Systematic Theology: Doctrine of Creation[1] Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 15: Why, how, and when did God create the universe? (Part 2)

Systematic Theology: Doctrine of Creation[1]

Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 15: Why, how, and when did God create the universe?

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all,
27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God

(Acts 20:26-27)

E. The Relationship Between Scripture and the Findings of Modern Science

            It is wise to understand that at various times in history, Christians have found themselves both advancing and dissenting from the accepted findings of contemporary science. In such cases, sincere Christian faith and a trust in Scripture have led scientists to new discoveries and have changed scientific opinion. For example, consider: Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and many others. On the other hand, there have been times when accepted scientific opinion has come into conflict with people’s understanding of the Bible’s testimony. For example, when Galileo began to teach that the earth was not at the center of the universe but rather revolved around the sun along with other planets, he was publicly criticized by the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo’s writings were condemned in the name of reading the Bible seriously. For example, consider when Scripture makes claims about the sun rising and setting (Ecclesiastes 1:5). Which is right, the Bible or Galileo’s science?

Because of potentially problematic situations such as Galileo’s, Christians have to be careful about how to address the relationship between Scripture and science. For example, Galileo’s scientific findings are not contrary to Scripture in Galileo’s case because Scripture often speaks from a human perspective, and from our perspective the sun rises and sets. In fact, Scripture does not necessarily address specific scientific questions in particular, but rather provides the framework for understanding the data. We should be reminded, however, that careful observation of the natural world can cause us to go back to Scripture and reexamine whether Scripture actually teaches what we think it does. Sometimes, on closer examination, we may find that our previous interpretations of Scripture were incorrect.[3]

However, the story is different when discussion of evolution emerges due to the fact that Christians have examined Scripture again and again in great detail, and many have concluded that Scripture is not silent on the process by which living organisms came into being. In other words, evolution proves to be a controversial topic among Christians because of its truth claims.

As a note of importance, we should remember that the creation of the universe is unlike many other scientific questions because creation is not something that can be repeated in a laboratory nor were there human observers of the event. We must be reminded that from a biblical perspective the only witness to the events of creation was God Himself, thereby making His revelation to us our source of knowledge.

No Final Conflict Between Scripture and Science

            We can approach both scientific and biblical study with the confidence that when all the facts are correctly understood, and when we have understood Scripture rightly, the findings of science and Scripture will never be in conflict with each other: there will be no final conflict. This is because God, who speaks in Scripture, knows all facts, and he has not spoken in a way that would contradict any true fact in the universe.

Some may object at this point that this discussion is meaningless because the Bible is not a science “text-book”, but merely a religious one. Well, although the Bible is not a science text-book in a formal sense, it does contain many affirmations about the natural world—its origin, its purposes, its ultimate destiny—and many statements about how it functions from day to day (cf., Psalm 19:1-4; Hebrews 11:3).

Some Theories About Creation Seem Clearly Inconsistent With the Teachings of Scripture

A.)Secular Theories

In a broad sense, this means that we are discussing any theories dealing with the origin of the universe that does not see an infinite-personal God as responsible for creating the universe by intelligent design. Thus, any theories that hold that matter has always existed would be inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture that God created the universe out of nothing, and that he did so for his own glory.

B.)Theistic Evolution

Ever since the publication of Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”, some Christians have proposed that living organisms came about by the process of evolution, but that God guided that process so that the result was just what he wanted it to be—this is the idea of theistic evolution. Theistic Evolutionists say that God intervened in the process of evolution at crucial points during the process: (1) during the creation of matter, (2) the creation of the simplest life form, and (3) at the creation of man. But with the exception of these three possible interventions, theistic evolutionists hold that evolution proceeded in the ways now discovered by natural scientists, and that it was the process that God decided to use in allowing life to develop. Keep in mind that the evolutionary process, according to modern scientific theory, requires time, randomness, chance, and change. With the exception of chance, theistic evolutionists would agree the reaming three.

The following are some considerations in opposition to theistic evolution:

1)   Scripture pictures God’s creative Word as bringing immediate responses, emphasizing the power of His Word and its ability to accomplish his purpose (cf., Psalm 33:6, 9). Again, this is also inconsistent with the notion of millions of random mutations over time (Genesis 1:11).

2)   God’s present active role in creating or forming every living thing that now comes into being is hard to reconcile with the distant “hands off” kind of oversight of evolution that is propose by theistic evolution (cf., Psalms 104:14, 21; 139:13).

3)   Christians must accept an historical Adam and Eve. To deny the historical Adam and Eve does immense damage to the Christian faith, as Scripture assumes their historical existence as being created uniquely. The historical narrative in Genesis continues without a break into the obviously historical material about Abraham (Genesis 12). Also, Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 affirm the existence of Adam and pattern Christ’s work after him. The New Testament elsewhere also affirms the historicity of Adam (cf., Luke 3:38; Acts 17:25-26; 1 Timothy 2:13-14).

Notes on the Darwinian Theory of Evolution

There are two terms that have come to be associated with evolution—micro-evolution and macro-evolution. The former describes small developments within one species, so that we see flies or mosquitoes becoming immune to insecticides, or human beings growing taller, or different colors and varieties of roses being developed—in other words, adaptation. The latter term can be described as the general theory of evolution or the view that nonliving substance gave rise to the first living material, which subsequently reproduced and diversified to produce all extinct and extant organisms. It is the latter term that is in question and can also be described as Naturalistic Evolution because it does not allow room for the supernatural.[4]

(1) Current Challenges to Evolution

Since the arrival of Darwin’s writings, there have been challenges to his theory by Christians and non-Christians alike. It is helpful to note that current evolutionary theory is often called neo-Darwinism due to the modifications of the theory over several decades. Its emphasis is how life began when a mix of chemicals present on the earth spontaneously produced a very simple life form. This life form underwent a series of mutations and changes which led to more complex life. This process continues to this day by a process of natural selection which states that organisms most fitted to their environment will survive. See the following objections to naturalistic evolution:

 

I.         The vast and complex mutations required to produce complex organs such as an eye or a bird’s wing (or hundreds of other organs) could not have occurred in tiny mutations accumulating over thousands of generations, because the individual parts of the organ are useless unless the entire organ is functioning. But the mathematical probability of such random mutations happening together in one generation is effectively zero. Some have advocated the idea of “Irreducible Complexity” which effectively says the same thing.

 

II.         Also consider the question of how information originated at the genetic level from an evolutionary perspective. The fact that DNA resembles at some level computer coding requires a programmer of some kind. Information does not happen without a source of intelligence.

 

III.         However, probably the greatest difficulty of all for evolutionary theory is explaining how an impersonal universe created personal and sentient beings like humans. Does it make sense to say that an impersonal universe created personal agents, or does it make more sense to say that personal agents are the result of a personal intelligence? Without personal beings, you cannot have things like morality, knowledge, love, etc. And ultimately, you need an ultimately personal being to provide a standard for these things. You don’t have this in naturalistic evolution.

(2) The Destructive Influences of Evolutionary Theory in Modern Thought

            Essentially, without God, what significance is there to our lives? In reality, if naturalistic evolution is true, we are nothing more than a cosmic orphan left to die on a chunk of rock in space. Honest reflection ought to lead people to a profound sense of despair. Also, if naturalistic evolution is the case, there are no moral absolutes in life with no moral standard to be held accountable to. Naturalistic evolution also gives us no foundation for knowledge; we can’t come to anything for sure. Truth is left to the mind of man alone which can lead to arbitrary results.

The Theory of a “Gap” Between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2

            Some Christians have proposed that there is a gap of millions of years between Genesis 1:1 (In the beginning God created the heavens and earth) and Genesis 1:2 (The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep). According to this theory, God made an earlier creation, but there was eventually a rebellion against God (probably in connection with Satan’s own rebellion), and God judged the earth so that it became without form and void. Therefore, what we really read in Genesis 1:3-2:3 is really the second creation of God, in six literal twenty-four hour days, which only happened recently (approx. 10,000-20,000 years ago).

The primary argument lies in the words from Genesis, “without form and void” and “darkness” from verse two. Darkness, in the Old Testament, is frequently a sign of God’s judgment, and the Hebrew words for “without form” and “void” refer to places such as deserts that have suffered God’s judgment.

Consider the following objections:

I.         As for the phrase “without form and void,” the sense in the text is just that it is not yet fit for habitation: God’s preparatory work has not yet been done and is still in process.

II.         There is no other place in Scripture that explicitly talks about an earlier creation.

III.         Genesis 1:31 has God stating that His creation is very good. But according to the gap theory, God would be saying this about a creation full of the results of rebellion, conflict, and terrible divine judgment which also includes the spiritual realm. Moreover, Genesis 2:1 says, in an apparent summary of all that has happened in Genesis 1, “Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” The implication is that all things, the physical universe and spiritual realm alike, were created after the earth was formless and void.

 

[1] Based on and various Quotes from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan

[2] All Scripture from ESV Bible, Crossway

[3] Remember, however, that we can say this type of thing because ultimately creation also reveals God (Ps 19; Rom 1:18-32) which is also true revelation. We get theories like atheistic naturalism (Secular Darwinian Evolution) because of our sinful suppression of God’s revelation through creation (Rom 1:18-32).

[4] Know that from this point on when Darwinian Evolution is spoken of it is indicating a naturalistic form of it where the supernatural is banned.

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