In the late 1970’s I taught a Sunday School class which dealt with Creation, and how Science and Scripture could be understood in light of each other. The class included people inclined to accept evolution as the most likely explanation of how life developed on earth and people who believed the Genesis account describes accurately events that occurred less than 10,000 years ago.
Early in the Sunday School term I had a member of the class read Genesis 1 while I drew a picture at the blackboard of what it described – An earth with dry land surrounded by waters and a sky above the earth stuicturally sufficient to keep the waters above separated from the waters below. Lights were placed in the sky above the earth as well as two great lights – the greater to light the day, and the lesser to light the night.
Genesis 1When I was done with this image, it became obvious that Genesis, taken literally, did not describe what we in knew in 1979. What I believed then, and still believe to this day is that Genesis tells us the “Who, What, Where, and Why” of His creation. It does not clearly tell us “When”, nor does it tell us “How.” I don’t think anyone lost their faith over finding out that a literal reading of Genesis lead one to an inaccurate view of the physical earth, but it did lead to some interesting and stimulating discussions.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Stephen J. Gould wrote about non-overlapping magisteria between theology and science. If one bases faith on a particular understanding of the physical universe, then science can destroy such faith by observing facts to the contrary. On the other hand a scientist has no business making dogmatic statements about theological matters. To say "There is no God" is not only unscientific, it in fact requires its own measure of faith because you cannot prove a negative. Maybe that is why C.S. Lewis became such a strong apologist for Christianity -- in his earlier years as an atheist, he had already experienced faith.
The common ground we found in this class was the shared belief that God created the universe and all that it contains. How that happened was open to discussion, but in true reformed fashion, the debate was over interpretation of Scripture rather than rejection of God's Word.