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Creationism and Fossils 2

QUESTION: Creationism and Fossils - God and Man


Those who desire to identify the world we just described with a "very good" creation, must be willing to incorporate some drastic changes in their interpretation of God's Word. Their view on the past must be reconstructed, as well as their view on paradise, the notion of what is good, but also their ideas about the present, the future, and the character and nature of God Himself.

For such a view also changes our view on the present: is nature, our present earth, a creation under a curse, "subjected to frustration," or is this the "very good creation" as originally intended and created by God? That is quite a difference. When major natural disasters strike, many ask: how could God allow this to happen? Is the answer: "Well, that's all part of His good creation; this reveals God's greatness and goodness," or is it a result of the fall of man into sin? When animal species go extinct, do we respond by saying this already happened during the creation of this world? Or are we touched by the loss of yet another piece of God's beautiful creation?

Of course our understanding of God Himself will change as well. How can we get to know God? What is "very good" in His own eyes? In fact, the concept of long creation eras makes Him the cause of evil in nature and in the animal kingdom, while He Himself says He is touched even by the fate of animals: ‘Shouldn'’t I be concerned for Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred twenty thousand persons... and also much cattle?’ (Jonah 4:11). Note that these are the animals that would have died in a judgment on the city.

And what will our future look like? When God will restore the world and bring the new heaven and the new earth, how "good" will it be? These are major theological issues.

Creationism and Fossils - The Age of Mankind.
But there is another problem. According to standard geology, the first people appeared around 500,000 years ago. Those who assume mainstream geological dating methods must not only stretch the days of creation, but also the era of mankind itself. By adding the ages in the genealogies in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11, we find that the creation of the world occurred around 6000 years ago. Of course one can leave the possibility open that only the most important of the patriarchs are mentioned in Genesis and that others lived in between. But even in that case earth could not be older than some 10,000 to 15,000 years. How should we read these genealogies to end up with half a million years? They have to be stretched to incredulous levels!

Creationism and Fossils - The Global Flood.
The next problem of the concept of long creation eras is related to the global flood. According to mainstream science there are no traces of a global deluge in the top layers of the earth, after the appearance of man. But this is a strange conclusion for two reasons. First, it is strange to imagine the flood as a calm stream without any geological consequences. This is entirely contradictory to what the Bible tells us about the flood: the windows of heaven were opened and the fountains of the deep burst open, the mountains were covered by water. An incredible force of natural violence! Does this mean the flood was just a local flood instead? In that case it would have been pointless to save the animals that were brought into the ark. And if mankind had been around for at least 200,000 years already, we can assume there were people all over the earth by this time. This means that a local flood would most certainly not have destroyed all sinful people on the earth, as was God's intention (Genesis 6:13; 7:21,23). Furthermore, God's promise to never flood the earth again would have been broken multiple times since Noah's flood. We have witnessed many disastrous regional floods since this global flood. So if one views the creation days as creation periods in which the fossil bearing layers of the earth were formed, it is necessary to minimize the Biblical narrative of Noah's flood. This is contradictory to 2 Peter 3:5-7, in which Peter compares the destruction on the day of judgment with the global flood. It is obvious Peter is talking about the entire planet when he says “...and it was also by water, the water of the flood, that the old world was destroyed.”.

Secondly, it is strange to connect the fossil bearing layers to the long creation eras instead of the global flood, since the most striking characteristic of the lower formations of these layers is that they show exactly those features one would expect from a global flooding catastrophe. The continents are covered with thick layers of sand, limestone, and clay. These layers were deposited from the deep seas onto the land masses in vast avalanches of mud. So it is exactly these lower layers that display the characteristics of a fully destructive, worldwide flood as described by the Bible in the days of Noah.

Creationism and Fossils - The Historicity of the Fall of Man.
Thus far, we have only discussed problems related to the supposed age of the earth's layers. But, Christian scientist who assume long creation periods usually also accept the theory of evolution.1 Most often they believe in "theistic" evolution, i.e. an evolution guided by God. But Darwin has already shown that murderous competition, extinctions and indescribable suffering are integral parts of macro-evolution. The biggest problem of course pertains to the creation, or evolution, of man. Did we humans evolve from apelike ancestors, with their animal instincts, through gradual changes? That would mean that the first two people, Adam and Eve, were not created in God's image; there were intermediate people groups instead.2 And that would mean we were not created as sinless people either, according to His image. And thus God Himself is made the cause not only of death and suffering, as we mentioned earlier, but also of evil and sin. In that case God created man "very bad" and man did not have any other choice than to sin! Doesn't that create a God who is unworthy of our worship? Using the concept of theistic evolution, the unique consequences of Genesis 3:14-20 become null and void. The contemplations of Paul about the fallen state of nature as a consequence of man's fall into sin in Romans 8:20-22 becomes meaningless, as does his comparison between the first and the second Adam in Romans 5:12-19. So theistic evolution causes the entire structure of Christian theology to shift and eventually to collapse like a house of cards.

Creationism and Fossils - The Creation Day.
Now that we have discussed all these problem areas, is it possible to say anything at all about the length of the creation days? It is my opinion that these should be regarded as "ordinary" days.

The "day" is accurately described in Genesis 1. It is typified by a sequence of light, the day, and darkness, the night3, and an evening and a morning in between. This is the "ordinary day" that we all know from experience. This is emphasized by the use of cardinal numbers, which would not be meaningful when describing periods of undetermined length. Also, periods or eras can be described using different Hebrew words, such as the multiple of "days" ("in those days") or "olam" or "qedem". But a geological era can hardly be described by centuries of light, followed by centuries of darkness. Plants and animals would not be able to survive such an era! So was this "ordinary" day the same as a "24 hour day"? This question is not meaningful, since it depends on the definition of an hour.4 What is important, is that regardless of the definition of time, the eras claimed by mainstream science are impossible.

So there is no indication in the text whatsoever to assume long periods of time. On the contrary; this conflicts with the clear intention of Genesis 1. God wants to show us that it is Him who created this world, the reality that is known to us. Do you see the skies above you? The land you walk on, the animals around you, the green plants and trees? All those I have created, just like the light you see around you, the day, and the darkness that follows, the night.

The creation narrative tells us that there was no sun during the first three days. Is it still possible that this portion of the text is speaking of "ordinary" days? Yes it is, because the sun is not mentioned as a requirement for the "day:" light and darkness are the requirement. The same words are used for night and day. So we can follow the exegetical rule that the things that are known and clear will explain the things that are not clear. It is therefore my opinion that we have clear exegetical reasons to interpret the creation days as "ordinary" days.

Creationism and Fossils - Conclusion.
My conclusion is the following: the concept of long creation periods, in which geological history has unfolded, causes huge exegetical and theological problems. More is at stake than just the length of the creation days. We cannot be satisfied with an attitude that asks no more than "oh well, six days or six millennia, what does it matter?" Why not? Because the issue is related to our understanding of what God calls "very good," and with that our understanding of a "very good" creation, what we consider normal in the present and what we can expect in the future. It is related to the historicity of paradise, the fall of man and its consequences. Therefore we must reject the concept of long creation eras purely based on Biblical grounds.

This conclusion has two consequences. The first consequence is that the fossil bearing layers of the earth were not created during the creation days. This eliminates the need to interpret the creation days in Genesis 1 as long periods of time. We can read the text as it is: the creation days are days of (approximately) 24 hours. The second consequence is that the development of the earth, as revealed by the fossil bearing layers, must have taken place after the fall of man.

These consequences raise questions pertaining to science and the geological timescale. This will be discussed in a third article about Creationism and science. But first I would like to discuss the concept of a young earth in greater detail. What does this mean, a "very good" creation? Isn't it overly naive to believe that there were no predators, no death and no suffering prior to the fall of man?

Learn More about Creationism and the Fall of Man!

[1] Another viewpoint is that of progressive creationism, i.e. the order of the fossils in the earth's layers represent created worlds that were created by God in a subsequent sequence and were made to disappear after long time intervals.
[2] Some people still want to consider a literal Adam and Eve. They say that God called Adam and Eve out of a large group of people, which had been inhabiting the earth for thousands of years, to set them apart in the Garden of Eden. Then He created them to be in His image.
[3] Some phrase this carefully and speak of "God's workdays" (amongst others Professor H. Bavinck). J.D. Van Loon ponders the question if God's definition of "day" is anchored in human perception of time (De Reformatie Vol. 84 nr. 47, September 10, 2009). Others contend that God's creative work transcends our understanding, so we can't make any statements about creation at all. Of course this is true for God's creative activity, but not for the results thereof. The Bible does not speak of plants or stars we cannot comprehend, nor of a day we cannot comprehend.
[4] Is it the division of the day in 24 units, corresponding to the rotation of the earth? Has the rotational speed of earth always been the same? Is this an absolute constant, determined by the atomic clock? Would an atomic clock always have run at the same speed?

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