by Maurice Hamel
"Haven't you read … that in the beginning, 'the Creator made them'" - Matt. 19:4
How could anyone today possibly believe that the world is 6000 years old and that the whole earth was covered with water for a year in Noah's Flood? Until you can understand the reasonableness of such a world-view, your will not be able to appreciate the many misconceptions that are present in today's environmentalism.
A person who believes in both a literal interpretation of the Bible and the commonly held modern scientific theories concerning the age of the earth will have obvious conflicts in trying to resolve the differences between the two world views. For many scientists who were trained in these modern theories, who later have their lives changed through developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (commonly known as being "born again"), trying to live with two conflicting sets of beliefs ultimately must be resolved. Some hold that it is necessary to abandon "logical" thinking in order to have "faith" in the inerrancy of the Bible. However, since both scientific observations and the Word of God are apparently able to communicate different aspects of the truth, there must be a way for the two to fit together. The real question seems to be, how does God involve himself with his creation?
The strict scientific approach to viewing the world states that forces from outside the physical universe are inherently immeasurable. Therefore, such things are not appropriate to be included in scientific theories of our universe. If we limit our ourselves to only recognizing the physical world as existing, then it makes sense to conclude that the universe is mechanical and has worked under random forces to achieve what we have today. In such a view of the universe, which includes only the mechanical-ness of chemistry and physics, there is no apparent design, purpose, or destination for our universe. By leaving God out of our picture of the world, we are left with the perspective that all this has no point. Without some sense of direction to the universe, our existence is meaningless. People end up with a self-image of being just another one of the animals, no more in the image of God than anything else in nature.
The initial assumption of this perspective essentially defines God out of existence. Its proponents will say that the idea of a God is not something that they object to. But they will not allow the "idea" of a God to be included in any theories concerning the physical world. The Bible does not attempt to prove that God exists. It assumes that it is obvious. Since the people who developed the theory of evolution did so in part to replace the need for the concept of God, obviously belief in the God of the Bible is not compatible with the assumptions which go along with such an outlook.
Since few people seem to so completely deny the existence of the supernatural, a more popular position is the idea that the world is an endless balance between good and evil forces. This seems consistent with the ongoing struggle that we see in nature. This position is also able to offer hope, because it assumes that the events of the world are not simply random and meaningless. Yet when you think about it a little further, this point of view places Satan as an equal to God. It is also not consistent with the fact that in the beginning God created all things as good.
Science assumes that if there is a God, he does not intervene in his creation. Such a God would have merely set the initial rules for the operation of the universe. In writing about the philosophical history of our relationship to the environment, Jeremy Rifkin wrote:
"Descartes observed that anything that can be investigated can be measured. He made it [nature] a precise, orderly machine. For the world to be completely predictable, God would not intervene in the affairs of life. God was congratulated for his design then retired." (1)
This "Deist" way of thinking says that after God created the world, he stepped back to watch things play themselves out. This allows people to have a God that is the creator, without having him interrupt the laws of nature to do it. But the Bible says that God is active in his creation, not merely a spectator. Through the prophet Isaiah, God has told us: "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear." (Is. 59:1) God has been a participant in human history. This is what the Apostle John was telling us when he wrote: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory". (John 1:14)
Perhaps instead this active God is using evolution to perform his creating in phases? Call it a "progressive creation". This would agree with those who say that the world is quite old. But this is inconsistent with the fact that the Bible says that "Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin ... [So] death reigned from the time of Adam". (Rom. 5:12,14) Evolution could not have been occurring for a billion years prior to man being created, because a billion years of the "survival of the fittest" competition of evolution would have included an enormous amount of suffering and death. That would mean death, and so sin, had been in the world long before Adam. Using this view of origins, man was not created until a billion years after the first creature had died, so his sin could not have been the cause of the Fall. If the creation waits to "be liberated from its bondage to decay" (Rom. 8:21) brought on by the curse, how could this bondage be part of the "good" creation that existed before the Fall?
The concept of a progressive creation also does not resolve the fact that evolution is in conflict with the sequence that Genesis chapter 1 gives for God's making the plants and animals. For example, the Bible states that birds were created on the fifth day, but the land animals which evolutionists teach evolved into the birds were not created until the sixth day.
Many people believe that both the Bible and the theories of modern science are completely correct? But then if the world were only about 6000 years old, what do all the fossils mean, and why does geologic dating suggest that it is quite old? The "Gap Theory" is used to try to resolve this conflict. This is the idea that all geologic history and evolution fit between Genesis 1:1 and the rest of the Bible. God created the heavens and earth, and then geologic time passed, forming the fossil record of evolution. Then some unknown crisis wiped out all things leaving the earth to be "formless and empty". (Gen. 1:1) This would have been the condition of the world when God spoke the present "good" ecology into being starting on the second day.
Several prominent Bible colleges teach this viewpoint. It is a theory that is easy to get comfortable with since it permits both scientific and religious schools of thought to co-exist without having to modify either. This allows spiritual people to focus on spiritual things without having to get involved with all this science that they have no interest in trying to comprehend. But if you understand what this theory is saying, it becomes apparent that it was not good science. Geology does not support the idea of such an unknown crisis.
In summary, these attempts to find compromise positions between commonly held geologic theories and biblical inerrancy do not stand the test of a critical analysis. They are merely compromises, not satisfying resolutions to these questions.
AN AWARENESS THAT GOD EXISTS
Most people have confidence in science, but also believe there is a God. The fact that those claiming to speak for science teach something other than what a straight-forward reading of the Bible leaves people with conflicting world views of origins. One view is promoted by the scientific community, the other is the creation story from the Bible. This has lead well-intentioned people to come up with these imaginative theories. Unfortunately, in each of the positions which were just described, the integrity of one or both of the original viewpoints has been subverted. With any of the various hybrid models for God's involvement in the creation, people are left not really believing the philosophical basis for either view of the world.
Once you recognize the errors in each of these alternative theories, it becomes apparent that the Bible does actually state that the world was much closer to 10,000 years old than several billion. So how could this possibly be true given the facts that anyone with a scientific mind can go and measure for themselves? If the Bible is the accurate Word of God, then there must be something wrong with a strictly mechanical view of the universe. This question can be resolved when you recognize that the Bible is the truth given to us by God to teach us things that we are otherwise unable to discern on our own. We can build onto the biblical truth with the knowledge of the creation that we gather using science.
Read the writings of people doing scientific research who were interpreting the data from the framework of a recent creation, rather than using an evolutionary premise. Then read their critics. The two sides of the creation-evolution issue both make persuasive arguments based on their points of view. The technical, as well as philosophical, arguments supporting each position are strong and uncompromising. How can both sides be so certain of the accuracy of their beliefs when they are so mutually exclusive?
The key is that both positions are founded on beliefs, rather than technical matters. It is the conceptual starting point that is the basis for the conclusions each is getting from the same set of facts. The data itself is unbiased, it is the initial assumptions which the data is applied to that differs in these world views. The concept of an primordial earth where life has been formed through evolution is premised on a universe with no Creator. If you acknowledge God as Creator, there is no need to retain the idea that he did it through evolution. Then if you are not trying to explain why evolution seems feasible, there is no reason to have all your theories favor the idea that the universe is billions of years old.
Obviously both positions cannot be correct. But with the wrong starting point people can use perfect logic to interpret the facts and still be entirely wrong in their conclusions.
Once you understand that the primary issue was not good science and bad science, but the perspective of your world view, you find that you do not have to leave behind your analytical mind when reading the Bible. The Scriptures are not in conflict with science. One does not contradict the other. It is the theories developed by those who refuse to consider the existence of God as a living, active entity, as he has revealed himself in the Bible, which are in conflict with Scripture. Science itself fits just fine with the declaration made in Genesis that the world and every kind of creature were created in six days about six thousand years ago.
In case you are still doubting that this is actually what the Bible says, consider this. The fact that God created the heavens, the earth and all that is in them in six days is also stated in the Ten Commandments as the justification for observing the Sabbath. (Ex. 20:11)
WHY DID MODERN SCIENCE LEAVE THE CHURCH?
There is still more than one workable theory of origins. Science has never disproved the idea of a young earth, a six day creation or a world-wide flood. Those ideas were simply discarded as irrelevant when they became scientifically, philosophically and politically looked down upon. But over the years when scientists have dismissed the Church as being irrelevant, they have not merely reject a distorted image of God. They have also rejected the concept of God altogether, considering it to be a distorted view of nature.
This has occurred in part because those speaking for the Church through the ages have frequently not been knowledgeable concerning the physical workings of nature. The Church's slowness to embrace new insights into God's creation lead those working in science to feel that their own understanding could replace Christianity as a thinking person's way of finding the truth. They felt people no longer needed the concept of God to explain the world around them. In some ways, they were correct, because too often the Church has presented an image of a passive God which has been easily replaced by scientific theories. This happens whenever the Church itself stops looking at the Bible to see what God has said and instead becomes dependent on the assumptions that its "traditions" had been founded upon.
This belittling of the Bible's scientific accuracy has influenced the view of the world for both those who accept and those who reject God. Science has been left to technical people, but unfortunately most schools for technical people present a picture of a world formed by natural forces. Those who have been trained in the sciences, especially in the earth sciences, no longer have a clear image of who God is, because he no longer plays a role in their mental image of the world. The incomprehensible length of what is referred to as "geologic time" causes the workings of God in the "here and now" to be obscured. For the ecologist looking for a reason why things are as they are, and what they will become, the billions of years necessary for evolution has replaced the biblical concept of eternity - past and future.
In seeing the world blurred through of this altered view of eternity, people no longer see God as having an active role to play in the world. He is not considered to be someone who they could actually turn to for help. Those holding this perspective experience the futility of being unable to stop the degradation of the planet and are left with no hope. They can see man's smallness in relation to nature, but they mistake that smallness to be a lack of worth.
This blurred image has blinded them to the active involvement of God in his creation. They are left with no one to turn to with their sense of futility at seeing others neglecting what is precious to them. The violence which man does to nature and fellow man makes no sense to them. Corruption, to them, is a choice which is made in violation of the "good will" which they suppose that we all are born with.
Even with this inability to stop the deterioration of the world around them, the image of geologic time forces people to leave God out of the picture. They view God as either detached from his creation, or being somewhat helplessly within the creation itself, or even being completely unnecessary. None of these concepts of God encourages a person to turn to God for help. They can picture no means for God to respond to a plea from within the creation to do something.
THE NEED FOR A PERSPECTIVE FROM OUTSIDE NATURE
If we do not consider God as being the Creator and a participant in nature, we are left to "infer" what we have not seen based on the facts that we have available to us. This is somewhat similar to the situation that Job and his friends struggled with as they tried to come to grips with one aspect of God's creation. They sought to understand why tragedies and illness had come into Job's life. But, as chapter one of the Book of Job shows us, there were facts concerning their circumstances that they could not have determined on their own. God never did answer Job's questions. God did not choose to explain it to Job and so he and his friends struggled with un-provable theories.
This is not so different than our use of the scientific method to study the universe as we try to understand the meaning and origins of our world. There is always something more to be discovered in any field of science. We will never understand things fully, especially in relation to events in the past which we can only speculate about. We can observe and measure what exists today and make reasonable hypotheses about things like ancient carbon dioxide contents in the atmosphere, the accumulation rate of glacial ice and the meaning of deep space radiation fluctuations. Like Job, we are trying to come to grips with something that we can never fully know on our own without a special revelation of knowledge from outside our earthly frame of reference.
What we know as "nature" is all that modern man has ever experienced. We have come to assume that the beauty and the strife which we see present in the world today is what God made as his "good" creation. I am convinced that this is not what the Bible teaches. The Scriptures clearly state that suffering and death entered the world as a result of man's challenging God's right to make the rules. Unless you assume that the destructive forces of nature were present in the "good" garden which God gave to his innocent children, it is difficult to conclude from the Scriptures that the harsh climates we experience were part of the original creation. You would also have to limit the death which was brought on by the curse to being strictly spiritual, which is inconsistent with the idea of a "second" death as presented in Revelation chapter 20. (Rev. 20:6,14)
IGNORING FIRST HAND ACCOUNTS
It is human nature to have confidence in things that we can see with our own eyes. At the same time, most of a person's knowledge of the world is handed down from those around us and those who have come before us. We also communicate our own observations to others, so that they can learn from the knowledge that we have gained.
But what about things that we see which will not exist in the future? We can hardly conceive that as recently as the 1500s much of New England was covered with old-growth forests. Will people one day doubt that there was ever an Amazon rain forest? Today we wonder what became of the Mayan culture of Central America a thousand years ago. They left no record of what happened to them.
There are some things that we cannot determine with our own eyes. We have to trust those that were present at that time to record what happened. But over time we can come to doubt the "facts" that were formerly accepted through written accounts by eye witnesses. If those accounts don't match our current observations, we could simply ignore them as unscientific and consider the eye witnesses to have been primitive and uneducated people trying to describe the same occurrences we see today. Or we could dismiss their accounts as the fanciful myths of a "religious tradition" and allow it to have no place in "modern" thinking. It is a question of whether we consider those eye witness accounts to be trustworthy.
But what about things that are outside the physical realm, which we cannot investigate first hand. There are things we will not come to understand on our own without a dependence on what God has taught to men in the past. Consider the biblical teaching that the creation is deteriorating rather than advancing. From that perspective, it is not inconceivable that there were once processes occurring on the earth that no longer happen because the necessary conditions for them no longer exist. This could be called the "extinction" of a physical process.
To over simplify this idea, picture the assertion of those who speculate that the hole in the ozone is nothing new, it has always been there. Yes, such an assertion can be considered an interesting theory, but when it was compared to models of the upper atmosphere such a theory was rejected.
So then, if the present ozone layer is able to undergo such changes, why could there not have once been another entire layer which screened out even more of the harmful types of radiation? This is consistent with the idea of a "good" creation, where the earth was designed to be protective of life, rather than hostile to it. It is also consistent with the biblical account of the second day of creation which indicated that the sky separated the water on the earth's surface from the water in the upper atmosphere. Genesis 1:6-8 reads, "Let there be an expanse between the waters ... and separate the water under the expanse from the water above it."
A working theory about such a vapor canopy is presently being investigated which attempts to use modern atmospheric science modeling techniques to better understand the biblical account of conditions in the pre-Flood world. According to various publications by the Institute of Creation Research and others, such a vapor canopy would have consisted of a layer of water in its gaseous state in the upper atmosphere, not unlike the present ozone layer. Today the water present in our atmosphere is to large degree represented by visible water particulates in clouds. Since the canopy would have been a vapor not a liquid, it would not have inhibited incoming visible sunlight as a cloudy day would do. (4) This vapor canopy would have been fully transparent to visible light since it was a gas, but would have absorbed the higher energy wavelengths. It would thereby provide a protective shell against some of the radiation which presently penetrates the atmosphere.
To be condensed into rain, such a layer of water vapor would have needed large volumes of particulates in the upper atmosphere. This is the principle behind seeding a cloud to make it rain. John Whitcomb describes how this might have occurred in his book The Genesis Flood:
"When finally that 'something' happened, what it was - possibly the passage of the earth through a meteorite swarm or the sudden extrusion of large amounts of volcanic dust into the air - the vapor blanket was condensed and precipitated. As the Scripture describes it, 'the flood-gates of heaven were opened,' " (5)
So then, is a historical account that says that it rained for forty days and forty nights necessarily unreasonable? Is it really wise for us to ignore such an account as a myth made by unscientific minds, just because our modern observations indicate that it could not occur that way today.
If the biblical account does refer to such a layer in the atmosphere, what other changes would have occurred as a result of its loss? Since water vapor is one of the green-house gases, the earth might have been significantly warmer during the period when such a vapor canopy still existed. (6) It would have minimized temperature fluctuations, potentially even eliminating the major temperature differences between the equator an the poles. This is consistent with the observation that in the past the oceans were warmer than they are presently.
By considering "geologic" climatic events only in the context of a planet that is 4 billion years old, modern science has missed the potential for a more short-term cause and effect relationship as the cause of historic climatic changes. But if these things happened in the span of several hundred years in a period when man was present on the earth recording what he was seeing, would you picture that account being all that different than what was recorded in the Bible? Remember, we are not necessarily talking about good science and bad science. We are simply modifying the way that we approach forming theories, so that we change the foundational premises to which our scientific measurements are being applied.
WE PREFER TO FOCUS ON ISSUES OF MORE ETERNAL SIGNIFICANCE
The average person does not have the time to try and understand the basis of scientific claims. So we trust scientists to explain the world to us, just as we trust the clergy to explain religion to us. We have such faith in science that, if most scientists claim that the mechanical working of the universe points back to a "Big Bang" billions of years ago, we are not going to question it. Most people have been willing to accept that the Bible's creation story is merely another parable. Like Santa Claus, it is just another childhood story to be put aside as we grow up.
Most church-goers have chosen to not become embroiled in a "scientific" dispute, preferring to deal with issues of more eternal significance. It is easier to just incorporate ideas that the culture accepts into our own way of thinking and limit the Bible to being true in spiritual matters only. Christians have preferred to focus on concerns such as the eternal fate of souls, the health and growth of the church and the legislative fight to discourage moral decay.
But in accepting the extended age of the earth, they are in fact embracing all the evolutionary assumptions of its founders who denied that God even existed. People have mentally stopped resisting the claim that theories based on evolution are more justifiable than theories based on a recent creation.
Effectively, these well-meaning people are publicly endorsing the idea that not all of the Bible is accurate, that it is accurate in doctrine, but not in science. Essentially, they do not know what to do with everything from the Tower of Babel back to the creation. It is easier to not argue against the modern assertion that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are merely the mythology of verbal traditions. People do this in spite of the fact that Jesus referred to these things as actual history. (Matt. 19:4-5)
By not really "believing" what the Bible teaches, compromising on the biblical account of creation undermines every other claim the Church makes. "Faith" that God can and will do what he said is subverted when we start to question if he meant what he seems to have said. For believers, the result is lukewarm-ness. It becomes easier for people to continue to live in both worlds. What is not "reasonable" to modern science - the creation, the judgments, the miracles - is attributed to some passive hand of "fate," rather than the active hand of God. By discarding so much of what the Bible uses to describe the character of God, you end up with an image of a small god who is unable or unwilling to be involved in our personal affairs. He is no longer active, unable to intervene and unable to enforce his authority.
People may trust Jesus spiritually to be their means of being forgiven by God, but they no longer recognize that they can seek his assistance to change the way they are living. As a result of this lack of faith, the Word of God has been invalidated in the eyes of many for the sake of a tradition which is founded upon the infallibility of the latest scientific theories. Yet at the same time, if someone tries to view the world from a God-centered perspective, they are accused of invalidating science for the "tradition" of considering the Bible infallible.
Our treating the Bible as though it were not reliable casts doubt, not only on the accuracy of Genesis, but also on the accuracy the gospels. If those wondering whether Christianity is really true see that we don't really believe in something they know the Bible teaches, why should they believe any of it is reliable? Why should they trust such a small god to get them out of the mess they have made with their lives? They are looking for someone who can fix big problems.
1. Jeremy Rifkin, "Entropy", Viking Press, NY, 1980, page 20.
2. Henry Morris, "The Genesis Record", Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1988, pages 59-61.
3. Michael J. Oard, "An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood", Institute For Creation Research, El Cajon, CA 1990, page 27.
4. John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, "The Genesis Flood", Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 1992, pages 240-241.
5. John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, "The Genesis Flood", Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Phillipsburg, NJ, 1992, page 258.
Michael J. Oard, "An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood", Institute For Creation Research, El Cajon, CA 1990, pages 51 & 70-75.
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