I recently posted a blog regarding my stand on the first chapters of Genesis, attesting that there is not sufficient information in the Scriptures to lead absolutely in favor of old earth versus young earth creation. Not being a Hebrew scholar, or expert linguist, or having formal extensive training in religious studies, my comments have to reflect ultimately my synthesis of the writings of others. I am a scientist, and thus may take liberties to look critically at scientific data, feeling myself to be a competent judge of the scientific literature. This combination of scientific training and religious readings allows me to draw certain conclusions about the nature of creation.
Linguistic and philological studies do not demand that the word “day” hold to a literal 24-hour period, although the context of Genesis 1 strongly suggests a 24-hour period. Day is very often used in both the old and new testament to refer to more than a 24-hour period. The “day of the Lord” refers in the prophetic writings to an epoch or a dispensation. Stylistic and textual studies suggest that the order of creation is not necessarily as stated in Gen 1. There are those that argue that the order is merely poetic, which I object to, as it is written as a historic account of creation. Yet, the converse argument is also not true, in that quite often in the historical writings of Scripture, strict chronology is not always followed. The Gospels are excellent examples of that, and numerous examples exist in Joshua through Chronicles of historical inversions, usually done intentionally to emphasize an effect or theme. The beauty of Gen 1 is that is a perfect merger of poetics and history, being perfect poetry, and yet perfect history, as defined by a Hebrew mindset.
Neither a pro-scientific nor anti-scientific viewpoint should be forced on Gen 1. One should not seek to merge the Genesis data into the prevailing scientific models. Science may used to substantiate the statements of Genesis but not necessarily to aid in the interpretation of Genesis. As an example, the big bang gives strong credence for a creation ex nihilo yet should not be used to force an interpretation of Genesis. As an anti-science example, it is hard to imagine that plants were created, and day and night were occurring before the creation of the sun, moon and the stars. Young earth-literal 24-hour day explanations fail miserably to offer an explanation for the order of creation. Most young-earth creationists end up being terrible scientists, Henry Morris possibly being one of the worst. It would have been better had he simply offered the absence of explanation rather than to write many scientifically weak volumes that have caused more to leave the young-earth camp than to join it.
To demand a rigid scientifically plausible explanation for creation does injustice to the Scriptures. Too many of the miracles defy a scientific explanation. How might I explain the sun standing still for Joshua? Or, the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ? How might I explain something so simple as the turning of water into wine, or the unlimited cask of oil in Elijah’s time? Those events all go contrary to even our most imaginative forms of quantum mechanics. It is clear that God doesn’t feel limited by the physical laws of the universe, and there is no reason to expect that He was held bound in the creative events of the universe.
An evolutionist theology of creation has no credence, since evolution itself has no credence as a science. Evolution is a pseudo-science so poorly conceived and inadequately substantiated as to not deserve mention, let alone serve as a framework for modeling our theology of creation. Yet, many Christians have argued in depth for what is now called theistic evolution. This includes Francis Collins (see his website, www.biologos.org), Bruce Dembski, and sadly, some conservative theologians, including Bruce Waltke and Tim Keller. In arguing against a creationist model, Biologos specifically states “Because BioLogos includes belief in a creator, it is sometimes thought to be a version of Old Earth Creationism. However, because BioLogos does not require that God miraculously intervened in the process of evolution in the sense of working outside the laws of nature, and because BioLogos also claims that biological evolution is the way by which God created the world, it is not a form of Old Earth Creationism.” The first statement, that does not require to God to work outside of the laws of nature (thus suggesting that He usually always works within the laws of nature), is totally nonsensical and a clear return to Hume’s Scottish rationalism. Isn’t the entirety of Scripture the account of God intervening in the world outside of nature? He created the laws of nature, often works with them, but not necessarily. The parting of the Reed Sea and all the miracles of the Exodus narrative, the miracles and resurrection of Christ, the salvation of a dupe like me, are all miracles outside of natural laws. Perhaps Collins could tell me how Christ naturally turned water into wine (revised, of course, to make beer!). Collins offers a seriously weak argument for the possibility of miracles, which fails to be convincing. His second statement on the insistence for biological evolution does injustice to both science and Scripture. Quite honestly, I believe that Collins sold his soul to the devil in order to achieve political ascendency. How could he ever achieve and remain head of the NIH if he were a “creationist”? The theistic evolution camp develops a serious theological problem, in that if it were true, then Paul is sorely mistaken and Romans should be stricken from Scripture. He would have had to attest that at the time of Adam and Eve in the garden, there were a plethora of humans, sub-humans, humanoids, human apes, etc. and that Adam (& Eve???) stood as the federal head of whoever. If one held to theistic evolution, one would be forced to burn all the existent theology texts, and start over. I don’t think theology should be so dependent on a weak scientific theory!
Collins draws a distinction between three theories of creation.
1.Theistic evolution—all events of Scripture including creation are bound by natural laws. This forces God to be subservient to natural law rather than the God to which natural laws serve.
2.Intelligent design—this is not actually a theory of evolution, since it takes no stance other than to argue against a purely random evolutionary scheme.
3.Creationism—this has two camps, including the young earthers (7 24-hr day creationism) vs. old earthers (longer than 7 days for creation).
My stance is against theistic evolution, but refuses to commit to either a young vs. old earth camp. You might call me a generic creationist. Both types of creationism are possible, do not seem to do violence to Scripture, and do not force a reinterpretation of the corpus of theology as we know it. There are reasonable arguments for both creationist camps, and I’m not sure arguments among the two creationist camps are where the true battle is raging. Together, we must combat other insidious, rationalistic forms of atheism or deism, disguised as Biblical and theological truth.
Bruce Waltke, who resigned from professorship at Reformed Theological Seminary because of his stance on evolution, has been a focus for defining the nature of the theistic evolution discussion. Because I am currently reading his book An Old Testament Theology, I find it necessary to interject a few thoughts regarding his comments.
1. In a footnote on the word “day” as found in Gen 1, Waltke admits that it more probably refers to a 24-hr period just from linguistic constructs, yet he later shows how the textual usage of the word “day” in in Gen 1 & 2 could not possibly mean a 24 hr period. Doesn’t make sense to me. I’m no scholar of Hebrew or textual criticism, and have to beg an inability to resolve this tension in the first chapters of Genesis.
2. Towards the end of the Cosmos chapter, Waltke admits there that he has been mostly influenced by a) BB Warfield, who stated a belief in evolution, and b) Francis Collins’ book The Language of God. I find it to be terribly disappointing to think that Collins has influenced the thinking of Waltke.
In order to sort out the science vs. Scripture dilemma, one needs to take a closer look at science. Science can be categorized into two parts.
1. Observation of God’s world, and development of new methods of observation. This we are encouraged to do in Scriptures. It is God’s world, and we are to delight in it, and the Creator who made it. Our senses are not entirely to be trusted, but our ability of observe the world in different ways often (not always) brings resolution when there are conflicting observations.
2. Interpretation of the observable data. Data demands a framework for its interpretation. By abandoning a biblical framework or Weltanschauung of Scripture, science becomes its own god. This creates a problem when we fail (like Collins) to see what we have done, in that Collins tries to merge a secular atheistic interpretation of scientific observation onto Scriptures.
Waltke in his text spends much time talking about a parallel ancient near east myth of creation, which has many close resemblances to the biblical creation story, but clearly far more vulgar and fantastic. He proposes that the biblical creation was written as a rebuttal of the Marduk mythology. There are several problems with this.
1. It is not characteristic of Scripture to BEGIN any writing or major thesis as a rebuttal or defense. Scripture needs no defense. God is a big boy, and doesn’t ever come out fighting to defend Himself. How else could I say it? It is too atypical to suppose that the creation account is a DEFENSE (!!!!) against ancient religions?
2. I am deeply puzzled why Waltke could not have given the simplest explanation of the Marduk account, that is, that the Marduk account is a perversion and degeneration of the creation story passed down from Adam to Moses, and probably corrected by God in an inspiratory fashion to Moses.
3. Theistic evolution can be likened to recruiting the Marduk myth to enhance the meaning of the creation story, that is, to use another god (science in its second meaning above) to offer us further insights into the creation story. If evolutionary theory wasn’t such a pathetic replacement of the creation story, I might be tempted.
Science in its first meaning is legitimate, and observations can influence exactly how we see Scripture. The Scriptures speak of the four corners of the earth, and we know only from our reasonably un-interpreted observations of the planet earth that there aren’t four corners, so we do utilize to some extent how we see the world and how we read Scripture. I do not stand strongly in favor of either a young earth or old earth creation, because I say we simply have insufficient information from either Scripture or our observation of the world to decide between the two. Maintaining a “neutral” scientific stance allows only the statement that we don’t know exactly how and by what mechanism God created the world and all that is in it, but simply that He did it. We can’t state a precise time period or order, but just that God was active in creating all that we know of the universe, including all of the laws of physics, matter, energy, anti-matter and anti-energy, and everything else.
Perhaps the best old-young earth merger is the possibility that the seven days of creation are seven 24-hour periods separated by lengthy segments of time, and that the days do not necessarily reflect a perfect chronological order. The gaps between days would explain the saltatory effects of the fossils, i.e., that the fossils don’t show a steady progression, but demonstrate spurts and jumps with large gaps, suggesting miraculous creative activity, interspersed by lengthy periods of creative inactivity. Even here, I’m reluctant to offer this as my absolute stance, since the exact progression and timing of creation will not be known outside of further revelation and clarification by God himself. It is possible that your comments will help persuade me one way or the other!