people evolution to occur.

    Point being, Darwin and those who espouse his religion, are looking at the outside appearances and finding similarities. It’s time to look beyond those deceiving appearances and look at what is really necessary for “change.”

    So it’s not a battle of science vs the Bible, it’s a battle of paradigms.

    I highly recommend the book called “Refuting Compromise” by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati and “The Great Turning Point” by Dr. Terry Mortensen… and visit http://www.answersingenesis.org or http://www.creation.com for further reading on these topics.

    Blessings

  • Alene

    If I were forced to characterize myself in a particular camp of being either Christian right or Christian left, I’d probably have to default to the left. That said, one of my quotes-that-have-become-mantras lately is this one: “Innovation is often the ability to reach into the past and bring back what is good, what is beautiful, what is useful, what is lasting” (Sister Parish). My overreaching concern is that like our culture that is much preoccupied with the notion that new is always better, I find that an emerging, emergent faith community can also be vulnerable to the caveats of such thinking.
    My brother is an organic chemist and a Christian, and has had thus far a highly esteemed career; he has recently worked directly with the “task force” President Obama has assigned to advancing science and research in our nation. Aaron has been surprised in several settings how many accomplished scientists have quietly revealed their Christian beliefs to him in side conversations, and how many of them confess to modifying at least some of their positions in professional settings to adhere to the status quo.
    I’m not building any theories from my brother’s experiences or his personal views, but I do pray that being individuals who are comfortable with established truths doesn’t become irreconcilable with the (necessary) curiosity required for discovery–and to discern accordingly. We engrave upon our life the truths from an old set of documents canonized as the Bible; I trust that we use that lens of recognition as we pursue “new” understanding.

  • Ryan

    I would like to echo fluger and Mark by saying I would love to hear more in your blogs/sermon series about how Original Sin fits in to the evolution story. How did we all end up so broken if not for that event?

  • Delong

    Hey you guys I hope I can post here. I am a Christian and I don’t think I believe in a literal 6 day creation account. I feel rather comfortable believing the evolutionary account life upheld by most scientists. I confess I have not done intensive research in it myself however, it at first glance seems much more credible to me. Also, when I look at humans and other animals I see so many similarities in our biology that it makes sense to me that we all originated from similar organisms. For me, Christianity speaks more to how humans are now rather than how they were way way back then. I tend to view Genesis 1-3 as creation narratives, archetypes, that are supposed to describe all human beings around the world. The question about original sin is an interesting one and I confess I don’t have a complete answer to it. As for death and suffering I tend to see it that death and suffering are simply a fact of life. Complex biological entities such as ourselves can’t sustain itself forever. Eventually too many things go wrong with replication or cellular structure and the body dies from the wear and tear. Complex bodies can’t maintain themselves forever. Death is just a inevitability from thermodynamics it seems like to me. So this death concept originating from sin is a bunch of baloney to me. Death existed a long time ago, since as early as life itself. Sin is also a fuzzy concept for me but more importantly I wonder why the Bible says death is a result of sin. Sin seems to be some moral failing while death is simply a biophysical inevitability. I think the connection between sin and death in the Bible is worth investigating but I don’t fully understand it’s mechanics right now.
    Also the concept of Original Sin, as if sin originated from some time and place, also seems bewildering to me. It seems much more likely that sin, whatever it is, seems to have existed from some primordial beginning and simply persists in all morally cognizant beings like humans. If sin is some moral failing, supposedly it would have existed at most as long as ago as morality itself which is present in many animals. So the idea that sin originated from some time and place out of the blue is just kind of baloney sounding to me. Yeah at a serious level I don’t think I can take the Genesis account literally at all and it makes much more sense to me as an archetypal account of the human condition that reflects human nature everywhere rather than some factual account of our primordial past.

  • Nate

    At risk of oversimplifying all of the details that are obviously present in our physical world and the scriptures, I once heard a sermon many years ago where the pastor put forth an interesting notion:

    What if God in fact created the world with a history?

    He was specifically referring to accounts of dinosaurs and what not, but that idea got me thinking.

    In John 2, Jesus performs his first recorded miracle, the changing of water into wine. The master of ceremonies made the comment about how wonderful the wine was. This was ‘created’ wine. Yet I bet what the master tasted and observed was something he was quite familiar with – specific tannins, rich color and taste of that of grapes having been grown in a specific part of the country, with a specific amount of precipitation, harvested at just the right time, and placed in ‘new’ wineskins ;-) until it was ready to be served.

    None of this in fact happened. It was water a few moments earlier. Magically (or should I say providentially), it was now wine, and not some amazing, never before tasted wine, but a wine WITH A HISTORY.

    I like to think of this too in the account of the feeding of the 5,000. Clearly the original loaves and fish ran out with the first family served. What was handed to the rest was not some fresh new ‘instant’ meal, but I imagine it tasted like bread made from grain grown in a field and prepared naturally in an oven, and the fish likewise tasted as ones that had lived and swam for several years in the local waters. These too were created with a history.

    So even though it raises as many questions as it answers, I wonder too – Could God have created the world in short order with it’s own history? – a history that we can see, feel and carbon date to a gazillion years old even though it was created in only six days?

    I also am interested in the handling of the sticky verse of Exodus 20:11 where the Sabbath is set aside as a holy day in its reference to the seventh day that God rested after the six days of creation. A direct reference that would seem to take a lot of delicate theological tip-toeing to get around. This should be an interesting series.

    Thanks for the thought provoking topics Richard, and for taking on subjects that stretch us to uncomfortable places sometimes.

  • Delong

    So if death pre-existed morality and supposedly sin then what makes original sin so damning as fluger was asking and why would the world need a savior? I think to answer this question we might need a better understanding of sin. As far as I understand it, sin is a moral failing where humans or other do not have faith, i.e. trust that God will provide for them and turn to their own way of acquiring things. It’s a very small mental condition that leads to eventually all sorts of debilitating behaviors and mindsets. Everything we do rests on some belief about the reality we live in. If at a deep level we believe that God will provide what we truly need than we are acting in faith and are “saved”. If, however, we do not believe God is giving or caring we “doubt” or “disbelieve” and so turn to our own ways and live in sin.
    This, according to the Bible, leads to “death”. However, I think the Bible is meaning this in a spiritual sense, not a metaphorical sense. Obviously people who do not have trust in God can be morally repulsive and we can say that are worthy of death. But, even if someone does have faith they still die, Everyone dies and has been dying for ages. I think what it means is that they become worthy of death in the eyes of God. It’s not meant to signify a physical causation. Even if we are saved spiritually that doesn’t mean that we don’t die and suffer physically. I believe Jesus said: “He who believes in me, though he dies, he will not die” in John. So original sin and death are meant to be spiritual messages and not scientific ones exactly. Hope that helps

  • http://godseagerbeaver.blogspot.com Rachel

    Yes, me too!!

  • Matthew

    I think worth thinking about in the question of death coming from original sin is the comment to Adam and Eve in the garden that if they eat the fruit then they will surely die. Since they did eat the fruit, did they die? Did it take them from some sort of immortality to a condition of mortality, or did some sort of “death” occur more immediately?

    I put in another vote to hear about the existence/cosmology of evil in the world, and perhaps a take on the traditional lucifer/fall/satan story. I would be interested to hear how you might think that does or does not tie in.

    Beautiful dialogue, by the way.

  • Joe

    Most of the issues raised here would be resolved if Christians could agree about hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible). Most Christians have a knee jerk reaction against the idea that Genesis 1-11 are not historical, but rather pre-historical and theological accounts of how things ALWAYS are, rather than how things were. For an absolutely mind blowing and illuminating study of Genesis, I’d recommend that everybody read Leon Kass’s book “The Beginning of Wisdom.” Even if you disagree with him, your understanding of Genesis will go from protozoa > complex organism.

  • Doug

    The strongest argument and most logical theory I’ve found is in John Sailhammer’s “Genesis Unbound” . He’s a Hebrew Scholar and believes Genesis must be understood in the context of Moses’ entire 5 books: The Theme is God establishing a Nation and a People. So, Gen. 1 is not about the creation of planet Earth, but about the preparing of the Land for habitation. Gen 1:1 is the only verse about God’s ex nihilo creation. God created the heavens and the earth….and it sat until he chose to prepare it for human occupation and provide a people/nation/land of Israel. So there’s a gap until Gen 1:2 which says “…The (land) was without form and void….And Gen 1 describes how God prepared the land for habitation and then for evenual occupation by His People. The Hebrew words allow this. By this, the ‘days’ or times or eras don’t have to be 24 hours. The Gap between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2 can be a very long time.
    This is faithful to the Ex Nihilo creation by the Creator and explains the oldness of the planet.
    This makes sense in that Moses was writing about God as the creator and provider of the land for Israel. He wasn’t writing about the How’s/Mechanics of Creation. Moses says simply, “God Created it…then he started to make it habitable..”
    I highly recommend the book…it is out of print so it may be hard to find.

  • Graeme

    A question to those who don’t believe in evolution or that there’s a place for it to mesh with religion. If fossils were found tomorrow that proved we are the decedents of apes, would you renounce your faith in Christ?

  • Delong

    I still think it is ridiculous to take Genesis literally sorry to say so.

  • Delong

    Thank you for recommending the book: Beginnings of Wisdom. I will go read for it myself thanks.

  • Delong

    oh sorry I did not mean to post my first comment. I do not know how to take it down.

  • Pastor Brian

    So much of life, faith, and the on-going debate over Creation vs Evolution becomes a series of subtle one liners which tend to belittle the point of view of the other person. Scripture tells us clearly that God’s ways are NOT our ways and His thoughts are NOT our thoughts. I believe it to be presumptuous by BOTH sides to speak with absolutes. What we know and see are in a sense hidden and some times it is because we fail to ask the right questions or are too afraid to look honestly beyond our personal biases. If Einstein’s theory of relativity can be brought into a discussion over whether there is something that travels faster than light, then I believe that God will reveal on a revelational perspective what we can fathom and understand.

  • Rob Hager

    Well, I guess that “overwhelming evidence” is on the side that you prefer to listen to!

    In case of this article, it seems to me it’s just harping off mainstream propaganda. Creationist bashing seems to be the in thing nowadays, but I wonder if anyone really looks at and listens to what they really have to SAY instead of just taking the word of the masses for granted and be happy to be off the hook of being taken for one of those dumb witted and backward minded YECs. When I actually read stuff on creation_dot_com (for example the good review on Collin’s book that Richard mentioned) I get scientific and FAIR articles on … well science. And faith.

    My personal faith was founded on revelation but as I get older (and questions progressively outnumber answers) I’m pretty “happy” that there is a REASONable answer to faith as well.

    To answer Graeme as someone who simply cannot believe in evolution … if God did use evolution to create earth he is neither omnipotent or omniscient. He’d be some kind of alien watching an experiment (of which the answer’d be 42!!! ;) ), leaving Jesus as just someone more elevated and a gloriously good teacher who just happened to not know when to stop with his ridiculous idea of saving mankind from the curse of original sin and getting crucified for it. TO ME(!) accepting evolution is just another way of getting rid of the cross.

  • Per

    Richard, This is exactly why I love you as a pastor. This is a CRAZY difficult subject to tackle in a church since there are so many who either whole defend both sides of the debate between science and theology. The “Language of God” is one of my favorites. The theory of evolution is just the tipping point of this debate. Being a man of faith who also trusts in the scientific method, this debate ripples through so many aspects other than just evolution. For instance, when does “life” begin? At conception or birth or in-between? A question central to the pro-life/pro-choice debate. In my 34 years of life, you are the first person “of the church” whom I’ve ever heard discuss this subject. I think there’s a fear or unease (as illustrated by some of the responses here) to reject the idea of theology or other scientific theory’s if our science teachers can’t answer ALL of our questions. I’d like to ask these same people, if they were honest with themselves and others, whether or not they have unanswered questions in their faith as well? As so many others have said it before, I find God more and more as I study science. However, I usually find more and more questions both in science and my faith along the way. Yet my faith in Christ and trust in the scientific method does not change.

  • http://www.welcometomarriedlife.com Krista

    I sincerely look forward to more of your thoughts on this subject! As a child I was raised hearing Dr. Chittick (of ICR) speak at my church, going to a camp that brought in speakers who said anyone who believed in evolution was simply worshiping their own god “Lord Time” and taking their own leap of faith, and basically just being taught (and pulled out of school by my parents) that evolution was completely and utterly made up by those who wanted an alternate explanation to creation so they didn’t have to believe in God.

    Then I went to a Christian college… and became a science major. And a guest speaker came one time who was a Christian and an evolutionist. I just about died and recanted my believe in this college (that I love dearly).

    I have since also married a scientist who went to that same college and had some time to process my thoughts. Of course I’m very sure that I don’t know everything about it nor do I think my thoughts might not change in the future.

    At this point (possibly because of my upbringing) I still have a VERY hard time thinking that the earth is billions of years old. And I find it frustrating when at the Dinosaur National Monument they don’t use BC as a date, but BCE (before common era) to take away any reference to Christ.

    As a scientist we see micro evolution all the time with the process of natural selection. I still have a hard time with macro evolution just “happening” though because unless this all happened before The Fall, things don’t mutate to better organisms. Ever. Basically I still don’t believe I evolved from a monkey (as that camp song I used to sing goes!).

    In the end I try to think about it the same way I do the trinity. It’s one of those mysteries that we most likely will never understand this side of heaven. That doesn’t mean we can’t look at it and try to explore it, but to come down on one side or the other so firmly that you start harassing those on the other side is just wrong. Especially when they are your fellow believers in Christ. (which is where I think ICR has really gone too far)

    As long as Christ is central and we’re not denying his existence… well, why couldn’t he have created the world any way he wanted to? :)

  • Delong

    Why should we insist that the dinosaur national monument use BC instead of BCE? Do we have to shove our religion into every aspect of secular society? Of course not! If you guys are serious about understanding reality you need to realize that most people think creationism is a laughing stock right now. Whether you find it hard to “believe” or not most of the evidence suggests that we share a common ancestry with apes. It’s all from the same methods we use to study DNA and tylenol. Do you find it hard to believe that cells use transcription to make RNA? the same methods that find that information out is the same that studies evolution. I seriously suggest not letting religion jar your ability to understand reality in a scientific way. I think it’s important to realize that just because it says something in the Bible doesn’t mean it literally means that way in physical reality. If you guys repeat some of the stuff you are saying on here to atheistic skeptics they will likely tear you apart with arguments. If you are serious about promoting this religion more to others I seriously suggest giving more attention to the facts. Please and thank you.

  • Lamont

    Delong says:
    “I seriously suggest not letting religion jar your ability to understand reality in a scientific way.”

    I seriously suggest not letting science jar your ability to understand reality in a Christian way!
    I’d like to hear you explain reality apart from the Christian worldview?

    “I think it’s important to realize that just because it says something in the Bible doesn’t mean it literally means that way in physical reality.”

    I think it’s important to realize that just because it says something in the science books doesn’t mean it literally means that way in physical reality.

    “If you guys repeat some of the stuff you are saying on here to atheistic skeptics they will likely tear you apart with arguments.”

    Next time you talk to some “atheistic skeptics,” ask them how they derive universal, immaterial, and absolute abstract entities such as, reason, logic, epistemology, the uniformity of nature, morality, etc… from matter, motion, time and chance?
    What scientific experiment did they perform, that tells them that the use of reason and logic is how you determine scientific experiments?
    I will wait for the answer (sound of jeopardy theme song playing in background).

    “If you are serious about promoting this religion more to others I seriously suggest giving more attention to the facts.”

    Apart from a Christian worldview, you can’t account for “the facts?”

    Soli Dei Gloria
    Lamont.

  • Renee

    Pastor Richard,

    I’m impressed that you’re willing to break ground on this. The catholic church did so years ago. Why are protestants dragging their heels?

    I believe this is a bibliological challenge more than anything. Wow!! The bible is a COMPLEX book!!! And it just got WAY more complex!! We should celebrate. Complexity does not make it false.

    This aerospace grad student is here to say that the academic community (in my experience) is NOT anti-Christian, though some professors are. Some of the coolest Christians I’ve met have been scientists at prestigious universities studying evolution. All truth is God’s truth!!

    My prayers are with you.

    Renee

  • Delong

    @Lamont

    Ok

  • http://stillbehindtheveil.wordpress.com Sean

    Richard,

    I dig your blog. More importantly, I constantly come away feeling as though God is receiving some much deserved glory through your posts and the conversations they start. This post on science is no exception.

    I’d like to add a couple of things, if that’s alright.

    When we talk about evidence, we must indeed be cautious with any aspect of science. Much of the scientific theory that currently supports evolution is based on the constant speed of light, but what if it’s not in reality constant? We’ve only been observing it for, what, 80 years or so? The stuff going on at CERN (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/110923-neutrinos-speed-of-light-particles-cern-physics-einstein-science/) certainly suggests that we may not know as much as we think we do. And I’m sure you’re familiar with Barry Setterfield. While he may be a bit odd, and his science not 100% sound, perhaps he’s on to something?

    On a final note, I always like to go back to this thought: “Science…means unresting endeavor and continually progressing development toward an aim which the poetic intuition may apprehend, but the intellect can never fully grasp.” If we venture away from this in our scientific endeavors, we come too close to the abyss of extremism (whether you lean one way or another).

    Thanks again for getting people thinking, digging, and conversing.

  • Vicki

    A couple of clarifications—

    On terminology (applied to gravity and evolution):
    The fact of gravity is what we observe every day. Things fall. The moon revolves the earth. The fact of evolution is that life forms change over time. An associated fact is that there is a lot of bio diversity and different geological regions are home to different species.

    The law of gravity is F=gmm/r2. Laws are expressions of empirically observed relationships and generally mathematical. I’m not an evolutionary scientists so I won’t swear to this, but I am not aware of a law of evolution and I can’t really imagine what it would address. The only time I have heard the phrase used is when a scientists is deliberately taking liberties with proper terminology in order to side step the ever annoying “it’s only a theory” argument.

    The theory of gravity is an explanation of how the law of gravity works. There is actually a lot of dispute on that point which is why some arguing with “it’s only a theory” will claim that there is more evidence supporting the theory of evolution than there is for the theory of gravity. The theory of evolution explains how species could evolve through natural selection. A theory is basically a hypothesis that has been repeatedly tested and not disproven to the point that it becomes widely accepted. And yes, there is a mountain is evidence supporting the theory of evolution.

    Regarding point #3: evolution was observed and hypothesized as the origin of biological diversity as early as the ancient greeks. Darwin gave us a testable hypothesis that became the Theory of Evolution.

    Richard,

    I’m sure you have better scientists than I whom you can call upon. But, if you’d like help double checking facts or making sure your scientific phrasing is correct – I’d be happy to drop by for a chat.

  • Vicki

    One idea on the Evolution / Creation debate that I’ve come across that is it is somehow disrespectful to God to suppose that he had to take millions of years to create us. The idea is that it suggests he isn’t really all powerful. If he wanted to make us – why not just make us?

    There is a good point here in that we have been around for such a small, small portion of the time life has been around, not to mention that the universe has existed. Most of the time life was on earth – there were just a bunch of bacteria. It is a very odd way for God to go about making us. And then consider the vastness of space. What was the point of the whole rest of the universe? There are stars who’s light we will never see. Did he really have to make such a big bang just to get our little corner of the Milky Way? To me though – I see no reason to draw the conclusion that God is somehow limited. I draw the conclusion that we might not be quite the pinnacle of creation that we seem to think we are. I know. Such heresy. The sun might not revolve around us either.

    Seriously though, I would argue that this idea of God directing everything is what is actually disrespectful. Think about how easily you get bored. I don’t play games that are too easy. What’s the point? I remember on npr one time a woman was talking about setting up this “perfect” sim city. It was so boring she set up a whorehouse in the middle of a suburb. For a being with perfect knowledge, orchestrating evolution would be so easy he would have to be bored to tears. How much more interesting to watch natural selection unfold on its own with all its random mutations and free will. Speaking of free will – as we understand evolution – a divinely guided evolution would mean God has been orchestrating every predator kill, every sex act. It isn’t enough to just interfere once in a while. The changes in genetics are so small. It takes a lot of killing and a lot of sex to add up to changes that are noteworthy.

    Now think about how you feel as a parent (or how you think you would feel if you were a parent). You make your kids in a way, but you don’t pick out the exact genes. You can’t – but regardless – would you really want to? Isn’t the joy in watching this surprising person become who they are in front of you. And, how many unplanned pregnancies have resulted in extraordinarily loved children? How much more must an all loving God love these little beings he watches going to an fro on the earth?

    Do we really need to be the whole point of this whole vast universe? Can’t we just be something that happened when some primates found themselves in a semiaquatic environment? I don’t see why that would be mean we have to conclude that God doesn’t now care about us. Why can’t we just feel lucky to be “sitting up mud” and not try to make everything be about us?

    My basic point is – don’t disregard evolution because you think it is disrespectful to God. It isn’t. It is disrespectful to you. – and amazing and awe inspiring.

  • Seth

    Thanks for writing on this :) I know I am late to the comments, but this has been a topic I have been interested in for a long time.

    It’s unfortunate that so many often believe that the Bible and science cannot go hand in hand. That is, you must choose one or the other. As a lay student of the Word, and biochemistry student in college, I have always been amazed to see how well the two can co-exist and even be intertwined. How come the study of biology is so uniquely and accurately defined by the laws of physics while at the same time being further explained by the language of mathematics? They all fit and work so well together and maintain such similarities as if composed by the same Author.

    I can remember saying “Wow” out loud in classes and labs when trying to study the inner workings of the incredibly small and minute. In these moments of observing the incredibly small, I came to better understand how big and vast our God really is.

    I have always wondered what it must have been like for the writer of Genesis to see how the creation story unfolded and give account for it. Was Moses (as most have held him to be the author of Genesis) simply writing down God’s description of how the Earth and Universe began? Was he receiving a vision from God, a snapshot view into how creation came to be? It must have been a rather wild experience for him to write about something he was not there for.

    It is also interesting that Moses gave account for creation in this order:
    • “Separated the Light from Dark and called it Day and Night” [Gen. 1:4-5]
    • “Expanse between the waters, calling it sky” [Gen. 1:6-8]
    • “Dry ground called land, and gathered waters called seas” [Gen.1:10]
    • “Vegetation, plants, and trees” [Gen. 1:11]
    • “Water teeming with living creatures and birds flying in the sky” [Gen. 1:20]
    • “Land producing living creatures” [Gen. 1:24]
    • “God creating man in our his own image” [Gen. 1:27]

    I am intrigued with how similar this sounds to the story of the Universe unfolding translated by science (or at least my non-expert view of it).
    • Celestial bodies being formed that produce light, as well as the gaps and spaces between then being dark.
    • The Earth being covered in water and developing an atmosphere.
    • Land and oceans appearing.
    • Vegetation coming into existence first before animals
    • Organisms of the ocean appearing first, followed by birds.
    • Land creatures coming to be.
    • And finally, you and I.

    Although there might be differences depending on whom you talk to, it’s fun to notice the similarities between the two accounts. And did Moses use “days” as reference to split up what he saw happening in a vision from God? Or did he mean “days” literally. Whether you believe the figurative or the literal, to me, the creation story is still amazing and incredible either way. I look forward to the series on Genesis this coming November. Thanks again for sharing!

  • http://www.historicalgenesis.com Dick Fischer

    You are absolutely correct that Genesis as human history makes no sense, but as Semitic history it makes a lot of sense. Check out my web site and shoot me an email.


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