In Defence of Special Creation
David H Lane
According to French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre, the basic philosophic problem that faces us is the fact that 'something' - rather than nothing - exists. The questions immediately arise: "Has that 'something' always been there?" and "Where did all that 'now is' come from?" These are basic mysteries to modern man.
The Christian believes that the answers to these questions have been truthfully communicated to mankind by God, primarily through the Bible, but also through the 'book of nature'. God is author of both and they complement each other.
Scripture informs us that the truths concerning the existence and character of God have always been self-evident to mankind through the book of nature, even to the ungodly and unrighteous - those "who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them; because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible attributes - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that they are without any excuse."1
The active suppression of the truth of God's existence and his role as Creator and Sustainer of all things is implicit to the atheistic and agnostic mindset, and to all philosophies such as secular humanism and materialism that derive from these religious positions. Mankind's increasing knowledge of the wonders of the natural world should drive the unbeliever to acknowledge the self-evident fact of God as Creator, but unbelievers choose not to believe, in spite of the overwhelming evidence. As Scripture states: "The fool has said in his heart 'There is no God'".2 "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools",3 exchanging the truth about God for a lie.
The Limitations of Empirical Science
The notion of a First Cause4 is from the outset excluded from empirical science - which depends on repeatable observation or experiment, and treats only sense-data as valid information. This does not mean that empirical science is atheistic, but rather that it has limitations - it is unable to address the question of ultimate origins. It can neither identify the nature of an assumed First Cause nor describe its operation.
Empirical science recognises only secondary (natural) causes and cannot deal with primary (including supernatural) causes, since these involve completely unique events, and therefore exclude the possibility of reproducible observations and direct experiment.
Naturalistic theories concerning the supposed 'mechanism' of evolutionary change are not in themselves atheistic. The crucial issue to address is whether or not they are good scientific theories or just highly speculative hypotheses.
The fact that scientists often cling to such 'theories' despite overwhelming scientific evidence falsifying them is not surprising, since they have often made real 'faith' commitments to the atheistic and materialist philosophies that either undergird them, or are supposedly supported by them. Evolutionism is one such philosophy which illegitimately uses the 'facts' of evolution theory to exclude the supernatural from all domains of knowledge.
The creeds we affirm (consciously or unconsciously) govern all our philosophical thought. These beliefs shape a scientist's basic philosophical ideas and the concepts which he/she employs in his/her science.
It is a naïve view that science proceeds through the objective accumulation of data, hypothesis forming, hypothesis testing and developments of theories. Just as scientists select those facts that are relevant to a theory, so they select those theories that are specified by the theoretical frameworks they are committed to.
Scientists bring a preconceived view of nature to each scientific investigation.
Such presuppositions play a crucial role in which 'theories' of origins the scientist will select. If a supernatural Creator is excluded from the outset, then all explanations of origins constructed within this philosophical framework must invoke (1) purely naturalistic and mechanistic mechanisms to account for the origin of complex coded information, and (2) vast periods of time to allow small-scale evolutionary changes to supposedly accumulate to give rise to new kinds of organisms.
All theories of origins based on naturalism are deficient in that they fail to explain the origin of such information. Extending the time frame does not solve the problem.
Complex coded information is resident in super-abundance, for example, in the genetic codes of all living things and is expressed in the intricate 'design features' in all biology. It 'rides on' the patterned sequence of molecular building blocks that form the DNA sequences of chromosomes, in the same way a complex language rides on the letters of a given alphabet.
The ultimate source of each overall intelligent design concept in biology has a separate, independent existence beyond and before the material system. It therefore transcends the material components in the cell in the same way that a design concept defined using a stick of chalk on a blackboard transcends the chalk powder attached to the board.
Biological codes have complex design features, similar to the highly complex storage-and-retrieval information systems in the modern world. The codes are also self-correcting to a very high degree, thus ensuring the accurate transmission of information from one generation to the next. Defenders of evolutionism admit that this kind of purposefulness is universal in biology and yet they cannot explain it.
The design features in biology are so self-evident that atheistic evolutionists like Stephen J. Gould refer to them as examples of "good engineering design". However, in the next breath he and fellow atheist Dr Richard Dawkins have the audacity to proclaim all such design as merely "illusion". Such deluded thinking is reminiscent of the well-known story of the Emperor's new clothes. The obvious truth of the reality (in this case - of genuine design features demanding a designer) is denied in favour of the myth that design is an illusion.5
The Ultimate Source of Information
Within the limited philosophical framework of modern science, the 'ultimate source' of information has been acknowledged as a "last mystery". One contributor to the symposium Biogenesis, Evolution, Homeostasis6 stated:
"The question of the ultimate source of information is not trivial. In fact it is the basic and central philosophic and theoretical problem. The essence of the theory of Divine Creation is that the ultimate source of information has a separate, independent existence beyond and before the material system, this being the main point of the Johannine prologue7."
The Logos of John 1, as theologian Dr Carl Henry has expressed it, is "the foundation of all meaning, the transcendent personal source and support of the rational, moral, and purposive order of created reality."8 The Logos is identified as the Lord Jesus Christ. When he speaks on the subject of God his Father, or the origins of created reality, or anything pertaining to heaven or earth, his words have divine authority. If the words of Jesus concerning earthly things are to be rejected as false, then what he had to say about heavenly things should logically be rejected too.9
Jesus the Jew recognised the connection between these two levels of reality - the heavenly and the earthly. Through the Incarnation he provided the perfect bridge between the two. Through his resurrection, ascension and glorification, the earthly has been elevated forever to the heavenly.
If it is true that God's Word is truth as Jesus affirmed,10 and Jesus is the truth,11 then it follows logically that what he said on both earthly and heavenly matters is true in relation to the real world. His teaching on creation contained in Holy Scripture, for example, is divinely inspired and fully trustworthy.12
Without a proper Christian understanding of Genesis 1-3 there can be no answer to the problems of metaphysics, morals or epistemology. It provides the foundations for all the main Christian doctrines.
Jesus did not treat the Genesis account of creation in the Torah as a Jewish myth, having no more historical validity for his contemporaries (or modern man) than the Epic of Gilgamesh or stories of Zeus. He treated it as divinely authoritative. He did not suggest that it served merely to convey theological truth unconnected to real space-time history.
Real History and the Bible
Jesus, in his role as consummate biblical prophet, pointed to his own impending death as an innocent martyr when he linked it with the death of Abel, one of Adam and Eve's sons.13 He clearly acknowledged Abel (and by implication both his parents) as real people, and the record of Genesis as historical.
The writer to the Hebrews also identified Abel as an historical figure,14 holding him up as a model of faith . . . "though he is dead, he still speaks". Luke's genealogy of Christ regards Adam, Seth and Noah as being as historical as Abraham, David and Christ.
To take the early chapters of Genesis seriously requires us to treat them in the same way as Jesus and the Apostles did. Jesus, for example, gave authoritative teaching on the subject of divorce and marriage by drawing on both the first two chapters of Genesis - thereby showing that the two accounts are complementary.
Critics of the 'historical narrative' understanding of Genesis erroneously assert that the two accounts contradict. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul treated the creation accounts of the first man and woman and their offspring as real space-time history. Man is proclaimed a 'special creation' unconnected in any genealogical sense to any other of God's creatures.
Creation and the Fall of Man are as historically real as the history of the Jews and our own present moment in time. The Apostle Paul's teaching on the link between human sin and human death finds its theological explanation in the actions of real people (Adam and Eve) involved in real actions of the will, including active disobedience to the commandment of a Holy God.
Both Old and New Testaments deliberately root themselves in the early chapters of Genesis, insisting that they are a record of real space-time historical events.15 The Apostle Paul accepted the serpent's deception of Eve as historical fact,16 and his teaching on the Resurrection17 and the substitutionary atonement of Christ18 is rooted in the same understanding of Genesis.
The substitutionary atonement available to all mankind through one man (Jesus Christ, the God-Man) is judicially valid, since all mankind became sinners through one man - Adam.19
What, then, is the hermeneutical principle involved here? Surely the Bible gives it to us. The early chapters of Genesis are to be viewed completely as factual history - just as much so as the records concerning Abraham, David, Solomon or Jesus Christ.
However, there are some important distinctions.
Not Strictly Scientific
A truthful and meaningful account of God's creative acts cannot by definition be a strictly scientific account as we would understand it. Such an account would need to seek to explain the mechanisms of the creative acts using language that reflects an accurate record of sense-data derived from real first-hand knowledge of the experience at hand.
Such descriptions would have to be potentially open to empirical testing by other human observers, to validate the accuracy of the sense-data recorded, had those persons been present. However, creation only happened once and there was no human witness.
Scripture reveals that God is an eternal uncreated Spirit and all his ways are infinitely beyond our understanding. What we know of his creative acts is only by way of special revelation (the Bible) which contains sufficient propositional truth for us to understand all that needs to be known. The language of the creation account was never intended by God or the writer(s) to achieve the impossible - conveying a strictly literal, secular scientific account in the manner a journalist would record an event for a historical report. However, it is real history - stamped with the authoritative character of the One who is All Truth.
4 Intuitively from everyday experience we know that nothing happens in isolation. Every event can be traced to one or more events which preceded it and which, in fact, caused it. If we seek to trace an event to its ultimate cause, we eventually must face the philosophical question of a possible uncaused First Cause. The theist (a believer in God) asserts that the First Cause is a Personal Being: God who has the power to bring into existence everything that has ever existed, and is also the One who actually produced it.
5 I first pointed this out in a lecture at The University of Melbourne (October 8, 1992). Opening address in the multi-disciplinary 'Creation/Evolution Presentation' to students and staff. See "Caged Minds? Creation, Modern Science and Christianity" Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal. Vol. 12 (No. 1), 1998: 15-19. I have dealt with the evidence for 'design features' in my own biological research field.
6 Dr P Fong, "Thermodynamic and statistical theory of life: an outline", in Biogenesis, Evolution, Homeostasis, (A Symposium by Correspondence), published by Alfred Locker, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 1973, page 93. This symposium was organised by a secular scientific body. It is not in any way a 'creationist' publication.
7 Jn. 1:1-4 "In the beginning was the Word [Greek: Logos] and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."
For a further comprehensive critique of theistic evolution see my book The Phenomenon of Teilhard: Prophet for a New Age chapter 2 "Creative Evolution".
See also David H. Lane, A Critique of Theistic Evolution (2 Parts):
1. "Special Creation or Evolution: No Middle Ground", Bibliotheca Sacra (Jan-March 1994) Vol. 151 No. 601:11-31;
2. "Theological Problems with Theistic Evolution", Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June 1994). Vol. 151. No. 602: 155-174. Reprinted in Vital Apologetic Issues: Examining Reason and Revelation in Biblical Perspective, Roy B. Zuck (ed.), Kregel Publications, Michigan, 1995, pp. 123-139.
David Lane gained his MSc (Hons) degree in Zoology from Victoria University, Wellington, in 1984, and has published in the fields of biology and theology in New Zealand and North America. He has been actively researching the fields of human evolution, speciation theory and theology for more than twenty years. David lives with his wife, daughter and son in Wellington. He is currently President of the Wellington Christian Apologetics Society (Inc) and editor of the Society's journal Apologia which seeks to provide a reasoned defence for the Christian faith.