Creation, Creationism, and Evolution
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. We are looking at the Apostlesí Creed this summer. Last week we looked at the word Almighty; this morning we consider Creator of heaven and earth. When we discussed this topic at the Menís Prayer Breakfast last Thursday, Lloyd Hall started a sentence with, "I understand." Then, he reconsidered and said, "No, I donít understand, but I can talk about it!" When considering the origin of the galaxies and life on this planet, I, also, donít understand, but I can talk about it! As I often say, "I donít know much, but I do have opinions!"
As there is a great deal of confusion and controversy about creation, this morning I want to talk about Creation, Creationism, and Evolution. Creationism is the belief in a literal six twenty-four-hour-days creation. Fundamentalist Christians have developed a theory of Creationism and teach it diligently in Christian schools, in opposition to the theory of Evolution. The question that is confusing and controversial among Christians today is: Do you have to accept Creationism to be a biblical Christian? My answer is, "No, you do not have to believe that God created the world in six twenty-four-days in order to be a biblical Christian."
The next question asked is: Can you accept the theory of Evolution and still be a biblical Christian? My answer is, "Yes, the theory of Evolution and the Bible are not mutually exclusive." The theory (and note the word theory) of Evolution is the hypothesis that all living things are historically related through a common ancestry, and that higher forms of life have evolved by modifications of simpler forms, over eons of time. Christian evolutionists believe that God not only set the process of evolution in motion, but God created and is still creating by working in and through the process of evolution. What is important for a Christian to believe is that God is the creator. How God creates was not really a concern of the Bible. The Bible is a book of faith, not of science. We leave it to scientists to tell us how God created, knowing that theories change when evidence no longer fits the theory.
Creationism is based on the "belief that the proper method of interpretation is to take all Scripture in its natural and literal sense." But, as I said in the recent sermon on the Bible, biblical interpretation must take into account what literary form is being used. The first chapter of Genesis is a poem, and poems are not taken literally. Incidentally, the poem is not original with the Bible. It came from Babylonia. The second and third chapters of Genesisó the Adam and Eve storyó is a myth, again not to be taken literally. In fact, when you attempt to take the first three chapters of Geneses literally, you run into problems, because the poem and the myth do not agree. In the first chapter of Genesis, when God created, the earth was a formless void (chaos) and water. In the Adam and Eve myth, when God created, the earth was a desert. Also, another difference-- according to the poem in the first chapter of Genesis, humans were the last to be created. But, in the Adam and Eve myth, humans were the first to be created. Such are the problems you run into when you try to make poems and myths say things they donít mean!
What do they mean? In the next few minutes, I cannot say all there is to say; but, let me make two points. First, God is the creator. God alone is author. It is God who created and is creating. Godís creative word is the source of all being. Beware when people, beware when nations, beware when you act as if in charge. Psalm 33:8-9,
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
Many years ago, while Stalin was still alive, six hundred thousand people gathered in Leipzig for discussion and worship. The gathering took place near a communist building, in front of which stood a statue of Stalin. East German Bishop Hans Lilje reported that "right under Stalinís nose" Psalm 24 was read,
The earth is the Lordís and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it.
It is significant that it was a prayer meeting in Leipzig which led to the dissolution of communist East Germany, and the opening of the Berlin wall. The earth is not ours; it is the Lordís. When we act as if the earth is ours to do with as we please, we run into trouble. The meaning of life is not found in human designs, but in God. The purpose of life is not found in the creation, but in the Creator.
Secondly, God acts. God acted and God is acting. God is not a passive God. God, our Creator, did not create the world in one movement, or even six days, and then sit back to watch what happened. God is intricately involved in the process of creation. Last week, I used the words transcendence and immanence, outside and inside. When you overemphasize the transcendence of God, you are tempted to picture the Creator God outside creation, looking in. "From a distance, God is watching us," goes the popular song. How lonely and barren it must be to believe that God is outside, sending you trials and temptations, testing you, teaching you, and then watching to see how you do!
Yes, God is transcendent, but God is also immanent. God is within us, and God is within the ongoing process of creation. I prefer to emphasize immanence over transcendence. God is constantly at work, constantly acting in all that happens, constantly seeking to influence and redeem. What God is doing is fighting the forces of chaos.
According to the first chapter of Genesis, God did not start creating with nothing; God started with a formless void and raging waters. The Hebrew for formless void is tohu wabohu. Isnít that fun to say! But, what it stands for is not fun. Tohu wabohu is chaos. In the midst of the chaotic, raging waters, God placed dry flat land and a dome (called firmament in the King James Version.) If you take Genesis literally, the earth is not a sphere rotating in space! The earth is a flat piece of land with a dome over it. But, look at the imagery. In the midst of raging chaos is a dome keeping out the chaos.
We are surrounded by chaos. Ask a gardener what happens when you ignore the garden for a few weeks. The weeds take over! Chaos reigns. God is protecting us from chaos with the dome, but once in a while, the dome cracks and chaos creeps in. Chaos constantly threatens the goodness and the orderliness of the creation. Cancer is a striking picture of chaos, where cells get out of control. When chaos breaks through, disaster strikes, weeds take over, accidents happen, people are killed, deterioration sets in.
Have you noticed how the process of deterioration operates so much faster than the process of building up? Destruction is faster than construction. I knew a man who spent his life developing a business, pouring his sweat, toil and tears into it, and then left it to his son who ran it into the ground in a matter of months! Ecclesiastes 18:20-21, "So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity."
God, the Creator, is constantly battling with chaos, holding the dome in place, working, influencing, redeeming, bringing people back to the purpose of creation. God spoke the first word at creation, and God will have the last word because the earth is the Lordís.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
ã 1997 Douglas I. Norris