Conflict in Faith and Science—Part I: The Ultimate Artist

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Conflict in Faith and Science—Part I: The Ultimate Artist
from Friend of Science, Friend of Faith: Listening to God in his Works and Word
by Gregg Davidson

The details of the scientific account leave us with some possibly uncomfortable questions, however, regarding nonhuman to human transitions, the appearance of a soul, and whether this mode of creation is consistent with God’s character.

Specialness of humans

Our first reaction to human evolution may be that we are not like the animals. Humans are unique and must have been specially created even if nothing else was. The concept that humans might share a common origin with other life-forms is an affront to our dignity and sense of value. One must ask, however, if the indignation comes from an understanding of biblical truth or simply from an inflated sense of material worth. During the days of Galileo, it was strongly felt that humans, and thus the earth, were both the figurative and literal centerpieces of God’s creation. To suggest that the earth was not the center of the universe was to degrade the God-ordained position of humankind. It was a useful exercise in humility to realize that humans travel on a speck of relative insignificance in the vast cosmos. Humanity’s value is derived from something other than its relative location. If the physical origin of humans is no different than the origin of worms, it would be another fitting lesson in humility. We are not special because we were created in a different manner than all other life; we are special because of God’s singular love and endowment.

The ultimate artist

But would God really create in such a prolonged manner, making small changes from one generation to the next and spinning off myriads of life- forms, many destined for extinction? Is this consistent with God’s character? An answer might be found by noting that humans are made in God’s image and then looking at our own creative instincts. Genesis 1:27 tells us, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female.” The fact that both men and women are in the image of God clearly tells us that this expression means something of greater significance than physical appearance. It means, at least in part, that aspects of God’s nature are uniquely manifest in mankind. Elements of God’s character are found in the human desire for relationships, in the ability to converse, employ logic, administer justice and mercy, and in the desire to create works of beauty.

We now have the ability to push a button and get an instantaneous work of computer-generated art. While entertaining, this process is a cheap substitute for the work of a real artist. A true artist will take a lump of clay and begin to mold it and shape it. It is rarely done in an hour or a day. Over time, the lump takes on a form that progressively changes until the final moment when the artist declares that it is finished. If our creative nature is truly a reflection of God’s nature, then it is entirely consistent that God would start with a lump of clay (earth materials) and begin to form and shape life through myriad generations until he arrived at what he was ultimately after. This in no way suggests that all forms prior to man were mistakes or castoffs. Inasmuch as God is infinitely more creative than humans, each work along the way is an amazing creation in its own right.

God who chooses

At some stage, when God had a hominid population with the requisite biological structures in place, such as neural wiring capable of supporting complex language and abstract thought, he may have selected one to endow with something beyond biology. The gift of an eternal soul, with moral accountability and the capacity to commune with God, would have set this individual apart from all other creatures, including the hominid population from which he was selected.[1]The result would have been a creature biologically equivalent to his neighbors, but with a unique spiritual nature that set him apart—a new species akin to what John Stott first referred to as Homo divinus.[2] The subsequent description of Eve’s creation from the side of Adam may represent a miraculous event, or a figurative reference to the creation of Adam and Eve from the same stock or in the same manner. In either case, God is solely responsible for the appearance of humankind on earth.

The idea of God choosing one individual or group out of many is also consistent with what Scripture tells us of God’s character. For reasons we do not understand, God chose Abraham alone from among the people of the earth. He chose Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, and Israel over all other nations. The selection is not a random process where any righteous or handsome specimen will do, for God indicates that his selection was made before those he has chosen were even born. Of Jacob and Esau, God says, “for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad … Jacob I loved but Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:11, 13). Likewise, Jeremiah was chosen for his role as a prophet before birth: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). It is consistent with God’s revealed character to choose one hominid from among many to endow with a soul and initiate the human race.[3]

The timing of such a selection is not easily deciphered. Arguments could be made for the first anatomically modern human, the first culturally modern human, or some more recent descendent prior to the appearance of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. For later dates, one has to reconcile the existence of culturally modern humans spread across the globe. (We’ll return to this question at the end of this section.)

The Bible and current scientific understanding are in agreement that all humanity shares a common ancestor. If there is conflict, it is with an interpretation of Genesis that insists that Adam and Eve are the sole progenitors of the human race. A return to Genesis will help us explore this further, first considering Cain’s punishment (Gen. 4) and then the strange case of the Nephilim (Gen. 6).

 

[1] A number of Christian writers now argue that Adam may represent a population of first humans rather than an individual. Old Testament professor C. John Collins describes four different biblically defensible views, ranging from a genuine first individual man to representative chief of a first tribe: Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care.

[2] Stott, Understanding the Bible, 63.

[3] Some argue that spiritual awareness may have evolved along with the physical form of a hominid population. In my estimation, this creates a logical conundrum of how a hominid might have been in possession of a partially eternal soul. One either has or does not have a relationship with God leading to eternal life or death. This is developed in more depth in Davidson, “Genetics, the Nephilim, and the historicity of Adam.”

 


This post is an excerpt from Friend of Science, Friend of Faith: Listening to God in His Works and Word by Gregg Davidson. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.

A scientist explores the harmony between Christian faith and science

Friend of Science, Friend of Faith

Though some Christians and many skeptics see science and Christianity as lock in a never-ending battle, geologist Gregg Davidson contends that there is tremendous harmony between Scripture and modern science. Many apparent conflicts arise when the Bible is interpreted apart from its literary and historical contexts, but when these are taken into account, most alleged clashes dissolve.

Proceeding from a belief that Scripture is inspired and without error and that God’s creation should inform how we interpret the Bible, Davidson shows that Scripture and science need not disagree on issues like the age of the earth, Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, the origin and development of life, and numerous related topics. Rather, Christians can rejoice at how God’s glory is revealed in both the Bible and the natural world.

Share.

About Author

Gregg Davidson (PhD, University of Arizona) is a professor and chair of the School of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi. His other works include Friend of Science, Friend of Faith, and the forthcoming The Manifold Beauty of Genesis One

Leave A Reply