Genesis and Science

Feb 28, 2013 1516

Good News Unlimited Conference, 2003

Seventy-five percent or more of young people from evangelical Christian homes attending university lose their faith in the Bible.

In the last 15 years we have learned more about the nature of the universe than in all preceding time. Space probes, the Hubble telescope, and computational analyses by high-speed computers have made this possible. Similarly, in the same period, the evidence has stabilised to a position that will never retreat that atheism is unscientific, irrational, and can only be held for emotional reasons. The evidence refuting atheism is readily available in a spate of recent books including such volumes as Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig, The Science of God by Gerald L. Schroeder, Intelligent Design by William A. Dembski, Mere Creation edited by William A. Dembski, Nature’s Destiny, by Michael J. Denton, Signs of Intelligence, by William A. Dembski and James M. Kushiner, Quarks, Chaos and Christianity, by John Polkinghorne, How Life Began, by L. R. Croft, The Fingerprint of God, by Hugh Ross, The Creation Hypothesis, by J. P. Moreland, Science and Christianity, edited by Richard F. Carlson, and many other volumes.

The whispers of this scientific and philosophical revolution first began to be heard in the 1960’s when a number of mathematicians and engineers at an international symposium entitled “Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution” was held at Philadelphia. The meeting included many leading evolutionary biologists who made the point that Darwinian evolution by natural selection is only a special case of problem solving by trial and error-a method that reaches only the most trivial of ends. The conclusions of the symposium were published in a book entitled Mathematical Challenges to the Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, edited by P. S. Moorhead and M. M. Caplan, 1967.

A few years later in the fall of 1973 the most eminent physicists and astronomers of the world gathered in Poland to commemorate the 500th birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus, the father of modern astronomy. Present were Stephen W. Hawking, Roger Penrose, Robert Wagner, Joseph Silk and John Wheeler, to mention just a few. Of the many scientific lectures presented only one would always be remembered and echoed around the whole world. Brandon Carter, a well-known astrophysicist and cosmologist from Cambridge University, a close friend of Hawking, gave a paper entitled “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle and Cosmology.” This presentation gave the evidence for a truth that was to resonate from then on in the halls of science. The truth that all the seemingly arbitrary and unrelated constants in physics actually have one unexpected thing in common-they are exactly the values needed for a universe capable of producing life. In other words Carter was saying that all the myriad laws of physics were fine tuned from the beginning of time for the express purpose of creating man. This meant that the idea that the universe was a random affair was dead in the water. The arrangement of the cosmos has nothing random about it at all.

The anthropic principle itself was only possible because of the big bang cosmology, which by the time of Carter’s lecture was well established. That theory was first proposed by a Belgian physicist Georges Lemaître, also a theologian, in the late 1920’s. After the explosion of the atomic bomb, George Gamow, an American physicist, reinforced the view of the Belgian scientist. The discoveries of astronomer Edwin Hubble that the other galaxies of the universe are rapidly rushing away from ours causing light from these galaxies to shift toward the red end of the colour spectrum proved that the universe is constantly expanding and must have had a beginning.

When Penzias and Wilson, working on communication satellites, stumbled across low-level radiation noise coming from every direction in the sky, physicists quickly realised that this noise was actually an echo of the big bang billions of years before. The conclusion of decades of research proved shocking to scientists around the world. It was the conclusion that the existence of life in the universe depends on a highly improbable balance of physical factors.

Even very slight alterations in the values of many independent factors, such as the expansion rate of the universe, or the precise strength of gravitational, or electromagnetic attraction, would render life impossible. Physicists now refer to these factors as “anthropic coincidences,” and to the fortunate convergence all these coincidences as the “fine tuning of the universe.” Many have noted that this fine-tuning strongly suggests design by a pre-existent intelligence. As physicist Paul Davis has put it, “The impression of design is overwhelming.” Science and Christianity: Four Views, edited by Richard F. Carlson, page 145.

A few years after Carter’s epochal presentation, a well-known journal Scientific American published an article saying that “merely to create a bacterium would require more time than the universe might ever see if chance combinations of its molecules were the only driving force” (The title of the article was “Life: Origin and Evolution,” in Scientific American Special Publication, 1979).

Please observe that, since that time, articles based on the idea that life could arise through chance random reactions over billions of years have not been acceptable in reputable journals of science. The Oxford physicist Roger Penrose declared that even a single parameter, the original “phase-space volume,” required such precise fine-tuning that it can only be expressed by the mathematical demand of an accuracy of one part in 10 to the power of 123. Just to write this number down in full would take more zeros than the number of elementary particles in the entire universe.

The only escape from these conclusions is the theory that there are many universes thus increasing the resources of probability to produce fine-tuning. The problems with this theory are overwhelming.

1. There is no evidence that supports the existence of many universes;

2. Whatever generated such universes would itself require precisely configured constants. Thus the theorists of the many universes have just put the problem one step back without solving it at all.

Christians should not take fright at the scientific terminology regarding the Big Bang. It is just a secular title for the original creative handiwork of our Maker. Practically all scientists of repute who are evangelical Christians accept this scientific description of the origin of the universe.

While the science of our day has decapitated atheism it has also raised some questions for those Christians who interpret the first three chapters of the Bible in an extremely literalistic fashion. The same science that has established the anthropic principle and the big bang cosmology has demonstrated that our universe is about 15 billion years old and the planet on which we live about 4.5 billion years old. None of the attempts of the Creation Research spokesmen have ever convinced any secular geologists esteemed throughout the world. Indeed when Whitcomb and Morris wrote The Genesis Flood they could not find a geologist anywhere who could agree with their main thesis. The introduction to the book was written by a geologist who disagreed with their position, but said readers should be familiar with the views of Whitcomb and Morris none the less.

Among scientists belonging to one of the most conservative religious bodies in the world, Seventh-day Adventism, most scientists polled do not accept the traditional view that our world was created in six days less than 10 thousand years ago. Originally most of those scientists had held to the view that they now reject. The recent scholarly volume Creation Reconsidered, edited by James L. Hayward, gives the reasons for this change of view. It contains chapters by many well-known Adventists, theologians and scientists, including Raymond F. Cottrell, Frederick E. J. Harder, Richard L. Hammill, Fritz Guy, Jack W. Provonsha, Roy Branson, Richard M. Ritland, Peter E. Hare, Ervin Taylor, Edward Lugenbeal, Gary Land, Milo V. Anderson, and others.

In a book written by the famous Alfred North Whitehead, entitled Science and the Modern World, the author stated that “when we consider what religion is for mankind and what science is, it is no exaggeration to say that the future course of history depends on the decision of this generation as to the relations between them.” p. 260. We could substitute the word “church” where he has “history” and find an equally compelling truth. The future of the church depends on the resolution of this issue.

Seventy-five percent or more of young people from evangelical Christian homes attending university lose their faith in the Bible.

In the Middle Ages all those who taught at universities believed in the Bible and its view of origins. In the late 19th Century, only a significant proportion of university professors so believed. Today the vast majority of professors and teachers at university are either atheists or agnostics, and these teach our young people. A vast array of modern sciences blatantly contradicts the literalistic reading of the opening chapters of Genesis. In addition to this fact the church must recognise that its efforts to evangelise the world are largely unsuccessful among educated people because there is this same issue of the great gap between science and Genesis when the latter is interpreted literally. Thus the Christian church today makes progress in the third world but is retreating in the industrialised countries of the globe.

It is quite irrational to reject science as though by its very nature it was alien to Christianity. Nature is God’s second book, and he has given his creatures the ability to search it and, ultimately, to read at least some of its pages. So long as we acknowledge that science has indeed successfully performed many marvels such as giving us modern inventions and placing man on the moon, it is impossible to wave away its conclusion on the matter of origins as bearing no weight. Christians fly in aeroplanes, use television, drive cars, use electric razors and cherish a host of other products of science in their daily walk. It just will not do to wave a sceptical hand against all those who would suggest that our traditional reading of Genesis has been at fault. But let it be emphasised that the issue here is not the inspiration of Genesis but its interpretation.

Dedicated evangelical Christians fall into four groups as regards the interpretation of the opening chapter of Scripture. We will say more about that later in this article. [tippy title=”Genesis 1″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/genesis/1.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he 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. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning–the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.[/tippy] in some respects is the most wonderful literary document our world possesses. The very first verse is a protest against the erroneous philosophical theories regarding life in the world, cherished by multitudes throughout the ages-polytheism, dualism, pantheism, agnosticism, atheism, the eternity of matter, and all events as part of ever-recurring cycles, Gnosticism (which taught that matter was evil), astrology, etc. See the later section of this article, which sets forth the septenary features of [tippy title=”Genesis 1″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/genesis/1.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he 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. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning–the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.[/tippy] that can only be accounted for by divine miracle.

The purpose of [tippy title=”Genesis 1″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/genesis/1.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he 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. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning–the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.[/tippy] is not only to protest against all wrong philosophical and theological views about life and the world, but to set forth the basic truths that all the children of God need to know. Its emphasis is on the Who and Why of creation not the How or the When. Had God wished to be scientific in his expression regarding the origin of the universe, which science would he have adopted? Is it the science of Moses’ day? the science of Christ’s day? the science of the Middle Ages? the science of the 19th century? Or is it the science of the 20th or 21st centuries?

Indeed, had God decided to be perfectly scientific in the inspired word given through Moses, all we would have is an equation beyond our current understanding. In other words it was just not possible to give a truly scientific description of creation. God had to speak to mankind in terms of what was already known. Of necessity, as Calvin said; he had to be like a tall man bending to lisp to a child. God, of course, knew that for millenniums well over 99 percent of people living would be unable to read or write. They would only be able to learn by oral transmission of truth-a truth that had to be expressed in terms of the lowest common denominator.

Is it not strange that, while we all acknowledge that many parts of the Bible cannot be taken literally, yet we can be dogmatic in asserting that such is the only right approach to the opening of Scripture. A little thought should convince us that, wherever time and eternity meet, as expressed both at the beginning of the Bible and the end, metaphor must necessarily be invoked because of our paucity of experience about such matters. Is it not strange that while we duly acknowledge that many portions of scripture cannot be read literally, yet we dogmatically insist that such is the way to go when interpreting [tippy title=”Genesis 1″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/genesis/1.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he 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. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning–the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.[/tippy]? While we acknowledge that the Bible contains many types of literature, parable, law, apocalyptic, history, poetry, diatribe, and irony, etc., that insight seems to fail us when we open the inspired Word.

Let it be forever fixed in the mind that inspired Scripture is infallible for its purpose, and its purpose is that we might know that Jesus is the Christ and by believing have life through his name. Scripture says this in many places. Read again 2 Timothy 3:15 and 16, the last verse of John the 20, and John 5:46. Concerning every passage of Scripture we should ask “What is the theological truth being expressed here?” On that truth we may rest. But when we read about the four winds of heaven; the four corners of the earth; the healing power of spittle; that the mustard seed is the least of all seeds; that the hare chews the cud; that it would be possible for one huge mountain to cover the whole earth; that lightning shines from one end of the heavens to the other; that what we recognise as falling meteors are actually falling stars; that the birds fly across the same space where the sun; moon and stars are located; that the whole universe was created in six days (Genesis 2:1); that plants existed before photosynthesis began; that there was light for days before the sun; etc., should we not recognise that this is the language spoken according to the culture of the people who first received the Bible, the language of appearance which is suitable for all races or people of all stages of education in all times?

It is a general rule of God’s that in nature, Christian experience, and revelation he does nothing that we can do for ourselves. He does not cripple us by unnecessary interference as the foolish person does to the bird struggling to get out of the shell.

The true history of Israel, the life, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the story of the early church in Acts is revealed because we could never have discovered the relevant facts for ourselves. But does the Bible tell us how to do surgery, how to make drugs, how to reach the moon, how to make the wheel, how to harness electricity, or thousands of other things that the centuries and human effort have brought to light?

The Bible tells us that God is the Creator of the universe and our planet and life. But he revealed his truths in a manner that would suit all generations, most of whom would be lastingly illiterate. Constantly, inspired writers use the language of appearance (such as the rising and setting of the sun) not the language of science to be discovered long after humanity began its pilgrimage. Believers of the Christian church of practically all the denominations today accept these facts. Those among evangelical Christians who spend most of their days in the study of the Scripture do not fall into the literalistic trap.

Calvin refused to write a commentary on Revelation in his day because then it was still a book of mystery. Even in the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon declared he had no key for the Apocalypse. The case is different now, for in these days of earth’s history, intense study of Scripture has taught us much about the eschatological and apocalyptic passages of Holy Writ. Until the 20th century, most of what was known and was of value in these areas would have fitted on a postcard. The situation is similar with the book of Genesis. Only in recent decades have we learned enough from God’s other book to guide us in rightly interpreting the opening words of Scripture.

When translators of the Bible work among primitive people, they are limited by the concepts familiar to those groups, and the Holy Spirit was similarly limited when he touched on issues beyond human experience in giving the Scriptures.

We do not rightly interpret the Scriptures unless we ask what they meant to the people who first received them. As the Son of God chose to use the symbols of meaning found in the language of Aramaic, the language of his day and his people, so when Moses wrote, the inspiring Spirit guided him in using concepts that were well-known to the world of that time. The culture of Moses’ day was replete with many stories, legends and myths about the origin and history of the world, some of them reflecting in part primeval realities, and God condescended to use these in a refined and purified state to communicate his truth to the ancients. It is quite impossible to make sense of some passages of Scripture unless we accept this. See, for example, Psalm 74:13-14, Psalm 89:10, Isaiah 27:1, and Isaiah 51:9. The world of Moses day was familiar with accounts of an ancient garden where the first human beings were cursed because of their partaking of forbidden food. That world knew the common stories of creation that involved primeval darkness and then light, and ultimately the fashioning of man from clay. That world had the story of a great flood with its hero who, offered sacrifice, when the flood was past, having saved the living creatures of earth, including representation from the human race. Some of these ancient accounts were responsible for the naming of heaven’s constellations as far back as five thousand year ago. In ancient astronomy we find hints of the primeval promises recorded in Genesis 3:15 and 9:12-17 that God would one day intervene and destroy evil and its originator and redeem the race. See the emblems associated with Virgo, Draco, Sagittarius, Serpens, and Argos, etc. Actual events and persons of proto-history are enshrined in the ancient legends. But it is their theological import which, God communicated by story and parable to Israel and ultimately to us.

All language of necessity uses metaphor and simile. Even the most well-known verse of scripture John 3:16 does this when it refers to “the only begotten son.” Members of the Trinity are coeternal and coequal, but there is no “mother” in the trinity. “Son” is a metaphor. So it is with many other key passages of Scripture, and unless we read them properly we may do untold damage to the church which was purchased by the blood of Christ.

Church leaders of all ages have stressed the fact that we have as yet received only the first gleamings of the light that God intends to shed across our pathway. New light will not contradict old light, but it may contradict old traditions. Those who think they will never have to change a cherished view are mistaken. A person who stands on his head for long enough will think that everybody else in the world is the wrong way up. The mind is like a parachute; it only functions when it is open. Never forget the words of Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you: by the heart of Christ, consider that you may be mistaken.” A wise man changes his mind sometimes, but a fool never. To change one’s mind is merely to say that we know more today than we did yesterday. There are conditions, however, for learning the truth, and these are made clear in Scripture. “He that is willing to do his will he shall know…” (John 7:17). “The pure in heart shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Yet it is possible to shine a bright light in a blind man’s eye and he will see nothing at all. Beware of cognitive dissonance, which for millions prevents the learning of new truth.

Pilate asked “what is truth?” and he had Truth standing before him quite unrecognised. May God give us the meekness and humility to think second thoughts about all matters of importance, praying that the Lord Jesus will prompt us by his Spirit to recognise and surrender to the fullness of his truth. May we follow the wisdom of our Saviour who in his teachings over a thousand days of public ministry never once referred to matters of science (though he knew a trillion times more than any modern scientist) but confined his instruction to the everlasting gospel. The purpose of the gospel is to show us how to go to heaven, not to show us how the heavens go.

For the giraffes and moles amongst us who like to reach higher and dig deeper we hope that there may soon be available a collection of articles, called Genesis, Creation, Christ, and the Gospel by Gillian and Desmond Ford. This particularly dwells upon the seed metaphors found in Genesis the 1-3, which reoccur throughout the whole Bible. It also has a large section on Biblical astronomy, and a section of questions and answers. Two of the questions should be briefly touched upon here.

1. Are we to believe in Adam’s literal fall?

2. Does the literary reading of Genesis, rather than a literal reading minimise the importance of the institution of the Sabbath?

Because both of these are theological matters the testimony of Scripture must be wholeheartedly accepted. Mankind DID originally fall in its first representatives-our first parents. The importance of the Sabbath institution is magnified not minimised by a correct understanding of Genesis. Rabbis long taught that a major purpose of the first chapter of Genesis was to give a basis for the fourth Commandment. The Sabbath and the Genesis narrative is shown to be as essential for man’s existence as sex and food mentioned in the immediately preceding verses. But, in reading the Sabbath Commandment, we must remember that, as God’s work was different to ours-without stress or strain or effort-so his rest was different to ours-had no physical need of it, so the six days mentioned are different to ours.

In the booklet mentioned there is a chapter on “Seven: the Seal of Supernatural Inspiration.” It points out that the first sentence of the Bible has seven Hebrew words and four times seven Hebrew letters. The three nouns: God, heaven, and earth have a numeric value of 777. (Each Hebrew letter stands for a number-see any Hebrew Grammar). There is one Hebrew verb, “created”, and its numeric value is 203, which equals 7 times 29. According to some researchers there are at least 30 different numeric features in this verse and statistically the chance of this is one in thirty trillion. This is not to endorse the numerical extremes of writers like Ivan Panin. We would refer the reader to the commentary on the Pentateuch (part 1) by Umberto Cassuto and also L. R. Bailey’s, Genesis, Creation and Creationism.

Despite what might be the first impression of some, there is nothing either strange or new in the proceeding pages. It is certainly not heretical. Christians fall into four categories in their understanding of [tippy title=”Genesis 1″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/genesis/1.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he 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. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning–the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.[/tippy].

1. Those who take [tippy title=”Genesis 1″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/genesis/1.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he 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. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning–the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.[/tippy] as a literal account of a six day creation.

2. Those who hold the “gap” theory. They view [tippy title=”Genesis 1″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/genesis/1.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he 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. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning–the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning–the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.[/tippy] as the account of the reconstruction of the world after eons of geological time.

3. There is the conformist group who view each day as representing thousands of years (Jehovah’s Witnesses for example, and the fine astrophysicist, Hugh Ross).

4. Those who see the chapter as a liturgical hymn of praise and ode to the Creator, to be interpreted as literature and not as science.

The writer of this present article belongs to the fourth group, which includes the majority of well-known evangelical scholars today. John Stott, according to Billy Graham, is the most respected pastor in Christendom, and he holds to this view, which can be found in his commentary on Romans. We append quotations from two other evangelical sources.

If it is correct to view Genesis 1-11 as an inspired retelling of ancient oriental traditions about the origins of the world with a view to presenting the nature of the true God as one, omnipotent, omniscient, and good, as apposed to the fallible, capricious, weak deities who populated the rest of the ancient world; if further it is concerned to show that humanity is central in the divine plan, not an afterthought; if finally it wants to show that man’s plight is the product of his own disobedience and indeed is bound to worsen without divine intervention, Genesis 1-11 is setting out a picture of the world that is at odds both with the polytheistic optimism of ancient Mesopotamia and the humanistic secularism of the modern world.

Genesis is thus a fundamental challenge to the ideologies of civilised men and women, past and present in common, who like to suppose their own efforts will ultimately suffice to save them.

Though historical and scientific questions may be uppermost in our minds as we approach the text, its doubtful whether they were in the writer’s mind, and we should therefore be cautious about looking for answers to questions he was not concerned with. Genesis is primarily about God’s character and his purposes for sinful mankind. Let us be aware of allowing our interests to divert us from the central thrust of the book, so that we miss what the Lord, our Creator and Redeemer, is saying to us.

Genesis 1… is an overture to the rest of the story and therefore does not stand four square with the rest of Genesis to be interpreted according to precisely the same criteria. Finally, at best, all language about God is analogical. Words used to describe him and his acts must inevitably be human words, but they do not have quite the same meaning when applied to him as when they refer to men. In speaking of God as father, we do not assign him all the attributes of human fatherhood. Similarly, in speaking of his creating the world in six days, we do not identify his mode of creation with human creativity nor need we assume his week’s work was necessarily accomplished in one of twenty-four hours. By speaking of six days of work followed by one day’s rest, Genesis 1 draws attention to the correspondence between God’s work and man’s and God’s rest as a model for the Sabbath, but that does not necessarily imply that the six days of creation are the same as human days.

The Bible-versus-science debate has, most regrettably, sidetracked readers of Genesis 1. Instead of reading the chapter as a triumphant affirmation of the power and wisdom of God and the wonder of his creation, we have been too often bogged down attempting to squeeze Scripture into the mould of the latest scientific hypothesis or distorting scientific facts to fit a particular interpretation. When allowed to speak for itself, Genesis 1 looks beyond such minutiae. Its proclamation of the God of grace and power who undergirds the world and gives it purpose justifies the scientific approach to nature. Genesis 1, by further affirming the unique status of man, his place in the divine program, and God’s care for him, gives a hope to mankind that atheist philosophies can never legitimately supply. Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary: Genesis 1-15, pp. liii, 40.

Identifying the genre of Genesis 1-11 is difficult because of its uniqueness. None of these accounts belong to the genre “myth.” Nor is any of them “history” in the modern sense of eyewitness, objective reporting. Rather, they convey theological truths about events, portrayed in a largely symbolic, pictorial literary style. This is not to say that Genesis 1-11 conveys historic falsehood. That conclusion would follow only if the material claimed to contain objective descriptions. From the above discussion it is certain such was not the intent. On the other hand, the view that the truths taught in these chapters have no objective basis is mistaken.

Fundamental truths are declared: creation of all by God, special divine intervention in the origin of the first man and woman, the unity of the human race, the pristine goodness of the created world, including humanity, the entrance of sin through the disobedience of the first pair, the rampant spread of sin after this initial act of disobedience. These truths are all based on facts. Their certainty implies the reality of the facts.

Emphasising solely the similarities to other ancient literature produces a misleading impression that they are the most distinctive features of the material in Genesis. The situation is just the opposite. The reader is first impressed with the unique features of the bible accounts. Only a trained eye discovers the similarities.

In contrast to the exalted monotheism of Genesis 1-11, the Mesopotamian account presents gods, which are embodiments of natural forces. They know no moral principle. They lie, steal, fornicate, and kill. Moreover, humans enjoy no special dignity in these accounts. They are the lowly servants of the gods, being made to provide them with food and offerings….

How then is the unique literary genre of Genesis 1-11 to be understood? One may suppose that the author, inspired by God’s revelation’s employed current literary traditions to teach the true theological import of humanity’s primeval history. The book’s purpose was not to provide biological and geological descriptions of origins. Rather, it was intended to explain the unique nature and dignity of human beings by virtue of their divine origin. They have been made by the Creator in a divine image, yet marred materially by the sin that so soon disfigured God’s good work. William Sanford Lasor, David Allan Hubbard, Frederic William Bush, Old Testament Survey, pages 20-22.

Understanding what this article tries to say can help us to greatly reduce the tragedy of losing our youth influenced by unbelieving university professors. Furthermore, it can help us to reach out to the educated peoples of the world with the assurance that the Bible is a supernatural book conveying wonderful good news that on no account must be despised or neglected.

(For an account of how the N.T. uses Genesis 1-3 and how the gospel is to be found therein, listen to the cassette recording of the first GNU congress meeting of 2003.)

//

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest