3: The Freedom And Limitation In Cosmogony As Set By The Bible

The keyword to keep in mind in this section as Schaeffer will be sure to remind you is "possibilities."  Since none of us lived in the ancient past, and since we are so poor at passing down information to the next generation, we can only ponder and contemplate days of yore.  I've started learning about being a family historian.  I'm highly doubting I will know anything of my family 200 years ago let alone a millennium or two ago.  

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

As seen at ecologyprime.com
I am reviewing No Final Conflict by Francis Schaeffer to assess its impact on Christianity amid current discussions about Jewish supremacy. Does this book lead Christians towards a blend of Judaism and Christianity, or does it deepen their understanding of Christianity itself? 

I question the use of the term Judeo-Christian, equating it with Zionism, a sect many Christians find alluring but I find harmful (Proverbs 14:12). Unlike these zealots, I seek God based on truth revealed by Him as stated in Romans 10:1-2 and Proverbs 24:5-6.  We've been warned about the way to life abundant; there is only one way. (John 10:10; Matthew 7:26-27).

Finally, I want to know how God formed a people into a nation.  I look at the elements of nationhood. I am skeptical of America's shift since the 1960s towards being a melting pot. America abandoned foundational principles for globalism and multiculturalism, which harm nation, family, and individual. Drawing parallels with the Exodus story, I stress the importance of remembering our history to avoid passing on a harmful legacy to our children. After all, our children ask for bread and deserve bread, not the snake we have created and are about to pass on to them (Matthew 7:9-10).

With these thoughts in mind, I invite you to study along.  To go to the beginning of this series click here.  To join me in this study on Gab click here.

The Freedom and Limitation in Cosmogony as Set by the Bible

We come now to the possible freedoms which the Bible gives us as we consider the cosmos. I will name seven. I am not saying that any of these points will ultimately prove to be the case. I simply want to point out what freedoms the Scripture gives us as we consider what the general revelation is saying about cosmogony.

In Genesis in Space and Time, Chapters 7 and 8, I consider the question of the genealogies in Genesis. The fact that the genealogies are not chronologies gives us a definite freedom in regard to dating; but this is different from the possible freedoms I speak of in the present chapter. In the present chapter I am speaking of freedoms which may be possible, and nothing beyond that.

1. There is a possibility that God created a “grown-up” universe. For example, Adam, the first night he existed, might have seen the light of the furthest stars without waiting for long light years to pass before they could be seen.

To this possibility, we must quickly add one note. This does not mean that God is capricious. And surely it does not imply, and I would totally reject, the concept Bishop Samuel Wilberforce [1805 – 1873] suggested at Oxford in Darwin’s time: that God created the fossils in the earth in order to fool fools. This is totally out of character with the God of the Bible.

However, just because it was stated so horribly in the days of Darwin is no reason not to suggest that God may have in some sense and in some areas created a grown-up universe. One could ask, for example, whether the trees when they were created had rings.

It should be noted that if God created a grown-up universe, this would throw off those who extend the cause-and-effect universe as it is now backwards to the beginning, as though the beginning must be uniform with that which is the case now.

2. There is a possibility that there is a break between Genesis 1:1 and 2, or 1:2 and 3, and that from that point on the Bible is speaking of a reforming of a partially disordered creation rather than the original creation. This has often been related to Satan’s fall. If this were so, it would give more time, although it seems to me that since the genealogies were not meant to be chronologies there is no problem of needing time.

The weakness of this idea as it is sometimes presented as a dogma is that there are no supporting verses for it in the rest of the Bible. It seems to me that the verses often cited really do not refer to it. Therefore, this must be seen as being only a hypothesis. Nevertheless, it does remain a theoretical possibility, and that is all I am setting forth in this list.

2a. I label this point 2a because, though it is not necessarily related to the way possibility 2 is usually presented, yet there is a relationship between it and possibility 2. This idea relates to the writing of C. S. Lewis, especially in his books Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. Lewis sets forth the concept that Satan ruled the earth before the creation of man. Then Satan revolted against God and this caused the earth to be abnormal, to become, as Lewis expressed it, “the silent planet.”

Notice what this presents as a possibility. Satan ruled the earth, and, by his revolt, he caused the death of the animals. In other words, the abnormality of the world and specifically the death of the animals came before the fall of Adam. This would, of course, bear on such a subject as dinosaur bones. (I must say in passing that I am not at all convinced it has been proven that the dinosaurs became extinct prior to the advent of man. As one thinks of, for example, the fossilized footsteps of man in-situ along with the dinosaur tracks in Paluxy, Texas, one can ask whether scientists would not have used this as evidence that man lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, were it not for the fact that it contradicts their own theory.)

While there are no verses to support this view of Lewis’, one does find in Isaiah 14:16, 17 something that may bear upon it: “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man who made the earth to tremble, who did shake kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness?” If one takes Isaiah 14 as referring to the fall of Satan as well as to Nebuchadnezzar, then the phrases “who made the earth to tremble” and “who made the world as a wilderness” could possibly refer to Lewis’ suggestion. I do not think that tying this into Lewis’ position is at all strong, but remember we are only talking about possibilities.

If Lewis’ position is the case, then man was put in a prepared garden in a spoiled universe and the statement “have dominion” (Gen. 1:28) takes on added depth. The phrase “and ye shall die” also appears in a different light because it would mean that death already existed. Adam’s failure then would have caused an added curse in the areas specifically stated in the Bible itself. The book of Revelation in 16:18 does say, “And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth.” This could indicate that there were tremendous actions on the earth prior to the advent of man, which someone might conceivably stretch to apply to Lewis’ position.

3. There is a possibility of a “long day” in Genesis 1. The only way to determine what the word day means in Genesis is to study the way the word is used elsewhere in the Hebrew. If one takes the position that the word day refers to a “long day,” that is very different from saying that one can make Genesis mean anything one wants it to mean or that Genesis 1 is saying nothing. It is simply a question of what the Hebrew word day means.

In studying such questions, it is a rule that one looks for another use of the word by the same author and one as close as possible to the passage being considered. It is therefore significant that in Genesis 2:4 the word day covers the entire span of the creation of the heavens and the earth. And in Genesis 5:2 the word day is also used as a period of time rather than as a twenty-four-hour span. That text says, “Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” From the first two chapters of Genesis, it seems quite clear that Adam and Eve were not created in the same twenty-four-hour period. It is unfortunate that the New International Version does not use the word day in these passages. The word used in the Hebrew is the same word used for “day” in Genesis 1.

Of course we can also think of 2 Peter 3:8—“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” This verse perhaps bears on the possibility of a long day, but we cannot in any way base a dogmatic statement on it. A much more important verse is Psalm 90:4—“For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” The reason this passage is important is that this psalm is attributed to Moses, and therefore it would have special bearing upon the Genesis passages. Isaiah 2:11 and 17 should also be added here: “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Isaiah 2:17 repeats, “and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.”) It is apparent that day is not a span of twenty-four hours, but a period of time.

To these biblical considerations has to be added the problem which arises from the scientific side, the problem of radiological dating. Scientists accept the uniformity of the emission of radiological material; but they accept this, I think, by faith, in that they have taken what we know about regularity of emission for a very, very short time and have extended it back for billions of years. This is a tremendous projection, especially when one can theoretically imagine things that could change the rate through the years.

Remember we are only speaking of possibilities regarding the length of day. But if one did accept the concept of a long day, this would not imply that he would automatically subscribe to the modern scientific concept of an extremely old earth.

If anyone wonders what my own position is, I really am not sure whether the days in Genesis 1 should be taken as twenty-four hours or as periods. It seems to me that from a study of the Bible itself, one could hold either position.

4. There is a possibility that the flood affected the geological data. One does not have to go as far as to say that all the geological strata were caused by the flood in order to say that if the flood is what the Bible seems to indicate it was, it would very possibly have caused extensive geological disruption. In this case, therefore, certain things about the strata would be the result of the flood, and this would have to be taken into consideration.

5. The fifth possibility turns upon the use of the word kinds in Genesis 1. For example, Genesis 1:11 says, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind.…” One must notice that this is the simple Hebrew word for kind, and it is not necessarily to be equated with the modern scientific word species. It is conceivable, therefore, that there could have been changes beyond little horses becoming big horses. Specifically, it is conceivable that changes could have occurred in the range of the species themselves without conflicting with this word kind.

6. The sixth possibility concerns the question of the death of animals before the Fall. I am not now linking this with C. S. Lewis’ exposition. Rather, from the Bible’s own presentation one can raise the possibility of the natural death of animals before the Fall. In other words, one can suggest that there is a distinction to be made between animals dying in what I would call the chase, killed by others, and animals merely dying. This, of course, would bear upon the fact that there then would be fossils from before the time of the Fall.

If we watch a dog die in a warm chimney corner, there is no struggle. It is like a leaf falling from a tree. The depth psychologists are right, I think, in stressing that animals show no fear of nonbeing, no fear of death. One could think of there being natural cycles for the animals, up to all that does not include man, with death not by the chase and not in agony or fear.

No one is troubled by the thought of a tree dying naturally. Possibility 6 would mean that plants were eaten before the Fall, but that conscious life was not, and there was no cruelty. Nature would not be “red in tooth and claw” prior to the Fall of man.

Isaiah 65:25 bears interestingly upon this. Speaking of the return of Christ, it describes the earth after His coming like this: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock, and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” Looking over this entire section in Isaiah, one finds no reason to say that there will be no death in that time of Christ’s reign upon the earth. But the Bible does say that there will be no cruelty, no death because of the chase.

We should note that 1 Corinthians 15:21 does not bear on this discussion. It reads, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” It seems to me that this clearly is talking about the death of man and the future resurrection of men from the dead. There is no note in the Bible that animals will be raised from the dead.

Remember, all we are speaking of is that which are bare possibilities.

7. Only the word bara must mean an absolute new beginning.

There are three places in Genesis 1 where bara is used in contrast to two other formulations. The first of these other formulations is the word made (asah). The second formulation is let (yehi) such and such come forth—for example, in Genesis 1:3, “And God said, Let there be light.” The word bara is used in only three places: (1) for the original creation out of nothing, (2) for the creation of conscious life—that is, in contrast to plants, and (3) for the creation of man. As a matter of fact, in Genesis 1:27 the word is repeated three times as though for emphasis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” It seems possible to consider that there is a distinction between the places where bara is used and the places where the more general words make and let are used.

I list this matter of bara as a freedom because in the other places where bara is not used, there is a theoretical possibility of a sequence rather than an absolute new beginning.

To conclude this section, I urge you again to remember that I am not saying that any of these positions are my own or that they wiII prove to be the case. I am simply stating theoretical possibilities as we consider the correlation between what the Bible sets forth about cosmogony and what we can study from general revelation.

Questions & Notes

One thought on “3: The Freedom And Limitation In Cosmogony As Set By The Bible”

  1. There is a world of opinion on origins. This site covers many of the things I have heard.

    Whether you are a young-earth creationist or an old-earth creationist, most will agree that the earth appears to be very old. Let us look at the arguments and evidence for young-earth creation.
    Copied on 2024-02-06 from IBSS – The Bible and Science – How Old is the Earth

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