Science and Religious Faith—Part I

Dr. Marsh gave a series of three chapel talks during the first half of the summer session of 1958 at Potomac Uni­versity. The students at the university wished to have them in some permanent form, and it was felt that our workers in the field would also appreciate them. Therefore, rather than being mimeographed for a limited group, they are being made available through THE MINISTRY. This is the first of six articles that will bring this series to our readers.—Editors

FRANK LEWIS MARSH, Ph.D., General Conference Department of Education Research Division

Sincere believers in the Word of God often differ in their interpretation of the creation. But Seventh-day Ad­ventists wherever they are found can be classified as spe­cial creationists, and opposed to the idea of the evolution of any new basic types of plants and animals since creation week. That much is clear with regard to their belief, but because there are so many varieties of creation­ism today, it is necessary to add a few statements of explanation in order to clarify the Adventist position. A general classification would place Adventists among the fundamentalists. However, with regard to the problem of origins, they actually stand with a small minority of the funda­mentalists because of their belief that the days of creation week were solar days of twenty-four hours, such as we experience today. Fundamentalists are now generally swinging to a sort of "progressive creation­ism," which maintains that the days of creation week were geological periods, each consisting of millions of years. Thus in the matter of past duration most fundamental­ists are now falling into step with evolu­tionists.

Adventist scientists agree that the Bible is not, and does not claim to be, a textbook of science. It is essentially a book that tells men how to conduct themselves in this life and how to prepare for the life to come. And yet every expressed thought of the Bible is true. Jesus Christ, who declared that He was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), said of the Bible: "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17).

The Adventist believes that the state­ments of the Bible are to be taken in their everyday meaning unless internal evidence makes it clear that some portion is to be understood figuratively. According to this inspired Word of God, the many basic types of living things in all their complexity were produced by fiat creation during creation week. This story of origins in the first chapter of Genesis gives every indica­tion that it should be understood literally, and that the days of creation week were twenty-four-hour days. Sound principles of Bible interpretation require that we ac­cept this "day" as being an ordinary day. In the Old Testament where the word yom is associated with a definite number, it is always used to indicate a day of twenty-four hours. Thus here the expressions "the first day," "the second day," and so on, make clear that these were ordinary days. This same idea is given in the expression "evening and morning." If these days were geological periods, and each was divided into a light portion and a dark portion, then the sun, which was created "to rule the day," would have shone upon the earth continuously for many years without set­ting, and the green plants would have died in the extended dark period that followed their creation. Plants appeared on the third day, but those numerous forms that are dependent upon insects would have become extinct before the insects, which were created no sooner than the fifth day, could have accomplished the vital pollina­tion of the flowers. These and other items of internal evidence in Genesis I make clear to the Adventist that the days of creation week could not be geological pe­riods but must rather have been twenty-four-hour days.

Schools of Evolutionistic Thought

In order to understand the differences between the beliefs of Adventists and evo­lutionists it is necessary first to understand that there are many schools of evolution­istic thought. In fact, seldom do two evo­lutionists agree in the historical aspects of their theories.

1.       Atheistic or mechanistic evolutionists claim to believe that there is no power in our universe other than natural laws and processes. Matter had to create itself, and evolve itself out of chaos into cosmos and from simple to complex by blind chance.

2.       Deistic evolutionists believe that a reasonable Intelligence created the raw materials and set up the processes and laws and then departed, leaving to impersonal, fortuitous evolution the survival and devel­opment of the things we see today. It is their opinion that this Intelligence is no longer a whit interested in our earth or its inhabitants.

3. Theistic evolutionists and Adventists be­lieve alike as far as theism is concerned. They both accept the inspiration of the Bible and believe that God created our earth and life upon it. They both believe that natural laws are manifestations of God's upholding power. They part com­pany over the length of days of creation week and the manner of creation of living forms. The theistic evolutionist believes the days of creation week were geological periods and that God brought the modern complexity among plants and animals into being through processes of evolution. To the theistic evolutionist, man is a descend­ant of the beasts and was adopted by his Creator after reaching the level of modern man. To the Adventist, man was created from the dust as the son of God (Gen. 2:7; Luke 3:38). To the theistic evolutionist, man by his heredity is at best a noble beast, while to the Adventist, man by his heredity is a created member of the house­hold of God and has not a drop of bestial blood in his body. Christ died, not to bring salvation to a noble beast, but to redeem a fallen being who was created from the dust in God's image.

Adventist scientists believe that one rea­son why the Bible was given to man was to supply him with certain basic facts that he possibly could not have discovered by him­self. The problem of the origin of plants and animals is one that is not amenable to laboratory demonstration. Neither evolu­tion of basic types nor their creation can be demonstrated in the laboratory. Therefore, God told man that their origin was by special creation. In the solution of all problems of science that are not cleared by Biblical assertions, Adventist scientists open-mindedly employ the same scientific methods used by evolutionistic scientists.

Through mental confusion with regard to the difference between true empirical science and speculative science, evolution­ists assert that creationists "must refuse completely established scientific findings" in order to hold to the theory of special creation. In order to qualify as a completely established scientific finding, a phenome­non must be capable of demonstration in the laboratory. The cold facts are that no item of empirical, demonstrable science is in conflict with the theory of special crea­tion. But when we enter the realm of specu­lative science, that is, when we come to the explanation of scientifically established facts, more than one reasonable explana­tion may be possible and who has the authority to say which is the correct one?

This situation is one that evolutionists commonly overlook. Most scientists of our day are evolutionists, and this majority gives them confidence to the extent that they become autocratic and dogmatic in their beliefs to such a degree that they repeat the very same situation that caused the Dark Ages. In those sad times a few individuals set themselves up as authorities, and the strange fact is that the students of that day made obeisance to them and re­spectfully fell upon their faces before the dogmatic utterance, "The master has spo­ken!" Those times were days of stagnation in learning because of a lack of intellectual activity.

Interestingly, the autocratic authorities of those days called themselves special cre­ationists, and those schoolmen are today soundly and justly criticized by evolution­ists because of their requirement that their inaccurate opinions be respected as author­ity. But the tragedy of today is that modern evolutionists have in turn such overmaster­ing faith in their own particular explana­tions of subjective evidence as to demand that all peoples likewise accept their ex­planations of scientific findings. If students do not accept the evolutionistic faith, but choose the creationistic explanation in­stead, they are declared by evolutionists to be unscientific, and they are described as naive, or they may be likened to inmates of mental institutions (see the review by W. C. Tobie of Life, Man, and Time in the Quarterly Review of Biology for Septem­ber, 1957), and not uncommonly are re­fused candidacy for academic degrees in advanced schools of learning. This unfor­tunate demand by evolutionists that all stu­dents accept the evolutionistic interpreta­tion of all subjective evidence bearing on the problem of origins is sure to bring a return of the intellectual stagnation of the Dark Ages—or a philosophical revolution. The conclusions of the evolutionists can be wrong, because the evidence upon which they base them is merely subjective and not in the least coercive. Scientists charac­teristically change their interpretations of subjective evidence every now and then.

When the evolutionist declares that spe­cial creationists "reject completely estab­lished scientific findings" in order to hold to their theory (see Theodosius Dobzhan­sky in Genetics and the Origin of Species, 1951, 3d ed. p. 11), he is forgetting that evolutionistic explanations of scientific findings do not qualify as "completely es­tablished scientific findings." Only items of empirical, demonstrable evidence can so rate. Actually, Adventist creationists accept every item of empirical, demonstrable evi­dence. In not one case do these data dis­agree with the teachings of the Bible. The God of nature and the Author of the Bible are one Being; therefore Bible and nature should agree. That the Bible and demon­strable science do agree is one of the rea­sons for the Adventist's faith in the inspira­tion of the Bible. The only conflict between the Bible and science occurs in the specu­lative portions of the latter. In the current demands of leading scientists that we must give up the idea of special creation and accept the bestial origin of man, the Ad­ventist sees the subtle influence of the god of deceit. Modern evolutionist scientists are sincere but they are also deceived.

Because many very fine religious folks are found among evolutionists, we some­times hear it said that it really does not matter religiously whether we are evolu­tionists or special creationists. However, to believe in evolution and its teaching of the bestial origin of man, we must go directly against the clear teaching of such Biblical assertions as are found in Genesis 1 and Luke 3:38—references which teach clearly that man did not evolve through beasts but, as already observed, was created the son of God directly from dust. In the light of the Scriptures, therefore, the teaching of the bestial origin of man would be the perpe­tration of a lie, and we read in Revelation 22:15 that "whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" will in the final separation find him­self outside the city of God.

Varieties, but No New Bask Types

Among special creationists of the Dark Ages were the schoolmen who taught in the great universities of Oxford, Paris, and Leipzig. These men taught that the doc­trine of Genesis on the reproductive per­formance of organisms was such as to per­mit no development of varieties within the Genesis "kinds." This extreme-fixity inter­pretation of the Genesis "kind" was still taught in Cambridge University as late as 1831 when Charles Darwin was graduated from the theological course in that school. It is a common opinion among modern evolutionists that creationists today likewise believe in this extreme fixity in nature. When an evolutionist who is of this opin­ion hears a creationist assert that he be­lieves in the origin of new varieties among plants and animals, the evolutionist pro­claims that in such a belief the creationist becomes an evolutionist. However, this con­clusion reveals that the evolutionist should think a little deeper, because the develop­ment of new varieties is not the develop­ment of new Genesis "kinds," that is, new basic types. In order for evolution to occur there must be a development of new basic types of organisms. A vast amount of research has been done on variation among plants and animals, and it is now known to all informed biologists that in no case can these processes of change be shown to pro­duce even one new basic type. The evolu­tionist becomes a creature of faith when he believes that, if given enough time, proc­esses of variation could produce evolution of new types. This faith causes him to re­fuse all methods of age-dating of rocks and organic materials that cannot be con­strued to indicate that vast stretches of time have elapsed since life first appeared on our earth. All of this study of variation has merely served to demonstrate the truth of Genesis that each basic type, the Genesis "kind," always produces new individuals that belong unquestionably to their paren­tal type. The evolutionist misplaces his faith because apparently there are in nature no mechanisms whereby one basic type of organism can produce a new basic type.

That fact poses a tremendous problem for evolutionists, and when pressed for an explanation, they say that the student has to go into the field of paleontology to find real evidence of the evolution of new basic types. However, when we go to the pale­ontologist to learn of this evidence, we are told by authorities in that field that the same discontinuity that exists among living forms and makes a demonstration of evolu­tion impossible also exists among the fos­sils. It is a source of great satisfaction to the creationist to find the close agreement be­tween the story of the origin and manner of increase of living things, as given in Genesis, and the actual reproductive behav­ior of fossil and living forms. They not only have brought forth but still do bring forth after their "kind." There is no real evi­dence of new basic types having occurred.

Because the evolutionist believes that great stretches of time could make possible the evolution of new basic types through natural variation, it is understandable that he should hope to find natural evidence that billions of years have elapsed since our earth came into being. This wishful think­ing has led him to reject evidences that our earth is only a few thousand years old and substitute for these the radioactive time clocks which, when explained in the light of certain undemonstrable assumptions, would suggest an age of several billions of years for our earth.

However, the unreliability of these clocks is indicated by such facts as the impossibil­ity, in the case of the uranium 238-lead-206 method of age-dating, of knowing how much of the lead-206 in the mineral has originated from the decay of the uranium and how much of it appeared in the min­eral when the mineral was first formed. Carbon-14 datings on the more ancient or­ganic materials are likewise unreliable, be­cause we have good reasons for believing that the ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 has not continued in its present proportion back to the time when this organic sub­stance was a part of a living plant or ani­mal. Because of the unjustified assump­tions upon which these age determinations are based, the ages obtained by these meth­ods are invalid. The creationist marvels that the very evolutionists who demand an open-minded approach to all natural phe­nomena allow their belief in evolution to close their minds to such an extent that they do not recognize the undemonstrable and unjustifiable nature of the assump­tions that are the basis of all their age determinations. Practically all Adventist scientists today recognize that there is no natural necessity for assuming that even the raw materials of our earth are older than seven thousand years. The Bible story of the origin and development of the hu­man race requires no more than this.


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FRANK LEWIS MARSH, Ph.D., General Conference Department of Education Research Division

January 1959

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