Big Bang, C.S. Lewis, Charles Lyell, Darwinism, Howard Van Till, Hugh Ross, Ideal-Time Theory, Norman L. Geisler, Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, progressive creationism, Robert C. Newman, theistic evolution, young earth creationism
That is the greatest discovery of the last thirty to fifty years – the discovery of ourselves, our true motives, our real assumptions. No longer do we live in a world where the naturalistic, atheistic view of life is taken for granted. No longer can anyone merely assume that God is not there.
The “predisposition against the supernatural” has been exposed to scientific scrutiny and found wanting. Atheists are becoming agnostics and many have become theists, biblical theists, embracing the God of the Bible. Science is thinking more clearly, discerning between science itself, and the philosophy, and even theology, of the scientist.
In addition, a basic distinction is now maintained between “origin science” relating to theories on the origins of the universe and biological life, and “operational science” relating to the study of ongoing processes and the methods and procedures used in dealing with observable and repeatable events.
Testimony after testimony of biologists, physicists and astronomers, to name just a few, are now available stating that they, personally, are coming to the “supernatural” conclusion that science is now clearly pointing to. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross, for example, reports that:
Allan Sandage, winner of the Crafoord prize in astronomy (equivalent to the Nobel prize), remarked, “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.
Up to this point, believers can only be pleased that God has seen fit to reveal the scientist to himself. But there is still a question for us to consider.
Leaving aside the scientific evidence for a moment, how does this all square with the Biblical witness to the creation of the world. This particular discussion is an internal one, specific to those who believe that the personal God revealed in the Bible is also the transcendent creator-being who began the cosmos.
Frankly, many Christians have not always seen the Big Bang Theory in such a positive light believing (wrongly, it seems) that billions of years would still allow for an evolution of life along the lines of Darwinism. Others want nothing to do with any scientifically based theories (or even evidence) on the origins of life and hold fast to a literal understanding of creation in six days by the God of the Bible. The question is whether or not you can have both.
The debate within Christian circles is often spoken of in terms of theistic evolution versus young earth creationism, but there is a middle position to consider as well called Progressive Creationism.
Theistic evolution is the view that:
God created the universe and directly created the first living form. He established the process of evolution. In this view, mutations and natural selection are God’s method for producing His creation. God created matter in such a way that it has to evolve. However, God also has had involvement in the evolutionary process at specific times, intervening to modify the process. God created the first human being by using an already existing being (one of the higher primates) and giving it a human soul.
Young earth creationism, on the other hand, would take a more literal view of creation as presented in the Bible. It is described this way,
God created the universe and all that is in it through direct action. This happened over a very short period of time, perhaps a calendar week. God did not use any indirect means or biological mechanisms to bring His creation into being, but used direct action or contact. In each of His acts of creation, God created the universe initially out of nothing (Gen. 1:1). From the universe he formed human beings and other parts of creation. Each species was created distinct from all others. God made man completely by a direct creative act and then created a woman also.
Already you can see that the main difference is whether the emphasis is put on a literal reading of the biblical revelation first of all or on the scientific evidence (which is not conclusive on the issue of the origin of man).
The main issues seem to revolve around the age of the universe, recent or billions of years (but no longer infinite), the age of our world, recent or in terms of a few billion years old, as well as the process of creation as evolutionary or with direct theistic involvement or some combination of both.
Science supports the age of the universe in terms of around 14 billion years old, the world in terms of 4.5 billion years old and a combination of evolutionary and direct “out of nothing” creation events in the process of a long creation period. That would mean either theistic evolution (with supporters such as C.S. Lewis, Howard Van Till and Pierre Tielhard de Chardin) or progressive creationism (Norman L. Geisler, Robert C. Newman, and Charles Lyell) would fit the scientific evidence best.
Progressive Creationism can be described in this way:
God created the universe and all that is in it directly. However, He did this at several points in time, separated by large time spans. When He brought new life forms into existence, He did not use existing matter; He created each from nothing. However, between these acts of creation, development took place within the species through the process of evolution (microevolution). God made man directly and completely.
Although other Christian theories (such as Local Creation Theory, Day-Age Theory, Gap Theory and Pictorial Day Theory) of how to integrate the Biblical revelation with the new scientific evidence also exist, these three (Theistic Evolution, Progressive Creationism and Young Earth Creationism) are the most popular among Christians today. But do not fall into the trap of thinking that the Young Earth Creationist view lacks scientific backing.
The second law of thermodynamics is often cited as evidence that the universe is decaying at a rate that only allows for thousands not billions of years. In addition the decay of the earth’s magnetic field also supports that view. There are also arguments from astronomy and geology as well as arguments against radiometric dating (carbon 14 dating). Other scientists would disagree of course.
There is even the possibility of a recent creation of an “old” universe (Ideal-Time Theory). How else could God create the world? Adam was a certain age when he was created and his body must have some evidence of a “history” (with or without a bellybutton). In the same way, the stars could have been created recently, together with all of the light particles necessary between the stars and earth so that we could see them. How do you create a “young” mountain or a “young” tree, unless it is a seed?
Everything must have been created at some point in the process of aging and development. Rocks must have layers and trees must have had rings. There were some seedlings, some young saplings, some mature trees and some ancient oaks. This view would allow for an “old” earth, created recently, with fossil records of plant life and dinosaurs that may never have existed but are there as part of a necessary “backstory” to the creation of the earth.
But some see that as a question of integrity for God. Would that fit the character of God as we have come to know Him through the Bible, that He would leave evidences in the fossil records that may, in fact, lead many in the wrong direction with regards to the question of the origin of the universe and the beginnings of life.
Putting this into historical perspective, this “misleading” evidence in the fossil record has only come to light recently, over the past one hundred years or so. Therefore, it is only a problem for the modern age. Even so, it would not appear to be an issue of integrity but rather of the practicalities of creating life (and the earth itself) with a “history.” God is under no obligation to provide a scientific rationale for the manner in which he decided to create the world.
There is no doubt that science has done wonderful work in providing a rationale for believing that the personal God of the Bible is the transcendent creator-being that “caused” the universe.
As a scientific apologetic it is helpful in an age still dominated by rational atheism but there is a point at which the shoe must go on the other foot, so to speak. If we believe that the transcendent creator-being has revealed himself through his actions and message recorded in the Bible, then, logically, that revelation has stronger weight and clearer evidence for the creation event than any other source and must take priority over the scientific “evidence” (which, after all, is by nature partial and incomplete).
This is a new and startling source of information that must be given priority of place in so far as it speaks to the issue at hand. The real debate then is to decide what the Bible says, scientifically and theologically, and then, if possible, to make the scientific evidence fit that body of information.
In any event, these are the questions that Christians are asking in the wake of the amazing recent advancements of our understanding of the origins of life. There is a basic commitment by all Christians to the view that special revelation in scripture and the general revelation of nature are fully compatible even if our understanding of that compatibility is not complete.
Whether a person opts for theistic evolution, progressive creation or a young earth (or recent “old” earth) creationism, the landscape has radically changed and all three positions stand firmly against a rational atheistic and naturalistic position that no longer has the full weight of scientific evidence in their favor.
The concept of creation ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) has now been validated for the universe as a whole, as well as for the DNA/RNA necessary for specific life forms (including humans) to come into existence. Christianity is based on a creation ex nihilo by the personal God revealed in the Bible and there is now reasonable evidence to suggest that creation ex nihilo is the only scientific explanation available that fits the observable facts.
Scientific creationism (and, to a degree, theistic evolution but with certain reserves) has now become the new language of Christian belief in creation.
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Whispers of the Desert Warrior by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
Footnotes and references included in original manuscript.