Many of the world's religions include some story of creation in their mythology simply because where we come from has a direct bearing on how we must live. If man is the fertility god's creation, then he should serve the fertility god. If man is a cosmic accident then he need answer to no one, and he may serve himself. If man is Yahweh's creation, then he should serve Yahweh. If Yahweh is a lawgiver, one must serve him with obedience. If he is merciful, his servant should be merciful, and so forth.
As such, the Biblical creation story has been a bone of contention at least since Christianity began to confront the gods of Greece and Rome in the first century.
In many respects, we have to understand the current evolutionary world view as just this kind of mythology. Operational science makes predictions about how the universe operates. Such predictions can be falsified by experiments. For example, Newton's law of gravitation makes exact predictions about how a body of mass M attracts another body of mass m. For example, it can be used to calculate the trajectory of a ball thrown up in the air. If Newton's law weren't true, one could perform an experiment to demonstrate that fact. In other words, one could throw the ball and clearly see that the predicted trajectory was not the same as the actual trajectory, within some reasonable margin of error. Thus, Newton's law is falsifiable.1
Current evolutionary "theory"is not capable of making any significant falsifiable predictions. For example, it is utterly incapable of predicting how various organisms will evolve with time, except for the absolutely simplest, most obvious changes. As such, one runs into all kinds of problems when trying to apply evolutionary "science" to artificial genetic self-reproducing systems. For example, modern "theories"don't give the scientist any clue of what to expect in the development of computer viruses.2 A computer virus is a self-reproducing entity which passes genetic information (in the form of machine code) from one generation to the next. As such, it should be subject to Darwinian evolution. Will viruses evolve in an unending upward spiral and eventually take over the world's computer systems? Computer professionals do not currently take such threats seriously, although such a scenario is certain if we apply the same kind of reasoning to computer viruses that is applied every day to the real world of carbon-based organisms.
Is this intellectual schizophrenia? The truth is that we do not need evolution to explain the existence of computer viruses because everybody "knows" they have creators. People write computer viruses, so postulating a creator causes no philosophical or religious repercussions. At the same time, evolution is demanded of carbon-based organisms because creation is unpalatable for philosophical reasons.
In the end, we must understand evolution as a scientism, or mythology couched in scientific terms. It is a great tool for explaining away the past because, lacking solid predictive power, it can explain any historic scenario presented for analysis. Once one realizes that evolution is a mythology, one can begin to better understand its success in the past 140 years. Belief in it has become so widespread, not because of scientific evidence or predictive ability, but because its mythology caters to the wishes of sinful man.
The History of the Evolutionary Mythology and the Deconstruction of Genesis
Evolutionary ideas were born in a society that was formally Christian, but inwardly rebelling against the constraints of Scripture. The nineteenth century was the century of Victorian prudishness, of teetotalers, temperance revivals and a proliferation of quasi-Christian cults which sought a "higher" form of godliness in laws of purely human origin. It was also the century of lewd romanticism, universalism and deconstructionist thought of every kind, ranging from theology to philosophy to government to science.
The Victorian mindset was revealed only too clearly with the anonymous publication of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation3 in 1844, a book which presented a complete evolutionary world view ranging from cosmology to the origin of man, without the slightest pretense of scientific accuracy. Rather, the author simply engaged in every manner of wild speculation. The book was publicly condemned by biologists, geologists, and theologians alike. However, Vestiges became a bestseller overnight, going through ten editions in ten years.
In response to scientific (and even not-so-scientific) challenges to the traditional Biblical view, the deconstruction of Genesis 1 began in earnest. Deconstruction took the form of denying the literal truth of the creation story and turning it into a myth. This program was not carried out by atheists or agnostic scientists, but by so-called Christian thinkers who retreated from literal interpretation in order to accommodate the supposedly indisputable facts.
For example, in 1833 Charles Lyell published his famous treatise on uniformitarian geology, The Principles of Geology. Up to that time, geological formations were largely interpreted in terms of catastrophes, the Noahic flood being the most important. Lyell attempted to bring geology into the realm of day-to-day natural cause and effect. His gradualist approach required an immense age for the earth, at least millions of years. As a result, geologists were divided into two camps, catastrophists and gradualists. The catastrophists largely adhered to the idea of a young earth, while the gradualists advocated an old earth.
Once Vestiges was published, however, Lyell appeared conservative in comparison. So when Hugh Miller, editor of The Witness,4 published his Footprints of the Creator (1847) as a popular response to Vestiges, he appeared to be defending the Faith. However, to Miller, defending the Faith largely meant putting down the evolution of the species, and especially the evolution of man from monkeys. His great objection was rightly that man's soul could not Scripturally be the same as an animal's, as evolution would seem to imply.
Miller had already embraced the idea of a progressive, Lyellian fossil record where the simplest organisms came first.5 In both Footprints and Testimony of the Rocks (1856), Miller held to the idea of the progressive fossil record, but maintained that it did not thereby prove evolution since the fossil record does not show continuous gradations from one life form into another. Rather, complex life forms appear quite suddenly in finished form.
In effect, Miller was giving both the ordinary believer and the scientist theological room to accept the idea of an old earth and a generally progressive fossil record without discarding his Faith. In so doing, he had to discard Genesis 1 as literal. In place of the Creator of Genesis 1, Miller's God was a God of the gaps, a Creator who, at various times in the long epochs of history, created fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and, finally, man.
Neither was Miller alone in giving way to science. German higher criticism was invading England at the same time and so-called scholars were actively questioning their Faith in a much broader context than evolution. To put Darwin in context of his times, Origin of the Species was published in November, 1859. Another book, not so well-remembered today, Essays and Reviews, was published just months later, in February, 1860. Essays and Reviews, authored by liberal Anglican clergymen, is generally acknowledged as the "coming out"of higher criticism in England. In a climate of theological upheaval, it is hardly surprising that novel ideas like evolution would find supporters in the church. Indeed, it would appear that churchmen were more eager to compromise with Darwin than scientists.
The pattern of scientific "advance" followed by compromising Scripture to accommodate the supposed facts has been repeated again and again from the mid-nineteenth century right up to the present. Roman Catholic scholar Saint Georges Mivart advanced the idea of theistic evolution in a book The Genesis of Species and concluded that "Christian thinkers are perfectly free to accept the general evolution theory."6 In the same year, the president of Princeton University affirmed evolution in Christianity and Positivism.7 In 1898 R. A. Torrey hinted that evolution might be true of animals.8 In 1907 A. H. Strong wrote that "neither evolution nor the higher criticism has any terrors to one who regards them as part of Christ's educating process."9 In 1911 B. B. Warfield said that, while evolution is not a substitute for creation, it can "supply a theory of the method of divine providence."10 In The Fundamentals James Orr defends theistic evolution and calls it "creation from within."11 E. C. Messenger's Evolution and Theology (1954), very influential in Roman Catholic circles, argued that Scripture did not conflict with even purely natural evolution. Likewise, Bernard Ramm's The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954), very influential in evangelical circles, advocates old-earth progressive creationism or theistic evolutionism. In the more "progressive"extreme, there is the infamous Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a Roman priest who became one of evolution's most visible, vocal and effective promoters within Christian circles, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. Teilhard de Chardin is notable for his radical evolutionism and absolute statements like "Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow"12 and "it is Christ who is saved by Evolution."13 This list is a mere sampling of what has passed for theology since Darwin's time.
Meredith G. Kline's Contribution to the Modern Mythology
So theologians, preachers, and Christian scholars have been the forerunners in radically deconstructing Genesis 1 in modern times. That deconstruction continues in liberal circles to this day, as Christians seek to nail the exegetical lid on the coffin of Genesis 1. An important example is Meredith G. Kline, of Westminster Theological Seminary, Escondido, California. Kline is intent on putting down both the literal Genesis creation week as well as the day-age view, leaving the scientist "free of biblical constraints in hypothesizing about cosmic origins."14 Kline's deconstructionism is important to consider because it has been accepted and promoted in a number of popular books on creation/evolution for Christians.15
Kline's argument is that Genesis 2:5 invalidates an understanding of Genesis 1 in terms of sequential events, be they literal days or long periods of time, and demands that it be understood in literary terms, not at all suggesting a sequence of events.
To understand Kline's argument, let us first examine Genesis 2:4, 5. The American Standard Version16 reads:
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven. And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for Jehovah God had not caused it to rain upon the earth: and there was not a man to till the ground.
Working with the ASV, Kline asserts that this verse ascribes the reason for a lack of plants to (a) the lack of natural rain water or (b) the lack of a man to provide some form of artificial irrigation. Kline traditionally divides God's works into those of creation and providence, and then asks the question whether the works of providence were different during the creation week than they were after it. Genesis 2:5, he says, is proof that they were not: "The Creator did not originate plant life on earth before he had prepared an environment in which he might preserve it without bypassing secondary means and without having recourse to extraordinary means such as marvelous methods of fertilization."17
Now, Kline argues, if the creation week were a literal seven-day week of 24-hour days, such a statement in Genesis 2:5 would make no sense, because it would hardly matter if plants didn't get rain for a fraction of a day on an earth covered with water just a day before.
Alternatively, the day-age theory, in which each day of creation is understood as a long, unspecified period of time, would not make sense because it would require plants to exist without sun or moon for an indeterminately long period of time. That would require some extraordinary biological phenomenon, whereas Genesis 2:5 takes for granted only ordinary phenomena.
This argument is sufficient for Kline, a theologian, to conclude that Genesis 1 cannot, therefore, be understood in literal or even sequential terms. Using the exegetical principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture, he concludes that "the literalness of the sequence is no more sacrosanct than the literalness of the duration of the days in this figurative week."
To further explain the figurative days of Genesis 1 without writing the whole chapter off as mythology, Kline invokes a Gnostic duality in what he calls a "two-register cosmology"(e.g., the supernatural world, or heaven, and the natural world, or the universe). The days of Genesis 1, he argues, refer to heaven's time, and not to any sequence of events on earth. Yet the heart of Kline's argument is still in his exegesis of Genesis 2:5.
Does Kline's reasoning stand up to scrutiny though? If Genesis 2:5 does indeed imply that only the usual means of providence were in operation during the time of creation, then any understanding of creation as a process protracted much beyond a week gets into quick trouble.
In any long-period creation, there would have been a long period after the formation of the earth and the appearance of dry ground during which there were no plants. Bringing Genesis 2:5 into the picture suggests that there were no plants because there was no rain. However, one has to wonder what extraordinary processes could have been at work during this long period to prevent rain on the earth? Likewise, what extraordinary process, in the absence of rain, could have broken down bare rock into the earth required for plant life?
If normal physical processes were operating during the creation period, rains would have begun within a day or so, unless (a) there was no water in the oceans (contrary to Scripture and all scientific evidence) or (b) there was no sun or other strong light source to evaporate the water. Kline properly rejects the idea of a sunless world for a long period of time, simply because if normal physical processes were operating, plants would die without it. Presumably, he would likewise reject a waterless world.
This presents a paradox which Kline seems to have ignored. According to Kline, Genesis 2:5 demands normal physical processes, but no rain. Yet normal physical processes would cause rain in about a day.
The only way to resolve this paradox is (a) to abandon the assertion that Genesis 2:5 demands normal physical processes during the creation period, or (b) to return to a short period of time — about a week — for creation.18
Neither is this the only paradox Kline faces. Genesis 2:5 ascribes the lack of vegetation to both a lack of rain and the lack of a man to till the ground. In his argument, Kline quietly replaces the "and" with an "or" in order to support his naturalistic thinking. Yet the "and"would suggest that man was part of God's providence for the earth, so God did not plant the earth until the man was made, or just before he was made. Again, this leads right back to a very short period for creation. Rather than leaving the scientist "free of Biblical constraints in hypothesizing about cosmic origins," Genesis 2:5 appears to put some rather serious constraints on him.
Given the blatant paradoxes in Kline's thinking, it is amazing his work even made it into print, let alone became as influential as it has been. However, such is the uncritical climate in which we live. An innovator can easily gain the ear of those sympathetic to his agenda.
Can a literal, seven-day creation be reconciled with Genesis 2:5 without appearing ridiculous? That is not so difficult as Kline would have his readers believe. First of all, the King James Version does not press the causal relationship as hard as the American Standard which Kline insists upon. Secondly, Genesis 2:4 predicates the rest of the chapter (and indeed, everything through the end of chapter 4) as being about the "generations of the heavens and the earth." Everywhere else "these are the generations" is used, one finds genealogies. For example, Genesis 5 is about the "generations of Adam" and Genesis 10 is about the "generations of Noah."
The question is, what are the generations of the heavens and the earth? Genesis 2:5 tells the reader plainly: vegetation and man.19 The next few verses tell how they came to be, as a product of heaven and earth. God watered the earth so it would bear fruit. God made man from the earth and breathed life into him. The rest of Genesis 2-4 further explain the relationship of the man and the ground. The man sinned and the ground was cursed. The man spilled his brother's blood and the ground refused to yield its strength to him.
Thus Genesis 2:4ff is plainly not a step-by-step chronological account of creation (as Genesis 1 so plainly is) but a genealogical account. Thus, verses 5-7 go straight from vegetation to man, not because the animals didn't come in between chronologically, but because the two generational lines of heaven and earth were specially interdependent. Man needs the vegetation to eat, and the vegetation needs man to cultivate it. Likewise, Genesis 2:5 mentions rainfall because, even if God had abundantly planted the earth, watering was necessary for the earth to bring forth succeeding generations of fruit. In conclusion, there is no conflict between a young earth and Genesis 2:5, as Kline insists.
The Danger of the Deconstructionists
The truth is, deconstructionists always run into trouble when they try to interpret Genesis 1 away. In the end, the result is uniformly to promote atheism and unbelief, while diminishing God, God's law-word and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Such deconstructionists are much more dangerous than the ingenuous atheist-scientist, just as poisoned food is much more dangerous than a bottle of poison labeled as such.
1. Karl Popper originated the idea that a statement must be falsifiable to have scientific content.
2. Mark Ludwig, Computer Viruses, Artificial Life and Evolution (American Eagle Publications, 1993).
3. The author, Robert Chambers, revealed his identity years later. He was a respectable Edinburgh businessman.
4. The Witness was the official organ of the evangelical secessionist branch of the Church of Scotland.
5. Hugh Miller, The Old Red Sandstone (1841) in Collected Works (1869).
6. Saint Georges Mivart, The Genesis of Species (1871), 279.
7. James McCosh, Christianity and Positivism (1871), 37. See also his article "On Evolution"in J. G. Wood, Bible Animals (1877).
8. R. A. Torrey, What the Bible Teaches (1898), 249.
9. Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology, viii.
10. B. B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies (1911), 238.
11. The Fundamentals IV, 91-104.
12. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980), 50.
13. Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of the Matter (1979), 92.
14. Meredith G. Kline, "Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony"Perspectives in Science and the Christian Faith, March, 1996.
15. Notably, H. Blocher, In the Beginning (1984), C. E. Hummel, The Galileo Connection (1986) and R. Maatman, The Impact of Evolutionary Theory: A Christian View (1993).
16. Kline insists that the ASV is superior to the KJV because of its translation of the word terem as "not yet"rather than "before."Kline claims that translating terem as "before"is to "muff"the translation, which simply is not true.
17. Meredith G. Kline, "Because It Had Not Rained,"The Westminster Theological Journal 20 (1958), 146-157.
18. A third option is possible, albeit intellectually dishonest in the face of Kline's goal of relieving the scientist of Biblical constraints. That would be to deceitfully distance the idea of "ordinary providence"from physical process. The reasoning would be something like this: since there were no plants, no rain was necessary, ergo the ordinary providence of watering plants by way of evaporation and rainfall was unnecessary; hence, the laws which cause evaporation would be unnecessary and therefore inoperative. This would suggest a world where normal physical processes were not operative at all, but they would not violate Kline's thesis because non-operative laws did not contribute to or detract from God's provision for living things.
19. The obvious connection is lost in translation. The original Hebrew says there was "no adam (man) to till the adamah (ground)"making the connection between the ground and the man obvious.