Part 4 of our series based on Adam Hamilton’s book Making Sense of the Bible. We let controversy get in the way of our relationship with God and with each other. But are we arguing about anything important? This week we are taking a look at creationism vs. evolution and challenge ourselves to look at this differently.
How did they feed all the animals on Noah’s ark?
When it comes to the Biblical story of creation, I always had lots of questions, that being just one of them. The story of Noah’s ark becomes problematic when you start delving deeper into it. Did they really have enough space for two of every animal? What about problems with genetic inbreeding? How did Noah and his family stop the animals from eating each other? Who “cleaned up” after them? Just lots and lots of questions. And it’s those kind of questions that have driven a wedge between science and religion. We have grown to believe that the two are somehow incompatible. That to believe in one means a person couldn’t logically believe in the other. That unless people who believe in the Biblical story of creation can answer these questions, then it must not be true. Well, I think I found an answer to at least one of those questions and it came from the TV show, The Big Bang Theory. On the show, Sheldon’s mother, Mary is in town to see her son get an award for a scientific paper he wrote. Mary (a devout Christians) tells her son (a self-avowed atheist) that she couldn’t quite understand what it was he was trying to explain and he told her, “It describes a new model of the universe that conceptualizes it as an ‘N’-dimensional super fluid.” And she responds, “Interesting. You can believe that, but God filling an ark with animals two-by-two is nonsense.” To which Sheldon asks, “What did they feed the lions mother?” And Mary, sharp as a tack responds, “The floating bodies of drowned sinners.” I thought that was one of the most clever answers I’d ever heard to that question.
The debate between creation and evolution has gone on ever since the theory of evolution began.
And it’s still one that goes on today. You might find it surprising to know that most people believe that God had a hand in creation. Seventy-eight percent of people believe God has a hand in the creation of human beings. 78%! And of those most of them believe God created human beings as fully formed people free of evolution. According to a Gallup poll cited in Adam Hamilton’s book Making Sense of the Bible the numbers break down like this: 46% of Americans believe people were created by God without evolution, 32% believe human beings evolved by God’s guiding hand, and only 15% believe that evolution alone accounts for the development of humanity. And among even those who believe that God had a hand in their development there are vastly different theories on how that came to be. On the one hand there are those like the Young Earth Creationists who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and date the Earth as only being about 6,000 years old using the genealogies in the Bible as a guide. Those who believe that God had a hand in evolution generally accept the scientific theory that the Earth is about 4.57 billion years old and that humanity evolved over the last 2 million years. They subscribe to a theory called theistic evolution. They subscribe to a theory called theistic evolution. The long and short of it is they believe God used evolution as a tool to shape and form humanity. That what we read in the Bible isn’t inaccurate but just isn’t made to be taken literally in the way we understand time and creation.
But why is there this divide in the first place?
Today it seems as if this rift has been around forever, but that hasn’t always been the case. The church has always been a supporter of knowledge and had in the past been unafraid of education. They were among the first to support the university system. They often funded and founded colleges and universities around the world. Some of the most famous schools in our country where many noted scientists, doctors, mathematicians, and scholars have come from were established by the church. In fact, some of the greatest scientists in the world have been Christian – Copernicus, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Faraday, Pasteur, and Kelvin just to name a few. Today, Francis Collins, “a renowned geneticist and former director of the Human Genome Project,” even developed an organization he calls the BioLogos Foundation to bridge the gap between science and religion and to help people realize that neither one is a threat to the other. So where is this debate largely coming from? From Christians more than anyone else.
For Christians, this isn’t just a matter of historical accuracy, but a test of faith.
For Christians, this isn’t just a matter of historical accuracy, but a test of faith. The debate about the authenticity of the creationist point of view has more at stake than bragging rights about who’s right. It’s about trusting in the Word of God. And as science continues to uncover more about the origins of the world, there are Christians who fear hearing these new ideas. They are afraid that the evidence being presented will contradict the beliefs they’ve held their entire lives, and they forcefully push back against it. But as we will see, perhaps the premise we have started out with is faulty at its root. If you’ll open your Bibles to the book of Genesis, we’ll be reading this morning from Genesis 1:6-13. Genesis 1:6-13. Earlier, we read from another account of creation – the passage from Genesis 2:4-9. In that passage we read a more personal story about God’s active hand in creation and how he formed the world. Then he flooded the earth with water to create the land and the sea and after that created us. And in that passage it wasn’t until he created man that he finished the rest of creation. After he molded man out of the earth, God created trees and flowers and rivers and animals and even involved man in the naming of the animals. And only then did God create woman. But within the Bible itself there rests a contradiction to this narrative. In the chapter right before this one, the Bible has a distinctly different account of creation.
6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
That was only the third day of creation.
Do you remember when humanity was created? The sixth day. It wasn’t until the end of the week that God created both male and female in his image. Before that he created the heavens and the earth, the land and the water, the plants and the animals. In this version of creation, humanity was the last thing to have been created – but in the very next chapter we find out that man was created not long after the earth was formed and BEFORE all the plants and animals. Both of them can’t be right. They are stories that directly contradict one another. Either humanity was created before or after the plants and animals but it can’t be both. And don’t get me started on talking snakes. When you really examine these stories it becomes harder and harder to defend a literal point of view. But maybe we don’t need to. Maybe the problem is trying to determine the historical accuracy of the Bible when we should be listening to what God is really trying to teach us. Maybe the problem is trying to determine the historical accuracy of the Bible when we should be listening to what God is really trying to teach us.
I loved the movie McFarland USA.
I’ve always been a fan of these underdog kind of movies. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about the cross-country track team from McFarland High who went on to win the state championship under Coach Jim White – the first of nine the team would win under his guidance. It was a story about overcoming hardship, about becoming a family, about earning trust and it just moved me as I watched it. I had the chance to interview Coach White the next day after the screening and he shared with me that certain parts of the movie weren’t historically accurate. He didn’t lose his job before coming over to McFarland and his daughters were actually older than they were portrayed in the movie. But knowing that didn’t take away from the essence of the movie or from what I got out of it. Despite the inaccuracies, I still understood it to be a movie about overcoming the odds and being part of a community. Those were the important lessons to be learned. When we watch most movies, we aren’t particularly worried about how true the events are. If we find out the movie is basically a complete lie, then it might detract from how we see it, but overall, we know that it won’t be historically accurate and we learn something from it anyway. The kind of storytelling we see in the Bible and in particular in the Old Testament, is a style of writing that is like these “based on a true story” movies. While the events might be grounded in history, they are written to communicate a message or theme. They weren’t meant to be a history book. As it was written in the letter to the Romans, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Romans 15:4).” When we lose sight of the meaning behind the Scripture we lose sight of God’s intent for our lives. When we focus on the minutiae instead of the bigger picture we lose the forest for the trees.
Long ago, I came to the conclusion that it just doesn’t matter how the Earth was created.
I believe that God is the ultimate creator and I believe that he created the Earth and everything in it. If he chose to do it through evolution, great! If he spontaneously created everything all at once, great! How God did it doesn’t change my faith in him, and I hope it doesn’t change yours either. The Bible is our own understanding of the story of God and the bottom line is this. Love God, love one another. Love God, love one another. That’s the story of God in a nutshell. If we could hold on to those truths and stop arguing about the rest, we could possibly become the kind of people God keeps hoping we will be someday. As we read through these pages, let us keep those central commands in our minds and it will help us better understand how God is speaking to us each and every day. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Adam Hamilton, Making Sense of the Bible, p. 188.
 Notes on Young Earth Creationists and evolution come from Hamilton’s boo