Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Mind the gap!

Creation and Evolution cont'd...

Those who hold the view that biblical faith and the Darwinian view of evolution are compatible believe it removes an unnecessary stumbling block to faith and honours the consensus of scientists working in widely different fields of research.

But, science is not infallible - history reveals times when scholarly opinion goes through a revolutionary revision and the church has found, to its cost, the danger of hitching its wagon too tightly to any one version of contemporary wisdom. The most serious issue with this ‘compatible’ view is the concern that it undermines key elements of biblical revelation. If death is introduced only after the fall of Adam and Eve then it appears that the earth is only a few thousand years old, not the billions claimed by current science. If chance is a key factor, does that exclude the idea of God from consideration? What happens to the theological justification of the Sabbath?

For those less confident in evolutionary science but not convinced that Genesis 1-3 should be read literally, there are numerous attempts to chart some sort of middle course. Some are more successful than others. So there is the ‘gap theory’ which argues that Genesis 1: 2 should not be translated, “Now the earth was formless and empty” but rather “…became formless…” It is then argued that after the original creation in verse 1 and before what is recorded in verse 2 there was a catastrophe in which the original creation was virtually destroyed and what we have in Genesis is really the remodelling of creation. It is then proposed that this gap between verses 1 and 2 could have lasted millions, if not billions, of years and it was in this time that dinosaurs etc roamed the earth.

Technically, it is possible to translate Genesis 1:2 as suggested but even that is highly speculative and the rest of the argument squeezes rather a lot into the silent space between the two sentences! The other of the most popular theories in this category is the ‘day/age theory’. In this, the days of creation are taken to be vast periods of time broadly equivalent to different geological ages. While very popular - and parallels can be recognised - they are not exact and so not fully convincing.