Bible: Fantasy-Land? Part 2
Updated: Oct 16, 2022
What truth is communicated in Genesis One?
A remarkable feature in the text is that God creates the entire Universe through speech. He said “let there be light” and there was. My son learnt how to code through a tutorial that outlined the intricacy involved in making an animated monkey pick up a banana. Even this simple command required a complex sequence of numbers, letters and symbols. Yet when it worked, the written code produced a drastically different form: a colourful world with a monkey picking up a pixelated banana and no number/letter sequence in sight.
Francis Crick, who was an atheist, likened DNA to the "language of life" when he presented his ground-breaking findings of the DNA double helix. Genesis One presents an image of a God so powerful that all He has to do is speak life into existence, using the language of DNA that He is fluent in. Computer code seems incomprehensible gibberish to the untrained eye, yet is capable of forging what you’d least expect to arise from a binary sequence: detailed, colourful, ordered, simulated worlds with animated creatures. You could liken this to God using His voice and unlimited power to speak the Cosmos into being.
But if Genesis One is meant to be interpreted literally, then the passage would have to describe, to pre-computer generations, how God’s creative language is similar to programming code. It would have to describe to pre-quantum generations how God creates -- possibly by collapsing the wave function of atoms into concrete forms through observing the wave’s infinite possibilities. Instead, I propose that Genesis One was written with beautifully simplistic phrases to effectively communicate God’s power, abilities and purposes. Yes, it conveys a massive oversimplification of how God created the Universe, but the simple statements pack a serious punch and express everything that we need to know. Genesis One articulates Truth – Truth that is broader than a purely scientific explanation and can resonate with every generation that hears it.
7-day Creation – interpret literally or symbolically?
Why does the account state that all of God’s creative acts took place over the course of a week? How is the term “day” meant to be interpreted? Different thinkers have argued that in the Hebrew language “day” can be translated as an ‘epoch’ or an ‘age’ of time. In the Bible it says that from God’s perspective “a thousand years in [His] sight are like a day that has just gone by”. Secular science dates our universe at 13.75 billion years of age. Before Einstein's Special Relativity Theory, time was seen as a constant - wherever you go in the universe, one second will be the same length of time everywhere. However, this belief has been drastically altered by Einstein's findings that time is affected by gravity. If you go really close to a black hole, time goes relatively very slow to you. So, it is possible that 1 hour there is a couple of 1000 years here on Earth. And the speed of light experiences no time passing at all. I.e. time is relative depending on where you are positioned in the universe and what speed you are travelling. In the Bible, in 1 John 1:5, it says that "God is light and in him is no darkness at all". Dr Gerald Schroeder argues that from God's perspective, the entirety of 13.75 billion years of time from the Universe's point of view, may seem like a mere 7 days has gone by to Him.
Two adjacent and contradictory Creation accounts?
In Genesis chapter two, we get a different image of God – a God who is not afraid to get His hands dirty and get stuck in, but only when it comes to humanity. Later on in the Bible, God is described as a Potter and we the clay, but here in chapter two we get to see this Potter in action when He makes humans “from the dust of the ground”. God spoke everything else into existence; almost in a detached, indifferent way compared to the hand-crafting involved in forming human beings.
Imagine a head architect instructing workers to build a skyscraper – this architect utilises his authority to read out instructions to the workers and they do the heavy lifting and hard graft. This architect supervises the project from afar but still with a meticulous eye for detail, and at the end he is proud of the outcome. However, if you saw that same architect painstakingly fashioning an object to go inside the building, that might get your attention and make you want to find out more. What is so special about that object that the architect trusts no one else to mould it but himself? In Genesis Two, God’s personally hand-crafted creations are made and given names: Adam and Eve.
The contradiction seems to lie when comparing the order of Creation in Genesis 1 with Genesis 2. In Genesis 1, Adam and Eve are made on Day 6 after plants and animals have already been created. In Genesis 2, Adam is made first, before plants or animals exist, and then Eve is made last. How should Christians interpret this?
Were Adam and Eve historical?
St. Paul refers to Adam as if he were a historical figure in many Biblical letters and Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam. This causes embarrassment for some Christians who don’t want to be associated with the controversial connotations attached to the Adam and Eve story which seems to defy science. To avoid the necessity of accepting them as real people, some Christians argue that the whole Bible should be interpreted as a narrative – none of it is meant to be literal history. Then you don’t have to accept Paul’s statements about Adam and Jesus’ genealogy, as they are just myths and legends with a purely symbolic meaning.
The issue I have with this reasoning is that it weakens Christianity’s offer of hope if everything it teaches is mythological. If Jesus’ resurrection is just a symbolic story, with no basis in historical fact, then what good news does it have to communicate with the world? Paul said “if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.” How do you explain historical documents that testify to the disciples’ executions because they would not renounce their faith in Jesus, even when threatened with death? If someone asked you to give up believing Harry Potter and the wizarding world were real or face torture and death, I’m pretty sure that would snap you out of your escapist fantasy.
But if the Bible does teach historical fact, then are Christians doomed to be forever mocked by atheists for accepting the historicity of Adam and Eve? Well, even in random, unguided evolution there must have been a first female to propagate the rest of the ‘mutated’ hominin species. Darwinian evolution is powered by random, beneficial mutations giving rise to new species. But if the mutations are random, then you wouldn’t expect humans to arise in multiple locations around the globe simultaneously – the descendants must originate from the first of the new species of its type. Species have to be very similar to each other in order to successfully reproduce and create fertile offspring. If there was a first female hominin, then we may as well name her, and that's exactly what scientists have done – "Mitochondrial Eve"! An article in New Scientist says "If you trace back the DNA in the maternally inherited mitochondria within our cells, all humans have a theoretical common ancestor. This woman, known as “mitochondrial Eve”, lived between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in southern Africa."
Two creation accounts are presented next to each other in Genesis One and Two. The first shows the order and progression of Creation from the beginning of time. However, just in case humans look like an afterthought in this model (created last) or seem of equal importance to everything else (given one day of God’s attention like the sky, stars and sea creatures were) then God possibly inspired the second account to put humans front and centre, where they were created first with His undivided attention and entrusted with jobs. We are here for a very special purpose and God wanted to clearly communicate this and how He views us. Not through complicated scientific explanations, but with a beautifully simple account.
Latest scientific discoveries have made me wonder if the 7 Day Creation was meant to be accepted as literal truth after all. Day One records God speaking light into existence and Big Bang Cosmologists theorise that photons were created at the moment of the Singularity stretching outwards. Photons are light particles. Many atheists mock the Day 4 account of Creation which states that God made the stars and sun after the formation of light. So, I was intrigued by the discovery of photons existing before star formation! Steve Robinson (https://www.earthhistory.org.uk/) argues that a giant quasar at the centre of our galaxy was the source of light that God created on Day One and therefore the Earth was created on Day Two, with plants appearing on Day Three without the need of our Sun to give light, until it was established on Day Four.
Some Origin of Life theorists are exploring the possibility that life began in deep sea vents, which would concur with Day Four’s version of sea creatures being the first life forms on Earth. And we know that humans were the last species to arrive on the scene as Day 6 also indicates. The 7-day account portrays a journey through time of increasing complexity and greater diversity of life-forms, and that is what Darwinian evolution attests too as well. The Genesis account was written roughly 3500 years ago and Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ was published in 1859, but bizarrely they both paint a similar trajectory. Darwin’s theory of evolution has some large issues that need investigating, but I’ll save that for a later post. The main area of contention is over the timescale of these two models. Secular science argues for a universe that is nearly 14 billion years old whereas the Biblical model could point to a much younger universe.
Is there any evidence for a younger universe as the Bible hints at?
I highly recommend reading the link below for more detail  on this topic. It is a very lengthy document written by Christian scientists who have doubts about the method of radioisotopes to accurately date the earth/universe. I am not a trained geologist, so my summaries given here are woefully inadequate, but may help to whet your appetite to explore this area in more detail if the thought of a young universe fills you with excitement (i.e. it would mean we are here for a purpose - we are not some cosmic accident in an unknown/unclaimed universe). So, forgive me for this crude outline, but the gist of the argument is...
Radioisotope dating works by measuring the radioactive decay of an element such as Uranium 238 into its more stable daughter isotope Lead 206. Secular scientists conclude that it takes 4.46 billion years for half of Uranium 238 in a sample to decay to Lead 206 by emitting alpha particles, which are helium nuclei composed of two protons and two neutrons. This process is known as alpha decay.
To work out the age of a rock you look at the ratio of parent-daughter isotopes in the sample and calculate how much uranium 238 there must have been at the beginning, from the presence of the daughter isotope. This tells you how much time must has passed.
A problematic issue with secular views on radioisotope dating is known as the Helium Problem - where is all the excess Helium from the radioactive decay that has been occurring for 4.5 billion years on planet earth? That timeframe should give ample opportunity for the excess Helium to diffuse out of the decaying rocks and make its way into the atmosphere where we should be recording huge levels of Helium, but we don't. Helium diffuses so rapidly that all the helium should have leaked out in less than 100,000 years. Not only is the Helium not in our atmosphere but it is still found trapped in Zircons in the oldest rocks on earth. So why are these rocks still full of helium atoms? Maybe billions of years hasn't gone by since the decay took place...
Radioactive decay of uranium powers plate tectonics and allows dry land to form. The Bible records one distinct time when land mass needed to be built speedily (after Noah's Flood where Genesis records that "the fountains of the great deep were broken up" 7:11). All scientists agree that there is one moment in time when the whole of planet earth was under water - that was during the Hadean Cataclysm when meteorites pummelled the Earth and broke up the crust. Our moon still bears craters from this time and contains rocks from the Hadean period - whereas the earth is missing them. One way God could form new land mass after the deluge was to drastically speed up the radioactive rates of decay.
Why did Noah and the animals not perish if such high levels of radiation were occurring on the earth? Water is known to block radiation and the water levels of the flood would have been miles high from where the Ark was located to the Earth's core where the Uranium (and other isotopes) were decaying rapidly. Also, if the population at that time had no radioactive materials in their organic bodies, then they would have been unaffected by the change in decay rates.
Humans/Animals have radioactive materials in our bodies from the food we eat that grows in the ground that consists of decaying isotopes. But pre-Noah, before the land-mass was destroyed, there was possibly no radioactive isotopes decaying, or if they were, they certainly weren't churned up in the ground like today. Maybe this is why Genesis records the first humans having exceptionally long life-spans of up to 950 years!
Interestingly, God declares just before the flood in Genesis that humans will no longer live as long and he will limit their days to 120 years. Then the flood happens and afterwards, there is a genealogy recorded of Noah's descendants and their ages start to drop steadily from 500 years for Noah's son, to 403 years for his grandson, all the way to 119 years after a few generations. The change in radiation levels would fit to explain this declining life span.
Another issue with the old age dating of the earth relates to Milankovitch cycles. These have been used by secular scientists to provide a reason for the distinct and even sedimentation patterns seen in rock layers, such as the chalk beds of the Cretaceous, a period dated 145 to 65 million years ago. Milankovitch cycles propose that every 20000 years, the Earth's tilt and orbit around the sun is altered slightly, which has a knock-on effect to the climate temperature and can create either a warmer/drier climate or a cooler/wetter one, affecting the sedimentation pattern to change from a distinct chalk layer, to one with chalk mixed with clay (marl). Steve Robinson proposes that the annual pattern of changing seasons (and temperatures) is a better explanation for even and regular sedimentation patterns of chalk-marl.
If 20000 years has gone by between each distinct layer of chalk-marl measuring around 40 cm, this gives a sedimentation rate of 0.04 mm, or half a hair’s breadth, per year. That is difficult to imagine. By contrast, if the chalk-marl couplets were laid annually, the sedimentation rate is a much more realistic 2.2 mm per day.
Our world is volatile and constantly changing. If the rock layers are billions of years old, then each new addition of sedimentation would equate to tiny measurements per year (0.04mm). This does not fit with what we know of violent coastal erosion; sedimentation laid down in vast amounts during natural disasters; etc.
If you want to argue that the rock layers have been laid down in thick, vast amounts over a short period of time (to fit what we see today) then, in order to hold to the 4.5-billion-year age of the earth, you would also have to argue that there were millions of years in-between the volatile patches where the earth was stable, and no sedimentation occurred at all! That doesn't seem to fit our knowledge of earth history. Maybe the rock layers look like they have been laid down in regular annual cycles of changing seasons because that is actually what has happened - but that would mean the earth is thousands of years old, not billions.
What does the evidence point to?
If God is real and inspired the writing of the Bible, then you should expect it to be true and have science verify it. Currently, the accounts can be read and understood by ancient generations, as well as advanced civilizations into the future. What an incredible feat! The Bible is the living Word of God. Its conclusions are accessible to all generations, irrespective of the scientific progress at its disposal -- these conclusions are that God designed the whole universe with care, attention to detail, purpose and love.
References & Footnotes  Gen 1:3-5  See a previous post on ‘Miracles & the Quantum Realm’  Psalm 90:4  See four-part series on ‘Why did Jesus have to die?’ And the four part ‘My Purpose?' series.  Isaiah 65:17  Isaiah 64:8  Genesis 2:7  1 Tim 2:13, Romans 5:12-21  1 Cor 15:17 – see my four-part series on ‘Why did Jesus have to die?’  This poses an issue for random, unguided evolution for starters – you need a randomly mutated male and female of the new species to arise at the same time, and then happen to find each other, in order to have offspring. Not every species can have viable offspring with another – if they are too genetically dissimilar their fertility will not be a match and so no offspring propagated.  See ‘My Purpose?’ Series  Photon epoch - Wikipedia  Luke 18:27