Evolution, Long Periods, or Days
Published in the Standard Bearer from December 1, 1958 to September 15, 1959.
The occasion for this article is that a certain brother, who is a student at Calvin College, approached me in connection with an article in The Standard Bearer in which I wrote that the theory of evolution was taught at Calvin College. He claimed that this was not true.
In our conversation he emphasized that at Calvin no Darwinism was taught. This I readily admitted, but at the same time, I claimed that Darwinism is dead and that no one believes anymore in the theory of evolution as Darwin taught it.
He admitted; however, that at Calvin long periods of millions or even of billions of years of creation were taught instead of, as Scripture has it, days of twenty-four hours. This I claimed is the same as the theory of evolution.
Well, this may explain why I write on the above mentioned subject at the present time.
* * *
Let me, first of all, write a few words about Darwinism, as this subject was brought up in the conversation I had with the brother I referred to above.
It is many years ago that I made a study of the theory of evolution as presented by Darwin. I investigated especially two works of his, namely: the book on “The Origin of Species ” in which he emphasizes “natural selection”, and “The Descent of Man” in which he literally teaches that man is a descendant of the ape or chimpanzee.
Without entering into detail, I may say:
- That Darwin denies creation altogether. The world was not created by God at all, whether through long periods of time or in six days as the Bible teaches. This is evident from the following quotation from “The Descent of Man” : “Thus we can understand how it has come to pass that man and all other vertebrate animals have been constructed on the same general model, why they pass through the same early stages of development, and why they retain certain rudiments in common. Consequently we ought frankly to admit their community of descent; to take any other view, is to admit that our own structure and that of all the animals around us, is a mere snare laid to entrap our judgment. This conclusion is greatly strengthened if we look to the members of the whole animal series, and consider the evidence derived from their affinities or classification, their geographical distribution and geological succession. It is only our natural prejudice, and that arrogance which made our forefathers declare that they were descended from demigods, which leads us to demur to this conclusion. But the time will before long come, when it will be thought wonderful that naturalists, who were well acquainted with the comparative structure and development of man and other mammals, should have believed that each was the work of a separate act of creation.” (p. 41).I can quote other passages from the same work of Darwin.
- That Darwin was an atheist. This stands to reason in view of the fact that he does not believe that God created the universe. He who denies the latter has no God left. Even the consciousness that there is a God is, according to Darwin, a matter of gradual development. He denies, of course, revelation altogether, whether in nature or in Scripture, and without revelation we cannot possibly have any knowledge of God. Let me quote once more from his “The Descent of Man.”On pp. 636-37 he writes:
“The belief in God often has been advanced as not only the greatest, but the most complete of all the distinctions between man and the lower animals. It is, however, impossible, as we have seen, that this belief is innate or instinctive in man. On the other hand, a belief in all-pervading spiritual agencies seems to be universal; and apparently follows from a considerable advance in man’s reason and from a still greater advance in his faculties of imagination, curiosity and wonder. I am aware that the assumed distinctive belief in God has been used by many persons as an argument for His existence. But this is a rash argument, as we should thus be compelled to believe in the existence of many cruel and malignant spirits, only a little more powerful than man, for the belief in them is far more general than in a beneficent Deity. The idea of a universal and beneficent Creator does not seem to arise in the mind of man, until he has been elevated by long continued culture.”
This is downright atheism. It is a denial of sin, of revelation, of man’s consciousness of God.
And this is the necessary implication of any form of the evolution theory, not only of Darwinism.
To me there is very little difference, and principally none at all, between the theory of evolution and the theory of long periods of billions of years during which the world was formed.
Both deny the verbal inspiration of Genesis l-3. And the moment this is done one must repudiate the inspiration of the entire Bible. I propose to prove this presently.
Both deny the distinctiveness of the several species which God created on the successive days mentioned in Genesis 1. Both maintain that the several species evolved from one another during a long period of evolution, whether they suppose that the first beginning of this long process was a principle of the universe that then evolved under the providence of God, or whether they confess their ignorance in regard to this beginning.
That those who believe in long periods of billions of years cannot believe in the verbal inspiration of Genesis 1-3 ought to be evident to anyone that reads those chapters. Let us study the narrative of creation in Genesis 1 a little more in detail.
In Genesis 1:l, 2 we read: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
What is it to create? The original word seems to mean to cut, to divide, to separate, and then also to bring into existence something that never was before. We may say; therefore, that to create is that act of the omnipotent God whereby He called into existence the things that are not as if they were or whereby He calls things out of nothing or out of wholly unfit material. He does this by His Word, which refers first of all to the Son of God and then also the almighty creative Word of God. For thus we read in John 1:l-3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” Moreover, He creates all things through His Spirit, for already inGenesis 1:2 we read: “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” We may say that to create is that act of the triune God whereby He called into existence the whole universe, giving it separate existence apart from His own Being, and that too according to His eternal counsel. Thus we can understand that the term to create in the sense of to divide or to separate may be applied, not only to the separate acts of creation on each of the six days as, for instance, on the second day God divided the waters, but also to the original act of creation whereby God called the universe out of nothing. For then, to create means that God according to His eternal counsel cut or separated the world from Himself.
The question has been asked: how must we understand the words : “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”? Must these words be applied to the entire chapter as a general heading or to the creation of the chaos that is mentioned in vs. 2? We will not go into this question here. Certain it is that the chaos is mentioned in vs. 2: “and the earth was without form and void; and darkness upon the face of the deep.” Some have thought that there was a long period of time between the creation of this chaos and the rest of creation and that in this way they might be able to defend the theory of long periods on the basis of Scripture. But this is evidently erroneous. In the first place, the so-called chaos, mentioned in vs. 2, was called into existence immediately by the Word of God. And why would God leave the world in a chaotic state for millions of years without finishing it? In the second place, we read that the Spirit moved or brooded upon the face of the waters, evidently for the purpose of engendering life and movement in the chaotic waters. And in close connection with this brooding of the Spirit, God created the light. We prefer therefore to explain that also the creation of the chaos belongs to the first day. Besides, even if we should imagine a long period between the creation of the chaos and the first day, this could not possibly support the theory of long periods, for the latter refer exactly to the six days of creation. They are invented, not on the basis of Scripture, but to cater to evolutionistic science.
There is; therefore, to say the least, certainly no Scriptural support for the theory of long periods of days in Genesis 1:l,2. But the rest of the creation narrative emphatically contradicts this theory.
In Genesis 1:3-5 we read: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” We understand, of course, that on the first day God created the light in all its implications, and that too in connection with the brooding of the Spirit. Material light is the life of matter. Without light there is nothing but absolute darkness. There is no movement, no communication. By the brooding of the Spirit life is engendered into that dead and motionless matter, and by the Word of God a certain substance is separated from the rest and this very thin substance so moves, waves and vibrates that it is light. And this light implies many things such as heat which is again the condition of all other life and movement, fire, electricity, magnetism, etc. Light is also the means of communication. With the dazzling speed of 186,000 miles per second it moves against objects in the universe, moves back and is reflected, is caught by the eye of animal and man and reveals the objects in picture form. Movement, color, form, life, it is all conditioned by the light.
All this God created on the first day.
Now, I ask : Was all this created in a moment of time, or was light in all its implications gradually and very slowly developed from the chaos during a long period of billions of years?
The latter is the case according to those that maintain the theory of long periods. The former is the plain language of the Bible. Hence, I maintain that those that uphold the theory of long periods cannot maintain the inspiration of Genesis 1.
Just consider. Vs. 3 states: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” I ask you: was the light there as soon as God had spoken or was it not? Can the text possibly mean that God created a principle of light and that it took billions of years for that principle to develop? Every one knows better. Besides, if the principle of light developed under the power of the providence of God, it was not created, for providence is no creation. But the text states very definitely that the moment God had spoken there was light. Or, may we perhaps infer that God continued to speak His creative Word concerning the light for a billion of years? We understand that this is utterly absurd. Besides, what are we to do with the last part of vs. 5: “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Can the evening and the morning limit a period of billions years? We know better. Hence, I insist that the first day of creation was a day as we know it. And those that maintain the long period theory ought at least be honest enough to confess that they do not believe the literal inspiration of Genesis 1. Let them cater to the science of evolution, but let them not attempt to twist the clear testimony of Scripture into harmony with their own theory.
We will continue the narrative of creation as recorded in Genesis 1, especially with a view to discovering whether there is anything in this narrative that warrants the conclusion of unbelieving evolutionists that after all, it is nothing but a Babylonian myth and an invention of primitive minds who knew nothing, of course, of the great discoveries of modern science. We also have in view to show positively that there is nothing in this narrative of the creation of the world in six days that is contrary to the facts as we know them, while, at the same time, it is corroborated by all the rest of Scripture, both in the Old and the New Testament. The narrative is simply a historical account of creation as revealed by God. It must be accepted as such or it cannot be accepted at all. And if this account cannot be accepted as literally true, one cannot accept the Holy Scriptures as the verbally inspired Word of God. Writes Keil’s Commentary on Genesis, pp. 39,40:
“In contrast with all these mythical inventions, the biblical account shines out in the clear light of truth, and proves itself by its contents to be an integral part of the revealed history, as which it is accepted as the pedestal throughout the whole of the sacred Scriptures. This is not the case with the Old Testament only, but in the New Testament also it is accepted and taught by Christ and the apostles as the basis of divine revelation.”
Again he writes:
“The biblical account of the creation can also vindicate its claim to be true and actual history, in the presence of philosophy and the established results of natural science; So long, indeed, as philosophy undertakes to construct the universe from general ideas, it will be utterly unable to understand the creation; but ideas will never be able to explain the existence of things. Creation is an act of the personal God, not a process of nature, the development of which can be traced to the laws of birth and decay that prevail in the created world. But the work of God, as described in the history of creation, is in perfect harmony with the correct notions of divine omnipotence, wisdom and goodness. The assertion so frequently made, that the course of the creation takes its form from the Hebrew week, which was already in existence, and the idea of God’s resting on the seventh day, from the institution of the Jewish Sabbath, is entirely without foundation. There is no allusion in Genesis 1: 2, 3 to the Sabbath of the Israelites; and the week of seven days is older than the Sabbath of the Jewish covenant.”
As to the conclusions of science, Keil writes:
“By all modest naturalists, therefore, it is assumed that the origin of matter, or of the original material of the world, was due to an act of divine creation. But there is no firm ground for the conclusion which they draw, on the basis of this assumption, with regard to the formation or development of the world from its first chaotic condition into a fit abode for man. All the theories which have been adopted from Descartes to the present day, are not the simple and well established principles of natural science founded upon careful observation, but combinations of partial discoveries empirically made, with speculative ideas of very questionable worth. The periods of creation which modern geology maintains with such confidence, that not a few theologians have accepted as undoubted and sought to bring them into harmony with the Scriptural account of the creation, if not to deduce them from the Bible itself, are inferences partly from the successive strata which compose the crust of the earth, and partly from the various fossil remains of plants and animals to be found in these strata. The former are regarded as proof of successive formation; from the difference between plants and animals found in a fossil state and those in existence now, the conclusion is drawn that their creation must have preceded the present formation, which either accompanied or was closed by the advent of man. But it is not difficult to see that the former of these conclusions could only be regarded as fully established if the process by which the different strata were formed were clearly and fully known, or if the different formations were always found lying in the same order and could be readily distinguished from one another.”
Then Keil goes on to show that the latter is by no means the case. Also, according to him, the view that the fossil types are altogether different from the existing species of plants and animals is “one of the unscientific exaggerations of actual facts.” And he concludes by reminding so-called science of two facts which they cannot explain: the curse that was pronounced upon the earth, and the flood by which everything perished except Noah and his family.
I have quoted Keil rather extensively to show that he even does not belong to those that believe in long periods.
Certain it is that no honest biblical scholar can harmonize the theory of long periods with the record of creation found in Genesis 1.
* * *
But now let us return to the narrative of creation.
On the second day God created the firmament. Of this we read in Genesis 1:6-8: “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
We may notice here, first of all, that also the firmament, like the light on the first day, was created by the Word of God. For we read: “and God said.” And; therefore, we may conclude that, just as on the first day God said: “Let there be light and there was light,” so on the second day God said: “Let there be a firmament” and immediately upon the Word of God the firmament came into being. It certainly cannot possibly mean that the firmament came into existence by gradual development from the original chaotic waters that were everywhere. When; therefore, we read in vs. 7: “And God made the firmament” we must take this as a further explanation of vs. 6: “God made the firmament by the Word of His power.” Besides, also at the end of the account of the creation of the firmament we read: “And the evening and the morning were the second day.” And by no stretch of the imagination can these words be interpreted as referring to a long period of billions of years.
We must certainly choose; therefore, between the Bible and modern science. We cannot have both. As to the firmament itself we can be brief. We may notice, first of all, that the text makes distinction between the waters below and the waters above the firmament. The waters below are those that belong to the earth as it then was, that is, still in its chaotic form. And the waters above are not the clouds, for they were not as yet, besides, they belong to the earth and to the waters that are below; but they refer to the waters that were in the still chaotic heavens. The firmament itself is stretched out between these waters. From our earthly viewpoint it is the blue sky as it stretches itself like a beautiful dome over the earth on a clear sunlit day. In reality it is nothing but an amazingly deep and wide ocean, in which all the heavenly bodies as well as the earth float. It separates, according to the text, the waters from the waters, which also implies that it separates the heavenly bodies and keeps them in their places and their courses in space. And in the end, when the present world will be destroyed to make room for the new heavens and earth, the firmament shall also be removed, according to Scripture, for thus we read in Revelation 6:14: “And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.”
In the beginning of my articles on the above mentioned subject (and by the way there are some very excellent articles on the same subject in former Standard Bearers by the Rev. H. Veldman) I maintained that one who supports the theory of long periods and, consequently, of evolution, cannot maintain the infallible inspiration of Genesis 1 and; therefore, of the whole of Scripture.
If in Calvin College this camouflaged theory of evolution is taught, as it is, the inevitable result will be that the students draw the very logical conclusion that Genesis 1 is not the infallibly inspired Word of God and that; therefore, the whole of the Bible is not infallibly inspired.
In this contention I was supported by a recent article, an editorial in The Banner.
The Rev. John Vander Ploeg writes that a student at Calvin Seminary questions the infallibility of Scripture. That student, M. Hoogland, wrote an article in Stromata, a paper published monthly by the Calvin Seminary students, under the title “Infallibility Questioned.” The article, according to Rev. Vander Ploeg, is an “attempt to prove that the Bible is not infallible.” He quotes from the article of Hoogland as follows:
“By way of conclusion and clarification it might be said that the purpose here has not been to prove that there are as a matter of fact errors in Scripture so much as it has been to suggest that there is no need for us to assume at all costs that the Scriptures are ‘infallible.’ The writers of our confessional standards make no reference to infallibility in the sense in which it has come to be used by conservative theologians today. In view of the relativity which the meanings of words so often display, it may not be too farfetched to say that it even attests to the divine wisdom that in all of the many claims to inspiration, no claim is made to ‘infallibility.’ “
Vander Ploeg also quotes from the Calvin College Chimes in which a certain William Brown highly praises Hoogland’s article and concludes by writing : “Hoogland has had the good sense to question a doctrine that has become an idol of the Evangelical Tribe.”
It is not my purpose to criticize the above quotations. This is not necessary for our readers. Besides, the Rev. Vader Ploeg promises to write more about the subject. My purpose is to show the connection between the theory of evolution or long periods instead of days and the denial of the infallibility of Holy Writ. How can one maintain the infallible inspiration of Genesis l-3 and at the same time believe that the days of creation were millions or billions of years? And if the infallibility of Genesis l-3 is denied, one can no longer maintain the infallible inspiration of the rest of the Bible. Hence, I am not surprised that if the theory of evolution or that of long periods (which, to my mind is the same thing) is taught at Calvin College, the students at the seminary deny the infallibility of Scripture.
I wish to make one more remark before I continue my discussion of the days of the creation week.
I believe that I made the remark in one of my articles that Darwinism is dead. But from an article in Christianity Today (Jan. 5, 1959) it appears that this is not quite true. Darwinism is now a hundred years old and this fact was the occasion for the publication of a book entitled A Century of Darwin. The writer of this article, Philip E. Hughes, reviews this book and he writes: “the editor claims this book shows that, so far from being dead, Darwinism is respectable.” The writer Hughes adds: “Whether it is right is another question; and perhaps it would be unkind to suggest that there is no place more respectable than a cemetery!” According to the writer, moreover, “The effect of the whole is neither massive nor impressive.” And the reason for this is that the structure of Darwinism is based on an “unverifiable assumption preached as an infallible dogma.”
But the dogma of “natural selection” is still maintained. It is, according to one of the authors of the above mentioned book, the great force “through which operation organic life in the multiplicity of all its forms has come into existence.” And Mr. Hughes adds: “Indeed, it might perhaps better be described as the new god which has supplanted the God of Scripture to whose creative activity the whole natural order used to be attributed – and still is by those who have been renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created them” (Colossians 3:10).
I will not discuss the article at length. It certainly is worth reading especially by students who perhaps entertain the false notion that the different species developed from one another. But I will conclude by quoting the closing paragraph of the article:
“It is the assumption unsupported and unsupportable by factual evidence and indeed contrary to scientific knowledge, that life originated from lifeless matter and has in all its variety and complexity evolved ultimately from the simplest unicellular organism. With its dogmas, myths, and creedal mystiques, modern Darwinism quite certainly qualifies for a place in current religious thought.”
It is my contention that those who make of the creation days of Genesis 1 long periods of billions of years must come to the conclusion that all things have evolved from a simple and single cell, that the species evolved from one another, and that life originated from lifeless matter. To be sure, they will say that all this took place under the providence of God, but providence is not creation and neither is evolution.
It stands to reason that, when I combat the idea of long periods instead of six days of twenty-four hours of the creation week, I do so only on the basis of Scripture. No argument derived from science that apparently would contradict the clear testimony of the Word of God in this respect can have any weight with me and should have no weight with anyone that believes that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and is verbally inspired.
This also implies that within the Reformed Churches I have no argument with those that deny the infallibility of Holy Writ. For the Reformed Churches stand on the basis of theThree Forms of Unity; and these maintain without a doubt that the Scriptures are infallible. Even about this we cannot argue, as is now being done in the Christian Reformed Church. This whole argument is, within the limits of the Reformed Churches, fundamentally dishonest. One that disagrees with the infallibility of the Bible, ought either to file a greavment or objection against the Confessions or leave the Church, but he should not write publicly against the plain language of the Confessions as does M. Hoogland inStromata. Nor should the Church permit him to write thus and oppose his writing by counter arguments in the papers but demand of him that he retract or be censured. For that the Confessions teach very plainly that Scripture is infallible in spite of what Hoogland alleges ought to be sufficiently evident from just one quotation from the Netherland Confession, Art. VII, which speaks of “The sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, to be the only rule of faith.” The article reads as follows :
“We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God; and that whatsoever man ought to believe, unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein. For, since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven as the apostle Paul saith. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it doth thereby evidently appear, that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. Neither do we consider of equal value any writing of men, however holy these men may have been, with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, nor the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, for the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore, we reject with all our hearts, whatsoever doth not agree with this infallible [I underscore] rule, which the apostles have taught us, saying, Try the spirits whether they are of God. Likewise, if there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house.”
I could quote much more. But let this be sufficient.
You will understand; however, why I refuse to argue, as far as the days of the creation week are concerned, in the Reformed Churches with anyone that denies the infallibility of Scripture. A fallible Scripture implies that there are errors in the Bible and when once this is admitted, who will determine what is truth and what is error? Ultimately, only the subjective opinion of the interpreter. Then the account of creation in Genesis 1 may be nothing but a beautiful myth and you can make of the creation-days, limited by evening and morning, billions of years.
In this connection, I also wish to refer to an item of trouble that has arisen in the Reformed Church in America, particularly in Classis Passaic.
The history of this case is briefly as follows:
A candidate for the ministry was examined by Classis Passaic in May-June, 1958. At the time this candidate was refused a Certificate of Licensure on the ground that he denied the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis, particularly the real existence of Adam. It was decided to give the candidate a second opportunity for examination. For this purpose Classis Passaic met on September 16, 1958. Now I quote from a pamphlet issued by the Consistory of the Sixth Reformed Church of Paterson, N.J.:
“A motion then prevailed to reexamine the candidate as stated in the call for the meeting, and the candidate indicated his willingness to be reexamined. This examination revealed that the candidate not only denied the historicity of Adam, as expressed in his first examination, but he also denied that Abraham was a flesh and blood individual. John 8:52-59 was read to him with the comment that the Jews thought Abraham historical and, more significantly, our Lord spoke of Abraham as historical. But this was not conclusive for the candidate. The connection between and Adam and the doctrine of imputation, and between Abraham and the doctrine of the Covenant of Grace were mentioned, but these important implications did not seem to impress him either. It was then proposed that the candidate agree to consult with several brethren of the Classis for a period of about six months so that he might be instructed in the Biblical and Reformed faith on these matters. This he declined, saying that his Seminary training was adequate, that the case should be decided by General Synod, and that he was willing to be the symbol of the position which he had been taught at Seminary and which Classis refused to honor”… .
The case is not finished. It will be decided by a General Synod.
Do you not see the connection between this and what we have written before?
First it is taught, regardless of Scripture and on the basis of false so-called science, that the days of creation are long periods of billions of years.
Secondly, the infallibility of Genesis 1 and of course the infallibility of Scripture is denied.
Thirdly, the historicity of Adam is denied as well as related doctrines. Also, the historical reality of Abraham and other historic persons is denied.
Thus finally, we lose the whole of the Bible and have nothing left.
Let us beware, lest this corruption also invades our churches!
On the third day God created the dry land and the plants.
Of this we read in Genesis 1:9-13: “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.”
First of all, then, God formed the dry land. We must remember that it was Elohim, the triune God, that created all things. And He did so by His Spirit and Word. For from the beginning the Spirit brooded upon the face of the waters thus quickening and giving light and life to all things. But this was done through the Word. For thus we read in John 1:l-3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was not anything made that was made.” Moreover, according to Scripture, this Logos or Word was not merely the second Person of the trinity, although He was too, but He was the Christ. For this is also clear from Scripture. Thus, for instance, we read in Ephesians 3:14,15: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth are named.” All things in heaven and earth are called; and therefore, receive their names or being through the Word, and that Word is Christ. This we must remember when we read again and again in Genesis 1 that “God said,’ or that “He called.” As it is in the work of salvation, thus it is also in creation.
This means too that when God speaks it is there. When God said: “let the waters under the heaven be gathered together,” it did not take millions or even billions of years for the waters to be gathered into one place, but they obeyed the Word of God through Christ and in the Spirit immediately. The same is true of the appearance of the dry land. When God said: “let the dry land appear” it was formed at once. Otherwise we must imagine that God spoke the same words for billions of years and that is nonsense. Just as in the work of salvation we are regenerated by the Spirit and through the efficacious calling by the living and abiding Word of God, and just as it does not take a long period of time to be thus regenerated but we are born of God immediately when God speaks, thus it is also in creation. When God called, the waters under heaven were gathered together and the dry land appeared at once. Hence, we also read repeatedly in the text, “and it was so.” God spoke and it was so.
As to what was created on this first part of the third day, we can be brief since we are chiefly interested in the question of periods or days. It is plain that, before the third day, the earth was still a sphere surrounded by water. Part of the bottom of this shoreless ocean was lifted up so that millions of tons of water were thrown in their own place. How much dry land was formed on that third day cannot be determined, but we have the impression that only a comparatively small continent was then created: the Lord gathered the waters into one place. Besides, in II Peter 3:4-7 we read of the scoffers that deny the second coming of the Lord and say: “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” But the apostle contradicts these scoffers and writes : “For this they are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Also from this passage; therefore, we receive the impression that the original dry land, created on the third day, was a comparatively small continent and that the rest of the continents were formed at the time of the flood.
But we still have to call your attention briefly to the creation of the plants, which also took place on the third day. Concerning this we note the following :
- That also the whole world of vegetation was brought forth by the creative Word of God: “God said, Let the earth bring forth.” The plants; therefore, did not come into existence through a long process of evolution nor in a long period of years, but immediately by the creative Word of God.
- That God created them out of the earth to which they belong, for God said, Let the earth bring forth. Also, this has nothing to do with the theory of evolution. According to the latter, somehow the earth contained the germ of every living creature. By a concurrence of natural causes these germs developed into the lowest forms of the plant and from these lowest forms the world of vegetation as we know them today came into existence under the influence of natural causes from within and from without. Those who teach long periods instead of days make of these natural causes the providence of God, which is not creation but only a camouflaged form of the theory of evolution. But we rather believe the Word of God which informs us that by the Word of God the earth brought forth the various kinds of plants and that, too, immediately.
- That by the Word of God, not the seed, but the plants were created first and these brought forth their seed after their kind. This also is impossible, either on the basis of the theory of evolution or on the basis of long periods instead of days.
- That the creation narrative mentions only three large species and emphasizes that they all bring forth seed after their kind: the species are closed; there is no evolution from one species into another. Writes Keil:
“It indicates that the herbs “and trees sprang out of the earth according to their kinds, and received, together with power to bear seed and fruit, the capacity to propagate and multiply their own kind… Moreover, we must not picture the work of creation as consisting of the production of the first tender germs which were gradually developed into herbs, shrubs, and trees; on the contrary, we must regard it as one element in the miracle of creation itself, that at the word of God not only tender grasses, but herbs, shrubs, and trees, sprang out of the earth, each ripe for the formation of blossom and the bearing of seed and fruit, without the necessity of waiting for years before the vegetation created was ready to blossom and bear fruit. Even as the earth was employed as a medium in the creation of the plants, since it was God who caused it to bring them forth, they were not the product of the powers of nature, generatio aequivoca in the ordinary sense of the word, but a work of divine omnipotence, by which the trees came into existence before their seed, and their fruit was produced in full development, without expanding gradually under the influence of sunshine and rain.”
With this all who believe that Genesis 1 is the Word of God must agree.
On the fourth day God created sun, moon and stars by the word of His power. The account of this we have in Genesis 1:14-19: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so, And God made the two great lights; the greater light to rule by day, and the lesser light to rule by night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”
In the narrative of creation as we discussed it thus far, there is nothing that is contrary to any reasonable interpretation of the origin of the universe, provided we believe in and start with God. For those that do not start with God, on the other hand, it is quite impossible to explain the origin of the world. They can never reach “the beginning” mentioned in Genesis 1:1. The difference between the believer and the unbelieving evolutionist is not that the latter offers a reasonable interpretation of the origin of the universe, while the former believes, contrary to all reason and experience, in nonsense and foolishness; but that the Christian proceeds from God and from the faith that He in infinite wisdom formed all things according to His sovereign will, while the latter alleges to proceed from nothing and attempts to show how all things developed from nothing, which is not only extremely unreasonable but also absolutely impossible.
It is reasonable, as far as the origin of the world is concerned, to start with the almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth; it is unreasonable and also impossible to start with nothing. It is reasonable to believe in the various creative acts performed by God in six successive days, limited by evening and morning, according to which God called into being all things and every separate creature; it is contrary to all reason and also in conflict with all reality and experience to maintain that the various creatures, however wide apart they may be, evolved from one another. It is reasonable to believe that God first called into being the raw material of the universe, the Chaos; that from that chaos He first separated the light by the word of His power; then separated from that chaos the firmament, the world-ether, in which all the heavenly bodies float and move, and caused the dry land to appear; that from it, by the word of His power, He separated the various plants each producing seed and fruit after its kind. But it is extremely unreasonable to maintain that all these separate creatures came into existence through a long process of development, and that, too, out of nothing. And thus it is quite reasonable to believe that the whole cosmos and all the various creatures came into existence immediately, the moment God spoke, in six successive days of twenty-four hours, while it is unreasonable to maintain that God spoke for millions and billions of years before the creatures came into existence.
It stands to reason that there are many things, also in the narrative of creation that we cannot fully understand. We can expect this in view of the infinitude of the divine and the finitude of the human mind. But there is nothing in the account of creation in Genesis 1 that cannot be conceived: all is in harmony with reality and full of wisdom.
On the fourth day God created the heavenly luminaries, sun, moon, and stars. The wisdom of the world objects that the account in Genesis 1 cannot be true. So-called scientists have many objections: They object that Genesis 1 makes the earth the center of the universe which cannot be true. They call attention to the fact that the creation narrative makes the distinction between day and night before the creation of the sun, which is absurd. They object, too, because it puts the creation of the world of vegetation prior to the heavenly bodies, which is, according to them impossible. Besides, the account in Genesis 1 presents the matter in such a way the innumerable large worlds are called into existence in one day while six entire days are devoted to our little earth, which is absurd.
What about these objections?
It is true that Genesis 1 presents the universe as geocentric, earth-centered. Well, I would say that this is true, not locally, but certainly as to its significance. For not only did God create the highest creature, man, on the earth, but He also sent His only begotten Son into our earthly world and into our flesh. And He is the Lord of our entire universe. In Him all things will ultimately be united. From this point of view; therefore, the universe is certainly geocentric.
As to the second objection, namely that of the priority of day and night before the heavenly luminaries were created, we answer that on the first day light was created and must have been concentrated somewhere so that night and day or, as the text has it, evening-morning, did follow each other before the sun was created. As to the priority of the world of vegetation even before the sun was called into being, we answer that the world of plants thrived in the light which God had created on the first day. In regard to the objection that all the heavenly bodies were created in one day while six days are devoted to the creation and formation of the earth, this is somewhat the same as the objection that is concerned with the fact that the earth is geocentric, but we wish to add that all material of the heavenly luminaries was created in the beginning. Besides, they had already been separated into definite bodies on the second day, when God created the firmament, and these different bodies became luminaries when, on the fourth day, God caused the light which He had created on the first day to be concentrated in these different bodies.
For the rest, we do not want to concentrate our attention on the different luminaries which God created on the fourth day. All the heavenly bodies, sun, moon, the planets, and all the stars were created on that day. Their purpose, according to the text is: “to divide the day from the night.” Besides, they must be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years. Then, too, the text has it that they rule the day and the night. Our purpose is to point out once more, that also the fourth day is not a long period but a day of twenty-four hours. And this the text proved abundantly. First, by the fact God said and by that Word of God heavenly bodies came into being immediately. Then too, by the emphasis placed upon the division of day and night in the entire text. And, finally, by the closing statement of the passage: “And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”
On the fifth and sixth days God created fish, fowl and the land animals. Of this we read inGenesis 1:20-25: “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply; and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
This passage of the creation narrative is quite opposed to the theory of evolution as well as to that of long periods instead of days. The former cannot possibly be brought into harmony with the latter. We must choose between the two, we cannot believe both. If we maintain that the theory of evolution is correct or that the creation days were long periods of millions or even billions of years (which is only a camouflaged form of the theory of evolution), we must not pretend that we believe the creation narrative as recorded inGenesis 1, and the narrative of the creation of the animals on the fifth and sixth days.
The theory of evolution has it that God did not create all creatures separately by the word of His power but that all the different creatures, living or otherwise, organic or inorganic, have a common origin, developed from some original cell. This, of course, is no science in the true sense of the word, but mere philosophy. Besides, it does not mean anything, for if we deny that God is, and that He is the Creator of the universe, we will never find or understand the origin of all things. It seems, however, that the philosophy of evolution is based on two facts: the similarity of the creatures; and the gradually ascending scale from the lower to the higher creatures.
Now, Scripture also teaches the same facts without; however, drawing the conclusion that the lower creatures are the evolutionary source of the higher. Notice the ascending scale of the living creatures: plants, fish, fowl, the land animals and, finally, as the crown of them all: man. But notice also that the creation narrative emphasizes throughout that every one of these creatures is created after his kind: the different creatures are formed separately so that the species are closed. They did not evolve from one another: And seeing that this is the case, the creation narrative stands not only opposed to the theory of evolution, but also to that of long periods instead of days. For why should God create one species first, let it exist for millions of years on the earth, say this were even possible or conceivable, and then create the next kind?
But now let us study the text, informing us what God created on the fifth and sixth days, a little more in detail.
First of all, the creature formed on those days is described as the moving creature that hath life. This distinguishes it from the plant. The fowl is created to fly in the open firmament of heaven (vs. 20). The text speaks of every living creature that moveth and every winged fowl (vs. 21). It speaks of every living creature after his kind and of every beast of the earth after his kind (vs. 24). Again, in vs. 28, we read that man is given dominion “over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” And also in vs. 30 we read: “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life.”
Notice in the second place, that God blessed them. This means, of course, that God spoke His Word to them, the Word of His favor, and that Word of God is always powerful and efficacious. It is true that this is said only of the fish and fowl, but it is safe to assume that it includes also the land animals. The contents of this Word of blessing is, evidently, expressed in the words: “be fruitful, and multiply.” Through the Word of God, they are able; therefore, to multiply and reproduce their own kind by an act of their own will or incentive.
The animal; therefore, is described in the text as a living and moving creature that is able to reproduce its own kind through the Word of blessing which God spoke to it. The plant too is living, but it does not move, it is rooted in the earth. The plant too reproduces its own kind, but not by a conscious act of its own incentive. But the animal is free from the earth. It determines from within its own movements, in the water, in the air, on the land; swimming, flying, creeping, running. The plant has no consciousness. It does not know itself nor the world outside of itself. But the animal has a certain soul-life (“the soul of the animal is in his blood”) though in various degrees in different animals. Hence, the animal has senses, the sense of sight, of hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling. Through those senses it is not only conscious of the outside world but also of self. It has a certain measure of perception and understanding, of will and desires, of memory and imagination.
This is not to be understood as if the soul of the animal is at all like the soul of man. Man’s soul is spiritual, the animal’s is not. We must speak of the creation of man in our next editorial, but even now we may note that man, and that too the individual man, was created by a special act of God: He formed him by His own hands from the dust of the ground. Thus man became a living soul in distinction from the animal.
Finally, we may note that each creature is formed from its own sphere in which it lives and moves. The waters bring forth the fish, undoubtedly by the brooding of the Spirit and by the powerful Word of God calling them into existence. For do not forget that we read invs. 20: “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.” God spake and it was so and that, too, immediately. Perhaps, the fowls were created both from the waters and from the earth. For although we read in Genesis 1:20 that they were created from the waters only, yet in Genesis 2:19 we read: “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air.” At any rate, the beasts of the field were created by calling them from the ground. They belonged entirely to the sphere of the earth, were earthy, and out of that sphere they were created.
In our articles on the above-named subject we have emphasized repeatedly that we cannot take so-called science for our guide and for the source of our information, but only the Holy Scriptures, which are, we firmly believe, the infallible Word of God.
Those who believe in evolution or in what is called “theistic evolution” (which is only another name for the same thing since it denies the separate creation of the species) which is also taught in Calvin College, prefer the opposite method: science so-called is the source of their information and the Bible is either ignored or an attempt is made to show that it can be brought into harmony with their unbelieving philosophy. The latter is impossible.
Under the caption: “What Is Happening in the Christian Reformed Church?” Henry J. Kuiper writes the following paragraph on the question of theistic evolution:
“First of all, we point out the sympathy for theistic evolution (i.e. in the Christian Reformed Church, H.H.) — a theory which implies that the doctrine of creation can be harmonized with that of a gradual development, under divine guidance, of lower into higher forms of life, from plants to animals, and from animals to man. There are men of prominence in the Reformed Church of the Netherlands and in our own Church who advocate this theory and do not hesitate to assert that some day it may be demonstrated that man has descended from some ape-like ancestors. And that in the face of the biblical teaching that the first man was a direct divine creation, a perfect human being made in the image of God, in righteousness, holiness, and knowledge of the truth!
To our amazement the Ecumenical Synod of Potchefstroom, which met last summer, adopted a report on Creation and Evolution, signed by five Dutch professors (A. Lever, Polman, Jonker, Oostendorp, and Gispen) , which leaves room for the theory of theistic evolution. It made light of the objections which our Synod of 1953 raised against certain statements in an earlier report and declares: ‘Seen in this light the Reformed Ecumenical Synod wisely did not pronounce an opinion on the idea of so-called theistic evolution.’ It also stated blandly that ‘the church should leave it to a Christian science to come to a well considered and fundamentally sound view in connection with this theory.’ The Ecumenical Synod adopting the report of the Dutch committee, did not even make the statement that even if it could be proved that many species of plants and animals were evolutions from lower forms of life, this should not be posited of man! It had nothing to say in explanation or defense of the teaching of Genesis 1 but simply left the decision to the sacred cow of science!”
My question is: what are Kuiper and others going to do about this as well as about the question of the infallibility of Scripture and other questions. It is very well to write about the questions, but in the meantime, all these errors are being taught in the churches and especially in Calvin College, as Kuiper well knows. Is it not high time that, instead of writing about all these things some very definite action were taken?
* * *
But now I must continue my discussion of the creation narrative in Genesis.
On the sixth day God created not only the animals but also man, the crown of the earthly creation.
Of this we read, first of all in Genesis 1:26-28: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowls of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
In the second chapter of Genesis we read a more detailed description of man: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul,” (v. 7). And of the creation of the woman we read invv. 20-23 : “And Adam gave names to all the cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field: but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh thereof; And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
It is not our purpose to enter into a detailed interpretation of these passages. My purpose is simply to show that, if you believe that the narrative in Genesis 1 and 2 about the creation of man is the Word of God, it is impossible to believe the theory of evolution, according to which man descended from the ape or some other animal; nor in the theory of long periods of millions of years. Notice:
- That God created man on the sixth day. And that this sixth day was not a long period of millions or even billions of years is once more emphatically asserted in the end of the chapter where we read: “And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Remember that the whole creation was now finished, so that it is certain that the evening was determined by the setting of the sun and the morning by the rising of the same. The sixth day; therefore, was an ordinary day as we know it. Hence, those that maintain that man evolved from some lower animal during a long period of time cannot possibly accept the account of Genesis 1.
- That God created man in His own image and likeness. That was his unique distinction from all the rest of the creatures God had made. Those who maintain the theory of so-called theistic evolution or of long periods cannot accept this. The image of God consists, according to Scripture, in true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. Is it possible or even conceivable that one of the higher animals, such as an ape, gradually developed into a rational-moral creature, endowed with the image of God, so that He knew God and loved Him with all his heart and mind and soul and strength? And having gradually developed into such a distinctive creature, did he lose that image all of a sudden?
Before I proceed with my discussion of the creation days in Genesis, I cannot refrain from calling attention to an article in the Beacon Lights under the caption “Proof Positive–The Earth is Flat,” by C. H. Westra.
The reader understands, of course, that the heading of the article is a piece of sarcasm since no one believes that the earth is flat. But Westra, as I understand his article, could just as well have made the caption of the essay: “Proof Positive-the World was Created in Six Days of Twenty-four Hours” and that too with equal sarcasm.
First of all Mr. Westra makes a remark that there was a time when it was considered a heresy worthy of censure to teach that the earth was not flat but round. Seeing that this is a tendentious statement, I would like to have proof. When were the people of God ever cast out of the church because they believed that the earth was round? Certainly, the Bible does not teach that the earth is flat, even though it speaks in figurative language of “the four corners of the earth.” It tells us very plainly that the earth is round, that, in fact, it is a globe. In Isaiah 40:22 we read: “He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth.” The original Hebrew for “circle” is CHUG, which means circle or sphere, so that the text may be translated: “He that sitteth upon the sphere or globe of the earth, the orbis terrarum.” See Genesis in loco. Not only is the earth round but everything in creation is round, even in the heavens. In Job 22:14 we read: “He walketh in the circuit of heaven” where the same word is used (CHUG) as in Isaiah 40:22. We might very well translate; therefore: “He walketh among the spheres of the heavens.” The same idea is found in Proverbs 8:27: “When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth,” where again the same word (CHUG) is used for compass. Certainly, according to Scripture, nothing is square or flat, not even in the original chaos, the “depth,” but everything is round from the beginning. Again, the same idea, in respect to the waters on the earth, is expressed in Job 26:10: “He hath compassed (the same word is used here as in the other passages we quoted, only now in the verbal form CHAG) the waters with bounds.” We may translate, therefore: “He described a circle or marked with a compass the face of the waters (thus according to the original Hebrew). Everything; therefore, according to Scripture, is round: the earth is a sphere, the waters on the earth are round, and the heavenly bodies are also spheres.
But I would like to have historical proof for the statement of Westra that the people of God were persecuted for their teaching that the earth is round. I do not deny this. Nevertheless, it is up to him to furnish proof for this tendentious statement, which not only makes the church look foolish, but which also must serve as an introduction to his suggestion that the days of the creation narrative were long periods, at least perhaps.
Another tendentious introduction to the position that perhaps the days of creation were long periods, is the paragraph that informs us that, for a long time “the theologians-would-be-scientists” believed that the earth was the center of the universe and that the sun and the planets revolve around the earth. Again, I ask for historical proof of this statement. Mr. Westra merely makes this statement without any proof. What must be proved is: 1. That those theologians actually taught this; and: 2. That this was only the teaching of what Westra calls depreciatingly “the theologians-would-be-scientists,” and that it was not the general belief in those days. Surely, at that time these “theologians-would-be-scientists” were already cured of their error that the earth was flat, for how otherwise could they possibly teach that the sun and the planets revolved locally around the earth? At any rate, I want proof. Again, I say that I will not deny this, but neither will I take Westra’s word for it. I want historical proof.
At any rate the Bible, though it certainly teaches that man-in-Christ is the center of the universe, knows nothing of the earth’s being the local center of creation.
But now I quote the paragraph to which the whole article of Westra evidently means to refer: “A similar situation faces the church today. Various laboratory techniques which can measure with astounding accuracy the amount of radioactivity of various substances (including the well known carbon-14) have indicated that the earth is thousands of years older ‘than Scripture seems to indicate. Not only that the earth itself is that old, but that for a half a million years before the birth of Christ, animals and some sort of human life existed. This technique of measuring the radioactivity that remains in the samples submitted by archeologists is as sound a technique as can be found in any measuring laboratory. In fact, this method is so extremely reliable it has been compared to a yardstick!”
Now, in the rest of the article, Mr. Westra does not definitely either teach or deny the long period theory, as from the above quoted paragraph we would certainly expect. For there he presents with evident approval the theory of science so-called that the earth is thousands of years older than “Scripture seems to indicate.” However, I nevertheless have the impression that Westra believes that when what he calls “general revelation” (let us call it science) will ever be harmonized with what he calls “specific revelation,” “general revelation” the (science) will prove to be correct. That means that the creation account ofGenesis 1,2 is a mere myth.
Mr. Westra writes nothing new. Even the attempt to harmonize the creation narrative with the theory of evolution is nothing new. But all these attempts have not only failed, but they have resulted in denying the Word of God.
But I would like to ask Mr. Westra a few questions.
He must remember that I am not a scientist, nor even a “theologian-would-be-scientist.” Hence, my questions, which I ask also for the readers of Beacon Lights.
- Will you explain to a simple theologian who is not a scientist, as well as to the readers of Beacon Lights, just what is Carbon-14? Yes, I have read about it, but I am not a scientist. Neither are most of our readers of Beacon Lights. Hence, the question.
- Will you explain how, especially Carbon-14, proves that the earth is thousands of years older than Scripture indicates? You evidently believe this. Hence, the question.
- Will you explain how it is even possible, and now I mean in the light of Scripture, that animal and some form of human life existed a half million years before the birth of Christ. And will you prove this also from Carbon-14 as well as from “the technique of measuring the radioactivity that remains in the samples submitted by archeologists?”
- Was man created in the image of God a half a million years ago or did he gradually develop into that image? Well, this is enough for the time being. I hope you answer my questions, preferably in the Beacon Lights.
- We call attention to the fact, before the creation of man, there was a pause. God spoke: “Let us make man in our image.” To whom did God say this? Certainly not to the angels, for man was not formed after the image of the angels and, besides, the angels could have no part in the creation of man. He, God spoke to Himself as the triune God: there is here already an indication of the plurality of God’s personal existence. But the point I wish to make is that this pause in the creation narrative clearly indicates that man is formed as a distinct creature. He certainly is related to the animals as well as to the entire creation over which God gave him dominion; but he is not developed from the animal but is a very distinct creature. This is indicated by the pause in the narrative, by the fact that God spoke to Himself before He created man, as well as by the contents of this speech of God.
- The same truth, namely, that man is a very distinct creature, formed in a moment of time, and not developed from the lower creation, is also indicated by the very way in which God formed man. We read in Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul.”
Here we may note several elements that are of interest for our discussion of the creation narrative in connection with the theory of evolution and of long periods.
First of all, we may note that the narrative tells us that “the Lord God formed man.” This is said only of the creation of man. In respect to all the rest of creation we read that God simply spoke His Word and the creature thus called came into existence. Even when fish and fowls were created from the waters, and the land animals from the earth, they were called forth by the Word of God. This, however, is not the case with man. He was not simply brought forth by the earth, nor did the earth produce him through the Word of God, but the Lord God formed him. This points to a very clear distinction from all the rest of creation, even also from the rest of the animals. All other animals are called forth from the earth. But man is separated from the earth by a distinct act of God. He is; therefore, from the outset entirely different from the rest of the animals even as far as his form is concerned.
In our last article on the above subject we began the discussion of the creation of man on the sixth day, particularly according to Genesis 2:7. We pointed out that the very fact that God formed man, something which is not said of any of the other creatures, indicates that man is a distinct creature, surely not developed from the lower animals. However, we have more to say on this point.
When we read in Genesis 2:7 that God formed man out of the dust of the ground we must not interpret this as meaning that God first formed a lifeless lump of clay in the shape of a human body and afterwards breathed life into that body. Undoubtedly, the forming of man from the dust of the ground refers to the creation of the body, that is to man from the material aspect. But in the first place do not overlook the fact that the human body is a marvelous structure, with its senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, with its entire nervous system, leading from those senses to the inner man or soul; and that thus this human body is perfectly adapted to the outside world. In the second place, we must not forget that the act of forming man, the entire man, is one act, though it be twofold. We do not read that God formed a lifeless body from the dust of the ground and afterwards breathed a soul into that body, but, on the contrary, that God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and thus man became a living soul. In other words: by this twofold act of God man became one living soul. Man too is not two but one, even though he may be distinguished as body and soul or spirit and even though for a time his spirit, as in death, may be separated from the body.
Hence, when we read that God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life we must interpret this as meaning that God gave to the human nature its own life in distinction from the animals, a life according to which he was related to the present world through his senses, but also to God. By this wonderful twofold act of God man became one physical, psychical, spiritual being. We may; therefore, distinguish in the one man various elements or aspects. In the first place, there is the physical aspect, according to which, through his senses, he is related to the outside world. In the second place there is the psychical aspect of his body, according to which, through the nervous system, he is related to his inner soul. In the third place, there is what I would call the physical part of the soul, by which the inner man received the sensations from the outside world. In the fourth place, there is the psychical part of the soul with intellect and will. And finally, there is the spiritual part of the soul, according to which man is a person and stands in conscious personal relation to God. All this is very beautifully and succinctly expressed in Genesis 2:7: God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul.
Needless to say that this is quite opposed to the theory of evolution. According to the latter, God did not form man separately, but by a long process of gradual evolution he descended from the lower animals, perhaps finally from the ape. In that case, of course, man has no distinct being and nature but is nothing else than a higher animal. Strange it may be regarded indeed, that we see nothing of this process of development in our present world. Nor do we see any further development of man. To be sure, he develops in the world. He still reveals the remnant of his original power and dominion over all things. He also develops in sin and destruction. But always he remains the same man and there is absolutely no development in him from a lower to a higher being. But even apart from this, the whole theory of evolution is contrary to the Scriptures which we believe to be the infallible Word of God. For that Word of God teaches us very plainly that man did not descend from the lower animals, but that God gave a distinct existence by forming him out of the dust of the ground and breathing into his nostrils the breath of life.
The same is true of the theory of long periods, which is nothing but a camouflaged form of the theory of evolution. According to this theory, God must have taken thousands or even perhaps millions of years to create man. But this certainly is not in harmony with the account in Genesis 2:7. Did it require thousands of years to form man out of the dust of the ground and to breathe into his nostrils the breath of life? We know better. Rather we conceive of it as an act of one moment, for that is certainly the impression Scripture makes upon us.
Hence, neither the theory of evolution nor that of long periods can possibly be brought into harmony with the Scriptural account of the creation of man.
Here we must choose between the Word of God and the philosophy of mere man.
We still have to call attention to the creation of the woman.
After the account of Genesis 1:l-3, which speaks of the finishing of the work of creation by God and of His rest on the seventh day, there still follows an account of various details of creation on the sixth day. These details include: 1. A brief repetition of the creation of the plants and herbs. This was made especially with a view to the statement that God had not caused it to rain on the earth but that a mist went up to water the face of the earth. 2. The creation of man from the dust of the ground and the breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. 3. The planting of the garden of Eden, the placing of man in the garden to dress and to keep it, the tree of life in the midst of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil and God’s command concerning it. 4. The bringing of the animals to Adam to see how he would name them. 5. And finally, the creation of the woman. All this took place on the sixth day. This is evident, as far as the creation of the woman is concerned, from Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Also the creation of the woman; therefore, was accomplished on the sixth day, while in Genesis 2 we have a more detailed account of the way in which she was created.
Of this we read in Genesis 2: “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and he brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man.”
On this we briefly make the following remarks:
- Evidently, the text is intended to be understood in the literal sense of the word, as is the entire chapter. The mist that rose up from the ground, the creation of man from the dust of the ground and the breathing into his nostrils of the breath of life, the planting of the garden of Eden and the two special trees, the naming of the animals by Adam, all this leaves the simple impression of a literal narrative of facts that occurred just as they are told in the narrative. There is nothing allegorical in the entire narrative. If we depart from the literal sense of the words and make it all allegorical, there is no end to possible speculations and one interpretation is as good as another and as bad. The same is true of the creation of the woman. It is literally true that, in distinction from the animals, man was first created alone, that God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, that He took one of man’s ribs, closed up the flesh thereof, and made a woman out of it. All this is a simple description of a literal fact or it means nothing.
- The deep sleep which God caused to fall upon Adam was, of course, not a natural sleep. It was a “deep” sleep, that is, such a sleep “in which all consciousness of the outer world and of one’s own existence vanishes” (Keil). We might, perhaps, say that it was a complete anaesthetic which caused Adam to be wholly insensible. The purpose of this deep sleep was, of course, that God might be able to perform the operation by which He took one of Adam’s ribs and closed up the flesh thereof entirely without pain.
- From the rib which God had taken from Adam He made the woman and brought her unto the man. The word that is translated for rib in the Hebrew means literally “side.” However, the correctness of the translation “rib” is evident from the fact that we read: “and God took one of his ribs” showing that there were several of them in the human body. The woman, therefore, was not created out of nothing by the powerful Word of God; nor out of the dust of the ground as Adam was; but out of man. The meaning of this is twofold. First of all, it signifies that the woman was designed to stand in relation to the man in the marriage bond of natural love. And secondly, that in that relation of marriage, the man is first and he is the head of the woman, and as such, it is at the same time a picture of the relation between Christ and His Church. As Paul writes in Ephesians 5:22-33: “wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
The basis of this marriage bond in all its implications lies in the fact that the woman was created out of the man.
It needs no proof that the theory of evolution can have nothing to do with this beautiful truth of Scripture. That man is directly created by God out of the dust of the ground, the evolutionist cannot accept. He prefers his own philosophy that man is evolved from the lower animal. But how utterly it must be to him that God created the woman out of the man!
But the same thing applies, as far as the creation of the woman out of the man is concerned, for those that hold that the creation days were long periods of millions or perhaps billions of years. They certainly cannot maintain the biblical narrative of the creation of the woman as it is found in Genesis 2. How long did it take God to create the woman? How long was Adam sunken in that deep sleep? How long was God operating on Adam to take one of his ribs and close up the flesh thereof? And how long was God busy to build a woman out of the rib he had taken from man? Five hundred thousand, a million years? You say: that is absurd. And I agree. But the absurdity is not mine. It is of those that teach that the days of creation consisted of long periods and wish; nevertheless, to leave the impression that they believe the biblical narrative of the creation of the woman.
This is not only absurd, it is also downright dishonesty.