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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Old-Earth Creationism

1 IN the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
According to the Genesis account of the universe's creation, "the heavens and the earth" are the first things created. This phrase, in Hebrew, reads, "hashamayim we ha' erets," and it refers to the entire universe, all of creation and everything that can be sensed or physically exists. This indicates that the heavenly bodies like the Earth, Sun, Moon, and stars were created "in the beginning" before the six "days" of creation.

Other verses in scripture describe the earliest stages of the creation event in a way that conforms to what modern science has just recently discovered. It should be noted that in Genesis 1:1, the Hebrew word used for "created" ("bara") means a "creation from nothing," as though something is brought into existence. A start from nothing is a good description of what cosmologists call a "singularity," which was the starting-point of the Big Bang.

A "singularity" is all the potential mass (matter), energy, and dimensions (including time) of the cosmos, compacted into an infinitely small point of zero volume. Notice that the dimensions also started at the point of zero length, width, etc.

This same concept is brought up again in Hebrews 11:3 which claims that "the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." The original starting-point for the universe was there, but not visible, because it had zero volume.

In addition, Old Testament prophets were aware that the Earth was a free-floating mass in space. Job 26:7 says, "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing." This is not a perspective attainable from Earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the faceof the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Scientists say the Earth experienced meteoric impacts for more than 500 million years during what is known as the Hadean Era. These impacts would have produced enough energy and heat to vaporize the upper layers of the Earth so that the surface would have been mainly molten liquid at that time. As the impacts stopped and the planet cooled, lighter minerals rose to the surface and hardened to become the outer crust of the Earth.

Around the same time period, scientists say the out-gassing of gases trapped inside the Earth started to form an atmosphere around the planet. The atmosphere eventually cooled and water started to condense. Heavy rains poured down on the planet and after a few hundred million years of constant rain, the oceans formed on the surface. The extent to which the water covered the Earth cannot be verified. However, many scientists believe the quantity of water was sufficient to cover the entire planet.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Regarding light on Earth, science says that our young solar system was filled with a cloud of gas, dust and debris. As the Earth cooled and its gravitational field increased, it attracted meteorites and other debris that collided with the earth for over 500 million years (known as the Hadean Era). So although the Sun ignited before the Earth formed, the early Earth would have been surrounded by a thick, dense mixture of cosmic gases and debris that blocked out sunlight for many millions of years.

Does this conflict with the Bible? No. The Bible tells us that the earth was dark and formless before God began His creative work there. On the first "day," God separated light from darkness and caused daylight to appear. On the fourth "day," God caused the Sun, Moon and stars to appear in the sky. This totally agrees with what science says of the early Earth. At first, the atmosphere would have been opaque and blocked all sunlight. Over time, the atmosphere would have become translucent, allowing some sunlight to penetrate the darkness (the first "day"). After this, the atmosphere would become transparent, revealing the heavenly bodies in the sky (the fourth "day").

6 ¶ And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

The account of the second "day" speaks of God separating the waters. The water of the land from the water of the sky. This parallels a section of Psalm 104, called the "creation Psalm." There, God is described creating the upper waters, the watery clouds of heaven (104:3), and the lower waters of the earth (104:6). So it seems that Genesis 1 is describing an atmospheric division involving water, not the creation of the Earth's atmosphere (the air surrounding the Earth).

9 ¶ And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

Scientists typically agree that the continents formed several hundred million years later. This occurred as molten rock rose upward and erupted to form "island arcs." These arcs slowly drifted across the planet and clumped together forming progressively larger pieces of land that eventually became continents. This was the result of plate tectonics.

According to plate tectonics theory, the uppermost portion of Earth's interior consists of two parts: the lithosphere, the solidified top layer, and an inner viscous layer known as the asthenosphere. The lithosphere exists as separate and distinct "tectonic plates" that float on the fluid-like asthensophere. It is the movement of these "plates" that causes the formation and breakup of continents. Mountain ranges and other features of the Earth's surface are also the result of tectonic compression, folding and faulting processes.

Does science conflict with the Bible? No. Genesis 1:2 indicates the Earth had an atmosphere and was covered by water prior to the six creation "days." This agrees with the scientific view of the Earth in the latter stages of the Hadean Era. According to science, the continents appeared after the great oceans formed (through plate tectonics). Again, there is no conflict with Scripture. The Bible tells us on the third "day," God separated the water and caused dry land to appear. The Hebrew verb in this passage (hayah) means to come into existence. Because the land was not an instantaneous bara creation, the land could have appeared gradually as God orchestrated the process of plate tectonics.

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

The Bible teaches that plants and trees were created before sea and land creatures. The Bible does indicate sea creatures were created on the fifth "day" and land creatures on the sixth "day." However, one should be careful not to assume too much about the narrative of the third "day." The Hebrew phrase at the end of verse 11, "and it was so," is better translated "and it did come to pass." This indicates the command was completed but it does not indicate an immediate completion—it could have been completed in the future. Thus, it is entirely possible the land continued to produce new plants and trees well into the following "days."

It is noteworthy that the verb "bring forth" (dasha) in verse 11 ("produce" in some translations) represents an incomplete action. It indicates the land was to be the agent producing the command. This, with the ending phrase "and it did come to pass," implies this command took longer than 24 hours to complete. A completion within 24 hours would require that we ignore the usual meanings of these words.

Science places simple plants before fruit trees. This is correct. Does this conflict with the Bible? No. The Bible tells us God commanded the land to produce seed-bearing plants and fruit-bearing trees. It does not refer to all plant life on the Earth. So God could have introduced a series of simple plants before the plants and trees He created on the third "day."

Some say that the Bible teaches flowering plants were created before insects. This is based on the belief that flying insects were created with birds on the fifth "day" and crawling insects with land animals on the sixth "day." The text does not support that view. The Hebrew words for the birds and land animals God created do not normally refer to insects. Since insects play a critical role in the pollination of many plants, we are left with two possibilities: either God created plants and insects together, or God pollinated the plants until insects were created.

Science places insects before flowering plants. This is also correct. Science places the first insects in the Devonian Period, about 400 million years ago. The first flowering plants—the angiosperms—appeared 145 million years ago. Does science conflict with the Bible? No. The Bible does not tell us when insects were created. It should be noted, however, that science places the appearance of pollinating insects much later, at about the same time as the appearance of the flowering plants.

14 ¶ And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

The narrative of the fifth "day" describes the creation of two types of sea creatures: great creatures and creatures with which the water teems. The Hebrew word for great creatures (tanniyn) refers to "enormous creatures or whales.” The Hebrew word for the other creatures (sherets) means swarming things. In verse 20, both these creatures are referred to as living things. The Hebrew word used here (nephesh) connotes creatures with the attributes of mind, will and emotion. This indicates the sea creatures created on the fifth "day" were not fish but air-breathing mammals—whales, dolphins, porpoises and the like (according to Rodney Whitefield’s Reading Genesis One-Comparing Biblical Hebrew with English Translation ).

The first birds are placed in the Jurassic Period, about 150 million years ago, although recent discoveries, such as Protoavis, suggest true birds may have appeared around the time of the first dinosaurs.

24 ¶ And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

The narrative of the sixth creation "day" talks about the creation of three types of land animals: livestock, creatures that move along the ground and beasts of the earth. The Hebrew word for livestock (behema) refers to large four-footed mammals that are easy to domesticate. The Hebrew word for creatures that move along the ground (remes) refers to the locomotion of small creatures—small rodents and possibly small reptiles. The Hebrew word for wild beasts (chay) means wild or alive. Chay comes from the root haya that conveys living life to the fullest. Because this requires the attributes of mind, will and emotion; chay seems to refer to wild mammals.

Science places the first land mammals in the Triassic Period, about 250 million years ago, and the first whales in the Tertiary Period, about 50 million years ago. Does this conflict with the Bible? No. The Bible tells us whales were created on the fifth "day" and land mammals on the sixth "day." However, the narrative of the sixth "day" only speaks only of advanced land mammals: wild and easy to domesticate large mammals and small, low to the ground mammals. The fossil dates for these mammals post-date the first whales by many millions of years.

Based on the Hebrew word meanings, it is evident the text does not describe the creation of all sea and land creatures. The fifth "day" speaks of whales and other sea mammals, while the sixth "day" speaks of large mammals, small mammals and possibly certain small reptiles. Therefore, we can only speculate as to where fish, amphibians, large reptiles, dinosaurs, insects and a host of other sea and land creatures fit into the scheme of the six creation "days."

Why doesn’t it include these details? I think the main reason is that, ultimately, it’s just not that important. The Book of Genesis describes the origin of many things: The Earth, Life, Sin, Mankind, the House of Israel, etc., but it was not intended to describe the origin of all things.

26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29 ¶ And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Animal Death

Some Christians refer to Genesis 1:31—"God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." They think that God would not call a creation that included animal death "very good." However, one must be careful not to rely on our modern, western ideas of what "good" means. The Bible does not tell us the creation was “perfect”. The Hebrew word for good, towb, connotes a practical or economic benefit. Thus, the creation was "very good" for the purpose of achieving God's goals for mankind—namely, to allow rational, morally free agents to come into existence and make free choices to love, obey and be in relationship with Him. Animal death in no way conflicts with that goal.


While studying Genesis 1, we should try to determine as clearly as possible what God meant by the language He guided His inspired prophet to employ. We must read it through the understanding of the author, not through ours. This requires that we go beyond the English translations no matter how well those translations seem to fit our personal view of what we’d prefer to believe, and carefully examine the text in the original Hebrew. When we do, we see the supposed conflict between Genesis 1 and the factual data of science does not exist. Rather than contradicting Genesis 1, science underscores the veracity of the Bible. If it is the case that there is no conflict between modern science and ancient revelation, it certainly makes me wonder what possible explanation there could be besides divine revelation?

I can’t pretend to perfectly understand the creation event and do not claim anything above as any sort of official doctrine (There’s a few things even I disagree with), but at very least I think it makes the Genesis Account seem more plausible. In fact, I don't understand how it could be false.

With this in mind, I am forced to wonder, if there is no God communing with the writers of scripture, how did they know?


Joseph said...

I like this post--it's really interesting. It reminds me of my science foundations class I took at BYU-Idaho my first semester, and we talked about evolution and how there's no reason it should conflict with the creation. Maybe that's another thing you could look into and address, if that interests you? Nice work.

Laughing Ninja said...

Thank you. The topic of evolution is complex enough that it deserves its own post, but its in the works.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Evolution certainly conflicts with the Bible. Even the atheists attest to that. You keep mentioning what "science" and "scientists" say as if they are in agreement. Have you ever looked at Answers in Genesis web site? They have excellent scientists who do indeed explain how creation came about without trying to fit evolution and billions of years into the scenario where it really doesn't fit.

Mormon cosmology has some of the same problems as evolutionist cosmology because Mormons believe matter has always existed; at least that's the information I find. Matter is something, and it is impossible for something to come from nothing, so matter could not eternally exist.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Evolution does not conflict with the Bible, unless you're a Young-Earth Creationinst, which not all mainstream Christians are and not all Latter-Day Saints are. It's one of many views and you're welcome to it. The Bible says that God created man, but says almost nothing of the method used to do so. In any case, this is not a post about "Mormon Cosmology". Rather, it's showing that there is no necessary conflict between science and religion, which many people seem to presume.

Speaking of which, I'm not sure what connection "Mormon Cosmology" has to anything in this post. I've used nothing but the KJV Bible and observations from science. The LDS Church actually has no official doctrine regarding Ex Nihilo creation and you'll find that many Latter-Day Saints have widely varying views. The information you find is probably just people's opinions.

Evolution is science, which any coherent belief system including a Creator must account for. - it is not a religious philosophy of atheism with absolutely no science to back it up. Even Charles Darwin was baptized Anglican and attended a Unitarian church. All through his formal education in science he delights in the study of theology, such as William Paley's Evidences of Christianity. Also, the evidence for evolution is overwhelming which, though admittedly not complete, does not at all contradict the Bible. The plain reading of Scripture, without dragging in personal bias, can lead only to old earth creationism. Take care not to practice eisegesis and read Genesis, a work written 4000 years ago in a vastly different culture and an essentially dead language, with the understanding of a modern, western, fundamental Christian. Read it as they intended it to be read, not as you wish it to be read.

"Mormon cosmology has some of the same problems as evolutionist cosmology because Mormons believe matter has always existed; at least that's the information I find. Matter is something, and it is impossible for something to come from nothing, so matter could not eternally exist."

Are you saying that matter could not have existed eternally, but it also could not have come from nothing? It has to be one or the other...

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Matter cannot exist eternally, nor can it come from nothing. God existed eternally and matter was created by Him.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

“Matter cannot exist eternally, nor can it come from nothing.”

This seems contradictory. The LDS church has few, if any, official doctrines regarding the state of matter before the creation, so I'm not trying to debate here. I'm genuinely curious. How do you reconcile this seeming contradiction? Matter cannot exist eternally? I assume you mean that it had to come from somewhere? It had to have an origin? But it cannot come from nothing? Where then did it come from? Use scripture to support your response where possible, please. You say God created it, but by what mean, since we rule out Ex Nihilo creation?

Thank you in advance for your insights.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I don't rule out ex nihilo creation. God existed eternally; there was never a time when he didn't exist. Ps. 909:2, Ps. 93:2, Hab. 1:12.

God created out of nothing. Gen. 1 There wasn't even time before this.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

I'm sorry. I thought you ruled out Ex Nihilo creation because you said matter could not come from nothing. I think I'd like you to explain how you seem to be contradicting yourself. Again, not trying to be a jerk, I just don't understand your position.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Matter didn't come from nothing on its own. That is the point. Matter was created ex nihilo by GOD - it came from something, i.e. God. The evolutionist version, the LDS version also, is that matter came from nothing and existed eternally. There is a big difference between these positions.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Ok, I understand. So when you say that matter could not come from nothing, you just mean it couldn't come from nothing without a divine cause. Correct? If so, I agree entirely.

“The LDS version..., is that matter came from nothing and existed eternally.”

There is no LDS version. We have no official doctrine on this and the general membership of the church holds widely varying views. Some views may be more common than others, but ultimately we claim no certain knowledge here and members are pretty much free to make of it what they will.

There is a large percentage of LDS members though who believe in divinely caused Ex Nihilo creation, though.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

"The elements are eternal." D&C 93:33

"Now, the word create...does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials to build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos - chaotic matter, which is element.... Element had an existence from the time [God] had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end." (HC 6:308-309)

Since this is the teaching of the prophet Joseph Smith, it must be LDS theology whether or not they discuss it. The point is, Smith taught that matter was eternal rather than created ex nihilo by God.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

True, but keep in mind that Joseph Smith taught that Spirit is a type of matter, only more pure, and that Spirit is eternal. Thus matter (or at least one type of it) is eternal. When he spoke of the elements being eternal, he wasn't refering to physical matter as we commonly conceive it nowadays. He was refering to “spirit,” which is eternal. This is supported by a verse in Moses 3 which states that “all things were created spiritually” before physically, meaning there was indeed a time when no “matter” (as we now define it) existed, only Spirit.

Anyways, I think the existance and nature of the singularity throws a wrench in any attempt at a certain interpretation. A singularity could be seen as “nothing”, especially to sheperds and fisherman 2000 years ago, since it had zero volume. It could also be seen as a “thing” since it did contain matter. Either way, it was still “chaos” that has been relatively “organized” since then. An argument could be made either way. I Think the Lord doesn't clarify this because it's really n ot that important. Someone who knows whether or not matter is eternal can get into Heaven just fine, but someone who doesn't know whether or not matter is eternal can also get into Heaven just fine. I'm not sure which way I'd go, since I have no idea what the exact nature of matter before the Big Bang was, but I do tend to lean towards Ex Nihilo because of the verse above in Moses 3.

It also just occurred to me that the possible existance of multiple universes gives us another alternative. Some of those universes certainly contained matter before the Ex Nihilo creation in our neck of the cosmic woods. Thus both could be true.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Multiple universes is nothing but a speculative theory. According to the Bible, which is the authority over so-called speculative science, this is the only universe, and nothing - not matter or spirit (besides God) existed until God called it into existence.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

It's true what you say about multiple universes. It was just an idea.

Regarding what the Bible says, I think it's a matter of interpretation. There are ways to interpret Biblical verses either way, and there's ways to interpret Joseph Smith's quote either way.

I do believe God is god of the entire universe, therefore our beliefs must square up with what we observe in the universe. So I do tend to lean to the Ex Nihilo, but that's only because of my limited knowledge of what was going on before the Big Bang.

I guess a big point in my position depends on whether or not the singularity was a “thing”. I admit I can't really wrap my mind around an object with zero volume. That sounds a whole lot like “Nothing” to me, and there are ways to square it with the teachings of Joseph Smith, so for now I go with Ex Nihilo.

Joe Heschmeyer said...


Very well done. I hadn't read these comments when I suggested you read the post I wrote on Creation ex nihilo. A couple of LDS guys were arguing against Creation ex nihilo, so seeing an LDS defense of the doctrine is comforting. I don't know if you read him at all, but St. Thomas Aquinas does a good job of showing how Creation ex nihilo is the only logical possibility in the Summa.

Given your lean towards Creation ex nihilo, how (if at all) does it impact your stance on the King Follett discourse, and the notion of an eternal progression of (G)ods? Pax Christi,


Cristofer Urlaub said...

Thank you very much, Joe. You're very kind. If I may speak in defense of the LDS guys arguing against Ex Nihilo Creation, many LDS members have very different views on this. This is one of many areas where the church allows it's members to think what they feel comfortable with, since it doesn't really directly impact our salvation. I don't think the Lord is going to deny anyone entrance into Heaven because of how old they think the universe is. Nevertheless, Ex Nihilo ideas are generally not held by the majority, possibly because of King Follett.

Regarding the King Follett Discourse, I assume you mean the portion where Joseph Smith teaches that the universe was not created Ex Nihilo. Many people (including LDS, unfortunately) assume that means he was arguing for a Steady-State Universe, the traditional view of which is that the universe has always been the way it is now, with stars, planets, galaxies, etc.

I don't think this is what Joseph Smith intended, though, because it doesn't fit with his other statements, or with scripture. Jospeh Smith says, in the same discourse, that God would “institute laws” over unorganized elements, which I think strongly implies there was a time in the universe when there was matter, but no laws governing it. Even in the traditional view of the Steady-State Universe, there were laws in place. Laws of Gravity, Conservation of Matter and Energy, etc. The only time I can think when there existed matter with no laws governing it was the pre-Big Bang singularity. This also fits with scripture, such as the one in this post, saying that the universe was created from something “not visible”. The traditional Steady-State universe clearly isn't the case.

I don't think that means Joseph Smith was wrong. After all, The singularity did contain matter and existed even before Time, according to scientists. So a good argument for eternal matter can be made, but I think it depends a lot on how you define things like “eternal” and “singularity”.

So to answer your question, the King Follett Discourse does affect my view, but rather than being in opposition, I think it actually strengthens my confidense in an Ex Nihilo creation, as long as we think that the singularity, an object with zero volume, could be called “nothing”.

Keep in mind, though, that all of this is my opinion. It is not official LDS doctrine and my mind may change in the future if I ever figure out whether or not the “singularity” was “nothing”. For now, this is just what makes the most sense to me.

You also mention Eternal Progression of Gods. I'm not going to answer only because I'm not sure what connection you are making to this post. I'll answer if I understand what you are looking for, though. How would an Ex Nihilo creation affect my stance on Eternal Progression?

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