Two weeks ago I caught up with an old friend of mine who is a 74 year-old Catholic priest. He is a very well-respected man who was, for some 20 years, famous within the local community.
As I only get to see him once in a while I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss several hot issues with him, at the forefront of which was evolution. Here’s how the conversation went:
“When the bible says the world was created in six days, do you take that literally”
*shakes head unhesitatingly*
“No no, absolutely not. We have to remember that the old testament was written in a language and a way that can not be open to literal interpretation. The world was likely formed over long periods of time.”
“So what about human evolution? Did God make us appear on the earth one day, or did we actually evolve from other creatures?”
“Who knows. If we did evolve from other creatures there was a point in that evolution where something happened that instilled God’s spirit in us and made us conscious. Either way we’re made in God’s image, and it wouldn’t make us any less special.”
Christians can be particularly hard-headed when discussing evolution. It seems like the majority who refuse to accept the possibility that evolution is real and the world is in fact billions of years old. These people are literalists, and for many years I have been among them.
Scientifically the arguments of literalists seem as ignorant as they do absurd, but religiously they seem quite reasonable (as with God anything is possible, including the creation of a world that seems to have evolved). But the unsurprising truth is that most literalists don’t know much about science, nor do they care to. They know God in their hearts, and as academia and secular rationality are of little interest to them they keep things simple by taking scripture literally.
While I personally support keeping things simple (for in simplicity one finds clarity), a couple of months ago, in trying to better understand the position of evolutionists, I started reading up on evolution and any possible relation to creationism. Of all the things I discovered the most interesting was Day-age creationism.
Day-age creationism is rather self-descriptive. Each ‘day’ in creationist theory refers to ‘an age’ or a period of evolution. As scientists believe the world to be some 4.5 billion years old, Day 1 could refer to a period of 700 million years; Day 2 to 900 million years and so on.
Textually speaking day-age creationism is supported by the possible misinterpretation of the hebrew word yom. While biblical translations have interpreted the traditional use of Yom to mean day, it was also used in Hebrew to describe definite and indefinite periods of time, allowing for the possible mistranslation of early biblical texts. It can be confidently debated that the author of genesis intended to describe not 6 days of creation, but 6 periods of creation.
In his book Creation and Time author Hugh Ross brilliantly takes this concept and supports in scientifically by citing, above all others, the 7th day in which God rested. The author argues that there has been an extended period leading up to today in which we have seen an almost immediate halt in the discovery of new species. This same period also corresponds to the rise of recorded humanity and consciousness. He argues quite convincingly that this current period in evolutionary history is the 7th day in which God rested (and is still resting). It is for this reason that we no longer see evolution. It is for this reason that so many people believe the earth to be as young as our species. And it is also the reason, for the most part, why we no longer see God intervening in the world, for finally, after billions of earth years (which equate to nothing in the timeless spiritual realm), God is resting.
A theory like that of day-age creationism revolutionises religious vs non-religious debate as it not only allows for but supports evolution and the existence of God. Where proof of evolution has long been used by non-believers to argue the non-existence of God, Christians suddenly find themselves able to believe in scientific theory AND a creation/evolution hybrid. Finally Christians like myself can argue this aspect of God’s existence rationally and shamelessly.
So in what way does evolution actually support the existence of God and the validity of the Christian bible? Well, consider that the Book of Genesis was written looong before Charles Darwin existed, and loooong before we had any clue about science or the way the material world operated. Yet in it, the description of creation is poetically inline with the theory of evolution. From the creation of the earth to the animals on it, followed by the creation of man from dirt, which is to say from the material earth itself, evolution actually supports the account of Genesis (and Genesis the account of evolution). So how could the author of Genesis, without today’s scientific means, have had the slightest clue about how the world was made? Without a divine telling, he simply couldn’t have.
So what does day-age creationism do for me and literalists like me? Should we continue to argue that the world was created in six days? Or should we accept the mountains of proof that we have and embrace the idea that a timeless God took billions of Earth years to create us?
Personally, although I am relieved to be able to present an argument to non-believers that doesn’t make me look like a total nutcase, I still find myself tied to my traditional belief that the world was in fact created in six days. More than anything else I have difficulty reconciling the creation of woman. While I can argue that each day referred to a period of time, I can’t envision how the creation of woman from man’s rib fits into evolution. If it did take countless years for man to evolve, and God suddenly decided he would create woman, then he must have divinely intervened to speed up her creation. If God was capable of such intervention, then why even wait billions of years to create the earth and man? Why not just do it in six 24-hour days?
Ultimately I think the ongoing arguments between creationists and evolutionists are a complete waste of time. If evolution happened, great!, but it still does nothing to disprove the existence of God. If anything evolution serves to prove God’s greatness and his patience, as well as to further validate the miraculous wonder that is the existence of man.
If God did take billions of years to make us then it is of little wonder why we are so valuable to him and why he loves us so much. If nothing else, creationists should be left in awe by the possibility, and by our inability to comprehend how great God truly is, for with him, anything truly is possible.