Can the Bible be trusted? Does the theory of evolution disprove the Bible? Are they mutually exclusive, or is the problem with human interpretation? We have to keep in mind that none of us were around to observe these things. Therefore, we all come at this with certain presuppositions that may or may not be correct. These presuppositions can get in the way of us seeing the evidence for what it is, and it extends to both sides of the debate.
When you speak of “evolution”, different people will conjure up different notions of what is meant. Likewise, “creation” has become a rather abused word of late. So, before we begin, let’s consider what the American Heritage Dictionary says (from dictionary.com):
Evolution – Biology: change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of new species.
Creationism – belief in the literal interpretation of the account of the creation of the universe and of all living things related in the Bible.
There may be better definitions out there, and there certainly are worse ones, but for the purposes of this article, these will be the ones that will be used. Immediately, some things should strike you about these definitions:
- Evolution does not equate to atheism. Nothing in the definition is stated about the existence or nonexistence of God.
- By itself, evolution does not try to define the beginning of life or what started it (although there certainly are theories for that as well).
- Of and by itself, nothing in the definition of creationism prohibits an earth that is over 10,000 years old.
- Of and by itself, nothing in the definition of creationism states that living organisms have not evolved or are not now evolving.
Regardless, in my experience, the issues that come up in discussions are: Evolution is viewed as a means to explain life without a creator. Evolutionists scoff at some creationist’s idea that of a single worldwide Flood that left the fossils we see everywhere. That, of course, is a result of how many creationists push the idea of an earth that is no more than 10,000 years old. However, shouldn’t we be looking at what the Bible really says?
Creation Without a Creator?
Point 4 of the things that should strike you about the definitions is a particularly interesting one. There are no creationists that I’m aware of that will claim evolution doesn’t happen. People are generally aware that the flu shot changes from year to year because the virus mutates. The flu virus changes. This is another way of saying the flu virus evolves. This is usually referred to as “microevolution”. Dogs and cats are bred for particular characteristics. Horses are bred for speed on a race track. These small changes within a species are microevolution. When a creationist says they have a problem with accepting evolution, it is the “macroevolution” variety where one species turns into another. It is often viewed as an attempt to explain creation without a creator.
So, does evolution mean there is no creator? Obviously, there is a form of evolution going on every day, so the obvious answer should be “No”. Is there anything preventing God from creating everything through an evolutionary process? Again, the answer is “No”, so the real question boils down to: “Did God create everything using the evolutionary process?” The answer may not be as straight forward as you assume!
The problem evolution has is that dogs breed dogs, cats breed cats, horses breed horses, etc. It is assumed that mutations in a particular population given enough time will accumulate until the population has evolved into a different species and will be incapable of breeding with other populations that evolved separately. Of course, none of us have been around long enough to observe this, so we have to rely upon other things such as fossil evidence. The Bible, though, says each “kind” breeds after its “kind”. Exactly what makes a “kind” is no small matter of debate, either. However, it does partially address why different species have difficulty producing offspring. If God had used evolution to create life, then it isn’t illogical to assume He would have had some sort of hand in guiding the outcome, thus overcoming any barrier of species. It could be the timing of when He established the “kind” rule. There may have been a set time that “kind” would produce “kind” that may or may not have been in effect previously. This may sound like pure conjecture, but let me assure you it will become clearer very soon.
Floods and Fossils
Creationists sometimes are referred to as “Young Earth Creationists” because of their interpretation that the earth cannot be more than 10,000 years old. This forces the belief that the fossils we see are all the result of a single catastrophe usually known as either the Deluge or Noah’s Flood. Since the Bible is silent about fossils, we are given only the fossil record and reference to other things in the Bible to draw conclusions from.
The strata of the earth show some interesting things. We see layer upon layer of different periods throughout time. We see flora and floods, flora and floods in cycles throughout. Sometimes we see animal fossils as well, which usually indicates an unusual catastrophic event.
Did you know that the Bible shows at least 2 worldwide floods?
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
~ Ge 1:2
We see right at the start of what is generally called “creation week” that the entire earth has been flooded. Now, if the “without form and void” simply referred to a gaseous mixture that eventually came together to form a solid body, then where did all of this water come from?
The answer is in the keywords “and”, “was” and “void”!
Is the Earth Only 10,000 Years Old?
There have been studies that show that sometimes the dating methods used are suspect. There are problems as well in making assumptions that radiological bombardment and decay has been constant throughout history. This has been the source of considerable debate between creationists and evolutionists for some time. Having said all of that, though, there is a lot of physical evidence that the earth is over 10,000 years old.
How can that be reconciled with the Bible? It might be easier than you think!
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
~ Ge 1:1 (NIV)
There is little dispute what this means. God created the 3 heavens and the earth. It does not say what year this occurred. It does not give any time reference other than “the beginning”. It could refer to 1 second, 1 minute, 1 millennium or 4 billion years.
Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
- Genesis 1:2 Or possibly became
~ v2 (NIV)
We see that “now”, that is after some time, the earth “became” formless and empty! The word for “was” or “became” is “hayah”, which is the same word used in Ge 2:7 to state that Adam “became” a living soul!
This should be causing more questions in your mind at this point. What happened? Why did it become formless and empty? Was it created this way? No, God did not create it empty, but to be inhabited!
For this is what the LORD says—
he who created the heavens,
he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited—
“I am the LORD,
and there is no other.
~ Isa 45:18 (NIV)
So, what happened? Perhaps you have heard of the fall of Lucifer? Think about it. The spirit realm was already in existence when the earth was formed (Job 38:4, 6-7). Lucifer was created as a perfect high ranking angel. Most likely, it was his job to prepare the earth for human beings! However, he rebelled. It would have taken a long time, perhaps billions of years, for a perfect spirit being to corrupt himself and turn against his maker. He was thrown to the earth (Lk 10:18; Rev 12:4). In his rebellion, he destroyed the earth he was supposed to care for!
So, where did all of those fossils come from? They were life forms that existed before Satan destroyed the planet he was in charge of. I want you to consider that Satan likes to appear as a “serpent” (which is likely not a “snake”, but a large reptile) or a “dragon”. What types of animals come to mind when you think of large reptiles roaming about? It is pretty likely that you would think of dinosaurs. These large unwieldy beasts were likely mutations of God’s design and were shaped and fashioned in the image of their ruler.
So, what of “creation week”? It was a literal week. It was a re-creation of the earth. The Holy Spirit was hovering over the waters to reshape the earth and renew it.
Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
~ Ps 104:30
Before this week of re-creation, we are not told the mechanism by which life forms were made. It looks like we need to look at the fossil evidence for that. However, guided evolution should not be ruled out just because of a literal reading of a 6 day re-creation of the earth.