THE EARTH’S EARLY HISTORY
In previous articles we have seen that the Bible is to be taken literally in what it says about the early history of the earth. We have also seen that attempts to harmonize the Bible and evolutionary science are futile since the two are in basic conflict. Then, again, we have seen a little of what science can and cannot do and the impossibility of probing into the past by using our knowledge of the present only. In this last article I want to outline some ideas concerning the earth’s early history which I hope will be interesting and instructive. In places, I will be using the principle of uniformity to support what I say and it will be good for readers to check what I mean by this principle and to make sure I am not guilty of the uniformitarianism I criticised in my previous article.
First of all, I would like to show that there are clues in the Bible which indicate that the earth’s climate was very much different before the Flood from what it is now. For example, in Genesis 1 vs. 6-8 we read of the waters under the firmament and the waters above the firmament. If the lower waters are the seas and the firmament is the sky, or atmosphere, then the passage says that there were waters above the sky. The automatic reaction to this is to think of the waters above the firmament as the clouds and water vapour in the atmosphere but Morris and Whitcomb, in their book The Genesis Flood’, suggest that the actual Hebrew implies more than this. They say that the waters above the firmament should be considered as waters above the atmosphere encircling the earth and, since it is very hot at high altitudes, this water would exist as invisible water vapourÂ—there would be a canopy of vapour right round the earth.
If such a vapour canopy did exist then it would have the same effect as the glass of a greenhouse and the earth would be very pleasantly warm from the equator to the poles. There would not be the tremendous variations in climate which we experience now. Also Genesis 2 vs. 5, 6 together with Genesis 9 vs. 14 suggest that rainclouds and rain were unknown before the Flood. The rainbow was to be an assurance to Noah that even though rain would occur frequently after the Flood it would never again destroy the whole earth. Instead of rain, the earth was watered by a mist or very heavy dew which rose up from the ground. This, of course, implies an atmosphere which was very humid as well as very warm. If this was so then the whole earth, almost, would be tropical or subtropical and the vegetation would be luxuriant, as in the tropical forests now. Such luxuriant growth the world over would easily support multitudes of creatures of every sortÂ—Genesis 1 vs. 29-30. The point isÂ—was the earth like this before the Flood? The answer is to be found in the fossil-bearing rocks because one can find fossils of vegetation as well as fossils of animals and it is a matter of fact that the fossils of vegetation found from the pole to the equator are the remains of the most luxuriant of growth. If these rocks were formed as a result of the Flood then the fossilised vegetation is a testimony to the vastly different earth which existed before itÂ—an earth with an extremely mild climate in both Greenland and Nigeria.
But what has happened? Why is it that we now have deserts and tropical forests, scorching heat in some places and icy cold in others? I believe that the answer is to be found in Genesis 7 vs. 11 Â—”and the windows of heaven were opened”. The enormous quantity of water necessary for a world-wide, forty-day, continuous downpour was to be found in the waters above the firmament. The opening of heaven’s windows could be understood as God, in judgment, causing the vapour canopy to condense and fall to the earth. If this happened then the greenhouse effect of the canopy would disappear. For the very first time the poles would not have the canopy’s protection and the temperature would suddenly fall. Cold winds would start to blow from the poles to the equator (suggested in Genesis 8 vs. 1?) causing a world-wide lowering of temperature and the falling of snow and hail. Conditions immediately after the Flood could have been just those required for the formation of glaciers. If so, then the ice-age, as it is called, would have been one of the after-effects of the Flood. After a while, as conditions settled, the pattern of summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat would prevail as God instituted a new pattern in His providential rule of the earth.
The harsher climate after the Flood would also account for the extinction of so many creatures who could not cope with the new conditions. This could explain, too, the dramatic fall in man’s own life-span in the few hundred years from Noah to Abraham. Perhaps we are now allowed to eat meat in addition to vegetables
and fruit to help us to cope with a more rigorous environment. These, then are a few suggestions about the earth’s climate based on clues found in the Bible. I do not offer these as expositions of Scripture and neither are they original.
Having, firstly, considered some of the clues in the Bible about the differences in the earth’s climate before and after the Flood I would now, secondly, like to consider the Flood itself. It is often thought of as a rather heavy and prolonged rainstorm and the picture in the minds of many people is that of something fairly orderly and not too severe. However, a careful consideration of Genesis 7 vs. 11 and 2 Peter 3 vs. 5 & 6 lead to the conclusion that the Flood was a far from tranquil happening, but rather was a globe-shaking catastrophe. The mention of the “fountains of the great deep” in Gen. 7 and the overflowing of the water in which the earth was standing in 2 Peter 3 vs. 5, 6 suggests that the source of the flood waters was twofold. Not only did the rain descend but the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep caused the oceans to overflow. It is difficult to imagine enough rain falling to cover every high mountain but the disruption of the earth itself is involved also and when we realise this, the magnitude of the catastrophe begins to make our imaginations falter. The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep suggests the disruption of the ocean bed causing violent world-wide earthquakes. Consider the newspaper reports of one local earthquake and the devastation it causes. Consider the destructive ocean waves accompanying one ocean-bed earth tremor. Try to visualise this the world over and then understand the catastrophic nature of the Flood. No wonder Peter says the world perished. No wonder, too, that God shut Noah in the ark and that He remembered him in mercy. If God had not remembered Noah then the ark, too, would have been “destroyed from the earth”. God sent a cataclysm of world-shaking magnitude to ensure that “every living substance which was on the face of the ground” should die as a punishment for man’s sin.
If the Flood was such an event as I have suggested then there ought to be plenty of evidence left of its having occurred. I believe that the sedimentary rocks, which are used by geologists to support their ideas of the vast age of the earth and the theory of evolution, are in fact the evidence we are looking for. First of all, a Flood of the magnitude I have outlined would quite easily be able to scoop up sufficient material to produce the rocks we see around us. Also the suddenness of the Flood would cause sudden burial of myriads of creatures in conditions ideal for their fossilization. The debris of vegetation could be buried beneath great weights of sediment to be compressed into our coal-beds. In some places we would expect to see fossilised creatures jumbled together in hopeless confusion whereas in others the floodwaters could subside and leave much more orderly strata behind. As the aftermath of a world-wide flood we could expect to see all the varieties of solidified sediment which we do, in fact, have. These brief suggestions
will, no doubt, be dismissed as fanciful by some but it is good to remember that many geological theories are fanciful in the extreme.
In addition to sedimentary rocks and fossils, however, we should also be able to observe some after-effects of the splitting of the earth’s crust. If a split occurs then molten rock oozes up from the earth’s interior. Splitting on such a large scale should mean that we could find large areas of solidified igneous rock among the sedimentary rocks. Again these are to be foundÂ—there is a particularly large one in Canada covering thousands of square miles. Their occurrence is not rareÂ—there are igneous rocks in great profusion all over the earth’s crust.
The biblical account of the Flood, then. contains clues about the earth’s early history which help us to understand why the rocks are as they are and why there are fossils in so many of them.
The third, and final, matter I want us to consider is the effect of the curse on the earth, especially the animal kingdom and man.
When Adam and Eve sinned we read in Genesis 3 of the curse which God pronounced upon the whole creation. In verse 14 we learn that all living creatures are cursed, for God said to the serpent, the creature which had been Satan’s instrument, that it was cursed above all cattle. This clearly means that all cattle had been cursed but the serpent more so. Then in verse 16 we see that God cursed the woman so that the supreme joy of child-bearing would be a sorrow and burden to her. In addition, a new relationship between husband and wife was instituted because of sin. Finally, in verses 17 & 18, we are told of the curse on the ground so that man’s work, formerly a joy to him, would become the burden of his life. Everything that man was to grow or make from now on would have to be wrested from the earth. These few verses clearly teach us that God profoundly changed His creation as a punishment for man’s sin. The effects of the curse are all around us and should remind us of what we are. The very fact that the creation is at odds with itself and “subject to vanity” reminds us of our sinful condition.
One problem which puzzles many people is the existence of such things as the teeth of a lion. People look at them and conclude, quite rightly, that those teeth were not made for eating grass. When they then read in Genesis 1 vs. 30 that the creatures were all vegetarian they reject such a verse out of hand, or, if they are Christians, they become perplexed. I believe that the answer to such a problem is to be found in the curse. For example, in Genesis 3 vs. 14, part of the curse on the serpent involved its crawling on its belly. This could well imply that until that time the serpent had legs and, therefore, the curse was accompanied by physical changes in the serpent. Again, the fact that the woman would now experience pain in child-bearing could mean that she underwent internal physical changes. If the curse did have bodily
effects in this way then we can understand the existence of the lion’s teeth and the tiger’s claws etc. The ferociousness of the lion and its ability to tear and devour other creatures are, of course, clearly attributed to the curse when its removal is contemplated in such passages as Isaiah 11 vs. 6-9. (See vs. 7, especially, with reference to the problem being considered.)
The subjection of the creation to vanity also implies that the tendency for things to degenerate came into the creation for the first time after the Fall. If the dinosaurs and other monsters were the fearsome creatures they are made out to be and if they were as grotesque as the textbooks make them we could easily think of them as degenerate forms of originally magnificent animals. However, it is wise to be cautious here, because the pictures we see are reconstructions from fossilised skeletons. Such reconstructions are bound to be coloured by the evolutionary frame of mind of the scientists concerned, who could well unconsciously depict the creatures as being much more savage than they really were. I possess a big, black dog and when I am taking it for a walk I often see people nervously move out of the wayÂ—yet nothing could be more docile than my dog! Perhaps many of these monsters had very pleasant characteristics in spite of their size.
The tendency for the creation to degenerate as a result of the curse is seen in man more than anywhere else. This tendency is accentuated by his evil heart and we see whole civilisations ruined by sin. Sometimes the effects of sin are so great that there are areas where men have degenerated to a level little different from animals. The so-called primitive men and their primitive cultures are degenerate men with degenerate cultures. The fossil remains of these are to be taken as evidence of the curseÂ—not evidence for evolution.
I have considered just a few cases where I think the fact of the curse helps to solve a number of problems. The biblical doctrine of the fallen creation and the curse on it could well be studied in more detail by the reader. If you do you will find many of your problems about how a holy God could create a world like ours solved in a way you never dreamed possible.
The purpose of this last article has not been merely to interest. After showing how the Bible is incompatible with evolutionary ideas in previous articles, I have tried to end by suggesting how the Bible gives the Christian an outline of the earth’s early history thereby giving us a clear understanding of why the world is as it is today. The early chapters of Genesis are absolutely necessary to the whole of the rest of the Bible. Without them, the doctrine of salvation becomes like a building without a proper foundation.
In conclusion, I want to draw a few lessons to show the spiritual importance of all that I have said in my four articles. There are too many ready to dismiss these matters as “mere intellectualism”. To offset such thoughts, consider the following remarks which are just a few of many which could be made.
During the course of a year we are almost certain to see a rainbow. Also when travelling around, especially in a train, we often see rock outcrops with their strata. Again, at places such as Whitby with its high cliffs, we could hunt around and find a fossil or two in less than half an hour. All these things are around us if we care to notice them. Do we, however, notice such things? If we do, do we ever think beyond the things themselves? And do they cause solemn, spiritual thoughts to arise in our minds?
First, the rocks and fossils remind us that God hates sin. They tell us that once God destroyed the earth because of man’s sin. Their very existence is a constant reminder to us that we are sinners. The world is a beautiful place, still, and we can admire the handiwork of God in it, but we ought to see the judgment of God as well. Peter implies that the evidence is so clear that you must shut your eyes to avoid it (2 Peter 3 vs. 5).
Secondly, the rainbow reminds us that God is a faithful God. Ever since the Flood there has been a regular succession of seedtime and harvest, summer and winter, just as He promised, and the bow in the clouds is the token He has given us. We ought not to be alarmed, therefore, at local floods and famines and pestilences, because God provides for His creatures over the earth as a whole.
Thirdly, the rainbow reminds us of something else; that it is only by a flood that the earth will not be destroyed again. For God has said “while the earth remaineth”, indicating that there will be an end to the world. So the rainbow tells us that God is merciful for the present but an end will come to this day of grace.
In these ways, our thoughts concerning the early history of the world should soon lead us on to consider the end of the world. If the Bible and Science are matters of mere curiosity to you then may it please God to awaken you to the danger of playing with such things and missing the way in which they bring you face to face with your Creator.
DR. J. W. MILNER