Science in Christian Perspective
In Continuance Fashioned
Ever since the appearance of Darwin's "Origin of Species", much has been written with a view to presenting various viewpoints concerning how the various forms of life, and man in particular, came into being. On the one hand, many have erroneously assumed* (1) that the last word on Biblical interpretation with regard to the Bible's description of the creation has long ago been spoken. On the other hand, much confusion has come about through the fact that theories designed to explain scientific facts have embodied within them certain unproved presumptions. It is to be pointed out that the admixture of these presumptions does not per se prove all the concepts, that have been elaborated, to be false.
In particular, two outstanding concepts appear to comprise the background of much of the thinking regarding the way things came into being, and it would appear that there are important elements of truth in these concepts. They are: (1) that the creature world and man himself came into being as the result of a continuous process which progressed from the simple to the more complex, and (2) that resident forces were present within these creatures to account for certain phenomena.
The fact is that the Bible itself presents much the same concepts. The main difference between the Biblical concepts and others has been (1) in expressing the degree of continuity involved in view of the gaps which have become more and more obvious as the orderly progression of the appearance of species has been studied, and (2) in delimiting the bounds within which the resident forces act. Actually it would appear that the deeper we carry our investigations into Biblical interpretation and into scientific facts, the closer is the agreement of the conclusions drawn from them.
In considering these matters, let us examine some of the most pertinent passages in the Bible.
In Psalm 139:14-16 we read: "I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them."
From this passage we learn that God in fashioning man utilized substance which had not yet been perfected into its final human form. Moreover, in a continual process He was fashioning man before he was man ("when as yet there was none of them") by a curious process in the lowest parts of the earth, presumably the geological strata in many of which fossils have been preserved as mute evidence of what took place in bygone ages. On this basis we may assume that the various lower forms of life, some extant, some extinct, were, in some degree at least, stages in the process by which God fashioned the higher forms of life.
The process of the creation of the things in the world is also described in Heb. 11:3 where we are told: "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." The creative process is further epitomized in Gen. 2:7 which informs us, "God formed man of the dust of the ground."
Correlating these Scripture passages with Psalm 139, we note: (1) that man is composed of no other chemical elements than those which are found in the dust of the ground, a really profound scientific fact; and (2) that the continuous process by which man was brought into being involved the production of certain now extinct form of life (impliedly referred to as things which do, not appear in Heb. 11 :3), forms which constituted human "substance yet being unperfect" (Psalm 139:16), as by-products.
As to the exact duration of this continuous process we are not informed precisely either by the Scriptures or by science but in both instances the implication would appear to be that it was a prolonged period of time. Scientists have made various estimates and this need not be gone into here except to point out that all these estimates involve a prolonged period of time well beyond the range of a six-day creative week of 24 hours per day.
That the six days of creation referred to in the Bible represent prolonged periods of time is to be deduced on the basis of the seven considerations enumerated below.
1. It is an anachronism to suppose that the days of creation could have been delimited as from sunset to sunset before the sun was created in the midst of the fourth day. Only the f if th and sixth days could conceivably have been measured from sunset to sunset and that would be at most only 33% of the six days of creation. The other 66% of the days were undoubtedly delimited according to some other criterion than from sunset to sunset and this means that it is very likely that all the days were thus delimited and were therefore not 24-hour days.
2. The Hebrew word yom as used in the Scriptures and translated day is obviously of broad meaning, corresponding to our current use of the word day in many respects, for in Genesis 1 :5 the word is used in the first part of the verse to indicate the presence of daylight while in the second part of the verse it is used to indicate the period of time composed of one component of evening and one component of morning.* (2)
3. The six days of the first chapter of Genesis are called one day in Gen. 2:4. This would be impossible if all these days were precisely 24 hours in duration. It is therefore to be assumed that the days must have been periods of time, presumably none of them as short as 24 hours.
4. The six days of the first chapter of Genesis are represented as being each composed of evening and morning. By connotation the Hebrew words for evening and morning in the original text may simply mean (1) a period of quiescence ("evening calm") followed by (2) a period of activity ("breaking forth"), a symbolism which may well denote the ebb and flow so evident in the various phases of natural phenomena.
5. In II Peter 3:4-9 it Is pointed out that there are certain things of which people have allowed themselves to be willingly ignorant with reference to the creation and in this connection we as Christians ("Beloved") are especially exhorted that we "be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
6. The possible, if not probable, implication of the Psalm 139 passage referred to above is that the process of creation was long enough to involve the laying down of geological strata to be covered in turn with other more superficial strata so as to make these strata lower than others.
7. The phrase "in continuance" in this connection lends itself to the concept of a prolonged period of time. Without the concept of a prolonged period of time, the rationale of referring to the process as a continuous one is lacking and the context becomes almost inexplicable.
A ready illustration of this continuous process is found in the so-called "evolution" of the Ford automobile, in which we may note in passing that there is in this concept of evolution not the slightest notion that the 1956 Ford car in any wise made itself out of the 1914 model-T Ford. Actually there has been a continuous fashioning by master minds so that the present 1956 Ford car is so different that its resemblance to the 1914 model is scarcely more than in name. At the same time it may well be said that the parts of the 1956 Ford were being continually fashioned over the years when as yet there were none of them.
The fact is that the construction of our roads has so changed in the past four decades that the makers of the Ford car, being intelligent beings, could not help but make progressive changes in the Ford car to adapt it to changing conditions. Moreover, as new devices have suddenly been incorporated in newer models of cars there have been certain gaps between oncoming models and former models made in connection with the continual fashioning process which correspond very much to the gaps which one observes between various categories of animals. Besides, it might be pointed out that, while certain models have been superseded so far as Ford cars are concerned, there is also a persistence of certain forms in that year by year new models of Lincolns, Mercurys, Ford tractors, as well as the various types of regular Ford cars appear on the scene.
The production of new kinds of automobiles involves (1) a new pattern conceived by master minds and outlined in blue prints, and (2) the remaking of matrices, molds, and dies in accordance with this new pattern. Similarly one may reasonably surmise that perchance in the creation of a new species of plant or animal, (1) God set before Himself a perfect pattern for each new species fully adapted to a set purpose and economy within its environment, and (2) God by His almighty power rearranged and readjusted the chromosome mosaic in an already existing seed or egg for the production of this pattern. Certainly the emphasis upon the seed in the first chapter of Genesis (Gen. 1:11, 12, 29) would seem to point to the probability of its having a significant role in the process of creation. Beyond presenting the above analogy as a plausible concept of the outworking of the creative process, however, it would not seem to be wise to speculate further.
One important dissimilarity between "new creations" in automobiles and God's creation of the creatures of this earth is to be noted. Besides the above reasons for new models in cars and the visual appeal to human nature of new styling, it is also true that new models of cars appear because of improvements made over previous imperfections. This is in contrast to God's creation in that He made everything perfect at the start with well defined function and complete adaptation to the respective intended sphere of existence in each case. The fact that some of God's creatures have become extinct is perchance a reflection not on their imperfections, but possibly on a change in their environment to which they did not prove to be adapted.
In the first chapter of Genesis the order in which the various things created are listed as brought into being, corresponds reasonably well with the sequence in which fossils appear in the strata of the earth and with the so-called phylogenetic order of development (the sequence in which parts are observed to appear in embryonic life), and this in general represents advance from the simple to the more complex in structure. This is just another facet of information concerning the curiously wrought substance in the lowest parts of the earth which eventually blossomed forth in man, as God worked on the members, yet being imperfect, "which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them," much as a potter works on his lumps of clay until he perfects his finished product, often perchance making other vessels suited for other purposes as side issues, as it were, in his overall plan.
Certainly, if God says, as He does say, that He used a continuous process in creating man, utilizing substance which was not yet man but constituted unperfected members, we humans, who must rely on revelation in these matters to a great extent at least, cannot do better than to accept that this is just the way God saw fit to create man.
That God can make a man directly out of nothing is not to be refuted. That He did do so is to be flatly denied. (1) In the first place the Bible tells us that there was the intermediate stage consisting of inorganic materials, "the dust of the ground" (Gen. 2:7). (2) In the second place we are informed that there were intermediate stages of presumably living substaiice ("my substance"-Ps. 139:16) which preceded the completed human body ("yet being unperfect . . . when as yet there was none of them"-Ps. 139:16). (3) In the third place the fact that the woman was created from the man (Gen. 2:21,22) intimates again that the trend in God's creation is that of utilizing already existing forms of life in the production of new forms. The problem here is not whether God could not have made the woman directly out of nothing but what method God said He used and the pattern shown in that method as related to His other creative activities.
The other aspect of creation which comes up for discussion is the matter of resident forces. The fact is that God in His Word defines very definitely the resident forces which He gave to the things which He created. These resident forces are such as to cause the yielding of "fruit after his kind" (Gen. 1:11). Over and over again the boundary which God set for His creatures in reproducing life is stated to be "after his kind" (Gen. 1:21,24,25). Research along the lines of mutations in connection with the slight variations, that are observed to take place in successive generations, shows that the only resident forces present in God's creation are such as to secure the reproduction of the same kind of animal or plant, ordinarily within the confines of the same species, and most certainly within the limits of genus, family and other.*(3)Neither man nor the animal or vegetable creation has the intrinsic power of producing new species be yond these limits. Quite properly did the Psalmist exclaim, "Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves" (Psalm 100:3). It appears illogical to assume that there are resident forces to make new kinds of life beyond these boundaries ' for there are no evidences in the world today of such new kinds of life making themselves nor of resident forces that could do so. Moreover, natural selection, as has well been pointed out, may explain the survival of a form of life, but it does not explain its arrival, for it is not a creative force.
The intimation that there are resident forces to bridge the gaps between the various kinds of plants and animals not only seems to contradict the Bible, but also is hard to justify on the basis of purely scientific thinking since the extension of the operation of the resident forces to the production of such new forms of life still leaves unexplained the basic resident forces which would then supposedly have first produced life out of the inanimate, i.e. spontaneous generation, a thing that science so firmly declares impossible in all other instances except this one in the dim past. Moreover proof of this exception would seem to be difficult.
We therefore may conclude that resident forces are a totally inadequate explanation of the origin of new forms of life, (1) since they can seemingly in the above manner be shown not to have produced certain forms of life, namely the first forms of life out of inanimate substance, (2) since they have never been shown to have the power to bridge the significant gaps between the vegetable and animal kingdoms and between subkingdoms, phyla, classes, and orders, and (3) since it would be highly improbable that these blindly acting resident forces would produce two, one male and one female, of an entirely new species at approximately the same time and place without extrinsic directional force and that these two would mate to produce offspring.
God is supreme in His creation. He made the creature world and man the way He saw fit, and man is not in a position to ask, "Why hast Thou made me thus?" (Rom. 9:20) Much less is man in a position to state that God did not make man in the way He said He did! It is by His power and by His continuous process outlined in the Bible that man came into being. The fact that it was a continuous process does not give man any subterfuge to think that it was so gradual that he might have somehow exerted some part in making himself or anything else.
All things have come from God. He drew the "blueprints" and executed the fashioning of all forms of life. The resident forces He implanted in these creatures were and are limited in power and that limit is fixed in that reproduction does not exceed the boundaries of their own species or at most genus, family, or order. Even common sense would lead us to assume that God would not be so foolish and wasteful as to let His creatures produce new grotesque forms of life as their whims (or "chance", the existence of which in this God-controlled world may well be denied) might dictate only to suf fer undue hardship in their environment because of lack of intelligent planning such as experience has shown must go into all new models of cars so as to insure their survival (or, competitive) value,
From the above discussion it would appear that we can draw the following conclusions:
1. The Bible and science both seem to point. to a continuous process exerted in creation carried on over a prolonged period of time.
2. The power which created all things is to be found in God Himself since this is the assertion made in the Bible and since no other force adequate to the task has been discovered. In particular, it is to be observed that resident forces, to whatever extent they exist, do not constitute an adequate explanation of how things came into being.
3. The facts of God's revelation in His Word, the Bible, appear to be in perfect harmony with the facts of science.
there are in God's revelation instances of His working through sudden outbursts
of activity, it is noteworthy that in the creation of man there was apparently a
continuous proms accomplished in a more or less gradual manner, or at least a
spreading out of minor sudden outbursts over a prolonged period of time. By the
same token, even though we recognize the new birth is an instantaneous
transaction, we may anticipate that God's Spirit will accomplish the work of His
-new creation by a gratitud process in many instances "precept upon
precept, line upon line. . . . here a little, and there a little" (Isa. 28:10',
to the end that Christ may be formed in us (Gal. 4:19). In this process,
that which is to be the new creature may be experiencing the perfect work of God
even though not Yet perfected. Note that Psalm 139:16 refers to this phase as
"unperfect", not imperfect, doubtless implying that God's perfect work
is viewed in an incomplete stage of development.* (4) We do well then to be
patient as we seek to labor on behalf of others until Christ be formed in them.
The process may prove to be one in which God "in continuance" is
(1) Short, A. R.: Modern Discovery and the Bible. 4th Ed., London, 1954, p. 88.
(2) Lehman, C. K.: Biblicism and Science. journ. of the Amer. Scientific Affiliation, 6:3-7, Dec. 1954.
(3) Mixter, R. L.: Creation and Evolution. Monograph 2, The American Scientific Affiliation, 3rd Ed., 1953.
(4) Robertson, G. M.: Embryology in an Ancient Book. Christian Medical Society journal, Vol. 7: No. 2, p. 21, (Mar.Apr.) 1955.