Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why I Think This Matters

The main problem I see with the millions of years argument is where to fit the millions of years into the Biblical account. Usually they are situated somewhere after Day 5 or halfway through “Day” 6 in order to account for the fossil record. The thinking goes that dinosaurs and other animals were created a good while before humans came onto the scene, thus explaining the dated fossils which we see.

This throws a major wrench into the Biblical idea that sin, and consequently death, entered the world through one man, Adam (Rom 5:14 “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam. . . “). According to millions of years, a lot of animals died to create the fossils long before Adam came onto the scene.

Herein lies the problem and consequently why I think this is such a big deal. If we have death before sin, this calls into question the foundation of the Gospel, that somehow death existed before we did. Thus, its initial blame cannot be placed on us. At the very least, something else must carry partial blame for death’s entrance into the world.

By extension, this has consequences for us as we view the rest of history, especially the passion of Jesus in which he brought justification and righteousness to all men. The parallels of Romans 5 seem to break if the one man did not bring sin into the world – not to mention its textual integrity.

Furthermore, millions of years would question the beauty and goodness of God’s creative work if the brokenness of death existed before we rebelled.

These issues are huge deals, so I am very wary of writing about this stuff here as I try to work out my own thoughts. Am I missing something? Is there a way to include the millions of years and respond to the previous issues? I’ve wracked my brain looking for something. Without finding it though, I cannot hold to an argument which seems to call into question the foundations of the Gospel. Is there an answer which satisfies millions of years and the Biblical description of God and salvation? Right now, I don’t see one, which is why I have to believe what I believe about creation.

This is why I think this discussion is a big deal. Maybe there are explanations out there which make it not matter as much. I’d love to hear any ideas ya’ll have.


Oakley said...

Definitely a difficult issue since I believe that logic tends to be in the eye of the beholder so to speak. It is indeed hard to explain the mountains of scientific evidence if one holds that everything in the Bible is perfectly true. It would seem that the only way for the two worlds to coexist is to accept that "death" and "sin" may be metaphorical (a hard pill to choke on, as most of us do). Otherwise one would have to accept that the Bible is 100% Truth and that all of the scientific evidence that we have is being manipulated or misread. I personally think that God's work is beautiful BECAUSE it has taken such a long time and death to shape this world. A wise man once said that if Humans had designed the world, we would have made one mistake in that we would have everything (including ourselves) perfect. Interested to hear other thoughts I am.

Brian Humphries said...

We read something interesting in our philosophy class that was in a completely different context, but I think it's applicable.

We read an essay by Soren Kierkegaard in which he argued that proving or disproving God is ultimately folly for a few reasons. First of all, if we truly believe in human depravity, sin, inadequacy, etc., we have to accept that our intellects are so inadequate that we can never fully understand God's will, God's purposes, or God's power.

Second of all, to try and explain God through science, whatever you believe, is a cop out. If you can scientifically prove everything you believe, do you really believe in it or do you just believe in the science? A faith based on proofs is no faith at all.

I think this is applicable in the sense that we can argue about this until we turn the internet blue in the face, and we won't get an iota closer to knowing whether God created the world in 6 literal days or 4.6 billion years. And if we think we do, when we examine it, we've really just built our beliefs on a foundation of sand (science and human rationality, regardless of whether we start from scripture or elsewhere) when God calls us to build it on Him. And when you start arguing for the authenticity of scripture by citing scientific studies, you're fighting the opposition on their own terms, not God's. Does it make sense to take what we claim is constant and inerrent and use human reason (errent) and scientific thought (ever-changing) to make it MORE believable?

Perhaps it was six days. Perhaps it was 4.6 billion years. Perhaps God's omniscience allowed him to foresee man's rebellion (since he gave us the power to rebel) and death entered the world before Adam and Eve literally sinned. Perhaps by "sin and death" God means sin and death brought about by purposeful rebellion...i.e. man's choice to sin...and not natural death inherent in ecological systems (which I find hard to call sinful...did Adam's sin make my dog chase squirrels in the yard? a tyrannosaurus eat a brontosaurus? a brontosaurus eat a (living) plant?)

Maybe this is a weak answer, but the point of this discussion is to not make it a stumbling block to those who need to know Jesus and his character without getting into discussions that put science and religion at odds with each other.

Not to say this isn't important. It is. But let's not forget that salvation and all the wonderful things that Jesus has for us in this world are not predicated on our interpretation of Genesis 1. They are predicated on knowing and following Jesus. If you think that millions of years contradicts the power of Jesus's sacrifice, fine. If you think that the power of Jesus's sacrifice still makes sense if human rebellion post-dated the dinosaurs, that's fine too. The point is that we all believe in and rely on the power of Jesus's sacrifice.

P.S. Ben, sorry for the length. Diarrhea of the keyboard. You know how it is.

Em the luddite said...

As an English major, I think it's important to read a text with the author's intent in mind. Obviously, those who read things in the books of poetry about the sun traveling across the sky and coming back around to the place where it began were quite amiss to insist that the Bible claimed that the sun traveled around the earth. The Bible claimed no such thing, and I do not think the authority of Scripture is in any way hindered by the proposition that the earth travels around the sun. That passage was never intended to be a scientific text.

The prophesies in Revelation, for another example, I don't believe were written to give us a step-by-step description of future events. Just as the OT prophesies were misinterpreted by those who studied them most, the NT ones are there to show us something about God, not about the future.

The first couple chapters of Genesis, if they are historical texts, are certainly written in a much more muddled and poetic way than, say, Chronicles. They read like poetry, or like mythology (in the most respectful, beautiful sense of the word). They paint a picture of a God who is intimately involved in his creation, who creates with joy and delight, who intends good things for his creation that eventually get thwarted, who always has his eyes looking ahead toward redemption. They paint it in a way that is more powerful than my history textbooks, telling a deeper truth than the nuts-and-bolts of a story could.

That's my take.

Jenn Pappa said...


I alwasy really struggled with these arguments because I didn't think it mattered very much. Thanks for elaborating on why it does, it was really helpful for me. It's easy to get so frustrated with something you just throw the whole thing out the window... the whole throwing the baby out with the bath water thing.. but now I see this argument actually serves a purpose and maybe I'll go try and save the baby.

anyways, thanks!

Preston said...

hey ben this is preston - don't know if you remember me from UNC. anyway, i linked here from adam hoffman's blog (and megan's) - if you're still thinking about the Genesis 1 creation issue, go here:


and listen to John Walton. He's an OT prof at Wheaton - very smart, very dedicated to Christianity, very fascinating. Or you may find his books in a library. I find his perspective very enlightening, but i know that some others have not... just thought I'd offer that up to the discussion.