Thursday, January 12, 2012

How old is the earth? The splendor of God's creation

Laser astronomical instrument
at Mauna Loa Observatory
Photo by NASA
There was a report Wednesday about a poll that says American Protestant pastors overwhelmingly reject the theory of evolution but are evenly split on the age of the Earth. Almost half think the earth is only 6,000 years old.

Scientists will tell you that it is 4.5 billion years old, give or take a few 100 million years.

More than three-fourths of the pastors believe that the Genesis story of Adam and Eve is literally true. You can read the report by clicking HERE.

This poll is probably no surprise, but I find it sad.

I was thinking about this during Morning Prayer this morning because the Old Testament reading, Genesis 4:17-26 is about the children of Adam and Eve, and their wayward son, Cain. In the story, Cain takes a wife and builds city. It seems to me that the idea that the Adam and Eve story is literal fact breaks down pretty quickly with Genesis 4:17. Just where did Cain find a wife if he was the only living offspring of Adam and Eve?

The attitude of these American Protestant pastors is off base not just as a rejection of honest scientific inquiry but as misguided theology. Let me point out that I count myself as a Protestant (The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion are products of the Protestant Reformation) and I am definitely a pastor.

We can debate (endlessly) how we interpret the Bible. But to not grasp the wonder of evolution and the length of time this earth has been evolving is to miss out on the wonder of God's amazing creation. As I watched the sun coming up this morning, as I do most mornings, I gave thanks for a new day. There will never be another sunrise like the one this morning, and God has provided 4.5 billion years worth of sunrises on this planet. Why would anyone think humans can place limits on God and God's time?

Scientists in recent years have identified thousands of planets around other suns that were heretofore unknown to us, and doubtless there will turn out to be billions more planets. Some planets that have been discovered are in the "comfort zone" that can sustain life. In all likelihood, there are other planets besides ours with life, and some of that life may be intelligent. Who else is out there giving thanks for a sunrise?

God is infinite, and God continues to create. The question for us is to open to this amazing universe God has created in all of its splendid variety and enormous depth of time. God gave us the amazing gift of intelligence to plumb the wonders of the universe. Shouldn't we show thanks to God by using that gift? And why would anyone want to use the allegory of Adam and Eve to limit their understanding of God and God's creation? The position of these American Protestant pastors is not only bad science, it is bad theology.

11 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for this.

Sherri Lynne said...

I've always been comfortable with the creation story and evolution. I don't see them as necessarily incompatable. When the Creation narrative was composed, the person or persons who recorded it had a very limited way to know the world in any sense of the sciences. Whether or not the Creation story is true ver batim is not what is important, but to be able to understand the magnitude of evolution as a force set into action that created life as it has been, as it is, and as it will be is a testiment in of itself to the Creator's work.
Sherri Lynne

Maggie Cooke said...

I am very comfortable about believing evolution and the many many millions of years of change on this great earth are all works of our Creator. To claim they cannot coexist with the Creation story is sad, and disrespectful to the great power the Creator holds to make all that possible.

Brian Price said...

The answer to this question is simple, and found in the bible. The Earth and all creation was created with the appearance of age, like Adam and Eve, who were made in a full grown state, or size, they appeared to be older then what they were, so was the animals, the trees and plants and all the earth. One of the first miracles Jesus preformed, was to turn water into wine at a wedding, wine gets its flavor over time by aging,but Jesus made it instantaneous with the appearance of age, we have learned to do this with diamonds, and crystals etc…

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Hi Brian,
Thanks for your comment. However, the Bible doesn't say anything close to your interpretation, and you really don't need to torture the truth of the Bible to get there. God's miracle of life is worked through evolution -- part of God's tool chest. Please read the original post. By the way, why would you think the "Seven Days" of Creation would have 24 hour days (limited to the earth's rotation when the earth does not yet exist). May you have a blessed Christmas and bask in the splendor and awesomeness of God's holy creation.

Brian Price said...

Hi to you Rev.James Richardson,man of God,I was wondering what Bible you were referring to, mine says in Genesis 2:21-22 that the Lord God caused the man, Adam to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping,he took one of the mans ribs, and closed up the place with flesh.Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man,and he brought her to the man.Eve, when brought back to Adam by God, was a full grown woman with the appearance of age.If God works through evolution, then why couldn't a doctor remove any mans rib today, and make it into a woman like God did?

Brian Price said...

Dear Rev.James Richardson, I would also like to add about Cain and his wife, God could have did the same with Cain as he did with Adam, and made him a wife from one of his ribs, and also with Seth as well.Most people are quick to say that God condoned incest with Cain, and one of his sisters, but even though there was cases of incest in the Bible it was frowned upon and caused disastrous consequences, like when Lots two daughters got there father drunk and slept with him, both becoming pregnant, there was no punishment, but there sons descendants became the Moabites, and the Ammonites, which were bitter enemies to Abrahams descendants.

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Brian,
Thanks again for posting. Brian, you are now making up things that are not in the Bible to explain how Cain got a wife. You are verging on superstition. You also haven't dealt with how there are two creation stories in Genesis for humans, the other being how humans were made from mud.

The difficulty you are encountering is that the Bible was not written as a science book -- to stretch it into one is to miss the profound truth of the Word, which is that there is One God and One creator of all things. The creation stories were written during the Babylonian exile and were based on the Babylonian creation myths. The Hebrews rewrote them to show that there is only One God. The Adam/Eve story is allegory and fable, and the Bible has many of those (Job and Daniel to name two others).

If you insist that the Bible is science, then you will also need to deal with the Hebrew idea that the world is flat with a dome on top, or the Pauline cosmology that the world is a sphere surrounded by rings of Heaven. You really don't have to torture the text unless you are really just simply anti-science, which is sad, because science can reveal to us the amazing splendor and infinity of God's Creation.

Brian, the earth was formed about 2 billion years ago, there really were dinosaurs about 100 million years ago, the human branch of primates about 1 million years ago, an ice age about 10,000 years ago. Our DNA is very close to chimps. That is not a threat to my faith in Jesus Christ and it shouldn't be for you either. Have a blessed Christmas!


There is no need for you to be sarcastic.

Brian Price said...

Dear Rev,James Richardson, I agree with you that not every thing that God has done, are is doing is in the Bible. The Bible is a brief account of are history, but I do believe it is God inspired, all of it, like the book of Acts, its dose not end at chapter 28, new chapters are being added. The problem with the world we live in today is that people have stopped believing in the supernatural power of God, take the account of the Tower of Babel, most people don't see the great supernatural thing God did, he took one race of people, with one common language, and changed them to all the races we have today with many languages, then he God, supernaturally scattered them all over the earth.Acts 17:26 says, from one man he made every nation of men,that they should inhabit the whole earth,and he determined the times set for them and exact places where they should live. Mary Christ-Mass.

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Brian, this is an interesting conversation. You make a lot of leaps that really are not in the Bible, and you are missing a few things by how you are reading what is in the Bible. I think you might greatly benefit by reading a book called "And God Spoke," by Christopher Bryan, one of the best and wisest biblical scholars of our time. The book isn't very long -- 149 pages. Give yourself a Christmas present and read it, and then come back here and we can talk more.

Sons of Zadok said...

There is to many differences between Humans and Apes, for humans to have evolved from them, one major difference is apes and all other animals, do not know that they are naked, humans only are aware of this, and cover themselves with clothing. Another thing that needs to be looked at, is that if humans evolved from apes over millions of years ago,the human race has only seen great advancements in the last 6000 years, what were we doing for all the other millions of years? sitting in a corner somewhere?