Compromise and the Faith
1. The discovery of the colored peoples by the Caucasian Christian West in the 16th century caused some to doubt that the Genesis Flood had been universal since the only family on the Ark were surely Caucasion! Later, at the time of the Industrial Revolution and during the search for coal and minerals, it was realized that rocks appeared in layers or stratum, each of different composition from those layers above and below. It was correctly concluded that these strata had originally been sediment in water and they were thus called "sedimentary rocks." However, it was difficult to conceive how one flood, namely the Genesis Flood, had been responsible for all these different strata. It seemed more reasonable to suppose that each stratum was the result of a local flood, thus multiple layers indicated multiple local floods. The Greeks had proposed that life had begun on earth in very simple form and had gradually become more complex with time but they had no mechanism to explain it. History had to wait for Charles Darwin to explain the progression of life in 1859. The fossils in almost every stratum turned out to be sea creatures and most predominent were the shells of crustaceans i.e. clams, barnacles etc However, there was never any sign of progression from simple to complex. Occasionally, the fossils of mammals and rarely of birds and even man would be found but never in a recognizable order. Those in the organized search for order in nature imposed their own belief system and in the hey day of the 19th century, that belief system was Darwin’s evolution. As it became more impossible to believe the Genesis account of one world-wide flood, it became easier to believe that each local flood had preserved within its sediments the remains of those creatures living at the time of that flood. Multiple local floods required that the land itself sink and rise a multiple number of times beneath the surface of the ocean for flooding to occur. This was said to take millions of years since there was no evidence that entire continents had actually risen and fallen. Obviously, the sea level could not rise and fall or there would have been a universal flood. Theologians confronted with this kind of data began to compromise with various theories so that both Scripture and geology could be true. They were unaware then that sediments do drop out of flowing water in a very specific order giving rise to the strata precisely as we find them.
2. The Gap or Ruin and Reconstruction Theory. Dr. Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was evangelical professor of theology at Edinburgh. In 1812 he proposed a gap of as many millions of years as the geologist may want between Genesis 1:2 and 1:3 for which the Bible was essentially silent. He argued that initially there had been a Pre-Adamic world that had been destroyed by a flood. The strata and fossils found today were the remains of this former world. The earth remained "unformed and unfilled" for millions of years then the Biblical account continues with the restored earth. Often not stated the Genesis Flood was local. The Gap Theory partly depends upon the KJV word "replenish" in Genesis 1:28 but this meant "fill" in 1769 and is correctly given as "fill" in modern translations. The key to the theory is the argument that the use of the Hebrew BARA (to create ex nihilo) and ASA (to make from pre-existing material) means a re-creation took place. Gesenius and other scholars point out that the two words are interchangeable in their context. Another proof text was Jeremiah 42:23-25 that uses the Hebrew words, TOHU WO BOHU, translated "without form and void" but the context is the destruction of Jerusalem, not the destruction of the early earth! The Gap Theory was promoted by G. H. Pember, the notes to the Scofield edition of the Bible (from 1909) and more recently by Dr. Arthur Custance and evangelists, Jimmy Swaggart and Benny Hinn.
3. The Day-Age Theory. The Scottish geologist, Hugh Miller (1802-1856), was familiar with the fossils, the rocks and with Scripture. He believed that Moses wrote the Pentateuch by revelation when he was on the mountain rather than simply being the editor who had received the carefully preserved documents. Miller argued that the days of creation were actually days that Moses spent on Mt. Sinai. He appealed to Numbers 14:34 and 2 Peter 3:8 but he became confused and in a fit of depression, shot himself on Christmas eve. His book, Testimony of the Rocks, appeared posthumously in 1857.
4. Theistic Evolution. This is the most popular belief among Christians and non-Christians today and essentially says that God used the process of evolution to bring about all living things. Sometimes referred to as the "God of the Gaps Theory" because the gaps in the fossil record are where God is supposed to have stepped in, there is a whole spectrum of beliefs within this category. However throughout, the meaning of Scripture is changed to accommodate the particular version of the theory while belief in evolution remains inviolate. Professor of botany, Asa Gray (1810-1888), was a Congregationalist and correspondent of Darwin and openly advised him to advocate theistic evolution because it would be more acceptable to Christians whereas naturalistic evolution would be rejected outrightly. Darwin refused because if God had any kind of guiding hand his theory of Natural Selection that depended upon random chance, would be nullified. Scottish Liberal evangelist Henry Drummond (1851-1897) and evangelists Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) and Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) in the US, vigorously promoted theistic evolution. We are reminded of Paul's warning about the "grievous wolves" entering the Church in Acts 20:29.
5. The Fourth Day Theory. Howard Van Till (1938- ), professor at Calvin College, recognizes that Genesis states that the earth was created on the first day while the sun, moon and stars were created on the fourth day. He claims that the first three days of creation each consisted of billions of years and only became 24-hour days after creation of the sun. His book, The Fourth Day, appeared in 1986. Here he states a universe of 15 billion years, denies a literal interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis (thus denies the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:4 or Mark 10:6) and rejects fiat creation; he argues that it would be deceptive on God's part to create Adam with an apparent age. This type of argument is simply the rejection of miracle by naturalism and, to be consistent, Van Till must also reject the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. Not until the reader is two-thirds through the book does Van Till confess to evolution as his belief system. Of course, this means that he can have no real understanding of the Fall of Man since he has millions of years of death and struggle before Adam, denies Romans 5:14, 17-19, and places the responsibility of death on God and is thus not a consequence of Adam's sin. This theory and the others also deny Exodus 20:11.
6. Progressive Creation. This is the brain-child of Hugh Ross who has a Ph.D. in astronomy from University of Toronto. His US ministry, Reasons to Believe, is very active among university students and his entire teaching is based upon evolution but vigorously denies this and rather cunningly avoids using the unwholesome word "evolution" by use of his term "Progressive Creation." His book The Finger of God, appeared in 1989 and he has appeared on most Christian TV talk shows. Ross's message perfectly fits Paul's "grievous wolves" warning and probably represents one of the greatest dangers to the North American Church today. His teaching is based upon the "blind-`em-with-science" and "hide-behind-the-Hebrew-words" technique; he shamelessly bends Hebrew words to his own meaning confident that not one in a thousand will challenge him. When cornered with a real language expert he will pour out scientific data well larded with specialist words from the more arcane avenues of nuclear physics or cosmology. Alternatively, when cornered by a real specialist in cosmology, he resorts to arguments from the Hebrew. Undoubtedly clever, Ross may even be Christian but like others before him he is doing untold harm to the Church of Jesus Christ. His main points of teaching are:
6a. Ross subscribes to the Big Bang Theory inspite of all its problems and states that the Universe is 15 billion years old.
6b. Ross teaches that the sun was created before the earth and argues that the Genesis account is from God's perspective on the surface of the earth under a heavy cloud layer that obscured the sun, moon and stars until day four.
6c. Ross claims the "days" of creation were really millions of years. What was God doing under the heavy cloud cover all this time? Days of millions of years makes nonsense of the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11), i.e. God's example to us is to work six days and rest on the seventh.
6d. Ross teaches that life has increased in complexity over the long history of the earth. However, by wordy argument and equivocation he leaves the reader with the impression that this is not evolution.
6e. Ross acknowledges the special creation of man but not on the sixth day and has man-like creatures without souls roaming the earth before Adam. In Ross's view these became the fossil ape-men. Interestingly, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel "Creation" scene depicts the moment when the soul of man was supposedly implanted into some "higher ape."
6f. Ross has millions of years of death and struggle before the Creation and Fall of man thus making God responsible for death and not Adam. This denies Genesis 3:19, Romans 5:14, 17-19 and Romans 8:20-21.
6g. A local Flood is always found with any kind of theistic evolution. Ross speaks about the Flood as "universal" but upon close questioning, he says it was, "only universal in the minds of the local people, the Israelites," he then admits it was geographically local. This not only makes Noah a fool to have built the Ark, but Jesus and Peter (Matthew 24:36-39 & 2 Peter 2:5) equally as foolish to believe the story while it makes God a liar according to His promise never to flood the earth again (Genesis 9:11).
6h. According to Ross, Scripture and Nature have equal authority. This idea runs throughout his teaching and he feels perfectly at ease to change the obvious meaning of Scripture to fit the latest cosmological theory. According to Jesus in John 3:12, the heavenly realm has the greater authority.
Conclusion: The Greek pagan philosophers living before Christ suggested various naturalistic explanations for the origin of the earth and every one required a very long time. Today, in the light of the Gospel and the good science that now supports the creation account, Christians who adopt a naturalistic explanation are even more accountable to God.