By Andrew Rigg
President of the Association
of Christian Astronomers International
"In the beginning…" writes the ancient author of Genesis "…God created
the heavens and the earth", a statement that has for at least the past 160
years caused much dissent and debate within both Christian and secular
In this paper I intend to briefly address the issues surrounding an
increase in willingness to reinterpret the text of the Old Testament,
specifically Genesis, to include an old earth, evolutionary position. In
exposing the fallacies of this approach I will touch upon the historical
development of evolutionary science and it’s impact on the world, the
relationship between the God of the Bible and the God of man’s own
understanding and the prophetic and eschatological relationship between
the book of Genesis and the person and work of Christ. The nature of this
topic is such that it requires much more than the scope of this booklet to
properly explore in detail the intricacies surrounding this issue,
therefore what follows is a brief discussion of some of the more
significant themes associated with the broader topic.
I would encourage readers to further explore this topic and suggest the
references listed at the end of this paper as a good starting point.
Contrary to modern belief a literal understanding of the Genesis
account and a belief in special creation is not a 19th Century
invention. The perpetuated belief is that creationism arose following the
encroachment of secular science into theological realms, most notably
following the publishing of ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural
Selection’ by Charles Darwin in 1859. With Darwin’s naturalistic thesis on
the origin of all life came a greater inquiry into all that had long been
considered fact by much of Christendom. Not only did the broadly accepted
effect of life come into question but so too, increasingly, the Cause.
Thankfully history shows that the reaction to naturalistic and
non-Biblical supposition did not originate with Darwin. In fact reaction
by the Church against such claims has been plainly recorded by history.
Not only did the leaders of the Protestant Reformation hold to a position
in favor of special creation but so too the early fathers of the Christian
Basil the Great, a leading defender of Biblical truth in the 4th
Century clearly held a view that included a literal understanding of the
Genesis account of creation. Basil, in a series of sermons entitled
HexaŽmeron, which means 6 days, wrote,
In order that we might learn that the world came into
existence at the timeless moment when God willed it, it was said: In the
beginning God created … which other interpreters express more clearly by
these words: God made everything together, that is to say, at one time,
and in a short time. (1994, p. 23).
He further succinctly comments on the nature of those who held to the
unsound philosophies of his time,
Reject the foolish ideas of those arrogant philosophers
who are not ashamed to put their own souls and dogs’ souls on the same
level, and who pretended to have once been … bushes, and sea-fish … they
show themselves to have less sense than fishes (1994, p. 23).
The reformers, Luther and Calvin also held firm to a literal
understanding of the Genesis account. Luther writes,
He [Moses] calls 'a spade a spade,' i.e., he
employs the terms 'day' and 'evening' without allegory, just as we
customarily do… we assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not
allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its
creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not
comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of
teacher to the Holy Spirit (1958, p. 6).
Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who
maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a
cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at
once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us
rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the
purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men…I have said
above that six days were employed in the formation of the world; not that
God, to whom one moment is as a thousand years, had need of this
succession of time, but that he might engage us in the contemplation of
his works (in Sarfati, 2000, p. 44-45).
The Scientific Hypothesis
Since Darwin’s thesis was first published a very
obvious change has occurred. Its affects are wide-ranging and easily
discernible. Whilst the rise of 20th Century religious
fundamentalism can be directly linked to the growth in popularity of the
evolutionary philosophy, its effect on humanity’s understanding of its
place in the universe cannot be understated.
Apparently Darwin struggled with the possible result of
his ‘discoveries’, a result that would lead to the conclusion that life
itself is nothing more than a chance occurrence, "…chance alone is at the
source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance
absolutely free but blind, [is] at the root of the stupendous edifice of
evolution" (Monod in Ankerberg, Weldon, 1972, p. 21). True Darwinian
evolution cannot be divorced from this statement. The evidence when
interpreted via the lens of Darwin’s theory draw’s only one plausible
conclusion; that life came into existence on its own and has been
sustained without any need of an intelligent sustainer/creator.
This position has been advanced more recently by a man
touted as the world’s leading evolutionist, Professor Richard Dawkins, a
Professor of Zoology at England’s prestigious Oxford University.
Dawkins has determinedly taken a stance most true to the naturalistic
Darwinian hypothesis and openly and publicly taken on the religious
establishment in blatant attacks on Christianity using evolution as his
weapon. In his 1986 publication, the Blind Watchmaker Dawkins
clearly refutes any notion of an Intelligent Designer. The title of his
book is an antithesis of an idea, penned by natural theologian William
Paley in 1802, in which Paley claims evidence for God in the complexity
and intricacy of the biosphere just as a watch provides evidence for a
watchmaker. Dawkins responds,
Paley's argument is made with passionate sincerity and
is informed by the best biological scholarship of the day, but it is
wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong. The analogy between telescope and
eye, between watch and living organism, is false. All appearances to the
contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind force of physics,
albeit deplored in a special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he
designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a
future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind
unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now
know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form
of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It
does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at
all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the
blind watchmaker (1986, p. 5).
Dawkins position is perhaps that most true to Darwin’s original thesis.
The very basis of the evolutionary hypothesis is one that at best speaks
nothing of God and at worst denies the very existence of a Creator,
intimately involved in His creation. It is interesting then to see the way
in which, on one hand, evolutionary science is lauded by many within the
Christian community as correctly interpreting the available evidence
regarding the perpetuation of life on earth but on the other hand is seen
as insufficient in explaining theological issues. Is it really possible to
hold onto both positions and still remain objective about both without one
or the other (or both) falling into disrepute along the way?
Whilst post modern philosophy tries to tell us that truth is relative
concept (Moltmann, 1993), dependant upon ones own background and
experience, scientific truth can not be so loosely interpreted. The
Maquarie Dictionary describes science as the "systematic study of man &
[sic.] the physical world based on reproducible observations, measurements
and experiments" (1982, p. 807). If true science is dependent upon a
systematic study based upon repeatable observations how does Darwinian
evolution fit into the category of true science? True science produces
verifiable truths. Truths that result from experimentation, testing and
re-testing. A process that relies on the ability to observe processes in
Darwinian evolution and its modern descendants are based on the ‘wisdom
of man’. Evolution is the antithesis of natural theology. Through theistic
evolution, a poor second cousin to the more ‘scientifically’ correct
Darwinian evolution, scholars and theologians alike have reduced the word
of God to little more than a fairy tale, taking from the Bible that which
suits their evolutionary theology and discarding what remains. The pattern
of creation given in the Bible does not reflect the evolutionary
development of life on earth, the two present mutually exclusive
How has the Church managed to go from "For since the creation of the
world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have
been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men
are without excuse" (Romans 1:20) to a materialistic, naturalistic
understanding that speaks nothing of the Cause behind the creation. Whilst
natural theology is deficient as a stand-alone doctrine, it is however
clear that contained within the Bible is the concept of an intimate and
intrinsic link between the Creator and His creation a link that cannot be
explained and is in actuality denied by evolutionary science.
It has been stated that the primary concern of the Genesis account is
‘Who, not how’ and while this is without question true, a further
development of this line of thought must lead one to consider the
question, ‘what is a cause if it is without effect?’ What is a ‘Who’ if
there is no ‘how’?
Genesis- Foundation to the Gospel
The bulk of accepted Christian doctrine, that expounded by the New
Testament writers and more importantly that believed and expounded by
Jesus Christ, is based directly and indirectly on the first two chapters
of Genesis. Such ideas as marriage (Gen. 2:7, 18-25), sin and the fall
(Chapters 3), the meaning of death as the result of sin (2:16-17; 3:1-6,
19), and the meaning of the seven day week and the Sabbath (Gen. 2:2).
Genesis 3:15 is also said to contain the first Messianic prophecy, the
proto evangelion. Are these truths of the Christian faith purely
theological truths that have no basis in fact, in events that actually
took place, or is their historical setting as important to understanding
the reason for the truths as the truths themselves?
Dr Henry Morris concludes, "If the Bible were somehow expurgated of the
book of Genesis, the rest of the Bible would be incomprehensible. It would
be like a building without a ground a floor, or a bridge with no support"
(in Ham, Taylor, 1988, p. 28). Genesis not only answers the question of
‘who?’ but also clearly provides answers to the question of ‘why?’ and
‘how?’. While I doubt that the theological value found in the answers that
Genesis does provide for ‘why?’ is seriously debated within Evangelical
Christian circles the question of ‘how?’ most certainly is.
If evolution, as previously shown to be, is incompatible with any
notion of a Creator then the options for understanding the origin of our
faith and God’s purpose in light of our origin is limited to one. That is
a straightforward understanding of the nature and purpose of the book of
Genesis. Humphreys writes,
A straightforward approach to Scripture is the only one I can think of
which can yield surprising new knowledge. Without such an approach, I
would tend to re-interpret any passage of Scripture which did not fit into
what I thought was true at the time, and Scripture would lose it's power
to astonish me. If God intended Scripture to inform us of things we would
not otherwise know, then He must also have intended it to be understood
straightforwardly. "Straightforward" does not necessarily always mean
"literal." Someone who reads straightforwardly recognizes the metaphors in
Scripture, while someone who reads literally will try and squeeze a
metaphor into a concrete straight jacket (2000, pp. 56-57).
Many theories have been put forward over the past century in order to
rationalize the work of Genesis. Genesis does not conform to the widely
accepted hypothesis of evolution and so along the way something has to
give. Either the Bible must be interpreted in light of naturalistic
science or the hypothesis supporting naturalistic science must be
recognized as being seriously flawed. Imagine if the same approach were
taken with the Gospel accounts of Christ’s virgin birth and resurrection
from the death, both scientifically inexplicable events.
Of course the obvious response is to return to the sound hermeneutical
principle that ‘all Scripture be interpreted with Scripture’. However
inevitably it is theology that suffers at the hand of our own attempt to
rationalize that within Scripture that even when interpreted with
Scripture fails to fall into our own conception of the world in which we
live, a world influenced by the mass media and majority opinion.
In understanding the Genesis account we must look at the way in which
it is understood within the context of its literary genre and the context
of the understanding that is reflected in the work of the Bibles original
authors. Certainly the original author of Genesis intended his work to be
viewed as an historical account of events past.
...[Genesis] recounts past events and does so
with a chronological structure. This last sentence sounds like the
definition of a work of history and indeed such a label makes sense of the
generic signals that the reader encounters in the work... In
addition, there are no dramatic genre shifts between the book of Genesis
and the rest of the Pentateuch, and none between the Pentateuch and the so
called historical books that would lead us to read it in any other way
than as history. Indeed, if we are speaking of the original intention of
the biblical writer(s), the style of the book leaves little space to argue
over the obvious conclusion that the author intended it to be read as a
work of history that recounts what has taken place in the far-distant past
(Dillard, Longman, 1994, p. 53).
If Genesis is then an example of historical narrative, in line with other examples of historical narrative contained
within the Old Testament, it stands to reason that any other explanation
regarding the intent of the author of Genesis falls far short of the
evidence provided by the Biblical text as a whole. The Genesis account is
referred to by many of the Old Testament writers (eg. Deut. 4:32, Isaiah
42:5, Isaiah 45:12), at times in metaphor and at times as reflection upon
historical events. Nonetheless the feeling is that the work of Genesis was
accepted as testimony to the power and might of a God who could have
created all in the blink of an eye but rather chose, as Calvin states,
"[to take] the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his
works to the capacity of men".
With this in hand the importance of the Genesis account needs to be
further expounded. The creation account includes not just a record of past
historical events but also gives reason to the very purpose of all that
the Gospel contains. If there was no state of created perfection then
there is no need of restoration, if the fall were not a literal fall then
sin is not explained, if sin is nothing more than a human concept then
there is no need of redemption, if there is no need of redemption then
there is no need of Christ, if Christ died in vain there is no hope. While
this may sound like an oversimplification of the ramifications of a
straightforward approach to the Genesis account, it is often the simple
truths that seem to elude us the most readily,
...we are convinced that the single most serious
problem people have with the Bible is not with a lack of understanding,
but with the fact that they understand most things too well! The problem
with such a text as 'Do everything without complaining or arguing' (Phil.
2:14), for example, is not with understanding it, but with obeying it -
putting it into practice (Fee, Stuart, 1993, p. 13).
If a plain and straightforward reading of the Genesis account is
implemented the significance of the person and work of Christ as clearly
manifest in the gospel can be justified. The words of Christ as recorded
in the Gospel of John are evident in the response of many who choose not
accept the authority of the Bible and the truth of the Gospel. Jesus said,
I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept
me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How
can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort
to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? But do not think I will
accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes
are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about
me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to
believe what I say? (John 5:43-47).
The purpose of the incarnation and the hope of the restoration do not
lie in a theological truth that has no basis in historical reality. Rather
the purpose and hope lie in a theological truth that has as a foundation;
the record of a series of events that are firmly rooted in historical
reality. A reality that sees the God of the Bible intrinsically involved
in the history of His creation. A history that had a divine inception and
that will end in a divine culmination when all is restored at the time of
the return of Jesus Christ.
The evidence for any other position, no matter how steeped in
intellectual discourse or theological wisdom, falls far short of the plain
truth of the Bible. To view the text of Genesis in light of an hypothesis
that refuses to comment and even leads to a denial of the existence of God
is to put the intellect above the word of the Creator, it is to "serve
created things rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25).
The choice that has been made hard for Christians today is the choice
between a mythologized version of the Genesis account which bows down to
an assumption touted as science, or an understanding of Genesis that
clearly and truthfully reveals the necessity of a Savior and God’s purpose
in His role as Creator and redeemer. Unfortunately the former choice is
one that has the potential to directly and indirectly lead to a slippery
slide of disbelief. A refusal to accept the authority of The Bible as
having a basis in historical truth has and will continue to have
disastrous results. Charles Templeton, accomplished evangelist and
preacher turned atheist highlights the toll that such a stance can take,
Is it not foolishness to close one’s eyes to the
reality that much of the Christian faith is simply impossible to accept as
fact? Should one continue to base one’s life on a system of belief that –
for all its occasional wisdom and frequent beauty- is demonstrably untrue?
(in Byers, Ham, 2000, p. 12).
The Bible is not a scientific treatise, it is a document with a
historical and spiritual purpose, and in revealing this purpose it most
importantly reveals the Cause behind it. The evolutionary hypothesis
claims to be a scientific treatise however when examined closely it can be
seen that it relies, much like Christianity, on an assumption. However in
the case of evolution this assumption is unsupported. In contrast the
Christian assumption is supported by a wealth of historical evidence
encapsulated in the Biblical text, Old and New, evidence that will never
replace faith and will not in this life reveal the full extent of God’s
purpose, but evidence that nonetheless gives testimony to the One through
whom all things were created, Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the person and work of Christ is emphasized in the light
of a straightforward understanding of the Scriptures. The book of Genesis
provides the understanding for all that has followed the creation, the
history of God intrinsically intertwined with His creation, a creation
that was once perfect, once subject to sin, once and for all redeemed and
that one day will be restored to its former glory. If the history of the
world primordial is that of millions of years of death and bloodshed then
the very act of the fall can have no meaning. If the first blood was not
shed by God in the Garden of Eden as a covering for sin then how little
does it matter that Christ shed His blood upon a cross? If the first Adam
was little more than a sophisticated ape on the event horizon of
consciousness with a legacy of millions of years of death and bloodshed
behind him then how can Christ be called the redeemer? To what is He
redeeming, to what will the world be restored? Surely not to a world that
consists of nothing more than a fireside fable of an ancient and primitive
people at the dawn of time.
Evolution the Lie by Ken Ham
Darwin’s Leap of Faith by John Angerberg and
Refuting Evolution 1 & 2 by Jonathon Sarfati
These books and many others are available from the
Christian Astronomers International (ACA).
The Answers in Genesis website –
also contains a wealth of information on the topic of evolution and
Biblical creation and is highly recommended.
Ankerberg, J. & Weldon, J. (1998). Darwins leap of faith: exposing
the false religion of
evolution. Eugene ORE: Harvest House.
Batton, D. (1994). Genesis means what it says according to great Church
Basil of Caesarea (AD 329–379). Creation ex nihilo. 16 (4),
Blair, D. (Ed.). (1986). The Pocket Maquarie Dictionary. Milton,
QLD: The Jacaranda
Byers, S. and Ham, K. (2000). Slippery slide to unbelief: a famous
evangelist goes from hope to hopelessness. Creation ex nihilo. 22
Darwin, C. (1859). The origin of species. [ONLINE].
Dawkins, R. (1986). The Blind Watchmaker. New York/London: W.W.
Dillard, R. B. & Longman III, T. (1994). An introduction to the Old
Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Fee, G. D. and Stuart, D. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its
worth. Grand Rapids:
Ham, K. A. & Taylor, P.S. (1988). The Genesis solution. Grand
Rapids: Baker Books.
Humphreys, D. R. (2000). Starlight and time: solving the puzzle of
ancient starlight in a
young universe. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.
Luther, M. in Peliken, J. (Ed.), (1958). Luther’s works. St
Moltmann, J. (1993). Crucified God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress
Paley, W. (1802), Natural Theology: Evidences of the Existence and
the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature. Boston, MA:
Sarfati, J. (2000). Calvin says: Genesis means what it says.
Creation ex nihilo. 22 (4), 44