Genesis, Evolution the Sistine Chapel


White Dwarf Lost in Planetary Nebula

“There are two forms of excess; to exclude reason and to admit nothing but reason.”
– Blaise Pascal

“I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “Plans of fullness, not of harm. To give you a future, and a hope.”
– Jeremiah 29:11

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
– Matthew 6:34

A couple of years ago, in pondering the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I wrote:

If one goes back to the first lines of Genesis and to the first lines of John’s Gospel we see the same images – emptiness, a Word, movement. It is natural to think that Christ’s birth is a reflection of the whole “big bang” of Creation; the first one made the world and everything in it, the second returned it to its origins, wedded in covenant. (I am one of those Christians completely comfortable with the idea that the Creation story in Genesis is simply another way of explaining our connections to stardust).


The ultra-simplistic secular conventional wisdom
-built by straw-men-loving politicians and those helpers in the press who have no difficulty distorting positions in order to sustain a narrative-is that Christians hate science.”

This is untrue, of course. That bigoted meme is simply a handy stick meant to cower into silence those who would question an ideological crisis de jour/cause célèbre. I wonder how many people who accept the narrative realize that the inventor of the microscope was a Dutch Reformed Christian?

The Creationism/Intelligent Design vs Evolutionism debate-often reduced to a few snorting soundbites caricaturing “the other side’s” position (whatever side or position that may be)-is a politicized mess, but despite a few stone-skips in the water of history (and a general mutual wariness that has to do with what might be called “issues of eminent domain”) science and faith have managed to co-exist and even co-operate, because they are both in the business of mystery and wonder. And, as we hear from St. Gregory of Nyssa, “…only wonder leads to knowing.”

When scientists and the religiously-inclined are seriously committed
to serving wonder in good faith, there is often tremendous synergy; it has not been unusual for scientists and mathematicians to hold deep religious beliefs. Gregor Mendel, the so-called “Father of Genetic Sciences” was an Augustinian monk. Georges Lemaître, another priest, applied Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to Cosmology. Theodosius Dobzhansky (evolutionary synthesis) was a Russian Orthodox communicant. Blaise Pascal was a physicist whose religious writings never fail to stir (and are put to very good use in Piers Paul Read’s terrific book of essays, Hell; and Other Destinations). Francis S. Collins, recently selected by President Barack Obama to head the National Institute of Health is one modern scientist whose work slowly brought him to faith, and there are many others who have found (from Deism to full-on doctrinal observance) through the strict confines their scientific method.

The engagement between science and faith may be analogous to Greco-Roman wrestling; two very strong entities grapple, resist, hold, and release but remain mostly bound in an intricate dance that is both unsettling and beautiful. Similarly matched in strength, both straddling the same foundation of awestruck inquiry, the “victor” in one match can easily be the vanquished in the next.

All of this makes Andrew Parker’s The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible Is Scientifically Accurate, of keen interest to those following the debate on our beginnings. A synopsis from a piece in The UK Daily Mail sounds enticing:

The revalation [sic] came to Professor Andrew Parker during a visit to Rome. He was in the Sistine Chapel, gazing up at Michelangelo’s awesome ceiling paintings, when a realization struck him with dizzying force.

‘A Biblical enigma exists that is on the one hand so cryptic it has remained camouflaged for millennia, and on the other so obvious one cannot miss it.’

The enigma is that the order of Creation as described in the Book of Genesis, and so powerfully depicted in the Sistine Chapel by the greatest artist of the Renaissance, has been precisely, eerily confirmed by modern evolutionary science.

Parker’s thinking is fascinating as it breaks new ground:

On the fourth day, Genesis famously becomes confusing. On the first day, remember, God has already created light, and made Day and Night. But it isn’t until day four that he makes the lights in heaven, the greater light to rule the day and the lesser the night.

Hang on – so he made ‘Day’ three days before he made the Sun? … Yet the writers of Genesis were just as well aware as us, surely, that the sunrise causes the day. You don’t need a degree in astronomy to work that one out. What on earth did they mean?

Here, The Genesis Enigma comes up with a stunningly ingenious answer. For Parker argues that day four refers to the evolution of vision. Until the first creatures on earth evolved eyes, in a sense, the sun and moon didn’t exist. There was no creature on earth to see them, nor the light they cast.

When Genesis says: ‘Let there be lights… To divide the day from the night,’ it is talking about eyes. ‘The very first eye on earth effectively turned on the lights for animal behaviour,’ writes Professor Parker, ‘and consequently for further rapid evolution.’

Emphasis mine. Intriguing, no?

Created creatures continually evolve; from conception to death, life is an evolutionary proposition which argues for itself with every new insight, and that makes a grave case against unnatural endings, for as each age perceives scientific advances as happening with alacrity, our understanding unfolds slowly, imperceptibly, amid living, progressing humanity.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is many things to many people – a study project to an atheist student, a dream (or nightmare) assignment to a photographer, an illustrated Bible to the believer. It is also a kind of evolutionary marker in the Grand Quest, as depicted in the reach between Creator and Creature-the chasm of knowledge and wisdom between them-and in the mysterious vibration of predestiny that moves in sync with our every discovery and prayer.

“Let there be light.” Then there is fire. Then there is the wheel. Then there is a canoe, then there is a coach. Then their are great buildings, monuments and designs as humanity dreams and tinkers. Leonardo studies birds and flight, fish and underwater travel; Benjamin Franklin creates primitive flippers and flies kites in the rain, and before and after them humans direct the Divine Spark within toward things as mundane as wire hangers and as fantastic as a laser. In failure or success, they evolve; enigmata unfold before them, and with them, toward…what, exactly?

From the mind of Michelangelo comes staggering vision applied one paint stroke at a time, and as he dabs at the stone, even he cannot dream that 600 years later, in a world where mankind considers walking on the moon to be “old stuff,” a scientist will ponder this work and discover within it another clue – another way of applying all we do know to that which we do not understand – thus angling Adam’s outstretched, tentative hand just the tiniest bit nearer to God’s.

“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.” Millennia later, there was a train, then a car, then a plane. Then there was a spacecraft landing on a distant moon where, unbeknownst to billions, an astronaut -launched into space on a giant fireball of science- “…gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility,” using the primitive and eternal elements of Holy Communion.

The outreach continues, and so does the unfathomable evolutionary journey of matter, mind and Maker. The psalmist tells us “our span is seventy years, eighty for the strong… no more than a watch in the night,” in the sight of God. And each life, concentrating on what it sees and what it knows (and what it suspects) cannot begin to imagine how the goods and evils brought forth in day may further God’s purpose. Each step forward or backward on the trail of human wisdom is sufficient unto its time; we are on an evolutionary crawl to the next era and the next revelation-and then the next-in accordance with a plan.

What an invitation to Trust. And with that trust, what could Christians possibly fear from science?

Related: Stargazing with Merton and Rambling Along
Annie Gottlieb is in love with Hubbel, and also muses on the split between religion and science. Great posts.

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  • http://newine.wordpress.com ultraguy

    Brilliantly researched. Love it.

    Your Greco-Roman analogy is apt in that (pardon the other possible allusions) someone has to be on top.

    Science as it used to be practiced relied on, 1) an expectation of pre-existing order to be discovered (an inherently God-referencing concept), 2) trust in our reasoning ability (which should really be point ’1a’ because our minds are just another kind of created order), and 3) the humility, when conflicts surfaced between faith and science, to recognize that asserting the wrongness of faith was to put one’s exclusive faith in oneself.

    Problem is, that third precept obviates the major premise behind the first and second (a creator), rendering the entire exercise moot.

    The amazing thing is not that science and faith are in conflict, but that the kind of scientists operating on the upper floors of that tower of flawed logic haven’t realized (many of them) that they blew their own foundation to bits long ago.

  • Chuck Markiewicz

    I enjoyed your article, although I don’t agree with your premise (that God used evolution and death for millions of years to produce man). I too am very comfortable with science; I love technology and discovery. I also love God’s creation and embrace that we are to be stewards of it. I believe that we are also stewards of and responsible for the knowledge and revelation that God gives to us.
    But I have to ask you, how big is your God? He can create the heavens and the earth, but it takes him millions of years to create an eye? My Bible tells me that He planned me before creation. So why would He need millions of years and trillions of creatures to die before He could get around to man? My God is big enough to create the universe in 5 days (24 hour days), just like He said. Why isn’t yours?

    [My God is so huge he can take bread and wine and turn it into his own sacred Body and Blood, and feed me with it, just as he said. Why isn't yours? - admin]

  • newton

    Dear Anchoress,

    This little video that you once showed us last Christmas puts everything that you spoke of here in a neat nutshell.

    I kept a bookmark of it, that much impact it had on me.

    [Which little video, Newt? -admin]

  • http://blogsofasoul.blogspot.com Nick

    Genesis is not scientific, nor should it be read scientifically. It is to be read only literally and spiritually, which are the two interpretations of the Scriptures, just as there are two Natures in Christ and just as the Church is Visible and Invisible and just as Christ and His Church are One.

    Literally, God brings out of nothing creation, and He creates all good things;
    Morally, God instructs us to respect His creatures and creations;
    Typologically, God points to Jesus and Mary, the New Adam and New Eve;
    Analogically, God points to the New Heaven and the New Earth.

    Interpretation of the Bible in the Church

    [Edited to admit link - admin]

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  • Donna

    “Dear Anchoress,
    This little video that you once showed us last Christmas puts everything that you spoke of here in a neat nutshell. I kept a bookmark of it, that much impact it had on me.”

    Is this video still available for those of us who missed it? I checked last December and the video there had been removed by user.

  • Brad

    Newton – your link to the “little video” takes one to this website.

  • cathyf

    Another amusing factoid for you… The pope who silenced Galileo was also the pope who turned Castelgandalfo into the papal retreat (built the buildings, etc.) He loved the surroundings and the architecture. Castelgandalfo, of course, later became the site of the Vatican Observatory. The astronomers of the VO (who are mostly Jesuits) have been known to smirk, “you know, in the end we astronomers won — we got his house!”

  • Joseph Marshall

    I don’t think personally sensible scientists think that Christianity is hostile to Science, but I think it unquestionable that certain Christians are–and have been hostile to it for a long time–generally those who attempt to draw religious conclusions that either contradict or go beyond empirical evidence.

    an expectation of pre-existing order to be discovered (an inherently God-referencing concept)

    This is just the problem. It does not seem to me– and I think it likely that it does not seem to most scientists–that “pre-existing order”=God in the least.

    The scientist only goes so far as the empirical evidence will take him, and the empirical evidence on its own simply does not take anyone that far. Order=God is an a priori assertion imposed on experience, not a valid conclusion that can be drawn from it. It might be true, but it certainly is not true by necessity.

    Now the scientist knows just as well as anyone else that empirical evidence is always incomplete. That’s the point. Science is about explaining the order behind experience. But science also cleaves to the logical principle of Occam’s Razor, that the simplest explanation consistent with the evidence should always be chosen.

    Neither the existence nor the non-existence of God is needed to give the simplest explanation that is consistent with the empirical evidence. So as a scientist one must say that either assertion may be true, but neither must be true.

    Now even scientists are more than scientists. We are all philosophers–though some of us are better at it than others.

    The habitual, though hazy and largely unexamined, philosophy behind the views of almost all ordinary secular people is that of Logical Positivism and not “science”. This is inherently hostile to religion of any kind because it argues that the non-existence of God is, in fact, necessary to explain the empirical evidence.

    Why? Generally based on the notion that all truth is necessary truth, therefore a perfect Science would reveal all the truth that exists and if God is not necessary to explain the empirical evidence then God must not exist. The fact that this is not immediately obvious is simply due to the circumstance that we are nowhere near having a perfect Science.

    This is an equally a priori imposition on the empirical evidence. Experience alone does not tell us whether “necessary truths” exist or not.

    And, in fact, my Buddhist teachers take the view that the whole notion of “necessary truth” will not withstand systematic intellectual criticism. In their view all truths are conditional. This is known as “interdependent origination”, and is perhaps best explained by the old song Love and Marriage which “go together like a horse and carriage”.

    Everything goes together with everything else like a horse and carriage. You can’t have one without the other. This view stands between the extremes of Order = God and evidence + necessary truth = no God.

    That’s why it’s called the Middle Way.

  • dry valleys

    You could say that an atheist is exalting himself over others, & considers the wisdom of earlier ages to be rubbish & the sages of old to be hopelessly deluded. I, indeed, could hardly claim to have deeper insights than the people you cite.

    But believers would seem to do a similar thing. By holding that Jesus is the son of God, you are expressing the view that all the learning of ancient Greece & Rome was based on a false premise.

    Those who accept the premises of the Reformation reject the majority of professed Christians between about 500 & the 15th century.

    Were I to accept the assertions made in “Intelligent Design”, I’d still be in the dark as to the attributes of this designer. Why would it be the God of Abraham, as opposed to any other that has been worshipped in history?

    What I think is that, while faith can indeed inspire good deeds, we can embrace some aspects of a person’s life & not others. I benefit from Isaac Newton’s work without sharing his views on alchemy. I want my buildings designed by an engineer who takes Pythagoras’ Theorem seriously & acts on it, not one who takes his views on transmigration of souls seriously & acts on it.

    Besides which, if these people were around now, they may well have become atheists- there is also doubt as to whether some of those who professed faith (such as Kant) were actually believers or just going along with the mores of the age.

    It is for this reason that I have little regard for the argument from authority as articulated by Larison & them.

    On misrepresentation, I am always holding my head in my hands about how the “new atheists” are reported in the media. (I think mainly for easy consumption). My favourite blog has references to one especially outrageous case. Even though this media report was shown to be false, it was still pounced on by those saying “Oho, typical Richard Dawkins, etc etc!” even though he hadn’t even done what was attributed to him.

    Funny coming from attack blogs like Pharyngula to here, but still.

    I bear in mind Douglas Adams: “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

    [I'm a live and let live kind of girl, and have no problem with atheists as long as they don't evangelize to me any more than I evangelize to them - which I basically don't. There is a strain of "evangelical atheism" alive that is all about trying to convince others that they are wrong, foolish, wicked, etc, and must be "saved" by dint of "reason." To my mind, they're the equal of the evangelist who stands on the streetcorner telling everyone they're going to hell unless they're "saved" by that preacher's prescribed method. Of course, they're yelling, "get smart" instead of "get saved" but it's just as hateful, insulting and ultimately self-defeating. My experience with faith is that it's a struggle, a gift and a choice, and so I never try to explain it to non-believers. Unless one actually has the experience of the desert, and has tasted the milk and honey, I don't think it's possible for them to understand, anyway. Faith, despite the churches, despite the appearance of throngs, is at its foundation, a personal revelation and understanding. -admin]

  • Peregrinus

    Faith and reason are, as the Church has always taught, compatible and, indeed, complimentary. It is certainly commendable, therefore, to show that complimentarity by resolving apparent conflicts. One must be careful, however, not to call into question the truth of Sacred Scripture by trying to interpret passage of the Bible so that they are compatible with unproved scientific theories. The truth of Scripture could be questioned, if those theories are later found to be false. Theories of evolution are unproved and, in some cases, false. Parker’s project, therefore, is potentially damaging to Scripture and the Faith, notwithstanding its good intentions and cleverness.

  • Joseph Bottum

    Perhaps the question isn’t so much what Christians have to fear from science, as what science has to fear from Christians. Let final causation—the idea of purpose—slip back in, and the question of wisdom again trumps the knowledge of the high priests of science.

    A great post you’ve put up here.

    Jody

  • newton

    OK, Anchoress, I’m giving you the link again, since I think it didn’t appear the last time.

    Tell me again if it didn’t work this time.

  • dry valleys

    Perhaps it reflects my own atheism, but I just think they are strident rather than aggressive & hectoring.

    Ideas have consequences, we all know that. If people think ideas are badly wrong, they will feel obliged to speak out against them because they fear the consequences. To my mind that is all the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens (another one I admire) & them are doing. A lot of the reputation for aggression & arrogance what I’d call unfair- but maybe that’s just me.

    I really like books like The Ancestor’s Tale by Dawkins- prefer it to the God Delusion in fact.

    It may interest you, also, to note that Christopher Hitchens has a paleoconservative brother who hangs round with Patrick Buchanan & them- here

  • B. Durbin

    “My God is big enough to create the universe in 5 days (24 hour days), just like He said. Why isn’t yours?”

    Maybe it’s my engineering upbringing, but I’ve always found the idea of getting exactly what you want just from making the bare beginnings of life and letting it run to be rather impressive.

    (Not to mention that it is entirely possible that Creation took both billions of years and five days, but that’s getting into serious metaphysics and philosophy, well beyond the scope of a mere blog comment.)

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  • SBark

    Chuck,

    Who is limiting what God can do? My God is big enough that he could create the universe in an instant, in 24 hours, or over billions of years. The evidence we currently have suggests that he chose to create of a long period of time.

    I would also point out that St. Augustine argued completely from the language in Genesis that it is wrong to interpret the seven days of creation as seven 24 hour periods. You can certainly believe in a seven day creation and still be in coformance with Church doctrine. However, Church doctrine doesn’t require a rejection of creation over billions of years.

  • NanB

    I think all of us are in wonder of the creation
    of man. We are a unique creation here on earth; a combination of body (animal) and spirit (soul). For me, it is easy to believe that God exists. I cannot believe that the natural world with all its beauties and complexities would happen by a series of random accidents. I see that man does not fit as well in his surroundings as the animals do. Animals can live in the environment that they were given whereas we have had to change our environment in order to survive. We have no claws, sharp teeth, or fur; just intelligence….

  • Susan Lee

    “When Genesis says: ‘Let there be lights… To divide the day from the night,’ it is talking about eyes.”

    Cool idea!! I hadn’t thought of that..

    I imagine “the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters” as the point of view for Genesis 1, and the atmosphere full of water- more water (miles into the atmosphere of fog/clouds/rain) than you could imagine- eventually, the clouds coalesce into rain which falls upon the earth, creating seas, lakes, rivers…and “blue sky” (as we know it) appears…
    ;-) )))) Susan Lee

  • http://jscafenette.com Jeanette

    Chuck Markiewicz asks: “how big is your God? He’s big enough to rule the giant universe, yet small enough to live within my heart.

    The Bible tells us time is nothing to God, so when He created day and night it could have been several thousands or millions of years before His next creation, with Man being His last.

    We know history starts about six thousand years ago, but we also know through evidence from science that creatures existed on earth millions of years ago.

    Genesis does not tell us God created everything in six consecutive days.

    I don’t know how He did it or in what human time span; I just know He did it.

    I do not believe we evolved from Cromagnun man to what we are today. I believe God created Adam from dust as Genesis says and He breathed the breath of life into him.

    The rest is a mystery to me, but I’m sure he’ll answer me in about 8 or 18 years. I’m almost 62. ;)

  • http://ejhill1925.wordpress.com/ EJ Hill

    Can I believe in God and still believe Richard Dawkins is a TOTAL accident?

  • G. Frederick

    Actually God did tell us how long it took, by using the phrase “evening and morning the first day”, etc. and then later in Exodus and also another place in the NT telling us that the week of 7 days comes from the account of creation in Genesis. Also, as alluded to by someone else, don’t forget that macro evolution REQUIRES death, whereas God said in Genesis that death came because of man who was already created and that all creatures come from other creatures of their kind. macro evolution requires changes that add up or whatever to a new creature. if death is a means or THE means of new creatures then the reason for the death of Christ becomes virtually meaningless, because He wouldn’t have had to die if death was a natural means of getting better. speaking of which, at the end of creation God said that it was very good. is death ever considered by God or even man to be very good. if the creation was very good, but that included death as the means of bringing about new creatures, then God was pronouncing death as being very good and the death of millions of creatures (including man if you hold to the idea of evolution of man from goo to you) as also being very good. we can’t be so willing to let atheism interpret the living Word in order to make it fit with its ideology. in politics that is like letting activists on the bench interpret the constitution to fit with their ideology. Anchoress, I don’t think you would like that very much either and I very much don’t like the false interpretation of Scripture to “fit” with macro evolution.

    [It seems to me that throughout scripture we see things ending, or turning in unusual ways that are full of irony, and yes evolved perception. But I do not know the mind of God. All I can do is adore, contemplate and ponder, which he created me to do, in all my faults, mistakes and deficiencies - admin]

  • G. Frederick

    but the problem with accepting the idea of the light being the evolution of eyes really does contradict the revealed Word of God which says that each creature comes from its own kind this would mean that God created creatures without eyes and yet the creatures that came from their own kind had eyes. how is that compatible? Besides what about the possibility that God himself is the light source. more likely fits with Scripture interpretation than that it was the evolution of eyes.

    [It's entirely possible that God IS the light source. It's also possible that the ability to see, and to differentiate day from night is God-ordered in ways we don't understand. We're discussing (and this Scientist is discussing) a theory, here. That's all. Why is it wrong to marvel at all the possibilities of things we do not understand? Why does that seem to threaten some? I've never understood it. This theory is simply a fascinating one that is fun to ponder but impacts my faith not at all, in the grand scheme of things. I still know what I know. Whether God said, "now open your eyes" or flipped a switch doesn't matter to me. It actually does not concern me at all - it's God's business. But is it not wonderful to wonder? admin]

  • http://recoverymh.blogspot.com/ Joseph Marshall

    Well who’d have thunk it! The Anchoress is a live and let live sort of girl! We’ll have to raise our glasses to dry valleys for worming the Big Secret out of her.

    By holding that Jesus is the son of God, you are expressing the view that all the learning of ancient Greece & Rome was based on a false premise.

    I hate to say this, dry valleys, but a statement like this makes you look like the stereotypical atheist who rejects Christianity without understanding in the least what he is rejecting.

    First of all, most of the “learning of Greece and Rome”, such as mathematics, had almost nothing whatever do with pagan polytheism. It began from exactly the same confrontation with ordinary experience that could have developed in any religious culture.

    The literature of Greece and Rome is another matter entirely. But even there, it’s origins in Homer are not very different from similar Bronze Age epics in places as far apart as India and Ireland.

    What is unique is how this literature, particularly in the form of Theater, developed the question of whether or not the world is “moral”.

    You find this Greek component everywhere in the New Testament outside of the Gospels and, particularly in the case of the Gospel of St. John, a great deal of it inside the Gospels, too.

    The New Testament is permeated through and through with Greek ideas as well as Hebrew doctrine.

    Those who accept the premises of the Reformation reject the majority of professed Christians between about 500 & the 15th century.

    Schism has been part of the Christian world from the very beginning, due in part, I think, to the centuries of persecution starting from the Crucifixion itself. It was not an ideal environment for keeping all Christians on the same page.

    The Reformation, however, was largely about Church authority and only about doctrinal differences in rather minor ways. Further schisms among Protestants have enlarged these doctrinal gaps but these are not really part of the Reformation itself.

    You are, I believe, British. If you were to read the doctrines that the Archbishop of Canterbury assents to and then the ones that the Pope assents to you are likely to be astonished by how similar they still are.

    But, being British, you shouldn’t be.

    You also should know more about the fairies than you apparently do, given how much your own literary traditions, beyond Victorian fluff, would tell you about them if you read them. You don’t “believe” in the

    [Come now, Joseph, you have always known that I was a "live and let live" sort, which is why you were always on my blogroll! :-) -admin]

  • NewEnglandDevil

    @B. Durbin:
    Gerald Schroeder, an MIT trained physicist and old testament scholar makes exactly that argument (that the Genesis account of creation happens in 7 days from God’s time perspective, while taking billions of years in Earth’s perspective) in his book, The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom.

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

    God might choose to take millions of years to create man, or he might create man in an instant; what is either to God? Certainly you were planned before creation. Why does it matter if that creation took a week as you currently perceive it, or if it took much longer as you perceive it? Your perspective is not God’s.

  • http://recoverymh.blogspot.com/ Joseph Marshall

    [My apologies. I bumped the gosh darned submit button--just the sort of trick that the fairies play on you.]

    ….fairies, you encounter them, and when you do, you are lucky if all that happens is that you are knocked on your bum. Much worse things can happen.

  • http://recoverymh.blogspot.com/ Joseph Marshall

    I must also remark that the creation story is by far the least interesting part of Genesis to me, and whether or not it echos astronomical physics, really has very little impact either on science or religion as far as I can see.

    Jeanette zeros right in on the interesting part, the Garden of Eden story.

    It’s not that widely talked about, but in the ambiguous area that was probably the original home of Abraham, there actually is a high mountain valley which four different rivers flow out of in different directions. And one of them is the Euphrates. It currently is the location of the Iranian city of Tabriz.

    Makes you think, doesn’t it?

    [I concur Joseph, on both points. And I posted links to that archeological site you reference. And then there is this. -admin]

  • G. Frederick

    the problem with so much of the ideas of evolution and creation being compatible is the total rejection of the world-wide flood of Noah’s time. even by those who believe the Word to be true, they reject the possibility of a flood even though that is the most likely cause of the evidence used for evolution the fossil record.

  • G. Frederick

    “Why is it wrong to marvel at all the possibilities of things we do not understand? ” who said it was wrong? the ones who spend so much time claiming that someone is wrong to ponder or whatever generally are those who have “skin in the game” that would be the ones who depend on grants and the like to survive and those like Eugenie Scott who is SO adamant that the only thing that can be taught or even discussed is what is right about evolution, no dissenting voices are allowed. not even any discussion about the problems with evolution theory which is all it is. Think Al Gore here who claims even against evidence and dissenters that the science is settled and the debate is over. when of course it is not.

  • mark hobart

    “Parker argues that day four refers to the evolution of vision. Until the first creatures on earth evolved eyes, in a sense, the sun and moon didn’t exist.”

    Well, the atheistic evolutionists must be “snorting” at this and I will gladly join them as it is pathetic. It is yet another twisting of the scripture to incorporate evolutionary beliefs. Why does scipture have to fit the current scientific model when these models change all the time? Why do so many Christians not question the scientific model when it does not fit scripture but rather question scripture?

    There is no evidence for evolution and it is mathemetically, physically and chemically impossible. If it were shown by direct observation to occur it would require a new law of nature, one that reverses the second law of thermodynamics. It would be like making a perpetual motion machine.

    Why even bother about evolution?

  • G. Frederick

    as to Joseph’s suggestion of the location of the Garden of Eden, it again reflects the willingness to ignore the effects or even the reality of the global flood of Noah. nothing(at least topography) remained as it was after the flood “the world that then was being overflowed with water perished”.

  • http://recoverymh.blogspot.com/ Joseph Marshall

    Come now, Joseph, you have always known that I was a “live and let live” sort

    Certainly I do. But the way you put it immediately brought to mind the James Thurber cartoon with the large blowsy woman brandishing a beer pitcher at one of Thurber’s nerdly little men while telling him, “Laisser faire and let laisser faire’s what i believe in, stranger!”

    [Ah well, I'm too large but not blowsy, and not much for beer, at all. Also, I tend to call people "pally." -admin]

  • http://www.protocatholic.blogspot.com Gretchen

    I’m not sure that Genesis becomes ‘confusing’ on the fourth day of creation when the ‘greater light’ and the ‘lesser light’ are created.

    In my Jewish study bible the notes say, “Since the sun is not created until the fourth day the light of the first three days is of a different order from what we know…The sun and moon are created only on the fourth day and are not named, but referred to only as the greater light and the lesser light. This may be an implicit polemic against the worship of astral bodies.”

    The light in verses 3-5 is referred to as a ‘primordial light’ –perhaps the origin, the essence of elements which comprise the later lights (suns, stars), or the light of God’s glory, or even, Christ (whom Christians know as the light of the world).

    Here is an alternate rendering of Gen. 1:3-5 based on a commentary by the Jewish rabbi Rashi (1040-1105): “God as Judge said, ‘Let there be spiritual light’ and there was spiritual light. God saw that the divine spiritual light was good for the righteous and should not be used by the wicked, so God separated the light and reserved it for the righteous in the world to come.”

    The theory that the fourth day of creation refers to the evolution of eyes seems awfully close to the old query, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it does it make a sound?”

    I think the theory is provocative, but a real stretch.

  • dry valleys

    Thanks for your observations, Joseph Marshall. I have no wish to appear glib.

    What I was saying in my post, perhaps not in a very articulate way, is that I don’t accept “X,, Y & Z believed in God, why don’t you?” as an argument. I hear it made by various people & echoes of it appear in the above posts.

    You’re quite right, we can accept some of what people believed & reject other parts. But I said this myself:

    “What I think is that, while faith can indeed inspire good deeds, we can embrace some aspects of a person’s life & not others. I benefit from Isaac Newton’s work without sharing his views on alchemy. I want my buildings designed by an engineer who takes Pythagoras’ Theorem seriously & acts on it, not one who takes his views on transmigration of souls seriously & acts on it.”

    It therefore doesn’t move me to be told that Pascal was a Christian, or whoever else. Yes, there are perfectly reputable scientists who are religious today. I do not think any atheist would dismiss their contributions, in fact Richard Dawkins goes out of his way to praise the likes of Polkinghorne & Stannard, while he obviously doesn’t understand the basis of their faith he respects their science.

    I am indeed British- I actually think the break from Rome was a great positive event, alongside the Civil War & the Glorious Revolution in creating the modern world (I mean the whole free world, if you’ll recall we once had a global reach of the sort America enjoys!)

    This rather illustrates my point. Henry VIII was by all accounts a rather unpleasant person & vicious tyrant, who was interested in his own power & the succession of his dynasty rather than the niceties of theology. But it does sometimes happen that there are unintended consequences to actions, & if these are good they should be respected regardless of whether we want to take the person who wrought them out to dinner or not.

    You seem to refer to the legacy of the English Bible (in the 1611 translation) on literature & culture. I have in fact always agreed. It should be more widely read, as much so as the Koran is in Muslim countries, because only thus can we understand who we are. I didn’t learn it at school & was not brought up in a church so I went out & taught myself. (Again, a lot of atheists agree, such as Richard Dawkins who has always valued his classical education).

    I identify with that element of the left which has always valued high culture & sought to make it more available to the working class, by making sure they are not oppressed by drudgery & have time to think & the means to do so, educationally & with access to libraries etc.

    This is a very long way of stating that I disagree essentially with things like this.

  • Peregrinus

    “This rather illustrates my point. Henry VIII was by all accounts a rather unpleasant person & vicious tyrant, who was interested in his own power & the succession of his dynasty rather than the niceties of theology.”

    Actually, Henry VIII was quite interested in the “niceties” of theology and even wrote a theological treatise in defense of the seven Sacraments against Martin Luther. The Pope gave him the title of “Defender of the Faith” for his efforts.

    I am glad to hear that you value a classical education, Dry Valleys. Keep studying; and consult with your learned, wise friends about what to study. There are many fashionable books that will lead you into greater confusion and error.

  • http://recoverymh.blogspot.com/ Joseph Marshall

    I don’t accept “X,, Y & Z believed in God, why don’t you?” as an argument. I hear it made by various people & echoes of it appear in the above posts.

    Well, certainly there are people who argue that crudely and haven’t enough sense to see that an intelligent person would not be convinced by this.

    But you are taking Christian “apologetics” at its worst and not at its best. If you want to take Christians on fairly, you should start with things like C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity or G.K. Chesterton’s Heretics, Orthodoxy, or The Everlasting Man. And I’m sure The Anchoress or her readers could suggest more contemporary works of the same intellectual respectability. These are just the ones I read when I was in college, back in another century.

    Or you could read conversion narratives such as Thomas Merton’s The Seven Story Mountain.

    If there is one thing I think I can say from outside the Christian circle about these things it is that serious faith starts from serious doubt. And authors like this are very clear about their doubts. As was Pascal.

    You seem to refer to the legacy of the English Bible (in the 1611 translation) on literature & culture.

    Huh?

    I assume this refers to my remark about the Archbishop of Canterbury. But there’s an even plainer way to see what I mean. Get yourself a copy of the Nicene Creed, the current Catholic catechism, and the current Anglican catechism [I assume there is one] and compare them side by side and ask yourself how much difference there is between them, and to what degree the contemporary works derive from the historical text.

    You will see quite plainly that neither the Protestant formulation, nor the Catholic one “rejects” the beliefs of the Christians of the past.

    I identify with that element of the left which has always valued high culture & sought to make it more available to the working class.

    Here you are talking about an unbridgeable cultural divide between you and I or you and The Anchoress. When my American county in Ohio was organized for the sale of land, a mere decade after the American Revolution, one parcel of it, equal in size to all the other parcels, was set aside to support the foundation of schools. Whatever money was raised from that particular parcel went to that purpose.

    There has obviously been a “working class” in America, but, from the first, this class has never been denied the opportunity of education. If there is any one value all Americans share, it is belief in the need for everybody to be educated enough to manage their lives, to better their circumstances, and participate in Democracy to whatever degree they can.

    If you want to sample the American experience on this matter, read the autobiographical narrative The Learned Blacksmith. He was an extreme case, but not a unique one.

    I think you can trace much of the confusion in the ongoing dialog between you and I, or you and The Anchoress quite precisely to this cultural difference.

  • http://www.toofewwitnesses.com Frank in Billerica

    Idle thoughts from Billerica:

    Humanity’s Limits

    The God of all creation is boundless. The God of all creation is precisely this. Creationism, evolution, the arguments continue, but is there any difference in God’s mind? What has the creator revealed for our insignificant minds to understand? Perhaps too simple, but it might be just this. We are spiritual beings in a physical existence that cannot be fully understood. For all the expertise of science, which might eventually explain this universe we live in, will it ever determine where it is? Do other universes exist? Will science ever answer these questions? Mystery will always envelop us, as it always should, the nature of an all-knowing God and his created. The humble part for me then, is this.
    The spiritual child in me embraces the wonder of a God who could create the universe, and all that it contains, in six days and rest on the seventh.
    The spiritual adult in me, embraces the wonder of a God who could create this universe and all that it contains, reflecting with perfect magnificence His profound power, and that He is timeless.
    To constrain God to either understanding attempts to place limits on God. The God of all creation is boundless! The God of all creation is precisely this!

  • Chuck Markiewicz

    What a wonderful dialogue is occurring here! I do want to expand on my comments yesterday, in reference to those who directly responded to them.

    First to the dear Administrator, who said, [My God is so huge he can take bread and wine and turn it into his own sacred Body and Blood, and feed me with it, just as he said. Why isn't yours? - admin].

    You are making the assumption here that I’m not Roman Catholic. That does happen to be true now, but it wasn’t always. I grew up Catholic, I just didn’t come to personal faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ, until much later. You are also assuming that my questions were against the Catholic doctrine of transmutation. They weren’t. They were directed only at evolution, which I reject. I do believe that God could physically convert the bread and wine into His own body and feed you with it, if He so chose. Whether He does or doesn’t is not a Theological doctrine that impacts that many people into believing or disbelieving the God of the Bible. But evolution is a different question, because many people use it as a justification to reject God and continue in their sin.

    My God, no, let me say our God, since I do believe that we share the same God through our faith in Him and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross (even if we don’t share the same opinions on evolution) — our God is big enough to create this world in only six 24 hour days (for on the seventh day He rested). Our God is big enough to have been born without any human intervention, just through one willing vessel and the Holy Spirit. Our God is big enough to have borne all our sins, paying our penalty, securing eternal salvation for all those who would believe in their heart and confess with their lips that Jesus Christ is Lord; big enough to die for us, to take the keys to death and hell, to raise from the dead and sit at the right hand of our Father, to intercede for all the saints (and all who believe are saints, according to the New Testament), until He comes again to gather His elect and to judge the living and the dead. My God, our God, is big enough to do all of that and far, far more — and He already has.

    No, I believe the core of our faith is the same; we may differ on some points, but we don’t differ in the Lord. Praise God!

    Take a look at the history of the theory of evolution. Look at how materialists use the “age” of rocks to determine the “age” of the fossils. Then they look at fossils and use them to determine how old the rocks they are in must be. There is circular reasoning going on there, a logical fallacy. And the whole point of the theory of evolution is to show how man can exist without God. But can he really? No, man can reject God, but certainly can’t exist without Him.

    There are scientists who take the same data that the other scientists use and interpret it in light of the Genesis account. But materialistic scientists interpret the data in a way that denies the Genesis account. Since I believe what God says in His Word, the Bible, I reject the materialistic view. I believe that God is big enough to have done what He said He did. As Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, Let God be true, and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).

    Why give credit to evolution, a faulty theory that is so often used to keep people from faith in God, precisely through its basic premise that man can be explained through some natural process that doesn’t need God?

    So, to @SBark (and @Jeanette), I say that I’m glad your God is big enough to do all those options (mine is too), but He didn’t say He did it in an instant, and He didn’t say He did it in some millions or billions or trillions of years. The “evidence” that you say we have is only one particular interpretation of that data – there are, as I stated above, other interpretations of the same data. And when I read Genesis, unlike St. Augustine, I don’t read millennia into those words. Each day is recorded as if it were a 24 hour period – as @G. Frederick pointed out, “and there was evening, and there was morning – the first day” … and each day is recorded in the same way. That doesn’t sound like it’s meant to be a spiritual interpretation, that sounds like it’s meant to be taken as a literal statement. And it sure does read like six consecutive days to me. But yes, Jeanette, I agree that there is much mystery that will be revealed to us when we meet our Lord!

    @NewEnglandDevil, I applaud your quoting of Second Peter. And you are certainly right that my perspective is not God’s – I am only looking at it from the perspective He spoke it. But let’s look at that quotation in the context Peter used it:

    Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

    First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

    But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

    Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (2 Peter 3:1-13) (emphasis added)

    So where does Peter, by the Holy Spirit, put that statement about time? Right in between the creation and the destruction of the earth! But he also immediately follows it by speaking of the Lord’s patience with the ungodly, that they might have time to come to repentance.

    Let me ask you this: is the new earth and the new heavens going to take God billions of years to form? Are we going to just be ‘hanging around’ waiting for Him to finish? Doesn’t the language tell us this will be fast?

    Let’s look at Revelation:

    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

    He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

    So if the new creation is going to be fast, why do we need billions or trillions of years for the Genesis creation? I don’t see any more than one literal week.

    I thank God that all who believe are my brothers and sisters. I thank God that Jesus’ last prayer focused on the unity of believers, not on their differences, for we are all one in Christ! So while I do not agree with everything my brothers and sisters believe, I do know that some day we will all be together in complete unity. Praise the living God, our Lord and Savior!

    God bless you all!

  • NewEnglandDevil

    @Chuck

    Great response, and please know that it is taken in the spirit given.

    “Let me ask you this: is the new earth and the new heavens going to take God billions of years to form? Are we going to just be ‘hanging around’ waiting for Him to finish? Doesn’t the language tell us this will be fast?”

    1) They will take precisely as long as He desires to form them.
    2) I think He’s ‘hanging around’ for us to finish.
    3) What is fast? To whom? To Him? Consider the Ents from the Lord of the Rings and Treebeard’s admonitions to the Hobbits about how ‘hasty’ they were. In my mind the language tells me to always be prepared, b/c I will not know the time of the return, but that does not suggest to me that it must occur tomorrow, next month, next year, next decade or next century. There is no reason given in that language that demands that it should occur in the next millennium, or in several thousands of millennia hence.

    God Bless,

    NED

  • Maria Key

    @Chuck,

    “My God is big enough to create the universe in 5 days (24 hour days), just like He said. Why isn’t yours?”

    God exists outside of time. All “time” is now to him.

    “My God, no, let me say our God,”

    God is One, there is only one God.

    “But evolution is a different question, because many people use it as a justification to reject God and continue in their sin.”

    The above is a REALLY interesting statement, because evolution is currently used like you describe by two camps, both of whom think evolution and God are incompatible. So some atheists hold up evolution and say, “See, because we see evolution, God does not exist.” But some people who profess belief in Christ say, “See, because we see God, evolution does not occur.” Both camps lack the humility to follow truth wherever it leads.

    “Look at how materialists use the “age” of rocks to determine the “age” of the fossils. Then they look at fossils and use them to determine how old the rocks they are in must be. There is circular reasoning going on there, a logical fallacy.”

    Perhaps you would be interested to learn that the Principles of Relative Dating were developed by Blessed Nicolaus Steno who was brought up as a Lutheran, became a Catholic, and Bishop and was also a great scientist and is considered Father of Geology. Hardly a ‘materialist’.

    “And the whole point of the theory of evolution is to show how man can exist without God.”

    Wow! That’s quiet a statement! Do you consider that true about all scientific theories? Once upon a time there were a bunch of atheists. They wanted to prove that we don’t need God. They said, “Hey! Let’s invent a scientific theory called Evolution and pretend we see changes over time in living creatures! Yea! That’ll do it! Nobody will believe in God after we show them that!”

    I believe in God, creator of heaven and earth, the seen and the unseen; the matter and the processes that govern the matter; the natural and the supernatural.

    Alleluia! Come Lord Jesus!

  • http://PatrickofAtlantis.com Patrick Of Atlantis

    If the work of God could be comprehended by reason, it would be no longer wonderful, and faith would have no merit if reason provided proof.

    St. Gregory I
    540-604 AD
    Homily 26.1

  • Patrick Connell

    Hi,

    I really liked the article. Does anyone here know the reference for the quote from St. Gregory of Nyssa?

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