Addenda: Creation and Evolution
If we are to know the truth, we must know how received knowledge should be understood.
Creation and Evolution
In the beginning …
Let us be clear, the Bible does not assert that the Earth or life on this planet was created 6,000 years ago (as many have presumed). It does not even teach against evolution. For, although ‘creation’ is certainly taught, how God created is not explained. Creation through evolutionary processes, as one method, cannot be ruled out. We need to realize – the Bible was not written to explain scientific principles, but to convey spiritual truth. The language of metaphor, parable and poetry is the language of much that is Scripture, but it is not the language of science. Nevertheless, although it is true that the Church had applied a simplistic interpretation to the creation narratives until modern times, it is simply ridiculous to either dismiss Scripture or to deny scientific evidence because of this. Rather, as Christians, we should thank the scientific community for adding to our enlightenment, so that, being disabused of false notions, we might apprehend the truth more exactly and be more open to consider alternative perceptions.
One might hear that ‘evolution’ does not need a Creator to begin the evolutionary process – yet, even if we admit that this could be true for the material universe that we can see and observe (and this is not proven), that in itself does not mean that a creative process could not have been the catalyst to begin the evolution of life on Earth. In fact, if we use the logic of evolution (given the ‘eternity’ of time) and consider the estimated age of the visible universe to be between 13 and 14 billion years (NASA’s figures, 2010) - and the fact that man through advances in genetic sciences is said to be on the verge of becoming a creator of life HIMSELF – is it not logical to believe that a much greater Creator already exists – Someone who is far superior to man? And should this be true, is it not also most likely that such a Creator would want to involve Himself in the evolution of life on Earth to ensure that through this process ‘goodness’ here should prevail? Moreover, is it not reasonable to believe that He would also desire to create other beings in His own image and likeness? – We call Him, of course, ‘God’. Like time, we might say that his existence is without beginning and without end – ‘Eternal’.
The Bible declares that God is invisible to human observation – that He is not part of our physical world, as we know it. Yet, not so long ago, the idea that there could exist another dimension to the universe beyond that observed could have seemed a mere fancy – without any scientific support. Not so today. Through scientific observations and mathematical calculations, we know that the normal matter of the universe – everything that we can see and observe – accounts for no more than 5% of all. The rest is calculated to consist of dark (as in unknown) energy (70%) and dark matter (25%):
“More is unknown than is known [about the universe]. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the Universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 70% of the Universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 25%. The rest – everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the Universe.” (science.nasa.gov)
It is the biblical view that God and angels are spirit beings inhabiting such a realm unknowable to the physical senses. This realm of God, of course, is what in English we call ‘God’s Heaven’. The biblical Holy Scriptures are said to convey God’s spiritually inspired revelation, communicated to us by the Holy Spirit of God through His prophets, setting out His purpose and will for us – that the called of God might attain to everlasting life through faith as His children, born of His Spirit, in the knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ. This communion with God is made possible by the fact that man is not just a physical entity, but also soul and ‘spirit’ – and it is this spiritual aspect in man that allows the soul to exist beyond the grave and makes possible the ‘resurrection’ of man after death.
The ‘creation’ of man
Once we acknowledge that, given the ‘eternity’ of time, it is most likely that a being of immense creative powers and supreme intelligence must exist somewhere in the universe, we might hope to find concrete proof. – We might also ponder what we might expect of such a being, should He exist. Logic compels us to reason that if He does, He must have a purpose for our existence – for we could not be allowed to exist without the permissive will of such a being. So, we are compelled to ask why it is that He (‘God’) would allow us life? What could be the purpose for our being?
In response, we might reasonably conclude that we would have been created to please Him – the Almighty God. It would also be logical to conclude that we would best please Him if created to mirror His own goodness, for there can be nothing better. As man is the highest life form on Earth, it is not unreasonable to believe, therefore, that man has been chosen for this purpose – that he should be raised up as a new creation in God’s own image and likeness.
The process of adaptation and physical change that we can observe in the living world, termed ‘evolution’, does not deny the existence of God. What we read in Scripture indicates that life began on Earth through the intervention of God and that modern man was formed under unique circumstances and given an environment at the outset that was entirely suited to his needs. This unique creation of man, into whom God breathed His Spirit, was separate from the general creation of life and was for the purpose of creating man in God’s own image, as we read in Genesis 1:26. The ‘garden’ of the biblical Eden was the protected environment into which God placed the first man. Beyond God’s protection, in the outside world, man would face many dangers and hardships. Although the story is replete with symbolic meaning, it should be remembered that ‘with God nothing is impossible’ (Lk. 1: 37) - and it would certainly help one’s understanding to keep an open mind and not to assume that such a place did not exist.
In the Bible, we find that the first true man and woman created in the image of God, Adam and Eve, fell from grace through sin and were, in consequence, removed from the unique garden that God had created for them – in which it had been possible for them to eat from a special tree, known as ‘the tree of life’. Thereafter, man’s only hope rested with the ‘Tree of Life’ personified: , ‘the true vine’ (John 15: 1), Jesus Christ.
Upon expulsion from the garden, Adam’s offspring would have been able to continue to procreate – at first through siblings. The genetic and spiritual traits of Adam and Eve were then inherited by all their progeny – including Adam’s ability to exercise freewill and to choose right from wrong, and to know good and evil. Related evolved species, such as the ‘Neanderthals’, subsequently died out – leaving only the first humans of Adam’s progeny alive on the planet, created in the image of God.
The foregoing preamble, therefore, provides reasons for believing that the biblical account of creation is true and that it is not in conflict with scientific, geological or archaeological discoveries.
Note: The ‘garden’ was planted in Eden (Gen.2:8). There are good reasons to believe that the ‘Eden’ of the Bible had a true location (even though it is often considered mere myth). The account mentions four great rivers and, until recently, it was only possible to identify three of these rivers with reasonable certainty: the ‘Euphrates’ (same name), the ‘Gihon’ (the Nile), the Hiddekel (theTigris) and the Pishon. The Pishon was a mystery until satellite images revealed a huge dried up river bed stretching from the mountains of north-westSaudi Arabia to Kuwait. Over 5000 years ago it flowed with water.
“Geologists studying remote sensing images of Arabia have found a dry riverbed covered by desert sands. The 850-kilometre channel begins in the Hijaz Mountains of western Saudi Arabia and ends in a delta that covers more than two-thirds of Kuwait” (New Scientist Mag. 03/04/1993). “Water last flowed in what El-Baz [director of the centre for remote sensing at Boston University] calls the ‘Kuwait River’ between 5000 and 11 000 years ago; some stretches of the river may have been up to 5 kilometres wide.”
The ‘Eden’ of Scripture would appear to have included the whole land of promise. That was the land promised to Abraham (Gen.15:18), who was called out from the region ‘beyond the river’ (‘Euphrates’, Josh.24:23). The garden was in and of Eden, but was not the whole of Eden.
Days of creation
A literal interpretation of Scripture might often seem the most natural to the casual Western reader, but the Hebrew Scriptures make great use of metaphor and poetic expression. Certain words and phrases can often have a much wider meaning in the context of a passage than that suggested by a purely literal interpretation. The word ‘day’ and the phrase ‘evening and morning’ need not suggest simply the normal 24 hour period:
Genesis 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31: “And the evening (‘ereb S#6153) and the morning (boqer S#1242) were the … day (yom S#3117).”
From dusk to dawn, night to day, darkness to light, from what is unseen to what is seen – what does this suggest, if not a period of transition? It does not suggest a passage of time wherein nothing changes, but one in which change occurs gradually – as the dawning of the day from the obscurity and darkness of the night. A creative process began through which life and this world slowly emerged as we know it – that began in the ‘days’ of creation.
On the biblical evidence, the late Dr. Otto, J. Helwig had this to say: “Perhaps the greatest obstacle to acceptance of the six creation days as long epochs is the “evening and morning” refrain framing each day’s creation events. In fact, I have often seen it argued in creationist literature that this expression seals the case for a 24-hour interpretation. But the argument simply does not hold, and the basis for my statement is the Bible itself, not some obscure linguistic reference.
“Evening and morning” is an idiomatic expression in Semitic languages. Like all idioms, its meaning is nonliteral but clearly understood by native speakers. The phrase “evening and morning” can, like yom, denote a long and indefinite period. The Old Testament itself unambiguously uses the “evening and morning” phrase in just such a way. In Daniel 8 we read the account of Daniel’s ram and goat vision and the interpretation given by Gabriel. The vision covers many years; some commentators believe the time has not yet been completed. Daniel 8:26 says, “The vision of the evenings and the mornings that have been given to you is true, but seal up the vision for it concerns the distant future” (RSV). In Hebrew manuscripts, “the evenings and mornings,” is not in the plural but in the singular, identical to the expression we find in Genesis 1. Translated literally, the verse would read, “And the vision of the evening and the morning that has been given you” Here we have a clear indication from scriptural usage that this phrase does not demand a 24-hour-day interpretation and can refer to an indefinite epoch.” (See: “How long an evening and morning”, Facts and Faith, Third Quarter, 1995, Vol. 9, No. 5, pgs. 8-9 )
Eminent Hebrew scholar, Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, states: ”I would opt for the day-age theory, given all that must take place on the sixth “day” according to the Genesis record. Incidentally, this day-age view has been the majority view of the church since the fourth century, mainly through the influence of Saint Augustine.” ( “Hard Sayings of the Bible”, p.104, Co-authored with Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., F.F. Bruce, Peter Davids, and Manfred T. Brauch; Downers Grove, Il.: Intervarsity Press, 1996)
Dr. Gleason Archer, biblical scholar and one of the original translators of the NASB, explained:
“Is the true purpose of Genesis 1 to teach that all creation began just six twenty-four-hour days before Adam was “born”? …To answer this question we must take careful note of what is said in Genesis 1:27 …There it is stated that on that sixth day … “God created man in His own image; He created them male and female.” …As we turn to Genesis 2, however, we find that a considerable interval of time must have intervened between the creation of Adam and the creation of Eve. In Gen. 2:15 we are told that …God put Adam in the Garden of Eden as the ideal environment for his development …Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” This statement clearly implies that Adam had been diligently occupied …for a long enough period to lose his initial excitement …God then gave Adam a major assignment …to classify every …animal and bird found in the preserve. …Finally, after this …Adam felt a renewed sense of emptiness. Genesis 2:20 ends with the words “but for Adam no suitable helper was found.” …God saw that Adam was emotionally prepared for a wife … God, therefore …from that physical core of man fashioned the first woman.
As we have compared Scripture with Scripture (Gen. 1:27 with 2:15-22), it has become very apparent that Genesis 1 was never intended to teach that the sixth creative day, when Adam and Eve were both created, lasted a mere twenty-four hours. In view of the long interval of time between these two, it would seem to border on sheer irrationality to insist that all of Adam’s experiences in Genesis 2:15-22 could have been crowded into …a literal twenty-four-hour day. The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that the purpose of Genesis 1 is not to tell how fast God performed His work of creation … Rather, its true purpose was to reveal that the Lord God who had revealed Himself to the Hebrew race and entered into a personal covenant relationship with them was indeed the only true God, the Creator of all things that are. This stood in direct opposition to the religious notions of the heathen around them, who assumed the emergence of a pantheon of gods in successive stages out of pre-existent matter of unknown origin, actuated by forces for which there was no accounting.” (“Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties”, p.49-50, Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan, 1982)
‘Now is the day of salvation,’ Paul wrote (2 Cor.6:2, NKJ) – not a day of twenty-four hours, but the time wherein man can attain to everlasting life through faith in Christ. Although, the physical creation of the biblical Adam could have occurred relatively suddenly – as he was a special creation – we must not limit God’s spiritual creation of man in the image of Himself to one earthly day. Nor should we think that God’s perception of time is like our own. “A thousand years to God are as yesterday or as a watch in the night” (Ps.90:4). In other words, God’s perception and use of time is different to ours: ‘…with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day’ (2 Pet.3:8, NKJ).
In Genesis 2:4, we read: ‘This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens …” Here, the word ‘day’ in this context clearly conveys an indeterminate length of time in which God created the universe and the conditions for life on this planet – not a day limited to just twenty-four hours.
God’s ‘days of creation’ are sequentially listed and are symbolized by the days of the week, but were not restricted to the time-frame of a week. The Sabbath, representing the ‘rest’ that God entered after He had ceased His works of creation, symbolizes the rest, not the duration of it. God’s rest continues and all who are called are urged to enter into it (see Hebrews 3:7 – 4:11): ‘For he who has entered His rest has also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest …’ Our works, of course, are those of the flesh. These must cease if we are to truly enter into God’s Sabbath and keep it holy.
Dangerous, poisonous and harmful creatures of many kinds have evolved in the course of time – but these had no place in the paradise of Eden that God had provided for the first true humans – Adam and Eve. Outside of this environment was a world of many dangers – and one in which man would suffer. This was allowed that man might seek God’s protection, turn back from sin and learn of His ways.
We live in a world that is out of harmony with the creation of man. A return to the conditions of Eden can only occur if man returns to God.
A world engulfing flood destroying all life on Earth except for the family of Noah and the animals with him is another story considered mere myth. The Earth’s geology simply doesn’t comply with such a narrative. What does, however, is the probability that the flood was more regional – affecting only the ‘world’ of Noah. It was devastating and catastrophic for the whole civilization of man in that area where he lived. The animals that he took into the ark were those of his locality and of the various kinds (not species) that would be important to man’s survival and to the ecology of the region after the flood.
When it is realized that the biblical account describes a flood of exceptional magnitude and duration that affected not the whole Earth, but just the ‘world’ of Noah, then it becomes logical to conclude that the ancient story is indeed rooted in truth. Even today, southern Iraq is a region very susceptible to flooding. Of course, the story is rich in symbolic imagery that speaks to us of salvation in Christ, the waters of baptism and rebirth – but that does not mean that the flood did not occur.
Paradoxically, the hard evidence for God’s existence is not material, but spiritual. He is to be discerned by the spirit in man because God is Spirit. There is also, of course, another very good reason why He should choose to be invisible to man as He is: To create man in God’s own image, man must be allowed the freedom to make moral choices without the fear that God’s awesome presence would cause. Our decision to follow Christ must be born out of love, not fear. The righteous are assured of everlasting life, even though perhaps suffering in their walk with Christ. The faithful of God receive the assurance and evidence of the Holy Spirit inwardly in the heart that they are the children of God.