That “Loaded” Questionnaire
Jack Wood Sears is a professor of biology at Harding University. Donald England is a Professor of Chemistry at the same institution. Both of these gentlemen are Christians, and each has written books and articles in defense of the Holy Scriptures. Their writings have not been without merit, and we salute every word of truth that has issued from their pens. We believe, however, that in one area in particular, both of these men have seriously compromised the plain teaching of the Bible.
Both Sears and England allow for the possible harmonization of biblical chronology with that of evolutionary chronology.
It must be understood, of course, that from the evolutionary vantage point, “time” is crucial. Every evolutionist will painfully concede that unless he is granted vast eons of time, there is utterly no possibility that macroevolution (i.e. change across phylogenetic boundaries) has occurred. Dr. George Wald, Nobel Laureate of Harvard, expressed it like this: “Time is the hero of the plot… Given so much time, the ‘impossible’ becomes possible, the possible becomes probable, only to wait: time itself performs the miracles” (Scientific American, August 1954, p. 48.).
But it must be stressed that “time” is not a creator. Impotence times billions of years is still impotence. Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith, renowned scientist of Switzerland, thus affirmed: “…the postulation of huge time spans by Darwinists to allow for the ‘creative’ activity of chance and natural selection to get to work, does not really help to solve the problem in the least. … it is not time itself which is our problem in connection with origins, but rather the infinitely more important matter of the source of the ‘planning energy’ behind archebiopoiesis and order in our universe. This means that the mechanism of evolution postulated by Darwinians cannot really be influenced by the allowing of huge time spans, which they regard as the conditio sine qua non for their ideas” (Man’s Origin, Man’s Destiny, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1968, p. 147., cf. Bert Thompson’s book, Theistic Evolution, Lambert, 1977, pp. 91-103.).
Though Sears and England oppose the theory of organic evolution, it is certain that both have been influenced by it and have yielded ground to it, especially in the area of geochronology. England, for example, thinks that: “Inasmuch as Scripture does not state how old the earth is or how long life has existed on earth, one is free to accept, if he wishes, the conclusions of science” (A Scientist Examines Faith and Evidence, Gospel Light, 1983, p. 155). And Dr. Sears, in his book, Conflict and Harmony in Science and the Bible (Baker, 1969, pp. 17-20) strongly opposes the idea that the genealogical and chronological data of the Scriptures can be of any use in determining a relative age for the earth and mankind.
The problem is this: some who have been trained in various scientific disciplines are quite weak in their knowledge of biblical matters. And unfortunately, their “science” has colored their viewpoint of Bible truth. That is sad! Beyond that, however, it is an absolutely deplorable thing that men will sometimes attempt to “manipulate” the evidence in order to buttress their cherished theories. And we believe, if we may kindly say so, that this is precisely what Drs. Sears and England have recently attempted to do.
In late October of this past year, Sears and England submitted a “Questionnaire” to a number of Bible scholars, inquiring about certain portions of the Scriptures dealing with creation, Though the professors claimed that they were merely soliciting answers in “the spirit of the restoration plea” so as to “respect the silence of the Scriptures,” a careful examination of the questionnaire reveals, in our judgment, that the real purpose was to gather support for the professors’ well-known views that the Genesis record of origins is not necessarily opposed to the time scale postulated by evolutionists!
One of the recipients of the questionnaire, as mentioned in Bert Thompson’s introduction to this matter, was Dr. Hugo McCord, professor emeritus of Bible and Biblical Languages at Oklahoma Christian College. Professor McCord provided us with a copy of the questionnaire, along with his response, and granted us permission to use it as we saw fit.
The form contains ten questions, along with some brief preliminary comments. Each of the questions contained a “YES” ( ) or “NO” ( ) space to be checked. But here is a significant factor: the questions were carefully worded so as to, hopefully, produce a “NO” answer in other words, it was rigged! Note the following quotation from the cover letter (dated October 25, 1983) written by Sears and England, and accompanying the questionnaire: “We recognize that a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ may not be possible for some of the questions; however, we would appreciate such a short answer if possible. If you feel that it is necessary to check ‘yes’ for any question, we would like for you to supply additional information such as an explanatory comment or a literature reference.” As you survey the questions in the subsequent portion of this article, you will see that they are hardly the epitome of objectivity. One Bible professor with whom we communicated, as Dr. Thompson already has mentioned, also was asked to fill out the questionnaire, but declined to do so because of its obvious bias. That should tell you something!
The “Questionnaire” is prefaced with the following statements. “It is believed by many that the Bible teaches an ‘instantaneous creation.’ However, we would like to know if a careful scholarly exegesis of certain words or expressions mandates such a conclusion to the exclusion of ‘creation by some sort of process’ that may have involved some perceptible time lapse. The first four questions address this problem.” Then follows the first question.
Does the use of the Hebrew word asah or bara in Genesis one preclude or exclude some sort of process?
Several things may be observed about this question. First, it is designed to be answered, “No,” and thus to subtly suggest that Genesis one will allow for some sort of developmental “process” as opposed to a rapid creation. Second, to my knowledge, no competent scholar has claimed that asah [“made” (1:16)] and bara [“created” (1:1)] have any intrinsic implications relative to “time.” This is a straw man! Third, there are, however, contextual indications, both in Genesis one, and in passages elsewhere, which suggest rapid action in contrast to a protracted developmental process. For example, Professor Raymond Surburg has noted: “The wording of the Genesis account seems to indicate a short time for the creative acts described. To illustrate, in Genesis 1:11 God literally commands, ‘Earth, sprout sprouts!’ Immediately v. 12 records the prompt response to the command-‘The earth caused the plants to go out.’ The Genesis account nowhere even hints that eons or periods of time are involved. Instantaneous action seems to be what the writer stresses” (Darwin, Evolution and Creation, Paul Zimmerman, editor, Concordia, 1959, p. 60).
Moreover, of Paul’s statement concerning the human body — “But now hath God set the members of each one of them in the body, even as it hath pleased him” (I Corinthians 12:18) — Greek scholar W.E. Vine observed: “the tenses of both verbs are the aorist or point tenses and should be translated ‘set’ and ‘it pleased’ (instead of the perfect tenses, ‘hath set’ and ‘it hath pleased’) and this marks the formation of the human body in all its parts as a creative act at a single point in time, and contradicts the evolutionary theory of a gradual development from infinitesimal microcosms” (First Corinthians, Zondervan, 1951, p. 173.).
But suppose the question above had been worded like this: “Does the use of the Hebrew words asah and bara in Genesis one suggest a developmental process?” The answer most certainly would have to be “NO,” but this would hardly have been the response desired by the querists!
Finally, it might be asked: What influences have motivated the professors to frame the foregoing question so as to lay the groundwork for some kind of developmental process which allows for “indefinite periods of time” in Genesis one?!
Is the Hebrew word asah or bara time limiting; that is, does the use of either of these words demand instantaneous creation? By ‘instantaneous’ is intended ‘no perceptible time lapse.’
This question is utterly irrelevant. No one has argued that a rapid creation, within six, literal, consecutive days, is demonstrated merely by the use of asah or bara. But again, let us reverse the matter. “Are the Hebrew words asah and bara time-expanding; that is, does the use of either of these words demand vast eons of time?” The answer, of course, would be a re sounding, “NO.” But that would not have left the same impression as the previous loaded question.
Does the Hebrew word asah or bara require an ex nihilo [out of nothing] conclusion?
Once more the professors are fighting figments of their own imaginations. Sound scholarship does not contend that ex nihilo creation is inherent in these Hebrew verbs. What we do contend is this: contextual considerations in Genesis one and in other biblical references, argue for an ex nihilo creation!
W. Gesenius, the father of modern Hebrew lexicography, wrote: “That the first v. of Genesis teaches that the original creation of the world in its rude, chaotic state was from nothing, while in the remainder of the chapter, the elaboration and distribution of matter thus created is taught, the connection of the whole section shows sufficiently clearly” (Quoted by A.T. Pearson. “An Exegetical Study of Genesis 1:1-3.” Bethel Seminar Quarterly. 11. November, 1953. p. 22.). Noted scholar, C.F. Keil, declared that when bara is in the Qal (Kal) stem in Hebrew, as in Genesis 1:1, “it always means to create, and is only applied to a divine creation, the production of that which had no existence before. It is never joined with an accusative of material, although it does not exclude a preexistent material unconditionally, but is used for the creation of man (ver. 27, ch. v. 1,2), and of everything new that God creates, whether in the kingdom of nature (Num. 16:30) or that of grace (Ex. 34:10; Ps. 51:10, etc.). In this verse, however, the existence of any primeval material is precluded by the object created — . ‘the heavens and the earth’” (Keil & Delitzsch. The Pentateuch. Eerdmans. 1971. 1:47.). Oswald Allis stated that a creation ex nihilo “is clearly implied” in Genesis 1:1 (God Spake By Moses, Presbyterian & Reformed, 1958, p. 9), and professor Edward J. Young wrote: “If in Genesis 1 :1 Moses desired to express the thought of absolute creation there was no more suitable word in the Hebrew language at his disposal [than bara] “ (Studies In Genesis One, Presbyterian & Reformed, 1964, p. 7). Again, one wonders what attitude prompted the foregoing question?
Hebrews 11:3 appears to represent ex nihilo creation. However, does a careful exegesis of Hebrews 11:3 require an ex nihilo conclusion?
Dr. McCord gave the following expanded answer [which doubtless was not appreciated] to the question.
Hebrews 11:3 states that the worlds were framed by God’s word (rhemati theou), and that God’s word did not frame them out of appearing things (ek phainomenon). Logically the inference remains that his word could have created the worlds out of non-appearing things. But that option is so tenuous and imaginable, reason says that Hebrews 1 1:3 teaches an ex nihilo creation. God can create (bara) something from existing materials (Isa. 65: 18), but none is mentioned in Genesis 1:1 nor in Hebrews 11:3. Apparently he wanted us to understand a creation out of nothing, If that was not his intention, his word has misled millions of readers. Compare: “By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa. 33:6,9).
Of Hebrews 11:3, F. F. Bruce observed: “The visible, material universe came into being by pure creation — out of nothing, It was not fashioned from preexistent material, as most pagan cosmogonies taught” (Answers to Questions. Zondervan. 1972. p. 125.). The renowned Greek scholar, S.T. Bloomfield, commented: “The sense is, that ‘the world we see was not made out of apparent materials, from matter which had existed from eternity; but out of nothing; so that, at His fiat, the material creation was brought into existence, and formed into the things we see’ “ (The Greek Testament, Perkins and Marvin, 1837, 11:458.).
But once more, one cannot but wonder what prompted this question, the obvious design of which was to cast doubt on an ex nihilo emphasis in Hebrews 11:3. The following comment from Leon Morris may shed some light on the matter: “The suggestion that there is here [Heb. 11:3] a reference to the formless void of Genesis 1 :2 out of which the present creation was evolved has little to support it” (The Epistle to the Hebrews, Eerdmans, 1960, p. 172). Surely Sears and England were not suggesting this, were they?? But the questionnaire continues:
Both of us believe that Genesis records a factual yet not exhaustive account of creation events. We believe that the days of Genesis one were twenty-four hour days, but we largely believe this from the general impression gained by reading the text. However, we wish to know if this conclusion is mandated by scripture. We would appreciate your response to these questions. Please note our emphasis on “principle of Hebrew grammar or exegesis.”
Before considering the next series of questions proposed by Sears and England, some comments are in order.
First, the preceding paragraph is somewhat misleading. Though the professors declare their belief in twenty-four hour creation days, the subsequent questions are clearly designed to reflect upon the credibility of this view. Second, one should consider the implications involved in admitting that the “general impression” of Genesis one argues for twenty-four hour days, while at the same time hinting that principles of grammar and exegesis may suggest otherwise. Was the inspired writer incapable of making the issue clear? Let us continue with the questions.
Are there any principles of Hebrew grammar or exegesis governing the interpretation of the Hebrew text which demand that yom [day] of Genesis one be understood as a twenty-four hour day to the exclusion of all other interpretations?
No conservative scholar contends that there is some grammatical rule which would dictate a specific length of time in yom. Why address questions to arguments that have not been made, unless one wants to prejudice the issue. Dr. McCord exploded the question when he responded:
Nothing in the word yom specifies its length. However, an exegesis (including grammar, syntax, and context) of yom in its eleven occurrences in Genesis one shows the word has two meanings:
(1) about a 12 hour period in 1:5, where it is the opposite of darkness; 1:14,16,18, where it is the opposite of night;
(2) a 24 hour period in 1:5, where its length is defined as a combination of evening and morning; 1:14, where it is in the context of signs, seasons, days, and years; 1:8,13,19,23,31, where again, repeated five times, its length is defined as a combination of morning and evening. An exegetical principle mandates that normal, literal meanings must be understood unless the context indicates an abnormal significance. Nothing in Genesis one points to an abnormal meaning. To this the professors agree when they say that, “the general impression gained by reading the text” is “that the days of Genesis one were twenty-four [hour] days.”
Yes, we are aware of the fact that the term “day” occasionally is used in the Bible in a figurative sense. But that is not the issue. The issue is: What does the biblical evidence indicate concerning the use of the term “day” in the creation week? The term “baptism” is sometimes used figuratively. In Mark 10:38 the Lord employed that word for his impending suffering. Does the fact that “baptism” may symbolically be used for suffering argue that such is a possibility in Acts 2:38? What about this question: Is there any rule of Greek grammar which would mandate that the baptism of Acts 2:38 is to be in “water”? No. But would the gentlemen from Searcy allow other options? If not, why not?
Is there a principle of Hebrew grammar or exegesis governing the interpretation of the Hebrew text which demands that yom be interpreted as a twenty-four hour day if it is preceded by the definite article?
This writer is fairly familiar with the literature on the subject, yet he cannot recall ever reading an argument for twenty-four creation days based upon article usage.
Is there a principle of Hebrew grammar or exegesis governing the interpretation of the Hebrew text which demands that yom be interpreted as a twenty-four hour day if it is accompanied by a cardinal number?
The point that creationists have made on this matter is not one of grammar; it is, however, one of consistent usage, and that does relate to exegesis. Dr. McCord correctly replies: “The length of yom is not determined by the accompaniment of a number, either cardinal or ordinal. However, in over 100 citations (as, cardinals, Gen. 1:5; 7:4; ordinals, Gen. 7:11; 8:4), no exception has been found.” Let the professors try this question on for size: “Can you cite at least one example from the Pentateuch where yom, accompanied by a numeral, clearly indicates an indefinite period of time?” Why were not questions of this nature included in the survey? I think the answer is obvious!
Assuming the creation days of Genesis one were twenty-four hour days, is there a principle of Hebrew grammar or a rule of exegesis that demands the conclusion that each of the six creation days were consecutive, that is, no time could have elapsed to separate day one from day two, day two from day three, etc.?
This is quite revealing. It seeks to solicit support for the notion advanced by Donald England in his book, A Christian View of Origins (Baker, 1972). He wrote: “The days of Genesis 1 could easily have been twenty-four hour days and the earth still date to antiquity, provided that indefinite periods of time separated the six creation days” (p. 110). The reader can figure out for himself where the good professor got the idea that the Earth can “date to great antiquity”! Dr. McCord must not have rated very well when he responded: “The Hebrew text, if a time lapse between days occurred, could have spoken to that effect, but it does not. Any attempt to inject time lapses between days is not from exegesis but eisegesis.”
Here is a point that the advocates of this “time-lapse-between-days” theory might ponder. In Numbers 7, after the tabernacle was set up, the head princes of the twelve tribes brought offerings for the dedication of the altar. The record states that oblations were offered on “the first day” (12), “the second day” (18), “the third day” (24), and so on through the twelfth day” (78). Now here is a profound question for scholastic meditation: Assuming that these “days” were twenty-four hour days, is there any rule of Hebrew grammar that would demand the conclusion that each of these twelve days was consecutive, that is, no time could have elapsed to separate day one from day two, etc.? Of course there is no “rule” of grammar that would preclude such, but only a bizarre notion completely foreign to the context would ever suggest it!
Is there a principle of Hebrew grammar or a rule of exegesis which would preclude the possibility of an indefinite time lapse between verses one and two or between verses two and three of Genesis chapter one?
This question opens the door to the possibility of the “Gap Theory.” This is the concept that came into vogue about a century ago as a means of harmonizing the Bible with the evolutionary geological time scale. It is promoted in the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible. We will not consume space at this point in refuting this totally baseless theory. Professor W.W. Fields, in his book, Unformed and Unfilled (Presbyterian & Reformed. 1976.), has completely demolished the “Gap Theory.” Dr. Oswald Allis likewise rendered a deathblow to this concept in his excellent volume, God Spake By Moses (Baker, 1951, see the Appendix). In this connection, Allis makes a very important observation: “To allow science to become the interpreter of the Bible and to force upon it meanings which it clearly does not and cannot have is to undermine its supreme authority as the Word of God” (p. 158.). In short, there is neither grammatical nor exegetical substance to the “Gap Theory.” [cf. The Gap Theory: Still Another False Compromise of the Genesis Account of Creation (a tract), Bert Thompson, Apologetics Press, 1983.]
Many tend to conclude, from recorded Biblical genealogies, that the earth and life on earth is [sic] relatively recent; that is, less than 10,000 years. In your judgment, was it ever the intent of Hebrew genealogies to enable one today employing scholarly exegesis of the text to calculate the age of the earth or the age of life on the earth?
The purpose of this question, of course, is to suggest that the genealogical and chronological data in the Bible are without value in determining the relative ages of the Earth and mankind. To this we respond in several ways.
First, there is the matter of Scripture “intent.” It is claimed that the Bible is silent on the topic of earth and human ages (cf. England, A Scientist Examines Faith and Evidence, p. 156), and thus it was not the “intent” of the divine writers to discuss the ages of earth and man. Dr. McCord, with penetrating logic, replied: “It was not the intent of Paul in Romans 6:3,4 to negate sprinkling (a practice unheard of until 253 A.D.), but since such a malpractice has developed, it is valid to use Romans 6:3-4 to set forth the proper action of baptism.” He went on to observe that genealogical sources in the Bible also limit humanity’s life span upon, the earth, and so the Scriptures are not silent on this issue!
But consider this parallel example. in Genesis 30:32ff., we read of Jacob’s bargain with Laban concerning the “ring-streaked and spotted” sheep. Now I don’t suppose anyone would claim that it was the “intent” of Moses to discuss genetics, yet both Sears and England contend that this passage has “pre-scientific” genetic implications (cf. Sears, Conflict and Harmony in Science and the Bible, p. 21; England, A Scientist Examines Faith and Evidence, p. 145.). Why can there not be similar biblical implications that deal with earth/man ages?
Second, what are the actual genealogical and chronological indicators of the Bible? Consider the following facts.
Luke’s Gospel (3:23-28) lists the record of Christ’s genealogy all the way back to Adam (the first man — I Corinthians, 15:45). There are seventy-five generations from Jesus back to the commencement of humanity. Fifty-five of these — from Christ to Abraham — consume but a mere 2,000 years (cf. The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdmans, 1962, p. 213). Now how many years of human history do you suppose can be squeezed into those remaining twenty generations (even if one allows for the longevity of the patriarchs and some minor gaps in the genealogical list)? One thing is certain the three to four million years currently postulated by evolutionary anthropologists (and those sympathetic with them) will not fit! The Bible clearly implies a relative age limitation for humanity; there are reasonable “time” indications that can be drawn from the genealogies (see the authors’ more detailed article, “Biblical Genealogies and Human History,” Christian Courier, March 1976.).
Additionally, if Scripture is silent about the relative ages of the Earth and man, and one is free, therefore, to accept the conclusions of “science,” as England alleges, then numerous Bible passages are thrown into a state of absolute confusion. Evolutionary “science” contends that the Earth is some 4.6 billion years old, while man is but a stripling of approximately 3.6 million years old (a recent evolutionary estimate). This would suggest that man is only about 1/1250th of the age of the Earth. If we let the entire sum of Earth history, from its beginning to the present, be illustrated by a twenty-four-hour day, man had his origin about one minute and nine seconds ago! No wonder evolutionists are fond of referring to man as a “Johnny-come-lately!”
But what does this time-scale do to such Bible passages as the following: (a) Adam and Eve were made male and female “in the beginning,” which, as Jack P. Lewis has correctly shown, “should be understood in the sense of ‘from the beginning of creation’ (cf. Romans 1:20; 2 Peter 3:4)” (Your Marriage Can Be Great, National Christian Press, 1978, p. 416). That, of course, is exactly what Mark’s Gospel says (cf. 10:6). (b) Paul argues that man’s unbelief is inexcusable since God’s existence has been humanly perceived in his handiwork ‘since the creation of the world” (Romans 1:20). (c) Christ puts the first family back near the “foundation of the world” (Luke 11:45-52).
In conclusion, we must again register a strong protest at what this “rigged” questionnaire seeks to accomplish, as well as the implications it contains. It does not reflect benevolently upon its authors’ scholastic objectivity nor their regard for the plain testimony of the Holy Scriptures. Rather, it is a graphic commentary on what happens when men attempt to strain the Word of God through ever-changing “science.” As the inspired James might say, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (3:10).
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