A simple reconciliation

The pioneer approach

Our pioneers believed scientific facts were always in harmony with accurate Biblical interpretation. [1] [2] They believed the earth was extremely old, and that there had been at least one pre-Adamic creation, despite rejecting evolution. They explained the evidence for evolution by arguing God had made many creations over countless years, creating simple life and repeated replacing it with more complex life, finally creating humans in a pre-Adamic creation,[3] then creating the current creation with Adam and Eve.

Over the years, Christadelphian expositors accepted increasingly higher estimates of the age of the earth, and went further and further in their interpretation of Genesis in order to reconcile it with demonstrable scientific facts. Thus on the basis of geological evidence available to him, brother Thomas believed there had been one pre-Adamic creation; later brother Roberts agreed with brother Simons that there was now geological and fossil evidence of at least five pre-Adamic creations.

Similarly, whereas brother Thomas and brother Roberts held the creation week had been six literal days, brother Jardine suggested that the work of these six days did not involve the creation of the entire Adamic earth but only the area of the earth to be inhabited by Adam and his immediate family, and brother Walker would later propose that the six days were in fact lengthy ages rather than literal 24 hour days. Brother Walker was prepared to accommodate scientific findings by modifying Biblical interpretation to an extent unprecedented in our community’s early history.

In his discussion of the theory held by brother Roberts, brother Jardine and brother Simons that explained the geological and fossil record in terms of previous creations separated from the Adamic creation by a gap during which all life on earth was destroyed, brother Walker noted that there was actually sufficient scientific evidence to contradict this view. First he observed that the available evidence could not be reconciled with a 6,000 year old creation.

‘As with fishes, so with birds, many remains are found in the rocks, of a kind not now found upon earth. Our museums contain footprints of gigantic birds impressed in sand now turned to rock, and remains actually embedded in rock. If we understand Moses as teaching that the earth and all that therein is came into existence some 6,000 years ago, we shall scarcely be able to account for these evidently very ancient remains of creatures that do not now exist.’[4]

Brother Walker then demonstrated how the ‘gap between creations’ theory also lacked support from the available evidence. He noted that if such a gap had existed the fossil record would show this, when in fact the fossil record showed a continuity of earlier extinct life forms with later forms.

‘If we suppose a sudden and absolute break some 6,000 years ago, or before, resulting in the destruction of all life, and that the creation account of Genesis describes a new creation following, we ought to find some evidence of the break, and we cannot well account for the apparently close relationship that obtains between extinct and existing forms.

There are forms becoming extinct in our own day from slow and natural causes. May it not have been so in pre-Adamic times? The professors tell us for instance that some of these ancient birds, whose strides we can see for ourselves from their footprints were from four to six feet long, were like gigantic ostriches.’[5]

Finally brother Walker acknowledged that if sufficient scientific evidence was found to establish a continuity of life forms from the pre-Adamic era of the earth to the current era, the Christadelphian interpretation of Genesis would have to be changed to accommodate it.

Supposing that it were ever established that they were the actual progenitors of our smaller forms (“There were giants in the earth in those days” might apply to birds and beasts), would the credibility of the Mosaic narrative suffer? Not at all, in our estimation. We should indeed have to revise somewhat our interpretation of the brief cosmogony of Gen. 1.; but should not waver as concerning its divinity, nor await with less faith and patience the reappearance of Moses in the land of the living.’[6]

Our earliest expositors were clearly well aware of the challenge of the scientific facts, and interpreted Scripture accordingly. The evidence for evolution has increased in scope and significance since their time, and we must apply their approach to interpreting Scripture.

A proposed reconciliation

Adam and Eve were literal people created and appointed uniquely by God (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7, 21), though other humans already existed (Genesis 4:11-17), as a result of evolution.

Adam and Eve’s sin denied them an opportunity of immortal life (Genesis 3:17-19, 22-24), leaving them and their descendants subject to the mortality with which Adam and Eve were created (Genesis 2:7; 3:19, 1 Corinthians 15:47-49, Romans 5:12-18).

This is supported by these Biblical teachings.

  1. Light is the basis of responsibility; Acts 17:30-31, Romans 3:19-20; 5:12-13; 7:7.
  2. Humans are mortal, and without knowledge of God they are as beasts; Genesis 3:19, Ecclesiastes 3:18-20.
  3. God has always separated to Himself a covenant community from unenlightened humanity; Genesis 6:11-13 (Noah); 12:1-3 (Abraham).
  4. Adam was made from the dust as a living but mortal being in whose nostrils was the breath of life, whose mortal and sin prone nature we all share; Genesis 2:7, Psalm 104:27-30, 1 Corinthians 15:47-49.
  5. Adam’s sin denied him of an opportunity of immortal life which had been available; Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 5:12-15.
  6. Cain was aware of humans other than his own family, living elsewhere in societies with their own moral code (Genesis 4:11-15), to whom he travelled (Genesis 4:16), with whom he settled and married (Genesis 4:17).
  7. All creation groans under a burden which will be lifted at the return of Christ; Romans 8:20-23.
  8. The natural creation is a reliable and visible witness to the wisdom, power, goodness, and righteous character of God; Psalms 8 & 19, Matthew 5:44-45, Acts 14:16-17, Romans 1:19-20.
  9. All of creation follows divinely appointed laws ensuring it operates predictably and conforms to the purpose of God; Genesis 8:22, Psalm 33:6-9; 74:16-17; 104:10-13, 19-23, Ecclesiastes 1:6-7, Isaiah 55:10.

 

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[1] ‘The Advocate: For the Testimony of God as it is Written in the Books of Nature and Revelation CONDUCTED BY JOHN THOMAS, M.D. The invisible attributes of God, even his eternal power and divinity, since the creation of the world, are very evident; being known by his works.—PAUL. All scripture given by divine inspiration, is profitable for doctrine, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect—completely fitted for every good work.—PAUL.’, Thomas, The Advocate, volume 4, title page (1837).

[2]There can be no conflict between the genuine sense of God’s messages to mankind and the real facts and authentic conclusions of science. But false constructions of Scripture, on the one side, and the crude hypotheses or fanciful guesswork of men of science on the other, may and will contradict and clash, while they depart equally from the truth.’, Roberts, ‘The Uncertainties of Modern Science’, The Christadelphian (14.161.499), 1877.

[3] Our pioneers typically held they were intelligent beings similar to humans, referring to them as angels but understanding them to be mortal.

[4] Walker, ‘Genesis’, The Christadelphian (47.557.501), 1910.

[5] Ibid., p. 501.

[6] Ibid., p. 501.

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