Re: The Genesis Factor

David Campbell (
Tue, 18 May 1999 17:31:47 -0400

>1(a): Is it your contention then that in the absence of a theory of evolution
>our understanding in these areas [biology and paleontology] would be deficient
>in some way? Are you able to give instances of problems that might arise
>because of such ignorance?

Yes, we would lack our current understanding of how God created living
things. I have seen no adequate explanation for the many transitional
forms nor the patterns of biochemical similarity among organisms except for
evolutionary ideas. (Either a more "natural" evolution or one in which God
"intervenes" miraculously to change one kind into another could produce the
observed pattern, although the magnitude of "interventions" is generally
limited by the available evidence. God is equally active and involved in
either case; the difference is whether He follows the pattern of natural
laws or not.)

>1(b): You appear to be suggesting that evolution has no metaphysical
>associations. But what are the facts? It has progressively undermined the word
>of God - specifically, in challenging the literal truth of the early chapters
>of Genesis - and has thereby provided a plank for biblical criticism, liberal
>theology, radical ecumenism and secular humanism. Can it be anything other
>than a competing religious faith?!

No, there are all sorts of attempts at associating metaphysical ideas with
evolution. I assert that biological evolution has no metaphysical
implications in and of itself. It can be used to provide insights within a
metaphysical system, but the metaphysics themselves are derived from
elsewhere. For example, within a Biblical metaphysical system, the
evolutionary emphasis on passing on one's genes suggests that sexual sin
will be a strong temptation for fallen humans.

Atheism, not evolution, has undermined the word of God. If "literal" is
defined as "using the context to figure out what the author intended", then
biological evolution is compatible with a literal reading of Genesis 1-2.
"Literal" is also misused to refer to an extreme approach of ignoring
metaphors and other literary devices. Nobody with any sense believes that
one ought to read all Scripture "literally" in this sense. For example,
obviously Judges 9:8-15 should be considered a parable and not a historical
description of political activity among trees. If you try to read Gen. 1-2
as a scientific description, you run into problems. Day (yom) is used
differently in chapter 1 and 2:4. If both passages are true, then at least
one must be using the word metaphorically. Likewise, the structure of
Genesis 1 suggests that Moses was not talking about time at all. 1:2
presents the problem-the earth was formless and void. :3-5 gives form to
the heavens. :6-8 gives form to the sea and sky. :9-13 gives form to the
land. :14-19 fills the heavens. :20-23 fills the sea and sky. :24-31
fills the land. This complex parallelism to me suggests that the point is
that God formed and created everything. Why should the Israelites have
cared how God made all those things? All they (and most other people)
really needed to know was that God is the creator of all things, and has
given humans a special role in that creation. They needed to know that
snakes are not suitable for them to eat, that some can be dangerous, and
that they are created by God, not independent of them. Apart from curious
biologists, who cares that snakes evolved from monitor lizards? I cannot
think of any practical application of this piece of information.

Most of the use of "evolution" as a support for such bad ideas as you list
is a gross distorsion of actual scientific thinking about evolution. What
little uses a proper understanding of evolution uses a misunderstanding of

Even if evolution were rightly used by these things, it would not make it a
competing religious faith but rather something used by competing religious
faiths. Bad exegesis is involved in any approach to the Bible that leads
astray, but the exegesis itself is not a faith..

A young-earth appraoch to Genesis 1 can be found among conservative
Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, and Muslims. Can I therefore conclude
that it leads to heresy?

>2(a) Let me focus first on '...excuses for dismissing the Bible are always
>popular'. Why this should be so leads us to the crux of the matter under
>discussion. The Bible informs us that fallen man is an enemy of God ; that his
>heart is 'deceitful and desperately wicked' (Jer.17:9); that 'every
>inclination of his (man's) heart is evil from childhood' (Gn.8:21). As
>Christians, therefore, we should be alive to these things; and particularly
>since evidences of their truth lie within us and around us! Well has Jesus
>said, "...apart from me you can do nothing." (Jn.15:5). It is therefore
>reasonable to conclude that our only safe course as Christians is to accept
>unreservedly the teachings of the Lord and of the Apostles.

Yes, but our understanding of their teaching is tainted as well (else there
would be no disagreement among Christians, and heretics could not fool
anyone into believing that they adhere to the Scripture). Careful reading
is required, with consideration of the context and accountability to others
who can tell me when I am on the wrong track. Taken out of context, it is
possible to justify almost anything from Scripture. E.g., combining "he
went away and hanged himself" and "Go and do the same" is entirely
unwarranted by the text. If I did not care about the teaching of Genesis
1-2, I would not seek to find how it and the evidence from creation may be
considered as compatible.

>2(b) You claim that 'biological evolution has the appeal of a successful
>theory'. But where is the conclusive evidence that evolution was the process
>used by God to achieve his purposes? Where are these transitional forms? And
>are such mythical creatures likely to be functionally viable anyway in a
>'survival of the fittest' scenario? The data available to us is surely capable
>of a different interpretation - one that is more in keeping with the literal
>requirements of Genesis 1. For obvious reasons, atheists won't accept there
>is an alternative. But why must TEs?

The evidence is all over the place. Denial of the existence of
transitional forms is either ignorance, misunderstanding, semantic
trickery, lying, or some combination of the above. In your case,
misunderstanding is evidently a part. Transitional forms are not mythical
dysfuntional forms like a mermaid. Rather, they are real functional
creatures with multiple abilities, like an amphibian. Actually, they do
often have trouble in survival of the fit enough (less catchy but more
accurate). Their descendants often outcompete them, so that they die out.
For example, Archaeopteryx was able to fly, but did not have many of the
specializations of more advanced birds. Once more advanced birds evolved,
those still at Archaeopteryx's level would not have been able to compete
and died out. However, when there were no birds, even a crude
approximation of flying ability could have opened up new opportunities for
the transitional forms.

Examples of transitional forms include whales and snakes with legs, fish
with toes, oysters with mother-of-pearl, birds with teeth, mammal-like
reptiles with a double jaw joint, monoplacophorans with a doubled shell
(transitional to bivalves), and many more.

As stated above, the evidence is compatible with a truly literal
interpretation of Genesis 1. It is not compatible with a young-earth
interpretation. To hold a young-earth interpretation requires either a
denial that the evidence from creation is accurate or a belief that someday
we will discover an alternate interpretation of the evidence from creation.
I have seen no young-earth interpretations that adequately deal with the
evidence. For that matter, I have not seen any that demonstrate a thorough
knowledge of the evidence. If someone does not have his facts straight, I
am not likely to trust his interpretation.

>Matters of eternal significance to the human soul are so frequently obscured
>in this life by a desire to achieve conformity with what are essentially
>atheistic claims. Isn't it safer for us to accept the plain language of
>scripture regarding the universality of Noah's flood, for example, than to
>risk the fate referred to by Peter in his second letter (2Pet.3:16). My belief
>is that the practice of distorting the scriptures to accomodate the
>requirements of evolution - as occurs so readily these days among Christians -
>is a recipe for disaster!

Yes. It is a recipie for disaster to distort the plain language of
scripture to accomodate anything, including the requirements of young-earth
creationism or flood geology. Also, not all of Scripture is plain language
(Mt. 13:13, 2 Pet. 3:16) The plain language describing the Flood, as
evidenced by the use of the words elsewhere in Scripture, indicates that
there is no requirement for the Flood to be global. Scripture can be
distorted by addition or subtraction, neither of which is advisable (cf.
Rev. 22:18-19). The evidence from creation indicates that God initiated
creation a long time ago and has extensively used "natural" rather than
"miraculous" ways of creation, so it is necessary to examine both our
understanding of creation and of Scripture to see how they are to be
reconciled. Both are from the same Author, so they agree, but our
understanding of both has problems.

By insisting on God's constant use of miracles and neglecting his role in
"natural" events, many young-earth and intelligent design arguments are
conforming to atheistic claims rather than the Bible. Many atheists try to
claim "Science has explained this; therefore, God is not required." The
Biblical answer to this claim is "Science tells us how God did (or does)
this. It does not eliminate the need for God any more than a physics
equation eliminates the need for the forces and particles it describes."
Confining God's activity to the miraculous is not Biblical.

>3(a) On this occasion I wasn't really looking for an argument on the meaning
>of 'day' in this context but rather to point to an interesting inversion in
>the generally-accepted evolutionary sequence. This matter alone, I suggest,
>presents the TE with a real problem. Believing God to be sovereign in respect
>of an evolutionary creation, how - logically - is he able to question a
>statement (that could only have come from God!) regarding the order in which
>the created forms appeared? Clearly, it just doesn't make sense - but it is
>typical of the muddled thinking that is taking place these days.

As discussed above, I do not believe God intends Genesis 1 to be a
statement of the order in which the created forms appeared, although as far
as living things go, bacteria and algae appeared before aquatic animals,
which appeared before land animals. The point (not too clearly made) of my
raising the question of the meaning of day was to question whether the
intent of Genesis 1 was chronology.

>In conclusion, I observe that you have omitted to refer to my 4th observation
>- the one concerning the numerical patterns underlying Genesis 1:1. It is my
>belief that until these are recognised, and incorporated into the global
>database, all discussions of the kind in which we are now engaged can achieve
>very little in furthering the cause of truth.

I have not read enough of the claims about such patterns to be able to form
a definite conclusion. I am skeptical on theological grounds, because
miracles are principally for the purpose of authenicating new revelation.
They are definitely not for the purpose of striking awe into skeptics (Mt.
4:7, etc.). "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them" (Lk.
16:29b), so I do not see the need for such patterns.

I am also concerned about the rigor of the analyses. How much flexibilty
did they allow in reconstructing the original wording and division of the
text? Although they are theologically unimportant, there are several
points at which the exact wording of the original text is uncertain.
Likewise, if you are able to choose how to divide the text, you can
eventually find divisions that will generate any numerical scheme you like.
For example, a weird modern short story we read in high school English had
some seemingly random numbers in it, but our teacher showed us a scheme of
assigning numbers to letters that could tie character's names into the
numbers. I found I could use his name to generate the numbers as well, but
this did not make me believe that the author intended to put my teacher's
name into the story, nor that the author was specially inspired. Again,
someone who was trying to make a particular person into the Antichrist
devised the following "rules" for making 666 fit: try Hebrew, Greek, and
Latin alphabets; don't forget the possibility of incorporating titles; and
the ancients were not strict about spelling. Using these rules, any name
can be made to generate 666. I doubt that the claims of mathematical
patterns in the words of Scripture are based on as bad a foundation as
these examples, but I do not know if the foundation is good enough to be
statistically rigorous.

If the foundation is good, what then? Believers already accept the
authority of Scripture. Unbelievers already ignore the miracles described
in the Bible. Many of those who witnessed the miracles failed to believe.
I do not understand the relevance of the numerical patterns to the
understanding of what God intends for us to learn from Genesis 1.

David C.