Inspirational Readings for Your Daily Walk with God:

Christian Mediation

 "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Acts 17:11

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

CREATION SPEAKS 

 

9. Paganism or Literal Creationism

THE Genesis record is a simple story of creation, step by step, through six days.” The question as to whether these days are to be understood as literal days of twenty-four hours each, or as representing long periods of time, has invoked much discussion.

A few Christians, who believe that the Genesis record should be taken literally, define the word days in the same sense as is commonly given to it throughout the rest of the Scripture. Confirmation for this view is seen in Exodus 20:11, where the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath is enjoined as a memorial of the six-day creation. On the seventh day, we read in Genesis 2:1,2, God rested from His creative work. To be consistent, the same meaning must be applied to the word days in Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and Exodus 20:8-11. To change the meaning in any of these places would do violence to the plain rules of language.

The great majority of theologians, as well as practically all scientists, are influenced by traditional views which are hoary with age, and prefer to regard the creation story as allegorical or figurative, having no significance from a scientific angle. In order to understand this popular belief, and to know wherein it differs from the literal Bible story, we must go back into history and trace the development of modern thought through the ages.

PAGAN IDEAS IN CHRISTIANITY

When intellectual leadership passed from the valleys of the Nile and Euphrates to the northern shores of the Mediterranean, it was the young and virile Greek people who took up the torch of civilization and developed a culture that was destined to spread throughout the modern world. 

Had Israel fulfilled the high destiny to which God had called her when He placed her in Palestine, at the crossroads of the ancient world, she might have seen her creation doctrine become the background for scientific research for all future time. But Israel’s apostasies deprived her of her glorious privilege of making the true God known to the world, intellectually and spiritually, and pagan philosophy became the foundation for modern thought.

Around the fifth century before Christ there arose in the Greek colonies in Asia Minor a number of philosophers who attempted to find an explanation for the activities of nature. One said that all things were derived from water; another thought that earth, water, air, and fire were the basic elements of nature; still others denied the existence of any material substance, but supposed that all “matter” was merely an illusion. 

As time went on, the scholars of Greece devised many interpretations for natural phenomena, and their influence was widely felt in religious thought. Their systems of philosophy, however much they might differ, were all alike in one respect, and that was in the fact that everything was explained by some natural cause. Therefore Greek philosophy can be designated as “naturalism,” in contrast with the supernaturalism of the Hebrews, who believed that God was the direct source of power for the operations of nature. 

Two Greek philosophers of the fourth century before Christ stand out as especially influential- Plato and Aristotle.

Plato taught that there was one supreme power in the universe, from whom all lesser beings were derived, and from whom all material substance had emanated. Matter, he believed, was not a reality, ‘but only a manifestation of the supreme spiritual power of the universe. It was this Platonic viewpoint that gave rise to the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Souls, Plato taught, were spiritual entities sent out from God to dwell in the physical bodies that had been created by His power.

Aristotle’s views were in many respects opposite to those taught by Plato. He thought that matter was the foundation of reality, and that it had always existed. By its own inherent properties it had been enabled to develop into a multitude of forms, and by purely natural processes living creatures, mind, intelligence, and spiritual beings had come into existence.

From the Platonic viewpoint developed the Stoic philosophy, which made duty the highest aim in life, whereas the Aristotelian logic gave rise to the Epicurean philosophy, whose principal objective was “Pleasure - eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

These Greek doctrines are of no value to us as merely historical developments, but rather because of their profound influence on Christian theology and modern scientific thought. Our present day views on many questions are determined largely by ideas which have been inherited from these ancient Greek thinkers.

As Christianity grew powerful in the third and fourth centuries, many pagan customs and views were introduced into the church. Pagan holidays and festivals were celebrated, but in honor of Christian saints or events in the history of the church. And while the forms of religion were essentially Scriptural, many Christian doctrines were interpreted according to the philosophical views of Greek scholars.

Among the various Greek ideas that were made prominent at this time was the teaching regarding creation. The outstanding Christian scholar of the late fourth and early fifth century was Augustine. He introduced into Christianity the Platonic doctrine of the immortality of the soul. As to the creation of the earth, he taught that the substance was created by God at some indefinite time in the past, and endowed with power for developing into the highly organized state which the earth now possesses. Thus was laid the foundation for a thoroughgoing evolutionary philosophy, which dominated the thinking of men for centuries to follow.

At the time of the Renaissance in Europe Aristotle’s writings were rediscovered. Theologians saw plainly that if the materialistic teachings of Aristotle were allowed to be propagated, they would present a grave threat to the authority of the church, since Aristotle’s views were in many ways antagonistic to those of Plato. 

The day was saved by Thomas Aquinas, who proposed the doctrine of dualism. In other words, he taught that men might think and study as they pleased with respect to the humanities, science and social studies-as long as they recognized the authority of the church in matters of religious dogma and authority.

That teaching has enabled the Catholic Church to hold its position of authority in the modern age of scientific development.

CREATIONISM

With the Reformation came a “back to the Bible” movement, which assumed that the Genesis story of creation and the Flood was to be taken literally. The views of the Reformers concerning these questions cannot be termed scientific in any sense, but were purely theological interpretations of the Bible record.

At the same time brilliant Jesuit writers were propounding the doctrine of literal creation in an effort to counteract the philosophical errors that had been introduced into Europe from Greek and Arabian sources

Thus it came to pass that theologians of all classes, from the sixteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century, departed from the medieval viewpoint of evolutionary development and taught the literal interpretation of Genesis.

MODERN VIEWS ON EVOLUTION AND CREATION

Around the middle of the nineteenth century the rise of modern geological theory introduced confusion into the ranks of Protestant theologians. Attempts were made to harmonize the new geological knowledge with the “days” of the first chapter of Genesis. The Flood was variously interpreted, and many wild and fantastic views were proposed.

The most popular of all geological views at this time was the catastrophism of Cuvier, the great French scientist. He observed in the Paris basin a succession of layers containing bones of extinct animals. 

These layers he attributed to a series of catastrophes by which the life of the earth had been periodically overwhelmed. Noah’s Flood was supposed to have been the final catastrophe. These catastrophes were supposed by many to have been the events to which Moses referred in the Genesis record of the days of creation. Thus arose the “day-age” theory of the theologians, by which Genesis and geology were “harmonized.” 

As a scientific confirmation of Genesis, Cuvier’s theories were worthless. The simple facts of the case are that the succession that he found near Paris only involved the Tertiary rocks, which are a small fraction of the sedimentary deposits of the earth, or even of Europe. To interpret these in the light of the “days” of Genesis is absolutely unwarranted distortion of the geological data as well as of the meaning of the Bible record.

In 1785 James Hutton presented to the Edinburgh Geological Society a Theory of the Earth, which proposed to account for all the geological phenomena in terms of long ages of uniform action of natural forces. This doctrine assumed that there had never been any definite “beginning” and there would never be any catastrophic end to the earth.

The English geologist Charles Lyell published a voluminous work, Principles of Geology, in 1830, in which he gathered together many illustrations of Hutton’s hypothesis, generally known as uniformitarianism. During the next quarter century this hypothesis rapidly gained popularity, until by the time of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859 the scientific world had quite fully accepted it. Thus the way was prepared for complete acceptance of evolution when the ‘Darwinian theory' gave a plausible explanation for the organic aspects of the problem. 

The advent, or Millerite, movement, which culminated in 1844, focused attention on the literal interpretation of Scripture. While little was said regarding the origin of the earth, much was said of its expected destruction by fire. The Adventists generally accept the Bible record in its simple, matter-of-fact rendering.

When the disappointment of 1844 turned many away from their belief in the literal return of Christ to this earth, the churches committed themselves quite generally to liberal doctrines that were colored by the influence of German higher criticism. The clergy turned toward belief in uniformitarian geology, and accepted the theory of long ages of time with little or no protest. 

The Bible record of the Flood came to be regarded as merely a tradition; and as for biological evolution, about the only serious objection to Darwin’s Origin of Species when it was published was that it implied the animal ancestry of man.

At the very time that the Protestant churches of Europe and America were turning to evolutionary views, the Seventh-day Adventists arose, and their attitude was that of consistent and thoroughgoing acceptance of the literal Genesis record. As a matter of historical interest it may be noted that even those who do not believe that Ellen G. White received inspired visions have quite freely admitted that her descriptions of the early history of the earth have exerted a powerful influence in molding these literal views of the Seventh-day Adventists.

It was not until the beginning of the present century that much attention was given to scientific aspects of the Genesis record. The first and for many years the only scientific writer of any prominence among this people was George McCready Price, whose principal points of contention were two; namely, (1) that there is no proof of long geological ages, but that the various types of life had been contemporaneous instead of consecutive, and (2,) that while there had been change within the major groups of animals and plants, there has been no change from one such group to another. Under various aspects and by various arguments and illustrations these propositions have been kept before the public for almost half a century of active writing and speaking. 

The most important work of this leader in modern catastrophism was in pointing out the weaknesses and inconsistencies in the popular geological theories. From the rediscovery of Mendel’s laws of heredity in 1900 the problem of the origin of our present-day species took on new interest. 

Darwin had built his theory on outward appearances alone, but twentieth-century theories of the origin of species have been based on experimental work in genetics. For forty years the controversy continued over the question of whether new species had actually arisen or whether all our modern “species” were merely variations in originally created kinds. 

In 1940 my book Genes and Genesis was published, giving a review of the whole situation, and pointing out the fact that while modern science has shown the possibility of many changes in the lower categories resulting in the production of new species or genera, it has failed to prove that such changes are sufficient to account for the higher categories, such as families, orders, classes, and phyla. 

Much the same argument has been followed in a later work (F. L. Marsh, Evolution, Creation, and Science, 1944), with additional discussion of the relation between the “Genesis kinds,” as he conceives them, and modern “species.”

CONTINUE