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Originally published in Creation 18(3):1, June 1996
Is the Book of Genesis simply the fallible work of humans?
I have heard this argument many times. I’ve been told by some theologians that because Genesis was written by humans, it (and the rest of the Bible) can’t be infallible. However, these same religious leaders tell me I have to accept evolution (man’s theories about origins) as scientific fact!
Think about that! These theologians say that because humans wrote the Bible, including the Book of Genesis, Scripture is just a human work, so Genesis cannot be taken literally. On the other hand, they claim that man’s evolutionary theories are scientific fact, and must be taken literally!
Man’s theories are the “human works.” The Bible itself claims it is not.They’ve got it the wrong way round! Man’s theories are the “human works.” The Bible itself claims it is not. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16); “because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Pastors, theologians, and other Christian leaders need to learn a lesson from the Scopes trial of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. At that time, the law stated that creation, and not evolution, was to be taught in public schools. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) convinced school teacher John Scopes to admit he had taught evolution (apparently he never had) so this law could be challenged in court. One aspect of this trial should stand as a warning to Christians who compromise with evolutionary ideas.
The ACLU lawyer had the testimony of a number of religious leaders read into the transcript of the trial. Read carefully just a few of these quotes.
To science and not to the Bible must man look for the answer to the question as to the process of man’s creation.
—Dr. Herbert E. Murkett, Pastor, First Methodist Church, Chattanooga.1
A correct understanding of Genesis shows that its account of creation is no more denied by evolution than it is by the laws of light, electricity and gravitation.
—Dr. Shailer Matthews, Dean of the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.2
There is no conflict, no least degree of conflict, between the Bible and the fact of evolution, but the literalist interpretation of the words of the Bible is not only puerile; it is insulting, both to God and human intelligence.
—Dr. Maynard M. Metcalf, researcher specializing in zoology, Johns Hopkins University.3
Genesis itself teaches that man is descended from a lower order of animals.
—Rabbi Dr. Herman Rosenwasser.4
These religious leaders were insisting that the so-called “science” of the day—the evolutionary theories—must cause us to reinterpret Genesis.
The ACLU also had leading scientists of the day put their testimonies concerning evolution into the transcript of the trial. Now, consider the “science” of the day which the theologians used to justify not taking Genesis literally:
The most ancient English human relic has been called the dawn man of Piltdown.
—Professor Horatio Hackett Newman, Zoologist, University of Chicago.5
Piltdown man? In 1953, Piltdown man was shown to be a fraud!
For example, such a vast chasm as the Grand Canyon is explained not as produced by miraculous creation or by sudden catastrophe, but by running water acting upon the rocks throughout innumerable centuries.
—Dr. Winterton C. Curtis, Zoologist, University of Missouri.6
But today, even secular geologists are proposing catastrophic ideas for the formation of the canyon.
The kind of evidence everywhere discoverable may be illustrated by the gill-slits in the embryos of higher vertebrates like reptiles, birds and mammals.
—Dr. Winterton C. Curtis, Zoologist, University of Missouri.7
This is part of the concept known as “embryonic recapitulation”, the idea that embryos retrace the stages of evolution as they develop. But this idea was thrown out at least 40 years ago.
There are, according to Wieder-sheim, no less than 180 vestigal [sic] structures in the human body. . . . Among these are the vermiform appendix.
—Professor Horatio Hackett Newman, Zoologist, University of Chicago.8
The idea that the human body had functionless structures left over from evolution was discarded years ago. Scientists now know that almost all of these 180 structures, including the appendix, have important functions.
The course of evolution of the horse family (Equidae) . . . One could hardly ask for a clearer or more conclusive story of evolution that this.
—Professor Horatio Hackett Newman, Zoologist, University of Chicago.9
But, as David Raup (Curator of Geology, Field Museum of Natural History) stated in 1979: “Some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information.”10 The classic horse evolution series that used to be so prevalent in science textbooks has now lost its authority.
Now here’s the important point—the so-called “scientific facts” that the theologians accepted in 1925 to insist that the Book of Genesis could not be taken literally, have mostly been thrown out by evolutionists themselves. Nevertheless, many theologians today still say Genesis can’t be taken literally. What is their reasoning for this? Consider the following quotes from well-known, modern-day, Christian leaders.
Dr. Pattle P.T. Pun, from the science department at Wheaton College, a well-known Christian college in America, believes in billions of years, that the days of creation were long periods of time, Noah’s Flood was a local event, and death of animals existed before sin.
Even so, Dr. Pun reveals what Genesis clearly says if you leave out “science:” “It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of the Genesis record, without regard to all of the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created heaven and earth in six solar days . . . that death and chaos entered the world after the Fall of Adam and Eve.”11
Note that Dr. Pun admits that a natural reading of Genesis means six literal days etc., but what he calls “science,” by which he means evolutionary theories, is used by him to reinterpret Genesis.
Theologian Gleason L. Archer has much the same approach as Pattle Pun. He also does not believe the six days of creation were six literal days, but he admits: “From a superficial reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twenty four-hour days . . . This seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago. . . . The more recently expanded knowledge of nuclear physics has brought into play another type of evidence which seems to confirm the great antiquity of the earth, that is, the decay of radioactive minerals.”12
As I researched commentaries and other Christian works that were primarily post-Darwinian in age, I found that the majority do not stand for a literal Genesis, but, their reasons are basically all the same—because of what they call “science,” by which they really mean evolutionary ideas. Writers like Charles Hodge, Davis Young, and Hugh Ross, like many of their contemporaries, all reinterpret Genesis because of information that comes from outside Scripture.
Now, remember what has happened to the so-called “scientific facts” from the Scopes trial of 1925. Theologians haven’t learnt the lesson—and the same things are happening to the so-called “scientific facts of evolution” in 1996. For instance, in an article about Charles Alexander that appeared in TIME magazine, we read:
In the years before he got into journalism, senior editor Charles Alexander taught science at two high schools in Tennessee. He told his students about early man and the origins of life and touched on the dinosaurs, “And just about everything I taught them” he says, “was wrong.”13
Recently, while in Washington, DC, I visited the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. One of the signs on the origin-of-man display stated:
A lot has happened since this exhibit opened in 1974. The science of human evolution is a fast-changing field. Much of the material here is now out of date. We’re developing a new exhibit based on the latest findings.14
There are numerous such quotes that show that the “science” (by which is meant evolutionary theories) which theologians insist must be used to reinterpret Genesis, is changing before our very eyes.
Again, these Christian leaders keep insisting that Genesis must be taken figuratively, but that man’s changing theories must be taken literally. They have it the wrong way round. This is a major reason why the influence of Christianity has been so weakened in our Western world—the church is giving the message that we need to trust in man’s theories—not the Word of God.
We need reformation in our church today, to call God’s people to repentance, and return to a trust in the infallible Word of God. Oh, how we need to echo the message God gave through the prophet Isaiah:
Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:22).
In other words “Stop trusting in man.” The natural, straightforward reading of Genesis is exactly what God says and means!
Let’s start getting it the right way round!
The film and play Inherit the Wind is regarded by some audiences and reviewers as a historical account of the 1925 Scopes trial. While sections of Inherit the Wind have been taken verbatim from the trial transcript, the severe distortions make it an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of the court trial.
Christians in the film and play are routinely depicted as narrow-minded, ego-inflated fanatics, and some roles of Christians were even invented, so that more lampooning could be done.
In the history of science, facts have often been ignored—sometimes to preserve or build reputations, and at other times because of jealousy. Often, because of peer pressure and “scientific orthodoxy,” few will challenge the accepted thinking of the time.
For example, in the 1800s, Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweiss challenged the medical thinking of his day by suggesting that doctors wash their hands and maintain high levels of hygiene when operating or examining patients. When medical staff tried his methods, the high death rate in hospitals plummeted from 12 per cent to just over 1 per cent. However, his superiors ridiculed him so much, even denying him promotion, that he never recovered from the ordeal. His discoveries were appreciated and built on by the great English surgeon Joseph Lister (1827-1912), who revolutionized modern surgery with his use of antiseptics.
Robert Goddard (1882-1945) is credited with building the first liquid-propelled rocket in 1926. Amid his dreams of man’s one day reaching the moon, much of the scientific thought of his day was that the idea was absurd. He was mocked and ridiculed. England’s highest ranking scientist of the day, Richard Woolley, dismissed the idea as “essentially impractical.” Professor A.W. Bickerton addressed the British Association for the Advancement of Science, describing Goddard’s work as a “foolish idea” which was “basically impossible.” A New York Times editorial said, “He lacks the knowledge ladled out daily in high school.”
Likewise, the pioneering Wright Brothers endured heavy criticism from the press and others at the turn of the century when they claimed powered human flight was possible.
Today, a campaign is under way against creation scientists, who point out the lack of evidence for evolution, and who promote evidence consistent with earth’s catastrophic past, as the Bible teaches.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.