IN THE BEGINNING
A. Ralph Johnson
Genesis 1:1-2 Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
This simple statement begins the Biblical account of where we came from and how we got here. Unfortunately, it also begins many questions and endless disputes about the nature of our origin. The struggle is joined between the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God (1Cor. 1:18-31; Rom. 1:20-22). Can we trust the conclusions of men groping for answers over the evidence of revelation recorded in the Bible and the indications of intelligent design we see in nature?
The Book of Genesis indicates the heavens and the earth were created by God. It then continues to list its order of formation.
Genesis 1:2 - 2:3 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. 19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creeps upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creeps upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31 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.
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
A cursory examination of the text presents us with some interesting thoughts and raises some intriguing questions.
Verse 1 states that in the beginning God "created" (bara' #1254) the heavens and the earth. When was the "beginning"? What was before that? If we rule out God as the source, how can we conceive of our universe having no beginning—or having a spontaneous beginning from nothing? This is an insurmountable problem for the materialist as much as for the believer.
The problems of time and space are beyond human comprehension. If the universe always existed then it cannot have been running down and we have the problem of what keeps it eternally running—a violation of both the 1st and 2nd law of thermodynamics. Something cannot come from nothing and Perpetual motion violates the laws of physics. All creation points to a beginning. If the stars had no beginning they would no longer shine. Light and heat eventually exhaust themselves. All would be cold and inert. The clock must first exist and must have been wound up for it to run down. It cannot have run down eternally. On the other hand, if the universe had a beginning, what was before that? How could all things have spontaneously come into existence from nothing?
The existence of endless space is equally mind-boggling. How can space be infinite? No matter what direction we conceive there can be no end. If we contemplate an end—what is beyond that?
Thus, our quest for an answer to where we came from and how we got here brings us back to, "In the beginning GOD..."
OLD OR YOUNG EARTH?
The biblical account of Creation says that in "six days" God created ('asaw #6213) the heavens and the earth (Ex. 20:11; 31:17). Here the biblical account appears to collide with modern science which views history in terms of billions of years.
The earth does have the appearance of great age. The time for light to come from the stars appears to take many thousands of light years. The time of the ice-cap at the South Pole revealed in the core samples is very great. Time for nuclear decay to create quantity of heavy metals requires much time. Time required to lay down the many layers of sediment and then raise them to mountain tops—and erode them into huge canyons appears to far exceed any concept of time revealed in scripture. Time to lay down the vegetation that formed the coal beds.
So, which shall we believe—the calculations of science, which appear to be testable—or our perceptions of scriptural teaching which rest upon faith? Can the two be harmonized? As honest people we want to know the truth. Or, as Pilate asked, "What is truth?"
THE LITERAL 7 SOLAR DAYS VIEW
The simple Biblical view seems to represent the days of creation as literal.
1. The days are clearly defined.
Gen. 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
This is obviously speaking of solar days.
Exodus 20:11 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Ex 31:17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
Since a day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day, long periods of time are certainly possible (2Peter 3:8; Psalms 90:4). However, nothing in the Bible indicates those "days" were long periods and any concession seems to weaken the creation view and yield support to the naturalistic explanation which requires ages of time.
Some try to resolve the apparent conflict by viewing the "days" as undefined long ages. They point to the fact that a "day" in Genesis until, 1:14-18, did not rest upon the concept light from the sun on a revolving earth. Before that we have only the fact of darkness and light without indications of time.
Additionally, it is pointed out that "day" is sometimes used in an indefinite sense of a long period, not framed by solar time.
Genesis 2:4 4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens
1 Corinthians 3:13 13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
Genesis 1:11-12 indicates that on the third day plant life was created. If "day" was a long age of darkness and then light, how did this plant life survive the darkness? Or, did the "day" at that time change to solar days and nights? (Gen. 1:14-19)
This brings us back to our problem of the time necessary for the bones of sea creatures and land animals, created on the 5th and 6th days, to be deposited in different layers of sediment and then elevated to tops of mountains. The explanation that they were put there by the great flood a few thousand years ago does not seem to be supported by the evidence. The need for vast amounts of time tends to favor the naturalist model. An old earth provides time for whatever is required. But why would God need millions of years to create things?
This view proposes a solution in a "gap" between Genesis, verses one and two--the original creation and the formation of earth as it presently exists. This allows for anything that may have taken place, followed by some sort of catastrophe that left the earth "without form and void." All that follows took place in seven literal days. This ingenious explanation provides the time and space for the Old Earth view and creation of present-day life forms as represented in Genesis.
However, this also poses problems. The first is that it seems contrived as an escape from the evidence of the naturalistic view. There is no real evidence for it in either scripture or science. The nature of it leaves one with a suspicion that it is merely an expedient to escape the obvious.
"CREATION POEM" VIEW
This holds that Genesis, chapter 1 is symbolic. Man would not have understood an exact scientific description of creation so the beginning was presented as a poetic story, somewhat like the symbolism of the book of Revelation which closes the Bible. Should we insist that the "new earth" (Rev. 21) must have a literal city that descends from heaven with literal streets of gold and walls of precious stones? --or are these symbols of greater things beyond the scope of our comprehension?
Likewise, mankind would not have understood a scientific description of creation. So God provided a symbolic picture. Viewed this way the symbolism is correct—the events appearing logically as periods. This is far superior to the pagan explanations.
My choice is to just accept the Biblical account without insisting that I fully understand the details. I do not consider the struggles of others and their conclusions as issues of faith—so long as they accept that God did create the heavens and the earth.
THE PROBLEM OF EVOLUTION
The claim that man evolved naturally over millions of years presents another difficulty in harmonizing the Bible and science. Is this a problem of scientists misinterpreting their evidence or Christians misinterpreting the Bible?
This struggle has been very personal. As a young man I planned to be a scientist and accepted the evolution model. When I decided to become a Christian I went through an intense struggle to reconcile and resolve the issue. I still have many questions but have firmly chosen the scriptural teaching that God created man in His image.
The primary issue is probability. Does the probability of the evidence indicate cause by blind chance or Intelligent design?
Which has the greater probability?—that all that exists came spontaneously from nothing and by random chance developed into the infinitely complex universe in which we live—or that it was created and ordered by design?
This is so far beyond our experience as to be utterly bewildering. Man, with all his advances, is still groping in the dark to try to understand. From endless space to the smallest particle of matter/energy we are confronted with endless mystery resulting in constantly changing theories.
MARVELOUS "COINCIDENCES" OF LIFE
Life on earth depends on an incredible array of delicately balanced fortuitous conditions.
The earth is located at a very critical distance from the sun so as to neither overheat nor become too cold.
It swings around the Sun in an arc that takes it neither too far away or too near.
The size of the sun is optimum to generate heat at just the right intensity. Too much heat would turn all water, upon which life depends, to gas and destroy cellular structure. Too cold would turn all water to ice.
The earth is slanted just right to vary winter and summer for maximum benefit to life.
The earth is just the right size for life. If it were too small the weak gravity would allow the gasses needed to sustain life to escape. If too big, gravity would turn those gasses into solids.
The size of earth is just right to have a hot inner core that allows plate tectonics to mix the elements to keep it from becoming dead and cold.
Earth has an optimum amount and mix of gasses (oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen etc) at just the right temperature to sustain life.
Earth has just the right amount of water. The oceans are large enough to hold the salt and other chemicals which otherwise would become like the brine of the dead sea, inhospitable to life and to absorb heat to cool the planet and keep air and water circulating.
Earth's core is made of materials that provide good magnetic influence to protect from harmful radiation from solar flares.
Earth is composed of the optimum variety and amount of materials to provide for and benefit life and to be exploited by our intelligence.
The moon is just the right size and distance from the earth to keep the oceans stirred in a way most beneficial to life. If too large, huge tidal surges would cause intense problems.
The moon also tends to help protect the earth from space junk.
The Sun and its solar system is located in just the right area of our Milky Way Galaxy for maximum benefit. If too near the center we could be drawn into a black hole vortex. If too near the edge we would be adversely affected from diminished energy of the system.
Why? Is this just happenstance, or by design?
BEGINNING OF LIFE
The very beginning of life is a mystery. Theories are easy to pose. Proof is elusive. We were taught that spontaneous generation is impossible yet the whole evolutionary theory system depends on it. How did the chemicals get into just the right mix to create the simplest cell which must then replicate itself and so modify to survive in the varying hostile environments? It is an incredible leap from dead chemicals to a living, successfully reproducing cell. We are told that all life descended from some single life form. However, logic says that in a blind chance model there must have been a massive number of independent successes to overcome the losses. Why do we find no life being spontaneously generated today?
With all our intelligence even today we cannot create life from scratch. We can modify life and even figure out much of its composition, but we cannot create it. If we were to do so, it would be by design, not by blind chance.
We are told that the original forms then generated random variations and by survival of the fittest evolved into the infinitely complex forms that exist today. But how is that at all probable? There are huge leaps that must be overcome by random chance. All experience tells us that complex systems are by design. If I find an arrowhead I see design. The more complex the thing the more I see design. If I found a watch in the sand I would never question that it became what it is by accident.
The probability of taking ten pennies out of your pocket in a specific order is something like ten billion to one. Why should I believe that a single cell was created by chance? We don't survive and make progress on the basis of blind chance. Complexity is the product of design. The claim that "anything that is possible becomes probable in an infinite amount of time" makes great theory but is not functionally practical because of the mass of improbabilities that it took place in that way. It is utterly illogical to jump out of a plane without a parachute because a few have survived such a fall. Would we then conclude that any group of humans could grow wings because some survived?
The Monarch Butterfly provides an example of the problem. It flies from Canada to Mexico to a specific grove of trees and lives through the winter. Then if begins flying back and stops to lay its eggs on a specific plant. The eggs hatch into a worm that eats the plant and then attaches itself to the weed and after some time comes out as a butterfly. It continues on its way, going through this process a couple of times on its way back to Canada to its place of origin. How is there any probability that this came about by blind chance? How did that first worm gradually evolve and change into a flying insect? Design makes far more sense than chance.
We are told that similarities in the species indicates common ancestry. Bone structures of all animals are similar. We are told that the development processes of all animal fetuses are similar. We are told that there are many similarities in genetic makeup. However, these only indicate similarity in design, not necessarily common ancestry. If God was the designer, why would He not use similar successful designs?
We are told that natural modification and survival of the fittest in varying environments is clearly seen in nature. That sounds reasonable. Darwin pointed out that the variations in the finches in the Galapogos Islands were modifications of an original common species. However, would not God have designed the creature so that it could adapt and survive? The Bible says that God made the original "kinds" of animals. If God created the wolf from which all kinds of dogs developed, would He not have provided the many characteristics in the gene pool to provide that variability?
We are told that the fossil record reveals different forms in different layers over millions of years. However, it seems to have failed to reveal the transitional forms. Huge gaps exist. With all of the transitional forms in all of those millions of years it seems strange that there would not be a very complete records of those transitions.
When we point out these problems we are told that in time the answers will be found. Perhaps but then when problems are pointed out in the Christian model and they say they don't yet have all the answers, why are they ridiculed?