NO HARMONY BETWEEN THE BIBLE AND EVOLUTIONARY SCIENCE
Dr.J. W. Milner, B.Sc., Ph.D.
As a result of the lecture “Creation in Six Days”, given in Leicester last May (which appeared in “Gospel Tidings” for December 1969 and is available in pamphlet form), I was asked to give a series of four lectures on the Bible and Science by the friends of Bethel Free Church, Leicester. These aroused a certain amount of interest and are being produced in “Gospel Tidings” for the benefit of any who are perplexed by the conflict between the Bible and evolutionary science. The four lectures were:Â—
1. The Existence of the Problem.
2. The Futility of Attempted Harmonizations.
3. Good and Bad Science.
4. The Earth’s Early History.
The first lecture was intended to show that there is a definite conflict between evolutionary science and the Bible since so many good people seem unaware of the fact. This lecture was based on “Creation in Six Days” and it would be pure repetition to present it in this magazine. Let us, therefore, go straight on to the second lecture and consider some of the efforts at harmonization that have been made.
In Hebrews 11 we read that it is “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God”. It is often emphasized, quite rightly, that men can only know God through faith in Christ. However, faith is necessary for all true knowledge including knowledge about our origins. It is for this reason that I am aiming what I have to say at those who already have faith, to bring them, by God’s blessing, to the place where they believe all that God says. In seeking to help believers to submit to the whole Bible I am not dealing with mere matters of opinion. It is very important that we should believe the entire Word of God. If we do not believe the Scriptures about our creation and the origin of the world, what right have we to believe what they say concerning our redemption? It is a case of all or nothing. The Saviour Himself demands that His people receive all His words. He said, “If a man love me he will keep my words … he that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.”
In summary, it has already been shown that God made the world in six days by a series of instantaneous creative acts. Furthermore, man fell, sin entered the world and the earth was cursed. Then, in chapters 4 to 11 of Genesis we have the gradual deterioration of the world God made until it is in the condition we find it in today.
On the other hand, the theory of evolution teaches that the world has come into being over millions of years. Natural processes
are thought of as being creative and life has evolved by a series of improvements.
In the Bible we are told there is the tendency for chaos to replace order. According to evolution, order naturally replaces chaos. The two are in permanent opposition and that is the Christian’s problem.
Attempts at harniunization have usually been made by Christians. Unbelievers are delighted to be able to ignore the Bible and are obviously not inclined to seek any harmony. Many approaches to harmonization are taken and I intend to outline five of them. They all have one thing in common and that is that the so-called findings of science are accepted as proven and the Scriptures are re-interpreted accordingly. Herein lies the futility of such attempts because not one of them really seeks to find out just what the Bible does say. The assumption seems to be that science can prove things about the past and, therefore, the apparently obvious meaning of Genesis cannot be so obvious after all. It is the Bible which must be re-examined.
First of all, let us consider the Gap Theory, or, to give it its full title, the Creation-Ruin-Recreation Hypothesis. This is a view which is highly prevalent amongst evangelicals. Indeed, the strange thing is that many strong anti-evolutionists hold it. They do so because it is part of the teaching of the Schofield Reference Bible. Since they adopt Schofield’s prophetic teaching they are favourably disposed to the rest of what he saysÂ—including the Gap Theory. Many people who hold this idea have assured me that they do so because it is biblical and not because they wish to harmonize evolution and Genesis. I am not at all inclined to disbelieve them but I think they should know about the origin of the theory. Up to the 18th century it was generally believed that the rock strata and fossils were indisputable evidence of the flood which occurred in Noah’s time. This sound interpretation of the rocks had displaced all sorts of fanciful theories by the end of the seventeenth century and was almost universally believed for over a century. Then a Frenchman, Georges Cuvier, who was not opposed to Biblical ideas, began to suggest that the earth had suffered a series of great floods, each one responsible for some of the major fossil-bearing rocks. According to him, the Flood in Genesis was the last of these catastrophies and was only responsible for superficial deposits to be found on the earth’s surface. The theory, of course, had many anti-biblical implications but I am not concerned with those just now. What I am concerned to make known is that at the beginning of the 19th Century, the Scottish Free Church leader, Dr. Chalmers, began to suggest that there was a gap between Genesis 1.1 and Genesis 1.2. He did so in order to accommodate the Bible to Cuvier’s ideas. He began to search the Bible to find room for scientific speculation instead of bringing the theory to the Bible to see if it was tenable. Such a reason for the origin of the Gap Theory should make us wary of it at the outset but let us examine it a little to see if such a Gap is possible.
According to the theory the first two verses of Genesis should be re-translated to “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. But the earth became without form and void.” If this translation is correct then the question arisesÂ—why did the earth become without form and void? The answer often given is that there was an original earth created for the angels but when Satan fell the earth was devastated by God only to be re-created in six days as recorded in the rest of Genesis 1. The period between the ruin of the original earth and its restoration is of unspecified length. It could be millions of yearsÂ—ample time for the formation of the fossils and even time for the existence of some kind of man before Adam. There are a few texts which are used to support the theoryÂ—Jeremiah 4. 23-26, Isaiah 24.1 and Isaiah 45.18. These passages are used to show that the earth must have become without form and void as a result of God’s anger against sin.
I am told that the word re-translated “but” is merely a conjunction between two parts of a sentence and cannot carry the important meaning attached to it in the Gap Theory. Also I am told that though the Hebrew translated “was” does mean “became” in one or two isolated instances, this meaning is secondary and must be determined by the context. The primary meaning is always “was”. The same word is used in Genesis 3.1 and no one has ever suggested that the serpent became subtle! However, knowing no Hebrew, I am not going to pretend I can work these things out for myself. Let us go on a little to consider some more of the reasoning behind the Gap Theory since it can satisfactorily be refuted using our English Bibles. I showed in “Creation in Six Days” that the phrase “without form and void” does not convey any sense at all of a judgment of God. It simply states that the earth came forth from God’s hands as a lump of raw material. It would have been “void” or futile if it had remained that way. It was certainly “without form”Â—if it had not been, the succeeding days of creation would not have been necessary. If it pleased God to make the earth “without form” at first and then to illuminate and furnish it, why should we attach some sinister meaning to the phrase “without form and void”?
As far as the texts from Isaiah and Jeremiah are concerned, I believe these are wholly irrelevant to the matter in hand. The words “without form and void” have been seized on and utilised without any reference to the context. Take Jeremiah 4.23-26 for example. Jeremiah is describing the condition of the land as a result of the judgment of God. The effect of this judgment was to reverse the work of God at creation. At creation. God started with the unformed matter He had called into being. Then He caused light to shine upon it. Then He caused the land to be fruitful until He finally had prepared a beautiful dwelling-place for man. Jeremiah is emphasising the terrible nature of the wrath of God by declaring that the blessings of creation are being taken away one by one until the land is formless as at the first day. It is certainly evidence of judgment for a “fruitful land” to end up
“without form and void” but the words themselves, however, simply describe a condition and do not necessarily involve the idea of judgments. In any case, Jeremiah is speaking of the punishment of his people and not about the earth during the Gap. The texts from Isaiah will be found to be equally irrelevant to the Gap Theory especially Isaiah 45.18 which is simply stating the purpose of God’s creating the earth. God created it for man to inhabit it. It would have been in vain if it had not been dwelt in by him. This is clear, of course, from Genesis 1 itself. The text has nothing to say concerning Genesis 1.2 and is, again, very poor support for a weak theory!
There are theological objections to the Gap Theory as well as the textual ones outlined above. One of the strongest is this:Â—At the end of the six days God saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good. Yet Satan was already in existence as the fallen angel if the Gap Theory is true. Was he very good? To ask the question is to answer it.
It is difficult to understand why a theory designed to accommodate the Bible to a now outmoded scientific idea should be so popular. A study of the connection between the Gap Theory and the scheme of prophecy in the Schofield Bible might well be very revealing.
The next theory is much simpler to understand, it is the Day-Age Theory. According to this, the word “day” in Genesis 1 is not to be taken literally but must be understood to mean simply an indeterminate period of time. The days of Genesis are, therefore, interpreted as agesÂ—the idea being to try to identify them with the geological ages. The result is that even though Genesis is no longer understood in a literal sense it is still regarded as teaching that it was God Who superintended the whole geological and evolutionary process. This is regarded as a far more important point to make than to spend time quibbling over 24-hour days etc. The intention of people who hold this view is clear and, in some ways, commendable. They wish to restrain the atheistic tendencies of evolutionary thinking and, since they regard the geological ages etc. as actually proven, this is the only way they can think of doing so.
In order to support the theory they make use of the fact that the word “day” is used in many ways. For example in Genesis 2.4 “These are the generations of the heaven and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens”, the word “day” is clearly used to refer to the whole of God’s activity. The phrase “in the day that” simply means “when”. This is a perfectly valid point and the conclusion drawn from it is that if the word is not used in a literal sense here then why should it be so used only a few verses earlier?
Even if their conclusion was valid it would be a very slender thread to hang such a theory from as I shall show in a minute. But the conclusion is not valid, for, in Genesis 1, the word “day” appears each time with a number and with the mention of evening and morning. For example:Â—”the evening and the morning were
the first day” or “It was evening, it was morning; day one.” E. J. Young says that, even though the word “day” may have a general meaning, whenever it appears with a number like one, two, three, etc. it never means anything other than an ordinary day. He says that this is one of the rules, almost, of Hebrew grammar. Another fact which militates against this theory is that it is impossible to attach any authority to the fourth commandment if the days of creation are ages. What does it mean when we are told to work six twenty-four hour days and rest one because the Lord made heaven and earth in six indefinitely long ages? One further objection, if the day-age idea is correct and the days of Genesis are geological ages then the fossil record indicates that there was death and disease in the world before man sinned. Yet the Bible clearly teaches that these things are part of the curse of Genesis 3.14-19 which followed Adam’s sin.
The third attempt I wish to consider is the Framework Hypothesis advanced by some of the Dutch theologians. This was the theory I used to hold to myself although I was not aware of its source. It was simply something which I had heard and had grasped hold of without examining it too deeply. It seemed good enough and I think I refrained from too close an inspection in case it was not as sound as I hoped! I can remember arguing vehemently for this idea with a friend some years ago when an older man, who was listening, interrupted and said, “Young man, your trouble is that you have too much of man’s knowledge and not enough of the knowledge of God”. I was silenced! This was the first step in the long process which ended up in my seeing that I must submit to the Scriptures. The Lord also graciously opened my eyes to the fallacies of evolutionary thinking. Strangely enough I cannot now even remember the man’s name. But I am digressing.
The Framework Hypothesis makes use of the fact that Genesis was written, or compiled, by Moses at a time when the Jews already existed as a nation. The idea is that the working week was already well known. The Jews were used to working six days and resting one, since they had, after all, only to “remember” the Sabbath dayÂ—it was not something new to them. This being the case. God took the week and used it as a framework to show that He had made all things. The idea of creation was so difficult for them to understand that God accommodated Himself to their weakness to show that He was Creator. We miss the point if we think the six days tell us how God made all things. The six days are simply a vehicle to tell us that He did so.
This theory is not very difficult to demolish. In fact, only a person anxious to find a let-out would even consider it. This framework idea turns the fourth commandment topsy-turvy. According to the Bible the origin of the week is to be found in the creation and this constitutes the very logic of the fourth commandment. According to this theory no-one knows where the week came from yet it is used by God as a framework! Then the framework week is pointed to by God in the fourth commandment as a reason for perpetuating this week of unknown origin! Again, the theory removes the Biblical account of creation from the realm of reality altogether and it becomes a strong passage in which the God of truth
represents Himself as doing things He has not in fact done. This is in order to accommodate Himself to the ignorance of the Jews, and be it added, for all menÂ—until last century when we suddenly grew up and were able to think for ourselves!!
The Framework Hypothesis takes many forms, and I have outlined the one I heard and adopted, but the common factor is that Genesis 1 is only to be regarded as a religious chapter, the implication being that it cannot be factual also. However the way in which the Biblical writers always refer to Genesis 1 shows that it is both spiritual and factual. It is quite misleading to set one against the other.
Another attempt to avoid the plain import of Genesis is to be found in P. J. Wiseman’s Revelation-Day Theory. He sees clearly that the days of Genesis 1 are literal twenty-four hour days and he rejects such attempts as the Gap Theory and Day-Age Theory. He concentrates mainly on the fourth commandment and claims that the word “made” in “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth etc.” does not refer to creation but to revelation. He says that the words in the commandment should be “For in six days the Lord showed heaven and earth, etc.” The idea is that God revealed the creation account in six days so that when God said ‘Let there be light” this means that God revealed that He created light on the first day and so on for the other days. In this theory the days are literal enough but they are days on which God said something to man about creation after the creation, not days in which He actually created. The creation was “in the infinite past.” On re-reading Genesis 1 and the way in which the Lord and Apostles refer to it I just cannot see it as anything other than a historical recordÂ—a revelation certainly, but a revelation of what God did in six days. The theory is clearly another attempt to
remove the conflict between Biblical chronology and the chronology of evolutionary geology and biology.
The fifth and last attempt at harmonization I wish to consider is the Complementarity Theory. Another name for this theory, used in U.S.A., is the Double Revelation Theory. The idea here is that God has revealed Himself in two ways, by His Word and by His works. For this reason those who hold to this theory talk about the Book of Nature and the Book of God’s Word and say that each one is authoritative in its own sphere. The Bible is supremely concerned with man’s salvation and to this we turn for knowledge of forgiveness. We do not, however, turn to the Bible to find details about origins. For this, it is said, we must turn to the Book of Nature, meaning, of course, science and the use of the scientific method as practised by evolutionists. The view of the origin of the world and of life in general given by the Bible and by science are believed to be complementaryÂ—hence the name of the theory. Both views must be believed in order to get a full picture of what has
happened and is happening now. An illustration often used is that of a book. There are two ways of describing it, either in terms of the message of the book or in terms of the print, paper, binding, etc. These two descriptions are not contradictory, they are made from different vantage points and are, in fact, complementary views of the same thing. Each description is correct as far as it goes. Those who teach the theory then go on to say that it is just like this with the Bible and Science. Studying the Bible is like studying our book for its message and finding out about its author, whereas Science is the study of the paper, binding, etc. and there is no contradiction.Â—There cannot be since God is the Author of His Word and His works.
According to this theory, then, if you look at the creation of the world one way we see it occurred in six days by the immediate activity of God. If you adopt another viewpoint it came to pass by slow processes lasting millions of years. Of course, there is no contradiction! This theory I find utterly disreputable. An atheist, after reading one of the leading exponent’s version of Complementarity, dismissed it as “doublethink”Â—and so it is. The attempt is made to keep their science and their “faith” in separate compartments of their minds. However, when one sees these complementarians in action dealing with specific problems it becomes clear that they do not hold the Bible and Science as complementary at allÂ—they re-interpret the Bible. They do not believe in complementarityÂ— they simply disbelieve the Bible. For proof of this read Dr. Spanner’s “Creation and Evolution”. The section on the creation of Eve from Adam would be laughable if it were not so serious a matter.
The fundamental error of those who believe this theory is that they regard the Bible and Science as equally authoritative. They forget that man is a sinner and that the way he interprets his scientific experiments etc. must reflect this. In science we have sinful man by his unaided reason groping about trying to solve the riddle of how we came to be here. In the Bible we have God speaking to men. The Bible is infallible in everything of which it speaks and it certainly speaks of the creation of the world. For men to place the Bible and science on the same plane is monstrous.
All of these theories, as I said at the outset, make the same mistake. They are all futile because they have the wrong approach. In every case the Scriptures are altered, I almost said mutilated, to try to avoid their plain meaning. There has been no coming to grips with the problem at all since the attitude to the Bible is faulty. We ought to be quite willing to reconsider and alter, if necessary, what men say, but the thought of changing God’s Word should fill us with alarm. Our attitude should be to have the Bible mould our thinking, not mould it to our ideas.
In conclusion, then, what can we say? The Bible and Evolutionary Science cannot agree. We cannot alter the Bible, so, then, we must consider the only other alterative. Evolutionary Science must be altered. The Word of God cannot err, so therefore science
must have gone astray somewhere. To suggest this is heresy in the world, and to many Christians, yet I believe it is true. And so in my next article, I want to consider the true capabilities of science and seek to show how the theory of evolution has resulted from a false application of the scientific method.