The Creation Or Evolution Debate: Evolution and the Compromise of Christians
In this article we will look at the four most common ways that Bible believing Christians compromise in trying to reconcile evolution and the Bible.
1. The Gap Theory
A widely held opinion among fundamentalists is that the original creation of Genesis 1:1 took place billions of years ago, with all the geological ages inserted in a tremendous time gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The latter verse is believed by these expositors to describe the condition of the earth after a great cataclysm terminated the geological ages. The cataclysm, which left the earth in darkness and covered with water, is explained as a divine judgment because of the sin of Satan in rebelling against God. Following the cataclysm, God then ‘re-created’ the world in six literal days described in Genesis 1:3-31. This is most popularly known as the ‘gap theory’ or ‘ruin and reconstruction theory’. Sadly, it was popularised in the mid-nineteenth century by Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) who was the foremost figure in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. This view has also been popularised by the notes in the Schofield Reference Bible and so has been taught in many of the Bible Institutes and fundamentalist seminaries of the United States for the past century and it was also held by A W Pink and C S Lewis.
The real purpose of this ‘gap theory’ is to try to harmonise the biblical chronology of a literal six day creation, with the accepted system of long geological ages which was becoming prominent in the days of Thomas Chalmers. The idea was to get rid of the problem of long evolutionary geological ages by simply pigeonholing them in the ‘gap’ and letting the geologists have all the ages they wanted. What shall we say of this supposed ‘gap theory’?
- Even from an evolutionary perspective, it fails. The evolutionist believes in uniformitarianism (the belief that physical processes have always functioned in the past essentially as they do at the present time), which of course precludes any worldwide cataclysm as required in the ‘gap theory’. Moreover, a cataclysm of such dimensions which would leave the earth in darkness and inundated with waters would have been nothing less than an immense global explosion which would have obliterated the earth’s sedimentary crust and all its (supposed) fossils, thus leaving no evidence whatever of the ‘geological ages’ which the gap theory is attempting to accommodate.
- Not only is it impossible to accept scientifically, but it is also destructive theologically. The moment we accept the geological age system, we are also accepting the fossil record by which these ages are said to be identified. However, fossils speak of suffering, disease and death – of a world where violent, widespread death was a universal reality. So, if that kind of world existed prior to the supposed pre-Adamic cataclysm, then it existed before the sin of Satan (which is supposed to have resulted in the cataclysm). That is, suffering and death existed for a billion years before the sin of Satan and the subsequent sin of Adam. However, the Bible says explicitly that death came into the world only when Adam brought sin into the world (Rom 5:12 & 1 Cor 15:21). Furthermore, if suffering and death existed then, God Himself was responsible for such a state. And it is inconceivable that a God of love and order would create and use a system based on randomness and cruelty in His creation.
Also, the most natural reading of the text (Genesis 1:1 & 1:2) does not in any way indicate a ‘gap’, any more than the other pairs of verses throughout Genesis chapter one indicate any ‘gap’ in time. There is also no biblical foundation for rendering the Hebrew word ‘was’ (‘the earth was without form and void’) as ‘became’.
Conclusion: The natural reading of Genesis 1:1-2 suggests no such idea of a ‘gap theory’, nor is it warranted either scientifically or biblically.
2. The Day-Age Theory
Another attempt by Bible-believing Christians to reconcile biblical creationism with the evolutionary hypothesis is the so-called ‘Day-Age Theory’. Sadly, this was also popularised by a Scotsman of the mid-nineteenth century – Hugh Miller of Cromarty. He was a stone-mason for much of his life and this occupation had made him very familiar with the fossil records in the rocks of NE Scotland. Like Thomas Chalmers he was a leader in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. Miller was convinced that the fossil record required long aeons of time for its formation, which could not be reconciled with the views of a ‘young’ earth as held by the mainstream Christian Church for centuries previously. This view was adopted by James Boice, E J Young and B B Warfield.
The ‘day-age theory’ asserted that the six days of creation recorded in Genesis chapter one were not literal 24-hour days at all, but long periods of geological ages. Miller popularised this view in his book Footprints of the Creator. He also maintained that Noah’s flood could not have been a universal flood as Scripture affirms, because the fossil record indicated such diversity of species that Noah could not possibly have got all the living animals and birds into the Ark! Sadly, in spite of Miller’s undoubted orthodoxy in other theological matters and his great usefulness in maintaining the biblical principles of the newly-formed Free Church of Scotland, he was defying the accepted interpretation of Genesis 1 & Genesis 6-9 and denying the obvious implications of the language of Genesis 1 (which speaks clearly of normal solar days – ‘evening and morning’ being the cyclical succession of day time and night time). Moreover, there are several other overwhelming objections:
- The order of creative events in Genesis 1 is very different from the accepted order of fossils in the rocks representing geological ages, (e.g. the first life developed on land not in oceans; plant life came first, not marine life; the earth was created before the stars, not vice-versa; birds before fish & insects; marine life created instantly; stars created on the fourth day, not still evolving etc).
- The necessity of geological ages is based on the fossil records, and fossils speak unequivocally of suffering and death being present in the world. So, we have the same contradiction of Scripture as in the ‘gap theory’. The Bible teaches that suffering and death are a divine judgment brought into the world because of man’s original sin (Rom.5:12). In contrast, the ‘day-age’ theory must assume that suffering and death comprises an essential part of God’s work of creating and preparing a world for man, which is inconceivable for the biblical God of love, grace and omnipotence.
- As we have said, the biblical record itself makes it plain that the days of creation are literal days, not long indefinite ages. The ‘days’ are literal days and the events described happened in just the way described. Although the Hebrew word for ‘day’ (yom) may refer occasionally in other parts of the Bible to longer periods of time, the most natural and obvious meaning of the word in Genesis 1 is to the literal twenty-four hour day and therefore cannot be ‘stretched’ into millions of years! This is further borne out by the clear rationale given by the Lord when he instituted the Fourth Commandment later at Mt. Sinai, ‘For in six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it’ (Ex. 20:11).
No compromise is possible between evolution and creation! The Bible teaches creation from nothing (ex nihilo), compared to evolution’s insistence on pre-existing matter; creation in six days, contrasted with billions of years; oceans created before land not vice versa; life originated on land not in the oceans; plant life first, not marine life; fruit trees before fish, not vice versa; birds created before fish and insects; whales before reptiles, not vice-versa; man created before woman; light existing before the sun; plants before the sun; marine life created instantly; man’s body created from the dust, not evolving from an animal ancestry; man’s dominion over all creation, from the very first; man’s Fall causing death both spiritual and physical, not therefore something already existing previously for aeons of time.
3. Theistic Evolution
Even though the first two attempts by Bible-believing Christians to reconcile the evolutionary hypothesis with the biblical account of creation are false, misleading and dangerous, nevertheless they had the merit of at least attempting to treat seriously the account of creation in Genesis 1. However, theistic evolution does no such thing. Its essence is to impose the conclusions of atheistic scientific assertions above the Bible and in place of the Bible’s clear teaching about divine creation.
It maintains that step by step, God directed the process of macro evolution, changing one species of life into a progressively higher order through aeons of time, so that Genesis chapters 1-11 are pure mythology or allegory and not to be taken as a literal account of man’s beginnings. This is the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, and it has been embraced by countless Protestants as well.
It is not my purpose to go into a detailed refutation of this teaching, because of space-constraints, but it is worth noting that this whole position is plainly contrary to the express teaching of Scripture. For instance, Dr. Henry M. Morris in his fine commentary on the Book of Genesis, The Genesis Record points out that:
- There are at least 200 direct references to, or quotations from, the Book of Genesis in the New Testament.
- All the books of the New Testament except Philemon, II & III John, contain allusions to Genesis.
- More than half of the 200 New Testament allusions to Genesis are to the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
- Sixty-three allusions are to the first three chapters of Genesis.
- Twenty-five of the references are directly from the lips of Christ Himself. In other words, all the inspired writers of the New Testament Scriptures accepted the accounts in the Book of Genesis as literal, historical facts, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself referring to the creation events and the great Flood as literal and historical events. Davis Young writes, ‘Theistic Evolution is logically and inevitably the death of Biblical religion’.
4. The Framework Hypothesis
This is the most recent attempt to harmonise the creation account with the evolutionary hypothesis – allowing Christians to believe in a process of millions of years. It has been popularised in our day, sadly, by a former professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Meredith Kline, although the origin goes back to around 1924 in Germany, where a German rationalistic theologian observed a supposed parallelism between the first three days of creation and the second three days in Genesis 1 (ie two trios).
The reasoning is very involved, but it amounts to this: the ‘six days’ are in essence merely a ‘framework’ for the real emphasis on the Seventh Day (when God rested from all His work of creation). So they are merely a device to give us only general information, not to be taken as literal days, but just two triads. So the six days are designed to teach us, not how long God took to create, but the emphasis instead is upon the three spheres (heavenly, earthly, and marine). So that Genesis 1 is merely describing some heavenly truth, which we can only understand in earthly and inadequate language. The effect, of course, is to eliminate a literal understanding of Genesis 1, because Genesis 1, they say, is unconcerned about chronology and time, and to replace it by understanding the chapter as merely a poetical and metaphorical description of creation.
What are we to say of this extraordinary position? It must be rejected, because:
- No other Scripture is safe from similar treatment! (ie artistic structure/poetic form), eg Christ’s resurrection!
- This was never espoused earlier than the 20th Century. It is, after all, an assault upon the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture (cf WCF I:VII).
- Once more, this bizarre explanation assumes that death and destruction were present in the world prior to man’s Fall.
- It denies and overlooks the plain fact that there is a climax in the six days of creation, leading up to the emphasis upon the 7th Day as the culmination of all of God’s creative work.
- This whole position is contradicted by the Lord’s words in the institution of the Fourth Commandment: ‘For in six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it’ (Ex. 20:11).