The UK Bible Students Website
Christian Biblical Studies
IN THE BEGINNING
The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Genesis 2: 7
All Scripture references are to the New International Version,
UK Edition, unless shown otherwise.
THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER (LHC), the particle accelerator operated by CERN, sits astride the border between Switzerland and France.[fn1] By crashing together opposing streams of sub-atomic particles known as ‘hadrons’, experimental scientists hope to replicate the conditions which existed at the time of the ‘Big Bang’, the theoretical starting point of the Universe.
The advances in mechanics and theoretical and empirical science since the onset of the Industrial Revolution have been extraordinary. We have adapted to them and our familiarity with them has blunted our appreciation and wonder. But were we to import a resident of Britain from the year 1810 into one of our present-day cities, he might drop dead from apoplexy. Hardly anything would be familiar to him and the noise and motion of street traffic, the ubiquitous magical presence of talking, colour images, and those little hand-held blocks of plastic into which people talk would baffle him.
Awe is in short supply in today’s Britain (and elsewhere). Not to mention reverence for those things formerly regarded as sacred. Having never fully understood the details of Scripture, large swathes of the population have found it easy to ditch the notion of God as Creator. Religion is considered by many to be dangerous and anti-intellectual, not the stuff of serious debate in a progressive country. Questions on the origins of life routinely exclude the Bible or the assumption that God had anything to do with the process. Having been relegated, in the collective mind, to the status of a quaint myth, the Book of Genesis rarely figures in any intelligent conversation on the subject.
Jesus evidently believed the Genesis account, referring to it in Mark 10: 6-9; and the Apostle Peter, messenger of the Gospel, drew from it in 2 Peter 3: 3-6. Therefore, to deny the validity of Genesis is to invalidate the Scriptures as a whole.
Genesis Chapter One
The account of creation in Genesis 1 touches on the salient events necessary to preparing the earth for continuing life. We may assume, though we cannot know with certainty, that planet earth was in existence for thousands of millions of years before it became a site for construction. The ‘heavens and earth’ of verse 1 may or may not refer to the creation of the Universe. The statement may stand alone as a general assertion that ‘God is the Maker of the extra-terrestrial heavens and of earth’, and serve as a preface to the account of earth’s particular development. Or it may refer more limitedly to the creation of earth’s atmosphere and geology. It does not seem necessary to conclude on the basis of the Genesis account that the Universe and Planet Earth came into being at the same point of time. Earth’s being ‘formless and empty’ summarises the condition of Earth before the creative days of Genesis began.
Genesis 1 indicates that the development of vegetable and animal life began after the onset of light, water, and the formation of the subsequent marine- and land-based nutrients necessary to sustain life. The How? of the initiation of life seems to be covered by the statement that the spirit of God – life-energy – was ‘hovering’ over the waters, implying that life started in the ocean.
The general sequence in which living creatures appeared is sketched in vs. 11-25:
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 expanse 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 expanse 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 expanse 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 expanse 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.
According to the Biblical narrative, this creative sequence is divided into ‘days’, which evidently indicates more or less distinct periods of time – probably long ones. The assertion by many Christians that not only Earth but the entire Universe was fabricated in 7 days of 24 hours each, is a conclusion which is not necessarily warranted by the text, and one not encouraged by evidences from geology or astronomy. These ‘days’ – periods short or long – probably did not follow each other in strict serial fashion, but rather overlapped, the development of sea, land, and aerial animals continuing simultaneously. A similar principle is hinted at in the structure of the calendar day as practised by the Jews, and may have been reflected back into the Genesis account, written by Moses. The Jewish day began at 6:00 p.m., in the daylight portion. Darkness did not set in until later. In other words, just as day and night blend and run concurrently for a time, so did the periods of Genesis.
This is not necessarily to argue for the accuracy of the lengthy year or light-year estimates advanced by earth-scientists and astronomers. It is possible that the multiplier effect on a marginally erroneous calculation could massively distort the data. However, for the calculations to be off by the degrees of magnitude required to place the creation of the Universe and Earth at 6,000-10,000 or so years ago, would negate any value gained from observed phenomena. If this were so, one could hardly be certain of anything in science. An understanding of earth-science and astrophysics which enables the successful flights into near and distant space must be sufficiently advanced and reliable to refute the notion that Science has got the whole thing wrong. It may be true – indeed, probably is – that God’s creative power did not require thousands or millions of years to complete the mammoth task. But, by the same reasoning, nor would He require a period of 24 hours. Whether 24 hours, 24 seconds, or 24 nano-seconds, some space of time is necessary, diluting the argument that this or that epoch is ‘too long’.
Evolution versus Creation
Without disputing the almightiness of God’s power, the language employed in some of the verses cited above seems to imply the start of a natural development and adaptation of species and sub-species in the animal and plant world (‘God said . . .’).
11. . . Let the land produce vegetation:
20 . . .Let the water teem with living creatures . . .
22 . . Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas and let the birds increase on the earth.
24 . . . Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds.
Nothing is indicated in this narrative about predators and prey – the ‘tooth and claw’ of observed nature – but it is likely that various flora and fauna became extinct as life exploded and competed on land, in the sea, and in the air, and as the make-up of earth’s atmosphere shifted over the long creative periods required to populate the pre-human earth. In other words, a type of Evolution was at work.
Unfortunately for the purposes of debate and discussion on this subject, the very word ‘evolution’ is loaded and raises red flags for many Christians. In the nineteenth century, and for much of the twentieth, the idea of Evolution, though not actively embraced by most people, was held to be somewhat consistent with faith in God (at least at a superficial level). According to this ‘theistic’ evolution, a gradual, opportunistic adaptation and development of life (on all levels) began at God’s instigation and continued under His supervision. In other words, Evolution was a tool made and used by God to implement His creative work. However, the logical and inevitable implication that man himself was the end result of this process was unpalatable to most in a western world in which Christianity still held sway.
From Nothing to Something
Publication of the discovery of the genetic code spurred rapid progress in the science of genetics. The discovery of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) – the ‘double helix’ – was published by Watson and Crick in April 1953.[fn2] This spurred rapid progress in the science of genetics. DNA is ‘digital’ coding which prescribes the form and function of most known living organisms. That this ‘technology’ forms the basic structure of organic life ought, perhaps, to strike a simple, unbiased observer as interesting, to say the least. As an argument for intelligent design, or intent, it seems obvious. As to the well-publicised attempts to monitor cosmic radio signals: the theory goes that reception of a ‘non-random’ signal would prove the existence of an alien, intelligent sender. Apparently, for most scientists, the ‘non-random’ sequence of DNA does not appear to fit into this ‘if – then’ rationale. One wonders what level of proof is necessary to persuade an unbeliever.
Subsequently allied with a strident philosophy rooted in scepticism toward religion, the ‘new’, more confident Darwinism which has emerged is unapologetically atheistic. Its public face as set forth by the British Professor Richard Dawkins and the British-American author, journalist and literary critic, Christopher Hitchens, is brutally unsympathetic to any idea of God in any shape or form, and gives no quarter in its battle against theology.
Though professing to acknowledge the glories and beauties of Nature, atheism seeks to break the connection between Nature itself and a grateful, awe-inspiring faith in Nature’s God. This secular reverence for the natural world will brook no rivals – especially of the Christian sort – and asserts a smug proprietorship over natural phenomena by dint of explanation – as though analysis of how Nature works is to ‘own’ it. Thus drained of its affinity to faith, the natural world shrinks to a mere, dry skeleton, lacking the power to embolden the child of God who draws courage from this expression of Divine power. It is no accident that the Psalms draw the eye to the heavens that the heart may be ennobled (Psalm 19: 1-4).
Militant atheism thus assumes the passion and eloquence of a replacement quasi-religion, complete with its own high priests of the profession, asserting that the existence of an intelligent Maker is indemonstrable and (virtually) impossible. This belief maintains that the non-living material Universe itself is an accidental eruption stirred into motion by a ‘quantum fluctuation’. This triggered a ‘Big Bang’ and an expansion of matter, which, during almost fourteen-thousand-million years, has by some self-organising principle and countless mutations and adaptations, progressed through rudimentary life-forms to the complex natural order we observe today. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of scientists worldwide, in various disciplines, endorse the secular view of origins and subscribe to some form of human evolution, contradicting and undermining Biblical teachings in general and, by implication, denying some in particular.[fn3]
The contradictions arise not so much from the feasibility of Evolution as it pertains to non-human life – which Genesis seems to hint at – but rather that, as applied to humans, it regards Man as the culmination of an adaptive process, eliminating his special status. It converts into a myth or a poetic allegory the idea of a ‘first’ man, Adam; for under the doctrine of human evolution there can be no ‘first’. Accepting this notion would effectively refute the need for Jesus, His role as Saviour, and the salvation which the Bible asserts flows from those facts. In short, the entire rationale of Scripture would be shot through.
This article subscribes to the possibility of a specific – limited – type of Evolution, consistent with a literal reading of Genesis. An alternative view, adopted by most Christians and theologians, interprets Genesis as figurative or symbolic, discounting it as a credible account of creation. This latter view runs into the same difficulty as does ‘theistic’ evolution, which holds that the human being is simply another branch – albeit a ‘top’ branch – of the God-directed evolutionary ‘tree’. Both approaches deprive the Christian who subscribes to either of a firm foundation on which to stand, turning the Bible into a cafeteria menu of optional beliefs.
It will not escape the thoughtful observer that a widespread rejection of Biblical truth opens the door to a flourishing of permissive social liberalism which tends to unravel traditional moral behaviour, removing, as it does, any Absolute Authority over such questions. The troubling effects of these conjoined trends are apparent in Britain and other countries which have derived their heritage from Christianity, and now turn their collective backs on it. The link between thought and action in these areas is obvious. Indeed, the efforts of ‘progressive’ reformers and those who attack religion on the dubious John Lennon-esque view that we’d all be better off without it, confirm the association. ‘Stop believing in God, and you’ll be better off’, is the cry. Their faith in the benign long-term outcome of such a risky experiment is breathtaking.
Man A One-Off
In order to understand God’s plan of salvation, it is essential to accept that man – Adam – was not a by-product of evolution of any form. He was a direct creation of God and was complete and perfect from the outset. He fell from perfection into sin and imperfection. The pivotal doctrines of Ransom, Justification, and Restitution rest on this fact, as we will endeavour to show.
5 [N]o shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground,
6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground–
These verses suggest a garden or agricultural scene. The statements in verse 5 that no ‘shrub’ or ‘plant of the field’ had ‘sprung up’ cannot mean that there was no vegetation in evidence at the creation of man, for Genesis 1: 11 states plainly that there was. Indeed, the Garden of Eden was lush with growth (Genesis 2: 8, 9). The intent may be, rather, that the work of subduing the earth had not yet begun.
7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
Differences in Sameness
Made, not coaxed from pools of slime,
Man stood at God’s command.
Perfect – crowned with grace sublime
A likeness, from the Master Hand.
Man’s similarity to those creatures which preceded him is, in part, due to the natural environment in which he was formed and in which he was intended to live. In common with other creatures he breathes air, his body is composed of earth elements. His body is given form by an underlying skeleton, and his skin, hair, and bones are made up of minerals and atomic structures common to other creatures. His eye, nose, and ear, are similar in construction to those possessed by other creatures. Likewise many of his inner organs and his circulatory system. His pelvic bone, and bones in his arms and legs perform functions similar to those in other creatures and resemble them in certain physical and psychological (instinctive) particulars. Similarities are evident at the ‘macro’ level and, in many instances, observable in the genetic code.
So, observation unaided by revelation may reasonably conclude that the same forces which shaped the animals also shaped man. And this inference is the opening by which the intellect of the unbeliever enters. This need not surprise us. An anatomical structure in one animal which is similar to that in another is a ‘homologue’. The case for human evolution is drawn – by no means exclusively – from such similarities. If a man’s skeleton contains bones which look and work like those found in the skeleton of an ape-like or other creature, then the two are (probably) related. So goes the argument. And it’s a persuasive one.
However, homologues may also suggest either a common maker, a related function, or both. In the same way, industrial manufacturers turn out millions of parts corresponding in design or application to other parts. The correspondence between man and other creatures is dictated by the imperatives of the environment in which man lives. The influence of atmospheric pressure, gravity, climate, and a host of other fixed and variable conditions in which all varieties of life must survive, determine many of the physical attributes of each type. [See Appendix.]
The Little Grey Cells
The renowned American brain surgeon, Ben Carson, Sr., observed:
[T]he more I learn about the human body, our environment, and the universe, the more it increases my faith. Because when I look at the complexity, of not just our solar system, but of the entire universe, and then someone comes along and claims, “Oh, there was just a Big Bang,” I think that theory requires a lot more faith than I have. Recognizing the complexities of the electromagnetic forces that keep things aligned, that’s like saying I could blow a hurricane through a junkyard and have a fully formed 747 jet materialize, all ready to fly. And that would be a considerably simpler feat than creating our universe. That’s just craziness. So, when I look at the complexity of the human brain, and someone suggests that, “Well, if you give it billions of years to evolve through natural selection, that’s what would happen.” They say that if something isn’t useful, it disappears. How does that work? How does something that isn’t useful attach itself to something else that isn’t useful, and then those two non-useful things sit around for a couple billion years waiting for a third useful thing to come along. And they keep waiting for thousands and thousands of other useful things to come along. That doesn’t make any sense. . . . [W]hen I look at it logically, I realize that things of that level of complexity don’t just happen.[fn4]
One fact makes the human being different from all other living creatures: his mind. The sum total of the complex organisation of his brain – with its intellectual capacities; concomitant moral faculties; the power of speech; the propensity for music-making; the qualities of self-knowledge (identity); a free will able to deny gratification of the self; the capacity for faith – all these, allied with the dexterity of his hand, put man into a category of his own.
Man is more than the totality of his component parts, just as great writing is more than a collection of words from the dictionary. The capabilities of the species could not be predicted by dissecting him and adding up the bits and pieces of which he is made. He goes ‘beyond’ his biology.
The Unsatisfactory State of Things
It’s important to note that the man we see is not Man on whom God conferred His image at creation. At the outset Man was magnificent and beautiful, embodying in his physical perfection God-likeness on earth, with unlimited potential in the eternity which then, while he was sinless, stretched before him. Therefore, attempts to fathom God by drawing lessons solely from the present human condition under the regime of dying and death, will not yield satisfactory results. To paraphrase the popular saying, ‘man is a shadow of his original self’.
The permission of evil and its reign of suffering is seized on as ‘proof’ that God cannot exist. Certainly, this is a troublesome question for most people, Christian or otherwise, and is not easily dismissed. A detailed answer to this question is not within the scope of this article; the subject is dealt with at length elsewhere on our site. It’s worth pointing out, however, that universal suffering is often treated by sceptics and atheists as ‘proof’ that God does not exist, while the many evidences of design – genetics, for example – are never accorded the weight of proofs that He does; such details are relegated by the sceptical mind to the realm of coincidence.
The fall in Eden, in addition to introducing human death – including physical degeneracy in the form of genetic mutations and disruptions in human biology – plunged the race into a downward spiral of mental and moral corruption, ageing and sickness. Attending these changes are the hazards arising from a degraded natural environment and geological instability. As foretold to Adam, this ‘by the sweat of your brow’ existence has taken an immeasurable toll on the human race (Genesis 3: 19). For although the benefits of industry, medical innovation, municipal sanitation, and numerous other advancements over the past two centuries have mitigated many of life’s difficulties and dangers, the progress has come with its own peculiar environmental and social costs. Under the regime of death and sin there is a nagging dissatisfaction with the status quo, and it seems that each turn of the corner brings new problems (Ecclesiastes 10: 8, 9). Science and Technology, the twin sisters of Progress, can ameliorate but not eliminate the vexations and inefficiencies of the human condition. Divine grace and power alone will lift the individual’s and mankind’s collective burdens only when the lessons of the permission of evil have been learnt. This restoration is the work of the Kingdom of God, still future.
1 Timothy 2: 5, 6: For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time.
The perfection of (unfallen) Adam can be inferred from the perfection of Jesus, and vice versa. This correspondence is evident from a comparison of Psalm 8: 4, 5 with Hebrews 2: 6-9, in which the Apostle Paul quotes from Psalm 8, then adds his comment:
Psalm 8: 4, 5: What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.
Hebrews 2: 6-9 What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honour and put everything under his feet.’ In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Jesus died for Adam, and in dying for Adam, Jesus ransomed Adam’s race (everyone). The thought is further elaborated on at 1 Corinthians 15: 21, 22:
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
And, again, at verse 47:
The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.
This subject of the Ransom and the doctrines which flow from it are covered elsewhere on our site.
Man started out as perfect. His subsequent degeneration demonstrates that adaptation and modification to the environment is a valid principle. Were it not for the fact that the human species is capable of accommodating itself to all types of climates and conditions, the race may very well have become extinct or incompetent centuries ago. Man’s Maker subjected man to the hardships and random deprivations of a dying condition, in the wise foreknowledge that it would not destroy him. Rather, the experience, when it is over, will have prepared the human race to return to the original state. This Restitution will undo whatever damage sin and death has brought.
Romans 8: 20, 21: [T]he creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Side note: It was at a CERN laboratory in 1989 that British scientist
Tim Berners-Lee initiated the idea of the World Wide Web. <http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/About/Web-en.html>
^[fn3] Influential scientists who simultaneously hold to the Christian faith and accept human evolution as fact, include the American physician-geneticist, Francis Collins, Director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, and the British scientist-turned-clergyman, Rev. John Polkinghorne.
Quotation from Francis Collins: ‘Yes, evolution by descent from a common ancestor is clearly true. If there was any lingering doubt about the evidence from the fossil record, the study of DNA provides the strongest possible proof of our relatedness to all other living things.’
Source:<http://en.allexperts.com/q/Bible-Studies-1654/2008/7/Christian-arbitration-complete-type.htm> (Copy and paste link into internet
(Copy and paste link into internet browser)
Quotation from John Polkinghorne: ‘I am certainly not a creationist in that curious North American sense, which implies interpreting Genesis 1 in a flat-footed literal way and supposing that evolution is wrong.’ Source:
<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4790446.ece> (Copy and paste link into internet browser)
(Copy and paste link into internet browser)
There are variations on the theme, and other scientists stoutly oppose the notion that one can subscribe both to God as Creator and hold that man descended from a common ancestor. The debate is continual and vigorous. Some representative views appear at the following sites:
Truth in Science: <http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/>
Creation Science Movement: <https://www.csm.org.uk/index.php>
Debates on Faith and Evolution:
To read the interview, see:
(Copy and paste link into internet
(Copy and paste link into internet browser)
^The larger, abstract, application of the ‘homologue’ may be found in the general correspondence of the principles operating in the natural world to those principles operating in the spiritual world. To put it succinctly: the natural order reflects the spiritual. We are told this expressly in Scripture (compare Hebrews 8: 5; 9: 23; 10: 1). As to the narrative of Genesis chapter 1: the principles underlying the creation of animal life both preceded and predicted (foreshadowed) the creation and installation of Man on earth. In this one sense only is Man an extension of the animal creation – that is, its logical and final outcome, the pinnacle of creation on earth, a fact signalled by God’s ‘resting’ after creating him (Genesis 1: 31 to 2: 3). In Jesus’ words, the fact that man was not made for the Sabbath, but ‘the Sabbath was made for man’, also suggests the predictive intent of God’s dealings with the human family (Mark 2: 27). ‘Types’ and ‘shadows’ are a well-recognised thread running through Scripture; some events are specifically identified as such (Galatians 4: 22-26; 1 Corinthians 10: 1-4).
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