The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. – from the Basic Beliefs of the Southern Baptist Church, currently 16 million members strong
At the core of most major religions is the belief that the universe has not existed forever. Instead, it was created by a higher power at some specific point in the past, usually to provide a backdrop or platform for humanity to inhabit. Interestingly, arguably the most profound scientific discovery of the 20th century was that the Universe has, in fact, not been around forever. About 13.7 billion years ago, by current best estimates, the whole enchilada started out as an almost infinitely hot and infinitely dense speck, so tiny that even our most powerful microscopes couldn’t have seen it. From there, the speck started to expand and cool, a process that is still going on today. This “big bang” account leaves the question of how (and, if you insist, why) the universe came into being completely open. The Catholic Church, for example, sees in the big bang the undeniable handiwork of God the Creator.
The church may be right. In the absence of any evidence one way or the other, divine intervention has just much right to a seat at the table as any other conjecture. Thus, in concert with those of a religious persuasion, I’m quite open to the possibility that the Universe had a creator. However, there is one particular religious belief concerning creation that I could not disagree more violently with: the specific details of the creation account as described in the Old Testament. Actually, to say I “disagree with” the biblical version of creation doesn’t do my position justice. The Genesis version of the Universe’s creation can’t possibly be correct. It’s just flat-out wrong. It’s untrue. The sooner that all religions and denominations embrace the Catholic notion that Genesis should be taken figuratively, not literally, the better off all of us will be, believers and non-believers alike.
This embrace cannot come fast enough for me. As recently as 2008, a Gallup poll found that fully 44% of US adults agreed with the statement "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so”. We can assume that a similar percentage would have agreed with the statement “God created the heavens and the Earth sometime in the last 10,000 years” as well, had this question also been asked.
So what does Genesis actually say? Very briefly, Chapter 1 asserts that the heavens, the earth, and all living creatures, including the first humans, were created in the space of six days. Assuming that the subsequent course of human history, as laid out in the Bible, proceeded uninterrupted from that week, various Biblical scholars have computed the time that has elapsed since that monumental week as about 6000 years.
In this latest series of blogs, I’m going to confront this Biblical account of creation head on. But I’m not going to go about it the standard way, which is to champion Darwinian evolutionary theory over the Genesis story of how humans came to be, or to lob geological arguments at the Young Earth Creation (YEC) movement, whose members assert that most of the geological evidence for an old Earth is instead the product of a relatively recent event - Noah’s flood. These conventional ways of framing the issue might well be futile anyway. In the words of the YECs themselves,
“We further deny that scientific hypotheses about Earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood”.
So what kind of argument am I going to mount instead? I’m afraid you’ll have to check out the next blog to begin to find out!