Saturday, November 2, 2019

Without Form, and Void

Photo by Going Down 2014

When Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution became widely accepted after publication of his book in 1859, despite the lack of supporting evidence according to Darwin himself, it caused a panic in some Christian circles. Surely adhering to the Biblical, six-day account of God’s creation of everything from nothing would make the church look ridiculous in the world’s eyes, especially among scholars. 

But trying to adapt God’s Word to changing times was then, and will always be, a grave error. Jesus Christ, Who died for the sins of the world (John 1:29) and rose again to prove His divinity (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), so that all who trust Him as Lord and Savior would have eternal life (John 3:16), is unchanging. He is the Word (John 1:1), and He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The heaven and earth will one day pass away, but God’s Word will never pass away, for it is unchanging and everlasting (Matthew 24:35). No wonder Scripture warns of a terrible penalty for anyone who adds to, changes, or takes away from the words of this Book (Revelation 22:18-19), yet that is exactly what all the new translations and revisions have done. 

After evolution had become the catchword of the day, Cyrus I. Scofield wrote notes in his 1909 study Bible that he perhaps thought would help reconcile Darwinian and Biblical accounts of how the world came to be. His thoughts, often referred to as the gap theory, interposed a long, event-filled period of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2: 

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 

The rest of Genesis 1 describes an overview of what God created, by the words of His mouth, on each of the six literal days of creation. Scofield proposed that God had at one time created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1), but that something terrible happened between verses 1 and 2, presumably Lucifer falling from heaven (Isaiah 14:9-14) and destroying the earth as Satan, so that the perfect universe God had made was now shapeless, empty, and dark.

Would God allow Satan such complete power to annihilate His beloved creation? When He did destroy the earth by flood to judge mankind for his wickedness, it was by His own hand (Genesis 6:13), after preservation of a faithful remnant (Noah and his family) and representatives of His animal creation (Genesis 7:7-9). God Himself formed the earth and made it not in vain, but to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). 

This undefined, presumably long, time period Scofield implied between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 could theoretically allow time for the processes of evolution to occur, thus not offending the Darwinian “scientists” while still tipping the hat to God overseeing the whole process.

But God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). Why would He spell out in specific detail what happened on each of the days of creation, emphasizing that each of these was a literal, 24-hour day (each framed by an evening and morning, as is the Hebrew tradition), and then leave out so many vital details between the very first and second verse of the Bible? (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31) 

Is it not more reasonable to assume that Genesis 1:1 is a summary statement, known in English composition as a topic sentence, giving us an overview of what the rest of the chapter will describe, namely how God created everything from nothing? And that Genesis 1:2 describes the very first step of the process, namely that God first created the space to which He would add all good things comprising His creation? 

Critics of this theory say that God would have simply created a finished product, rather than going through an amorphous phase. But Genesis 2:7 gives us further insight into God’s creative process. He did not speak Adam, the first man, into being as a finished product. Instead, He formed Adam from the dust of the ground – an amorphous, empty, drab material, much like the earth when it was shapeless, empty and dark.  

Just as the power of the Spirit moved across the waters to transform the earth (Genesis 1:2), God breathed the Spirit into Adam’s nostrils to make him a living soul (Genesis 2:7). God made man in His (plural) own triune image, reflecting the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in man’s soul, body, and spirit (Genesis 1:26-27)

So perhaps we can draw some inferences about God’s creative processes from those of artistic geniuses in the human realm. An artist such as Leonardo da Vinci begins with a blank canvas, then fills the space with line, shape and color to transform it into a glorious painting. A sculptor such as Michelangelo begins with a seemingly shapeless, rough, drab mass of marble, then frees from within it a polished, dramatic, evocative sculpture reflecting light and emotion.

The producer of a play begins with an empty, dark stage and populates it with sets, lighting, props and actors who tell a meaningful, gripping story where once there was nothing. A major difference between the creative process of these human artists and the ultimate creative genius of God Himself is that He alone supplied even the raw materials – the blank canvas or stage – which He filled with all things that are good (John 1:3).

We see many examples of this in nature, such as the caterpillar that completely dissolves within the chrysalis to an amorphous soup to emerge as a butterfly, an entirely new creature. In the spiritual realm, God can take the shapeless, drab fragments of clay that represent the life of a sinner, and add meaningful form, utility and light, representing a sinner saved by grace to become a new vessel suitable for His use (Isaiah 29:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:4; Romans 9:21).

Only God could transform the darkness, chaos and abject failure that seemed to permeate the death of Jesus on Calvary’s cross into eternal light, hope and victory over sin, hell and death as Christ rose again! (Matthew 27:45-53; 28:5-10).

Praise God that He alone can make something from nothing, and beauty from ashes! (Isaiah 61:3) Praise God that He does not stop there, but adds light, purpose, and design to accomplish His purpose through His creation and through each one of us who trusts Him!

© 2017 Laurie Collett 
Reposted from the archives



Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
An interesting point about Cyrus I. Scofield being the originator of the Gap Theory, as he was one of the main scholars who also advocated the Pre-Millennial view of eschatology, that is, the present Church age ended at the Rapture followed by the 7-year Tribulation period with Antichrist in power, which will end with the Second Coming of Christ to reign on David's throne in Jerusalem for a thousand years before the beginning of eternity.
Scofield even published his own Bible under his own name (hence, the Scofield Bible) with such eschatological emphasis.
Although I still firmly believe in Pre-Millennialism, or dispensationalism, as it's also known, I felt it was the right thing to do to repudiate the Gap Theory, and simply accept the historical record of Creation as recorded in Scripture.
An excellent post, God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
I agree with you, and with Scofield, in the pre-Millennial view, and also believe that his many excellent notes provide useful insights. Like you, however, I believe that the exception is his gap theory, which flies in the face of a literal, plain translation of Genesis 1 and 2.
Thanks as always for sharing your insights, and God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I have always seen a difference between the first Adam and the second Adam, the first being a living being formed from dust, the second being the first child of God born of the Spirit. I believe that is why the scriptures say we can 'become' children of God.
God bless you and your husband with all He has for us.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Brenda! May He continue to mold us into His image. Thank you for your comment and for your blessings for us. May God continue to richly bless you and your lovely ministry,