God taking His own time

I think that most Christians believe that the focus of God’s work is us…humankind. Human behavior and beliefs? And we also believe that God is responsible for Earth and all of life that is here? If so, how do we reconcile the time frames prior to our existence? What took so long and why did He take so long to get us to this point? Is there a rationale for this observation? Many would say that it doesn’t matter, but I wonder if there can be a logic found for this?

For the first 99.995% of the existence of life on Earth, there was nothing to even resemble a bipedal ape, much less a human. If you consider the existence of life on Earth to begin on the 1 yard line of a football field of 100 yards, the first AMH only surfaced at 2/10 of an inch from the goal line. That’s .18" !!

The time scales are almost unimaginable. Earth was created ~4.5 Bya. The first life, single celled, very soon thereafter. And then for a billion years it remained so. Then around 800 Mya the first animals evolved. Then suddenly at 543 Mya the Cambrian Explosion, with many new body forms, but so far nothing important :slight_smile:

400 Mya insects evolved, and at 250 Mya the Permian extinction wiped most of it out, with reptiles and early mammals surviving. A few years later, we had birds from dinosaurs, then at 200 Mya the Triassic extinction allowed dinosaurs to dominate and warm-blooded mammals evolved, but the first placental at only 100 Mya.

The first Primate wasn’t until 85 Mya just before the asteroid that wiped out all non-flying dinosaurs and allowed us mammals to evolve further. Only 10 Mya did the Old World Monkeys diverge, from which we were to finally evolve.

At 8 Mya, the split of hominini into Hominina and Panina (chimpanzees) occurred, but the very first “human clade” of Australopithecine wasn’t until 4.2 Mya. Our genus of Homo came at 2 Mya, but Homo sapiens did not split away until only 500,000 years ago! And the first anatomically modern human (AMH) at 200,000 y.a.

So to my point, for the first 99.995% of the existence of life on Earth (200K/4B), there was nothing to even resemble a bipedal ape, much less a human. If you consider the existence of life on Earth to begin on the 1 yard line of a football field of 100 yards, the first AMH only surfaced at 2/10 of an inch from the goal line. That’s .18"!! If we are the focus of God’s sovereign grace, why did He wait so long for us to become relevant? And if we can find no logic for it, should it threaten anyone’s faith?

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Those are interesting questions to think about. I visited Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut a few years back and they have an outdoor walkway with the time periods measured out on it to scale, so it was a really neat visual to walk along it and realize what a blip we are in comparison to everything else. Even though Scripture doesn’t lay out the entire timeline that scientifically, we still get plenty of hints of individuals’ short-lived time in comparison to everything else, such as in James 4:

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

and Isaiah 40:

All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.

I honestly think it’s been good for my faith to realize that humans don’t have to be the pinnacle of creation, or at least not for all time. Even beyond my own limited mortality, the world survived a long time with animals following their instinct and it could survive the same way afterwards if something happens to people. Hopefully that has led me to some degree of humility in understanding that history doesn’t revolve around me (or even my “kind”), even though it is only natural for us to center ourselves for survival purposes.

And who knows what will happen in the future? All we know is what we’ve discovered and what we’ve been told. Maybe someday our descendants will look back on this time and not see us as all that much of a pinnacle.

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Good thoughts Laura! I’ll admit that I have not thought before that we might no be the purpose for the “creation”. Never before that we are not the pinnacle of creation. If we are not, then is it nothing more than chance that “we” arrived only .005 of the period of the existence of life? All of the morality we are taught is ONLY for us, not for other animals, much less single-cell creatures. So if we are not God’s purpose, then should it shake our faith in Him?

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Indeed we do, and it is obvious when you think about it. But in context, those very same verses you use are intended for only one species on planet Earth. So how do we reconcile being humble at the smallness of time of our existence, but acknowledge that we are His only pupils?

No, I don’t think it’s a matter of chance at all – God is still in control. I try to remember that his time is not ours. What we see as “taking a long time” is not going to appear that way to someone who sees it all at once.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that God doesn’t have purpose for us and in us – whether here and now or as hunter-gatherers thousands of years ago – I believe he does and works his purposes out in ways we don’t always understand. But that doesn’t have to mean that we are the only or ultimate purpose since we can’t see the future and have a limited view of the past.

Good question. Are we his only pupils? I mean, as far as the modern Bible goes, yes, animals are not reading it, nor were pre-literate humans (as far as anyone knows). So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging with gratitude the special relationship God has established with humans in this time and place. But the smallness comes with knowing that I don’t know what else is going on in the universe.

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Then did He have an equally important purpose for all of life that entails the 99.995% of life before we arrived? There is no shame in considering His word as human-centric, His admonitions directed toward us, not Australopithecines, and His Grace a reward for us, not the life of the previous 99.995% of life.
I’m just searching for a logical explanation, one that does not simply say that He acts in mysterious ways. Some things just need to make sense before they can be 100% believed. I’m struggling here…

I’m sorry it’s a struggle – I think the question of whether God had an important purpose for all the animals that came before us will have to do with what you would consider to be an acceptable “purpose” to begin with. Is simply bringing glory to him enough? Or if it was simply an exercise in creativity and letting life play out without trying to force it into an industrial level of “efficiency” as we might like to see when we manufacture things in our day and age.

Or are you bothered by the millions of years of death? I can find that hard to wrap my mind around sometimes.

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I realize Bucky hasn’t answered this yet - but I’ll interject here since so many others have raised this objection of “millions of years of death and suffering”.

One thing I’m not understanding about this objection is that it is a one-sided look at life (or … death rather), which we would only attribute to a very depressed or unbalanced and suicidal person today. Nobody lives all the way to and through adulthood without suffering. So is that the automatic YEC characterization of all our lives then? Nothing but suffering and death? We do all end up dead. A few centuries from now none of us will be any better off than any of our studied fossil specimens, so are we all supposed to accept that there is nothing but death and suffering?

Millions and billions of years of death means there were also millions and billions of years of birth, of parental caring and nurturing love, of sex, of whatever sorts of enjoyments that animals and/or pre-humans were all capable of experiencing. Does all of that count for nothing at all?

Would we want somebody looking over our dead or fossilized remains a few thousand or million years from now and concluding … “well, their lives obviously weren’t worth crap! … because look: they all died! … and probably suffered horribly too.” …“They probably all wished they had never lived at all!”

I can’t imagine a more depressing, and frankly anti-scriptural / anti-theistic view of the world. So I’m surprised that YECs or others still try to apply that logic.

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Not at all. I’ve mentioned in conversations with YECs that young earthism belittles the import of Psalm 8:4, not only because of the vastness of the size of the universe, but also because of the vastness of its antiquity.

What is man, that you are mindful of him?[!]

It should certainly facilitate humility before God, and even if we are the ‘primary’ end of God’s creation. He wasn’t short of time that he needed to hurry – it should emphasize to us that he is free from the constraints of time as well as emphasizing the brevity of our existence!
 

Not exactly. The intent of God’s creation is future joy, for both him and us:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

It might even be called enlightened self-interest.

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It is natural that we humans are anthropocentric and describe the actions of God in an anthropocentric way, like God would be some kind of ‘superhuman’. The essence of God and His plans are way beyond our understanding. We can only know what has been revealed to us and even that in a very incomplete way.

The universe is not anthropocentric. I guess everyone who has studied the universe can agree that this is true. As the understanding of humans increases, there is a need to switch from an anthropocentric view to a theocentric view. We are not the center of the universe.

There’s your answer. His sovereign grace has been focussed on infinite serial and parallel worlds from eternity. At east ten in our galaxy alone. At least ten trillion in our universe alone. Although there was no life anywhere in it for the first ten billion years. OOM. Some thumb twiddling!

It’s a great question. For me, it’s a bit of a relief to think that He doesn’t limit Himself to us alone. I like C S Lewis’ Space Trilogy for an illustration–how God (Maleldil in the book) takes care of different worlds with equal devotion.

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Millions only, Mervin, if we are talking about us. The billions would mean you are including “births” as single-celled organisms, fungi, and plants.
Your point is a related but different one than what troubles me. I’m not at all bothered by “millions of years of death”. My question is how to coordinate God’s message to us, as we understand it today, with the fact that He waited so long to evolve us. So at that point, many have accused me of ‘an anthropocentric view’. But to defend myself from that, let me elaborate and hopefully make clearer the premise of my question.

My human centered question is meant only as it relates to God and His intentions for us. It does not mean that we are the primary, and certainly not the only holders of moral standing. My question does not imply that we should be able to do anything we want with or to the environment, e.g. But certainly we are viewed differently by God. So then why did He wait so long for His intended subjects to be present to hear and ponder His message? Reasonable and logical answers evade me at present.

Anthropocentrism, is your assumption, so let me elaborate a little (and defend myself against that concept). Let’s see if we can agree at the outset on a few stipulations: Most of us believe that animals have certain rights. And that plants have lesser (or perhaps no) rights. Human life exploits animals, plants and mineral resources for the benefit of humankind, but that must have limits. My human centered question is meant only as it relates to God and His intentions for us. It does not mean that we are the primary, and certainly not the only holders of moral standing. My question does not imply that we should be able to do anything we want with or to the environment, e.g. Consider Genesis: what are we to assume the intention was to refer to us being created in the image of God, and unstructured to “subdue” Earth and to “have dominion” over all other living creatures? I even discount this as figurative and metaphorical language used by other humans as their interpretation of events. And for that, I am pilloried by others on these forums. So I am not anthropocentric in that regard. But still what is to be the message we receive from and within our faith and beliefs as it relates to God’s plan(s)?

If I am to be accused of that, then what is the opposite of anthropocentrism? Perhaps Theocentrism, but that sort of sidesteps the question of His intentions towards us. And does that opposing view assert that God’s plans are equally important for plants and animals? If so, why is it not addressed in The Good Book? In fact, Paul says:
‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Or does he not speak entirely for our sake?"

My question comes from a simple belief and a simple fact. First the fact: life has existed for 4B years, but human life only .005% of that time. Now the belief: God presumably placed life here (or allowed life to occur here). And His intention(s) included for us to eventually have the opportunity for eternal salvation. My question is: why did He wait so long?

For humanity - yes -to be sure. I was even reaching for a broader outlook of thinking that non-human animals too can probably have something of “enjoyment” in life in their own way. But even then - you’re right - millions, not billions. That many magnitudes “out”, the additional number of zeros tacked on the end doesn’t much affect my main point I don’t think.

I wouldn’t lose much sleep over that - except maybe how to somehow gently address your critic’s concerns. What else could any of us ever be other than anthropocentric? After all, we are … human! So I’m not sure what else any critic might be hoping for. If one was not anthropocentric in their outlook and communications they would be unable to connect with anybody else and would be, or at least would appear insane to all the rest of us. So if people have some notion that they’ve somehow “risen above” anthropocentrism, I would just file that back among the interesting amusements we all tease ourselves with. It would be sort of like me claiming I’m going to step outside my humanity. I won’t be doing that (nor anybody else) any more than a cow will transcend its bovinity.

[The best we can hope to do is at least just recognize the inevitable anthropocentrism we all possess and operate within, and in the recognition of that then, perhaps our imaginations become a bit more free to meditate on how we aren’t the only living creatures in the universe.]

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Wait for what? Wait how?

Hey, @Bucky_Wood!
Interesting questions. And I think your use of the football field may be the best ever.

The Westminster Catechism’s first question helps give some perspective, although it doesn’t directly answer your questions.

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

We’re here go glorify God. Period. All that is, no matter how you want to define it or how far back (billions of years or eternity past), exists/has existed to do the same. The more the glory the better! Strangely, baked into that purpose, we puny humans are somehow given the capacity to actually enjoy God, and to continue to do that forever. There is nothing humanly logical about this. You can’t tease this one out that way.

This model of uninhibited glory and enjoyment absolutely resists utility as we understand it, because as you started to point out,

  • our part in the existence of life on the Earth is miniscule compared to the existence of the Earth;
  • the existence of Earth is miniscule compared to the existence of the Universe (well, depending on its starting point);
  • and finally, the existence of the Universe is simply not to be understood in comparison to the eternality of God.

Like children, who are shocked to find out their parents had fulfilling and busy lives before the children, we are naïve in our tendency to conceive the life of God really took off, when we arrived on the scene. We don’t know what He was doing or why, and even with some hints about what comes after each of us is done repurposing the earthy resources we use in order to have existence, the future is a bit murky. Murky but promising, because of promises we have been given.
We can rage for more information, if we want, but that will also be of no purpose.

I’ll wrap up with this. I am not the first to think about God’s work in the human terms I wrote below. (I’m quoting myself from another thread, because I’m too lazy to retype the same thing.) But I think considering the things we do ourselves for the sheer enjoyment of the process, even if nothing practical or needed is the result, is a way to help us differently and more helpfully think about God’s purposes behind creating anything at all, much less us.

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Wait??? It took that long because that is how long it takes. God’s omnipotence does not mean He is able to do whatever we say in whatever means we care to dictate. That is the difference between reality and a dream world.

The logic is evolution.

Only if your faith is in a magical dream world understanding of Christianity.

Or… we are the pinnacle right here and now in this particular pile of God’s creation. Doesn’t require us to think that we are the center of the universe or end of God’s creation.

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So you do not believe that we were His intent at the beginning? To ask my question a different way: Do you think that God, when He created our universe, envisioned the inevitable evolution of humans like us from the abiotic beginnings, to singe celled life and a LUCA?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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