IN ORDER to present harmony between the data obtained through scientific endeavor and the testimony given through inspiration, one must have models that relate the two. Such models involve an interpretation of data obtained through a scientific study of nature, and also an interpretation of statements given by prophets who have been inspired by God. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has taken a position of assurance that successful models of this type exist, that a "correct understanding of both [science and the word of God] will always prove them to be in harmony" (Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 258).
It is important to understand clearly the specification or boundary conditions which orthodox Christianity imposes on the development of models for harmoniously relating experimental science with revelation.
The first specification is that all entities in the universe, whether they be visible or invisible, have been created by Christ. "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). "In him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things'" (Col. 1:16, 17, R.S.V.). "Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas and all that is therein" (Neh. 9:6). (See also Heb. 1:3; Eph. 3:9; 1 Cor. 8:6; Rev. 14:7; and Isa. 45:18.)
The second specification is that the material universe is not independent and self-acting, but is a continuing expression of the will of God. "In him [Jesus Christ] all things hold together" (Col. 1:17, R.S.V.). "There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (1 Cor. 8:6, R.S.V.). "Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and thou preserves! all of them" (Neh. 9:6; see also The Ministry of Healing, pp. 416, 417).
The third specification is not stated explicitly in the Bible, but is fully consistent with the most conservative requirements of Biblical interpretation. It is that God brought elementary matter into existence during the Creation episode described by Moses. This specification was stated in the Signs of the Times, March 13, 1884, by Ellen G. White as follows: "Moses wrote under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and a correct theory of geology will never claim discoveries that cannot be reconciled with his statements. The idea that many stumble over, that God did not create matter when He brought the world into existence, limits the power of the Holy One of Israel." In Testimonies, volume 8, page 258, she stated: "The theory that God did not create matter when He brought the world into existence is without foundation. In the formation of our world, God was not indebted to pre-existing matter."
Both context and usual usage of terms indicate that the author of these statements was speaking of the creative activity that took place during the first six days of the Creation week described in the book of Genesis. These statements clearly specify that in the creative activity described by Moses God was not dependent on pre-existing matter, and that previously nonexistent elementary matter was brought into existence during this creative episode. They do not limit the creation of elementary matter to any portion of the Creation week during which the world referred to in 2 Peter 3:6 was brought into existence.
Since God can bring elementary matter into existence and is responsible for all the elementary matter in the universe, many minds find it natural to presume that primary elementary matter was brought into existence as required in each of the Creation week events. The creation of Eve seems to clearly have involved the introduction of previously nonexistent elementary matter. Miracles such as feeding a crowd of over five thousand (Matt. 14:13- 21), restoring a withered hand (chap. 12: 9-13), and giving strong limbs to a man more than forty years of age who had never walked from birth (Acts 3:1-10; 4: 22) require elementary matter that was not initially present at the specific site involved. It would seem unnecessary and in elegant for God to draw together from the surrounding soil, rocks, and air, the atoms required in these acts of creation.
The fourth and fifth specifications relate to the history of organic life on this planet and are provided by the book of Genesis. The book of Genesis went out of style when Darwinism began to dominate human thought. But if Genesis cannot be safely taken in its most direct and most obvious meaning, the following are also untrustworthy: the Chronicles; the Psalms; the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John; the Epistles of Paul (particularly Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy); the Epistles of Peter; and the book of Jude. The writers of these portions of the Bible express implicit confidence in the accuracy and re liability of Genesis (1 Chron. 1; Ps. 19, 33, 95, 104, 136; Luke 3:23-38; Mark 10:6; John 5:46, 47; Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; 1 Tim. 2:13, 14; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:5, 6; Jude 14).
The words of our Lord recorded in John 5:46, 47 should be sufficient answer for Christians to questions concerning the integrity of Genesis. "If ye believe not his [Moses'] writings, how shall ye believe my words?" To those who heard Jesus make this statement, "Moses' writings" clearly meant the Pentateuch the first five books of the Bible. It is worthy of emphasis that in the statement reported in John 5:47, Jesus said "writings," plural; otherwise many might say He meant to designate only Exodus, or Leviticus, or Numbers, or Deuteronomy.
The fifth and eleventh chapters of Genesis contain genealogies that do not leave the reader dependent on the indefinite meaning of the Hebrew word translated "son" in English. This word can mean any descendant, and may cover large gaps of time. The genealogies given in Genesis 5 and 11 are unique in that they specify the age of the father at the birth of his son, and the age of that son when he in turn had a son of his own. There seems to be no more reason for disregarding the fifth and eleventh chapters of Genesis than there is for disregarding the specifications this book gives concerning a literal Creation week.
The data in these genealogies together with the prophecy recorded in Genesis 15: 13 establish two highly significant periods of time: 1,656 years between the fashioning of the surface of this planet into an ideal world fitted with plant and animal life as described in the first two chapters of Genesis, and the destruction of this world as described in chapters 7 and 8 and in 2 Peter 3:6; a period of approximately 90 years' duration between the destruction of the world involving the universal Flood and the exodus of the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. From these deductions the remaining specifications concerning models for harmonizing scientific observations with inspired testimony can readily be drawn up.
The fourth specification is that the creative episode that placed life on this planet occurred approximately 6,000 years ago.
According to the fifth specification, the general features of our planet as we know it today have prevailed only approximately 4,400 years, the time which has elapsed since the Flood described in Genesis 7, 8.
Some defenders of orthodoxy add an additional specification by making the term earth designate this entire planet every time Bible writers use it in a general sense. In critical cases the Bible can be expected to define its own terms and not leave the reader dependent on contemporary usage of words chosen by translators. The association of the terms "heaven" (atmosphere) and "sea" and "earth" in Revelation 14:7 as well as in the Sabbath commandment, Nehemiah 9:6, and Revelation 10:6, together with consideration of Genesis 6:13 and 2 Peter 3:6 (the Flood destroyed the surface organization, not the entire planet) indicates that the term "earth" as used in the Bible designates only the solid portion of our planet's surface, or a particular organization of this solid portion, unless a broader or a more limited meaning is clearly demanded by the context.
There are many who object to the simple approach of faith in God's Word which is involved in the 6,000 and 4,400 year specifications. They ask how one can harmonize a 4,400 year restriction with the antiquity of Chinese and Egyptian civilizations, with radiocarbon dating results, and with certain geological observations. In answer to these questions we may express confidence that no fully verified fact of history and no firmly established scientific observation contradicts the plain teachings of the Bible. Incomplete information and inaccurate legends do provide ample basis for speculations that are out of harmony with the five basic specifications discussed above. We must have confidence that God is perfectly truthful and dependable. We must rely on His revelations until conclusive supporting evidence is available.
Moses provides an illustration of the attitude which is necessary to safeguard us from error and from loss of the blessings we might obtain in fellowship with God. In choosing a leader for the establishment of His work in Old Testament times, as He did in making Paul foremost in the establishment of the Christian church, God selected a man of great natural ability who had received the finest education the world at that time could provide. Forty years of successful work as a shepherd gave Moses an experience with desert flora and fauna that added immensely valuable practical knowledge to the botany and zoology he had learned in the royal university of Egypt. The fourth chapter of Exodus (verses 3 and 4) describes a dramatic situation in which Moses is prudently running from a large, poisonous snake. God calls out from the flaming bush nearby and commands Moses to stop and pick up the serpent by the tail. Anyone who is acquainted with snakes knows that Moses might not have been around if he had done this just once before. To manifest confidence in God and in His word Moses had to force himself, at the apparent risk of his life, to act contrary to his previous education and experience. Moses enjoyed great blessings as a result of responding with implicit trust in God.
We are not called to pick up aggressive, poisonous snakes by the tail. For many of us the risk approach is in accepting Bible teaching regarding God's creatorship and His control of natural phenomena; in calling on men of all nationalities and all levels and types of education to worship Him who made "heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is."