Creation part 3

Suffering in creation.

Some Christians say God wouldn’t use such a raw and brutal system as creation through the agency of evolution. Such an argument never works because all origins explenations contain a great deal of brutality just as eschatology beliefs and just like the historical accounts. But they might base this on the teaching of Augustine, that all death and suffering on earth is man’s fault. When Adam fell in Eden, it not merely the ground he worked with that became cursed, the work with the ground a hardship with thorns and thistles as we read in Genesis 3:17-19, it was the whole World, his descendants and all created Things. But I think the many millions of years of plant and animal evolution was hardly just a constant bloodbath but contained like life today beauty and ugliness, joy and suffering. Also in all recorded human history cruelty along with beauty has abounded. How does the Bible address this? The following is not easy, in fact I would say like John Piper when he try to explain the dark implications of the Calvinist doctrines of double predestination and God’s Sovereign control; this is difficult. But I believe this is what the Bible says.

In no particular order:

1. God is almighty and in control with the World affairs:

Daniel 4:35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”

Acts 4:27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

Ephesians 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

2. There are Desires in man that conflicts with the good will of God, yet it does not stop God’s plan:

Genesis 6:12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

Revelation 17:17 For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

3. Ultimately, it was not Adam and Eve that subjected the World to suffering. The Bible says:

Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

Only God can subject the creation in hope.. God is behind a grand plan we can’t always comprehend but which indeed has a glorious end.

4. In the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Creator became a son subject to suffering. He learned obedience through suffering, as does the saints also, and this on the path to becoming a new creation:

Hebrews 5:7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

So mankind is to learn from the collected experience of sin and suffering. Creation is subjected for the sake of this plan.

5. Our ignorance when our understanding is compared to God’s. It seems, and that is all you can use philosophy to, that trying to understand God’s ways could be likened to trying to explain a teaching to another animal, whether ant or chimpanzee. However considering Paul’s awareness of God’s love, this is what he must have had well in mind when saying the following that is often interpreted so harshly:

Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Spurgeon, at once a preacher of the hard doctrines of Calvinism and a preacher reaching out to many denominations, is famous for saying these Words concerning our limited understanding of the most difficult questions;

God is too good to be unkind and he is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace his hand, we must trust his heart.

Our mind is given rest, we rely on our faith, a gift from God.

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

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Creation part 1

Science today makes it possible to estimate the age of the universe to be 13,77 billion years old and the age of the earth 4,53-4,58 billion years old. Science can also demonstrate through verifiable methods that all natural life evolved ever since the dawn of organic matter. Reaching this understanding has been a gradual process since the dawn of the Scientific Revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries. Science has no holy answer book, but makes hypothesis validated by emperical evidence.

In 1862 Lord Kelvin used the science of his day to calculate the earth’s age to 98 million years and this was accepted by many conservative Christians. With the mysterious beginning of Genesis 1 speaking of an empty and void earth (gap theory) and understanding that ‘day’ in the Bible does not have to be 24 hours literally, a very old earth is reconciable with the creation text and does not bring into question commonly accepted core doctrines like evolution theory later did according to the opinion of many. Man could still be created 6,000 years ago and dinosaurs millions of years ago, all directly by God’s hand. Many Christians accepting the old earth, also believed in the local flood theory or a purely figurative flood as science showed that a global flood could not have happened. There is no geological evidence, despite the claims of pseudoscience and flood myths found all over the World (just as dragon myths etc.). But this was not known before sciencitific geology. To the ancient church fathers the global flood had a powerful theological message; all the other gods people worshipped all over the earth were powerless against it. They had no other origins account but the biblical perceived through their “glasses”. But due to geology science, the creation record was reinterpreted and Bible faith found to be reconciable with the new science.

To the point that the flood could be local according to the Bible. It’s an indirect support I see, and I think the flood account in itself is open to both a global flood and a local flood.

When we read about “the earth” in the Bible today, we tend to think of the planet earth. This is because of our modern science. But the ancient Biblical “cosmic geography” was more restricted and sometimes this is seen clearly. Granted when we read that God created the earth, we have no reason to put any limits on it. There are much fewer Words in biblical Hebrew than in modern languages, and we must therefore consider the context. Examples where the earth – or another cosmic term – clearly isn’t the Whole planet / earth in modern sense:

Deuteronomy 2:24 “‘Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and engage him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
Habakkuk 1:6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.
Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

To the point that ‘day’ in the Bible does not have to be 24 hours literally, consider some examples:

God’s rest day is very long:
Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Hebrews 4:3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ”although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”

Israel’s 40 years in the desert “day”:
Hebrews 3:8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness,

The day of salvation is very long:
2 Corinthians 6:2 2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— 7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

Why? Because the Bible uses a lot of figurative language. The anti-symbolism claim of the fundamentalists that the Bible “Means what it says” (in their warped literal definition) is ignorant and since it creates false understanding and slavery, we should not be silent.

One of the first Christian writings accepting the early science revolution came from the influencial reformer John Calvin. In 1554, John Calvin had his huge Genesis Commentaries published. Among his comments to Genesis chapter 1, we find:

Moses describes the special use of this expanse, “to divide the waters from the waters,” from which words arises a great difficulty. For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels ; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the World. He who would learn astronomy,” and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach all men without exception ; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned.’The things, therefore, which he relates, serve as the garniture of that theatre which he places before our eyes. Whence I conclude, that the waters here meant are such as the rude and unlearned may perceive. The assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance respecting them, is not in accordance with the design of Moses”.

By the rude and the unlearned, he refers to those not knowing the latest science of his day. So Calvin is being very progressive and visionary concerning issues that would later become very talked of and important. But such a knowledge was not and is not required to understand the creation record. Men ignorant of science ever since Moses can understand and apppriciate this record. As Calvin knows, it is not scientifically true that there is a sea above the earth. But ancient man could relate to it. God kept Water up there to let it rain and so God could also flood the earth later. The theological point is that:

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

In 1855, the famous preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon expressed Classic Old Earth Creationism in his sermon “The power of the Holy Ghost”:

“But if you will look in the first chapter of Genesis, you will see there more particularly set forth that peculiar operation of power upon the universe which was put forth by the Holy Spirit; you will then discover what was his special work. In Ge 1:2, we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” We do not know how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be—certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God”.

In part 2 we will look at the implications of evolution science on creation and the Christian faith.