About 3 years ago or so, I switched my view of creation. For the vast majority of my life, I have believed that God created the world and universe, but I didn't view Genesis 1 literally. To be truthful, I didn't have much of my own opinion on it. I was very loose on what I believed and the more I look back on it, it's because I didn't think it was a big deal. Whether it was 6 literal days, or millions or billions of years, I believed in God, His Son Jesus and His death and resurrection and I thought that was good enough. What does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? It's not a salvation issue, is it? I would say that it isn't, but with an asterisk to it. To those who relate to my prior mindset, I would say that it definitely isn't, it was lack of knowledge and a lack of searching for answers. Just plain ignorance on my part, but it didn't cause me to doubt the word of God. I think that is mostly because I didn't have a solid belief on the topic. For others however, their belief on this topic can leave open the possibility for erosion into other parts of their faith (you'll see why in a a bit ).
I was always fairly certain that I didn't believe in "big E" Evolution (I'll get to definitions shortly) as the source of life on Earth, but it was always a back door option of "well why couldn't God use it?". I've come to understand that there is no reason that God couldn't use it, but just because He could, does not at all mean that He did. I have the ability to jump out of my vehicle each and every time that I drive, but I have so far not exercised that ability.
I need to preface this with the fact that I'm not a scientist. I do not claim to be a scientist. I enjoy science, I enjoy learning and most of what will be contained in this blog is stuff that I have learned from listening to podcasts and reading. With that said, please take what I say with a grain of salt, do your own studies, but I simply present where I am now.
Here are some definitions that may be useful and also so everyone is on the same page:
"Big E" Evolution: By this, I mean Evolution in the sense that there was a blob of goo at some point in the distant past and from those molecules, all life that we see on this planet was derived through a constant series of changes over millions or billions of years. Molecules to man evolution.
evolution: change, or growth
natural selection: Essentially the most well adapted organisms in their respective environments are the ones that will survive to reproduce and pass on those traits to following generations.
Science: systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
Observational Science: This is traditional science that we know today, it is the knowledge that is gained by observing what is around us. Any of the experiments and technology that we have today is based on this science.
Historical Science: This is best described as the ideas and assumptions of the conditions the world was in when there was no one to record observations. Eg. I can assume that the temperature in the Niagara region was similar in March in the year 1300 as it is today, but I can't know for certain because there is no record of that information. It is all assumption.
"In the beginning, man saw that the universe was so big and there was so much diversity that the only thing that made sense was that it must have taken a huge amount of time for all of this to exist!" - This exists no where in scripture which is a surprise to no one.
What I now realize and why this has potential salvation effects is that the issue of creation ultimately it comes down to authority. Whose authority am I going to look to?. To believe the authority of the scripture is very simple, you read it, study it, taking the whole of scripture into account and you believe it. The idea of millions of years introduces mans idea into scripture and the authority then rests on man and not on God. So much of our walk with Christ should come down to the simplicity of, "will I believe what He tells me?". That's it. Done. Do you want to have a great relationship and walk with God? Believe Him, not just believe in Him, but believe what He says in His word and through the Holy Spirit. The simplicity is incredible and yet I fall short of that simplicity again and again and again. It's sobering to think how much disbelief I have when I reflect on my life and how I live it from day to day. God forgive me for my unbelief.
So..........CREATION! The origins of everything. To go forward in this discussion we need to follow a logical set of steps (as most science does). If at any one of those steps, there is a miscalculation, or a disagreement, then that has to be solved/agreed upon before moving further. A silly fictional example;
Once there was a man name Bill, Bill has a startling belief that he holds with all his might and will not be moved from. This belief is that cars do not exist. Bill has a friend named Fred. One day Fred comes over to Bill's house and says, "Hey Bill, I just got back from vacation and wanted to say hi. It took me 14 hours of driving to get me back home." Fred has the personality of a piece of lumber, but what can you do, that's Fred.
Bill replies, "14 hours, eh?" all typical Canadian like, "14 hours in a plane?".
Fred, his lumber like personality unwavering responds, "No Bill, I can't fly a plane, I drove there in my car."
"Impossible!", Bill yells.
"It's not that unusual", Fred replies, "I've heard of people making the drive in 11 or 12 hours before".
Bill looks perturbed at this point. "Ludicrous, outrageous, insanity!".
"Why are you so upset Bill?", asks Fred.
"Because we all know that cars don't exist!".
And so the awkward conversation comes to a close. The where, why and when of Fred's trip can't even be part of the discussion because there is a disconnect at the "how Fred traveled" level. Now, I used to think (for the purposes of the example), "whether cars exist or not, what does it really matter, Fred and Bill can still talk about the purpose of the trip and the reasons for it, why it happened, where it happened, all of these great things". And that's true in part, but once you stop and think about it a little more you start to follow the logic. If Bill doesn't think cars exist, what about tires, engines, gasoline? The essential parts that make up cars. If there are no tires, how do planes land? Do planes land at all? Do they land in water? Should it be called planes watering instead? Are planes just boats in disguise? But wait! There are no engines, so how do those boats fly? If there is no transportation, how do people travel? It seems like people do travel, so how? Unless.......people must not travel. You can see how this path leads to many more awkward conversations and comes in conflict with things that Bill believes in (he asks if it was a flight).
In that same vein, I had a discrepancy in my former thought process towards creation. My biggest hang up was dinosaurs. As a kid and still today, I love dinosaurs, they are incredibly cool, but from a very young age, everything that you hear is that dinosaurs ruled the earth.......millions and millions of years ago. That was stuck in my head and was at odds with the creation that I was trying to believe. I think that is the place where a lot of believers get stuck. I was at a place where I was trying to fit, "but what about the millions and millions of years and the dinosaurs?" into [Gen 1:1-5 ESV] 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
So, here is my thought process through creation. It's probably not perfect, and I don't claim it to be. It's how I've approached things and I'm still working through it.
1) Do I believe the Bible is God's word and it is without error?
Answer: Yes! The bible is God's word and is truth. I also recognize that it wasn't written in the english language or in the 21st century and so in it's translations may be nuances that I miss when I read it with my 21st century brain. I also realize that God is God and I am not, therefore if I think something is wrong in His word, I assume that I'm the one who has made a mistake, not God. If I don't believe that God's word is perfect and true, I can't go any further. How we interpret it is a separate question, so stick with me.
2) Are science and the Bible at odds with each other?
Answer: Absolutely NOT. Science, which is simply knowledge of the physical and material world gained through observation and experimentation constantly helps prove the Bible to be true. If you believe that God created mankind (including our brains) and God created the earth (the physical and material world), then you would imagine that what we find using our brains about the physical world would fit together. And so it is.
3) Who do I trust more? God, or man?
Answer: God. This is the big one and this one will be the displayed as we work through the process. 5 years ago I would have put God as my answer as well, but in working through it, I realize that my faith was in man's wisdom.
If you are with me in those first 3 points, then we move to the creation account itself.
"In the beginning, God". I believe God to be outside of time and space as we know and define it and therefore I don't have any issues with this statement. I would struggle much more with "in the beginning there was nothing, then that nothing exploded and here we are with everything". We can push that debate to the side as for me, the big bang was never a viable option in my head.
The biggest struggle I had was literal days? Or figurative days? The way that Genesis is written and worded, it reads like 6 literal days of creation followed by 1 day of rest. In listening to Ken Ham from AnswersinGenesis.org, he brings up the point "day" can mean many things. "Back in the day" refers to a time period, "I worked all day" refers to the sunlight portion in most cases, "it took me 3 days to get there" refers to 3, 24 hour periods. We read those 3 phrases and by the context of the phrases we understand the meaning of "day". He mentions that in the Hebrew, if there is a number connected to the word "day", or there is "evening and morning" connected to the word "day", that is the context to which the reader would understand "day" to mean 24 hour period. The verse from 2nd Peter was something that I would use to leave open the possibility of figurative days. 2 Peter 3:8 NIV But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. Part of the issue with this, is that if we're talking about millions of years, then gaining an extra 6000 years at creation doesn't help too much. Genesis 1 also seems to be the only place where this confusion of "day" comes into effect. We don't talk about Jonah being in the whale for 3000 years, or it raining for 40,000 years during the flood. I realize Noah lived a long time, but not that long.
So I grappled with literal versus figurative. Many believers are on the figurative side because they see big E evolution as the way that God created life. There is one big problem with this view point. In Genesis, which back to point 1, we believe is true (whether literal or figurative doesn't matter), we see that "God saw that it was good" in each day of creation. God is a God of life, and we recognize that death and sin are a result of the fall which happens after creation. So for molecules to man evolution to be true, there needs to be organisms that are better adapted to their environments and those are the ones that survive to reproduce. It follows that they would then adapt to a constantly changing environment and given enough time, voila! Me sitting behind my keyboard. This line of thinking then has God using a constant cycle of death to bring about creation which then breaks the truth of God's word when death is introduced at the fall. For me, that was enough to fully pull molecules to man evolution off of the table as an option.
Now I must note that I believe that evolution is a thing, just not in the sense that it was how God created life. Languages evolve constantly for example and the process of natural selection is at work constantly as well. Darwin saw this in the birds that he studied. The birds with longer beaks had an easier time getting food and therefore they survived which lead to a population of birds with longer beaks. Eventually, given enough environmental pressure, the differences are enough that a new species of bird has "evolved". This happens all the time and is a natural part of the world we live in. What Darwin did and what molecules to man evolutionists claim is that, if this process continues for millions and millions of years, we will get a diverse set of life on the planet. That is the portion that I disagree with. The birds that Darwin studied, didn't turn in to lizards with long beaks. They were birds and remained birds, they just became a different species of Finch. I believe this process brings us the diversity that we see after the flood. I believe that Noah had 2 of each kind of animal on the ark. He didn't have 2 dalmatian dogs, 2 german shepards, 2 poodles, etc. on the ark. He had 2 dogs.
The last big concern that I struggled with was radiometric dating. I remember hearing all the time in school that we have a good idea of how old the earth is because of radiometric dating and carbon dating. The simple description of carbon dating is this. Each living thing pulls in air from it's surroundings. I am breathing right now and therefore I am pulling in the contents of the air into my body. We can measure what the concentration level of carbon is in our atmosphere and specifically a type of carbon molecule that is unstable and changes over time. For example, you see part of an apple on the table. You measure it and find that it is 1/4 of an apple. In an hour, I walk in, cut the piece of apple in half and eat one of the pieces. This leaves 1/8 of an apple on the table. An hour later I come back and cut that piece in half and eat one of the pieces now leaving 1/16 of the apple. At this point, you remark at my strange eating habits, but you work out the math. You assume that I must have started with a full apple and that every hour, as you have observed, I come in and eat 1/2 of what is there. The apple in this case has a half life of 1 hour, every hour, 1/2 disappears or changes.. Therefore, I have been eating this apple for 4 hours (Full apple to 1/2 (1st hour), 1/2 apple to 1/4 (2nd hour), 1/4 to 1/8 (3rd hour),1/8 to 1/16 (4th hour). That is the process of carbon dating. The issue that arises, is that carbon dating relies on assumptions. There is no record of what the actual conditions were when these living things died and stopped pulling in air and with that air, the Carbon 14 molecule (the type of carbon molecule they test for). We know the levels that are in our current atmosphere and models can predict what the levels may have been, but no one was there to be sure. The same goes for the half life of these elements. We know what they are now and the assumption is that those half lives are constant and have never changed, but no one was there. In the example that I gave, you came in when there was 1/4 of the apple on the table and assumed that there was 1 apple to start with and every hour 1/2 of it was eaten. Seems reasonable to assume that and because you weren't there to witness the start, the assumption is all you have to work with.
However, maybe I come back an hour later (you reason that it's the 5th hour of this apple marathon) for another slice and we are able to chat.
You might say, "that's a pretty interesting way to eat an apple".
"I just figured I'd mess with you", I may respond.
"What do you mean?", a logical follow up from you.
"Well, I had about 1/3 of the apple I started yesterday left, I took a small slice and then had to go plug in my phone. Then when I saw you sitting there I thought I'd be silly and just eat it super slowly".
"So you only started with 1/3 of an apple? I thought you'd been at this for 5 hours now!", you realize your assumptions led you astray.
"Nope, I've only been eating it about as long as you were watching me, so like, 3 hours".
Without being there at the start to see the original conditions, we can make best guesses, but sometimes our assumptions and biases can pull us in a direction without us realizing it. For most of my life, the days in the creation account had to be figurative, because how else would I fit my assumptions of millions of years into the equation. I had been putting more authority in man's words and explanations, than I put in God's word. Time to get back to simplicity. If God has chosen to say it, it must mean it's pretty important and I should probably listen.