The following is the continuation from the excerpt of part one from The Ages Before Moses. Part one of this lecture covered the Genesis in its form, scope and substance. Part two will now cover the harmonies of Bible and Science, Man and, a lesson in Grace.
The Ages Before Moses
John Monro Gibson, 1879
The Harmonies of Bible and Science
We have said that almost everybody knows about the difficulties, but how few are there comparatively that know about the wonderful harmonies? So much is said and written about the difficulties, that many have the idea that the narrative is full of difficulties—nothing but difficulties—nothing that agrees with science as we know it now; whereas, when we look at it, we find the correspondencies most wonderful all the way through. Let us look at a few of them. And first, the absence of dates. The fact is very noteworthy that there is such abundance of space left for long periods, not till quite recently demanded by science. And this does not depend on any theory of day-periods; for those who still hold to the literal days; find all the room required before the first day is mentioned. Not six thousand years ago, but “in the beginning.” How grand and how true in its vagueness.
Another negative characteristic worth noticing here is the absence of details where none are needed. For example, there is almost nothing said in detail about the heavens. What is said about the heavens in addition to the bare fact of creation, is only in reference to the earth, as, for example, when the sun and moon are treated of, not as separate worlds, but only in their relation to this earth as giving light to it and affording measurements of time. There is no attempt to drag in the spectroscope!
Note: This is strikingly indicated in the Hebrew text, by the accent punctuation: “In the beginning-created-God-the heavens and earth. And the earth—it was without form and void;” which is, read in full: “And the earth” (for it is only the earth that this narrative has to do with),–etc. Bearing this in mind, it is evident that when heaven is spoken of again as in the eighth verse, it is not the universe at large, but the visible heaven, as the definition indeed most accurately points out: “God called the firmament (expanse) Heaven.”
A certain infidel lately seemed to think he had made a point against the Bible by remarking that the author of it had compressed the astronomy of the universe into five words. Just think of the ignorance this betrays. It proceeds on the assumption that the author of this apocalypse intended to teach the world the astronomy of the universe; and then, of course, it would have been a very foolish thing for him to discuss the whole subject in five words. Whereas, in this very reticence we have a note of truth. If this work had been the work of some mere cosmogonist, some theorist as to the origin of the universe, he would have been sure to have given us a great deal of information about the stars. But a prophet of the Lord has nothing to do with astronomy as such. All that he has to do with the stars is to make it clear that the most distant orbs of light are included in the domain of the Great Supreme, and this he can do as well in five words as in five thousand; and so, wisely avoiding all detail, he simply says, “He made the stars also.” There was danger that men might suppose some power resident in these distant stars distinct from the power that ruled the earth. He would have them to understand that the same God that rules over this little earth, rules to the uttermost bounds of the great universe. And this great truth he lays on immovable foundations by the sublimely simple words, “He made the stars also.”
But passing from that which is merely negative, see how many positive harmonies there are. First, there is the fact of a beginning. The old infidel objection used to be that “all things have continued as they were from the beginning of the creation.” Nobody pretends to take that position now that science points so clearly to beginnings of everything. You can trace back man to his beginning in the geological cycles. You can trace back mammals to their beginning; birds, fishes, insects to their beginnings; vegetation to its beginning; rocks to their beginning. The general fact of a genesis is immovably established by science.
Secondly, “The heavens and the earth.” Note the order. Though almost nothing is said about the heavens, yet what is said is not at all in conflict with what we now know about them. We know now that the earth is not the centre of the universe. Look forward to Genesis 4:2, and you will find the transition to the reverse order—quite appropriate there, as we shall see in the next lecture; but here, where the genesis of all things, the origin of the universe, is the subject, it is not the earth and the heavens, but “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Thirdly, there is the original chaos. “The earth was without form and void.” Turn to the early pages of any good modern scientific book, that attempts to set forth the genesis of the earth from a scientific standpoint, and you will find just this condition described. Observe, too, in passing, how carefully the statement is limited to the earth. The universe was not chaotic then.
Fourthly, the work of creation is not a simultaneous, but an extended one. If the author had been guessing or theorizing, he would have been much more likely to hit on the idea of simultaneous, than successive creation. But the idea of successive creation is now proved by science to be true.
Fifthly, there is a progressive development, and yet not a continuous progression without any drawbacks. There are evenings and mornings: just what science tells us of the ages of the past. Here it is worth while perhaps to notice the careful use of the word “created.” An objection has been made to the want of continuity in the so-called orthodox doctrine of creation, the orthodox doctrine being supposed to be that of fresh creation at every point. But the Bible is not responsible for many “fresh creations.” The word “created: is only used three times in the record. First, as applied to the original creation of the universe, possibly in the most embryonic state. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Next, in connection with the introduction of life (v.2), and last, in reference to the creation of man (v.27). In no other place is anything said about direct creation. It is rather making, appointing, ordering, saying “Let there be,” “Let the waters bring forth,” etc. Now, is it not a significant fact that these three points where, and where alone, the idea of absolute creation is introduced, are just the three points at which the great apostles of continuity find it impossible to make their connections? You will not find any one that is able to show any other origin for the spirit of man than the Creator Himself. You cannot find any one that is able to show any other origin of animal life than the Creator Himself. There have been very strenuous efforts made a great many times to show that the living may originate from the not-living; but all these efforts have failed. And the origin of matter is just as mysterious as the origin of life. No other origin can be even conceived of the primal matter of the universe than fiat of the Great Creator. Thus we find the word “creation” used just at the times when modern science tells us it is most appropriate.
Sixthly, the progression is from the lower to the higher. An inventor would have been much more likely to guess that man was created first, and afterward the other creatures subordinate to him. But the record begins at the bottom of the scale and goes up, step by step, to the top: again, just what geology tells us. All these are great general correspondencies; but we might,
Seventhly, go into details and find harmonies even there, all the way through. Take the fact of light appearing on the first day. The Hebrew word for “light” is wide enough to cover the associated phenomena of heat and electricity, and are not these the primal forces of the universe? Again, it used to be a standard difficulty with skeptics that light was said to exist before the sun was visible from the earth. Science here has come to the rescue, and who doubts it now? It is very interesting to see a distinguished geologist like Dana using this very fact that light is said to have existed before the sun shone upon the earth as a proof of the divine origin of this document, on the ground that no one would have guessed what must have seemed so unlikely then. So much for the progress TOWARD the Bible which science has made since the day when a skeptical writer said of the Mosaic narrative, “It would still be correct enough in great principles were it not for one individual oversight and one unlucky blunder!”—the oversight being the solid firmament (whose oversight?), and the blunder, light apart from the sun (whose blunder?).
I have spoken already about the words “created” and “made,” in relation to the discriminating use of them. This word raqia, too, how admirable it is to express the tenuity of our atmosphere, especially as contrasted with the clumsy words used by the enlightened Greeks (stereoma), the noble Romans (firmamentum), and even by learned Englishmen of the nineteenth century (firmament)! And not to dwell on mere words as we well might, look at the general order of creation: vegetation before animal life, birds and fishes before mammals, and all the lower animals before man. Is not that just the order you find in geology? More particularly, while man is last he is not created on a separate day. He comes in on the sixth day along with the higher animals, yet not in the beginning, but toward the close of the period. Again, just what geology tells us.
These are only some of the many wonderful harmonies between this old revelation and modern science. I would like to see the doctrine of changes applied to this problem, to determine what probability there would be of a mere guesser or inventor hitting upon so many things that correspond with what modern science reveals. I don’t believe there would be one chance in a million! Is it not far harder for a sensible man to believe that this wonderful apocalypse is the fruit of ignorance and guesswork, than that it is the product of inspiration? It is simply absurd to imagine that an ignorant man could have guessed so happily. Nay, more. Let any of the scientific men of today set themselves down to write out a history of creation in a space no larger than what occupied by the first chapter of Genesis and I do not believe they could improve on it at all. And if they did succeed in producing anything that would pass for the present, in all probability in ten years it would be out of date. Our apocalypse of creation is not only better than could be expected of an uninspired man in the days of the world’s ignorance, but it is better than Tyndall, or Huxley, or Haeckel could do yet. If they think not, let them take a single sheet of paper and try!
Finally, what do we learn about Man? Here we have man in his heavenly relations. When we come to the narrative of the Fall we shall meet him in his earthly relations. But here he is introduced in his relations to God. “God created man in His own image. In the image of God created He him.”
Here, in the first place, we see man’s true place in nature. He is not altogether separated from the animals below him. As we have already seen, he was created on the same day with the highest group of animals. But while his lower earthly relations are not ignored, it is by his heavenly relations, his relations to God, that his place in nature is assigned him. “God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. (Gen. 1:27)” It is important for us to take firm hold of this truth in these days. When man’s place in nature is discussed nowadays, an anatomy seems to be the first and the last resort. It has even been suggested by a very eminent anthropologist (Haeckel) that the investigation would be more satisfactorily made upon subjects “packed into large vessels filled with spirits of wine!” The corpus, the corpse, is the final appeal. No account is taken of man’s spiritual powers; no notice taken at all of his higher nature, by which he is related to God. Tell me which is the more important part of a man, his bodily organism, by which he is related to the beasts below him, or his spiritual nature, by which he is related to God above him? Is not the Bible, when it gives man his place in nature as created in the image of his Maker, far more rational than these materialists, who only give us his place in relation to the lower animals?
Let us look for a moment at this truth, of man made in the image of God, as a foundation truth in theological as well as anthropological science. In the first place, it is the only basis of Revelation. If it had not been true that man was made in the image of God, a revelation from God would have been an uttered impossibility. Just think of it for a moment. We are told in the Bible that “God is Love.” Would that convey any idea to our minds if there were no such thing as love in our hearts? Or when we are told that God is just, could we have any conception of the meaning if we did not know from our own natures what justice is? Or take the great and blessed truth of the Fatherhood of God; what possible notion of it could we have, if fatherhood were unknown among men? So you will find, when you think of it, that it would have been impossible to have any idea of God at all, unless we had been made in His image. The truth that man was made in the image of God is the only rational basis of revelation.
Further, we have here a rational basis for the Incarnation. What more natural, when God would reveal Himself in some way that would appeal to our senses, when He would come near to us and let us know Him as a Friend—what more natural than to take the form of a man, seeing man was made in the image of God? The doctrine of the New Testament is that the man Christ Jesus was “the Image of the Invisible God.” The doctrine of the Old Testament is that man was made in the image of the Invisible God. You see the harmony between the two: man in the image of God, and Jesus Christ “the Image of God.” Thus we find here a rational basis for the Incarnation.
We find, still further, a rational basis for the doctrine of Regeneration by the Holy Spirit. We are told there in Genesis, that “God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul,” and in another passage that “the inspiration of the Almighty gave him understanding.” Is it not, then, reasonable to suppose that the inspiration of the Almighty will be necessary to restore to him his understanding, to restore to him his true life, when he has lost it through sin? Do we not find again a beautiful correspondence between the Old Testament doctrine of man’s regeneration, as both requiring the inspiration of the Almighty, the inbreathing of the Spirit of God? So that in this old doctrine concerning man and his place in nature, as made in the image of God, we find the only rational basis for a revelation of God, for a revelation of God in Christ, for a revelation of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit: a trinity of truth in unity.
And still further in this old doctrine of man made in the image of God, we have the foundation laid for those glorious hopes that are set before us in the New Testament. When we look at man’s lower nature and his relation to the animals, it seems hard for us to believe the glorious things spoken in the Bible about the prospect that is before us of dwelling in God’s holy heavens and reigning with Christ upon His throne. What the Bible has to say about our future destiny as sons of God, seems too good to be true. And indeed so long as we dwell upon our earthly relations and have in view only our lower nature and our material bodies we cannot rise to these conceptions. But when we think of ourselves as being made in the image of God, it does not seem any longer unreasonable or extravagant that we should share the glory of God. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Let us only rise to our true dignity as sons of God, and then we shall be prepared to realize our lofty destiny as heirs of the glory of God!
We have finished what we had to say on the substance of this revelation. We have had important truth concerning God, concerning Nature, and concerning Man. Can we learn any lessons of Grace before we close? It is true that sin is not yet in the world. So grace is not needed, and accordingly has no place directly in this apocalypse. But cannot we learn some lessons of grace indirectly? May it not be that God’s work in nature is a picture of His work in grace? Look and see.
A Lesson in Grace
The first thing in the transformation of chaos to cosmos is Light. God said, “let light be, and light was.” That was the first thing needed to prepare the way for the coming order. And it is the first thing needed to illumine the chaos of the sinner’s heart. God must say, “let light be,” before the sinner can be brought “from darkness unto light and from the power of Satan unto God.” The next thing, after the production of light and the primal forces of the universe, is Order, advancing steadily from stage to stage. So God deals with the soul that comes to Him. He first gives light, gives it in a moment as by a word, and after the sudden change, follows a gradual transformation. Just as the Spirit of the Lord moved on the old chaos, and gradually it was reduced to order, so the Spirit of the Lord moves on the dark and troubled waters of the heart and restores it stage by stage to order; and at each stage He says, “It is good, it is good.” The Lord rejoices in His work.
We get still another view of God’s working when we reach the animate creation. The earth had not only been “without form,” but “void,” and now that Light has come, and Order has followed, it only remains that the void be filled with life. Light, Order, Life: these are the three remedies for chaos, with its darkness, confusion, and death. And we, too, want something to fill the void, and so God in Christ comes to us, and by His Spirit gives us life: a life which, following the order of the creation record, is gradually becoming higher and higher, nobler and nobler, until it reaches up to God Himself. Then, when all is finished, God says, “Behold, it is very good.” So shall it be at the last, when God has finished His work; when everything within has been reduced to order, when life has reached its culmination, when we have become at last like Him, who is “the Life.” Then the Lord will look upon His finished work in grace, and say: “Behold, it is very good.” What follows? “The rest that remaineth for the people of God.” Not the rest of inactivity. God has not been inactive during his seventh day. It was only rest from the work of reducing things to order. He no longer needed to reduce things to order. It was only the administration of that which was already brought to order that was henceforth necessary. So after God has come into our souls, and everything has been reduced to order, and we have been brought to that perfect day, we shall enjoy the rest of heaven, the rest of unwearied, active service, and onward, unobstructed progress that remaineth for the people of God. “There shall be no night there,” no confusion there, no death there. Light, Order, Life, all very good, for evermore! – pgs 55-76, Ages Before Moses.