During the Scopes Trial in 1925, ACLU attorney Clarence Darrow placed William Jennings Bryan (seen as the man representing Christianity) on the stand and questioned him about his faith. In his questioning, Darrow pitted Bryan’s faith in the Bible against his belief in modern scientific thinking. Darrow questioned Bryan about the meaning of the word day in Genesis. Bryan’s answer rejected the clear teaching of Scripture, which indicates that the days of Genesis 1 are six actual days of approximately 24 hours. Bryan accepted modern evolutionary thinking instead when he said, “I think it would be just as easy for the kind of God we believe in to make the earth in six days as in six years or in six million years or in 600 million years. I do not think it important whether we believe one or the other.”1 This is not the first time a Christian has rejected the intended meaning of God’s Word, and it certainly will not be the last.
Many Christians today claim that millions of years of earth history fit with the Bible and that God could have used evolutionary processes to create. This idea is not a recent invention. For over 200 years, many theologians have attempted such harmonizations in response to the work of people like Charles Darwin and Scottish geologist Charles Lyell, who helped popularize the idea of millions of years of earth history and slow geological processes.
When we consider the possibility that God used evolutionary processes to create over millions of years, we are faced with serious consequences: the Word of God is no longer authoritative, and the character of our loving God is questioned.
Already in Darwin’s day, one of the leading evolutionists saw the compromise involved in claiming that God used evolution, and his insightful comments are worth reading again. Once you accept evolution and its implications about history, then man becomes free to pick and choose which parts of the Bible he wants to accept.
From an Evolutionist’s Perspective
The leading humanist of Darwin’s day, Thomas Huxley (1825–1895), eloquently pointed out the inconsistencies of reinterpreting Scripture to fit with popular scientific thinking. Huxley, an ardent evolutionary humanist, was known as “Darwin’s bulldog,” as he did more to popularize Darwin’s ideas than Darwin himself. Huxley understood Christianity much more clearly than did compromising theologians who tried to add evolution and millions of years to the Bible. He used their compromise against them to help his cause in undermining Christianity.
In his essay “Lights of the Church and Science,” Huxley stated,
I am fairly at a loss to comprehend how anyone, for a moment, can doubt that Christian theology must stand or fall with the historical trustworthiness of the Jewish Scriptures. The very conception of the Messiah, or Christ, is inextricably interwoven with Jewish history; the identification of Jesus of Nazareth with that Messiah rests upon the interpretation of the passages of the Hebrew Scriptures which have no evidential value unless they possess the historical character assigned to them. If the covenant with Abraham was not made; if circumcision and sacrifices were not ordained by Jahveh; if the ‘ten words’ were not written by God’s hand on the stone tables; if Abraham is more or less a mythical hero, such as Theseus; the Story of the Deluge a fiction; that of the Fall a legend; and that of the Creation the dream of a seer; if all these definite and detailed narratives of apparently real events have no more value as history than have the stories of the regal period of Rome—what is to be said about the Messianic doctrine, which is so much less clearly enunciated: And what about the authority of the writers of the books of the New Testament, who, on this theory, have not merely accepted flimsy fictions for solid truths, but have built the very foundations of Christian dogma upon legendary quicksands?2
Huxley made the point that if we are to believe the New Testament doctrines, we must believe the historical account of Genesis as historical truth.
Huxley was definitely out to destroy the truth of the biblical record. When people rejected the Bible, he was happy. But when they tried to harmonize evolutionary ideas with the Bible and reinterpret it, he vigorously attacked this position.
I confess I soon lose my way when I try to follow those who walk delicately among “types” and allegories. A certain passion for clearness forces me to ask, bluntly, whether the writer means to say that Jesus did not believe the stories in question or that he did? When Jesus spoke, as a matter of fact, that “the Flood came and destroyed them all,” did he believe that the Deluge really took place, or not? It seems to me that, as the narrative mentions Noah’s wife, and his sons’ wives, there is good scriptural warranty for the statement that the antediluvians married and were given in marriage: and I should have thought that their eating and drinking might be assumed by the firmest believer in the literal truth of the story. Moreover, I venture to ask what sort of value, as an illustration of God’s methods of dealing with sin, has an account of an event that never happened? If no Flood swept the careless people away, how is the warning of more worth than the cry of ‘Wolf ’ when there is no wolf? 3
Huxley then gave a lesson on New Testament theology. He quoted Matthew 19:4–5: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?’” Huxley commented, “If divine authority is not here claimed for the twenty-fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis, what is the value of language? And again, I ask, if one may play fast and loose with the story of the Fall as a ‘type’ or ‘allegory,’ what becomes of the foundation of Pauline theology?”4
And to substantiate this, Huxley quoted 1 Corinthians 15:21–22: “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
Huxley continued, “If Adam may be held to be no more real a personage than Prometheus, and if the story of the Fall is merely an instructive ‘type,’ comparable to the profound Promethean mythos, what value has Paul’s dialectic?”5
Thus, concerning those who accepted the New Testament doctrines that Paul and Christ teach but rejected Genesis as literal history, Huxley claimed “the melancholy fact remains, that the position they have taken up is hopelessly untenable.”6
He was adamant that science (by which he meant evolutionary, long-age ideas about the past) had proven that one cannot intelligently accept the Genesis account of creation and the Flood as historical truth. He further pointed out that various doctrines in the New Testament are dependent on the truth of these events, such as Paul’s teaching on the doctrine of sin, Christ’s teaching on the doctrine of marriage, and the warning of future judgment. Huxley mocked those who try to harmonize evolution and millions of years with the Bible, because it requires them to give up a historical Genesis while still trying to hold to the doctrines of the New Testament.
What was Huxley’s point? He insisted that the theologians had to accept evolution and millions of years, but he pointed out that, to be consistent, they had to give up the Bible totally. Compromise is impossible.
From the Teaching of Christian Leaders
B. B. Warfield and Charles Hodge, great leaders of the Christian faith during the 1800s, adopted the billions-of-years belief concerning the age of the earth and reinterpreted Genesis 1 accordingly. In regard to a discussion on Genesis 1 and the days of creation, Hodge said, “The Church has been forced more than once to alter her interpretation of the Bible to accommodate the discoveries of science. But this has been done without doing any violence to the Scriptures or in any degree impairing their authority.”7
If we compromise on the history of Genesis by adding millions of years, we must believe that death and disease were part of the world before Adam sinned.The book of Genesis teaches that death is the result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12, 8:18–22) and that all of God’s creation was “very good” upon its completion (Genesis 1:31). All animals and humans were originally vegetarian (Genesis 1:29–30). But if we compromise on the history of Genesis by adding millions of years, we must believe that death and disease were part of the world before Adam sinned. You see, the (alleged) millions of years of earth history in the fossil record shows evidence of animals eating each other,8 diseases like cancer in their bones,9 violence, plants with thorns,10 and so on. All of this supposedly takes place before man appears on the scene, and thus before sin (and its curse of death, disease, thorns, carnivory, and so on) entered the world.
Christians who believe in an old earth (billions of years) need to come to grips with the real nature of the god of an old earth—it is not the loving God of the Bible. Even many conservative, evangelical Christian leaders accept and actively promote a belief in millions and billions of years for the age of rocks. How could a God of love allow such horrible processes as disease, suffering, and death for millions of years as part of His “very good” creation?
Interestingly, the liberal camp points out the inconsistencies in holding to an old earth while trying to cling to evangelical Christianity. For instance, Bishop John Shelby Spong, the retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, states,
The Bible began with the assumption that God had created a finished and perfect world from which human beings had fallen away in an act of cosmic rebellion. Original sin was the reality in which all life was presumed to live. Darwin postulated instead an unfinished and thus imperfect creation ... . Human beings did not fall from perfection into sin as the Church had taught for centuries ... . Thus the basic myth of Christianity that interpreted Jesus as a divine emissary who came to rescue the victims of the fall from the results of their original sin became inoperative.11
This is an obvious reference to the millions of years associated with the fossil record. The god of an old earth is one who uses death as part of creating. Death, therefore, can’t be the penalty for sin and can’t be described as the last enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).
The god of an old earth cannot therefore be the God of the Bible who is able to save us from sin and death. Thus, when Christians compromise with the millions of years attributed by many scientists to the fossil record, they are, in that sense, seemingly worshipping a different god—the cruel god of an old earth.
People must remember that God created a perfect world; so when they look at this present world, they are not looking at the nature of God but at the results of our sin.
The God of the Bible, the God of mercy, grace, and love, sent His one and only Son to become a man (but God nonetheless), to become our sinbearer so that we could be saved from sin and eternal separation from God. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He has made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
There’s no doubt—the god of an old earth destroys the gospel.
Door of Compromise
Now it is true that rejection of six literal days doesn’t ultimately affect one’s salvation, if one is truly born again. However, we need to stand back and look at the big picture.
In many nations, the Word of God was once widely respected and taken seriously. But once the door of compromise is unlocked, once Christian leaders concede that we shouldn’t interpret the Bible as written in Genesis, why should the world take heed of God’s Word in any area? Because the church has told the world that one can use man’s interpretation of the world, such as billions of years, to reinterpret the Bible, this Book is seen as an outdated, scientifically incorrect holy book not intended to be believed as written.
As each subsequent generation has pushed this door of compromise open farther and farther, they are increasingly not accepting the morality or salvation of the Bible either. After all, if the history in Genesis is not correct, how can one be sure the rest is correct? Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things, and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:12).
The battle is not one of young earth vs. old earth, or billions of years vs. six days, or creation vs. evolution—the real battle is the authority of the Word of God vs. man’s fallible opinions.
Why do Christians believe in the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Because of the words of Scripture (“according to the Scriptures”).
And why should Christians believe in the six literal days of creation? Because of the words of Scripture (“In six days the Lord made ...”).
The real issue is one of authority—is God’s Word the authority, or is man’s word the authority? So, couldn’t God have used evolution to create? The answer is No. A belief in millions of years of evolution not only contradicts the clear teaching of Genesis and the rest of Scripture but also impugns the character of God. He told us in the book of Genesis that He created the whole universe and everything in it in six days by His word: “Then God said ... .” His Word is the evidence of how and when God created, and His Word is incredibly clear.