Science in Christian Perspective



The Reconstruction or Cataclysmic Theory

From: JASA 6 (September 1954): 9-13.

There are many different statements of the Reconstruction Theory. The statement in this article attempts to be somewhat inclusive of the various forms of the theory. I am sure that each proponent of the theory will find parts which he will consider as not belonging to the theory. This type of  treatment seems necessary in order that the article may deal with the various parts of the theory held by different persons. 

It should be clearly understood that no attempt has been made to criticize the authors of the Reconstruction Theory. The faith of those teaching the theory is not being attacked. I believe their faith to be as strong and sincere as the faith of those who their faith to be as strong and sincere as the faith of those who see the great dangers of the theory. The purpose of this treatment is not to offend any one but, if possible, to place our Christian faith on a higher scientific level, to save the faith of Christian young people entering college and to help open the door for evangelical work in the colleges of our country. 

The reconstruction theory is very old and has been taught by the conservative church over a long period of time. It is an interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis and is something like this.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth life perfect, ready for the habitation of man. Life then developed on the earth very slowly. Very primitive forms came first, then more and more complex forms until all of the forms of plants and animals had evolved. Some believe they were created, others think they evolved by the evolutionary principle. The early forms left remains in the earliest and " was deepest strata while more and more recent forms occupied higher strata. This constituted all of the geological ages and accounts for all of the fossils found in the earth. Then Satan sinned and was cast out of heaven to the earth. The earth was destroyed and it became without form and void and
dark, destroying all life. Then about 6,000 years ago God reformed the earth and recreated the life upon it in
Six 24-hour consecutive days. This last creation was so rapid that no remains can ever be found to record these creative acts of God.

The main arguments used to support this theory follow:

1. God is a perfect God and cannot do anything imperfectly. Therefore the first verse of Genesis means that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth perfect." Since God created the earth to be inhabited ("He formed it to be in habited.") it came from his creative act ready for man.

2. Since the geological ages are very long, running into hundreds of millions of years, and since the days of Genesis are evidently 24--hour days, there can be no relation between the days of Genesis and the geological ages. Since Ussher worked out a very careful dating of the scriptural occurrences through the genealogies back to Adam and found it to be only about 6,ooo years it can be only about 6,ooo years back to the first day of Genesis. 
Since the first day of Genesis deals with the reformation of the earth we must place the geological  ages between the first and second verse: Thus all  of the geological ages occupy a long period of time between verse one and verse two.

3. Since the Bible says nothing as to how life came to the earth in this long period between verses 1 and 2, some are willing to accept the evolutionary explanation for the origin of all life before the first day of Genesis. A pre-Adamic race apparently existed before the first day of Genesis for God said to man "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth . . . . .. (Gen. 1:28) God would not have said "replenish" if man had not been here before. The same can be said for the other forms of life.

4. Satan sinned, lost his position as the covering cherub and was cast down to the earth and the  earth was destroyed. This idea is supported by the  following references: Jeremiah 4:23 26; Isaiah 24:1,  19-20; 45:18; 14:9-17; Ezekiel 28:13-19; and Luke 10:17-18. This justifies our changing the word " to "became" and making the second verse  read "And the earth became without form, and  void . . . .

5. T he days
of Genesis are necessarily 24-hour days. There is such a close relation between plants and animals that it was necessary that they come into existence at about the same time. Certain types of plants cannot propagate without the bee, others require a special type of fly. God created plants for the food of animals and man. If he had created plants millions, or hundreds of millions of years before man and the animals, there would have resulted a terrible waste of this food. God is not wasteful.

6. The reconstruction theory by completely separating the days of Genesis from the geological ages has removed a great stumbling block from the minds of college students. They may now accept both the Scriptures and science and encounter no conflict.

Let us now consider these arguments for the reconstruction theory, item by item.

1. The introduction of the word "Perfect" to the first verse of Genesis violates one of the most important rules of scriptural interpretation, namely: we must neither add nor subtract anything from the scriptural statement. John emphasizes this principle in Revelation 22:ig-ig when he writes: "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life . . . . ..

I would not object to the argument that God does everything perfectly. I do object to any man adding the word "perfect" to any scriptural statement and then interpreting the meaning of the word. This word "perfect" has given the church trouble before. Men believed that the circle was the only perfect curve and, therefore, every planet moved around the sun in a perfect circle. When there seemed to be trouble with the circle they had the planet move in a small circle whose center moved around a larger circle and the center of the larger circle moved around a still larger circle, etc. A planet moved around a very small circle and the ,center of this circle moved around a circle a little larger whose center in turn moved around a still larger circle, and finally, whose center moved on a circle around the sun. When the first astronomer suggested that the planets moved around the sun in an ellipse he was forced by the church to recant to save his life. Today we know that the ellipse is just as perfect a curve as is the circle.

We know today that a diffuse nebula, as described in the second verse, is just as perfect an astronomical body as was the earth when man was created. Furthermore God tells us just what steps the diffuse nebula went through in being prepared for the habitation of man. Those steps agree perfectly with modern science. Anyone can read them in the first chapter of Genesis and in books of science.

Should the church be guilty of adding to the Very first verse in the Bible? God forbid!

There are two revelations of God. One is in the Scriptures and the other is in nature. The layers of the earth record the acts of God's creation and show their order. The chemist discovers the intricacies of the -creation, in the way matter is built up from atoms and molecules, in the way atoms are built up from protons, electrons, neutrons, etc. The physicist discovers the laws governing the physical universe; laws of gravitation, of forces, of motion, etc. These are the laws which God laid down when the universe was created, laws to keep the universe orderly. The astronomer discovers the created universe, the composition of each part, how it moves, how it is held together, its probable origin and possible future. The biologist discovers something of the tremendous intricacies of living things and the tremendous wisdom involved in their creation.

These two revelations of God must agree. Any apparent disagreement demands, at once, a reconsideration of our scriptural interpretation and very extensive re-examination of the scientific data involved.
2. The geological ages are very long. They r present great periods of time, some of them hundreds of millions of years. Radioactive material in these layers reveal their ages or at least the general magnitude of the age. If we were to doubt the greatness of these ages we would doubt the working of the physical laws of God. We could as well doubt that hydrogen and oxygen can for water or that if you were to drop a heavy lead bal it would fall downward.

The datings of Ussher, although very carefully made, are no longer considered to be even approximately accurate by many anthropologists or by many careful students of the scriptural genealogies. Most of our students of genealogies believe that the word translated "begat" refers to a descendant, not necessarily a son or a daughter. This seems to be borne out by Deuteronomy 4:25 "When thou shalt beget children, and children's children . . . . .. Many authorities are very sure that great gaps oc cur in all of the genealogies. This seems possible since Matthew 1:1 reads: "The book of the generation of Jesus ~Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Certainly there are tremendous gaps here. I asked a prominent student of the genealogies what he would set as the lowest estimate of the age of man, taken only from the genealogies. He said he thought that 50,000 years was the absolute minimum, but it might be much longer. We do not have a definite statement of the age of man in the Scriptures. We should not be dogmatic about the 6,000 years.

The remains of man appear primarily in the upper sedimentary layers of the earth and cannot from the layers themselves be dated with any high degree of accuracy. The age of such remains are usually dated by the amount of sediment which has been deposited above them, 'but the rate at wh ich this sediment was deposited over a period of 100,000 years has probably varied tremendously. The probable error here constitutes a sizable factor of the estimated age. However, there is a new method called the carbon-14 method of dating which has great promise. This method is being improved by Dr. Laurence Kulp of Columbia University, a member of the American Scientific Affiliation. It is expected that within a very few years it will be possible to date, with a fair degree of ac-, curacy, all remains of man back to, at least 100,000 years. Until this is accomplished, we can only say that all evidence, both scriptural and scientific point to an age of man far greater than 6,000 years.

If we place the geological ages between verse 1 and verse 2 we immediately move verse 2 to a recent period of time. Science cannot place verse 2, with the earth without form, void and dark within the last 6,ooo years or even the last 6olooo,ooo years., Neithercan you place the beginning of night and day in verses 4 and 5 or the separation of the oceans and the clouds in verses 6 to 8 only 6,ooo years ago. Any science teacher, non-Christian or Christian, can show a recent date for verse 2 to be ridiculous. No, verse 2 is not recent.

Again suppose we try to place the geological layers between verses i and 2 and then let the earth become without form, void and dark. (Nathan Stone of Moody would add as basic meaning of the original words "of. immeasurable magnitude and in great commotion.") The only astronomical state of any 'body fulfilling this description is certainly a diffuse dark nebula. Here the atoms are separated from each other and many of the electrons are removed from the atoms. Now, suppose you place all of the geological ages with their layers between verses i and 2 and then let the earth become a diffuse nebula and again collect the nebula to form the earth, where would all of the fossils and layers be? No, the geological layers all followed verse 2. But I hear someone say that they believe that my interpretation of verse 2 is wrong. (Any astronomer will give the same interpretation.) They believe that it means that only the life was destroyed upon the earth. If so, it must have been all of the life on the earth or else no recreation would have been needed. If all of the life were destroyed on the earth, the layers of the earth would clearly record the event. There is no such record. We are forced to place the geological ages and their geological layers after verse 2, and in fact, the fossil-bearing layers after verse two.

Are we going to place the geological layers between verses1 and 2 and thereby make much of the remainder of this chapter contradict known facts of science? God forbid!

3. The original word translated "replenish" carries no meaning of filling again. It simply means, fill the earth. There is no scriptural evidence of a pre-Adamic race. Science indicates that the human race has been continuous since its first advent to this earth.

4. A second principle of scriptural interpretation is that we must not take a passage out of its context.

The idea that Satan sinned, was cast out of heaven and the earth was destroyed and it became without form and void can only be supported by violating the above principle.

Lets look at the references.

Jeremiah 4:23-26, "1 beheld the earth., and lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens and they had no light. I beheld the mountains and lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger."

What is the passage talking about? Look at the context. Verse io is talking about Jerusalem. Verse 31 is talking about the daughters of Zion. This passage is clearly talking about Jerusalem and the children of Israel. Jerusalem and the daughters of Zion, certainly, did not exist between verses i and 2. This passage is taken out of its context.

Isaiah 24:1, 19-20, "Behold the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof . . . The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall and not rise again."

Verse 5 ... . . . because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken down the everlasting covenant." Certainly this is speaking about the Jewish people. Verse 15 "Wherefore glorify ye the Lord in the fires, even the name of the Lord God of Israel . . . " This also refers to the Jewish people. Verse 23 " - - . when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion and in Jerusalem . . . '~ Here we are not only speaking about the Jewish people, but about Christ's reigning in Jerusalem. Certainly the Jewish people did not exist between verses i and 2, nor did they have the everlasting covenant, nor did Christ reign on Mt. Zion between verses i and 2. This reference is absurdly taken out of its context.

Isaiah 45:18 "For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created 'it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited;

Verse ig " . . . I said not unto, the seed of Jacob seek ye me in vain:"

Verse 18 is interpreted by the proponents of the reconstruction theory to mean that God created the earth ready to be inhabited as it came from his hand. Verse 18 implies a purpose. It appears to mean that God had a purpose in creating the earth and that purpose was that it should be inhabited. The condition of the earth is given in Genesis 1 :2 and the steps that God took in preparing this earth for the habitation of man are related in the rest of the chapter.

Ezekiel 28:13-19 "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold; the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was P, epared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of the merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, 0 covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: 1 will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more."

In general the tense in prophecy seems to have but little significance. Most prophecies are written in the past tense. (See Isaiah 53.) In this prophecy we have a remarkable case of change of tense. Here the past tense appears to have been used when the event was past and the future tense appears to definitely refer to future events.

Aside from naming Satan as the covering cherub, everything is past tense from the start of the thirteenth verse to the middle of the sixteenth verse, where the future tense starts with: "therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God." Compare with this Revelation 12:7-12, particularly the ninth verse which reads: "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." The Ezekiel passage and the Revelation passage evidently refer to the same event. Certainly, the Revelation passage is future and is to take place at the time of the great tribulation period.

The next event in Ezekiel is: "I will destroy thee, 0 covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of f ire." The destruction of Satan is forecast in Revelation 20, particularly the tenth verse. "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." This occurs at the end of the millenium and is still more future than the previous event.

At the seventeenth verse Ezekiel changes to the past tense again: "Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness:" This is referring to Satan's early sin.

Ezekiel again turns to the future: "I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before Kings, that they may behold thee." Again Revelation 12 and 20 refer to the same future events.

Again the past tense is used: "Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick:"

The remainder of the Ezekiel passage is prophesied in Revelation 20. A part takes place before the mil enium and the rest at its immediate end.

Isaiah 14:9-17 "Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they sh 11 speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us: Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, and did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof that opened not the house of his prisoners? . . . "

This passage describes Satan's sin. It describes very similar events to those of Ezekiel, but is addressed to Satan at the time of his fall, which time again is described in Revelation 12 and 20.

Luke 10:17-18 "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, evtn the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."

The prophecies of Isaiah 53, regarding Christ are all written in the past tense, but refer to future events. I believe this is also a prophecy, made by Christ, referring to the future. It cannot refer to the same events referred to in Isaiah and Ezekiel. Satan is still our accuser in heaven as witnessed in the book of job and in Revelation 12:10 " . . . for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night."

Satan continues to be our accuser up to the very last when he is cast out of heaven and starts the great tribulation period.
5. The days of Genesis.

The days of Genesis might be 24-hour days, but that is not necessary. Notice the following references where the same word, day, is used as that in Genesis.

The day of destruction  Jb. 21:30
The day of distress 
     Gen. 35 :3
The day of plague          Nu. 25:18
The day of wrath            Jb. 20:28
The day of temptation   Ps. 95:8
The day of trouble         Ps 102.2
The day of vengeance   Prov 6.24
The day of adversity      Prov. 24:10
The day of prosperity     Ec. 7:14
The day of death             Ec. 8:8
The day of Midian           Isa. 9:4
The day of anger             Isa. 13:13
The day of salvation       Isa. 49:8
The day of evil                 Jer. 17:17 
The day of Jerusalem      Jer. 38:28
  The day in which the walls were built   Mi. 7:11
The day of Jesus Christ  Phil. 1:6

Your concordance will add many more.
These are certainly not all 24-hour days. The days

  of Genesis could be either longer or shorter than a 24-hour day.

Genesis 2:4 is a very striking case. "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field before it was in the earth . . . " Here all of the days of the first chapter are referred to as "the day." It is impossible for all of these days to be 24 hour days.

Some say that the use of morning and evening in the first chapter forces a 24-hour day, but look at Psalm 90:5-6 " . . . They are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth." This certainly is not a 24-hour day.

After some of the creations God told them to multiply and fill the earth. This practically requires a lapse of time between the acts of creation. Certainly, God gave them time to multiply and fill the earth. Plants in the sea necessarily became quite abundant before fish could live, Plants on the land necessarily became abundant before the creation of land animals,

The days of Genesis may have been very short periods of time, days of creation, then a geological age elapsed while that form of life multiplied and filled the earth. When the earth was ready for a new form of life, God made another creation.

These days of creation may have been 24-hour days, they may have been of less than a second duration, they may have been many years. They may have been geological ages, but I do not favor that interpretation. Psalm 33:6-9 "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth . . . For he spake, and. it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." This seems to imply short periods of creation.

The argument that plants could not exist without animals does not seem to be logical. The fossils in the earth certainly bear mute evidence that they did not appear at the same time. The f act that one type of plant requires a certain type of insect for its propagation is not proof that it always has had such a requirement. Nor is it proof that this particular type of plant was a part of the original creation of plants. Man has developed many new plants. Possibly insects have been responsible for the development of some types also.

The argument that God is not wasteful, and he would be wasteful if he created plants for food long before there were animals or man to use them, is a philosophical argument which is meaningless.

The great forests grew and fell one on top of another until our great coal beds were formed. Were they wasted? Were the materials that formed our great oil reservoirs, that formed our great graphite beds wasted? It is possible that more waste exists to day with man in control than ever existed before he came on the scene.

6. Did the reconstruction theory remove a stumbling block from the minds of Christian students?

The Christian student is taught the reconstruction theory in the church; he enters college and has it proved to him that: there was no destruction of the earth after it was inhabited; life on the earth was not destroyed by a great cataclysm requiring a complete new creation; that light did not appear on this earth 6,000 years ago; that land did not rise from the water 6,000 years ago, or 60,000 or 600,000,000 years ago; that the age of life on this earth has, been at least 2,500,000,000 and in many cases hundreds of millions of years elapse between the advent of one general form of life and the next general form. A sad result follows. Nearly all of these students lose faith in the Bible. Certainly, they should question their teaching, to see if they are scriptural, but very few do. I have personally had the privilege of re-establishing the faith of several hundreds of students who were taught the reconstruction theory in a conservative church, and then lost their faith in college because of the reconstruction theory.

Accepted science, today, is literally at the door of the church asking the privilege of proving that the Bible is the inspired word of God. If we are willing to work with Christian men of science we can do great things for the faith of our Christian young people, and we can reach many non-Christian students in the colleges.

We of the church point the accusing f inger at the state colleges and say that they are wrecking the faith of our young people. My own experiences indicate that the teaching of the reconstruction theory is wrecking the faith of more students than all of the atheistic professors put together. God forbid that we of the church shall so continue to give teachings which are unscientific and unscriptural. It would be very difficult for the church to change the teachings of these atheistic professors, but it could easily correct its own dangerous teachings.

May God prompt the ministers and Sunday School teachers of the conservative churches to carefully examine the scientific materials which they are teaching.

The findings of science today are such that they may be used by the church to prove, that of a certainty, the Bible is the inspired word of God.

The books Modern Science and Christian Faith and Science Speaks are both published by Van Kampen Press. They both constitute an important start at showing scientifically that the Bible is accurate and is God's word.

The American Scientific Affiliation is an organiza tion of Christian men of Science. It stands ready to aid the church in this most important undertaking.