Malcolm Muggeridge, the influential satirist and journalist from Britain, once said – “I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution…will be one of the greatest jokes in the history books of the future.” Once a self-proclaimed agnostic and evolutionist himself, he was able to see the seemingly obvious flaws in his view once his “Enlightenment glasses” had been removed by his conversion to Christianity.
As we will see today, however, even some who have taken off the Enlightenment glasses still wear them on social occasions, particularly when venturing through the controversial waters of early Genesis. After all, it seems, no one who is anyone goes to Genesis 1 without their Enlightenment glasses on.
Background & Context
So the evolution joke continues, many still nervously laughing at the punch line, not because they get it, but because they don’t want to be the only one in the room who’s not laughing; better to laugh with than be laughed at.
Over the course of the coming weeks, we will have to compare some of the foundational ideas given to us in the book of Genesis with what we have inherited from the Enlightenment – relativism, rationalism, egalitarianism, individualism, anti-authoritarianism. Today, however, we will get into some of the specifics of the issue of evolution and we begin there, not because it came first, but because it allowed for the rapid catapulting of the other ideas into our culture. The problem in getting people to accept things like egalitarianism was God and evolution gave man a way to excuse God, sending those false Enlightenment ideas through Western culture like a rocket.
So, we begin today with a look at where evolution came from and then we will begin to get into the specifics about Genesis and evolution.
Creation & Evolution – History of the Issue (v. 1)
Ideas do not come about in a vacuum and I think it is important for us to quickly review the historical context in which the theory of evolution was developed. If we do not understand this it become difficult to understand how evolution has gained such widespread acceptance as time has passed. Let’s begin with the Renaissance.
- Renaissance (1400-1550) – “Renaissance” simply means rebirth and the period historians generally refer to as the Renaissance (they didn’t call it the Renaissance in that day) dates roughly from 1400-the mid 1500s. It was a period characterized by a recovery of Greco-Roman ideas, emphasis upon classical education, philosophy, art, etc. There was a heavy humanistic emphasis, but I do not believe that the Renaissance was a complete departure from Christendom. There is too much evidence to the contrary in the art and literature of the period to suggest that; but it was a time that looked back to Greece and Rome and it was a time of emphasis upon the intellectual abilities of man (some taking it way too far).
- Reformation (early 1500s-1600s) – Happening somewhat simultaneously and continuing beyond the Renaissance was the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation is generally seen as beginning in 1517 with the nailing of Luther’s 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. The Reformation highlighted the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church – immorality, the abuse of indulgences, bribery – but in the end there were several “break off” groups formed, primarily the Lutheran and Reformed churches. Now, it is difficult and tantamount to treason in some minds to point out that the Reformation had some extremely negative results. And one of those negative and unintended results was that it paved the way or opened the door for the questioning of all Church authority. Now, suddenly, anyone and everyone had the right to defy Church authority. “Who are you to tell me what the Bible teaches? I decide that myself!”
- Enlightenment (1600s-1800s) – The thinkers of the Enlightenment grabbed the potential negatives of the Renaissance and Reformation (humanism and challenge to the authority of the visible Church) and took them to extremes. So, while we do not like saying this, it was the Renaissance and the Reformation that created the climate for the Enlightenment. “What do we need the Church for? What do we need Christianity for? They can’t agree among themselves! They’re even killing one another. Remember, man is the center of all things; so we can find answers for ourselves!
- Darwin (mid 1800s) – Now, this brings us to Darwin. When man makes himself the authority and needs answers to life’s most important questions, he can’t go far before he must answer – “Where did I come from?” Darwin offered what the Enlightenment had to have in respect to origins and his answers were perfect. Darwin provided an answer to man’s origins that developed entirely by man, began in doubt (Descartes) and, it was offered without respect to traditional Christian teaching.
This is the historical tracing of the theory of evolution and it is important for us to see and know this because it reminds us, once again, that ideas have consequences and that the trends of a culture do lead somewhere. We must pray for wisdom in what we do, pray for our leaders, thinkers, and cultural icons, because even their seemingly good ideas have negative consequences that are often unintended.
Creation & Evolution – Day by Day…or Is It? (vv. 1ff.)
With these things in mind, let us move on now to some of the specific issues and questions surrounding creation and evolution. Let me remind us all at the outset that, as Christians, our view of life and origins begins in belief, we begin in trust, and we begin with a declaration – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (v. 1).
Evolution begins and proceeds with doubt. The foundational doubt is concerning God. Darwin himself said, “With respect to the theological view of the evolution question, this is always painful to me. I am bewildered. But, there seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created such a world. Evolution springs from such doubt.”
In another important statement in 1864, Charles Darwin said, “When we descend to details, we cannot prove that any species has ever changed; nor can we prove that any supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of our theory; nor can we explain why some species have supposedly changed and other have apparently not. We must therefore remember our ignorance.” This is important for several reasons. First of all, he states that he has no real proof for his theory; it is only a theory. There is no record of specific changes from species to species, no evidence that they would have been beneficial, no way to explain why some species had changed and others had not. Finally, he admits that the adherents of evolution needed to remember their own ignorance even about the things they were proposing. Darwin, it seems, was a far more consistent skeptic than his grandchildren are.
Now, it is also important to remember that, at the root of all these things is rationalism. Rationalism is the idea that man, and his natural intellectual capabilities, can produce solutions to any and all of life’s problems. And, we must also understand that rationalism has infiltrated and heavily influenced Christian thought in our own day. Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to the various approaches to Genesis.
So, before we get to the various theories of Genesis, let’s first remind ourselves of what the text says in its fullness. See Genesis 1:1-2:3.
- Day One (Genesis 1:3-5) – Light (no sun, moon, stars…spirit of God hovering over the earth). He made a distinction between the light and darkness – calling the light “day” and the darkness “night” – evening and morning.
- Day Two (Genesis 1:6-10) – Separated the land and the water
- Day Three (Genesis 1:11-13) – Plants and trees
- Day Four (Genesis 1:14-19) – Stars, moon, and sun (ordering light – time already existed with the beginning of creation – now there were mechanisms were made to demonstrate time)
- Day Five (Genesis 1:20-23) – Creatures of the land and sea
- Day Six (Genesis 1:24-31) – Man is created in the image of God, to be a king and queen to rule over the earth and care for all that was in it.
- Day Seven (Genesis 2:1-3) – God rested
There is specific order to when and how God created all things. He provided what was needed for the survival of all things. The text is direct and orderly, declaring God’s very first acts in space and time.
In contrast, the “alternative theories” begin on rationalistic, Enlightenment presuppositions. Essentially, the practice is to take evolutionary arguments and somehow tie them in with Genesis, with the desired result of keeping both Genesis and evolution. However, as we have already seen, the two begin on completely different worldview platforms – one in belief and one in doubt, one with God and one with atheism (according to Darwin), and one with God as authority and one with man as the authority.
Day-Age Theory – The basic idea of the “day-age” theory is that the “days” of Genesis 1 are not 24-hour days, but it simply refers to periods of time. They could be millions or billions of years and it is essentially an attempt to reconcile the Genesis account with dating from evolutionary theory.
Now, there are several problems with the theory, the first being that there is no evidence for this in the text, meaning the only motivation would be a desire to believe both evolution and the Bible.
Some have claimed that the Hebrew word for “day” (yohm) can be used to refer simply to a season of time. That is true, but it is not the normal reading of it and, in fact, the overwhelming majority of the time it simply means a day. Additionally, when Moses adds “and there was morning and there was evening” at the conclusion of the days of creation, he is tying them together with the typical parts of a day. This was a Hebraism, an expression that would have emphasized that Moses intended regular days.
And, finally, the last problem with this is that Moses himself takes the “days” quite literally in Exodus 20:8-11, where he tells us that the creation week established the pattern for us of working 6 days and resting on the Sabbath.
In other words, the day-age theory does not hold up when compared with the text of Scriptures. You simply cannot combine the two, evolution and Genesis and, for the record, has not impressed evolutionists in the least. After all, once you begin to substitute the words of Scripture for other words that better suit your opinions, you have already lost.
- Some things cannot be combined – evolution and Genesis are like oil and water; they will never really mix and attempts to do so dilutes them.
- Again, ideas have consequences, sometimes unintended consequences – we must pray for wisdom to see through to where things are headed.