Hi all! I am writing a research paper for a class I am taking on the Origins of the universe. I am trying to get a breadth of answers on this topic from people with all sorts of backgrounds, and would love to hear your thoughts on these! Below are my interview questions for my paper. I would really appreciate it if you would take a moment to look over these, answers can be as short or long as you want.
Do you believe the Bible as the Word of God? If so, how long do you think are the
days in Genesis 1? Why?
How old is the earth? How old is life on earth? What are your reasons for believing
Did man and apes share a common ancestor? What are your reasons for believing
that they do or don’t share a common ancestor?
Were Adam and Eve real people? What are your reasons for believing they are or
aren’t real people?
The first creation story (there are 2 in Genesis) does use normal 24 hour days in telling the story. The reason being part of reason for this story was to support the Sabbath. This doesn’t mean that God actually created the Earth in 6 days.
4.543 billion years, give or take a few years.
3.5 billion years.
Fossil record and radiometric dating.
The fossil record and shared DNA. In particular the shared Endogenous retroviruses.
No. They represent all of mankind. They don’t have to be real to make the story true. If they were real people around 10,000 years ago then they would only be 2 out of a population that had spread around the Earth. Which really makes them meaningless.
The first question is do I believe that the Bible is the word of God. My answer is not something I can say yes or no to because of all the presumptions and areas of issue that comes with a sort of loaded question.
The easiest thing to answer first is that I believe the Holy Spirit inspired various people to share his teachings with the world. Some was through the oral tradition of the ancient Jewish prophets. Some was through those who had visions or felt special divine knowledge given to them. Some was sharing what Christ himself taught them over the last years of his life before his death and resurrection. When we think of God inspiring the men who wrote the Bible there are two ways to think of it.
A possession. That’s a belief that God took over the kinds of his writers. They were essentially just tools. He possessed their body and mind and they sort of went into some kind of automatic writing where they may have been just as surprised as we are to what ended up in the Bible. It’s where they had no part in it other than being a pencil. It’s like when I wrote a letter, the pen gets no say I what I wrote. I strongly disagree with this mindset.
The other is that they were influenced. Sort of like how a beautiful song or sound can inspire a creative imagination. We’ve probably all have heard some song and while listening begin to think outside of ourselves. Or like when we hear a good beat and nod our heads. It’s like how when in nature we are sometimes just absorbed into its beauty. We can feel crappy and unhappy and sometimes take a good walk and feel much better. I think it’s similar to this. God inspired these thoughts and feelings in mankind supernaturally and through the other testimonies shared about him.
So a big question is was the men god worked through just tools or was it a partnership?
The other thing to consider when saying is the Bible the word of God is to clarify a few things. Are the copies we have influenced by God it was the original writings influenced by God and since then we have done our best to respect them and what they hold true.
Lastly it’s what Bible. The Bible is a relatively new concept. Different groups had different bibles. Is the Septuagint the word of God or is the Masoretic? Is the books in the Catholic Bible inspired or just those in the Protestant bible. One thing people often confuse us “ do you believe the Bible is the word of God “ means the same thing as do we believe the Bible is a inerrant and perfect word of God’. Many confuse how we interpret the Bible as do we believe. If I believe in the Bible but interpret part of it was mythological does not mean I believe it’s of lesser value than someone who thinks it’s literally all true at face value.
If it’s a flawless Bible than which translation best reflect it and what happened to those books like Jasher, Enoch, or the Assumption of Moses.
The Bible says “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Which means God’s measure of time is not the same as ours. Since the days of God’s creation in Genesis begin before the sun in the sky and then this is clearly not the same time as we measure it.
Scientific question and it is measurable: 4.543 billion years.
At least 3.5 billion years.
The accumulated scientific evidence.
Yes. The information in our genetic code makes it clear that all life on the planet has a common ancestor.
I think so. I even think they were the first human beings… just not the first homo sapiens. We are more than just a biological species. We have an inheritance shared with all other life on the planet in our DNA and we have another inheritance of the mind from God through Adam and Eve. But I certainly do not take the story in some magical-literal sense as being about talking snakes, magical fruit, or Adam&Eve being golems of dust and bone. The snake is the devil, the fruits represent aspects of human existence, and Adam&Eve were formed of the stuff of the Earth by the natural laws of the Earth including evolution, before their minds were brought to life by inspiration (divine breath) from God.
Hi Nathan, welcome to the forum. Hope that you find what we have to say useful.
In response to your questions, here are my answers:
Yes I do.
The days in Genesis 1 are days from God’s perspective, not ours, as suggested by 2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90:4. This means that they don’t really map to anything on our earthly timeline.
It’s important to realise that Genesis 1 describes creation on a cosmological scale. Once you leave the Earth’s atmosphere, there ceases to be a unified concept of how long a day is. In the Solar System, days have different lengths on different planets, and even then there are two different definitions of a “day” (synodic days relative to the sun, versus sidereal days, relative to the rest of the universe), and even on the Earth, you have the whole concept of time zones and what happens within the Arctic Circle making the concept of “evening and morning” a whole lot more complicated. To insist on the days as being literal solar 24 hour days is to adopt a very geocentric view of things.
4.54±0.05 billion years. Life has been around for at least 3.5 billion of those 4.5 billion years.
The figures are derived by mathematics and measurement, following principles and methods that apply to every area of science, and that have proven themselves in multiple different contexts, many of them commercial and some of them safety-critical.
Any other conclusion would have required God to have created evidence for 4.5 billion years of detailed history, pointing to specific events having taken place at very precise times with clearly identifiable causes and effects, that never happened. That seems completely out of character for the God of the Bible to me.
This appears to be the case. The evidence from genetics removes all reasonable doubt. As for the Bible, take a look at Ecclesiastes 3:18-21:
I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
Note the words “God tests them” in verse 18. It seems that not only do we at least appear to share a common ancestor with the animals, but God uses the fact to test our hearts to see whether there is any pride in us.
I personally believe that they were, evolution and common ancestry or not.
The important thing to note about Adam and Eve is that they were the first people to whom God spoke on a personal level. Up to that point, His only instruction had been the one that he gave to the animals in Genesis 1:22: "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” But from chapter 2 onwards, starting with the Garden of Eden, He is giving specific instructions to specific people. Adam and Eve were the first to know God in this way.
There could have been other people around at the time. If there were, it would answer a lot of questions that a lot of people have about the early chapters of Genesis, such as where Cain got his wife from, or who he was building a city for, or who he was afraid of who might have killed him.
(The only thing that matters is faith expressed in love.)
An unspecified length, based on evidence, close to 13.8 GY all together.
By faith and by evidence, respectively.
4.54 ± 0.04 GY
Messing with radiometric dating either destroys every proton or makes God deceptive.
That seems to be an accurate description of reality.
Genetic and fossil evidence.
I am not certain, but I would tend to say yes.
The evidence presented in the Bible suggests that they are real people, at some point in the past ~100,000 years, but does not specify beyond that. My personal preference is to put them as ancestral to, but not the sole ancestors of all modern humans.
I accept it as God’s written word, but it’s because I believe what that recorded testimony teaches that I accept Christ as the living Word of God without whom the use of any printed words is in vain.
Regarding the age and origins questions … you’ve already got good evidenced-based appraisals given above.
I think they are real in whatever important ways our scriptural narrative makes them real (which isn’t necessarily in the historical sense, though that can certainly be part of it for much of scripture.) Just as a “day” is probably an ordinary day as anyone would think of it since that was the chosen language to mediate something profound to us. That we want to retreat from the profundity of the real message back into modernistic squabbling about whether it’s 24 hours or how to squeeze the mechanics of it all into that is our own modern, tunnel-visioned provincialism and not at all the ancient scribe’s agenda.
Yes. Skipping to the meaning of the “days” in Genesis 1 skips over the fact that the universe and earth was created at an undisclosed time prior to the beginning of the days. In this recently published, peer-reviewed article I show that the Bible does not teach Young Earth Creationism because it doesn’t establish a dateable chain of events back to the original creation: "The Beginning of Days”, JBTS (beginning on slide 71, p. 153): https://jbtsonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/JBTS-6.1Part-2.pdf
That’s a matter for science since, as above, the Bible doesn’t make a claim.
According to Hugh Ross, there’s not enough time, even accepting the scientific age of the earth, for evolution to explain the different species.
Yes. Adam is the head of the human race (Romans 5:12ff).
The way the juxtaposition of thread title and OP equate universe with the earth and the description of Genesis 1 does irritate me as a physicist… few issues here…
While the Earth is 4.543 billion years old, the whole universe is 13.8 billion years old. It is true I often point out that this is not a huge difference considering how much had go into making the heavy elements of the Earth, but that previous 9.257 billion years is hardly insignificant.
I was recently reminded that not all believe God created the whole universe – the LDS (and Klax?) being examples. And while I certainly do believe that God created the universe myself, that doesn’t mean that the Genesis 1 account is about the creation of the whole universe. That is problematic for quite a few different reasons.
I do think it is perfectly natural for the purpose of communication for the Biblical account to be confined to the cosmological perspective of the people to whom this was addressed. Talk of galaxies and the true scale of the universe would be as absurd as getting into the details of quantum field theory in explaining things to a kindergarten class.
I won’t bother rehashing similar answers to everyone else, but rather, will highlight one point where I differ from some.
Why do I believe in common ancestry?
No, not because of the evidence for it, even though I know it is solid.
It’s because of trust. As an ex-scientist in a different field, I know first hand that scientists in that field are competent, knowledgeable, and act in good faith.
It is reasonable to assume that biologists are, too. If they’re not stupid and they’re not setting out to deceive, then I should trust what they claim with high confidence to know, rather than deluding myself that I am competent to challenge the evidence, or believing some other layperson’s delusion about themself. I don’t have 8 years of university training and years of professional experience in biology. Humility demands I defer to those who do.
I have read enough of the evidence to be convinced on those grounds alone, but I also appreciate that I am only across a tiny fraction of the vast body of evidence that professional experts aee across. So, their professional opinion means even more to me than those bits of evidence I have personally been exposed to.
Belated edit to add, am I accusing YECs of hubris? I must admit, sometimes I do feel like that, although I think I am wrong to do so. Most of them are genuine in the faith, and understand the commandment to humility. I think there might be a couple of factors at play here.
I think whereas I view God’s Creation of an intelligible Universe as a material revelation to His image-bearers (Psalm 19:1. Romans 1:20), they perhaps subscribe to a more Platonic or mystical metaphysics that sees the physical world as secondary to some ideal realm. And therefore they are perhaps less troubled than I am about the material evidence vs their beliefs in the light of the teaching that God cannot lie (e.g. Titus 1:2).
Secondarily, I think those people through no real fault of their own might not fully appreciate the truths that scientists are competent, knowledgeable and well-intentioned, and are really very confident in positions such as a very old Universe and evolution of species through common descent. People are products their experience and their cultural milieu and the latter especially has been subject to decades of erosion in trust in authority, whether that be trust in epistemic authority or in moral authority…
I agree with the consensus on the questions, but on 4, the historicity of Adam and Eve, I would say, I do not know. And it does not matter. I do tend to heavily lean toward their story being symbolic, as the elements of it are not really historical, but accept that there may have been two individuals who first had the capability of a relationship with God. And blew it.
If they are not historical, however, that does not make them less real in a sense. The story of their experience is still true and relevant to our relationship with God.
(The only thing that matters is faith expressed in love.)