Monday, July 14, 2003

Creation and Science Part 5

This is part 5 of a series that examines the evidence for a universe created by an Intelligent Designer. I would say that this Designer/Creator is the God of the Bible, but the evidence for this second bit will need to come later. To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

Before getting into some alternative views of Genesis chapter 1, I want to develop a little more fully the concept that creation and science must not only be reconciled with Genesis 1, but also with Psalm 19 and Romans 1. This is particularly true of Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20, NASB)

Paul states that one can look at the universe, with no Scriptural interpretation, and apprehend enough about God to be morally responsible for one's actions. The NASB tells us that such things are "clearly seen." Paul is talking about those who do not know what the scriptures say about God or His creation. The understanding among today's world, without the scriptures to say otherwise, is that the universe is old. This is attested to by the cosmic distance ladder, the size of coral reefs, and independent dating methods that yield similar results through dissimilar methodologies. Emerging within this framework is the Anthropic Principle and reasonable inferences of Intelligent Design. In other words, when the universe speaks on its own terms, it fulfills the requirements of Romans 1:18-20. Although the universe has good evidence of age, life has relatively poor evidence for macro-evolution. The more we investigate the fossil record, the inner workings of the cell, and so forth, the less convincing is the case for macro-evolution.

Here is why this discussion is important. Let's take a hypothetical person by the name of Guy Secular. He is a trained scientist, but as he looks at the fine tuning of the universe, he decides that he should investigate the God who might be there. He enters a young earth environment that gives no quarter to any other view. He explains that he is seeking God, because of the evidence that he sees in Creation. The Christians, there, tell him in no uncertain terms that the Bible proclaims a young earth. They insist that Genesis 1 be taken at literal face value. Guy Secular leaves. He cannot make that shift. He knows the evidence too well. Has he left because his heart is rebellious or because we made the case that the Bible and this area of science is all or nothing? 

Guy Secular will perhaps return to his scientific work or turn to other religions. He never had a chance to encounter the gospel.

It is the Bible that tells us that the creation, without reference to interpreting scripture, can speak true truth about God. Indeed the Bible tells us that the creation can speak enough truth to place any man under God's righteous judgment and wrath. I believe that we are responsible to seek reconciliation between the Bible and its message as much as possible.

The dilemma is that an old universe is at odds with the most natural reading of Genesis 1, but the old universe points to the Creator in powerful ways that has caused scientists like Martin Reese to take notice. What are we to do?

The first thing is to recognize that the Bible contains other difficulties that require us to make adjustments to a plain understanding of the text in order to reconcile them:

And he (Judas) threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5)

Now this man (Judas) acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. (Acts 1:18)

The plain reading of these two passages tells two different stories. A combined reading suggests that Judas hanged himself and after some days of decay fell from his noose and his body burst open. The reconciliation only comes from treating both stories as true, but in need of reconciliation. Similar work is required to reconcile the money trail between the two passages.

Romans 1:18-20, the voice of Creation, and Genesis 1 need to be reconciled as well. It is not good enough to simply say that Genesis 1 absolutely requires 6 twenty-four hour days, because in doing so, we come close to making that truth an implicit condition of salvation.

We could, perhaps, wait until a newer breed of creation scientist emerges and finally makes a strong case for a young earth that speaks to Guy Secular as strongly as the Creation does today, but what of Guy Secular's soul -- today? The Anthropic Principle gives us common ground to reach out to Guy Secular and ask him to wake up and see the remarkable wonder of it all.

So What Does It Take?

Without a doubt, a normal, everyday, nothing fancy reading of Genesis 1 would communicate that God created the universe and everything in it in six days.

Without a doubt, a normal, everyday, nothing fancy reading of Matthew 27 would tell us that Judas threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary.

Without a doubt, a normal, everyday, nothing fancy reading of Acts 1 would tell us that Judas acquired a field with the pieces of silver that he received when he betrayed Jesus.

Without a doubt, a normal, everyday, nothing fancy reading is not always good enough to tell us the truth. I have to also assume that the Holy Spirit intended for us to work through such issues. I believe that Genesis 1 and Romans 1 need reconciliation. I also believe that their reconciliation has scriptural support.

The question is whether Genesis 1 can accommodate an old heavens and an old earth. There are some intriguing clues:

  1. Immediately after the events in Genesis 1, Genesis 2:4 reads, "This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven." The word day here is the same word used in Genesis 1, but no one seriously says that God made the heavens and the earth in a single twenty-four hour period. We understand that here, the word day means a period of time. The fact that this phrase occurs immediately after the account of the 6 day creation perhaps gives us license to consider the days in Genesis 1 as periods too. Why did Moses not say, "in the six days that the Lord God made earth and heaven."
  2. Second Peter 3:5 says, "For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water." Peter, speaking to non-believers, tells them that "the heavens existed long ago." Later, in the same context Peter writes, "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day." (2 Peter 3:8) So whose time keeper is ticking during Genesis 1? Is it man's or is it God's? If it is God's do we have to place on it the same constraints as if it were man's? Perhaps the reference to days in Genesis 1 and day in Genesis 2:4 and days in Peter is just to tell us that God is eternal and to not make such a big deal about literal 24 hour entities.
  3. Day 6 in Genesis 1 has to be reconciled to much of Genesis chapter 2. Genesis 1 tells us that on that day God created man as male and female. There seems to be too much to reasonably cover a single 24 hour period. God made the cattle and other animals. He formed Adam from the dust of the ground. He planted a special garden for the man and planted fruit trees. He brought some, if not all, the animals to Adam to see what he would name them. This had a dual role of giving Adam dominion over the animals and to make him yearn for a companion. The Lord put Adam to sleep, and fashioned a woman from him. This is a lot to do in a day, and the story has more drama by giving it the time that it needs for Adam's loneliness to grow. The story does not demand, nor does it indicate that a single 24 hour day is in view.
  4. Hebrews 11:3 says, "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible." The writer makes no mention to 6 days being essential to this faith.

And so there is some room for reconciling Genesis 1 with and old universe. In doing so we greatly expand the audience to which we can proclaim the gospel.

Wednesday: Reconciling Content

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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