Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Creation vs Evolution Part 1

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on Creation vs Evolution Part 1 on 2 July 2006


There are some passages in the Bible that are more difficult to understand. But many people think that they cannot believe in the Bible because they are educated. Does the Bible really contradict reason?

Genesis 1:1 says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Implicitly we have the concept of creation within us. In the depths of the demand of our conscience there is a Creator that created the universe. This is not only a concept in religion but also in culture. In ancient days, there was no concept of evolution the way we know it today. Although there was already a concept of evolution in early times, it did not develop in the theory that opposes the creation of the world. Evolution only became a system of thought against creationism in the 19th Century. But the basic concept of evolution itself was already in Greece about 2000 years ago.

No statement can compare to that of the Scriptures, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen.1:1)

This is not a sentence of investigation, a topic for debate or a process of seeking, but a confident declaration in by the Holy Scriptures.

This verse declares that there is a beginning. But starting point for what? For the created world or for the Creator?

“In the beginning” in Gen.1:1 is qualitatively different from “In the beginning” in John 1:1 which says, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The Chinese translation of the Scriptures for Gen.1:1 is 起初(qi3 chu1) while for Jn.1:1 is its 太初 (tai4 chu1). The word 太(tai4) refers to the greatest and the ultimate. So it is the beginning of the beginning, the ultimate beginning.

Gen.1:1 talks about the beginning of the created world. It tells us about the beginning of time. Jn.1:1 talks about the beginning even before the creation of the world. It tells us the Source of time itself.

Time is the original container of all existence. All things created are contained in time. God created, hence existence exists. And God place existence in the time He has created. God also place existence within space. Space is material in nature so it can be measured. But it is not so with time. Space is the existence that is tangible. But time is the existence that surpasses the tangible. The existence of time-space becomes the container of all things in the universe.

“Heavens and earth” in Gen.1:1 refers to all the things our eyes can see. We stand and exist within heavens and earth. They are also called nature. The word ‘nature’ is often what the unbelievers use implying that things are as they are so there is no need to account for nature. It is more clearly implied in the Chinese term for nature, 大自然 (da4 zi4 ran2), with the word 自然(zi4 ran2) means it is just there by itself naturally.

Lao Zi believes that human comes from the earth, the earth comes from the rules of heaven, and heaven comes from Dao (道) or logos. Logos is self-existent so it is just there and does not come from anywhere. From this statement, it seems as though Lao Zi believes in creation, but it is also as if he believes that this logos is nature itself.

The word ‘universe’ is 宇宙 (yu3 zhou1) in Chinese. The word 宇 (yu3) refers to space. Architecture uses this term to express the 6 directions possible in 3D space: up, down, left, right, front and back. The word 宙 (zhou1) refers to the continuation of time from ancient history till today into the future. Therefore the word 宇宙 (yu3 zhou1) is a combination of time and space. This Chinese phrase in itself contains meaning which is of a higher level of concept compared to the English word ‘universe’.

However, the first sentence of the Bible, “In the beginning God created heavens and the earth” already has the concept of time and space. The difference is that there is another concept inside that sentence, that is, God is the Creator. Other religions might have the concept of the Creator God but only the Bible declares so clearly this way.

God is the Creator. So only God is not created, the rest are created. God create time and space as container of all creation. Hence all creation is constrained by time and space. Only God is not constrained by time and space. When we understand this clearly, we will discover that a lot of our questions are problematic in themselves.

“When did God exist?” This is a wrong question. God create time. Rather, the correct question is “When did “when” exist?” because time itself is created.

“Where does God come from?” This is a wrong question. God create space. Rather, the correct question is “Where does ‘where’ come from?” because space is created too.

“Who created God?” This is even worse. He is the Creator. God that is created is not God at all.

Christians need to be clear what kind of questions they should ask. We need to realize that the methodology of such questions violate their own basic principles.

God is not in the container of Time and Space.

The Creator of time is not constrained in time. God create time, so He transcends time.
The Creator of space is not constrained in space. God create space, so He transcends space. Hence, if we try to seek God within time constrain (when did God exist?) we are wrong and will not find Him. Similarly, if we try to seek God within space constraint (where does God come from?) we are wrong and will not find Him.

We are within the constraint of time and space, how then can we understand what is beyond time and space? This is very difficult.

Hence, many people propose that nature comes by itself. Many evolutionists believe that their conclusions come from scientific analysis and think that those with religions believe in creation. This leads to extreme thinking that evolutionists are scientific while creationists are unscientific. In this dangerous dualistic thought, they equate evolution with science and creation with superstition.

So can one be an evolutionist and still believes in God? Are creation and evolution necessarily mutually exclusive? Can science truly disprove creation? We want to know the truth.

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell said something like this, “If you ask a Christian where the universe comes from, he will say it is created by God. Ask him further why must the universe be created? He will say that all things that exist must be created. Based on his answer, pursue further! If every existence must be created and God is an existence too, so who then created God? He will not be able to answer anymore. So don’t even try to fight against Christianity. It is a self-defeating religion that will collapse on its own.”

There is great French thought worth remembering, “When you open your mouth, in reality you are not criticizing others but you are truly introducing yourself.”

Russell was indeed a Mathematics genius and a great philosopher but he was not a good theologian. Whenever he talked on the issue of theology, he only exposed his own ignorance and stupidity.

From his statements, it is clear that Russell could not accept God who is not a product of creation. He immediately started his argument from the premise of a ‘created God’. Using this concept, there is no end to the question of who created who. There will be infinite upward progression of a creator who is created by another creator who is in turn created by another creator and so on.

Aristotle dealt with this issue long ago. He said, “If I push an object, I am the pusher and the object is pushed. If another person pushes me so that I push the object, then I am not the actual pusher but the other person is. So if we go all the way to the original pusher, it is the first cause.” So the concept of the First Cause and the Unmoved Mover is possible.

However, Russell would not accept this answer. He would challenge that if God could be the First Cause, why can't we make nature the first cause instead? Why do you tell me that God does not need a creator, but impose on me to believe that nature needs a Creator?

This is where the difficulty comes. We have to go one step further now.

Firstly, we need to establish the concept of self-existence. Is it possible that there is such thing as self-existent truth that does not need to have a beginning?

It is possible. For instance, when does 2+2=4 begin? This statement never needs a beginning. It is always true. It does not change to become another value with the progression of time. By nature, it is eternal truth. Before the mathematicians are born, it is already true.

Hence, there is self-evident truth. There is the existence of the immutable, eternal, unchangeable. It is the truth. Truth is eternal, self-existent, it just IS. It does not need a creator. It surpasses time and space.

So, whether believers or unbelievers, we have common ground now. We hold that there is truth.

Can I say nature is truth then? The question that challenges us is why we think God is the Truth, not nature. So although we have a common ground in holding that there is truth, this is also where we have great differences.

The Truth that Christianity believes is the Creator and Source of Life and is a Subject. The truth the non-believers believe is nature, something outside of life itself, outside of their lives, and is an impersonal object. This is a very huge difference.

The God in Christianity is the Subjectivity of Truth in Person. (Personal Note: I love this, original Rev.Tong’s statement).

Non-believers believe that truth is not a person, but just something you believe in. In this way, we begin to see that the Dao spoken by Lao Zi and the Logos spoken by the Greeks are different from the Truth revealed in Christian faith. To the non-believers, the relationship between the seeker and the truth is just about knowledge, not Life. But Truth in Christianity is Life. There is a life relationship between the seeker and the Truth.

Soren Kierkegaard said that God is not a topic we discuss in philosophy, but the Object of our worship. He is the Source of Truth and Life. He has a Personhood.

In 19th Century, the understanding that life must come from life became an important scientific fact that the theory of evolution could not explain. Louis Pasteur made an experiment to verify this. He sealed off a container containing water inside, but without any life at all and disconnected from lives from rest of the world. He subjected it to warm temperature suitable for living things. He waited and waited but the container never produced life. So he concluded that life cannot come from non-living things. This has an important implication in medical field, and is particularly the starting point of the study of germs.

Wallace, an Englishman, published a book that had the concept of evolution which inspired Charles Darwin. He wrote about the idea of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Later on both Wallace and Darwin wrote on the theory of evolution in the book, “The Principle of Biology”. Then in 1859, Darwin himself wrote The Origin of the Species, which became the starting point of the evolution system of thought. Sir Herbert Spencer and Thomas Henry Huxley later propagated the though to all English-speaking people, including France and Germany.

However, Wallace himself talked about an important principle that would end the theory of evolution. He said that there are 3 things that cannot be bridged. The first one is that between existence and non-existence is a gap that cannot be bridged. That means non-existence cannot become existence. Secondly, between existence and life is a gap that cannot be bridged. This means that a non-living thing cannot become a living thing. The last one is between life and human being is a gap that cannot be bridged. This is saying that non-human living things cannot become human beings. There is qualitative difference between all the things above which cannot be bridged through the process of change.

Wallace's thought on the unbridgeable gaps is in conflict with the theory of evolution. Evolution gives assumption to bridge those gaps above. Evolution theory believes that nothing can become something, something non-living can become living, and lower form or life can become higher form which ultimately becomes human being.

The theory of evolution does not have sufficient scientific evidence to stand on but 19th century is the era where people were against religion. Bateson said the theory was accepted not because it is an objective science but because it was more appealing to modern thinker.

Evolution is built on the premise of the concept of change. And this concept of change itself is based on observation of natural phenomena.

In Greek philosophy, there are two major philosophies about the truth. The first school of thought believes that the universe exists the way it is without change. All change is illusionary. What is true is unchanging. This is the concept of being. The second school of thought believes that the universe is constantly changing. All static things are illusionary. What is true is changing. So we never know how things will become because they always change. This is the concept of becoming.

Both concepts contain great thoughts.

Heraclitus said that the only thing unchanging is change itself. And change is the foundation of the principle of history. It is illustrated like a fire. The fire is one but if you keep taking the picture of the fire you will not find an identical one. So it looks the same but it is in fact always changing. Another one is the river. It is the looks like the same river, but the fact is that water is always flowing so you never step into the same river twice.

In our heart we know that change is a fact. However, we wish that certain things never change. So we are very contradictory within us and our struggles with contradiction are also changing.

This concept of change being the only permanent thing becomes the philosophy that influenced Karl Marx, Stalin and Mao Zedong.

But Christians believe that God is immutable and there is no shadow of change with Him. So do Christians belong to the camp that holds the concept of being? Are Christians anti-change, rejecting advancement and against evolution?

It is not so simplistic.

As a matter of fact, we know that evolutions talk about things that change. Christians talk about things that do not change. Before we answer the question, we need to think deeper and segregate what change and what do not change.

The theory of evolution is based on the premise that whatever one learns in life can be passed to the next generation continually and adds a lot of hypothetical methods into science. There are a lot of philosophical assumptions behind the theory of evolution.

If evolution is science and science can discover truth, why then should we impose on ourselves to believe in creation?

But if evolution is not science, and further, if science itself is so limited that it cannot go that deep to the ultimate truth, and if Truth is revealed by God, why then should we give up Truth for our superficial understanding?

With serious thinking, we will arrive at a solemn choice of whether we will receive the truth or deceive ourselves.

11 Comments:

At 12:07 PM, Blogger The Hedonese said...

Great stuffs again, Mejlina! It's good introduction to believers on the topic of apologetics (giving a reason for the hope we have in 1 Pet 3:16) which is much needed in our age of pluralistic views :)

Keep up the good work!

PS: I suspect 'Lucratius' should be 'Heraclitus' but again I may be wrong.

 
At 12:20 PM, Blogger Benjamin Ho said...

wow a superb sharing... will try my best to attend the upcoming one.

 
At 5:49 PM, Blogger The Hedonese said...

OK, did some research and there is Lucretius who wrote around 50 BC on the nature of things :)

 
At 10:18 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Thanks for the correction & feedback, all my transcript readers! Your comment will help improve this blog. :)

Lucretius has been corrected to Heraclitus. Lucretius talked about nature of things but it is Heraclitus who talked about the permanence of change. Thanks Dave & Adi.

Check here:

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Lucretius
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Heraclitus

 
At 7:20 AM, Anonymous Vern_ said...

Hmm.. Louis Pasteur heat the flask to kill all possible living things inside. The flask contained media that is good for growth but of course there is no growth. One of his experiment is still in the museum and no life form has evolved yet.

Btw, great sharing!

 
At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Was the bible first written in Hebrew & Greek or was it first written in Chinese?

================================
“In the beginning” in Gen.1:1 is qualitatively different from “In the beginning” in John 1:1 which says, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The Chinese translation of the Scriptures for Gen.1:1 is 起初(qi3 chu1) while for Jn.1:1 is its 太初 (tai4 chu1). The word 太(tai4) refers to the greatest and the ultimate. So it is the beginning of the beginning, the ultimate beginning.

Gen.1:1 talks about the beginning of the created world. It tells us about the beginning of time. Jn.1:1 talks about the beginning even before the creation of the world. It tells us the Source of time itself.
=================================

Let x = "the beginning" in Genesis 1:1 and y = "the beginning" in John 1:1.

x tells of, according to Rev Tong "the beginning of the created world. It tells us about the beginning of time".

y tells of, according to Rev. Tong "the beginning even before the creation of the world. It tells us the Source of time itself."

Genesis was originally written in Hebrew while the most original translation available for John1:1 is in Greek ("arche"). Hence no direct comparison is available. However, let's seek another reference of x in the new testament. It is to be found in Hebrews 1:10. ( And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands). The Greek word used for "the beginning" here is in fact "arche", exactly the same as that used in John 1:1.
Likewise with another reference in Mark 13:19.

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger Adi said...

I believe it is understood that a word can have more than one meaning. To understand what the word means in a given context we need to understand the context. In the matter discussed, our understanding of God as Creator which is self-existing, on the one hand, and of creation as dependent on the Creator, on the other hand, as revealed in the whole Bible and through nature, justify our conclusion that there is a qualitative difference in the meanings of the same word used in the two different passages. I believe by pointing out the different words used in the Chinese translation, Rev. Tong was not trying to derive his conclusion solely from the words, but from his understanding of God and the creation revealed in the whole Bible and through nature and our consciousness. He is simply agreeing with the interpretations that the Chinese scholars imply by translating the same word into two different words.

 
At 2:20 AM, Anonymous Richard said...

This comment might have been late.

In my Defender's Study Bible by Dr. Henry Morris a Creationist Scientist..

John 1:1 (KJV) 'In the beginning' from my understanding of his commentary was the same as Genesis 1:1.

However in John 1:2 (KJV)the commentary reads.."The definite article has been supplied. The actual Greek is en arche -- that is,"in beginning". The "Word of God" thus was there before the creation of the universe, so that John's "beginning" even precedes the Genesis "beginning," extending without an initial beginning into eternity past, before even time was created. Note also John 17:24, where Jesus, in His humanity, acknowledged that He was with the Father, and loved by the Father, "before the foundation of the world".

Hope this helps.

 
At 6:55 AM, Blogger Timothy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6:58 AM, Blogger Timothy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 7:00 AM, Blogger Timothy said...

slight correction in regards to Wallace's 3 problems with evolution.

The first was NOT between existence and non-existence, BUT organic and inorganic.

The second and third would be: low/none intelligent life-forms and more conscious life-forms, animals and human, respectively.

Darwinism, Russell Wallace, p473-476

 

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