Science in Christian Perspective
There is agreement among Christians that God should be credited with the existence of the universe. If there were no God, there would be no universe, for His plan and activity -have brought it into being.
Since the universe has immense size and complexity, however, the methods and details of the formative process are not all known. One need not fear to plead ignorance regarding some of the steps in creation. Indeed the person who has all the answers is often suspect for that very reason.
The purpose of this paper is to shed light on one embarrassing controversy among Christians regarding the general nature of creation. Is it a process which was finished, or is it being accomplished gradually at the present time? In speaking of the formation of the universe, should one use the past or present tense? It is agreed among Christians that God had the power to do either, but considering His revealed Word and the record of nature, which method was used?
The word creation is understood to mean bringing something into being, whereas neither it nor its forebears had being before. Primary creation means the formation of substances out of nothing. Secondary creation is the ordering and combining of substances in such a way that a new entity is formed which is more than the product of pre-existing factors.
Creation is not the sole type of divine activity. The continuous maintaining and ordering of the universe is called providence, and excites one's admiration in a manner similar to the contemplation of the original bringing into being. When one observes a landscape and is religiously moved, he should not say he has evidence that God is still creating.
Growth and reproduction of living things should be classified as providence rather than creation. The new plant or animal is built up according to a plan which is not new at all but which existed in its ancestors. The plan is embodied in a minute blueprint composed of genes, passed on to the new individual in the egg and sperm of the parents.Does It Matter?
Since it is admitted that God could finish His creative work or prolong it endlessly, some say that the question does not matter or that it is not more than
*Paper presented at the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the American Scientific Affiliation, Seattle, Washington, August 22-25, 1960.
**Dr. Tinkle is a biologist and for many years was a professor at Taylor University. Following this, he taught at Ball State Teachers College and is now retired. He has published a number of papers as well as a textbook in biology.
academic. A minister of my acquaintance said that one guess is as good as another. He simply refused to consider the question. He and his kin are so interested in building a tall superstructure that they neglect the foundation.
Another minister, a student in Juniata College, approaches the question through reference to the nonconformist group of young people commonly called the Beat Generation. After discussing their rebellion against organized authority, he continues: "A second characteristic or expression of -the Beat Generation is their denial of meaning and purpose in life. To them, life is blatantly full of question marks but starkly void of satisfactory answers. We stare about us in search of meaning or purpose but we see only the reflections of our own anxiety. It is as if life were a blank slate on which the only meanings to be found are those which we ourselves in desperation write to ease the pain of meaningless existence. We cry out for meaning and purpose, and the world cries back: 'Confusion and frustration. . . .' The conformist may be content with his unreal set of meanings, but the Beat chooses despairing sincerity rather than superficial contentment."1
Need we wonder at this denial of all purpose, since evolutionists have been crying out against teleology for one hundred years? Evolution is not the only support of the idea that the world has no purpose, but it definitely is one support. Natural selection based upon struggle for existence presupposes an arena where the violent and crafty ones win, whether they deserve to win or not. It denies the providence of God in order to account for creation without God Those who give only lip service to this philosophy are not greatly affected, but the Beat actually accepts the outlook and yields to despair.
At this point someone objects that he does not believe in materialistic evolution but in development guided by God at each step. Such a belief, however, is at variance with that of the scientific evolutionists, and thus does not resolve any conflict. This desire to compromise with science and avoid an argument is the chief reason for formulating theistic evolution. Since it does not agree with the conventional evolutionists after all, one reason for accepting theistic evolution is lost.
Another reason why it is important to consider God's method of creation is the Biblical statement that God made man like Himself .2 Why should God find it necessary to perfect His creature by eons of
1. R. B. Gardner, Brethren Life and Thought, Summer
1960, p. 53.
2. Genesis 1:26, 27.
brutal struggle in order to make him in His own image? And what does such a process suggest about the nature of God? It might teach that He is a selfish, relentless warrior rather than a God of love.
Concerning the fall of man, it may be that some theistic evolutionists accept it because it is in the Bible; yet there is no logical place for it in that system of thought. Evil is accounted for by man's incomplete development, and time alone may make up the deficiency. Evolution does not point out the need for a Saviour.
As stated above, not all evolutionists hold these anti-Christian ideas, but they do if they have accepted evolution wholeheartedly. Such ideas are inherent in the philosophy of evolution.
Another reason for holding the original meaning of creation is that some people reject the Bible rather than compromise. They do not appreciate the circumlocution which is necessary to harmonize the Bible with evolution.Compromise Seems Necessary
Let us consider the situation which has made a revision of the meaning of creation seem necessary. Science has been very successful in improving machinery and human health, thus winning the acclaim and gratitude of the public. One branch of science receives accolades as well as another, even though its pronouncements are only theories. When it is stated in the name of science that all life has developed gradually from lifeless matter, people feel that it is futile to deny it. It must be that we have not understood the Bible, and it is necessary now to interpret it in such a way that it will agree with this new truth.
To aggravate the situation, students in some Christian institutions have been advised not to study the data on which evolution is based. Such was not the experience of the author of this paper. In college I was not told what I must believe about creation, either by the college or by the church. The textbooks taught evolution in the same arguments that are used now, while the teachers made no definite commitments. Plodding and vacillating through my biology major, studying geology also, I finally decided that nature says, "No."
While some evolutionists browbeat their opponents by classifying them as either uninformed or prejudiced, others admit that gradual development has not been demonstrated. Newman wrote, "Reluctant as he may be to admit it, honesty compels the evolutionist to admit that there is no absolute proof of organic evolution." S. W. Fox writes in much the same vein in the present year: "Darwin's theory of evolution has, for example, been judged and has proved to be intellectually useful on the basis of its consistency with much general knowledge, rather than on that of any single dramatic experiment."4 While it agrees with the temper and thoughts of the modern age, it has not been clearly demonstrated.
On the other hand, most scientific conclusions have been demonstrated. Photographs of the earth taken from great height show its surface to be shaped like an arc. The earth's rotation is demonstrated by Foucault's pendulum, one of which is located at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Since all Christians accept the Bible, although they do not agree as to its interpretation, we should seek to learn what is says. The first chapter of Genesis relates the formation of the earth and the different types of plant and animal life, concluding with man, and God is pleased with the success of His work. This seems to be a series of completed acts and the idea of completion is confirmed in Genesis 2:1: "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them." Edwin Monsma comments, "This rules out any idea of a continuous creation after the sixth day, an idea inherent in evolutionary thinking."5
Later Scriptures likewise speak of creation as having been accomplished in the past. "Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee."6 This agrees with the Genesis account, using the perfect tense in speaking of the creation and the present tense in speaking of His providence, the preservation of these things.
Further confirmation is given in Psalms: "Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created."7
These Scriptures do not rule out the possibility of change, and certainly do not make it impossible for God to create a new heaven and a new earth, but they give no hint of a slow, upward, developmental process. We see in the Biblical account idea, plan, purpose, and command, rather than development by struggle, with elimination of the ones that fail to make the grade.Testimony of Nature
Since God is the Author of nature, we should see in it the same kind of creation which is described in God's Word. Many scientists have not noted the similarity, however, but have observed individuality and change. When some Christian protagonists denied changes in living things they made a mistake. The truth is, however, that the changes which can be observed do not add up in such a way as to make permanent progress, except where man guides the process.
A tremendous amount of data has been accumulated to show that the characters of living things are determined by standard factors known as genes. They are located in the rod-shaped chromosomes in the nucleus of each cell, and had been seen by only a few men a hundred years ago, but now are observed and drawn by college freshmen. Genes are in no sense hypothetical or theoretical, but are entities proved by experiment.
If creation took place gradually by development, we might expect that a gene would develop gradually, making its character more pronounced with each generation. But Mendel, the father of genetics, held a very different idea, as reported by Nordenskiold: "Much surprise has been expressed over the fact that Mendel's brilliant observations did not attract greater attention, and the blame has been laid upon the unknown journal in which they were published. One might with greater justification ask oneself whether any of the more important publications of the time would have undertaken to print results of research so utterly at variance with the prevailing conception of biology. We have only to remember that Mendel denies variability in those characters that he observed, whereas all the biologists were just at the time seeking after variations as material in proof of natural selection; and then come these assertions as to absolutely constant or constantly divisible characters from the pen of a monk in a monastery! It would certainly have been a miracle if they had found support from the generation that had been brought up on Haeckel's Natural History of Creation. Nevertheless, the Mendelian principle of cleavage now forms the basis of all hybrid research."
Modern geneticists are agreed that a gene does not change at all unless it makes a sudden and fortuitous change called a mutation. This change may be small or great, but takes place rarely. Snyder and David make the following statement: "Most genes are exceedingly stable. . . . The natural mutation rate is very low. Many species have remained much the same for long geologic ages. The brachiopods among animals and the seaweeds and others among plants are examples of groups of organisms in which almost no changes are observed in present-day species as compared with fossils. Even in the laboratory among organisms chosen for their capacity to produce mutations a high stability of genes is found. Muller, by means of cleverly devised experiments in Drosophila, has recently estimated that the mean life of a gene (thb.t is, the average time elapsing without change in any particular gene and its descendants) approximates 100,000 years."10
Moreover, a very large percentage of changes due to mutation are harmful to the plant or animal. This is true to the extent that beneficial mutations are seldom named. If mammals developed from reptiles we should expect to find incipient organs developing in reptiles such as mammary glands or umbilical cords. If birds developed from reptiles, we might expect to observe a pin feather on a lizard now and then. Such advances have not been reported. Under the scrutiny of many observers, mutation should be caught in the act of originating some advanced character, of which the above are examples.
At the A.A.A.S. Convention at Indianapolis, T. Dobzhansky spoke on evolution and asked for written questions following the address. I asked him to name several mutations which have conferred an advantage to the organism. His reply was that there are a number which give an advantage under changed conditions, but one should not look for a mutation which gives an advantage where the,environment has not changed.
I appreciated his frank reply which makes creation by development a devious and long-drawn-out process, if it exists at all.
Much could be written about abnormal numbers of chromosomes and abnormal positions of genes within them. But since no change in a gene itself is involved, the change in the plant or animal usually is slight, unstable, and not of an advanced nature. Such details are interesting to students of heredity, but they would make this paper too long.Conclusion
Every Christian who is also a scientist is confronted with conflicting systems of interpreting the universe. He has God's revealed Word and also the explanations formulated by men who have thought but little about God, yet have some interpretations which are helpful.
For one who is not averse to recognizing the power of God, it would seem that the most direct interpretation is that God created the genes of plants, animals, and men, some of which have reproduced themselves down to the present, but others have met with accident. Theistic evolution is an unnecessary compromise, not well supported by observation.
8. W. R. Breneman, Anatomical Form and Function, Ginn, 1954, p. 413.9. E. Nordenskiold, History of Biology, Knopf, 1928, p.