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SUNDAY OT SERMON: James M. Boice – Genesis 1:1-2 “VIEWS OF CREATION: THE GAP THEORY”

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 7

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 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. – Genesis 1:1-2

In The Invisible War Donald Grey Barnhouse gives an illustration of what has come to be know widely as the gap theory of evolution. A motorist was driving through America’s great southwest and had planned to arrive at the Grand Canyon of Colorado from the South and then proceed on across it northward into Utah.

He shared his plans with a friend who knew the area, but his friend immediately pointed out that what he wanted to do was impossible. On the map it looked as if he could drive north across the canyon, but that tiny fifteen-mile gap, which barely shows on the map, is actually a gigantic and impassable chasm. One can get north only by taking a detour over hundreds of miles of hot desert roads.

According to the gap theory, the first two verses of Genesis are like that. They appear to be continuous, but in between there is actually a long but indeterminate period in which the destruction of an original world and the unfolding of the geological ages can be located.

A Popular Viewpoint

This theory is also called the restitution or recreation theory. Arthur C. Custance, who has written an excellent book in the theory’s defense, traces it to certain early Jewish writers, some of the church fathers, and even to some ancient Sumerian and Babylonian documents. It crops up in the Middle Ages as well. It was in Scotland at the beginning of the last century, through the work of the capable pastor and writer Thomas Chalmers, that the idea gained real coherence and visibility.

Chalmers was anxious to show that the emerging data concerning the geological ages was not incompatible with sound biblical exposition. So according to him, Genesis 1:1 tells of God’s creation of an original world in which all things were good, for God cannot create that which is bad. Lucifer ruled this world for God. Lucifer sinned. God judged the world along with Lucifer, as a result of which the earth became the formless, desolate mass we discover it to be in Genesis 1:2 (“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep”). The earth continued like this for indeterminate ages in which the various rock strata developed. It was only at the end of this period that God intervened to bring new order out of the prevailing chaos, which is what Genesis 1:3–31 describes. These verses actually describe a recreation.

Chalmers wrote in the early 1800s, but his views thrived around the turn of the century as they were picked up by the various writers of early fundamentalism. The best known was G. H. Pember, whose book on the theory, Earth’s Earliest Ages (1876), went through many editions. My own copy is the fourteenth.

Pember wrote, “It is thus clear that the second verse of Genesis describes the earth as a ruin; but there is no hint of the time which elapsed between creation and this ruin. Age after age may have rolled away, and it was probably during their course that the strata of the earth’s crust were gradually developed. Hence we see that geological attacks upon the Scriptures are altogether wide of the mark, are a mere beating of the air. There is room for any length of time between the first and second verses of the Bible. And again, since we have no inspired account of the geological formations, we are at liberty to believe that they were developed just in the order in which we find them. The whole process took place in preadamite times, in connection, perhaps, with another race of beings, and, consequently, does not at present concern us” (G. H. Pember, Earth’s Earliest Ages and Their Connection with Modern Spiritualism and Theosophy. London and Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, n.d., 28).

In subsequent pages Pember developed his theory of the fall of Satan, the influence of demons in the world prior to Noah, and the relevance of this for the resurgence of spiritism that he observed in his day.

Arthur W. Pink held Chalmers’s view and doubtless also learned from Pember. He wrote, “The unknown interval between the first two verses of Genesis 1, is wide enough to embrace all the prehistoric ages which may have elapsed; but all that took place from Genesis 1:3 onwards transpired less than six thousand years ago” (Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Genesis. Chicago: Moody Press, 1950, 11. Original edition 1922).

Harry Rimmer was another influential writer. In 1941 he authored a book entitled Modern Science and the Genesis Record. In it he said, “The original creation of the heaven and the earth, then, is covered in the first verse of Genesis. Only God knows how many ages rolled by before the ruin wrought by Lucifer fell upon the earth, but it may have been an incalculable span of time. Nor can any students say how long the period of chaos lasted; there is not even a hint given. But let us clearly recognize in these studies that Moses, in the record of the first week of creation, is telling the story of God’s reconstruction; rather than the story of an original creation” (Harry Rimmer, Modern Science and the Genesis Record (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941, 28).

The single most effective teacher of this view was C. I. Scofield, who included it in his notes on Genesis in the astonishingly popular Scofield Reference Bible. From there it became the almost unquestioned view of fundamentalism, though, as I have already pointed out, The Fundamentals themselves contain an article by James Orr that almost embraces evolution. In more recent times various forms of this theory have been held by C. S. Lewis, M. R. DeHaan, Donald Grey Barnhouse, and others. Francis Schaeffer acknowledged parts of it as a possibility (Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 62).

Exegetical Strength

There is widespread opposition to the gap theory today, even on the part of very conservative writers. But these often dismiss it too easily, without adequate attention to the biblical data on which the gap theorists built. This theory may be wrong, but it is not possible to dismiss it cavalierly.

What are the lines of evidence for this theory? The first and by far the most important is its exegetical or biblical base. Indeed, without this, Chalmers, Pember, and the others would have had no case at all. The exegetical argument has a number of parts.

First, in the Masoretic text of Genesis, in which ancient Jewish scholars attempted to incorporate a sufficient number of “indicators” to guide the reader in proper pronunciation and interpretation of the text, there is a small mark known as a rebia following verse 1. The rebia is a disjunctive accent. That is, it serves to inform the reader that there is a break in the narrative at this point and that he should pause before going on to the next verse. The rebia might also indicate that the conjunction that begins verse 2, a waw, should be translated “but” rather than the more common “and.” (This has bearing on how the second verse should be translated because, as we will see, it could be rendered “But the earth became a ruin.”) To be sure, the rebia was not in the original text of Genesis and therefore represents only the considered judgment of the Masoretes, but their opinion may guide us to a correct interpretation.

Second, there is the structure of the creation account itself. Each of the accounts of the activity of God on one of the creative days ends with the words, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first [second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth] day.” In other words, there is a very marked parallelism. Moreover, on the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days, those same sections begin, “And God said. …” It is only natural, therefore, to assume that the account of the first day of creation begins, not with verse 1 but with verse 3 where the parallel phrase occurs (“And God said, ‘Let there be light’ ”). If this is so, then the first two verses stand apart from the rest of the account and describe a creation prior to the work of God on the first day.

Third, there is the possibility (some would say necessity) of translating the Hebrew verb “to be” (hayah), which occurs in verse 2, not “was” but “became.” So the verse would read, “But the earth became formless [that is, a ruinous mass] and empty [that is, devoid of life].” It is also possible that the verb is to be taken as pluperfect with the meaning, “But the earth had become… .”

The arguments concerning the meaning of this basic Hebrew verb are long and tortuous, not ones that most people would readily or cheerfully follow. But they boil down to the point that this is at least a possibility and perhaps even a strong possibility. Those who oppose this view—Bernard Ramm, in The Christian View of Science and Scripture, is one—argue that those adopting it make a novel and very questionable interpretation that rests on an infrequent and secondary meaning of the verb. But it is not at all evident that it is that infrequent or secondary. Let us take the matter of whether “became” is a secondary meaning first. In Arthur Custance’s defense of the gap theory’s exegetical base, the point is made that the Hebrew verb hayah, while frequently translated “was” rather than “became,” nevertheless primarily means “became” for the simple reason that the Hebrew language does not really need a verb for “be.” That is, if a Hebrew-speaking person wanted to say “The man is good,” he would not use a verb at all but would simply say, “The man good.” The verb would be implied. This sentence differs from the descriptive phrase “The good man,” because the Hebrew way of saying that is “The man the good.”

In his critique Ramm declares that “the Hebrews did not have a word for became, but the verb to be did service for to be and become” (Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954, 202).

But as Custance points out, the reverse would be more nearly correct, namely, that “they did not need a word for ‘to be’ in the simple sense, so made their word for become serve for to be and become” (Arthur C. Custance, Without Form and Void: A Study of the Meaning of Genesis 1:2. Brockville, Ont.: Doorway Papers, 1970, 104). In Custance’s judgment the word should be translated “became” unless there are reasons to the contrary.

The other matter is frequency. John Whitcomb has written that there are only six examples in the entire Pentateuch of the verb hayah being rendered “became.” This seems to be an error. Custance claims that there are at least seventeen cases in Genesis alone, but that is in the King James Version. Other versions give the translation in other instances. The Latin Vulgate has the equivalent thirteen times in just the first chapter. Some sample verses:

Genesis 3:1—“Now the serpent had become more subtle than any beast of the field.” Most versions say “was,” but this verse probably indicates that the serpent became subtle or crafty as the result of Satan’s use of him for the purpose of tempting Eve.

Genesis 3:20—“Eve became the mother of all living.” The King James Version says “was,” but this is strange since no children had been born to her at this time. The New International Version recognizes the problem and translates the verse accordingly: “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.”

Genesis 21:20—“And God was with the lad [Ishmael]; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.”

Genesis 37:20—“We shall see what will become of his [Joseph’s] dream.”

These translations are not beyond challenge, of course. But they do show the frequency of this possible translation of this verb. Custance’s own conclusion is, “By and large, therefore, I suggest that the rendering, ‘But the earth had become a ruin and a desolation,’ is a rendering which does more justice to the original and deserves more serious consideration as an alternative than it has been customary to afford it in recent years” (Ibid, 116).

Fourth, the words “formless and empty” (tohu wa bohu) may be verbal clues to a preadamic judgment of God on our planet. True, the words have various shades of meaning and do not necessarily indicate the destruction of something that had formerly been beautiful. But they sometimes do. Besides, there is the important text in Isaiah 45:18 that says, using the words of Genesis 1:2, that God did not create the world a ruin. If this is a direct reference to Genesis, as it may be, it says that God did not create the world in the state portrayed in Genesis 1:2. (On the other hand, it may simply mean that God did not create the world to be desolate but rather created it to be inhabited, as in the New International Version translation.)

When Did Satan Fall?

This message has dealt largely with the exegetical support for the gap theory, because it is the point from which its adherents argue. These arguments have not been taken seriously enough by those who oppose the theory. But this is not to suggest that there are no other lines of support for the reconstructionists’ view. A second line of support is theological.

This has to do with the fall of Satan. From Genesis 3 we learn that evil was already in existence at the time of Adam and Eve’s creation, for Satan was there to tempt Eve. Besides, there are texts that suggest, not always clearly, that there was an earlier fall of Satan, followed by a judgment on Satan and those angels (now demons) who sinned with him. Of course, the fall of Satan may have occurred without any relationship to earth. But he is called “the prince of this world” and seems to have a special relationship to it. Is it not possible, even reasonable, that he may have ruled the world for God in an earlier period of earth’s history—if there was such a period? And if this is so, couldn’t a fall and judgment fit between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2? If not there, where does the fall come in? The only other option would be before creation itself, which would put the creation of Satan before anything else we know.

There is also the problem of the first appearances of death. If the fossils indicate anything, they indicate a period of struggle, disease, and death prior to man’s appearance. But if death came through the sin of Adam, how can death be evidenced in the fossil record unless the death witnessed is the product of God’s judgment on the sin of an earlier world and race? There is another explanation of this that the creationist school supplies, namely, that the fossils were created by the flood and so came after Adam. But the argument at this point—while it will not speak to creationists—should speak to most other schools of thought.

Some Lingering Difficulties

What should we think of this theory? It has commended itself to many in recent generations. It is a serious attempt to be biblical. It seems to solve the problem of the long geological ages. Should we adopt it? We should consider it seriously for each of the reasons just given, but before we adopt it we should also consider the difficulties.

One serious criticism of the gap theory is that it gives one of the grandest and most important passages in the Bible an unnatural and perhaps even a peculiar interpretation. This is hardly a conclusive argument, but it is probably the point at which most other Bible students and scholars begin to hesitate. Ramm puts it like this: “From the earliest of Bible interpretation this passage has been interpreted by Jews, Catholics and Protestants as the original creation of the universe. In seven majestic days the universe and all of life is brought into being. But according to Rimmer’s view the great first chapter of Genesis, save for the first verse, is not about original creation at all, but about reconstruction. The primary origin of the universe is stated in but one verse. This is not the most telling blow against the theory, but it certainly indicates that something has been lost to make the six days of creation anticlimactic” (Ramm, Christian View, 201).

This same argument may also be stated biblically, which Ramm does not do but which would presumably have more weight with the gap theory advocates. To give just one example, we read in Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.” A person might point out that the verb used here is “made,” not the powerful Hebrew verb “created” (baraʾ), and that this allows for a recreation or reforming. But that aside, the verse does sound like a description of an original creation. “It neither states nor implies recreation to most people” (L. Duane Thuman, How to Think about Evolution & Other Bible-Science Controversies . Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1978, 121).

Second, the exegetical data, while impressive, is nevertheless far from certain. And it must be certain if we are to be expected to embrace such an unusual theory. I have argued above that critics of the gap theory have been far too cavalier in dismissing its supporters’ exegetical arguments, but those arguments are still not clearly right. The Hebrew verb hayah may mean “became,” but there is no doubt that it is also correctly translated “was” and that far more frequently. Again, waw may even mean “but,” although it more commonly means “and.” And as for tohu wa bohu, this may simply mean that the land in question was uninhabitable. Whether that condition was the result of God’s judgment on the earth or was due to some other factor is to be determined from the context and not from the words themselves (cf. Isa. 24:1 and 45:18; Jer. 4:23–26). It is significant in this regard that, although the New International Version supports the possibility of translating the Hebrew hayah as “become” in a footnote to Genesis 1:2, it does not render Isaiah 45:18 in a way that would support the gap theory.

Third, the gap theory does not really settle the problem posed by geology. Geology shows us successive strata of the earth’s crust containing fossils of earlier life-forms. Advocates of the gap theory wish to account for these in the supposed break between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. But at which point in this break did the judgment of God enter in? If it came after the laying down of the fossil evidence, then death was in the world before judgment. If the judgment came first, then the conditions arising from that judgment could not be as the second verse of Genesis describes them (a chaotic world submerged in darkness), for in such a world no plant or animal life could survive. The only escape from this dilemma is to imagine a gradually descending or advancing judgment in which the various forms of life are progressively snuffed out, but this is the precise opposite of what the geological strata seem to indicate. They show a progressive development of life from simpler to more complex forms.

Some gap theorists have seen this problem and have appealed to the flood for producing the geological evidence. Rimmer appeals to both the earlier ages and the flood. But if this is the case, we do not need the gap. The impression left is that the theory has not been carried through sufficiently to provide us with a clearly workable model. It may be possible. But we will want to consider the other views of creation before we settle on this as the only true Christian possibility.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 7 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in James Montgomery Boice, Sermons

 

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SUNDAY OT SERMON: “Views of Creation: Theistic Evolution” by Dr. James Montgomery Boice

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 6

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 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. – Genesis 1:1-2

Atheistic evolution is no possible view of creation for Christians. It is ruled out simply because it is atheistic. But this does not mean that an evolutionary model must in itself be ruled out. Some who would retain belief in evolution while nevertheless identifying themselves as Christians are the theistic evolutionists.

Theistic evolution is the view of those who are committed to the theory of evolution and who retain it in full except at those few points where, as it seems to them, it is not entirely compatible with Christianity. They are theists because they believe in the Christian God. They believe that he has revealed himself in Scripture. But they are also evolutionists because they think that evolution is right. That is, they believe that everything has evolved through long periods of time from primitive to more complex forms. They believe that life has evolved from nonlife. They believe that man has evolved from the lower animals. Generally they accept the scientific data urged in support of evolution. The main difference between the theistic evolutionists and the atheistic evolutionists is that the former believe that God, specifically the God of the Bible, is providentially guiding the evolutionary process, while the latter attribute the identical developments to chance.

Another way of putting it would be to say that the God of theistic evolution is the God of the gaps. In the last message we pointed out four major problems with atheistic evolution: it cannot explain the origin of matter, the form of matter, the emergence of life, or the appearance of personality or God-consciousness in man. The theistic evolutionist would bring in God at these points. God creates matter and life. But aside from that the theistic evolutionist would view things as having happened precisely as his nonbelieving counterpart views them.

A Possibility

What are we to say to this view? The first thing we must say is that it is at least a possibility. We may put it like this. There is no reason for the Christian to deny that one form of fish may have evolved from another form or even that one form of land animal may have evolved from a sea creature. We may not believe that this has actually happened, for the reasons set forth in our last message. But in itself this view of creation is not biblically impossible.

The Hebrew word translated by our word “let,” which occurs throughout the creation account, allows for this. It does not specify a method by which God caused most things to come into being. However, there are three points at which even the Genesis narrative seems to require something different. These are the points at which the powerful Hebrew word baraʾ, rendered “created,” rather than the word “let” occurs. Baraʾ means to create out of nothing. It is used in verse 1, which speaks of the creation of the original substance of the universe out of nothing; verse 21, which speaks of the creation of conscious life (that is, of animals as opposed to plants); and verse 27, which speaks of the creation of man in God’s image. At these points there is an obvious introduction into creation of something strikingly new, something that did not and could not have evolved from things in existence previously. So long as the evolutionist speaks of the Christian God as the one who has introduced these new elements and has guided the evolutionary development at other points also (so that the result is not the mere product of chance but rather the unfolding of God’s own wise and perfect will), most Christians would say that, thus far at least, the approach of the theistic evolutionist is possible.

Some important Christian thinkers have said exactly this. No less weighty a scholar than B. B. Warfield, in an essay, “On the Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race,” said that although evolution “cannot act as a substitute for creation,” it can supply “a theory of the method of the divine providence” (B.B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies, P&R, 1968, 238).

Another example is the great Scottish divine of the last century, James Orr. In the years 1890–91, Orr gave the well-known Kerr lectures on the subject “The Christian View of God and the World,” in the course of which he defended evolution. “In reality, the facts of evolution do not weaken the proof from design, but rather immensely enlarge it by showing all things to be bound together in a vaster, grander plan than had been formerly conceived. … On the general hypothesis of evolution, as applied to the organic world, I have nothing to say, except that, within certain limits, it seems to me extremely probable, and supported by a large body of evidence” (James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World as Centering in the Incarnation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1960, 90).

 Even more significant is the essay published by Orr in that collection of conservative writings that appeared at the beginning of this century, The Fundamentals, from which the term “fundamentalist” came. In it Orr defends theistic evolution as propounded by R. Otto in Naturalism and Religion. He says at one point, “ ‘Evolution,’ in short, is coming to be recognized as but a new name for ‘creation,’ only that the creative power now works within, instead of, as in the old conception, in an external, plastic fashion” (Orr, “Science and Christian Faith,” The Fundamentals, vol. 1, ed. R.A. Torrey, A.C. Dixon, and others. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972, 346. Original edition 1917).

Neither of these men was himself a theistic evolutionist, though Orr comes very close to endorsing the position. The point is simply that in the judgment of these cautious and eminently biblical spokesmen, theistic evolution is a possible theory and therefore should not be rejected out of hand by Christian people.

Points in Favor

Possibility is not certainty, however, and it is only fair to say that for what they consider to be very good reasons other Christians reject this approach entirely. One of them is Davis A. Young, whose own position is progressive creationism. (To be discussed in a future sermon – Genesis – Part 9) He writes against theistic evolution saying that it “leads logically and ultimately to the death of genuinely biblical religion.” In the heading of the chapter in which theistic evolution is specifically studied he calls this view “a house built upon sand” (Davis A. Young, Creation and the Flood: An Alternative to Flood Geology and Theistic Evolution. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977, 18, 23ff.).

What are we to think of theistic evolution? Positively, we may say that it has two important points in its favor. First, truth is truth wherever it is found. So if evolution is true, as evolutionists certainly believe, and if the Bible is also true, then something like the view of the theistic evolutionists must be reality. Again, this does not mean that evolution is true. But it does mean that we must at least ask whether it is true or not, and if it is true, we must learn from it. We must remember at this point that many theories of science were once declared to be anti-Christian but are now held by Christians and non-Christians alike with no apparent ill effects to Christianity.

One example is Copernican astronomy. Copernicus discovered that the earth was not the physical center of the universe. This was immediately assailed by those who felt that the Bible taught differently. Today we recognize that biblical language that was thought to imply a central earth is merely phenomenal. That is, it describes things as they appear to an earthbound observer (for whom indeed the Bible is written) and not as things actually are from a scientific standpoint. But in Copernicus’s day this was not seen, and Galileo, who held to the Copernican astronomy, was eventually compelled by irate churchmen to recant. Similarly, in the past there have been Christians who have opposed most advances in medicine—pain killers, anesthetics, operations—feeling that these wrongly oppose God’s decrees. Others have opposed such scientific devices as lightning rods, arguing that lightning was from God and that if God chose to strike a building it was sinful on our part to oppose it. In all these cases the terrible warnings made in support of the “Christian” position did not materialize and truth prevailed.

The second argument in favor of theistic evolution is that God seems to work according to this pattern in other areas. Theistic evolution posits a universe that operates according to fixed, universal laws into which, however, God sometimes intrudes, as in the creation of life from nonlife or the implanting of God-consciousness in man. “Isn’t this exactly what we see in life generally or, for that matter, in the history recorded for us in the Bible?” the theistic evolutionist might say. “For the most part the history of Israel and the church flows along naturally. Leaders arise, do their thing, and then die giving place to other rulers. It is only occasionally that God intervenes miraculously. To see this pattern at work in evolution is biblical. It is what we should expect on the basis of what we know of Christian history.”

A House on Sand

Then Christians should all be theistic evolutionists? Not necessarily! There are also important weaknesses in this view to which none should be blind.

First, there is a problem with the supposed truthfulness of evolution itself. The theistic evolutionist believes in evolution, as we have seen. But evolution is not necessarily true, as we have also seen. Indeed, there are important reasons for discounting it. One main reason for rejecting evolution is the lack of fossil evidence. To be sure, the evolutionist reads the fossil record differently, seeing in it a sketchy but adequate history of the development of higher forms of life from lower forms. But the record is at best incomplete and may, as creationists hold, actually provide better evidence for the creationist’s view than for the evolutionist’s. As we said in the last message, it is not merely a question of a few missing links. There are hundreds of missing links. It is questionable whether there is any evidence for the development of one species from a lower species. What the fossil evidence actually shows—even granting the alleged antiquity of the earth and the accepted sequence of fossils and rock strata—is the sudden appearance of major groups of species. If evolution is true, we should expect to find a finely graded and continuous development. Since we do not, we can honestly object to the theistic evolutionist’s first argument in support of his theory, namely, that evolution is true and that the Christian should not be afraid to acknowledge it.

Again, we must emphasize the fact that certain forms of evolutionary development may be true. But the creationist may well ask the theistic evolutionist whether he does not hold his position, not so much because of the scientific evidence for it, but only because it is the accepted (and only acceptable) theory in his field of work.

The second objection corresponds to the theist’s second argument, just as the creationist’s first objection corresponds to his first. The theistic evolutionist might appeal to the Bible as suggesting a pattern of God’s dealings with the human race, which he also sees in evolution—general development according to fixed laws with only an occasional supernatural intervention. But we must ask whether this is really the biblical picture. According to evolution, the development of life on earth has proceeded over a period of several billion years with at best two or three divine interventions. Is this the pattern we find in Scripture? It is true that in biblical history miracles are not everyday occurrences, but they are not all that infrequent either. Hundreds of supernatural interventions by God are recorded. And as for the development of the rest of history along the lines of natural law, would it not be more accurate to say that all history is in God’s hand and that it is being directed by him in intricate detail according to his own perfect plans?

The theistic evolutionist would say that in his view God has directed evolution just as he has directed the history of Israel. But if God has directed evolution according to that pattern, it is not quite the kind of evolution real evolutionists talk about. According to them, evolution is a long, slow, wasteful, crude, inefficient, and mistake-ridden process. The God of the Bible hardly fits those categories. If evolution is made to conform to his nature—efficient, wise, good, and error-free—it is hardly evolution, and the theistic evolutionist who is really a biblical theist has become a creationist though he does not actually describe himself by that word.

Third, we may ask whether the method of creation viewed by the theistic evolutionist does justice to the biblical record. Since the method of God’s creating the animals, birds, and fish is not given in Genesis 1, it may be that God effected this segment of his creation according to an evolutionary model. But in the case of man there does seem to be something of a method, at least in Genesis 2: “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (v. 7). This suggests that in the creation of man God began, as it were, de novo. That is, he started with inorganic matter into which he then breathed life. It does not suggest that man developed from the lesser animals.

We could always say that man is made of dust even though the actual steps of his creation involved a lengthy development through lesser species. But we run into further difficulties when we get to the case of Eve, for Eve is said to have been created from Adam. This does not correspond to any evolutionary theory.

Again, there is the problem of the singularity of Adam. In Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22–23 and 45, comparisons are made between Adam and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is basic to this comparison that Adam was an individual whose act affected his progeny. Does this fit in with evolutionary theory? In evolution the basic unit is population, not an individual. At what point did Adam appear? Or did he appear? If God chose one individual from a population of prehuman but manlike beings and made him man, what happened to the rest? Questions like these make questionable whether the theistic evolutionist can defend his position on biblical grounds.

Death of Biblical Religion

This leads us to our last criticism, the one Davis Young alludes to when he says that theistic evolution leads “logically and ultimately to the death of biblical religion.” There is an unbiblical view of the Bible that Young feels to be characteristic of these men.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is perhaps the best known and best read of the theistic evolutionists. He is French and is a Roman Catholic priest, which should speak well for his Christian commitment. He has a concern for the immaterial or spiritual as well as the material. He can even chide science: “Has science ever troubled to look at the world other than from without?” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper & Row, 1959, 52). But he is also an evolutionist of the most convinced stripe, and this determines his theology in the final analysis.

For de Chardin there is no question that evolution on the grandest scale has taken place. Therefore, if our understanding of Scripture seems to be in conflict with evolutionary views, it is our views of Scripture or even Scripture itself that must give way before science. He writes: “It may be said that the problem of transformism no longer exists. The question is settled once and for all. To shake our belief now in the reality of biogenesis, it would be necessary to uproot the tree of life and undermine the entire structure of the world. … One might well become impatient or lose heart at the sight of so many minds (and not mediocre ones either) remaining today still closed to the idea of evolution, if the whole of history were not there to pledge to us that a truth once seen, even by a single mind, always ends up by imposing itself on the totality of human consciousness. … Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.”

His thought is his own, of course. We do not suggest that all theistic evolutionists share it. Yet it is evident from these quotations why Young calls this view ultimately destructive. Biblical religion must by its very definition start with the Bible and make all other theories subordinate to that. In de Chardin’s case, everything has become subject to evolution, and an ability to hear the reforming, correcting Word of God in Scripture has been lost. We must ask whether such a tendency is not present in all theistic evolution.

What should the Christian’s proper position be? An openness to all truth certainly, but not the kind of openness that allows scientific theory or any other theory to sit in judgment on the truthfulness of God’s written Word. Actually, the Christian’s task is the opposite: to bring every thought into subjection to the written Word. Paul knew this. He wrote to those of his day, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4–5). We may not know the truth in any given area. But we must know that our ultimate standard for truth—whatever it is—is the written Word of God.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 6 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in James Montgomery Boice, Sermons

 

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SUNDAY OT SERMON: Views of Creation – Evolution – Genesis 1:1-2 by Dr. James M. Boice

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 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. – Genesis 1:1-2

When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859, he received more abuse than perhaps any modern scientist. To be sure, even Einstein originally objected to Slipher’s discovery of an expanding universe. He wrote, “This circumstance irritates me” (Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 28). Others also objected. But none of these heaped personal abuse on Slipher. Darwin, by contrast, was greeted with: “Rotten fabric of speculation. … Utterly false. … Deep in the mire of folly [and] … I laughed till my sides were sore” (Jastrow, Until the Sun Dies, 19). The remarkable thing, however, is that the theory that became the laughing stock and then eventually the battleground of the second half of the nineteenth century has now become widely accepted, not only by scientists but also by a wide variety of people from most walks of life.

This is not to say that evolution is the only theory going. It is merely the dominant view today and is therefore the one with which any discussion of the theory of origins should start. Actually, our discussion in this and the following sermons is going to take us over five competing theories: 1) atheistic evolution, 2) theistic evolution, 3) the so-called “gap theory” popularized by C. I. Scofield, 4) six-day creationism, and finally 5) progressive creationism. We are going to see what each of these theories has to commend it and then also explore its weaknesses.

Let us say at the beginning that a final answer as to how the universe came into being may not be attainable now. We may exclude some possibilities, both as Christians and as scientists. As Christians we may exclude even more. But this still falls short of a full answer to the “how.” Indeed, even taking the explanations of origins in the order proposed above does not necessarily imply that the latter positions are better than the earlier ones. They are taken in this order simply because they have appeared in this order historically.

The Evolutionary Theory

We begin by noting that in spite of the association of evolution with the name of Charles Darwin, evolution itself is nothing new. It existed among the ancient Greeks, for example. Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Epicurus, and Lucretius were all evolutionists. So also was Aristotle (384–322 b.c.), who believed in a complete gradation in nature accompanied by a perfecting principle. This was imagined to have caused gradation from the imperfect to the perfect. Man, of course, stood at the highest point of the ascent.

Again, there were evolutionists in more modern times before Darwin. Some early precursors were Francis Bacon (1561–1626), René Descartes (1596–1650), and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). The first biologist to make a contribution to evolutionary thought was George Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707–1788), the French naturalist. Another was Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), the grandfather of Charles Darwin. The first fairly complete theory of evolution was by Chevalier de Lamarck (1744–1829), who became a professor in zoology at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and later popularized his views in Philosophie Zoologique.

It was Charles Darwin, however, who rightly captured the world’s attention. His theory was developed to a degree that none of the others were and, perhaps even more importantly, it was supported by an impressive array of observations collected initially on the world-encircling tour of the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Darwin’s theory may be arranged in these postulates and conclusions.

Postulate number one: variation. There are variations within individuals of the same species.

Postulate number two: overproduction. In most cases, more individuals are born to a species than can possibly survive to maturity.

Conclusion number one: struggle for existence. In order to survive individuals must compete with other members of the same species.

Postulate number three: survival of the fittest. In a competitive environment only those individuals best fitted to survive will survive.

Postulate number four: inheritance of favorable characteristics. Fit individuals pass their “good” characteristics to their descendants.

Final conclusion: New species arise by the continued survival and reproduction of the individuals best suited to their particular environment (This summary of Darwin’s theory is taken from John W. Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution. St. Louis, Concordia, 1970, 34-35).

What has happened to this theory in the one hundred or so years since the publication of Darwin’s Origin? For the most part it is still held, though much work has been done in the one area that presents a flaw in the argument. As anyone can see, the chief mechanism of evolution according to Darwin’s theory is “natural selection,” the impersonal preference given to a certain variation in a species permitting one individual rather than another to survive. This is supposed to explain how the variety of forms we know came about. But this is precisely what it does not do. Natural selection may explain how certain individuals have more offspring than others and therefore survive, or survive and have offspring while other less favored individuals do not. But it does not tell us how there came to be the various organisms or “good” characteristics of organisms in the first place.

Thomas Bethell, editor of the Washington Monthly, has written of this problem in an article for Harper’s Magazine. He observes, “There is, then, no ‘selection’ by nature at all. Nor does nature ‘act’ as it so often is said to do in biology books. One organism may indeed be ‘fitter’ than another from an evolutionary point of view, but the only event that determines this fitness is death (or infertility). This, of course, is not something which helps create the organism, but is something that terminates it” (Harper’s Magazine, February 1976, 70-75).

To deal with this problem evolutionists have come to speak of mutations as the primary source of variations. This was proposed first by a Dutch botanist, Hugo de Vries, in a work entitled Species and Varieties: Their Origin by Mutation (1905). It has since been suggested that mutations are caused by cosmic radiations, the latter being perhaps far more intense than in modern times.

The Fossil Record

What are we to say of Darwin’s theory? We must begin by noting that there is no question on the part of any informed thinker or writer that there are varieties within a given species. This is simply to say that all individuals are not alike. Some are tall, some short. Some are strong, others weak, and so on. The question is whether these acknowledged variations are sufficient to account for the development of entirely different species and, second, whether such development has in fact occurred. (The possibility of the development of species in this manner does not prove that this is the way it happened.)

At this point we have to turn to the evidence for evolution, and when we do we must acknowledge that the only true historical evidence is the evidence of fossils. There are other things that might be seen as supporting evolution: the possibility of classifying organisms from the simple to the more complex, similarities of structure in “related” species, the existence of vestigial organs (that is, organs like the human appendix for which no present function is known), similar blood types between some species. But these are all circumstantial arguments, and in some cases they are also ambiguous (See Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution, 120-73). The only truly historical evidence—evidence that evolution has actually occurred—is fossils.

The fossil remains may be evidence of evolution, but what is not adequately said today is that they do not prove evolution and are in fact highly questionable when applied to evolutionary theory. Let us begin with positive statements. First, although very fragmentary, the fossils do lend themselves to a historical sequence in which the more simple forms of life may be dated earlier (because found in older rock) and more complex forms of life may be dated later. Thus, although the very ancient dates given may be wrong, it does seem that algae, protozoa, and sponges came first. After that are fish, reptiles, and amphibians, then the land animals, including the dinosaurs. Finally, there are the animals we know today, and then man. Another positive statement is that some species have become extinct, the dinosaurs being the most notable example. The combination of these two sets of observations suggests that new forms of life develop and that others become extinct—according to Darwin.

But it is not that simple. There are problems in fitting the fossil record into an evolutionary system. Moreover, these are so great as to bring the entire theory into question.

For example, if evolution is true, what we should expect to find in the fossil record is finely graded and generally continuous development from the simplest forms to the higher forms. Although this is often claimed for the fossil record, it is not what is in fact found when we study it closely. Certainly there are simpler forms in (presumably) earlier rocks. Higher forms (like man) come relatively late. But there are no gradual developments. On the contrary, the major groups appear suddenly, and there is little or no evidence of transition. Everett C. Olson, a well-known evolutionist, mentions this difficulty: “More important, however, are the data revealed by the fossil record. There are great spatial and temporal gaps, sudden appearances of new major groups, equally sudden appearances of old, including very rapid extinctions of groups that had flourished for long periods of time. There were mass extinctions marked by equally simultaneous death of several apparently little associated groups of organisms. At the time the record first is seen with any real clarity [in Cambrian rock strata], the differentiation of phyla is virtually complete. As far as major groups are concerned, we see little clear evidence of time succession in differentiation with the simpler first and the more complex later” (Everett C. Olson, “The Role of Paleontology in the Formation of Evolutionary Thought,” Bioscience 16, 1966: 39. Quoted by L. Duane Thuman, How to Think about Evolution & Other Bible-Science Controversies (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1978, 103. Thuman discusses the problems raised by the fossil record at some length, as do also J. Kerby Anderson and Harold G. Coffin, Fossils in Focus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977).

It may be argued at this point—indeed, it is argued by evolutionists—that the fossil record is simply incomplete, that if fossils for every prior form of life existed, such gaps would be filled. But in a hundred years of study the tendency has not been this way, and it is hard to convince oneself today that this will yet happen. It is not just a question of several missing links. There are hundreds of missing links. Moreover, the grouping of major species in certain past periods of earth’s history works strongly against this argument. Christians can argue, even if they cannot fully prove, that special creation is a far better explanation.

A second major problem with the use of fossils to support evolution is the subjective nature of arranging fossil histories. It might be argued by one who has seen the difficulty just mentioned that there is nevertheless evidence for development within one of the ancient time periods, even if not from one to the other. The supposed development of the horse from the Eocene period to modern times is an oft-cited example. During 60 million or so years the horse is supposed to have increased in size, lengthened its limbs, reduced and then eventually discarded toes, and become a grazer. Many museums have skeletons or pictures that are supposed to represent this development. But the fossils do not prove this development. They may suggest it, and the development they suggest may in fact be right. But there is still no evidence that one supposed form of the horse gave place to another. In actuality the skeletons may have come from similar but otherwise unrelated animals. Moreover, even if the fossils of these horselike animals prove a development, it is still not an example of the development of new species but only of a change within a species.

Mutations

Another area of difficulty for evolution is the mechanism used to explain the emergence of significant variations in the species, chiefly mutations (sudden unexpected changes brought about by otherwise unexplained alterations in the organism’s genes). This was the solution to the problem of “newness” proposed by Hugo de Vries. De Vries did his work with the evening primrose, a weed that he found in a potato field. He bred this plant over a period of several generations in the course of which he noticed a number of abrupt changes that he called mutations. He concluded that these were developments of such magnitude that the process itself could explain the emergence of new species.

Unfortunately, the new “species” of de Vries were not new species but simply varieties within the same species. Moreover, they were not produced by mutations in the sense of that word today but rather by breeding out recessive characteristics. In other words, de Vries produced nothing that was not in the plant originally.

De Vries’s failure does not entirely discredit the theory, however, for mutations do occur and can be passed down from generation to generation. The question is whether these mutations are sufficient to account for new species. Are they? Many evolutionists would say yes at this point. But it is important to note that no one has as yet demonstrated this to be so. In fact, there is important evidence to the contrary. Walter Lammerts is a rose breeder from southern California and the author of the books Why Not Creation? and Scientific Studies in Creation. He tells of attempts to breed roses with more petals or less petals, using every imaginable technique including radiation. He acknowledges that it is possible to use radiation to create roses with a significant increase in petals. But here is the point: there is a limit beyond which the increase in petals apparently will not go. If a rose has forty-four petals, for example, it may be reduced to thirty-two or increased to fifty-six. But that is all. Moreover, if the hybrid rose is left to mix with others from that point on, it does not retain its new characteristics but soon loses them. In fact, all the hybrid roses we have would soon turn to wild roses if left to them-selves—because they are bred from the wild roses originally. And if that in itself is not enough to cast doubt on the theory, there is the fact that the “improved” roses did not attain their improved form naturally but rather through the concentrated and prolonged efforts of Lammerts and other breeders. In other words, even in so limited a matter as this there is need for a design and a designer, a planner and a plan (For a fuller discussion of mutations as a possible mechanism for evolution see Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution, 256–91).

The Crucial Areas

An essay such as this can only begin to suggest a few of the problems the theory of evolution poses. But even in such a short study, concentrating on the basic scientific evidence for and against evolution, we can hardly pass over the far greater and (from the point of view of the Christian) unsolvable problems that exist where the crucial points of evolution are concerned. There are four of them.

First, even were we to grant the truthfulness of the evolutionary system as currently put forth, we still have the problem of the origin of the matter from which the later forms sprang. Evolution implies matter by the very meaning of the word, for in order for something to evolve there must be something there in the first place to evolve, and that first something cannot evolve but rather must be either eternally present or created. Since the eternity of matter is today increasingly untenable, as we saw in a previous study, we must have God as Creator. And this obviously nudges us toward the Christian position, whatever our opinions of a greater or lesser degree of evolutionary development may be.

Second, there is the form of matter. We may speak of “mere” matter as if it were a simple irreducible entity, but we do not actually know of any such “simple” matter and cannot in fact even conceive of it. Everything we know, however simple, already has a form—generally a highly complex form. Even hydrogen, the basic building block of everything according to astrophysics, is not simple. It has a proton, neutron, and electron, all operating according to fixed laws. Where did this fixed form and laws come from? They did not evolve. They are in matter to start with.

Third, there is the emergence of life. This is a complex problem, and much has been done to develop laboratory models according to which life could have arisen on earth during the early ages of the planet. The most acceptable model is a three-stage process involving: 1) the origin of bio-organics (amino acids, sugars) from inorganic compounds (hydrogen, water, ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane); 2) the origin of biopolymers (large molecules such as proteins) from the bio-organics; and finally 3) the origin of primordial life (simple plant or algaelike cells) from the biopolymers. But this is an extremely complex process, even assuming that this is how life came about, and therefore has an extremely low level of probability. True, scientists have achieved the first two of these stages in carefully controlled laboratory experiments. But the crucial third stage is elusive. And even in the second stage, the polymers seem to deteriorate faster than they would normally be created in anything approaching a natural environment. Again, it is not a matter of a single event of low probability. It is a matter of a long series of events, each with a very small probability, so that, as one writer says, “for all practical purposes the probability of this series of events may safely be regarded as zero” (Donald England, A Christian View of Origins. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972, 97).

Two scientists, who nevertheless believe in the spontaneous generation of life, write, “The macromolecule-to-cell transition is a jump of fantastic dimensions, which lies beyond the range of testable hypothesis. In this area, all is conjecture. The available facts do not provide a basis for postulating that cells arose on this planet” (D. E. Green and R. F. Goldberg, Molecular Insights into the Living Process. New York: Academic Press, 1967, 407. Quoted by England, Christian View, 94. England discusses the problems with a theory of the spontaneous generation of life on pp. 33–100).

The fourth of the truly great problems for an atheistic theory of evolution is the emergence of personality in man, or to be more specific, the emergence of the soul, spirit, or God-consciousness. What caused non-man to become man? One writer asks, “Where did the soul of man come from? Why is it that the highest and best animals are unable to pray? They are unable to communicate in a rational way. They are unable to do the things that man is able to do. The lowest type of man upon the face of the earth is far higher than the highest of the animals, because he has the capacity to worship God and can be brought to be a child of God, able to live in the glory of God through Jesus Christ, and that is true of none of the animals.” This writer concludes, “I am not ashamed to say that I believe in the first chapter of Genesis, but I should be ashamed to say that I held to any form of evolution” (E. J. Young, In the Beginning, 56–57).

Why Evolution?

I conclude with this question. Why is it, if the theory of evolution is as weak as it seems to be, that it has the popular appeal acknowledged at the beginning of this sermon? Why is it that evolution is today’s dominant view and not one of the other views mentioned? I think there are four answers, three of which I want to put in the form of statements and one of which I want to put in the form of a question.

The statements are these.

First, according to evolution, everything—absolutely everything—is knowable, and this has obvious appeal. Everything comes from something else, and we can trace the developments back. It is a closed system. There is no need for anything outside. Above all, there is no need for God who by the very definition of that word is One who is unknowable and who does not need to give an account of himself.

Second, according to evolution, there is one explanation for everything. Everything evolves: matter, life, ideas, even religion. We can project this framework from our own small world throughout the universe.

Third, and this is perhaps the chief reason, if creation of the world by God is eliminated (as many clearly wish to do), evolution is the only other option.

On the basis of those three statements I now ask my question: Is it not possible, then, that in the last analysis the appeal of evolution is in its elimination of God and its exaltation of man? In this system man does not merely become the highest point of creation, which Christians would themselves willingly affirm. He becomes the god of creation. Consequently, to challenge evolution is to blaspheme against man, and blasphemy against man is the sin for which there is now no pardon. Algernon Charles Swinburne gives expression to this spirit in his Hymn of Man.

But God, if a God there be, is the

Substance of men which is Man.

Thou art smitten, thou God, thou art smitten;

Thy death is upon thee, O Lord.

And the love-song of earth as thou diest

Resounds through the wind of her wings—

Glory to Man in the highest!

For Man is the master of things.

Is man the master? If he is, then he can go his way and devise any theory of origins he chooses. But if he is not—if there is a God—then he is the creation of this God and owes this God allegiance.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 5 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

 

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