There is also a moral choice behind accepting creation or evolution. Why is it that people seize on the theory of evolution and hold onto it so fanatically? The answer is that it is the only real alternative if you want to believe that there is no God over us. Under creation God is Lord, under evolution man is Lord. With creation we are under divine authority, but if there is no God we are autonomous as humans and can decide things for ourselves. If we accept God as creator we accept that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. But with no God under evolution, we only have relative situations. With God’s world we talk of duty and responsibility, with evolution we talk of demands and rights. Under God we have an infinite dependence, we become as little children and speak to the heavenly father. With evolution we are proud of our independence, we speak of coming of age, of no longer “needing” God. According to the Bible, man is a fallen creature. According to evolution he is rising and progressing all the time. In the Bible we have salvation for the weak. In evolutionary philosophy we have the survival of the strong.
Nietzsche, the philosopher behind the thought in Hitler’s Germany, said he hated Christianity because it kept weak people going and looked after the sick and dying. The Bible teaches that you are powerful when you do what is right, but evolutionary philosophy leads to a “might is right” outlook. One leads to peace, the other to war. Where evolutionism says you should indulge yourself, look after number one, the Bible says that faith, hope and love are the three main virtues in life. Ultimately the Bible leads us to heaven, whereas evolution promises little – fatalism, helplessness and luck – and leads to hell.
When God finished creating our world he said that it was very good. Few today would say that it is a very good world now. Something went wrong. Genesis 3 describes for us what the problem is and how it arose.
There are three undeniable facts about our existence today:
- Birth is painful.
- Life is hard.
- Death is certain.
Why is this? Why is birth painful? Why is life hard? Why is death certain?
Philosophy gives us many different answers. Some philosophers say there must be a bad God as well as a good one. More frequently, they say that the good God made a bad job of it and try to find in that some explanation for the origin of evil.
Genesis 3 gives us four vital insights into this problem.
- Evil was not always in the world.
- Evil did not start with human beings.
- Evil is not something physical, it is something moral. Some philosophers have said that it is the material part of the universe that is the source of evil, or in personal terms it is your body that is the source of temptation.
- Evil is not a thing that exists on its own. It is an adjective rather than a noun. Evil as such does not exist, it is only persons who can be or become evil.
So what does Genesis 3 have to teach us on the subject? It is worth reminding ourselves that this is a real event in real history: we are given both the place and the time of it. At the dawn of human history a gigantic moral catastrophe took place.
The problem starts with a speaking reptile (more a lizard than a snake because it had legs, despite conventional wisdom; it was only later that God made the serpent slither on its belly). How are we to understand this extraordinary story of the snake speaking to Eve? There are three possibilities:
- The serpent was the devil in disguise; he can appear as an angel or an animal.
- God enabled an animal to talk, as he did with Balaam’s ass.
- The animal was possessed by an evil spirit. Just as Jesus sent the demons tormenting a man down the Gadarene cliffs into the bodies of 2,000 pigs, so it is perfectly possible for Satan to take over an animal. This would fool Adam and Eve, because Satan was putting himself below them. In fact Satan is a fallen angel, just as real as human beings, more intelligent and stronger than we are.
It is significant that Satan went for Eve. In very general terms, women tend to be more trusting than men, who are notoriously distrustful. Capitalizing on this, Satan subverts God’s order and treats Eve as if she were the head of the house. Although it is clear that Adam is there with Eve, he says nothing. He should be protecting her, arguing with Satan. After all, it was Adam who had heard God’s words of prohibition.
All told, there are three ways of misquoting the Word of God. One is to add something to it, another is to take something away, and a third is to change what is there. If you read the text carefully, you will find that Satan did all three. Satan knows his Bible very well, but he can misquote it and manipulate it too. Adam, however, who knew exactly what God had said, kept silent when he should have spoken up. In the New Testament he is clearly blamed for allowing sin to enter the world.
It is useful to note the strategy which Satan adopts in his approach to Eve. First he encourages doubt with the mind, second desire with the heart, and third disobedience with the will. This is always his strategy in all his dealings with humans. He encourages wrong thinking first, usually by misinterpreting God’s Word. Next he entices us to desire evil in our hearts. After that the circumstances are right for us to disobey with our wills.
What is the outcome of sin? When God questions Adam he seeks to blame both Eve and God. He speaks of “that woman you gave me”, or “the woman you put here with me”. He ceased to fulfill his role as a man by denying his responsibility to look after his wife.
God responds in judgment. This side of his character is seen for the first time: God hates sin and he must deal with it. If he is really a good God, then he cannot let people get away with badness. This is the message of Genesis 3. The punishment is given in poetic form. When God speaks in prose he is communicating his thoughts, from his mind to your mind, but when he speaks poetically he is communicating his feelings, from his heart to yours.
In Genesis 3 the poems reveal God’s angry emotions (the wrath of God, in theological terms). God feels so deeply that Eden has been ruined – and he knows too where this will lead. The following paraphrase of Genesis 1-3 sheds a fresh light on this story.
A long time ago, when nothing else existed, the God who had always been there brought the entire universe into being, the whole of outer space and this planet earth.
At first the earth was just a mass of fluid matter, quite uninhabitable and indeed uninhabited. It was shrouded in darkness and engulfed in water; but God’s own spirit was hovering just above the flood.
Then God commanded: “Let the light in!” And there it was. It looked just right to God, but he decided to alternate light with darkness, giving them different names: “day” and “night”. The original darkness and the new light were the evening and the morning of God’s first working day.
Then God spoke again: “Let there be two reservoirs of water, with an expanse between them”. So he separated the water on the surface from the moisture in the atmosphere. That’s how the “sky”, as God called it, came to be. This ended his second day’s work.
The next thing God said was: “Let the surface water be concentrated in one area, so that the rest may dry out.” Sure enough, it happened! From then on, God referred to “sea” and “land” separately. He liked what he saw and added: “Now let the land sprout vegetation, plants with seed and trees with fruit, all able to reproduce themselves”. And they appeared – all kinds of plant and tree, each able to propagate its own type. Everything fitted into God’s plan. His third day’s work was over.
Now God declared: “Let different sources of light appear in the sky. They will distinguish days from nights and make it possible to measure seasons, special days and years; though their main purpose will be to provide illumination.” And so it is, just as he said. The two brightest lights are the larger “sun” that dominates the day and the lesser “moon” which predominates at night, surrounded by twinkling stars. God put them all there for earth’s sake – to light it, regulate it and maintain the alternating pattern of light and darkness. God was pleased that his fourth day’s work had turned out so well.
The next order God issued was: “Let the sea and the sky teem with living creatures, with shoals of swimming fish and flocks of flying birds.” So God brought into being all the animated things that inhabit the oceans, from huge monsters of the deep to the tiny organisms floating in the waves, and all the variety of birds and insects on the wing in the wind above. To God it was a wonderful sight and he encouraged them to breed and increase in numbers, so that every part of sea and sky might swarm with life. That ended his fifth day.
Then God announced: “Now let the land also teem with living creatures – mammals, reptiles and wildlife of every sort.” As before, no sooner was it said than done! He made all kinds of wildlife, including mammals and reptiles, each as a distinct type. And they all gave him pleasure.
At this point God reached a momentous decision: “Now let’s make some quite different creatures, more our kind – beings, just like us. They can be in charge of all the others – the fish in the sea, the birds of the air and the animals on the land.
To resemble himself God created mankind,
To reflect in themselves his own heart, will and mind,
To relate to each other, male and female entwined.
Then he affirmed their unique position with words of encouragement: “Produce many offspring, for you are to occupy and control the whole earth. The fish in the sea, the birds of the air and the animals on the land are all yours to master. I am also giving you the seed-bearing plants and the fruit-bearing trees as your food supply. The birds and the beasts can have the green foliage for their food.” And so it was.