|Author: Doug Sharp
When Darwin introduced the theory of evolution over a hundred years ago, there were many attempts on the part of the church to explain away its ramifications. Out of these attempts arose several different interpretations of the Genesis account of creation. These interpretations usually tried to incorporate evolution and long ages into the Biblical account.
Many of these interpretations are still held today by believers, and some churches incorporate these positions into their doctrine. They can be divided into these categories:
- Theistic evolution
- The Day-Age theory
- The Gap theory.
Willson’s Fifth Reader, written in 1861, gives us a glimpse of these explanations. This is an excerpt from a chapter on geology.
“It is believed by most geologists that the earth was at one time a molten mass, surrounded by an atmosphere filled with dense gases and vapors; and that, as the outer portions cooled, forming the rocks and the dry land, the vapors, condensing and falling in showers, formed springs, rivers and the waters of the oceans. This is the geological theory of the gradual calling of order out of chaos, after the great work of creation had been completed.
It is maintained that this view of the early condition of our globe, and of the successive changes that subsequently occurred in it during thousands and perhaps millions of years prior to the creation of man, does not at all conflict with the scriptural account of creation. The scriptural account, as paraphrased by a modern commentator, would read thus: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was desolate. Afterward, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters;” thus allowing the possibility of even millions of years between the first act of creative power and the six days’ work of arranging the universe.
Different opinions long prevailed among the learned with regard to the nature, the extent of time, and the date of the six days’ work of creation, for the Bible gives us no explanation on these points; but by most of the learned of the present day, and by all eminent geologists, the “six days” are understood to be indefinite periods of time, as it is said that, with the Almighty, “a thousand years are to be reckoned but as one day.” It seems reasonable to suppose that they may have been prophetic periods looking into the past, and seen in vision by the inspired historian.”
Willson’s explanation in 1861 shows that the church had already compromised with evolution two years after Darwin published his theory.
According to this idea, the creation was actually a re-creation out of chaos; presumably caused by the destruction of a previous world ruled by Satan and the dark angels. The “gap” theory, as some people called it, tried to stretch the period between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 into millions of years.
Another attempt to stretch out the creation period was the redefinition of the word “day” to mean “age” as an indefinite span of time. The Willson Reader had the distinction of trying to incorporate both theories, attempting to maintain a literal interpretation of Genesis while holding to an evolutionary geologic view. This points out that the basic issue still hasn’t changed a whole lot. There are few possible explanations for the origin of the earth:
|1. Macroevolution.||Molecules to man. Atheistic.|
|2.Theistic Evolution.||God intervened and helped evolution along. Unbelief in a literal Genesis.|
|3. The Gap Theory||Theistic. Ruin-reconstruction.|
|4. Day-Age Theory.||Theistic. Long ages instead of days.|
|5. Literal Six Day Creation.||Theistic. No attempt to reconcile evolution with the Bible.|
These theories or combinations of them are the only alternatives. For example, the idea that space aliens imported life from another planet is really another version of macroevolution, with the time factor pushed back into oblivion.
In 1884, L. T. Townsend wrote a book called “The Bible and The Nineteenth Century.” In it, he offered quite a bit of wisdom which we could apply today2
“From very early times to the present, men have declared that the teachings of the Bible–not its supposed, but its actual teachings–and the teachings of science are in conflict. And we are willing to admit that Bible-writers and scientific men more than once have not been in agreement.
But this admission does not with it the confession that the Bible is necessarily wrong. For, if science were wrong and the Bible right, there would be a conflict just the same as if the reverse were true. Does anyone suppose that science has always been free from error, or always in agreement with itself?
‘It is now thirty-five years’ says Sharon Turner, ‘since my attention was turned to these considerations. It was then the fashion of science, and of a large part of the educated world, to rush into a disbelief of all written revelation: and several geological speculations were directed against the Bible. But I have lived to see the most hostile of these destroyed.’ At the date here referred to, there were conflicts between the teachings of science and those of the Bible; that is the errors of science and the truths of the Bible. The Bible can hardly be condemned for not harmonizing with error, though the error is in strictest scientific garb, and is supported by able scientific authorities.
Dr. Townsend continues to caution the reader that many scientific opinions of the day were not established, and could change with further research.
“We must not, therefore, decide matters hastily. We must be sure at least of two things, before pronouncing against the correctness of biblical statement; namely, correctness of interpretation and the firm establishment of scientific fact.
Had this rule governed skeptical thought and expression during the last half century, much that has been said against the Bible would not have been spoken.”
Why haven’t we learned from the mistakes of the past? Every time scientists find a new fossil, we think it is proof that life evolved. But if we examine the evidence closely and start with different assumptions, we find that the evidence is not in conflict with the Bible, but with evolution. An example is the so-called horse series, which on the surface appears to prove evolution. Closer examination finds evidence contradicting evolution.
(See the book “Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record” by Duane Gish).
These creationist world views compromised with certain aspects of evolution by examining the wording and interpretation of Genesis to make it fit the concept of long ages. In recent times, though, creation scientists reject long ages because of the scientific evidence, not because of theology. There is no need to warp scripture to fit a warped science. A brief examination of the Gap Theory and the Day-Age theory reveal many scientific and theological problems.
PROBLEMS WITH THE DAY-AGE THEORY
The attempt to make the word “day” referring to the six days of creation mean an “age” millions of years long fails many important tests. Some of the numerous objections to this theory follows:3
1 If the Hebrew word “yom” meant “age” instead of “day”, why did the phrase “evening and morning” appear in the account? It would be hard to put an evening and a morning on an age. The word was clearly defined when it was first used, when in Genesis 1:5 it referred to an evening and a morning.
- In Exodus 20:11, the Scripture says that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” This reference is from the Ten Commandments, where God commanded rest on the seventh day. The verse can’t refer to six “ages” and the Sabbath “day” using the same word to mean two different things in the same sentence.
- If the writer of Genesis wanted to convey the idea of long ages, he could have used the word “olam” meaning a long indefinite span of time, instead of “yom.”
If the main purpose of the day-age theory is to try to fit the geologic ages into the six days of creation, there are so many contradictions between the two accounts that it fails miserably, even if a Biblical paraphrase would permit it. Compare the two accounts:
|Earth covered with water from the beginning.||Water gradually oozed out of the interior over long ages.|
|Genesis 1:7 speaks of a firmament separating two expanses of water.||Completely rejects this concept.|
|First life was on land.||Life was in the Oceans.|
|Fruit trees developed first, then fish.||Fish and other marine organisms developed before fruit trees.|
|One of the first created animals mentioned in the Bible was the whale (Genesis 1:21).||The first organisms were the protozoa.|
|Animals reproduced “after its kind”.||Slow ascent of all organisms from a common ancestor.|
|Six days of creation.||No such six fold division occurs in the geologic record.|
The book, “Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science” by Henry M. Morris outlines many additional problems created when people try to reconcile the six days of creation with long ages. Even if the “day” mentioned in Genesis was “as a thousand years,” six thousand years isn’t enough time to fit the geologic ages. Even six million years won’t work. The natural reading of Scripture just does not permit this interpretation.
THE GAP THEORY
The gap theory tries to fit five billion years of earth history between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Proponents of this theory suggest that God destroyed the original earth ruled by Satan with a great cataclysm and became “without form and void” as described in Genesis 1:2.
Like the day-age theory, the gap theory has significant problems. For example:
1.Why would a five billion year history of the earth be ignored by the writers of scripture?
- If there was a gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, why would Genesis 1:2 start with the word “and”, implying a direct connection between the two?
- The gap theory hinges on the redefinition of the word “was” in Genesis 1:2 to “became”. Neither the general usage of the Hebrew word nor the context indicates that this is the case.
- Genesis 2:1-3 and Exodus 20:11 both say that God made the heavens at the same time He made the earth. Since “heavens” were mentioned only in the first verse, it implys that the two verses are connected.
- There is no mention in scripture that Satan’s fall in heaven produced a cataclysm here on earth. Satan was only “cast to the earth” after his fall (Ezekiel 28:17). In fact, how could everything be “very good” after the six days of creation if Satan was roaming the earth then? Satan’s fall quite likely occurred after Genesis 1:31, when everything was still “good”, and Genesis 3:1, when he appeared to Eve.
- Since the theory of evolution and the concept of long ages is highly dependent on the concept of uniformitarianism and the gradual accumulation of strata and fossils over a period of millions of years, the Gap Theory cataclysm comes in direct conflict with the assumptions of the dating methods it is trying to reconcile itself with. A cataclysm resulting from the judgment of God would have produced quick burial of all of the fossils at once, rather than an accumulation over millions of years.
There is no need to presume a flood of Noah provides an adequate explanation for the fossil record.
Just like the day-age theory, the gap theory creates more problems than it solves. Instead of satisfying science, it introduces more contradictions and difficulties. Note the following comparison:
|World wide cataclysm before the flood.||Nothing in geologic record or The Bible that says this.|
|Attributes most fossils to the pre-world.||Most fossils are identical to those found in the present world.|
|Teaches the existence of pre-Adamic men.||Bible teaches Adam was the “first man” (I Corinthians 15:47).|
|Does not resolve the problem of evolution, but just pushes it back before the Creation.||Indicates that God changed his method from evolution to creation.|
|World wide cataclysm before Adam.||Geologic ages would be eliminated. There would also be no room for the flood of Noah.|
Obviously, the day-age and gap theories do not accomplish what they set out originally to do. I believe these two theories have set back the cause of Christ because they have allowed compromise with the theory of evolution. These two theories may satisfy some who are content with a cursory reading of scripture and want a quick and easy explanation. But to those who are serious about finding the truth, no agreement between evolution and scripture is possible.
The ramifications of this conclusion are far reaching. If we cannot reconcile the theory of evolution to scripture, it means that more than a century of scientific reasoning has been in error.
How could this be in this age of enlightenment?
I believe that it is for religious reasons, not scientific, that the theory of evolution with its long ages has been embraced. With the theory of evolution, mankind has found the means in which to push God out of the picture, or way back in
eons of time where he can forget Him. The motivation behind this is so strong that it often results in people becoming very hostile and sometimes violent when confronted with scientific evidence contradicting their theory. Christians must come to grips with the fact that evolution is diametrically opposed to their faith.
THE LITERAL SIX DAY CREATION AND THE YOUNG EARTH
Reconciling science to the Bible involves separating theory from scientific facts. Evolution has been successful because it is so diabolical in its confusion of the two. For example, science has established microevolution, or changes within kinds, as fact. What is not established is macro-evolution, or changes between kinds. Evolutionists will say that the theory of evolution is a fact. What they really mean is that microevolution is established as a fact.
Creationists have no problems with microevolution, in fact, it lends great support for the “after its kind” declaration in Genesis. Creationists do contest macroevolution, however, and with just cause: macroevolution has never been observed!
Contemporary creationism challenges many of the assumptions of evolution. It is important to understand what creationists challenge and what they don’t. Often, Christians will get themselves in trouble by questioning established scientific facts, ultimately embarrassing themselves and the cause of Christ by not doing their homework. We need to always have a ready answer to defend our faith in God, and to be accurate. Some have spread stories which in the end have turned out to be utterly false. Do not repeat a story unless you are absolutely sure it is scientifically accurate and verifiable.
Current creationist thinking has produced several models of the earth which lines up with scripture and scientific facts. These different models have the following features in common:
- They postulate a young earth and a recent creation, and cite the following as evidence:
- The decay of the earth’s magnetic field shows that the earth cannot be more than 10,000 years old.
- Sedimentary rock is noticeably absent from the ocean floor, except near mouths of rivers.
- The accumulation of salt in the oceans does not indicate long ages.
- The accumulation of space dust on the moon does not indicate long ages.
- Long periods of time works against evolution because of the laws of thermodynamics.
- They challenge radiometric dating methods because they are based upon the assumptions of evolution and cannot be tested. Radiometric dating is based on these assumptions, each of which would have been affected by the flood:
- The decay of the radioactive material remained constant over long periods.
- The original composition of the rock did not contain any of the end product.
- None of the original material was leached away by water.
- Outside forces, such as temperature, pressure and so forth remained constant and had no effect on the date.
- The water which caused the flood could have come from the breakup of the fountains of the deep.
- We know that reptiles, as they get older, do not stop growing but continue to increase in size up to a point. If a reptile lived 900 years, what would you have? A dinosaur! Other life forms, like the dinosaur, may have been taken on the ark, but became extinct after the flood because they could not survive in the new environment which was much more hostile. Job chapter 40 and 41 talk about two creatures, behemoth and leviathan whose descriptions match the dinosaurs.
- Noah’s flood explains the geologic column, the order of the strata and the fossils which are in them. Hydrodynamic sorting action of the water, habitats, the ability of an animal to escape the flood and ecological zones are all factors which would have produced fossil layers. This explanation handles the problem of out-of-order strata and fossils, which is a nasty problem for evolutionists.
- Creationists point out that fossil men fall in one of two categories: either they are completely human, or they are totally ape. Some bones which were classified as human were dated far “older” than some of the “ape men” which were supposed to be man’s ancestor. Other problems are hoaxes, misinterpretation of fossil evidence, incomplete evidence, and diseased specimens.
- Creationists also call attention to the fact that fossil evidence is often placed in a “series” (such as the horse series) to demonstrate evolution, where in reality there is little connection between the fossils geographically or physiologically.
- Many species, such as the frog, remain unchanged in the fossil record. Others jump geologic periods. The coelacanth, a fish which was used as an index fossil for the Ordovician period, was caught off the coast of Madagascar recently. How could such a fish appear in abundance in an early time period, disappear completely, then show up alive and unchanged by evolution in recent times?
- Evidence of rapid burial is another argument creationists use for the flood. In many places, large fossils such as trees extend through several strata. Rapid burial is also necessary for coal and oil formation and for fossilization, otherwise the normal process of decay would completely disintegrate the organisms, even the bones.
- Most young-earth creationists place the “ice age” directly after the flood; a result of the “great wind” God sent to dry up the waters on the earth. Such a wind would have produced a refrigeration effect, removing heat as the waters evaporated.
- The imposition of the curse upon man at the Garden of Eden resulted in universal principle of decay and death following the entrance of sin on the world. This agrees with the laws of thermodynamics, but is diametrically opposed to evolutionary thinking that life progressed from the simple to the complex.
As with all scientific theories, there are many different creationist opinions and models. We must keep in mind that these theories are not doctrines, they are merely ideas which may explain some of the things we observe. We should be careful to revise our opinions to fit any new evidence which is gathered.
The Bible is not always specific on many issues related to science and origins. Since we cannot go back in time and observe creation taking place, we can only speculate in many areas. As we continue our scientific investigation, we can only disprove and eliminate that which is not true. As we do this, we continue to move closer and closer to the truth.
I conclude that neither science nor religion has done this. Evolutionists hang on to their theory, not because it is the most scientific, but because it supports their “religion” of atheism and hedonism. Christians commit the same mistake and continue to compromise with evolution with the day-age and gap theories. It is ironic how religious beliefs, theistic and atheist alike, keep us from the truth of the Bible. How we need to be teachable!
1Willson, Marcius. “The Fifth Reader of the School and Family Series.” Harper Brothers. New York. 1865.
2Townsend, L.T. “The Bible and Other Ancient Literature in the Nineteenth Century.” Chautaugua Press. New York. 1884.
3Morris, Henry M. “Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science.” Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. Phillipsburg, NJ. 1970.