There is an obvious debate over whether the biblical account of creation is true or not. I think that part of this debate is blown out of proportion while another part is perhaps oversimplified. In short, if you don’t believe the Bible, you really have no reason to believe in creation. People who don’t must come up with some theory on our origin and evolution is the most popular theory to explain our existence.
That’s the part that I believe is overblown. Why should I expect non-religious people to hold to an obviously religious theory of our origin? I’m using the word religious here because Christians and Jews both follow the Old Testament and have the same creation story as a part of our heritage. However there are many religions that have some kind of creation story as well. I, as a Christian, hold to a Christian interpretation of the creation story. My point is, why would someone who holds no value for a creation story choose to believe it over supposedly scientific theories? We shouldn’t be surprised that non-religious people don’t want to be taught a religious theory of our origin any more than religious people don’t want theories taught that appear to contradict their religious beliefs.
So, with that in mind, I’m not trying to debate or convince a non-religious person that the biblical story of creation is the correct one. My goal today is to discuss what the Bible says about the story of creation and how Christians should go about interpreting it. This is where I think things have been oversimplified and perhaps we’ve failed in our teaching as a church.
The assumption is that Christians believe in creation and non-Christians believe in evolution. But there are a number of people who consider themselves Christians who also believe in some form of evolution. The question is, does the Bible support that. For starters, there are some people who call themselves Christians who pretty much say, the scientific evidence is overwhelming, the Bible can’t be trusted as far as science is concerned. This really isn’t a debate for these Christians either.
At the heart of Christianity is the death and resurrection of Jesus. Science says that people don’t rise from the dead. Science says that miracles don’t exist. I am not saying that you ignore everything science says just because you believe the Bible teaches differently. What I am saying however is that there are obvious contradictions between what the Bible says occurred at times and what science says is possible. All religions require some amount of faith. And for that matter, so does science. We weren’t there to witness creation so we have to believe that it happened as it was recorded. In the same vein, scientists have not been watching evolution for millions of years. They deduce their own conclusions based upon only what they can observe in the here and now and hypothesize what it took to bring about what they now see.
So, let’s go back to the Bible. I won’t read the creation story because it is quite a familiar story to most people but if you haven’t read it in a while, it’s in Genesis 1-2. One of the things that we are told, and this is probably the most important detail for our debate, is that all of creation was made in six days and that God rested on the seventh day.
Now some people will say, it’s there in black and white, God created in six days. If you believe the Bible is true, you have to believe in a literal six day creation. This is obviously the most literal way of interpreting the story. I will say that I believe in interpreting the Bible as literally as possible except where it is obvious that something is not meant to be literal.
What do I mean by this? The short explanation would be a case where in the Psalms it may say something like “God will shelter you under His wings.” This probably should not be interpreted to mean that God literally has wings. It should be understood as a metaphor for God’s protection.
The creation story, however, is one that can be taken literally without any stretch of the imagination. But let’s look at a few other possibilities for the sake of argument. The most popular belief other than a literal six day creation is what is known as theistic evolution. This is not to be confused with atheistic evolution which denies the existence of God. Theistic evolution is an attempt to combine what science is telling us and what the Bible says. Ordinarily I believe that this is an admirable goal because God is the creator of all the science around us. The things that we can’t explain around us are not unexplainable; we just haven’t explained them yet.
Theistic evolution says that God created us as the Bible says but He used the process of evolution and millions of years to do it. In theistic evolution, God is still involved in the creation process as He guides our evolution to make us into what we are today.
There is another similar theory to theistic evolution. It is called the day-age theory. The day age theory contends that the days of the creation story should not be considered literal days but rather ages. Each day or rather age is a description of our stage of evolution.
These theories sound good on the surface but you also have to discount certain details of the creation story to fit them in. On the third day we have the creation of plants and trees. It is not until the fifth day that we have the creation of animals in the sea and air and finally on the sixth day that we have animals on the land. At first glance the evolutionist may say that this is in line with what they believe as things become more complex and we even see creatures come up from the water and onto the land.
But here’s the problem with the order of creation and the idea that each day is an age representing millions of years in the evolutionary process. In short, plants can’t survive without animals. We know that plants are essential for our survival as they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen so that we can breathe. But the opposite is also true. Plants need animals to produce carbon dioxide so that they can breathe.
Furthermore, plants need animals to reproduce. A few years ago there was some concern because of a big drop in the bee population. This meant more than just a lack of honey. Bees are particularly important for pollinating plants so that they can reproduce. Other insects do this as well, but the point is that plants wouldn’t survive millions of years without pollination. And of course there are plenty of other benefits that animals provide for plants.
So if you want to believe in creation by evolution you don’t take the creation story literally but you must also discount the order of creation as it is described . That’s a problem in my book but still others will contend that the story was not meant to be taken literally.
One final theory that I’ll briefly touch upon is the Gap Theory. This theory contends that there is a large gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
This theory contends that God created everything good in verse 1. But formless and empty with darkness in verse 2 is an indication that something went wrong. There’s different interpretations as to what may have happened here. Some believe that the fall of Satan occurred during this time and that is what had corrupted the world. Others say that this is when dinosaurs were in the world and that what takes place in the rest of the creation story is actually a “recreation.”
The problem with the gap theory and all of the many permutations it takes is that there’s no reason to conclude any sort of gap between 1:1 and 1:2. It is purely speculative. Sure, science says that dinosaurs existed long before man ever did but that can’t be true if creation is a literal six days, but why jump to the conclusion that God then recreated the earth after the dinosaurs? The Gap Theory takes a whole lot for granted and makes far too many assumptions for me to feel the slightest bit comfortable with the idea.
Obviously I didn’t address all of the theories surrounding the creation story. I didn’t provide the counter arguments for some theories about theistic evolution. There’s plenty of science around creation that I didn’t address. This is simply meant as a brief overview of the topic of creation and what Christians believe about it. I recommend further investigation on the topic before forming an opinion on the issue.