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For many, the biblical creation account is a stumbling block. Cosmologists dismiss it as myth because it bears no resemblance to their own story. Creationists accept it as history but struggle to relate it to what is known about the world. Others look for the middle road, claiming that the order of events comes close enough to what science says, or that the account is about the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’. The problem with ‘guided evolution’ attempts at reconciliation is that both the biblical account and scientific knowledge require that creation took place ‘in the beginning’, not continuously through time. Evolution is not creation; rather, it is a capacity built into the creation. This article takes a fresh look at what the text says and suggests that taking it at face value does not require rejecting what we know about the past from astronomy and geology.
The world that existed before the flood-cataclysm – which we can place in geological time to immediately before the Archaean – no longer exists, so we have no direct evidence of what it was like. Although many ancient traditions refer to it, the book of Genesis, our main source of information, describes a world significantly different from the one we know today. There were no surface oceans. The water supplying its rivers and lakes came from a subterranean body of water called the ‘deep’. The land had a different geography (though certain place names were carried over to the new world) and the interior of the planet was hot only by reason of its pressure. Over time its temperature rose, leading to eruptions of magma and deposits of metals such as gold, iron and copper. The same processes that resurfaced the Earth also resurfaced the Moon and the other terrestrial planets.
Plants and animals existed on Earth from the beginning. After the cataclysm, however, plants and animals had to start again; they had to adapt to a world that was initially barren, unstable, and ever changing. We can trace the latter part of their history, where we find them multiplying in number of species and becoming more specialised until they attain the forms we know today. Animals such as the sheep and raven, plants such as the vine and olive, evolved from forms that were nothing like their ultimate descendants. So: is the mention of such species in the antediluvian world anachronistic?