VARIOUS “INTERPRETATIONS” of SCRIPTURE’S ACCOUNT OF CREATION
There is, first of all, the ideal or allegorical interpretation. This interpretation emphasizes the idea rather than the letter of the Scriptural narrative. Genesis 1is regarded as a poetic description of the creative work of God, representing this from different points of view. However, it must be very evident to the reader of Holy Writ that Genesis 1 surely gives us an historical narrative, that it is intended as a record of history and clearly set forth as such in the Scriptures. Besides, ifGenesis 1 be merely an ideal or allegorical presentation, giving prominence to the idea rather than to the letter of the narrative, what, then, do we have in Genesis 1? What happened here at the dawn of history? What idea, we pray, is really set forth here? What must we believe when we read Genesis 1? If I cannot take hold of the literal interpretation of the Scriptures here, what can and must I embrace?
Secondly, there is the mythical theory of modern philosophy. This philosophy does not only reject the historical narrative of creation, but also the idea of creation, and regards Genesis 1 as a myth embodying a religious lesson. The literal and historical interpretation of Genesis 1 is set aside. Genesis 1 is to be regarded as what the. Lord showed the first man in a vision as to how the worlds were created, and we must not regard this account in Genesis 1 in the literal and historical sense. The same also applies to the creation of the woman whereof we read in Genesis 2. This view, we understand, is also contrary to the fact that Genesis 1 certainly comes to us as a historical narrative, and it is surely not to be regarded as a myth.
Thirdly, we have what is known as the restitution theory. Some theologians have attempted to reconcile the narrative of creation with the discoveries of science in the study of the earth by adopting the restitution theory. This theory assumes that a long period of time elapsed between the primary creation mentioned in Gen. 1:1 and the secondary creation described in Gen. 1:3-31. This long period was marked by several catastrophic changes, resulting in the destruction supposedly described in the words “waste and void.” The second verse should then read, “And the earth became waste and void.” This destruction was followed by a restitution, when God changed the chaos into a cosmos, a habitable world for man. This theory might offer some explanation of the different strata of the earth, but it offers no explanation of the fossils in the rocks, unless it is assumed that there were also successive creations of animals, followed by mass destruction. But this is not in harmony with Scripture, inasmuch as the creation of the animals occurred later, as recorded in Genesis 1:3-31. Besides, that the earth was “waste and void” is not ascribed to catastrophic changes, was not a condition resulting from destruction. Some would contend that the earth was “waste and void” because of the fall of the angels. Prior to the fall of the angels the world was habitable, but the fall of the angels resulted in the destruction expressed in the words “waste and void.” The angels, then, originally inhabited the world, and, when they fell, the earth became “waste and void.” But this conception surely finds no support in the account ofGenesis 1.
A fourth theory is known as the concordistic theory. This refers to the interpretation of Genesis 1 which would have us believe that the days of Genesis 1 were not days but long periods. We will not discuss this conception ate this time, but will return to it in due time.
The Doctrine of Creation and the Theory of Evolution
Evolution or Evolutionism is the view that the whole world and all it contains was not established once for all, but that it is in a state of perpetual motion and development.
Evolution is not the only theory which would explain the origin of the world. Besides this theory, there are also the dualistic and emanation theories. The dualistic theory proceeds from the idea that there are two self existent principles, God and matter, which are distinct from and co-eternal with each other. And the emanation theory would have us believe that the world is a necessary emanation out of the divine being. According to it, God and the world are essentially one, the latter being the phenomenal manifestation of the former. The idea of emanation is, of course, characteristic of all pantheistic theories. According to this theory, we understand, there is no God. If the world be the emanation of God, there is no God, and this for the simple reason that all we have is world. Then the world is God and God is the world. Then, one of two things must be true: the world is eternal and infinite, or God is finite and temporal. Then all we have is the world. And this, of course, is the end of all morality and consciousness of sin, the end of all prayer. It is the end of all sin and consciousness of sin for the simple reason that there is no one against whom we can sin, and it is surely the end of all prayer for the same reason: there is none to whom we can pray.
Now, however, we are principally concerned with the theory of evolution. And we may say immediately that we do not intend to enter into a detailed discussion of evolution and the various phases of evolution, as also including the Darwinian conception of naturalistic evolution, which would present to us a rational account of the development of all things. In his Reformed Dogmatics, the late Prof. L. Berkhof gives us the following resume of the doctrine of creation and the theory of evolution, pages 160-163:
6. THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION AND THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION
The question naturally arises in our day, How does the theory of evolution affect the doctrine of creation?
a. The theory of evolution cannot take the place of the doctrine of creation. Some speak as the hypothesis of evolution offered an explanation of the origin of the world; but this is clearly a mistake, for it does no such thing. Evolution is development, and all development presupposes the prior existence of an entity or principle or force, out of which something develops. The nonexistent cannot, develop into existence. Matter and force could not have evolved, out of nothing. It has been customary for evolutionists to fall back on the nebular hypothesis, in order to explain the origin of the solar system, though in present science this is supplanted by the planetesimal hypothesis (the nebular hypothesis is the hypothesis that the solar system existed originally in the form of a nebula, which by cooling, condensing, and revolving, was formed into the sun and into rings of matter which later were consolidated: into the planetary bodies: this also applied to all the heavenly bodies.—H.V.). But these only carry the problem one step farther back, and fail to solve it. The evolutionist must either resort to the theory that matter is eternal, or accept the doctrine of creation.
b. The theory of naturalistic evolution is not in harmony with the narrative of creation. If evolution does not account for the origin of the world, does it not at least give a rational account of the development of things out of primordial matter, and thus explain the origin of the present species of plants and animals (including man), and also the various phenomena of life, such as sentiency (possessing powers of sense or sense perception,—H.V.), intelligence, morality, and religion? Does it necessarily conflict with the narrative of creation? Now it is perfectly evident that naturalistic evolution certainly does conflict with the Biblical account. The Bible teaches that plants and animals and man appeared on the scene at the creative fiat of the Almighty; but according to the evolutionary hypothesis they evolved out of the inorganic world by a process of natural development. The Bible represents God as creating plants and animals after their kind, and yielding seed after their kind, that is, so that they would reproduce their own kind; but the theory of evolution points to natural forces, resident in nature, leading to the development of one species out of another. According to the narrative of creation, the vegetable and animal kingdoms and man were brought forth in a single week; but the hypothesis of evolution regards them as the product of a gradual development in the course of millions of years. Scripture pictures man as standing on the highest plane at the beginning of his career, and then descending to lower levels by the deteriorating influence of sin; the theory of evolution, on the other hand, represents original man as only slightly different from the brute, and claims that the human race has risen, through its own inherent powers, to ever higher levels of existence.
c. The theory of naturalistic evolution is not well established and fails to account for the facts. The conflict referred to in the preceding would be a serious matter, if the theory of evolution were an established fact (and the undersigned would add to this: how could the theory of evolution possibly be an established fact? Yet, it is worthy of note that we are able to point to the fact that this theory is not an established fact.—H.V.). Some think it is and confidently speak of the dogma of evolution. Others, however, correctly remind us of the fact that evolution is still only a hypothesis. Even so great a scientist as Ambrose Fleming says that “the close analysis of the ideas connected with the term Evolution shows them to be insufficient as a philosophic or scientific solution of the problems of reality and existence.” The very uncertainty which prevails in the camp of the evolutionists is proof positive that evolution is only a hypothesis. Moreover, it is frankly admitted today by many who still cling to the principle of evolution, that they do not understand its method of operation. It was thought at one time that Darwin had furnished the key to the whole problem, but that key is now rather generally discarded. The foundation pillars, on which the Darwinian structure was reared, such as the principle of use and disuse, the struggle for existence, natural selection, and the transmission of acquired characteristics, have been removed one after another. Such evolutionists as Wiessmann, De Vries, Mendel, and Bateson, all contributed to the collapse of the Darwinian edifice (and we may add to this that Darwin himself frankly acknowledges that his theory does not explain tremendous problems, and that renowned scientists candidly admit that the reproductions of original men, such as are found in our modern museums, are the biggest fraud perpetrated upon mankind—H.V.). Nordenskioeld, in his History of Biology, speaks of the “dissolution of Darwinism,” and O’Toole says, “Darwinism is dead, and no grief of mourners can resuscitate the corpse.” Morton speaks of “the bankruptcy of evolution,” and Price of the “phantom of organic evolution.” Darwinisin, then, has admittedly failed to explain the origin of species, and evolutionists have not been able to offer a better explanation. The Mendelian law accounts for variations, but not for the origin of new species. It really points away from the development of new species by a natural process. Some are of the opinion that the mutation theory of De Vries or Lloyd Morgan’s theory of emergent evolution points the way, but neither one of these has proved to be a successful explanation of the origin of species by natural development, pure and simple. It is not admitted that the mutants of De Vries are varietal rather than specific, and cannot be regarded as the beginnings of new species.
The Lord willing, we will continue with this quotation in our following article.