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Evolution or intelligent design: Part I

Columbia Biblical Studies: Thursday, September 4
Columbia Biblical Studies: Thursday, September 4
Peter Griffin

Today’s bible study is Hebrews 11:3: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

‘By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command.’ That’s a pretty powerful statement and an excellent argument for Creationism. But whether we choose to believe in Creationism, Intelligent Design, The Big Bang Theory, Evolution, aliens or anything else as the basis for the universe, the basis for our perfectly ordered universe had to lie somewhere.

If anyone remembers high school physics, one of the first laws of physics is that matter cannot be created or destroyed – only changed. We can make all kind of things: houses, cars, boats, toys and electronics. The list goes on and on. Yes, these are creations of mankind. But they are created from elements that were preexisting in a different form. The concept was conceived and the product created, yet the actual matter was only changed.

So, this brings us back to the very central theme of Intelligent Design versus Evolution and other theories. I believe we have to be quite open-minded and able to mingle more than one concept. I believe that the perfect order of the universe and everything that is in it is the creation of God (or Intelligent Design). But evolution also took place. God never said that a horse had to remain only a foot tall or that wooly mammoths would forever inhabit the earth. He simply created everything that crawls and walks on the earth, swims in the oceans and flies in the air. He never said that the archaeopteryx could not someday evolve into a canary. He created the essential matter for all of creation.

The second sentence of our bible verse is even more difficult to wrap our human minds around: ‘That which is seen was not made out of that which is visible’" If we take this literally, it seems somewhat nonsensical. I’m currently crocheting a baby blanket from Lion Brand baby yarn. It’s a very real thing made from very real yarn and will some day it will be donated to a children’s hospital through Stitches from the Heart. I also made coffee for breakfast by grinding coffee beans from Starbucks and filling the coffee maker with water. These are simple, real, concrete things that most of us have done and continue to do. But what are we really doing? We are not creating. We are changing. We are changing yard into a blanket and coffee beans into a hot breakfast drink. We didn’t, and couldn’t, make the wool from which the yarn came, nor the sheep from which the wool came. We could not, and did not, create the tree from which the coffee beans were picked.

We humans are very good at changing things and putting our incredibly creative ideas together to make new and better things by combining different elements in different forms. But we do not have the power to create. We cannot create a sunrise, a sunset, the rhythm of tides or the rebirth of spring. We cannot create a rose, a pearl, or a baby’s smile.

God gave us the creations which He, and He alone, created from the invisible. We have the power to use our minds and imaginations to combine and change, but not to create. The next time you fix supper, think about what you are doing to the food. You are using your creativity and imagination and knowledge to make a delicious meal, but it is only by adding ingredients, and changing matter. It is not by creating anything from that which is invisible.

Is any of this arguable? Certainly it is. Is it difficult to understand? Yes. Is it open to interpretation? Surely it is. But one constant remains: we cannot create from that which is not visible – that is the province of the Almighty.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur, Concise Bible Commentary, David S. Dockery, General Editor

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