The Doctrine of Creation and the Theory of Evolution
We continue the quotation from Berkhof:
And Morgan feels constrained to admit that he cannot explain his emergents without falling back upon some creative power that might be called God. Morton says: “The fact is that, besides creation, there is not even a theory of origins to hold the field today.”
The hypothesis of evolution fails at several points. It cannot explain the origin of life. Evolutionists sought its explanation in spontaneous generation, an unproved assumption, which is now discredited. It is a well established fact in science that life can only come from antecedent life. Further, it has failed utterly to adduce a single example of one species producing another distinct (organic as distinguished from varietal) species. Bateson said in 1921: “We cannot see how the differentiation in species came about. Variations of many kinds, often considerable, we daily witness, but no origin of species. . . .Meanwhile, though our faith in evolution stands unshaken, we have no acceptable account of the origin of species.” (the undersigned wishes to observe that here we have a striking phenomenon. The evolutionist frankly declares that he cannot explain life, that the attempt has utterly failed to adduce a single example of one species producing another distinct species. The evolutionist frankly concedes that he does not know, for example, how a monkey could develop into a man, how an irrational creature could develop into a rational creature. Nevertheless, although he knows nothing of the mystery of life, he rejects the Scriptural account of the creation of the animal world and of man, and he wickedly declares that his faith in evolution, which explains nothing, remains unshaken.) Neither has evolution been able successfully to cope with the problems presented by the origin of man. It has not even succeeded in proving the physical descent of man from the brute. J.A. Thomson, author of The Outline of Science and a leading evolutionist, holds that man really never was an animal, a fierce beastly looking creature, but that the first man sprang suddenly, by a big leap, from the primate stock into a human being. (and this the evolutionist prefers, believe it or not, to the beautiful Scriptural account of the creation of man]—H.V.) Much less has it been able to explain the psychical side of man’s life. The human soul, endowed with intelligence, self-consciousness, freedom, conscience, and religious aspirations, remains an unsolved enigma.
D. Theistic evolution is not tenable in the light of Scripture. Some Christian scientists and theologians seek to harmonize the doctrine of creation, as taught by Scripture, and the theory of evolution by accepting what they call theistic evolution. It is a protest against the attempt to eliminate God, and postulates Him as the almighty worker back of the whole process of development. Evolution is regarded simply as God’s method of working in the development of nature. Theistic evolution really amounts to this, that God created the world (the cosmos) by a process of evolution, a process of natural development, in which He does not miraculously intervene, except in cases where this is absolutely necessary. It is willing to admit that the absolute beginning of the world could only result from a direct creative activity of God; and, if it can find no natural explanation, will also grant a direct intervention of God in the origination of life and of man. It has been hailed as Christian evolution, though there is not necessarily anything Christian about it. Many, otherwise opposed to the theory of evolution, have welcomed it, because it recognizes God in the process and is supposed to be compatible with the Scriptural doctrine of creation. Hence it is freely taught in churches and Sunday Schools. As a matter of fact, however, it is a very dangerous hybrid. The name is a contradiction in terms, for it is neither Theism nor naturalism, neither creation nor evolution in the accepted sense of the terms. And it does not require a great deal of penetration to see that Dr. Fairhurst is right in his conviction “that theistic evolution destroys the Bible as the inspired book of authority as effectively as does atheistic evolution.” Like naturalistic evolution it teaches that it required millions of years to produce the present habitable world; and that God did not create the various species of plants and animals, and that, so that they produced their own kind; that man, at least on his physical side, is a descendant of the brute and therefore began his career on a low level; that there has been no fall in the Biblical sense of the word, but only repeated lapses of men in their upward course; that sin is only a weakness, resulting from man’s animal instincts and desires, and does not constitute guilt; that redemption is brought about by the ever-increasing control of the higher element in man over his lower propensities; that miracles do not occur, either in the natural or in the spiritual world; that regeneration, conversion, and sanctification are simply natural psychological changes, and so on. In a word, it is a theory that is absolutely subversive of Scripture truth.
Some Christian scholars of the present day feel that Bergson’s theory of Creative Evolutioncommends itself to those who do not want to leave God out of consideration. This French philosopher assumes an elan-vital, a vital impulse in the world, as the ground and animating principle of life. This vital principle does not spring from matter, but is rather the originating cause of matter. It pervades matter, overcomes its inertia and resistance by acting as a living force on that which is essentially dying, and ever creates, not new material, but new movements adapted to ends of its own, and thus creates very much as the artist creates. It is directive and purposive and yet, although conscious, does not work according to a preconceived plan, however that may be possible. It determines evolution
itself as well as the direction in which evolution moves. This ever creating life, “of which every individual and every species is an experiment,” is Bergson’s God, a God who is finite, who is limited in power, and who is seemingly impersonal, though Hermann says that “we shall, perhaps, not go far wrong in believing that he will be the ideal tendency of things’ made personal.” Haas speaks of Bergson as a vitalistic pantheist rather than a theist. At any rate, his God is a God that is wholly within the world. This view may have a special appeal for the modern liberal theologian, but is even less in harmony with the narrative of creation than theistic evolution.
In the light of the above quotation, which is also a true setting forth of what the late Dr. H. Bavinck writes in his “Gereformeerde Dogmatiek (Reformed Dogmatics),” we may safely conclude that the theory of evolution stands condemned because of its utter failure to prove anything. And it is surely unnecessary for us to go into details as far as the various conceptions of this theory are concerned.
DAYS OR PERIODS
One can hardly deny the importance of this subject. If it be true, and it is, that the theory of evolution, however miserably impotent and unsuccessful it may be, is universally taught in the schools and colleges throughout the world, the fact remains that it is generally taught in the Christian schools of today that the days of Genesis 1 are not to be understood as days in the limited sense of the word, as consisting of twenty-four hours, but as long periods of time.
The theory that the days of Gen. 1 are not days but periods of thousands of years is known as the concordistic theory. Writing in his Reformed Dogmatics, pages 153-154, on the consideration of the view that they were literal days, Berkhof writes as follows:
The prevailing view has always been that the days of
are to be understood as literal days. Some of the early Church Fathers did not regard them as real indications of the time in which the work of creation was completed, but rather as literary forms in which the writer of Genesis cast the narrative of creation, in order to picture the work of creation—which was really completed in a moment of time—in an orderly fashion for human intelligence. It was only after the comparatively new sciences of geology and palaeontology came forward with their theories of the enormous age of the earth, that theologians began to show an inclination to identify the days of creation with the long geological ages. Today some of them regard it as an established fact that the days of
were long geological periods; others are somewhat inclined to assume this position, but show considerable hesitation. Hodge, Sheldon, Van Oosterzee, and Dabney, some of whom are not entirely averse to this view, are all agreed that this interpretation of the days is exegetically doubtful, if not impossible (one may well ask how anyone can possibly not be averse to this view if it be exegetically impossible. Any view, exegetically impossible, is certainly to be rejected.—H.V.) Kuyper and Bavinck hold that, while the first three days may have been of somewhat different length, the last three were certainly ordinary days. They naturally do not regard even the first three days as geological periods. Vos in his Gereformeerde Dogmatiek defends the position that the days of creation were ordinary days. Hepp takes the same position in his Calvinism and the Philosophy of Nature. Noortzij in Gods Woord en der Eeuwen Getuigenis, asserts that the Hebrew word Yom (day) in
cannot possibly designate anything else than an ordinary day, but holds that the writer of Genesis did not attach any importance to the concept “day,” but introduces it simply as part of a frame-work for the narrative of creation, not to indicate historical sequence, but to picture the glory of the creatures in the light of the great redemptive purpose of God. Hence the sabbath is the great culminating point, in which man reaches his real destiny. This view reminds us rather strongly of the position of some of the early Church Fathers. The arguments adduced for it are very convincing, as Aalders has shown in his De Eerste Drie Hoofdstukken van Genesis. This Old Testament scholar holds, on the basis of
that the term yom in
denotes simply the period of light, as distinguished from that of darkness; but this view would seem to involve a rather unnatural interpretation of the repeated expression “and there was evening and there was morning.” It must then be interpreted to mean, and there was evening preceded by a morning. According to Dr. Aalders, too, Scripture certainly favors the idea that the days of creation were ordinary days, though it may not be possible to determine their exact length, and the first three days may have differed somewhat from the last three.
Although the author of the above quotation declares that Dr. H. Bavinck wrote that the latter three days were ordinary days, it is nevertheless true that Dr. H. Bavinck wrote the following, Vol. 11, page 463: “For upon that day must fall the creation of the animals, the planting of the garden, the proclamation of the trial command, the leading of the animals to Adam, etc. It may not be impossible, that all this took place in a period of time of some hours, but this is not probable.” So, according to Bavinck it is hardly probable that these “days” of creation week were ordinary days. The Lord willing, we will continue with this in our following article.