I recently set about the task of making an enclosure to keep animals, and I want to tell you how I did it. This may seem to be a strange topic for American Vision readers but please bear with me and I trust that all will become clear.
My aim was to create a large, secure enclosure and so I began by marking out an area within my back yard. You may think it somewhat eccentric, but for some very good reasons, which I won’t trouble you with, I had to begin the construction at night. So right after I had marked out the area and unravelled some fencing, I erected an enormous halogen lamp over the whole site, which, when turned on, flooded the area with light, which was good.
The following day I began to clear the enclosure, which was somewhat waterlogged. I bailed out most of the water, but took care to leave some behind, as I needed a little in order to provide ponds for the aquatic animals. By the end of the day, I have to say I was well pleased with the result.
When I came back to the site the next day, I began to shift some of the water I had left in the enclosure into ponds by digging holes in some places, and then piling the dirt up into mounds elsewhere to create dry patches. Once this was done, I spent the remainder of the day putting in some plants and food for the animals to eat. By this time, the whole thing was starting to take shape really nicely.
My main task on the following day was to take down the halogen lamp, which I had only intended as a temporary measure, and to put some smaller, permanent lights around the outside of the enclosure, which when fixed up, looked really quite wonderful.
The next two days things began to get really exciting. First I put some fish and other aquatic creatures into the ponds and I also brought some birds into the enclosure. Then on the following day I introduced some land animals into the enclosure.
At this point, the whole thing was almost finished, except for one thing. It had always been my intention to get my son to look after the enclosure, and so the last thing I did was to show him what I had made, telling him that it was a gift to him and giving him some quite specific instructions as to how I wanted him to perform the task of looking after it.
You perhaps won’t be surprised to hear that at the end of all that I took the next day off and had a well-earned rest. Surveying all that I had done, I can honestly say that I was extremely pleased with the way things had turned out. The whole thing had taken me a total of 24 years from start to finish, but it was well worth it.
“Now hang on a second. Did you just say 24 years?”
“Yes, that’s right, 24 years.”
“But from what you said above, it sounded like the whole thing took you six days with one day of rest at the end.”
“Yes, it did sound like that, didn’t it? But if I told you that one day is as four years to me, would that begin to make a little more sense?”
Well no it wouldn’t, but hopefully you’ve got the point by now. The time frame above clearly cannot be stretched out from six days of work into 24, yet this is essentially the position taken by those who advocate theistic evolution when they attempt to stretch the creation account in Genesis into billions of years. What I want to do in the remainder of this article is to ask whether there are any compelling reasons why we might want to engage in this particular “stretching exercise”.
Sticking with the above analogy, let me pose the following question: why might such a project end up taking 24 years, rather than six days? There are five possible reasons:
1. I might actually need 24 years to complete a project because of the sheer amount of work involved (although anyone who has ever seen the inside of my shed and the plethora of unfinished projects it contains might wonder whether 24 years would be enough for me to complete the enclosure project).
2. I might be impeded by one thing or another – resources, health or weather, for example.
3. I might just be plain lazy and so somehow manage to turn a six day job into a 24 year job.
4. I might need to take a long time in order to make sure the work is of sufficient quality.
5. I might have some other purpose for having taken 24 years, when I could easily have done it much quicker.
Now of all these possibilities all apply to men, but only the last one might apply to God. Though the volume of work, unforeseen impediments, laziness and the issue of quality might be factors in the length of time it would take me to build my enclosure, all Christians would agree that none of these things would be factors for God in the creation of the Heavens and the Earth. The amount of work involved was no obstacle to God, nor could anything have impeded Him in the process. It goes without saying that laziness, whilst applying to men, does not and could not apply to God, and it also goes without saying that the quality issue is not a factor with God, and He could have produced a Universe of the same perfect quality no matter what time period He took to complete it. In other words, there was nothing whatsoever that could have prevented Him from finishing His creation in a nanosecond, six days or 13 billion years – whatever He willed to do.
Which leaves us with only the final possibility – that of having some other purpose for taking time to finish a job. With men, it is difficult to think of a single reason why anyone, given the option of building an enclosure such as the one described above in 6 days or 24 years, would deliberately choose to do it in 24 years. That would make little sense. If a man were just as able to produce work of excellent quality, whether it took him 6 days or 24 years, why would he choose the 24-year option? Furthermore, if his purpose in creating the enclosure was because he wanted to give it to his son as a gift, wouldn’t it be odd if he deliberately chose to take 24 years to complete it rather than six days?
Now someone might conceivably use this very point to question why God would have created in six days, rather than a nanosecond. After all, He could have finished it all in a nanosecond if He had wanted to. There is, however, a very good reason why this was so, since His purpose was to give the world as a gift to man to tend and keep. The six days of work and one day of rest sets a pattern for how men are to live, worship and take dominion over that gift. This is clearly seen in the reason given for keeping the 4th commandment: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
But what good reasons exist why God might have chosen to create in 13 billion years rather than six days? If I am to take the claims of theistic evolution seriously, what I want to know is why He would have done it this way and not done it that way.
Arguments for or against theistic evolution are usually discussions of whether the word Day (Yom) must be taken literally, or what “the rocks” say, or whether evolution undermines the foundation of the gospel itself. These arguments have been covered very ably by others, but what I want to do is to come at the issue from a different angle. My question is simply this: If God could have made the Heavens and the Earth and all that in them is in six days, what arguments from scripture and from the purposes of God are there to support the idea that He actually decided to take billions of years and evolutionary processes to do so? In other words, why would He do it like that?
In order to test the claims of those who affirm theistic evolution, we must begin by asking the following question: what is God’s overarching creational purpose? Revelation 4:11 supplies us with the answer to this: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created.” In other words, God’s purpose in creating all things was to bring glory and honor to himself.
There are essentially two ways that God gets glory from his creation. One is from the very fact of his creation itself being wonderful and reflecting his glory. There is a sense in which even if there were not one single believer on planet Earth, the creation would still praise Him and He would still be glorified. The Psalms are particularly rich in descriptions of God’s natural order praising Him, for instance verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 148: “Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” But although the creation can and does praise Him, by virtue of their being glorious and reflecting His glory, is this the praise that God ultimately seeks?
Imagine that Beethoven had premiered his 5th Symphony to an empty concert hall and so at the end there was complete silence. Would the lack of people to applaud the piece diminish it at all or call into question the genius of its composer? Of course not! The music is glorious regardless of whether anyone actually listens to it or applauds.
In much the same way, God’s creation exalts Him and brings Him glory irrespective of whether there exists another being to acknowledge it. Days 1 to 5 of Genesis – prior to the creation of man – are all described as good. But just as Beethoven’s intention was never just to create a symphony and have it played to an empty concert hall, God’s intention was never to create the world and leave it without a creature to praise and thank Him for it. Beethoven’s 5th is great, regardless of who listens to it, but how much more glorious does the piece become when an audience is there to hear and gives a standing ovation at the end? By the same token, God’s creation is glorious, regardless of who is there to appreciate it, yet how much more is God glorified when He receives the praise of angels and men?
His overarching purpose was therefore to create a being that was not only made in His own image, but also capable of and willing to give Him glory. The Westminster Shorter Catechism famously begins with the question “What is the chief end of man” and gives the answer, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This can be flipped on its head to become “What was God’s purpose in creating man? That He might be glorified and that man might share in His happiness.” That, in a nutshell, is why God made us and therefore why we here. We are to reflect his glory in everything we do, we are to enjoy Him and the gifts He gives us, and we are to return praise and thanksgiving to Him in our worship. This fits perfectly into the six days of work and one day of rest worship paradigm, where the pattern for our lives is established and ordered. But how does this fit in with the paradigm given by theistic evolution?
Theistic evolution assumes that it took billions of years for the earth to even exist, yet alone inhabited. Yet this is at variance with Isaiah, who says that “the Lord did not create the Earth in vain”, but rather “formed it to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18). If God’s purpose for the Earth was for it to be inhabited by men, and that it would be vain not to be inhabited by them, what possible reason would He have had to leave it uninhabited for so long?
Genesis 1:26-28 is clear that the whole purpose of the created order was that it was a gift for His image bearer who was to be given charge over it. If this was the purpose of God’s creation, what possible reasons would He have had to put this off for something like 13 billion years?
The scriptures plainly teach that God’s purpose for man was not only to bear and reflect his image, but also to praise him in his worship: “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all your marvellous works” (Psalm 9:1). If this is God’s purpose for man, what possible reasons would he have had to defer receiving praise for billions of years?
God’s purposes and His glory simply cannot be reconciled with the theistic evolution paradigm. To come back to the original analogy I used earlier, if my purpose was to create an enclosure and to give it to my son, so that he might tend it and return to give me thankfulness, in what way would I be achieving my purpose if I deliberately took 24 years to complete it when I could have finished it in six days? How then was God’s creational purpose and His glory fulfilled if he took 13 billion years and a multitude of dead animals along the way, when he could have done it all in six days and minus the carnage?
Furthermore, where is man’s dignity in all of this? Psalm 8 states that man is crowned with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5). In the six day creational paradigm, it is easy to see why this is so. The Earth was made for man and given to him as a gift. He was then given responsibility for it and God “made him to have dominion over the works of his hands” (Psalm 8:6). The theistic evolution paradigm robs man of this highly exalted position for over 99% of the history of the creation, and for billions of years the Earth was apparently left to its own devices, without a dominion taker and without one bearing the Imago Dei.
In conclusion, a straightforward reading of the Genesis account clearly suggests that God finished the Heavens and the Earth, including His image bearer, in a period of six days. This entirely accords with God’s purpose in creating all things – that He might receive glory and honor. The onus is therefore on those who advocate theistic evolution to show from the scriptures and from the purposes of God why and how He would have used billions of years of slow graduated changes, without mankind to glorify Him, in order to bring this about. My contention is that theistic evolution is not only incompatible with the straightforward Genesis narrative, it also misses the entire purpose God had for His creation. As far as theories go, it falls well short of His glory.