One problem that some Christians, especially new converts, seem to have is difficulty in distinguishing between theological issues which are important and those which are not. These Christians waste all sorts of time paying attention to things which do not matter. Is that true with the creation account? Is this something that does not matter? Is the debate between the creation account and the evolutionary theory a waste of time? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can discover on the topic!
I thought twice about putting up this week's commentary as it's very challenging to some, but in view of the fact that it is from an Adventist source and the idea of this forum is to challenge us, I'll post it and then leave it open for discussion. Feel free to critique it as we should to all aspects of our lesson study.
Creation, a Biblical Theme
By Stephen Terry
Commentary for the January 26, 2013 Sabbath School Lesson
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:11, NIV
When a child is born, its world consists of a bassinet or crib with occasional forays to a dressing table or Mother’s arms. Mother’s face often appears like a benevolent deity hovering above and bringing food and comfort. Father also appears at times but Mother is the primary force in the newborn’s universe. With her positive nurture and Father’s support, baby grows and develops, and his horizons expand. He discovers that the house has more rooms than just the nursery. Crawling and eventually toddling about to explore those rooms helps him to develop an understanding of his place in the family. If he has siblings, he learns about them. He also learns about other creatures if the family has pets. He learns about ownership and boundaries. In short he learns about his universe—a universe that consists of the rooms of his home.
Eventually, he makes supervised forays outside where he discovers the universe is a bigger, more expansive place than he had imagined. The universe now includes the family yard, where he soon discovers that there are other yards that extend beyond his ability to see, but even though he cannot see them, he understand that they exist. He also may have experienced additional environments by going along on trips to the grocery store, the church, the park or some other semi-frequent but perhaps regularly visited location. Each of these experiences informs him about his universe as far as he is able to understand what his senses and his rationality tell him. The grocery store may teach him about food and how to acquire it. The park may teach him about the beauty of the natural world. The church may provide him with a structural paradigm on which to hang everything he experiences.
As the child grows and understanding increases, the boundaries of his universe expand further and further beyond those he knew in his nursery. One day, he may reach a point where he looks over what he thought was another boundary to discover that there are no boundaries to his universe. He may see that experience as threatening the paradigm he has structured his understanding of the universe on, or he may see the paradigm as what brought him here in the first place and use it as a stepping stone to peer over the wall into the vastness of the universe and ask questions and seek answers to things he never considered before.
When we are born, we are a very large part of our nursery universe. In fact, the way we are cared for, we can come to feel that we are the center of everything. But when we are grown and discover that we are one of billions of people living on an infinitesimally small speck of a planet in a spiral galaxy that is not particularly significant among billions and billions of other galaxies, we come to understand that our impact on the actual universe is very small. This can be devastating if our self-esteem is fragile, or it can be humbling in a productive way if we allow it to inform our perspective.
Anciently, man was understood to be the crowning act of Creation, and everything created was seen as being for his benefit. Even woman was seen as only an adjunct to man’s supreme dominion over Creation. This understanding, held to be an absolute truth, led mankind to see the Earth as the center of the created universe and as all the creatures of Earth orbited man’s dominion, so the entire universe orbited man’s planet. Ptolemy, who structured the solar system on these lines in the second century, was believed to be so correct that his explanation of the universe was accepted for over a thousand years. While this position may seem arrogant to us, today, back then it was accepted as readily as knowing that summer is warm and winter is cold. But eventually that changed. As mankind looked over the fence into what was beyond, he found that astronomy and mathematics revealed a different story. But some saw a threat to the generally accepted paradigm.
When Copernicus and others used the tools of science to show that the Earth was not central to the solar system but that rather the Sun was, he was met with the arguments of the scientific apologists of the Catholic Church. Fortunately, since his major work was published practically on his deathbed, he did not personally have to deal much with these arguments. However, these arguments took much the same path as those of the “scientific” creationists today. Instead of seriously considering the evidence and the possibility of a new paradigm, they simply looked for flaws and expounded on those as though the whole edifice would fall if it had some flaws.
In the case of heliocentrism, Copernicus had assumed that the planetary orbits were exact circles as opposed to the ellipses they actually are so there were eccentricities in his calculations. Rather than examine the significance of those eccentricities to determine if a refinement of heliocentrism was in order, its opponents simply used those flaws as an excuse to reject the theory in its entirety. As a result, the Catholic Church, which was a dominant power at the time, was unable to shift to the new theory of celestial mechanics for almost a century. This was in part due to their apologetic approach to new theories and also to a belief that faith should inform science and not vice versa.
In many ways, the paradigm that these two tools of the church is founded on still persists, today. Although it is severely tried and perhaps rickety at its foundations, they believe the prevailing biblical paradigm must be preserved at all costs. Rather than consider that vastness of the universe and the time frames implied in that vastness as well as that of the geologic strata, the efforts of the church are primarily directed at pointing out flaws in the theories in the vain hope that the whole edifice will come tumbling down and the Genesis account will be seen for the scientific text they feel it is. In spite of the fact that it has been over a century and a half since Darwin published his “Origin of the Species” which began much of the controversy. That hasn’t happened. Instead, the passage of the intervening years has only seen the evidence grow in support of vast ages and evolutionary development.
Sadly, the church could be a beneficial power for the advancement of science if they would abandon their insistence on the immutability of biblical literalism as it pertains to scientific research and understanding. If theologians and philosophers could instead look at the evidence present in the natural world around us and use the tools of mathematics, physics, and observation just as the theologian, Isaac Newton, did, the benefit to mankind might be immeasurable. We spend much intellectual effort in defending the literalism of a Bible that did not even exist prior to the mid-second millennium, BC, exodus from Egypt. One wonders what we might have accomplished instead with those intellectual resources.
No one seriously believes the Earth is the center of the universe anymore. Even the Catholic Church eventually abandoned that position after arguing vehemently for it as being the only possible biblical position. Maybe it is time our faith matured to the point we can relegate to the dust bin of history the idea that Hebrew poetry of the Exodus was intended to be universal, scientific truth. Because the universe may be infinite and our understanding, however great, remains finite, there remains a place for faith. But faith does not need to be blind, or why would God create us with the capacity for rational thought? This is the same God that the Bible tells us says “Come now, let us reason together…” Isaiah 1:18, KJV
Perhaps in the area of origins is our greatest challenge to develop a rational understanding of our universe. This is because beyond the celestial mechanics, beyond the quantum physics, and beyond the search for a Unified Theory, the question still remains, “Where did it all come from?” As much as they may challenge the Bible, Evolutionary Theory and vast-ages geology do not eliminate the existence of God. If anything, they almost demand it. However, they may lead us to a God who is far beyond our “God-in-the-box” understanding that depends so heavily on a literal understanding of sacred text. They may lead us to a God whose awesome presence transcends space and time. Once we turn loose of what we feel He must be, we might discover that this God, who sustains the billions and billions of galaxies in the cosmos yet knows the number of the hairs on our heads,[i] is able and willing to carry our understanding to the fullness of a potential only He can presently understand.
[i] Matthew 10:30
"Creation, A Biblical Theme" January 26, 2013
Genesis 2; Matthew 19:4-6; Psalm 8; Job 38:1-21, 42:1-6; Isaiah 45:18; Acts 17:22-31.
On January 28 and 29, the Institute for Creation Research will be sponsoring a free event titled, "Creation Conference 2013 - Why Origins Matter." Guest speakers for this California conference are Dr. Jason Lisle, and Dr. Andrew A. Snelling.
Dr. Lisle is Director of Research at the Institute for Creation Research, where his specialties are physics, astronomy, astrophysics, and apologetics. Using both logic and reasoning, he speaks on topics relating to science in support of Christian faith. He has written numerous articles and books, which he believes prove that biblical creation is the only logical possibility for origins. Such is the case in his most recent book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate.
Andrew A Snelling is a geologist, research scientist, and technical editor. He has travelled widely throughout the world to places such as New Zealand, South Africa, Indonesia, and China speaking at schools, churches, colleges, and public meetings. Based largely on his own research, his passion is to show audiences that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that is consistent with biblical creation.
During their two-day free conference, Lisle and Snelling will focus on questions many ask regarding origins. Questions such as: Why is Genesis important? Is Creation relevant to my faith today? Do I have a purpose? Is our world an accident, or art? Disorder, or design? Why does it matter?1
The Institution of Creation Research (ICR) has existed for over 40 years, and remains a leader in scientific research within the context of Biblical creation. It's purpose is to "conduct scientific research within the realms of origins and earth history, and then to educate the public both formally and informally through graduate and professional training programs, through conferences and seminars around the country, and through books, magazines, and media presentations." ICR's mission is "endeavoring to impact the lives and ministries of pastors, teachers, students, and families with the wonders of God's creation."2
IRC's monthly magazine, Acts & Facts, has a readership of over 200,000, while their online daily devotional, Days of Praise, has over 300,000 readers worldwide. And IRC's three radio programs can be heard on over 1,500 outlets around the world.
For those who seriously struggle over our origin, faith in the biblical account isn't always adequate. The IRC and other Christian researchers provide them with scientific evidence, which can help non-believers believe, and strengthen the faith of those who already believe the biblical account.
As this week's lesson showed, from Genesis to Revelation, a convincing number of texts prove our origin. God's history book consistently reveals that creation is believable! For Christians, the foundation of our origin belief is found in the first sentence of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). And it threads throughout the Bible until the last book, where Revelation proclaims: " 'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created' " (vs. 4:11).
Additional resource: You Tube
1. Institute for Creation Research
2. Institute for Creation Research
One of the difficulties that both commentaries have in relation to us is the disconnect between established science and our understanding of it. We have a really hard time combining the two either because we don't understand all the jargon or we throw the whole concept out because we can't agree with a small part of it.
I think the question we should all be asking is, how is my faith affected by this discussion? do we not want to hear it because we are afraid of what it might do to us?
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