The Trustworthiness of Scripture in Areas Relating to Natural Science

Dr. Walter L. Bradley

Walter L. Bradley received his B.S. in Engineering Science and his Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Texas in Austin. Married in 1965, he lives in College Station, Texas with his wife, Ann. He taught as an Assistant and Associate Professor of Metallurgical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines before assuming a position as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU) in 1976. Dr. Bradley, also served as Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University and as Director of the Polymer Technology Center at TAMU. He currently serves as Distinquished Professor of Engineering at Baylor University. Visit Dr. Bradley's Online Faculty Office and read his personal story, etc.

A reprint of Chapter 5 (pp. 283-348) from Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible, Radmacher and Preus, eds. (Zondervan, 1984). Used by permission.


A. The "Yom" and the "Bara/Asah" of Genesis 1

For the past one hundred plus years, the principal tension point between orthodox Christianity and modern science has been the question of origins. The Bible addresses this question specifically in Genesis 1-3 with only a few additional references found in other portions of Scripture. How does one properly interpret these passages in light of developments in geology and biology that suggest the universe and the earth are quite old and that life began and developed to its current forms including man by completely natural means? The Roman Catholic Church historically made a serious mistake when it refused to reconsider its interpretation of certain passages of Scripture in light of the theory of Copernicus which was strongly supported by the observations of Galileo. We dare not diminish the significance of this lesson by simply noting that the church was led astray by Aquinas’s incorporation of early Greek thought into the exegesis of certain Scriptures. We should seek to avoid similar mistakes today where the possibility of the exegetical error may be for a quite different reason.

In this paper we would like to focus on the interpretation of the Hebrew words "yom" and "bara/asah" as they are used in the early chapters of Genesis to describe the time frame and mechanism of creation. A careful examination of both biblical and scientific data will be summarized. A critique of the current models based on this data will be made leading to our summary of how at present we think one may best harmonize all of the available information.

Before considering the biblical and scientific particulars, a general overview will be presented to clearly show the distinctive frames of reference used to interpret the data by various evangelical Christians today.

B. Naturalism and Supernaturalism

It is common today to pit naturalism against supernaturalism. This is a result of the fact that many naturalists assume the universe to be a closed system of cause and effect. Nature is implicitly assumed to be autonomous and God is considered to be either an absentee or nonexistent "landlord." A biblical view of nature by contrast assumes the existence of a system of cause and effect that depends moment by moment on God’s will and reflects His providential care for His creatures in His customary way. He may minister to the needs of His creatures in some extraordinary way occasionally, and we call these phenomena miracles. Thus, nature is seen as being neither a closed system nor an autonomous one.

Scientists may study only God’s customary way of caring for His creatures. The laws of nature so called are in fact descriptions of this regular pattern. The law of gravitational attraction describes in the language of mathematics the attraction of mass for mass but gives no explanation for why such an attraction should exist. Sir Isaac Newton who first formulated the laws of motion as well as the law of gravity felt that the common cause of nature is the result of God’s immediate, sustaining activity (cf. Col. 1:17).{1} John Donne has cautioned us against allowing a preoccupation with miracles to blind us to God’s direct hand in the everyday physical reality in which we presently exist. He says, "There is nothing that God has established in the course of nature, and which therefore is done everyday, but would seem a miracle and exercise our admiration if it were done but once, and only the daily doing takes off the admiration."{2}

In summary a proper Christian view of nature sees God as the immediate cause for both the natural and the supernatural. Application of this concept to the question of origins suggests that God could have used his customary means (process), some extraordinary means (miracle), or both in bringing plant and animal life, and ultimately, man into existence. We will next examine the three most common Christian views of origins and see that they suggest God’s use of miracle exclusively, process exclusively, or a combination of miracle plus process.

C. Christian Views of Origins

We believe that all Christian views of origins may be divided into three categories as shown in Table I. Mature creationists see God working only through fiat miracle, therefore needing no significant amount of time.{3} Thus, they interpret the yom of Genesis I as successive twenty-four hour days and the "bara and asah" as being fiat miracle. The progressive creationist sees God working ("bara and asah") through a combination of miracle plus process.{4} {5} Because a part of God’s work involves process (laws of nature, God’s customary way of acing, the six yoms of Genesis I are assumed to encompass a much longer time span. The theistic evolutionist would have God’s work accomplished almost exclusively{6} through process, and therefore, requiring again long time periods for the "yom" of Genesis.{7} {8} {9} It is clear that the various Christian views of origins as summarized in Table I can be simply classified by the interpretations of the Hebrew words "bara and asah" and "yom." The remainder of this paper will be concerned with examining the biblical and scientific evidence pertinent to interpreting these Hebrew words.

Before looking at the evidence in detail, a few comments about the significance of the evidence are in order. God has revealed Himself in His Word (the Bible) as well as in his creation (the world). We believe these revelations are equally valid and essentially complementary. Properly understood, they should give a consistent account of origins. It is sometimes argued that our exegesis should not be influenced by scientific observations. We believe this view is mistaken. While the Bible clearly gives more specific information about our relationship to God then one can possibly deduce from natural revelation, it does not necessarily follow that our understanding of the physical world, its origin, etc. will also be more clearly deduced from God’s revelation in His Word than His revelation in His world. Since both are revelations from God, and therefore, give a unified story, it seems quite permissible to consider all of the evidence (scientific as well as biblical) to be significant to the degree that each revelation can be clearly interpreted. Herein is the rub. The theologian may feel His interpretation of the biblical data is unequivocal whereas the scientist may have a different but also unequivocal view of the scientific data. At this point both must be willing to give serious consideration to the other data or else assume, as some do, that the Bible deals only allegorically with origins while science deals with what actually happened, and thus, a harmony of the two accounts is not expected anyway.

In the sections that follow, we shall assume Genesis 1 deals with real time-space events and seek to interpret the Genesis 1 account of origins in the most general way possible. The goal is to first define the latitude of permissible interpretation of the biblical account of origins. Then God’s revelation of his world as perceived through the

eyes of science will be used to identify the best possible interpretation of origins within the previously prescribed boundary. This methodology allows the authoritative position of Scripture to be maintained while taking advantage of insights from scientific studies to supplement our understanding where the Genesis 1 account is ambiguous.

We will consider the "bara" and "asah" of Genesis 1, evaluating both the biblical and scientific data to determine God’s mechanism in creating the universe, earth, plant, and animal life, and most recently man. Then we will consider the biblical and scientific evidence for the time frame of this creative activity.


The question to be considered in this section is God’s mechanism in creation; i.e., miracle, process, or a combination of the two. We will consider first the biblical data and then the scientific data pertinent to this question.

A. Biblical Data

The active verbs used in Genesis 1 to describe God’s activity in creation are "bara" (1:1, 21, 27) and "asah" (1:7, 16, 25, and 31), usually translated ‘’created’’{10} and ‘’made’’{11} respectively. "Bara" is used only thirty-three times in the Old Testament with essentially all implying some degree of supernatural activity on the part of God. A few imply God working through a combination of miracle and process; e.g., the creation of the nation of Israel or the blacksmith in Isa. 54:16. Many of the usages of "bara" have the sense of a radical newness, something distinctively different.{12}

"Asah" is used 624 times in the Old Testament and quite often refers to the normal activity of people making or forming something.{13} Where God’s "asah" is mentioned, the implication is occasionally one of miracle, but quite often God’s providential care for His creatures in His customary way is implied, such as when He makes the storm clouds which bring rain (Zech. 10:1). Most Old Testament references to God’s creating the heavens and the earth use the verb "asah." "Bara" and "asah" are sometimes used interchangeably (Gen. 1:26, 27, 31).

The implication is that the use of "bara" and "asah" suggest God’s mechanism in creation probably involved miracle plus process rather than fiat miracle, except for Genesis 1:1, where essentially all evangelicals seem to agree that fiat miracle is implied. It is interesting to note that Dr. Robert Jastrow, head of the Goddard Space Center, has interpreted recent developments in astrophysical and astronomy as implying a miraculous birth to the universe in the generally accepted "Big Bang Theory" of the origin of the universe.{14}

Arguments for a mechanism of creation that utilizes only fiat miracle cannot be based on the common usage of "bara and asah" as previously noted. Rather such arguments are inferred from the interpretation of "yom" as a twenty-four hour day, which leaves insufficient time for process to play a significant role in God’s creation activity. The validity of this argument will be considered later.

Arguments for process only after Genesis 1:1 are offered by theistic evolutionists who generally assume the intent of Genesis 1 is to establish God as Creator apart from the communication of any meaningful scientific detail as to mechanism or time frame.{15} God is assumed to have used the process of evolution as His mechanism to bring life to an appropriately high level at which time He imparted to man a soul. Genesis 2:7 is sometime cited to support such a claim. However, the same Hebrew words translated living soul (or being) in Genesis 2:7 are translated living creature in Genesis 1:21 and 1:24. The idea in all three verses therefore seems to be God animating with life previously lifeless matter rather than infusing a soul in a highly evolved primate.

Some theistic evolutionists go even further and suggest that Adam is a symbolic rather than historical figure who represents fallen mankind.{16} Jesus (Matt. 19:4-6), Paul, (1 Cor. 11:8-9, Rom. 5:12-14, 1 Tim. 2:12-13), Luke (Acts 17:25, Luke 3) and Moses (Gen. 5) all made reference to Adam and Eve as actual people. References by Jesus, Peter, and the author of Hebrews to Noah further support the idea that Gen. 1-11 is dealing with real history rather than allegory or poetry. Furthermore, the detail of Gen. 2: 10-25 would seem inappropriate for an allegory of creation. The repeated references in Genesis 1 to animals and plants reproducing after their own kind (1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25) as well as Paul’s reference in I Cor. 15:39 to men, animals, birds and fish having different flesh would also seem to preclude a common ancestry and genetic relationship between all animals and all plants in their respective kingdoms. Thus, the general theory of evolution seems incompatible with a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. An allegorical interpretation of Genesis 1-3 seems to be precluded by the numerous references made by later authors to a historical Adam and Eve.

In summary, the "bara" and "asah" of Genesis 1 seem to suggest God working through a combination of fiat miracle and process (miscorrelation) wherein God created the major types of animal and plant life and then used process to develop the tremendous variety of life forms we observe today Adam is seen to be a historical figure who originated as a special creation of God.

B. Scientific Data

The scientific data with respect to origins may now be evaluated to see what is implied about God’s mechanism(s) in creation; i.e., miracle, process, or a combination of the two. The development of current biological systems is assumed to have begun with the formation of the various elements, some of which reacted to form simple gaseous compounds such as methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. The compounds in turn reacted under the influence of solar energy or electrical discharge (lightning) to form more complex molecular "building blocks" such as amino acids, phosphates, bases, and sugars. These compounds then combined under the influence of energy to form quite complex macromolecules such as protein and deoxyribonucleic acid. The organization of these and other macromolecules with the development of permeable membranes to protect the system resulted in the first living organism. From this first living cell subsequently developed simple plants and animals, and in time, the more complex plant and animal forms we see today.{17}

The distinguishing feature in this scenario of the origin of life is a monotonic increase in complexity. Nobel laureate I. Prigogine{18} has recently noted commenting on biological complexity

All these features bring the scientist a wealth of new problems. In the first place, one has systems that have evolved spontaneously to extremely organized and complex forms. Coherent (orderly) behavior is really the characteristic feature of biological systems.

May this increasing complexity be achieved within the framework of God’s customary ways of superintending creation (natural processes; i.e., the laws of nature) or is an extraordinary work of God (fiat miracle) required? Is a completely naturalistic (God working in His customary way) explanation of origins possible today? Is it reasonable to expect that such a complete naturalistic explanation will be forthcoming in the future? Is it safe to place God’s supernatural activity in some of the current "gaps" in our scientific explanation, realizing that these gaps may be filled later by new insights in our scientific understanding? We will consider these questions as we examine the scientific evidence concerning origins. This will be done in two sections: first, the development of simple living systems, usually called prebiotic evolution and second, the progression of such systems to more complex forms, usually called macroevolution.

1 . Prebiotic Evolution

Increasing chemical complexity is the most distinctive feature of prebiotic evolution and also represents the single biggest challenge to explain by natural processes. The Second Law of Thermodynamics asserts that the universe or any isolated system therein is tending toward-maximum entropy, where entropy can be thought of as a measure of the disorder of the system.{19} Thus, the Second Law suggests a progression from order to disorder, from complexity to simplicity in the physical universe. Yet biological evolution involves a hierarchical progression to increasingly complex forms of living systems, seemingly in contradiction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Whether this discrepancy between the theories of thermodynamics and evolution is apparent or real is the question to be considered in this section. The recent controversy evident in an article in The American Scientist along with the replies it provoked demonstrates that the question is still a timely one.{20}

Harold Morowitz{21} and others have suggested that the solution to the "apparent" contradiction is found in recognizing that the earth is not an isolated system, since it is open to energy flow from the sun. One cannot, however, simply dismiss the problem of the creation of order in biological systems by some vague appeal to open system thermodynamics. One must specify how the energy flow through the system may be converted into the necessary chemical and coding "work" required. Nicolis and Prigogine{22} have succinctly commented on this problem as follows:

Needless to say, these simple remarks cannot suffice to solve the problem of biological order. One would like not only to establish that the second law is compatible with a decrease in overall entropy (via energy flow through the system), but also to indicate the mechanisms responsible for the emergence and maintenance of coherent states.

In the formation of the basic macromolecules essential for the biochemical function of living systems (e.g., DNA, protein, etc.), two types of "work" must be done. First the chemical energy of the macromolecules must be increased over that of the simple building blocks from which they are constructed. Second, the building blocks must be arranged in a very specific sequence to achieve proper function in the system much the same way letters must be arranged in certain specific sequences on a page to give a useful function, i.e., communicating information. We will call the first type of work chemical work and the second type of work coding work.

One of the authors has recently surveyed the literature on attempts to synthesize DNA and protein in the laboratory under simulated prebiotic conditions.{23} The conclusions from this survey were, first, that no successful experimental results have yet been achieved, and second, that the coding work is far more difficult to do than the chemical work. This is intuitively what one might expect. Miller and Orgel{24} summarized their chapter on prebiotic condensation reactions in The Origin of Life on Earth with

We believe that very limited progress has been made in the study of prebiotic condensation reactions. Many interesting scraps of information are available, but no correct pathways have yet been discovered.

One may gain insight into the problem by considering the analogous problem of converting chemical energy in gasoline into transportation. One might simply pour the gasoline into a modest size bucket, ignite it with a match and be off on one’s trip if a single trip to an unspecified destination is acceptable. By contrast, if one puts the gasoline into an automobile, the same energy is released. However, the energy released is converted into mechanical work which is then converted into torque on the rear wheels of your automobile. Thus, the design of the automobile allows chemical energy to be converted into torque, making possible transportation. In a similar way, photosynthesis allows conversion of solar energy into chemical energy which may then be "burned" in living plants and animals to allow them to grow to maturity and maintain themselves in this condition. A "metabolic motor is involved in the initial conversion of solar energy into chemical energy and a second "metabolic motor" is required to allow the combustion of these chemicals in such a way that the associated energy released may be coupled to the specific chemical and coding work required by the organism. While the details of the "metabolic motors" in various plants and animals vary, they have certain common components such as DNA (acting as a template) and proteins (acting as catalyses) that channel the flow of the energy through the system and regulate the rate at which it is released. Apart from such a metabolic motor, coupling of energy flow through the system to do the necessary ordering work would not be possible.

This is precisely why prebiotic{25} synthesis experiments fail. "Raw" energy does not seem to be capable of doing the ordering work necessary to construct the complex macromolecules of living systems. In fact the uniform failure of literally thousands of experimental attempts to synthesize protein or DNA under prebiotic conditions is a monument to the difficulty in achieving a high degree of information content, or order from the undirected flow of energy through a system.

It is sometimes argued that there are self-ordering tendencies in nature that may account for the observed order in living systems. Crystal formation as well as vortices (as in your bathtub when it is nearly empty) or convective heat currents are offered as examples of the self-ordering tendencies in nature. Such analogies fail to recognize that the ordering in vortices, crystals, etc. is very redundant compared to the observed ordering in living systems which is quite diverse and information intensive. The three sequences of letters below illustrate a random arrangement, a highly ordered but redundant arrangement, and a highly ordered, information intensive arrangement:

(a) random:

(b) ordered but redundant (like a crystal):

(c) ordered and information intensive (like DNA or protein):

A few investigators have claimed a degree of ordering (nonrandomness) in their attempts to synthesize protein. However, Miller and Orgel{26} have evaluated this work as follows:

The degree of nonrandomness in thermal polypeptides so far demonstrated is minute compared to the nonrandomness of protein. It is deceptive, then, to suggest that thermal polypeptides are similar to protein in their nonrandomness.

The problem in obtaining a plausible chemical pathway from living systems has recently caused Nobel laureate, Sir Francis Crick,{27} who discovered the structure of DNA, to postulate that life may have come to this planet from another planet. While recognizing that this does not solve the problem but only transfers it to another location, he argues that maybe the conditions for the origin of life were somehow more favorable there than they are here. He comments later in the same paper:

Unfortunately we know next to nothing about the probability that life evolves within a few billion years in a rich prebiotic soup, either on our own Earth, or still less on other earthlike plants.

Polyani{28} has correctly noted that the laws of chemistry and physics as presently understood cannot explain the existence of machines or living systems. Though the operation of living systems may be described in terms of the laws of chemistry and physics, it is in the fixing of the boundary conditions (e.g., making the first metabolic motor) that the necessary function (coupling the energy flow through the system to do specific work) becomes possible. Man designing and building an internal combustion engine constitutes such a fixing of the boundary conditions for the chemical energy in gasoline to be converted into useful work. In a similar way the metabolic motor common to all living systems allows maintenance of the living systems in their highly ordered conditions.

In summarizing this section, we should like to reemphasize that one cannot dismiss the possibility of ordering simple chemicals into complex living organisms by an appeal to the Second Law of Thermodynamics since the earth is an open system. However, an open system without some mechanism to couple the energy flow through the system to the required ordering work is equally unacceptable as a model for the origin of life. Either there is some as yet undiscovered energy coupling mechanism or self-ordering mechanism, or else, God accomplished this part of His creation in a supernatural way.

2. Macroevolution

We begin this section by making a distinction between microevolution and macroevolution since it is only the latter that is of possible concern to us as we seek to better understand God’s mechanism(s) in creation. Evolution seeks to explain changes in living organisms. Microevolution would limit itself to consideration of smaller changes occurring in given levels of complexity; i.e., increasing diversity including speciation. Macroevolution would attempt to show the relationship between all living organisms, which is more difficult to do. We shall consider the "historical" evidence for evolution as it is preserved in the fossil record. Then we shall consider possible mechanisms to account for this increasing complexity observed in living systems.

It has always been assumed that change occurs slowly in living organisms. Thus, it is assumed that long periods of time are involved and that there are many minute steps along the way. If this is so, then one would reasonably expect to find in the fossil record a continuous increase in complexity with time. Initially when the fossil record was found to show numerous gaps, it was assumed that these gaps would eventually be filled by subsequent finds. Today it is widely recognized that the major gaps still persist. Professor Kitts{29} has commented with reference to this problem:

Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of seeing evolution, it has presented some nasty difficulties for the evolutionists the most notorious of which is the presence of ‘gaps’ in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them. The gaps must therefore be a contingent feature of the record. Darwin was concerned enough about this problem to devote a chapter of the ‘Origin’ to it. He accounts for the ‘imperfections of the geological record’ largely on the basis of the lack of continuous deposition of sediments and by erosion. Darwin also holds out the hope that some of the gaps would be filled as the result of subsequent collecting. But most of the gaps were still there a century later and some paleontologists were no longer willing to explain them away geologically.

Dr. Gould{30} of Harvard has recently commented on the same problem as follows:

The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. we fancy ourselves as the only true students of life’s history; yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection, we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.

Dr. Pierre-Paul Grasse, past president of the French Academy of Science and editor of the thirty-five volume "Traite de Zoologie" makes the following statements in his recent book Review of Evolution of Living Organisms:{31}

There is almost total absence of fossil evidence relative to the origin of the phyla.... The lack of direct evidence leads to the formation of pure conjectures as to the genesis of the phyla. We do not even have a basis to determine the extent to which these opinions are correct.

Dr. E. L. Core in his textbook General Biology{32} succinctly notes:

We do not actually know the phylogenetic history of any group of plants or animals.

Coffin and Anderson{33} have detailed in laymens@ terms the current gaps in the fossil record in their monogram Fossils in Focus. A recent article in Life magazine discusses the problem of gaps in the fossil record.{34}

The problem of gaps in the fossil record was one of the main topics considered at an international conference on Macroevolution in Chicago in the fall of 1980.{35} At this conference the clear absence of transitional forms and the persistence of gaps in the fossil record were openly discussed and the significance of same were roundly debated. Gould of Harvard and others are now advocating a new model to account for the many discontinuities in the fossil record. This model called "punctuated equilibrium" assumes change is not gradual after all. Rather, species remain unchanged for long periods of time and then experience a very rapid series of changes that make any fossil record of the transition unlikely. That such a model should be proposed and have so many distinguished advocates tends to confirm the validity of the previous quotations. It should be recognized that such a model has no mechanism at present and would predict a fossil record indistinguishable from that expected if God simply created the major types of plant and animal life. Thus, it may prove to be impossible to scientifically demonstrate "punctuated equilibrium" to have any unique features to distinguish it from "special creation."

Having noted the lack of clear support for macroevolution in the fossil record, we turn our attention next to the proposed mechanism for evolution: namely, mutation/natural selection. Mutations are the result of replicating mistakes along the DNA chain. Such alterations change the information coding implicit in the base sequence along the chain. Usually such mutations are harmful, sometimes lethal, and quite infrequently advantageous (it is debated by some creationists whether mutations are ever beneficial). Natural selection acts to filter out the change that is not desirable so that over a period of time even very occasionally beneficial mutations can give rise to species more adapted to their respective environments.

The important question, however, is not whether mutations can give rise to change but whether they can give rise to increasing information content along the DNA chain resulting in increasing complexity of the organism. Professor Eden{36} of MIT has allegorically pictured the problem as follows:

If random point mutations along the DNA string is taken seriously as the primary motivation of evolutionary change, then the chance of emergence of man is like the probability of typing at random a meaningful library of one thousand volumes using the following procedure: begin with a meaningful phrase; retype it with a few mistakes; make it. longer by adding letters, and rearrange the subsequences in the string of letters; then examine the result to see if the new phrase is meaningful. Repeat the process until the library is complete.

Not only is the model of random mutations along the DNA chain untenable statistically as a means of increasing the information content of the molecular coding, it is without experimental verification. Professor H. G. Cannon{37} speaks to this clear lack of experimental supports in the following:

A fact that has been obvious for many years is that Mendelian mutations deal only with changes in existing characters.... No experiment has produced progeny that show entirely new functioning organs. And yet it is the appearance of new characters in organisms which mark the boundaries of major steps in the evolutionary scale.

In addressing this question in college classrooms speaking with Probe Ministries, one of the authors has noted repeatedly the response that changes produced by mutations are too small to produce such a drastic alteration in the organism. Yet laboratory experiments in which countless thousands of mutations have been produced through the use of radiation on fruit flies have not given the fruit fly any new characteristic. Studies of this type always begin and end with the same organism. The distinguished French zoologist Dr. Grasse{38} has commented on the role of mutations in evolution as follows:

Some contemporary biologists, as soon as they observe a mutation talk about evolution. They are implicitly supporting the following syllogism: mutations are the only evolutionary variations, all living beings undergo mutations, therefore all living beings evolve. This logical scheme is however unacceptable: first, because its major premise is neither obvious nor general; second, because its conclusion does not agree with the facts. No matter how numerous they may be, mutations do not produce any kind of evolution.

He goes on to use the illustration of bacteria that have the highest frequency of mutations, yet stabilized a billion years ago. He says once one has noticed micro-variations on the one hand and specific stability on the other, it seems very difficult to conclude that the former comes into play in the evolutionary process.

In summarizing this section on biotic evolution, the evidence for macroevolution seems very tenuous at best: "punctuated equilibrium" that causes such rapid change that no fossil record is left; caused by random mutations, a mechanism that produces such small changes that it is impossible to ever experimentally demonstrate that it produces new characteristics, rather than changes in existing characteristics. These two hypotheses for macroevolution essentially put it beyond the reach of scientific verification or refutation, making it essentially a metaphysical statement of faith that change occurs in some naturalistic way that can at present be neither explained nor observed. It is clear that special creation of the major types of plant and animal life is consistent with the scientific evidence currently available on the origin and development of plant and animal life.

C. Summary

Did God use miracle, process, or a combination of the two in creating plant and animal life as we see it today? Both the biblical and the scientific evidence seem to demand that "bara" and "asah" include some supernatural activity on God’s part. The evidence, however, does not seem to preclude process being used as a supplement to the miraculous. The common usages particularly of "asah" seems to imply natural process and the ample evidence for microevolution (not discussed in this paper) would seem to support this hypothesis. Thus, we conclude that the "bara" and "asah" of Genesis should be properly interpreted to mean that God used a combination of miracle plus process to create life as we see it today. Theistic evolution is clearly not demanded at present by the scientific evidence (nor even well supported for that matter) and would appear to be quite dubious, based on the evidence from Scripture.

How much danger is there in attributing to miraculous activity on God’s part that which science cannot explain today? The specific observations demanding either supernatural activity by God or a new mechanism all have to do with increasing information content and ordering, both in the origin of life and the development from simple to complex life forms. While it is possible that God used some natural but subtle mechanism to organize living systems, it seems reasonable at present to assume no such mechanism exists and attribute as we have the organizing of the major types of living systems to a supernatural activity on God’s part.


The question to be considered in this section is God’s time frame in creation. Table I summarizes the possible positions with respect to time as they relate to mechanism(s) used by God in creating. We will consider first the biblical data followed by an evaluation of the pertinent scientific data.

A. Biblical Data

The Hebrew word "yom" and its plural form "yamim" are used over 1900{39} times in the Old Testament. In only sixty-five of these cases is it translated as a time period other than a day in the King James Version.{40} Outside of the Genesis 1 case in question, the two hundred plus occurrences of "yom" preceded by ordinals all refer to a normal twenty-four hour day.{41} Furthermore, the seven-hundred plus appearances of "yamim" always refer to a regular day. Thus, it is argued by Morris that the Exodus 20:11 reference to the six "yamim" of creation must also refer to six regular days.{42}

These arguments have a common fallacy, however. There is no other place in the Old Testament where the intent is to describe events that involve multiple and/or sequential, indefinite periods of time. If the intent of Genesis 1 is to describe creation as occurring in six, indefinite time periods, it is a unique Old Testament event being recorded. Other descriptions where "yom" refers to an indefinite time period are all for a single time period. Thus, the absence of the use of "yamim" for other than regular days and the use of ordinals only before regular days elsewhere in the Old Testament cannot be given an unequivocal exegetical significance in view of the uniqueness of the events being described in Genesis 1 (i.e, sequential, indefinite time periods).

The terms "morning and evening" used in the Genesis 1 account in connection with the various "yoms" are sometimes argued to be compelling evidence for a literal day.{43} {44} Yet, it has been demonstrated that the "yom" of Genesis 1 cannot be unequivocally interpreted twenty-four hour day, it is unreasonable then to demand that "morning and evening" be given a literal significance. If "yom" can mean creative epoch, then "mutatis mutandis" (evening and morning) could reasonably be interpreted to have the metaphorical significance of beginning and ending. It should be emphasized that a figurative or metaphorical interpretation of the "yom" of Genesis 1 does not necessarily lead to a denial of the historicity of the Genesis 1 account (as some claim), but only rejection of the interpretation of the creative "week" as being of 168 hours duration. Furthermore, God’s supernatural creative activity in these longer creative "days" is still affirmed, based on our previous discussion of the "bara/asah" of Genesis 1.

Exodus 20:11 is often suggested to be convincing evidence for a six-day creative week, but arguments by analogy can only be suggestive, and never conclusive. There is simply no reason why our seven-day week demands a creative week of seven twenty-four hour days. In fact Davis A. Young{45} has recently argued that God’s creative week is still in progress, based on the absence of the "morning and evening" phraseology with reference to day seven (Gen. 2:2-3) and the references in Hebrew 4 to entering into God’s rest, which suggests the seventh "yom" continues to the present.

Finally, it has been argued over the years that a twenty-four hour day translation for the "yom" of Genesis 1 creates more problems than it solves because the sense of the passage, and especially the sixth "yom" seems to suggest a much longer period of time. R. J. Snow{46} has recently discussed this problem, concluding that the activities of the sixth day as well as the response of Adam when he meets Eve clearly suggest a much longer time frame than a day. Snow notes with reference to the narrative of Genesis 1 and 2, we have the major types of land animals created, Adam created, the garden planted and made to grow by God, Adam being placed in the garden, Adam naming the animals and then feeling lonely, Adam being put to sleep and Eve being created, and finally the initial meeting at which Adam exclaims, "happa’am," or "now at length" (cf. similar usages in Genesis 29:34-35, 30:20, 46:30 and Judg. 15:3).

We conclude that the proper interpretation of "yom" in Genesis 1 is uncertain from an exegetical point of view. The interpretation of "yom" in this passage to be an indefinite period of time cannot be precluded; i.e., it is a legitimate interpretation. In fact Kaiser,{47} Snow, and others have argued it is the more compelling interpretation. The accusation that such an interpretation for "yom" is simply a capitulation to modern science is seen to be groundless when one recognizes that Josephus (first century),{48} Irenaeus (second century),{49} Origin (third century),{50} Augustine (fourth century),{51} Aquinas (fourteenth century),{52} and many others{53} held such an interpretation long before modern geology and astronomy adopted their current view of the antiquity of the universe including earth.

We will next look at the scientific data for the age of the earth to gain insight into the proper interpretation of "yom" in Genesis 1, deferring temporarily the question of harmonizing the details of Genesis 1, especially chronology, with current geological models.

B. Scientific Date

In this section we will summarize briefly some of the common scientific arguments for a young earth and for an old earth, presenting the assumptions required for each estimate. Then we will critique the assumptions in an attempt to draw some conclusions. All of the arguments have a similarity to the common problem of estimating how long you have been driving on a trip since breakfast. If you know the approximate distance traveled and the rate of travel, then the time may be easily estimated. All methods of dating assume something about the rate at which a given process occurs as well as the observed change over the time frame to be estimated. The variability between the estimates of 10,000 years versus several billion years for the age of the earth indicates that not all of the assumptions made by recent and ancient earth advocates can be simultaneously true.

1. Scientific Arguments for a Recent Creation

a. Decay of the Earth’s Magnetic Field. Measurements of the earth’s magnetic field over the past 130 years indicate that the strength of the field is decreasing. Assuming the decay follows an exponential decay pattern and that an upper limit to the magnetic field exists, the earth is estimated to be 6000 to 7000 years old.{54}

b. Missing Mass in the Universe. Clusters of galaxies can be observed throughout the universe. Random motion should have long ago dispersed these clusters: that is, only 2 to 14 percent of the mass necessary to hold these clusters close together has been observed. If they should have dispersed (due to insufficient gravitational attraction) and yet have not, it must be because of insufficient time for dispersion to have occurred; i.e., the universe is quite young.{55}

c. Poynting-Robertson Effect. The solar drag force exerted upon micrometeoroids in the solar system causes the particles to spiral into the sun. This solar drag results from absorption and reradiation of photons (from the sun) by the dust particles, resulting in a net loss of energy and an unstable orbit that spirals in toward the sun. Original estimates suggest dust particles of a typical size would be swept into the sun in about 10,000 years. However, many dust particles do currently exist in our solar system; thus, these particles must have originated very recently.{56}

d. Quantity of Dust on the Moon. Strong ultra-violet light and X-rays can destroy the surface layers of exposed rock and reduce them to dust at the rate of a few ten-thousands of an inch per year.{57} Hans Pettersson of the Swedish Oceanographic Institute calculated meteoritic dust settles to the earth at the rate of about 0.33"/106 years.{58} From these two sources, one would expect to-find at least several hundred feet of dust on the surface of the moon. Yet, only 1/8" to 3" of moon dust is actually found. Given the rapid rates of accumulation and the small total amount observed, the moon must be of recent origin, and therefore, the earth must be quite recent as well.

e. Cooling Rate of the Earth. Lord Kevin in 1911 estimated the earth to be only twenty-four million years old based on rate of cooling coupled with estimated initial temperature distribution and the present temperature distribution.{59}

The above five examples are only a few of the evidences cited by young earth advocates. Henry Morris has listed seventy-six different methods to calculate the age of the earth based on uniformitarian assumptions. The ages range from one-hundred years to five-hundred million years.{60} He concludes that such a wide variation in predictions must discredit uniformitarianism, further concluding that the earth is a very recent creation of God, as revealed in the Scriptures.

2. Scientific Arguments for an Old Earth

The proponents of an old earth (4.5 to 4.7 billion years old) also cite various evidences to support their claim. Some of the most prominent "clocks" will be reviewed next.

a. Radiometric Age Dating. Mathematical analysis of data from uranium/lead systems as found in meteorites gives their age as 4.5 billion years. This age has been independently confirmed by potassium/ argon and rubidium/strontium dating of stony meteorites. This is the time since meteorites were differentiated, and it can be plausibly equated with the time of planet formation in the solar system. Earth rocks are dated to be on the order of 3.5 billion years old, which would be the time that the earth had cooled sufficiently to allow crystallization to occur. These results are considered to be in good agreement with the results from meteorites.{61}

b. Sea Floor Spreading. Molten matter is emanating from the mid-oceanic ridges, moving outward to the east and west toward the continents. As the molten matter cools, the direction of the magnetic field at that time is preserved in the rock. Magnetic surveys reveal a series of reversals in the magnetic field. The pattern is the same on each side of the oceanic ridges. Thus, the rocks are like recording tape making a record of the earth’s magnetic field as a function of time. It is estimated that the sea floor spreading has moved the continents .o their current locations in the last 200 million years.{62}

c. Coral Growth Rates. Some modern coral reefs are found to be over 4600 feet thick; e.g., the fastest rate of upward growth has been measured to be about 8mm/year.{63} Therefore, it would have taken at least 175,000 years to produce the Eniwetok atoll reef. An interesting sidelight here is that band structure in coral that is quite old (345 405 millions years) shows 400 daily bands between the annual bands, indicating a faster earth’s rotation about its axis in the past than that which we observe at present.{64} The spacing of the rings also indicates that the ancient rate of growth was very similar to the rates observed today. Calculations by astronomers have shown that the rate of rotation of the earth is decreasing but that the period of the earth’s revolution about the sun is essentially constant. Therefore, the age of the coral can be determined from the rate of decrease in the number of days per year. This allows the radiometric and fossil dating of the corals to be independently confirmed. The growth bands that have been observed on certain ancient bivalve mollusk shells are in essential agreement with the findings in corals.{65}

d. Sea Floor Sediments. Deep core drilling in the oceans have revealed deposits of calcium carbonate thousands of feet thick. These deposits accumulate from shells of living organisms. The current rate of deposition of these sediments rarely exceeds 20mm/1000 years.{66} Over thirty million years would be required to form only 2000 feet of such deposits. Very large areas of 2000’ thick calcium carbonate-anhydrite couplets are found in New Mexico. Such for nations result from the evaporation of salt water which brings the mineral and/or salt content to a level of concentration that causes precipitation to occur. In the 2000 feet deposits are found over 200,000 alternating layers, indicating major changes in the sea water chemistry took place at least that many times.{67} Furthermore, each precipitation event had to occur in quiet water to allow the mineral to settle to the bottom and form a thin, uniform layer.

e. Age of Universe Estimates from Astronomy and Astrophysics. The age of the universe may be estimated in at least three ways from astronomy and astrophysics.{68} First, the "big bang" theory suggests that the universe was born in a fiery explosion in the past. By noting the current rates of expansion of various galaxies and noting the distance traveled from the common focal point of the universe, the time since this "traumatic" birth may be estimated to be ten to twenty billion years. A second approach is to determine the size of the universe that we can observe at present and then use this information in conjunction with the speed of light to suggest a minimum age of the universe; i.e., the time it took the light to travel from distant stars to earth. An age of ten billion years is suggested. A third estimate is obtained through the modeling of the birth, maturing and finally the death of stars. This approach gives an estimated age for our sun of five to ten billion years. Note these ages are in good agreement with the earlier radiometric dates of 4.5 billion years for the age of the earth, moon, and meteorites.

In summary, the universe and the earth are seen to be quite old (15 and 4.5 billion years) with many additional indications of great antiquity contained in the formation of various kinds of sediment and coral. The contrast between the young and old earth advocates’ positions is obvious. In the following section, the validity of the various assumptions used to establish these positions will be more carefully examined to see if the physical basis for these conflicting claims can be better understood.

3. Critique of Assumptions Made by Young Earth Proponents

The assumption that the earth’s magnetic field has decayed from some initial value is very suspect in view of the large number of areas where the sediment is found to have periodic reversals, indicating that the earth’s magnetic field follows a sinusodial function, rather than decay from some initial value.{69} These magnetic reversals are well documented and cannot at present be explained by any physical or chemical processes except a sinusodially varying magnetic field for the earth. This would invalidate the time estimate based on an assumed decay from some maximum value. It should be added that recent studies have indicated that magnetic reversals on the sea floor are not as simple as originally thought.{70} For example, the polarity changes vertically as well as horizontally and there is a lack of lateral lithologic and stratigraphic continuity in the crust.

The missing mass argument for a young earth is not as simple as it appears in view of the many discussions in Physics Today over the past several years. It is obvious that there is much that we do not presently understand about dissimilar matter, antimatter, and creation of matter from black holes.{71} In estimating the age of the solar system based upon closeness of galaxies, calculations are made by young earth advocates to arrive at the mass in these galaxies. The statement is then made "there is a vast discrepancy found when the mass derived from consideration of the motion of galaxies in clusters is compared with the mass that we can observe...." The term "vast discrepancy" is an exaggeration since secular scientists recognize their current measurements of mass of various galaxies as being only order of magnitude estimates at best. Thus, predictions of the age of the universe based on an area of physics that is so poorly understood and in which good empirical data is almost impossible to obtain is very speculative at best.

Slusher calculations for the Poynting-Robertson effect assume isotropic reradiation. Since in fact the Mic{72} scattering which occurs with particles of the size discussed by Slusher is higher anisotropic, it is not surprising that Slusher arrives at a meaningless conclusion.

The amount of dust on the moon has been estimated based on the recent visits there to vary from several centimeters to several meters.{73} It may be assumed that that rate of dust accumulation is dependent primarily on meteoric sources rather than ultraviolet light and X-rays, since these would effectively be screened once a small layer of dust accumulated. Furthermore, the rate of moon dust accumulation should be less than on the earth due to a smaller gravitational attraction. Approximately 1/8 the rate of accumulation of meteoric dust on earth estimated by Pettersson and often cited by young earth proponents would be reasonable. Actual photographs of moon soil specimens 6" deep are found in many textbooks. Depending on which rate one chooses, or which maximum depth of moon dust one assumes (3" to 3 meters), the age of the moon is estimated to be between 10 million and 2.5 billion years using this method. This calculation assumes dust accumulation after the first several inches is only meteoric in nature. It is clear that the method is crude at best, but it is also seen to give results that may be more easily reconciled with an old earth than with an earth that is 10,000 years old.

Finally, the cooling rate of the earth calculations of Lord Kelvin were made before we had any accurate knowledge of the material composition of the earth’s crust or core. The temperature profile through the earth was also unknown to Lord Kelvin and is still uncertain at present (though it has been estimated with some confidence in recent years). Since the thermal conductivity depends dramatically both on the material as well as on the temperature, it was clearly not possible for Lord Kelvin to accurately estimate the earth’s age using heat conduction type calculations. If one accounts for heating due to radioactivity and recognizes that much of the earth’s matter is materials with a very low thermal conductivity (such as silicates), then a very long time is required for the earth to cool to its present temperature. Again, the use of incorrect models or empirical data is seen to lead to erroneous predictions of a recent earth.

4. Critique of Assumptions Made by Old Earth Advocates

Radiometric dating assumes that the rate of decay remains essentially constant and that the original parent/daughter ratio of elements may somehow be estimated. In a 1975 article entitled "Some Recent Developments Having to do With Time" Slusher attempts to document the uncertainty in the constant decay rate assumption by citing the work of physicist G. T. Emery. However, Emery’s experimental results show a maximum change of no more than 4%.{74} He has since noted that there is no evidence for greater than a 1% variation in the decay rates used to date the age of the earth. These magnitudes of variation in the decay rate could hardly explain an earth whose actual age is 10,000 years giving an apparent age of 4.5 billion years.

A stronger issue is generally made of the uncertainty in the initial composition of the elements at the time of crystallization of a given mineral. Where this is uncertain because of chemical leaching or because of atomic diffusion in the case of argon in a mineral that has been reheated since crystallization, an accurate date cannot be obtained. The system must be closed and uncontaminated for reliable dating. An often cited example is that of lava formations in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii which are known to be several hundred years old, yet have been dated by potassium/argon dating to be millions of years old.{75} When a volcanic eruption occurs in deep water, argon from earlier decay is liberated and will tend to move to the surface of the molten rock. Because the cooling rate is rapid for lava eruptions in water, much of this argon may not reach the surface, but rather is trapped or frozen in near the surface. If one radioactively dates this material, the excess or argon trapped in this region will give an erroneous indication of antiquity. Other examples may be cited. Nevertheless, there are many thousands of examples of dating where the initial composition can be accurately established. For example, in strontium/rubidium dating using certain minerals, the chemical solubility in the crystal lattice is very well defined so that we can know with confidence the initial composition within well defined limits.{76} In the case of uranium/lead, several isotopes may be used to date independently the same mineral. A consistent result from these two independent clocks gives confidence that the initial compositions have been accurately estimated.{77} An earlier work by Zeuner{78} and more recent works on geochronol dating summarize the painstaking results of geologists all over the world. Zeuner is quick to acknowledge the uncertainty that may accompany such measurements for reasons just cited and other similar ones. The intersection of the data, (over all consistency in predictions using many different methods) however, is fatal to the arguments of recent earth advocates. One cannot simply dismiss this evidence by pointing to occasional mistakes that occur for physically understandable reasons. Segraves and Kofahl{79} cite great uncertainty in radiometric dating of moon rocks as evidence of the lack of reliability in this method; yet the range they give is 2.3 to 4.9 billion years. As a second example, they cite the dating of lunar soil by various methods to give dates of 4.67 billion years (Pb207/Pb206), 5.41 billion years (Pb206/U238), 4.89 billion years (Pb207/U235), 8.2 billion years (Pb206/Th232), and 2.3 billion years (K/Ar-used on rocks in same region as lunar soil). This represents to us a remarkable support for the idea that radiometric dating is indeed quite accurate. It would be quite fortuitous for all of these initial parent-daughter compositions to give these same, consistent indications of antiquity for a moon that is only ten thousand years old. In summary, where a system is closed from external contamination or leaching and where the initial parent-daughter ratios of composition may be established through geochemistry, radiometric dating is found to give remarkable consistent predictions of an ancient earth. One cannot discredit this overwhelming body of evidence by pointing to occasional anomalous dates obtained where these two assumptions are not properly satisfied.

The criticism of the dating through slow processes of sedimentation is that much of this could have been deposited during the flood in a very short time. While some sedimentation undoubtedly was rapidly deposited during the flood, the examples cited in this paper clearly could not have been formed in this way (e.g., evaporative deposits, etc.). Dan Wonderly has documented many more examples in his recent book.{80} While these various nonradiometric methods of dating may be inaccurate for giving absolute ages, they occur at rates that give incontrovertible evidence that the earth is much older than ten thousand years. Furthermore, one cannot postulate here an uncertainty in assumptions as is done with radiometric dating since no assumptions are involved. Unless God chose to create the universe with this clear impression of great antiquity, the earth must actually be quite old.

The indications of age from astronomy based on the size of the universe and the present expansion are not critiqued in a physical way to our knowledge except to suggest that God created light "in transit" from the stars and placed the galaxies in their current positions to give an apparent age.{81} It is further argued that "apparent age" is unavoidable in fiat creation; for example, Adam was in all probability created full grown. Yet the historic arguments of this type have never been very compelling.{82} Why would God choose to create many things in the universe that give an apparent age that is very consistent in predicting antiquity if the earth is indeed quite young?

We believe in summary that the data from science for an old earth to be overwhelming. To argue based on a few anomalies (which have adequate explanations without appealing to a recent creation) that the earth is quite young while ignoring the tremendous body of evidence that the universe and the earth are quite ancient is simply untenable. A new theory in science is adopted only when it is able to explain more data than the existing theory. Clearly mature creationism is no threat to conventional geology and astronomy in the area of dating.


We have presented arguments for God creating ("bara/asah") through a combination of miracle plus process over a very long period of time. The longer time frame may be reconciled with the Genesis 1 account in one of several ways. First, the "yom" of Genesis 1 may be interpreted to be an epoch rather than day. A second possibility is that the "days" of Genesis I are literal but not sequential days; i.e., they are days separated by long periods of geological history. A third possibility is that they are revelatory days; i.e., God revealed creation in six days. The strengths and weaknesses of each of these "models" are summarized in Appendix I{83} along with other models we have already rejected including mature creationism and theistic evolution. We prefer the day/age model in which "yom" is interpreted to be some indefinitely long period of time. The major remaining problem with which we must concern-ourselves is the question of harmonizing the details of Genesis 1 with geological history if the day/age model is to be adopted.

It should be noted that there is very good general agreement between the Genesis 1 account and geological history. Both describe the creation of the atmosphere and dry land, followed by the appearance of plant life. This in turn is followed by the appearance of increasing complex forms of animal life culminating in mans appearance. The areas of particular concern would be the indications of certain kinds of plants (seed bearing) in day three prior to the appearance of any animal life, the creation of plant life over a long period of time prior to the creation of the sun, and the creation of birds prior to the creation of any other land animals. Ramm{84} argues that the treatment of Genesis 1 may be topical and/or logical rather than chronological. Thus, the creation of all of the plant life is mentioned in the third revelatory day without necessarily requiring that it chronologically appeared in total before any animal life was created. E.T. Kalem{85} and Newman and Eckelmann{86} have all noted that the "yamim" (plural for "yom") of Genesis I could also be overlapping rather than mutually exclusive. Young notes that light was created on the first day and would have been available to illumine the plants. He suggests that maybe the earth and the moon were placed in their current proximity to the sun in the fourth "yom." Newman and Eckelmann suggest a very interesting explanation assuming that Genesis I is written from the point of view of an observer on earth. They suggest that the appearance of plants in "yom’ three and the resultant change in the atmosphere that occurred subsequently might have made the sun and the stars directly observable for the first time in "yom four. Their interpretation of "yom" one and two based on astronomy and astrophysics is also quite interesting though speculative. It is our opinion that there are a number of possible ways of harmonizing Genesis 1 "data" with geological "data." It is not imperative to our purpose to suggest which one is correct but only that it can be done with assumptions that are much more palatable than those made in arguing a young earth interpretation from Genesis 1, geology and astronomy.

Finally, we wish to comment on the criticism of the progressive creationism model we have adopted based on the assumption of death prior to the fall of man that is implicit in such a model. A careful exegesis of the appropriate passages in Genesis 2 and 3 clearly indicates the death penalty to be prescribed for man as a result of sin. Furthermore, the primary death prescribed as punishment must have been spiritual since the consequence of sin was to be a penalty that was to be immediate ("in the day you eat of the fruit, you shall surely die"). To interpret "yom" of Genesis 2:17 as an indefinite period of time might weaken the present argument with reference to death but would simultaneously strengthen the arguments for a "yom" of other than twenty-four hours in Genesis 1. The spiritual consequences of sin were indeed realized immediately when man sinned with physical death being prescribed by God subsequently (Gen. 3: 19). Plant life had to die in pristine Eden for man and animals to eat. Furthermore, to assume that all animals were vegetarians before the fall is quite speculative in view of the large claws and sharp teeth some animals have always had. Large fish would have been unable to support themselves in the ocean and local microscopic "wars" fought between bacteria and antibodies in our system would be considered illegitimate (i.e., premature) in prefall Eden. It seems quite unreasonable and unnecessary then to assume no physical death occurred in the plant or animal kingdom prior to the fall.


We believe that the "bara/asah" of Genesis 1 implies God working through miracle and process to effect creation. We believe that the "yom" of Genesis I may be interpreted either "day" or "epoch." In either case Genesis may still be interpreted to allow for the large total time indicated by geology and astronomy. This model, usually called progressive creationism, suggests that God created the major types of plant and animal life at various times in geological history in a miraculous way and then worked through process (God acting in His customary way) to develop the tremendous variety of plant and animal life we see today. To accept the compelling evidence for geological age should not be equated with accepting the general theory of evolution (macroevolution). While a large amount of time is a necessary requirement for evolution, it is clearly not a sufficient condition by itself. Some ordering mechanism more efficient than chance must be invoked, even given a time scale of billions of years. Time is not a sufficient hero for this story. Progressive creationism is much nearer to mature creationism than to theistic evolution, disputing only the time frame, but readily acknowledges God’s supernatural activity in this area. It is quite obscure to the authors why mature creationists insist on lumping together theistic evolution and progressive creationism as being essentially the same position.

We believe that the current mature creationist position will ultimately be unproductive by focusing the argument on the wrong consideration, namely, time rather than on the more important question of mechanism for ordering. Recent articles in Time (See footnote 85) and The Science Teacher{87} well illustrate this point. If the earth could be shown to be recent, this would be fatal to the evolutionary argument. However, to press this argument without adequate scientific support only discredits by association the legitimate arguments against the accidental origin of life and macroevolution that can be made. It is interesting to note that mature creationists are careful to debate other issues than time frame and as a result meet with a fair measure of success. It is unfortunate that they are not willing to be equally prudent in other contexts where they are much more dogmatic in insisting the mature creationist model is the only acceptable one for Genesis 1.

In conclusion we believe that progressive creationism achieves a very acceptable harmony of the scriptural and scientific data without in any way compromising the inerrant view of Scripture or resorting to a metaphorical or figurative interpretation where the context does not seem to suggest this interpretation.







Time Frame


Mature Creationism


Miracle only


6 days


Progressive Creationism


Miracle plus process


Long, indefinite period of time


Theistic Evolution


Process only


Long, indefinite period of time



"Yom of Genesis 1: Several Views"

Norman L. Geisler


A. Gap Theories

1. Local Creation: Geological Ages (G.A.) come before Gen. 1: 1, which is beginning of a local creation.

a) Geo. facts. Gives full sway to antiquity and activity of G.A.

b) Merits: Seems to fit Gen. 2. Tries to take both science and Bible seriously.

c) Weakness: It cheapens Gen. 1, weakens Theism, and makes God a Local Repairman.

2. Gap Theory: G.A. comes between Gen. 1:1, 2. 1:1 is original creation then ruination.

a) Geo.facts: Recognizes vast time of G.A.; fits them between Gen. 1: 1, 2.

b) Merits: Recognizes need for G.A. and makes room for them in Bible.

c) Weakness: Poor exegesis for Gen. 1:2 (makes "was" into "became") Chaos. In Geo., Chaos is at beginning (pre-Cambrian) not end of series (Pliestocene).

3. Alternate Day: G.A. comes between the twenty-four hour days of special creation alternatively.

a) Geo. facts: Accepts both time and sequence of Geo. history.

b) Merits: Retains twenty-four hour days, maintains Geo. time and fits progressive history of the rock record.

c) Weakness: "Days" of Gen. I seem to be successive, and it doesn’t seem to fit Exod. 20:11.

B. Exact Parallel Views (G.A. are equated with the days of Genesis).

1. Solar Days: World and all life was created in six twenty-four hour days (144 hours).

a) Geo. facts: Fossils are satanic deceptions, freaks of nature, or relics of Noah’s Flood (most).

b) Merits: It takes Gen. account factually and historically, and attempts to explain the fossil record.

c) Weakness: It denies bases for modem geology and interprets Gen. 1-2 over literally.

2. Age-Day: Days of Gen. are eras that correspond to the geological record.

a) Geo. facts: Fully accepts long time span and the sequence of Geo. history.

b) Merits: It explains the sequence as well as the time in Geo. and Genesis.

c) Weakness: Must stretch Gen. to make it fit Geo. sequence. Makes "days" metaphorical not literal. Weak exegesis of word "day."

3. Relative Time: Days were twenty-four hours in another time context, but of years in our time context.

a) Geo. facts: It accepts the findings of modern Geo. in terms of our time context.

b) Merits: Holds to twenty-four hour days in Gen. and explains them by "relativity" to our time.

c) Weakness: This makes Geo. eras of equal time. Also Gen. seems to be speaking in our time context.

C. Broad Parallel (G.A. are broadly represented by "days" of Gen. though not in detail).

1. Vision or Pictorial: "Days" are twenty-four hours of revelation, not of creation.

a) Geo. facts: It accepts findings of Geo., though not uncritically.

b) Merits: Explains Geo. time and yet maintains literal interpretation of Gen. 1.

c) Weakness: Gen. I isn’t in language of vision (e.g., "I beheld").

2. Narrational Day: "Days" are twenty-four hours of direct revelation and recording of creation story.

a) Geo. facts: It accepts them the same as the Vision Theory does.

b) Merits: It evades the weakness of non-vision language and still explains G.A.

c) Weakness: Exod. 20:7 says. "In six days God made (not told) the heavens and . . ."

3. Literary Framework: "Day" series is used as a literary framework (as a chapter) for the great creation topics.

A) Geo. Facts: It is willing to accept them as modern science does. literally.

B) Merits: Accepts modern science and yet takes Bible

c) Weakness: no real proof "days" were ever used as "chapters."

D. Non-Gap and Non-Parallel Theories

1. Concurrent or Overlapping: God isn’t bound by time. Days could be any interval and could even be overlapping. They are placed in series for our minds (or are in poetic form).

a) Geo. facts: Acceptance of the time and sequence of Geo.

b) Merits: It explains both Geo. history and antiquity by Genesis "days."

c) Weakness: Time is relevant to man, and Gen. I is speaking to man in Man’s terms. Evidence of overlap is lacking.

2. Catastrophy (Flood) Geology: G.A. come long after the six days as a result of Noahic Flood.

a) Geo. facts: Reinterpreted to fit biblical 4000 plus years s.c.

b) Merits: Takes Bible seriously. Thinks critically about Geo. theories.

c) Weakness: Depends on complete revision of geological science and time. Does not adequately explain much Geo. evidence.

3. Religious only View: Language of Gen. is purely religious, not scientific. it will. science.

a) Geo. facts: Gives Geo. full freedom to prove what

b) Merits: Resolves all conflict between Bible and

c) Weakness: Neglects factual and historical aspects of Genesis on which many crucial doctrines are built.


A. Only one view is categorically opposed to evangelical theology, "Religious only" view.

B. No single view should be used as a test of evangelicalness.

C. Crucial problem is age of the earth.

D. Exegetical arguments for "twenty-four hour days" seem stronger (cf. Exod. 20:11), but are not absolute (e.g., "seventh day" is not twenty-four hours).

E. Granting long time periods (millions or billions of years) does not help evolution (Man’s origin . . . p. 69).

F. Whichever view is accepted should be careful to preserve:

1. The historicity of Gen. 1-2, and

2. The historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture.


{1}R. Hooykas, Religion and Rise of Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1972), p. 19.

{2}Ibid., p. 38.

{3}Henry M. Morris, Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970).

{4}Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954).

{5}Davis A. Young, Creation and the Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker. 1977).

{6}The impartation of a soul to man at some appropriate time would be considered the main exception to God’s use of process for a theistic evolutionist who considers Adam as a real, historical person rather than a symbol.

{7}J. Lever, Where Are We Headed? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970).

{8}R. H. Bube, The Encounter Between Christianity and Science (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968).

{9}P. Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper & Row, 1959).

{10}Robert Young, Young’s Analytical Concordance. p. 210.

{11}Ibid., pp. 629-31.

{12}Davis A. Young, Creation, p. 91.

{13}Robert Young, Concordance, pp. 629-31.

{14}Robert Jastrow, Readers Digest. (July, 1980), pp. 49-52.

{15}R. H. Bube, Encounter. p. 97.

{16}J Lever, Where Headed?, p. 29.

{17}Cyril Ponnamperuma, The Origins of Life (London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd., 1972).

{18}I. Prigogine, G. Nicolis and A. Baboloyantz, "Thermodynamics of Evolution," Physics Today, (Nov., 1972), pp. 23-31.

{19}Walter J. Moore, Physical Chemistry, 3rd Ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962).

{20}Victor F. Weisskopf, "Frontiers and Limits of Science," American Scientist. Vol . 65, pp. 405- 1 1

{21}Harold Morowitz, Energy Flow in Biology (New York: Academic Press. 1968).

{22}G. Nicolis and 1. Prigogine. Self-Organization in Non-Equilibrium Systems (New York: Wiley, 1977).

{23}W. L. Bradley, "Thermodynamics and Origin of Life," Accepted for publication in Journal of American Scientific Affiliation.

{24}S. L. Miller and L. E. Orgel, Origin of Life on Earth (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1974), p. 148.

{25}The metabolic motor common to all living plants and animals would not be present in simple "chemical soup" used in prebiotic synthesis experiments.

{26}S. L. Miller and L. E. Orgel, Origin of Life, p. 145.

{27}Francis Crick. International Journal of Solar Systems Studies, vol . 19 ( 1973), pp. 341-6.

{28}Michael Pdyani, Chemical and Engineering News, (August 21, 1967), p. 54.

{29}David B. Kitts, Evolution (Sept, 1974), p. 458.

{30}S. J. Gould, Natural History (May, 1977), p, 14.

{31}Pierre-Paul Grasse, Evolution of Living Organisms (New York: Academic Press, 1977), p. 31.

{32}E. Core, General Biology (New York: Wiley, 1961), p. 299.

{33}J. Kerby Anderson and Harold G. Coffin, Fossils in Focus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977).

{34}Francis Hitching, Life Magazine. April, 1982, pp. 48-52.

{35}Roger Lewin. "Evolution Theory Under Fire," Science (Nov. 21, 1980) Vol. 210, pp. 883-87.

{36}M. Eden, quoted by Robert Butler in, "Heresy in the Halls of Biology Mathematicians Question Darwinism," Scientific Research (Nov., 1967), pp. 59-65.

{37}H. G. Cannon, The Evolution of Living Things (Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1958).

{38}Pierre-Paul Grasse, Evolution, p. 88.

{39}Robert Young, Concordance, pp. 227-34.

{40}Robert E. Kofahl and Kelly L. Segraves, The Creation Explanation (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers), p. 232.


{42}Henry M. Morris, Cosmology and Science, p. 59.

{43}Ibid., p. 58.

{44}Robert E. Kofahl and Kelly L. Segraves, Creation p. 233.

{45}Davis A. Young, Creation, p. 84.

{46}R. J. Snow. "How Long is the Sixth Day?," Appendix III in Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth by Robert C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr. (Downer Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1977), p. 125.

{47}Walter Kaiser, panel discussion (Wheaton College, May 2, 1978).

{48}Joseph Free, Archaeology and Bible History (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1950), p. 20.

{49}Ibid., p. 20.

{50}Ibid., p. 20.

{51}Ibid., p. 20.

{52}Bernard Ramm, Christian View, p. 147.


{54}T. G. Barnes, Creation Research Society quarterly Vol. 9, No. 4, (March, 1973), p. 222.

{55}Harold S. Slusher, Age of the Cosmos, Institute of Creation Research Technical Monograph No. 9 (San Diego: Creation Life Publishers, 1980).

{56}Harold Slusher, Science and Scripture (Sept.-Oct., 1971), p. 26.

{57}Raymond Arthur Lyttleton, The Modern Universe (Harper Publishers, 1956), p. 72.

{58}Hans Pettersson, Scientific American, Vol. 202 (Feb., 1960), p. 132.

{59}Frank Press and Raymond Siever, Earth (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Company, 1974), p. 66.

{60}Henry M. Morris, Institute of Creation Research Impact Series, No. 17, Institute for Creation Research (San Diego, CA, 1975), pp. 1-4.

{61}Frank Press and Raymond Siever, Earth, p. 68.

{62}W. C. Pitman 111 and M. Talwani. "Sea Floor Spreading in the North Atlantic," Geo. Soc. Amer, Bull., Vol. 83 (1972), pp. 619-45.

{63}A. G. Mayor, "Growth Rate of Samoan Corals," in papers from the Department of Marine Biology of the Carnegie Institute of Washington, Vol. 19 (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institute Pub. No. 340), pp. 51-72.

{64}W. B. N. Berry and R. M. Barker, Nature, Vol. 217 (1968), pp. 938-39.

{65}S. K. Runeorn, "Corals as Paleontological clocks Scientific American Vol. 215, pp. 26-33.

{66}Dan Wonderly, Cod’s Time-Records in Ancient Sediments (Crystal Press 1977), pp. 157, 162. (Taken from Harry E. Cook, "North American Stratigraphic Principles as applied to Deep-Sea Sediments," American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, Vol. 59 (1975), p. 824.

{67}R. Y. Anderson, W. E. Dean, Jr., D. W. Kirkland, and H. 1. Snider "Permian Castile Varied Evaporite Sequence," (West Texas and New Mexico Geo. Soc. Amer. Bull., Vol. 83, pp. 59-86.

{68}Roben C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr.. Genesis One, pp. 15-30.

{69}A. Cox, G. B. Dalrymple and R. R. Doell, "Reversals of the Earth’s Magnetic Field," Scientific American, Vol. 216, No. 2 (1967), pp. 44-54. J. R. Dunn. M. Fuller, H. Ito. and V. A. Schmidt. "Paleonmagnetic Study of a Reversal of the Earth s Magnetic Field," Science, Vol . 172 ( 1971), pp. 840-45. D. W. Strangway History of the Earth’sMagnetic field (McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1970), p. 168.

{70}J. M. Hall and P. T. Robinson. Science, Vol. 204 (1979), pp. 573-86.

{71}Many different articles and comments in this area have appeared in Physics Today during the past several years.

{72}Mic, G., Ann. Physik. vol. 25. 377 (1908).

{73}Frank Press and Raymond Siever, Earth, p. 803.

{74}Stephen G. Bush. "Creation/Evolution: The Case Against ‘Equal Time,’" The Science Teacher (April, 1981), p. 29.

{75}A. Funkhouser and J. Naughron. Journal of Geophysical Research. Vol. 73 No. 14 (July 15, 1978), p. 4601.

{76}Davis A. Young, Creation, p. 189.

{77}Don L. Eicher, Geological Time (Foundations of Earth Science Series, ed. A. Lee McAlester (Englewood Cliffs, NS: Prentice-Hall. Inc., 1968), pp. 137-38.

{78}F. E. Zeuner, Daring the Past: An Introduction to Geochronology, 3rd Edition (New York: Longmans & Green Co.. 1952).

{79}Robert E. ICofahl and Kelly L. Segraves, Creation. p. 201.

{80}Dan Wonderly, God’s Time Record in Ancient Sediments (Flint, MI: Crystal Press, 1977)

{81}Henry Morris, The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth (San Diego: Creation Life Publishers, 1970), 62.

{82}E. T. Brewster, Creation: A History of Non-Evolutionary Theories (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1927). p. 112.

{83}Appendix I was graciously provided by Professor Norm Geisler of Dallas Theological Seminary.

{84}Bernard Ramm, Christian View. p. 149.

{85}T. E. Kalem. "Putting Darwin Back in the Dock," Time (March 16, 1981). pp. 8082.

{86}Robert C. Newman and Herman S. Eckelmann. Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (Downer Grove: InterVarsity, 1977), 67-79.

{87}Stephen G. Brush, "Creation/Evolution: The Case Against ‘Equal Time,’" The Science Teacher. (April, 1981), pp. 24-31.