Part One – The Conflict
The six-day creation in Genesis has been controversial outside the church for a long time, but recently it is becoming controversial within the church also. I recently came across the statement of belief for The Biologos Foundation. On the Biologos website, under “What We Believe,” we find the following:
- We believe that God created the universe, the earth, and all life over billions of years. . .
- We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution with common descent. . .[i]
Biologos claims to be a Christian organization, so I compared their core beliefs to what the Bible says:
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures after his kind . . . And God made the [beast, cattle, and creeping thing] after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . .”
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him . . . [And YHWH God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.]”
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
“And on the seventh day God rested . . .”
[Gen. 1:24-27, 31, 2:2, 7.]
I am not a scientist; nor am I a theologian. I have, however, spent over ten years as a practicing attorney specializing in interpretation of statutes, contracts, and insurance policies, and it is obvious to me that these two belief systems are fundamentally inconsistent. According to Genesis, mankind was not derived from the animals, but was directly formed from the dust by God Himself on the very day the animals themselves were created. The sun, moon, and stars were created only two days earlier, after the earth was already in existence.
This disagreement does not involve a mere difference of opinion about the interpretation of a word or phrase. Believers may disagree about the doctrine of the rapture, for example, because it involves events that are yet future. Any attempt to fully develop the doctrine must rely to some extent on implications from a number of verses that address the issue only indirectly. One who has studied the subject in depth might take a strong position, but the average person cannot be faulted for harboring some uncertainty about exactly what the Scriptures mean.
Nor does this situation involve two Bible passages that are seemingly difficult to reconcile. For example, well-meaning believers have taken very different stances as to predestination and free will.
It would be one thing for Biologos to, in the interest of full disclosure, state that many of its members interpret the Hebrew word “yom” figuratively.[ii] Sincere believers sometimes disagree on whether a word or phrase in the Bible is intended to be taken literally or symbolically.
What Biologos has done is to publicly take a position, and call it a core belief, that directly contradicts the Word of God. They do not say they interpret the word “day” figuratively, but that the universe, the earth, and all life evolved over billions of years. This directly contradicts the Genesis account, which says creation was accomplished in six days. It is evident from their website that Biologos intends to infiltrate the Church by posing as a Christian ministry and supplanting Bible teaching with their own “harmonization” of the facts about origins.
Biologos’ reasoning is not difficult to follow. In paragraphs 6 and 7 of the statement of beliefs, they candidly admit that they believe God speaks through “natural law,” which they interpret consistently with naturalism and uniformitarianism (albeit with some recognition of miracles). In other words, they see a conflict between the “speech” of God through natural sciences and the revealed Word of God, and they resolve the conflict in favor of the conclusions of natural science. To put it bluntly, when what man says conflicts with what God says, they go with what man says.
Why is the Church so seemingly willing to accept those who would come in and teach what directly contradicts the Bible? How have its leading apologists responded?
A few years ago, one of the premier Christian apologists, Dr. Norman Geisler, wrote a published article in which he concluded that one may believe in inerrancy while rejecting the Genesis account of creation.[iii] Dr. Geisler labored in this article to demonstrate that the Bible does not say what it plainly says.
In straining to support his position, Dr. Geisler relied heavily on Hebrews 4:4-11, which he interpreted to mean that God’s sabbath day of rest continues throughout history. This interpretation is inconsistent with the plain language of the text. In verses 5-8, the writer makes it clear that he is not speaking of God’s rest on the seventh day because the promise was given through David after the creation week. Therefore, the promise speaks of another “day,” the day of decision for those hearing the gospel, and another rest through the finished work of Christ. This passage does not support a day-age interpretation, as Dr. Geisler represents.
Dr. Geisler is incorrect when he opines that the six-day creation has never been considered an essential doctrine. God himself appealed to it when He provided the reason for the sabbath (Ex. 20:9-10). The six-day creation was inscribed in stone by the finger of God and given to Moses as the reason for one of the Ten Commandments that His people were to obey. It is disingenuous to say that the six-day creation is unimportant to God.
Furthermore, it is entirely inappropriate for Dr. Geisler to attempt to separate death from sin. God’s command to Adam was that on the day he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would die (Gen. 3:17). If animals were already suffering disease and death before sin entered the world, then God would have to be the author of death. The Bible says that death follows sin, and that God is life (Rom. 5:12; John 1:3-4). Moreover, Adam died in the biblical sense of the term when he sinned, because he became separated from God, who is life (Gen. 3:8). Adam’s physical death took time, but his spiritual death occurred instantaneously (See Eph. 2:1).
The Bible says that death is a consequence of sin, as in Rom. 5:12 “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin”. Death will be destroyed when sin is finally judged (Rev. 20:12-14). Thus, death could not have occurred until after Adam sinned.
It is presumptuous for one mortal to say to another that a part of the Word of God is unimportant. The Bible itself says that all Scripture is inspired by God, and that it is profitable (II Tim. 3:16).
Furthermore, to take a position directly contrary to the biblical account is to call both God and Moses liars. The Bible states that all three members of the Trinity were involved in creation. It was carried out at the bidding of the Father through the agency of the Son (Heb. 1:2; John 1:3; Col. 1:16). Since Christ said that no one has seen the Father, many believe it was He who gave the law to Moses. See John 6:46. The Holy Spirit was involved, although His precise role is not specified (Gen. 1:2).
The Holy Spirit’s involvement is particularly sobering in light of the warning against blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. However one interprets “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” in its narrowest form it involves attributing miracles clearly wrought by the Spirit of God to the forces of evil (Matt. 12:22-32). The creation account is solemn testimony by God regarding a miraculous work carried out, at least in part, by the Holy Spirit. It would seem to be no small thing to both ignore it and to teach others to attribute creation to the chaotic forces of explosions and mutations.
Furthermore, Moses is one of the most respected figures in history. He was the giver of the law, which was unalterable and binding (Heb. 2:2). Moses spent a total of 80 days alone with God during which he received the law (Ex. 24:18, 31:18; Deut. 9:9-11). Moses continued to meet with God regularly after the law was given (Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:4-8). Moses spent so much time with God his face glowed (Ex. 34:29-35). Are we to believe that during all that time Moses never asked God for His account of creation—the account which opens the Torah? Consider what God said about Moses when Miriam and Aaron opposed him:
“If there is a prophet among you, I YWHW shall make myself known unto him in a vision, and shall speak unto him in a dream. Not so, with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all My household. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings. And he beholds the form of YHWH. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” Numb. 12:7-8.
If the creation account is inaccurate, one must ask why God would begin with a falsehood in His word to mankind. Creation is the foundation of God’s authority over the world. According to God, creation was witnessed by the angels (Job 38:4-7). Would the angels not know if the account given to Moses was inaccurate?
If the creation account is merely symbolic, what does it symbolize? Creation is not treated as symbolic elsewhere in Scripture.
Religious leaders have sometimes impeded science by imposing their interpretations as dogma. However, it is also true that claims of scientists have often been proven incorrect, and that the Bible has stood the test of time.
The controversy that Galileo and Copernicus faced is different from the present conflict. The Bible nowhere states that the sun revolves around the earth. Moreover, modern science recognizes that motion may be described from any frame of reference.[iv]
The creation recounts events that occurred in the past, which cannot be verified by observation. Furthermore, creation is not something only tangentially referenced in the Bible. Creation is directly addressed in a lengthy passage, and it is referenced in many other passages of Scripture. Many biblical doctrines depend on it. The Bible begins with creation—how could this passage be deemed unimportant?
The controversy regarding origins is not, as Dr. Geisler argues, a minor issue upon which brethren may disagree.[v] The view of secular scientists directly conflicts with a key, on-point, foundational biblical passage. Glossing it over is the wrong approach. As evidenced by the statement of beliefs of Biologos, the laissez-faire attitude of Dr. Geisler and other leading Christian apologists has allowed secularists to walk in unimpeded and to begin teaching things that are contrary to the Word of God within the Church.
Those who believe the Bible cannot simply bury their heads in the sand and hope the conflict will go away. We must challenge the thinking of secularistic views and demonstrate that they are wrong. The secularists, and those who have followed them, have erred, not by being too scientific, but in failing to properly apply the study of evidence.
[i] http://biologos.org/about-us/our-mission/. Retrieved Aug. 25, 2017.
[ii] “Yom” is the Hebrew word for “day.” Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon H3117.
[iii] Geisler, Dr. Norman L. Does Believing in Inerrancy Require One to Believe in Young Earth Creationism? The Christian Post, published Feb. 12, 2014. http://www.christianpost.com/news/does-believing-in-inerrancy-require-one-to-believe-in-young-earth-creationism-114464/. Retrieved Aug. 25, 2017.
[iv] Scientists often claim that Copernicus proved the Bible is incorrect. In fact, science later acknowledged that motion can be described from any frame of reference under the principle of relativity. Copernicus did not prove that the sun does not go around the earth, but rather that in order to explain the path of the planets, one must use the sun’s frame of reference. This is not inconsistent with anything in Scripture.
Note that this is a four-part series. This segment ends with what appears to be an unsupported statement. In fact, it is the lead-in to the next segment, which picks up where this one leaves off.
Coming from your most recent article “Must We Presume the Truth of the Bible,” it would be very helpful if you’d go back and post a link to the next part. Until then, could you email me the links?
I don’t have control of that. But if you go to the “Articles” tab at the top, then pick “All By Author,” then scroll down until you find me (I currently have 5 articles posted), you will find links to all of them.
I am curious regarding what seems to be be an internal contradiction in your argument. You write that, “to take a position directly contrary to the biblical account is to call both God and Moses liars.”
But isn’t is just as valid to assert that to take a position directly contrary to the revelation of creation itself is also to call God a liar? We have before us two sources of divine revelation regarding the creation of the universe; the Bible on one hand and the actual creation on the other. When the two sources conflict, how is it any more valid to choose the Bible over creation itself?
Let me give a more specific example. The vast majority of the observable universe is more than 6,000 light years away. This means that if the universe is only 6,000 or so years old the light from those distant objects had to have been created en route. Else we would constantly be seeing new stars (and no galaxies) winking on as their light reached us for the first time.
And that’s okay as far as it goes. There is no reason for God to have not created the light en route, as celestial objects are, after all, meant to be signs. But there is another problem.
The light that was created en route is not just light, but light that contains information. It contains a record of historical events like super novae, or cosmic collisions, or planetary occlusions. And if those were created en route, they are actually records of historic events that never really happened at all.
They are, in short, lies.
So, either the Bible (which we at best BELIEVE was given us by God) or creation itself (which we KNOW was given us by God) is wrong. It seems to me that Biologos has made a reasonable choice.
Thank you for your comments. I agree that the arguments you made are the best that can be made on behalf of the view that Biologos and others are taking. Here are my thoughts:
First, general revelation is not the same thing as special revelation. Special revelation is what God has told us directly in the Scriptures. General revelation is what we infer or discover to be true in the world around us. Because our knowledge is always incomplete, we have to be careful about calling something “general revelation.” A scientific theory does not qualify as general revelation because under the scientific method it must be tentative. We must be particularly cautious when a scientific theory contradicts a direct communication of God, which is what we have in Genesis 1 and 2.
Now, as for the light-travel problem, I agree that it is an important issue which must be addressed. For that very reason, I have addressed it in an upcoming article in this series. Because it is already in the pipeline, I will defer my comments until that article comes out.
By the way, the second article in this series, which came out this week, addresses circumstantial and testimonial evidence, which correlates somewhat to so-called General and Special Revelation.
Finally, I disagree with you when you say we know creation was given by God, but we merely believe the Bible was given by God. We know God created the universe through the Scriptures. I think you will find that the upcoming articles in this series will address that issue also. Stay tuned!