YouTube has graciously changed their upload policy to allow longer length videos. Accordingly, I was able to upload my 45 minute documentary Creation is a Scientific Fact. That video was produced by me a few years ago and my view has changed a little since. Overall, I am in large agreement with the position expressed at www.Reasons.org by Hugh Ross and staff. Also I have written a brief essay justifying my position from scripture.
PERSONAL VIEW OF CREATION
I strongly believe the Christian worldview is more coherent with reality and science than the naturalistic one. I fall somewhere between the categories of “Historic Creationist” and “Literary framework/ Day age.” I usually say that I am a progressive or “old-earth” creationist. I believe in creation ex nihilo and that the big bang cosmology has decisively confirmed it. Paul writes in Romans one that God’s “eternal power and divine nature” have been made in self-evident in creation and that for this reason atheists are “without excuse” (Rom 1:20). Therefore, I believe that sound science and biblical revelation should not conflict. When there is a perceived conflict there is a problem with either our exegesis or the interpretation of the scientific data. Both must be up for scrutiny. By all appearances the earth appears very old. Without getting into the technicalities of radiometric dating, very easy to understand ice core samples show rings similar to tree rings which strongly evidence that the earth is far older than young earth proponents imagine. These ice cores have been co related with known volcanic eruptions ash signatures and the dates match up.[i] This evidence is simple and compelling and reveals an earth orders of magnitude older that the young earth creationist model. Not to mention the evidence from geology and cosmology. The evidential case for a very ancient creation is overwhelming. I do not believe God would create the universe to appear old, when it was actually recent. That would seem to constitute a viable excuse, in effect negating Paul’s argument in Romans 1:20. Like many contemporary Hebrew language scholars, I believe that sound exegesis places the creation of the entire universe during an unspecified duration of time “in the beginning” (Gen1:1). I believe God designed and employs a limited amount of evolution but I do not accept common ancestry. Above all, I believe man was uniquely created and given God’s image.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE FROM GENESIS 1-3
Genesis 1:1 boldly declares that God created the entire universe “in the beginning” which is rendered from the Hebrew term bereshit. This word בראשית is the name of the book in the Hebrew bible. I was encouraged that Pastor Mark Driscoll teaches this view because it resolves most of traditional conflict. I first encountered it in a book Genesis Unbound by Hebrew scholar Dr. John Sailhamer. In it he explains,
The Hebrew word reshit which Moses used has a very specific sense in scripture. In the Bible the term always refers to an extended yet indeterminate duration of time – never a specific moment. It is a block of time which precedes an extended series of time periods. It is a time before time. The term does not refer to a point in time but to a period or duration of time which falls before a series of events.[ii]
There have been dissenting opinions on the use of this term.[iii] But we can allow the bible to determine the answer by logical examination. The bible mentions that the angels were present singing while God created the earth (Job 38:7). Angels are created beings and were thus created necessarily before the earth. This is implied in Psalm 148:2, 5: “Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.… Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.” The angels, as well as the celestial objects mentioned in verses 3 and 4, are declared to have been created by the Lord. Furthermore, it is clear that the earth is already present in a formless state before the days of the creation week have ensued (Gen1:2). There is never a day specified when God created the angels, chemical elements, molecules like water, and the earth. They are already present as the spirit hovers over the waters. Thus, there had to be time for all of this to occur prior to day one. This confirms that the rendering of bereshit as an unspecified duration is indeed correct. Additionally, the expression “heavens and earth” is a Hebrew figure of speech called a merism which means the entire universe or “all things” [iv] Thus verse one is a factual statement of what God did “in the beginning.”
Over an unspecified period of time, God created the entire universe consisting of stars, planets, and matter. I believe the creation week that follows describes God arranging what he had already created into the biosphere for man. I see the “days” as long periods of time. The Hebrew word yom can mean twenty-four hours yet it often means a longer period of time.[v] Even in the creation account, yom is used for a period of time summing up the entire creation week (Gen. 2:4). I really don’t think the purpose of the account was to quantify duration in hours. To do so is impose a modern empiricism on an ancient text.[vi] This account was written for us but not to us. It was written to ancient Hebrews with a pre-scientific worldview.
AGE OF UNIVERSE
I do not think dating creation from the bible is sound exegetically. A literal reading of the text does not specify any time duration for the formation of the universe. And even if it did, the attempt to derive dates prior to Abraham by adding up genealogies found in the book of Genesis is misguided. The tired old enigma, “Who was Cain’s wife?” ought to point out that Genesis was not intended to be a comprehensive chronology. Furthermore, the Hebrew verb for “fathered” often merely implies ancestry.[vii] Francis Schaeffer commented, “…we can say very clearly that the Bible does not invite us to use the genealogies in Scripture as a chronology.”[viii] Thus, scripture does not really support the young earth hypothesis. The scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports an old earth and I don’t see a compelling biblical basis to doubt it.[ix] There’s no need to reconcile Genesis to an old earth. Actually, it is science that has had to reconcile itself to the biblical view.
Much to their chagrin, naturalistic scientists have concluded that time and space indeed had a beginning. According to Norman Geisler, “General Relativity supports what is one of the oldest formal arguments for the existence of a theistic God—the Cosmological Argument.”[x] It also infers and extremely old universe. Thus, I do not see any reason to argue against science on the age of the universe. God is not confined to our space time continuum. In fact, the Bible tells us that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Pt. 3:8). The Old Testament concurs, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Ps 90:4). The point is not that day is exactly a thousand years for God but that God is not temporal. God is not a simply a being with a lot of time on his hands. He transcends time in the manner that you transcend a two dimensional stick figure confined to a flat piece of paper. I think it is a category error to ask, “Why would God need billions of years?” God is outside of time altogether, it is an invalid projection of finite thinking on to an infinite God. He didn’t need 13.7 billion years or 6 days.
IS THEISTIC EVOLUTION POSSIBLE
This is somewhat of a loaded question because it depends on what is meant by “theistic evolution.” I completely reject the deistic version where God just seeded life and then pulled back. There is an important distinction between micro and macro evolution. Microevolution is the idea that creatures change over time and explains the wide varieties of breeds we observe. Macroevolution or Darwinism is the theory that all of life evolved from a single ancient ancestor purely by natural selection. According to Geisler and Turek, “Darwinists are masters at defining the term ‘evolution’ broadly enough so that evidence in one situation might be counted as evidence in another.”[xi] This creates a situation where it is extremely important to be precise in one’s use of terminology.
I think micro-evolution has occurred within certain genetic boundaries and God is actively involved in the world. I do take the bible seriously when it says God created things to reproduce “according to their own kinds” (Gen. 1:25). Due to this, I do not accept that all of life shares a common ancestor. Still, I find it compelling that the creation order matches what most scientists believe is the general order in which life evolved. That coupled with the evidence of the Cambrian explosion, where fossils for nearly all major phenotypes appeared suddenly in the geologic record, strongly supports creation over an extended period. However, I believe humans were uniquely created by God relatively recently on a geologic scale.
In this essay I have briefly expressed my personal beliefs concerning creation. As a new believer this was an area of primary concern. One of the primary reasons I did not take the bible seriously as a young adult was that I thought it was in error. The arguments of young earth creationists unfortunately only reinforced my skepticism. After serious study, I saw that nowhere did the bible claim the earth was only six thousand years old or any age at all for that matter. Pastor Mark Driscoll has said, “Genesis is far more concerned with the questions of who made creation, how He made creation, and why He made creation than when He did.”[xii] I think it is a mistake to rest the credibility of scripture and thus the gospel upon a dubious scientific claim like a young earth that scripture does not actually make. The book of Genesis was written in an ancient near east context to people with a pre-scientific worldview. We should not impose our modern worldview on it. It is important to pick one’s battles carefully. I believe Darwinism must be rejected but we must acknowledge that science has made great progress. For that reason, I think the most responsible and credible position is in line with the progressive creationism/intelligent design movement.
[i] Hugh Ross. “Deep Core Tests for the Age of the Earth.” Reasons to Believe. 07 01, 2005. http://www.reasons.org/deep-core-tests-age-earth (accessed 10 30, 2010).
[ii] John Sailhamer. Genesis Unbound. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1996, 38.
[iii]R. Laird Harris, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980), 826.
[iv]John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 23.
[v]R. Laird Harris, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980), 370.
[vi]John H Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament) Volume 1: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 10.
[vii]R. Laird Harris, Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980), 378.
[viii]Francis A. Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer : A Christian Worldview. (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996, c1982).
[ix]Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004), 206.
[x]Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004), 74.
[xi]Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004), 141.
[xii] Mark Driscoll. “Answers to Common Questions about Creation.” The Resurgence. 2010. http://theresurgence.com/2006/07/03/answers-to-common-questions-about-creation (accessed 10 30, 2010).