Why Are the Bible and Science in Conflict?
If you believe the Bible cannot be harmonized with the findings of modern science, you’re not alone. In fact, the belief that one cannot accept the Bible as factual because it conflicts with science is probably the number one reason most non-Christians reject the Bible. But this conflict is unnecessary. Science and the Bible do not contradict each other, so long as scientists stay within the realm of scientific investigation, and theologians do not attempt to lift scientific information out of Scripture that isn’t there. Before we get into this, let’s gain some perspective.
THE RISE OF MODERN SCIENCE
The conflict between science and the Bible arose fairly recently. Early scientists were in agreement with Christians that God created a rational universe and that man, being a rational creature, could discover how the universe functions. Nature was seen as the textbook of God’s general revelation just as the Bible was seen as the textbook of His special revelation. Scientists held that the starting point of knowledge could be found in Scripture. In fact, the view that the Bible provides a general foundation of natural history on which scientific discoveries could rest was adhered to by all of science from its inception in the Middle Ages through the time of Isaac Newton.
Christianity was essential for the rise of modern science. It created an atmosphere that encouraged the investigation of nature. Unlike Eastern and tribal religions that identified deity with creation, Christianity desacralized nature by recognizing that the creator was apart from nature, not a part of nature. This removed all religious prohibitions to scientific investigation.1
A common misconception is that the Bible contains scientific fallacies and inaccuracies. Of course, orthodox Christians will never concede this is true. Either the Bible is God’s Word, or it is not. If it is, it will be free from error in any form, spiritual, historical, or scientific. Christians believe that the Bible is a reliable document and trustworthy in every subject it treats. So it will not make statements that are unscientific or historically inaccurate.
Having said this, it must be pointed out that the Bible is not a scientific textbook. Science is in a constant state of change. New discoveries destroy or alter old theories and generate new ones. If the Bible was a science textbook, it would have quickly been out-of-date.
The central purpose of the Bible is not to teach science but to show man how to be reconciled with God and thus achieve eternal life through Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the Bible does not contain anything scientifically false. Whenever the authors of Scripture touch on a scientific matter, they present truth, not error.
Unfortunately, some theologians have drawn unwarranted scientific inferences from Scripture. For example, in the seventeenth century, Bishop Ussher concluded that the world was created in 4004 b.c. after he analyzed the genealogies in the Bible. Others have taken the biblical teaching that man is to have dominion over the earth and used it as an excuse to abuse nature. Other theologians have claimed that the Bible teaches the earth is the center of the universe. And, of course, non-Christian critics love to point to verses that seem to allude to a flat earth. But the fact is, the Bible nowhere teaches any of these things. They are the products of sincere but misguided theologians or critics who have inferred more from the Bible than what it teaches.
Actually, the Bible makes numerous scientific references that were far advanced for the science of its day. It contains none of the absurdities found in the sacred books of the East or in Greek mythology. For example, at the time of Job, Greek mythology taught that the world rested on the shoulders of Atlas, one of the great Titans, or Elder gods. Yet Job 26:7 says that God “hangs the earth on nothing” (literally, the earth rests in space without any visible means of support). Astronomers in antiquity counted the stars and estimated that they numbered about five thousand. But the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “the host of heaven [stars] cannot be numbered” just as the “sand of the sea [cannot be] measured” (Jer. 33:22). Isaiah 40:22 refers to the earth as a “circle.” The Hebrew word used here is chug, which allows for the concept that the earth is a sphere. This is particularly interesting because people at that time generally believed that the earth was flat.
The Bible also describes numerous natural phenomena whose processes were probably unknown at the time. For example, Ecclesiastes 1:6 relates that the wind blows “toward the south, then turning toward the north, the wind continues swirling along; and on its circular courses the wind returns” (nasv), a clear description of the great circular movements of earth’s winds. In the following verse, the author states that “all the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again” (nasv). This, of course, is a picture of the earth’s hydraulic system in which water evaporates from the oceans, rains on the earth, and then returns to the sea via rivers to repeat the cycle again.
Now some will argue that this is reading science back into the Bible, but that is not the point. These descriptions, whatever the authors meant, do not contradict known scientific facts even though they were recorded in the Bible centuries before modern science. And more importantly, many of these descriptions are in stark contrast with the fallacious beliefs recorded by contemporaries of the Bible’s human authors. Only God could have imparted such accurate information to the biblical writers. As Kenny Barfield has said:
The Bible is pregnant with gems of wisdom buried within its pages. Physicians are amazed by the rationality of its dictums [concerning sanitation, food, and sex laws]. Its commands for daily living provide a rational basis for preventive medicine. Even unbelievers often heap accolades on its moral codes. Astronomers must admit to the accuracy of its simplistic, yet moving description of the heavens. Geologists have been stunned as they stumble across modern concepts hidden within its pages. The biblical writers demonstrate a careful, quiet avoidance of the faulty doctrines outlined by others who wrote in those times.2
The belief that the Bible is scientifically inaccurate often has its source in the fact that the Bible used pre-scientific and phenomenological language. This means that the Bible describes nature as it appears to be and uses the same language we use in everyday speech. For example, Ecclesiastes 1:5 refers to the sun as “rising and setting” (nasv). Isaiah 11:12 refers to “the four corners of the earth.” Such statements are not scientific, but then neither are they unscientific. They are just expressions of the way ordinary people have always talked. Because the Bible is not a scientific textbook, it does not speak “scientifically” any more than television weatherforecasters do when they tell us what time the sun will “rise” and “set” the following day. We don’t accuse them of being unscientific, and we shouldn’t pass judgment on the Bible for speaking in the same manner.
EVOLUTION VS. CREATION
The conflict between science and Scripture almost always involves the issues of miracles or creationism. Does science discount miracles? Does science disprove the biblical view of creation? We will examine the evidence for miracles in the next chapter, but here we will focus on the debate between evolutionists and creationists over the origin of life. In today’s climate, this latter issue has become one of the most hotly contested topics between Christians and non-Christians.
Generally, the debate between evolutionists and creationists centers on two related issues: Does evolution disprove the existence of God? Does evolution prove that the Bible is false—in particular, the biblical account of divine creation?
The first question was answered in Chapter 2. If by evolution one means naturalistic evolution, then its foundational assumption is atheism. According to this form of evolution, life originated and evolved by random natural processes of time and chance independent of a supernatural creator. Now we discovered that atheism is irrational and the evidence for God’s existence extensive and conclusive. So even if some form of evolution is true, it does not disprove God’s existence.
So now we can move ahead to the second issue: Does evolution disprove biblical creationism?
Now, it needs to be said in the very beginning that, despite the fact that naturalistic evolution is atheistic, many Christians are evolutionists. One can be an evolutionist and still be a Christian. Believing in evolution is not a factor that prevents one from receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There are many devout and faithful Christians, including some well-trained and respected theologians, who believe in a form of evolution called theistic evolution.
Theistic evolutionists usually interpret the Genesis account of creation poetically rather than literally. They believe the biblical story of creation is meant to teach that the earth and life owes its existence to God, not to teach the method by which the earth and life came into existence. Generally, theistic evolutionists accept whatever prevailing evolutionary theory is in vogue, but they insist that God is the force behind natural processes. This allows God to employ evolution in the creation process, thereby preserving a harmony between theism and the theory of evolution.
There are also several creationist models popular among Christians, and we will look at two of them later. But the point for now is that there is no reason for anyone to allow evolution to interfere with his acceptance of the God of Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Granting all this, I want you to know that creationism, including a literal six-day-creation interpretation of Genesis, can be sustained theologically and scientifically. So although belief in evolution is not a reason to reject the Bible or Jesus Christ, nevertheless, accepting creationism does not automatically make the Christian religion unscientific or individual Christians anti-science. The fact is, not only is creationism a viable alternative to evolution, but, as we will see, the bulk of scientific evidence fits the creationist’s model of origins better than the evolutionist’s model does.
The real issue between evolution and creationism is not so much science as it is philosophy. An important part of this chapter is to help you understand why evolution is so widely accepted when so much scientific evidence refutes it. So let’s get started.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Beginning in the eighteenth century and escalating in the nineteenth century, Christianity began to move from center stage as the dominant world view in Western culture. Meanwhile, secular humanism, empowered by the growth of modern science, supplanted Christianity as the dominant world view. Today, science has achieved in the minds of many divine status. Faith in science as the source of knowledge has become the god of post-Christian secular man. Thus, to a large degree, the issue of science versus the Bible is really a philosophical one. It is not just a matter of conflicting interpretations of facts but of conflicting faiths.
Modern science operates by a system of thought that often goes by the name of naturalism or scientific materialism. Naturalism is a philosophy. It teaches that the universe operates according to eternal, unchanging natural laws, and that nothing exists outside the material world. Reality is what we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. No supernatural reality exists. All of reality, at least potentially, can be understood by the human mind, and all phenomena have a natural explanation. This precludes the existence of God, miracles, angels, providence, immortality, heaven, sin, salvation, and answered prayer—at least as Christians understand them. All such things are incompatible with naturalism’s world view.3
Atheistic evolution is part of the philosophy of naturalism. It begins with the philosophical presupposition that life came into existence accidentally through random processes over immense periods of time. It then sets out to find scientific evidence that supports this view. Evolution is a philosophy of the origin of life that ignores the biblical revelation of creation and the wealth of scientific evidence supporting it. Evolutionists are notorious for suppressing evidence that does not fit their hypothesis.
EVOLUTION—FACT OR MYTH?
Larry Laudan in his book, Progress and Its Problems: Toward a Theory of Scientific Growth,4 observes that the history of science contains dozens of theories that have eventually been discarded as inadequate explanations of various phenomena. They were discarded or replaced by new ones. So we can probably rest assured that atheistic evolution will likewise one day be shown to be inadequate as the definite statement on the origin of life, especially as new evidences supporting creationism continue to emerge. Unfortunately, however, there are barriers to the widespread acceptance of creationism as a scientific model of origins that go beyond mere scientific verification. Let me explain why this is so.
Modern scientific theories revolve around paradigms. Paradigms are models or standards by which data is interpreted and predictions made. The success of any particular paradigm lies in the fact that it is more successful than competing paradigms in solving existing problems and in the promise of solving future ones. On the negative side, however, once a paradigm has become firmly established in an accepted world view, it is not easily surrendered. Instead, it tends to acquire a commitment far beyond what it had initially, even to the degree that scientists attempt to work hard to fit new data within a paradigm that has become inadequate.5
The danger of this is twofold. First, a tendency develops to exclude or ignore data that does not support the existing paradigm. Second, if the paradigm is propagating false information, its adherents are believing a lie.
The theory of evolution is an example of how a particular paradigm can influence a culture’s overall world view, even when the paradigm is likely false. Evolution arose at a time in history (the nineteenth century) when science was becoming estranged from Christian theology. It not only explained data that was at that time not totally accounted for biblically, but it also provided a world view that precluded a creator God. This helped bring about a complete separation of science and religion that the secularists had been seeking. Today, evolution still fits best with the atheistic presuppositions of secular humanism.
The acceptance of well-entrenched paradigms such as evolution can be so intolerant and dogmatic that even when the evidence on which they depend is disqualified, they still tend to remain accepted models. Although a wealth of scientific data has accumulated to cast doubt on evolution, most scientists, adhering to the philosophy of naturalism, refuse to investigate alternative (i.e., creationist) concepts. Add to that the fact that science has been elevated to the status of absolute authority with regard to truth and you have an intolerable barrier to true investigation and knowledge. Science has decreed that the evolution paradigm explains the origin of life, and most people have unquestioningly bowed and accepted the decree as scientific fact. But is the decree justified? No, and here’s why: The origin of life is more an historical matter than it is a scientific one.
The birth of the universe and origin of life were past, one-time events. No human being observed them, and no present processes approximate them. Now science can only verify data that can be repeated through observation and experimentation. Consequently, scientific investigation can never prove how the universe came into existence or if evolution was the means by which life developed. This is not to say that scientific investigation into the origin of the universe or of life is an invalid pursuit. But science cannot make dogmatic claims against biblical creationism. When scientists state emphatically that life arose accidentally through random processes over immense periods of time, they leave the realm of scientific facts demonstrable through observation and experimentation and move into speculation. And when they present only the evidence that best fits the evolutionary scenario, they imbibe presumptuous metaphysical (philosophical) claims that they have no scientific foundation to accept. At best, science loses its integrity and, at worst, embraces false and unsubstantiated views when scientists run amuck in these ways.
The same can be said about spiritual truths. Can science prove the nonexistence of God? Of course not. In fact, attempts to disprove God by a system that already philosophically denies God are absurd and illogical. Likewise, can science prove we are saved through Jesus Christ? Of course not. The truth is, scientific “facts” have never disproved one word of the Bible or one biblical claim. Nothing in science prevents us from believing that God created the universe and life, including man, and that He did so totally independent of evolutionary processes.
This brings us to the problem at hand: Does evolution stand the test of objective investigation? Both evolutionism and creationism are theories on the origin of life. Which theory is best supported by the evidence? If we look beyond the biased teachings of the evolutionary paradigm, we find that the creationist model is supported by more scientific evidence than the evolutionist model.
SCIENCE SPEAKS ABOUT CREATIONISM
Christians are logically justified and philosophically consistent to accept biblical creation without investigating scientific evidence. If the Bible is the Word of God, then what it teaches about creation must be true. God cannot lie. With this approach, the truth of biblical creationism depends on the Bible’s reliability. Since the Bible is true, creationism must be a fact of science whether science recognizes it or not. There is no contradiction or faulty logic here because we have simply shifted the burden of proof away from science to Scripture. Nor is this circular reasoning because we are presenting evidence outside of Scripture to validate the Bible. The only difference is that the evidence one presents is historical evidence for the reliability of the Bible rather than scientific evidence. The Bible is God’s divine Word; the Bible teaches creationism; therefore, creationism is true.
But to get a fair hearing for creationism in our society, we must rely on more than biblical reliability. We must submit scientific evidence to confirm the biblical view of creation. And that we can do. The creationist model for the origin and development of life is supported by a great deal of scientific evidence. In fact, the creationist model best explains the available scientific evidence on the origin of life. What follows are evidences evolutionists feel best support their theory. However, as you will see, these same evidences are much more believable and scientifically acceptable when viewed within the creationist model.
The Fossil Evidence
Historically, the most convincing evidence for evolution is the fossil record. Evolutionists claim that the fossil record displays a gradual evolution of animal and plant life from primitive forms to complex forms with transitional phases between major classes (e.g., between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and birds, and so on).
But this scenario has no support. There is no evidence that complex life forms evolve from primitive life forms because no such transitional species between any of these groups of animals have ever been found in the tons of fossil-bearing rock recovered over the past one hundred thirty years. Textbook drawings of transitional species are simply artists’ conceptions of what they think such animals would look like if they did exist. All the major groups of animals are distinct from one another throughout the fossil record, and their particular characteristics are fully formed and functional when they first appear. For example, when feathers and wings first show up, they are fully formed feathers and wings. No part-leg/part-wing or part-scale/ part-feather fossils have ever been found. What use would a part-leg/ part-wing have anyway? According to evolution, for any trait to be passed along, it must have survival value. Certainly a part-leg/part-wing would have no survival value to either a reptile or a bird. In fact, it would likely be a detriment.
On the other hand, the creationist model explains the absence of transitional species. The Bible teaches that God created living creatures “after their kind” (Gen. 1:24, nasv). This can be interpreted to mean that God created all the original kinds of animals with specific “gene pools” that contained all of the genetic potential needed for each type of animal to produce diverse varieties within its own kind. For example, the canine family probably arose from an original created kind. From the first dog, all the various wild and domestic dogs on earth developed. But this is not evolution in the sense that modern canines evolved from some pre-dog ancestor. Rather, the original created dog-kind developed, through adaption to diverse environmental conditions, into the numerous forms of dogs we see today. This process is called microevolution, which is not one species evolving from a more primitive species but a created kind fulfilling its full genetic potential within the limits of its original gene pool. Both extinct and modern canines have always been just dogs. In the fossil record, there has never been a half dog/half cat or half dog/half some other animal. There has always been just dogs.
Natural selection within created gene pools accounts for every change seen in every kind of animal on earth, extinct or modern. All the illustrations given by evolutionists to prove evolution are in reality no more than adaptions within specific gene pools. Science has never seen in nature or observed in a laboratory one species of animal evolve into another. When cockroaches become resistant to a pesticide, it does not represent the evolution of a new species of cockroach. Rather it illustrates natural selection within the cockroach gene pool, allowing insects already resistant to a particular pesticide because of their existing genetic makeup to become dominant within a population of cockroaches. But the new breed of resistant cockroaches are still cockroaches.
A second important argument used to support evolution focuses on mutations. Evolutionists argue that the mechanism by which one species evolves into another is through genetic mutations. The idea goes something like this. Through a genetic foul-up, a species of animal is born with a new trait that aids its survival. For instance, an animal is born with a deformed ear that actually allows that animal to hear an approaching predator better than others of his species. Because this characteristic is beneficial, that particular animal survives to pass on the trait to its offspring, which in turn benefit from the same trait and pass it on to their offspring. Eventually, after millions of years and countless generations, the animals with the more efficient hearing dominate the species, and what was once a deformity is now part of the genetic makeup of all the animals within that particular species. Evolutionists teach that with vast amounts of time, thousands of these tiny mutations can eventually give rise to an entirely new species of animal. Thus accidental mutations plus long time spans plus natural selection (“survival of the fittest”) result in the continual emergence of new species of animals.
The flaw in this theory is twofold. First, in practically every known case, a mutation is not beneficial but harmful to an animal and usually kills it. A deformity lessens the survival potential of an animal—it does not strengthen it. And even if there are “good” mutations, the tremendous number of bad mutations would overwhelm the fewer number of good ones. What one would expect to see, if mutations were passed along to future generations, is a tendency for a species to degenerate and eventually become extinct, not evolve upward to a new or better species.
The second flaw in the mutation theory is that the time needed for a primitive animal to evolve into a higher animal through random mutational changes is mathematically impossible. The problem lies in the fact that there must be a series of both related mutations and subsequent mutations that are complementary to one another. A new trait does not evolve in one generation. For a deer to evolve greater speed requires not only that it slowly, over countless generations, develops more powerful legs but that corresponding mutations in other areas of its body must also take place at the same time. To run faster, more efficient circulation, heart, lungs, and so on are needed. Creationist Dr. Gary Parker explains that the chances of getting three related mutations in a row is one in a billion trillion (1021). To illustrate the odds of this, he states that “the ocean isn’t big enough to hold enough bacteria to make it likely for you to find a bacterium with three simultaneous or sequential related mutations.”6 Moreover, the time that would be needed for enough mutations to occur to evolve even a simple organism is many billions of years longer than what evolutionists themselves believe the age of the earth to be.
A similar problem exists with regard to the probability of life accidentally coming into existence from nonlife through chemical processes in the earth’s alleged primordial soup. With the discovery of the genetic code, we now know that the amount of information coded in the organization of a simple living cell is so vast that its accidental formation by random processes is beyond possibility. According to Sir Fred Hoyle, an eminent mathematician and astronomer, if the earth is 4.6 billion years old, as most evolutionists believe, the probability of a single living cell originating by random processes would be one chance in 1040,000 (ten with forty thousand zeros behind it). In other words, the probability is so small that it is not even considered as a viable option by most scientists familiar with information theory and probability studies. Today, thanks to “super computers,” it is firmly established that chance, long time spans, and mutations cannot account for the origin of life nor confirm the evolution of even a simple organism. As Hoyle puts it, “The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein.”7
The Age of the Earth
The third ingredient vital to the evolution recipe is an old earth. Although the age of the earth is not a factor in the creationist model of origins (remember, even if the earth is 5 billion years old, it is still not old enough for even simple organisms to evolve), time is of the utmost importance on the evolution model.
Evolutionists generally agree that the age of the earth is between 4.5 and 5 billion years old. The most common dating methods used by science to substantiate this age are one of several radiometric systems.8 These methods measure geologic time according to the rate of disintegration of radioactive elements. They are based on the assumption that decay processes have remained fairly stable throughout geologic history.
Today, much data is available that questions the accuracy of radiometric dating systems, and there are numerous other dating methods that suggest a young earth. In fact, over sixty chronometers date the earth as young (in geologic time, a young earth would be tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of years old rather than billions of years old). Dating methods that point to a geologically young earth include the decay of the earth’s magnetic field, the accumulation of meteoritic dust on the earth’s crust, the amount of helium in the atmosphere, the influx of sediment into the oceans via rivers, and the influx of specific chemicals into the oceans. In all of these cases, if the earth was billions of years old, the amount of decay or accumulation would be much greater than they are today.9
The first and second laws of thermodynamics are foundational to all of science and have never been contradicted in observable nature. The first law, also called the “law of conservation of mass-energy,” states that matter and energy are neither being created nor destroyed. In other words, matter and energy do not have within themselves the ability to create. This implies that they must have been created. The first law of thermodynamics points away from evolution to a creator.
The second law, also called the “law of increasing entropy,” states that entropy (which is the measurement of disorganization) always increases in an isolated system (a system which does not have an external influence that can sustain or increase its available energy, such as the universe). Now, what does this mean? Simply put, it means that the natural course of anything is to degenerate. An old automobile in a junkyard eventually rusts away. An animal is born and eventually grows old and dies. A star burns out and vanishes. In short, the universe is running down. But if the universe is running down, it must have had a beginning. It is not eternal. This implies a creator. It also contradicts evolution which depicts life moving upward rather than slowly degenerating.
The Anthropic Principle
One of the most compelling evidences supporting creationism involves the anthropic principle, although it is sometimes used as an argument supporting evolution. The anthropic principle observes that the earth is fashioned so precisely that life as we know it could not exist if the earth were even minutely different. Evolutionists acknowledge this and then argue that, although the universe is incredibly complex and wonderfully ordered, we should not be surprised that life came into existence through random process. Why? Because the very fact that we exist demonstrates that evolution occurred. In other words, in an infinite universe, the diverse circumstances needed for life to occur were bound to fall into place sooner or later—even if only once—no matter how unlikely it may be.
The fundamental problem with this argument should be obvious. It is merely a philosophical statement that relies on circular reasoning. It assumes that evolution accounts for the origin of life and then states, because life exists, we have proof that evolution is true. To counter this, we can offer our own philosophical statement. Robert Newman does this well: “If such a being as the God of the Bible exists, then an apparently designed universe such as ours would be a likely result rather than such a surprise as we have in an accidental universe.”10
Hence, we are right back to arguing which model, creation or evolution, best fits the available evidence. And here is where the creationists can use the anthropic principle to their advantage. The value of the anthropic principle, as a support for creation, lies in its recognition that life can exist only within very narrow margins. For example, if the earth was located closer or farther from the sun, life could not exist due to excessive heat or cold. If the chemical composition of the atmosphere varied only slightly, the air would be poisonous to life. If the sea-to-land-mass ratio, depth of the oceans, and the earth’s cloud cover were different, the earth’s ability to store and release heat would change dramatically. All such events could result in the absence of life on earth. Rather than all of these variables being the result of accidental processes (luck), it appears much more probable that the earth was specifically designed to sustain life. And if it was designed, there must be a Designer—God.
Actually, this concept can be carried a step further. According to the evolutionary scenario, when the earth was formed, it did not initially possess the right chemical balance for life to exist. A hardening ball of gases would hardly support life. For the earth to reach a stage in which it could support life, some form of inorganic (nonliving) evolution would have had to occur. This would be necessary in order to achieve the right combination of ingredients from which organic molecules could emerge. Even if we can envision organic evolution (the evolution of living plants and animals), it takes a colorful imagination to accept the premise that nonliving elements such as gases and minerals evolved to a point where they could support life. I’m convinced that evolutionists demand we believe in the absurd.
Applying Scientific Evidence
No transitional fossils
Not expected because God created “Kinds.”
Needed for evolution to work but missing in the fossil record.
Most mutations are “bad” and destroy organisms. The earth is not old enough for “good” mutations to account for evolution.
Without an abundance of good mutations, there is no way to account for evolutionary change.
Age of earth
Creation model fits with both an old and young earth.
Old earth is necessary for evolution.
Demonstrates the universe had a beginning (created) and is running down (will end).
Violates the evolutionary assumptions that the universe is eternal and uncaused.
Explains the order and design in the universe as the product of an intelligent Creator. God created the earth specifically to sustain life.
Evolution requires that the ingredients necessary to support life are the product of random processes.
CAN EVOLUTION AND THE BIBLE BOTH BE CORRECT?
So far, my purpose has been to demonstrate that evolution does not fit the facts of science. In spite of the evidence supporting creationism, however, some readers will still find it difficult to set aside a lifetime of evolutionary indoctrination and become creationists. The question, then, is, Can creationism be harmonized with evolutionary concepts? Can the Genesis account of creation and evolutionism both be correct? Many theologians and scientists would answer the question yes. However, they all have one thing in common. They all reject atheistic evolution as well as theistic evolution and accept, instead, one of several creationist theories (creationism).
Various creationist models attempt to harmonize Genesis 1 and 2 with certain evolutionary concepts such as an old earth. However, all creationists agree that God is the creator and sustainer of the universe and that macroevolution (where one species eventually becomes another species) is unsupported by the scientific evidence. The following briefly describes the two most widely accepted creationist theories.
THE GAP THEORY
This position claims that a “gap” of perhaps five billion years occurred between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. During this time, prehistoric life evolved and major geologic changes occurred. At some point in recent geologic time, a giant cataclysmic event took place that ushered in the extinction of prehistoric life and the beginning of the modern earth. Some theologians suggest that this cataclysmic event was the result of Satan rebelling against God. Actually, the biblical evidence for this view is scant.
Progressive creationism (one example is the day-age theory) claims that the six days of creation are not literal twenty-four-hour days but may represent six geologic time periods of unspecific duration. During these “days,” God intervened with specific creative acts. This view relies largely on two biblical observations.
First, the Hebrew word for “day” (yom) can refer to an indefinite period of time rather than to a twenty-four-hour day. In normal biblical interpretation (hermeneutics), questionable words are checked out in other passages in order to zero in on their exact meaning. It appears that in Genesis 2:4, the word yom covers the entire span of creation. Yom seems to have a similar meaning in Genesis 5:2 and other passages. Add to this 2 Peter 3:8, which says that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” and there are some good grounds to argue that the six days of creation may not be six literal days. (However, literal six-day creationists claim that Exodus 20:11 refutes this view.)
The second argument that appears to lend support to progressive creationism is even stronger. It points out that although Adam and Eve were both created on day six according to Genesis 1:27, in Genesis 2:4–25 a time interval elapsed between the creation of Adam and the creation of Eve. After Adam was created, he was placed in the Garden of Eden to tend and cultivate it, had time to name all the animals, became lonely—and all this happened before Eve was made. It seems impossible that all of this activity would take place in one twenty-four hour period.
Thus, many creationists conclude that the word day likely refers to a longer period of time than twenty-four-hours. Exactly how long is an open issue for discovery and debate.
THE ORIGIN OF LIFE
I want to reemphasize here that progressive creationism is not to be confused with theistic evolutionism. Even if the earth is five billion years old, there are still no transitional fossils to support the claim that primitive animals evolved into higher animals. And as explained above, the mechanics for achieving macroevolution through mutations are beyond scientific credibility. Nor does a five-billion-year-old earth significantly lower the odds of life emerging spontaneously from inorganic material. The way I see it, the primary goal of progressive creationism is to explain an old earth (the geologic ages) and thereby allow more time for the number of species to increase from among the original created kinds on a microevolutionary model. Whether one accepts a six-day creation week or one of the progressive creationism models, in the Christian view God is still the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe.
Space prevents a more in-depth examination of the various creationist models, but I hope what has been offered here has confirmed that Scripture allows for a variety of interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2.
My own position? I think J. P. Moreland voices it well:
The exegetical problems [of Genesis 1 and 2] should cause us to allow the possibility that several different understandings of the text, within the framework of inerrancy, are genuine contenders. The day of creation is a difficult question, but on exegetical grounds alone, the literal twenty-four-hour-day view is better. However, since the different progressive creationist views are plausible exegetical options on hermeneutical grounds alone, then if science seems to point to a universe of several billions of years, it seems allowable to read Genesis in this light. It would be wrong to let science elevate an understanding of Genesis which is not antecedently plausible on hermeneutical grounds alone. But in this case, an old cosmos seems allowable. On the other hand, it does not seem possible to hold to a great antiquity for man. Even with gaps in the genealogies, it seems that Adam and Eve would be recent, surely within fifty thousand years, probably earlier. In any case, Christians should continue to promote various paradigms of Genesis 1 and 2 which do not do damage to the text. There are too many difficult exegetical issues for dogmatism and infighting among us.11
When all the evidence is in, one fact stands out. Believing in atheistic evolution demands an enormous amount of faith. In fact, in light of the scientific evidence, it takes much greater faith to believe in evolutionism than it does to believe in creationism. Evolution requires us to believe that out of chaos, time, and chance arose order, design, and harmony. It teaches that life came from nonlife, that human ethics and morality came from amorality, that human intelligence came from irrationality. By comparison, creationists look out upon the orderly universe, the design and harmony in nature, human morality and rationality, and see their source in an intelligent, moral, all-powerful, creative God. Which requires the most faith to believe?
Today, an increasing number of evolutionists are recognizing that evolution is no longer a viable theory of origins.12 They recognize that time and chance, operating via mutation and natural selection, do not produce new species, let alone account for the origin of life. As one scientist puts it, people like Carl Sagan are simply “peddling the old mechanistic world view in relation to astronomy: the primordial soup that he starts all his expositions with, the non-existent mythical primordial soup. I think these people have no respect for facts at all. The facts are too disturbing.”13
So it turns out that science and the Bible don’t conflict. What’s at odds are unscientific dogmas and uninformed interpretations of Scripture—positions everyone is better off without.
1 Two books that present an insightful look at the historic relationship between the Bible and science are James C. Livingston, MODERN CHRISTIAN THOUGHT FROM THE ENLIGHTENMENT TO VATICAN II (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1971) and Bernard Ramm. THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF SCIENCE AND SCRIPTURE (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1987).
2 Kenny Barfield, WHY THE BIBLE IS NUMBER 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988), 185.
3 Ronald H. Nash, FAITH AND REASON: SEARCHING FOR A RATIONAL FAITH (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), 47–48.
4 Larry Laudan, PROGRESS AND ITS PROBLEMS: TOWARD A THEORY OF SCIENTIFIC GROWTH (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977).
5 Thomas S. Kuhn, THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS, 2nd ed. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 64–65, 77, 79, 127–128. For a good discussion of Kuhn’s argument, see Phillip E. Johnson’s DARWIN ON TRIAL (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1991), 118–122.
6 Henry M. Morris and Gary E. Parker, WHAT IS CREATION SCIENCE? (San Diego, CA: Creation Life, 1982), 63.
7 Sir Fred Hoyle, “Hoyle on Evolution,” NATURE, 294 (November 1981), 105, quoted in Luther D. Sunderland, DARWIN’S ENIGMA; FOSSILS AND OTHER PROBLEMS (Santee, CA: Master Books, 1984), 58–59.
8 For an excellent analysis in favor of these and other old-earth dating methods, see Robert C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr., GENESIS ONE AND THE ORIGIN OF THE EARTH (Hatfield, PA: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1991).
9 Morris and Parker, WHAT IS CREATION SCIENCE? 254–257.
10 Robert C. Newman, “Inanimate Design As a Problem for Nontheistic Worldviews,” in EVIDENCE FOR FAITH, ed. John Warwick Montgomery (Dallas, TX: Probe Books, 1991), 69.
11 J. P. Moreland, SCALING THE SECULAR CITY, 219–220. Henry Morris’s BIBLICAL COSMOLOGY AND MODERN SCIENCE (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1982), 58–68, offers a fuller discussion of the major literal, six-day creationist understandings of the opening chapters of Genesis.
12 See, for example, Luther D. Sutherland’s DARWIN’S ENIGMA (Santee, CA: Master Books, 1984).
13 Chandra Wickramasinghe. “Science and the Divine Origin Of Life,” in THE INTELLECTUALS SPEAK OUT ABOUT GOD, 35.