|A169 : by Tony Garland |
Your pastor appears to be enamored with a variant of the Gap Theory in which an attempt is made to shoe-horn the large geological ages posited by a uniformitarian interpretation of the history of the Earth into a supposed gap which some hold is to be found between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. These ideas have also been referred to as the ruin/reconstruction view of creation. In this view, the original creation predated Adam and Eve by a lengthy period and was populated by a pre-Adamic population of men. Subsequently, in the fall of Satan and his angels, the world underwent judgment during which these pre-Adamic individuals perished. These pre-Adamic beings are thought by some to account for early hominid fossils which are often popularized in the media and natural history museums of our day as the so-called missing link between apes and man. In some variations of this teaching, demons are thought to be wandering disembodied spirits of pre-Adamic beings which died during the judgment which is posited to have occurred between the two Genesis verses.
The Gap Theory has a fairly long history:
It is claimed the J. C. Rosenmuller (1736-1815) was the first to clearly suggest a theory of earth's origins similar to the present Gap Theory in his Antiquissima Tellures Historica, published in 1776. About the same time, Johann August Dathe, also a German scholar, translated Genesis 1:2 in his commentary in this manner: Waw (ו [w]) before ‘the earth’ cannot be translated “AND,” for it would then refer back to verse 1, where the narrative has “the earth and heaven were created by God.” Whereas verse 2 proceeds to tell how the earth, at some uncertain time, had undergone some remarkable change. Therefore waw stands for “afterwards” and is so to be interpreted, as it so often is—for example in Num. 5:23 and Deu. 1:191
In 1804, the gap theory began to be propounded by the 24-year-old pastor, Thomas Chalmers (179-1847), who after his conversion to evangelicalism in 1811 became one of the leading Scottish evangelicals. It should be noted that Chalmers began teaching his gap theory before the world's first geological society was formed (in London in 1807), and before Curier's catastrophist theory appeared in French (1812) or in English (1813) and over two decades before Lyell's theory was promoted (beginning in 1830).2
It was in 1814 that Dr. Thomas Chalmers of Edinburgh University first proposed what has since become known as the Gap Theory of Genesis 1:2. By this interpretation of the bible, Dr. Chalmers felt that he could make room for the vast expanse of time which the geologists of his day were demanding, and at the same time maintain a literal interpretation of the creation account. His views were further elaborated by George H. Pember (Earth's Earliest Ages) in 1876, and enormously popularized by a footnote in the Scofield Reference Bible (first edition, 1917).3
For over seventy-five years [since Pember's Earth's Earliest Ages] the defense or contest of this theory received little significant lengthy treatment in print. Brief and sporadic defenders were just as briefly and sporadically refuted by its antagonists. But in 1970 the silence was broken by a Canadian physiologist, retired and turned biblical commentator. Arthur C. Custance, who in his Without Form and Void leaves no stone unturned in the most scholarly, thorough, and lengthy defense of the Gap Theory any man has ever attempted to print. For those who hold this view, his work will doubtless be the standard textbook for years to come.4.
After George Pember and Arthur Custance, more recent proponents have included Finis Jennings Dake (Dake's Annotated Reference Bible), Arno C. Gaebelein, James M. Gray, William Evans, Arthur Pink, Louis T. Talbot, G. Campbell Morgan, Henry Thiessen, Donald Grey Barnhouse, and Clarence Larkin.5
Your are in good company when you find that such ideas raise more questions than they attempt to solve:
Did the earth actually become a ruined chaos sometime after its original creation? Were dinosaurs and other creatures killed and fossilized at the time, so that Adam and Eve would find themselves walking, as it were, upon a graveyard of extinct animals? Had Satan already become “the god of this world” before Adam and Eve were given their “dominion”? Were presently living animals, which can also be identified in the fossil formations, re-created during the days described in the remainder of Genesis 1? Was the supposed catastrophe of Ge 1:2 even more devastating, and thus geologically significant, than the Flood of Noah's day? These and similar questions cry out for solid biblical answers, . . .6.
The problem is that the Scripture passages concerning creation (and there are many), when examined objectively, know nothing of this idea of ruin and reconstruction. The main proofs offered up in support of such an idea are at best strained. As you mention, proponents of this idea often point to Jeremiah 4:23-25 as a proof text. But, when the wider context of Jeremiah 4 is understood, the passage is seen to have nothing to do with a supposed period of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Instead, it is a prediction of judgment upon rebellious Israel given in Jeremiah’s day and fulfilled in the subsequent fall of Israel to Babylon in 586 B.C. (cf. Zep. 1:2-3). As you observe, in the same passage Jeremiah mentions men (without any indication they are to be understood as precursors to Adam)7, birds, and cities. Moreover, Jeremiah reveals that even in severe judgment, God promises not to make a complete end (Jer. 4:27) — which implies that some men will survive. It seems best to understood Jeremiah as using phraseology associated with the original creation as an indication of how severe God’s judgment would be — leaving the land almost as unfruitful as if it were prior to creation of life.
To my thinking, the gap-theory attempts to torture the plain account of creation in a vain attempt to get it to cough up long ages and evolution where they are not to be found. Along with the problems which you identify, the gap theory also suffers from an endorsement of death within creation well in advance of Adam’s sin. And not just animal death, but also the death of the supposed pre-Adamic men. This, of course, runs afoul of God’s pronouncement at the end of the sixth day of the creation being very good (Gen. 1:31) and of Paul’s teaching that sin and death entered (not reentered) the world through Adam’s fall (Rom. 5:12). More than this, the entire creation came under a curse when Adam fell (Rom. 8:20-22). If the redemption of mankind and the entire creation required the death of God the Son, how could it be that the posited Gap Theory world of the first creation—abounding in awful sin—could be so simply rectified by recreation? Whence the atonement, propitiation, and other requirements so crucial in God’s redemptive process?
I also find the idea that demons arose in connection with the judgment of supposed sub-human ancestors troubling and without Biblical support. No doubt there is much we don’t know about demonology — but when we go beyond what is clearly revealed in Scripture to concoct our own demonology we are clearly headed for confusion. Instead, we need to learn to rest in what God has chosen to leave unsaid about the matter. The manner in which various fallen angels have violated God’s plan, place, and purpose and their resulting conditions of judgment already embraces enough controversy without adding pre-Adamic men into the mix—beings which Scripture knows nothing of!
The gap theory seems clearly to be a contrivance which some think help resolve the Genesis account with the secular idea of vast ages and evolution. But an honest reader of the text would have to admit neither of these ideas comes from a careful exegesis of the text itself: these are ideas from outside the Bible which are being used in an attempt to make the Bible fit a history of the world it knows nothing of. As a previous evolutionist (until age 34), I find it beyond strange that professing Christians would go to such great lengths to try and pour evolution into the Bible. It was my realization of the untenable position of evolution which led me to consider the Bible more seriously as a reliable account of our origin. Never did I imagine I'd encounter believers who were enamoured with evolution to such a degree that they would work so hard to deny the clear incompatibilities between the Genesis account and Charles Darwin’s ideas of how life developed. These believers need to face the facts: the Bible and evolution are absolutely, unalterably incompatible.
I would suggest that it is not you who is confused concerning what the Bible teaches, but your pastor. Some would say this is a small issue among believers, but I think not. Evolution essentially undermines both the veracity of Scripture and the need of the gospel. Those who embrace evolution while attempting to follow Christ are likely to wind up as lost as John Shelby Spong:
I live on the other side of Charles Darwin. And Charles Darwin not only made us Christians face the fact that the literal creation story cannot be quite so literal, but he also destroyed the primary myth by which we had told the Jesus story for centuries. That myth suggested that there was a finished creation from which we human beings had fallen into sin, and therefore needed a rescuing divine presence to lift us back to what God had originally created us to be. But Charles Darwin says that there was no perfect creation because it is not yet finished. It is still unfolding. And there was no perfect human life which then corrupted itself and fell into sin, there was rather a single cell that emerged slowly over 4.5 to 5 billion years, into increasing complexity, into increasing consciousness. And so the story of Jesus who comes to rescue us from the Fall becomes a nonsensical story. So how can we tell the Jesus story with integrity and with power, against the background of humanity that is not fallen but is simply unfinished?8
In regard to your question about Isaiah 14, I am one of many who takes the passage as being addressed to the human king of Babylon, but then piercing beyond the surface of visible history to take in the spiritual dimension operating behind the scenes: in this case Lucifer. As to the reference to nations, kingdoms, cities, and the world — I take these to mean nations, kingdoms, cities, and the world. I don’t see anything in the passage which permits interpreting them otherwise. Nor do I see any need to apply what is said to a pre-creation world rather than this very world within we are presently living and within which Satan presently has dominion (Mt 4:8; Lu 4:6; Joh 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2Co 4:4; Eph 2:2; 1Jo 5:19; Re 13:1; Re 13:7). A similar prophetic technique is illustrated by Ezekiel in the passage concerning the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:12-19). For more on the question of whether these passages concern Satan see Is Satan in Isaiah and Ezekiel?a.
|2.||Ref-0164, Terry Mortenson, Philosophical Naturalism and the Age of the Earth: Are they Related?, 15/1 (Spring 2004) 71-92, p. 77.|
|7.||Interestingly, the Hebrew word for men here is אָדָם [ʾāḏām] from when we get the name Adam.|
|8.||Ref-0028, Australian Broadcast Corporation TV Compass interview with Bishop John Shelby Spong, by Geraldine Doogue, in front of a live audience at the Eugene Groosen Hall, ABC Studies, Ultimo, Sydney, Austrialia, 8 July 2000. Copied from transcript at [http://www.abc.net.au/compass/intervs/spong2001.htm], 6 August 2001. Vol 24 No 2 March-May 2002, p. 15.|
|Ref-0028||Creation Magazine (Creation Ministries International), [www.CreationOnTheWeb.com].|
|Ref-0164||Richard L. Mayhue, ed., The Master's Seminary Journal (Sun Valley, CA: Master's Seminary). [www.mastersem.edu].|
|Ref-0819||Weston Fields, Unformed and Unfilled (Collinsville, IL: Burgener Enterprises, 1976). ISBN:0-9641659-0-2b.|