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Trusting the record: thoughts on the creation controversy
"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
Job 38:4-7 (NKJV)
Today, believing in a created universe is a lose-lose proposition in popular culture. If you're a "young earth" creationist (believing the earth to be somewhere around 6 to 10 thousand years old), you're reviled by the scientific community. If you're an old-earth creationist (believing that the development of the earth and/or the duration of creation took place over a much longer period of time), you're labeled a heretic. Right now, all I can say is that I'm an "I don't know" creationist. I believe the account in Genesis to be factual. As to the "hows", "whys", "how longs" details (over and above what Scripture attests), I "plead the 38th" - Job 38:4-7, that is. I don't discount what science tells us, but I don't think that science is capable of going beyond the natural world to either prove or disprove the mechanics of what was a distinctly supernatural event.
It seems that the trend these days is for people to draw a line in the sand when it comes to creation. Some refuse to listen to the scientific community, shutting their minds and their ears. Others refuse to give any credence to the Biblical record. Both are, in my opinion, equally bad - I think either of those is just taking the easy way out of a complex issue. We're being told by both sides to accept one and reject the other, make your choice. But why can't we accept both? What's being lost today is the ability or willingness to be content with yet-to-be reconciled "differences" between science and the Bible. Many of the apparent differences between science and scripture are unfair mischaracterizations (by both sides, by the way). For the very few that do raise legitimate questions, to me, the whole issue is a very simple one: with the supernatural, positively anything is possible.
I can't understand the willingness to throw out either observed science or Scripture/faith over a willingness to simply be content with trusting both to be true, even if unknowns remain. Being open to the existence of a supernaturally-capable God, for me, means that there are a myriad of possible reconciliations - possibly even some that are beyond human comprehension. And no, I'm not making a God-of-the-gaps statement here. No matter what science discovers about the natural world, there will always be a supernatural component to the universe that transcends what we can see and understand. As John Lennox puts it, science tells us the 'hows' but not the 'whys' of the natural world. Furthermore, science can say nothing about the hows and whys of God and the supernatural.
If a doctor were to travel back in time and observe Adam 5 minutes after his creation, he would see a mature adult with all of the indications of a man who grew up from infanthood. He would have a personality. He would have knowledge. Traits that normally have to develop over a lifetime would be infused into Adam from his first second of existence. You really couldn't blame the time-traveling scientific observer to conclude that Adam was born as a baby and grew up over the course of 20-30 years. If that doctor rejected the idea of a supernatural element, a born-and-grown Adam would be the only conclusion he could rationally come to. But if the supernatural exists - in this case God - then the possibilities are endless as to exactly how God brought Adam into existence.
Another analogy I picture is if we landed on another planet and found robotic rovers like the ones we sent to Mars. We observed the rate of motion of the rovers and got a good idea of how they work and how fast they moved, coming up with formulas describing them. We could plug into those formulas any date we chose, and get an estimate of their position for any date in the past. These equations would be mathematically infallable, except they don't take into account the event at some point in the past when the rovers were built and set into motion. Beyond that point, the formulas are incapable of explaning what really happened.
Now I know this sounds like I'm making the 'appearance of age' argument, and I may be. That's not necessarily my position, though I admit I do lean toward it. I'm aware of the problems with appearance of age, but some of the common objections I hear to it are a little peculiar to me - in particular the idea that God would have to be deceptive to create the illusion of events that didn't really happen. For example, supernovas that are millions of light years away that couldn't exist in reality if the earth was "created young" (due to the light from these events taking longer to reach earth than the alleged young age of the universe). Or something like an old scar on Adam's arm that would indicate a cut he suffered as a child that never really happened.
I make no claim to knowing the resolution of these issues, other than to say I have a problem with concluding that the Genesis account isn't factual is a legitimate option. What if God has a reason for placing the so-called 'illusions' there, and that deceit would be an unfair accusation by humans who aren't capable of knowing the reason behind it? Could it be they are necessary for a complete and functional universe? It seems more dangerous to me to box oneself into making a choice to either toss out Scripture as literal or believe that God is deceptive. Again, why not be content with just admitting you don't know the solution?
I can understand doubt, I can understand the desire to know and to understand reality. But I simply can't understand anyone willing to forfeit everything they've known about God and lose their faith over a question like this. Maybe, just maybe, a little humility in admitting to yourself that when it comes to God, there are probably at least few things you're not going to figure out about Him and His ways. That way, you don't have to reject any science nor throw your faith into the garbage. Eternity is a long time to find out you weren't quite as smart as you thought you were.
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