Is Evolution Biblical?

A Biblical Evolution Model

Is Evolution Compatible With The Bible?perrymarch13

Can you be a Christian and believe in evolution?

Some say: “If God chose to create us via evolution, I’m fine with that.”

Others see evolution as a threat… with grave theological difficulties: The nature of man, original sin, the necessity of Christ. Some insist evolution undercuts

the entire Biblical narrative.

Is evolution a slippery slope? Do we even have evidence for evolution in the first place?

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Hi, my name is Perry Marshall and in 1994 astrophysicist Hugh Ross set my mind on fire. I listened to his “Biblical Creation Model.” He explained how the Big Bang and modern cosmology match the Biblical story like hand and glove. (Courtesy of a few elegant, well-chosen assumptions.)

Hugh’s model made predictions. It was bold and testable. Light years superior to anything I’d ever seen before. He founded “Reasons To Believe” to tell the good news: Big Bang = Jesus Christ!

A universe engineered to produce stars, galaxies and conditions favorable for life, exploding from a single, fine-tuned instant was far more elegant than a series of solo creation events.

But… Reasons To Believe hesitated to extend that thinking to the development of life itself. Life, according to Ross, was still a product of numerous special creation events.

Then, a decade later I went down the evolution rabbit hole. Eventually wrote “Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design.” I came to different conclusions. Which we explore in this talk.

So… Who was Adam? Mythical figure? Archetype? Real person? What makes man different from animals? What about the theology?

Here, I present a model you’ve likely not seen before. A testable, Biblical Evolution Model.

This meeting was hosted by Reasons To Believe Chicago, a community that believes there’s no conflict between science and Christian faith. While not fully endorsing my views, Bob Clapper and RTB Chicago were graciously willing to bring me to their gathering so we could discuss and debate this important matter.

Related Articles:

A Closer Look at Genesis 1

“Who is Adam?”

The New Atheism, Genesis 2 and Symbiogenesis


119 Responses

  1. Gary Mayer says:


    This comment is on your article “Physical vs. Spiritual Death” I am assuming that you are the author of it. My comment above is incomplete without a statement regarding it. Here goes:

    The passage under comment is Romans 5:12-21:

    “12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and *death* through sin, and so *death* spread to all men, because all sinned— 13for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless *death* reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
    “15But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many *died*, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17For if by the transgression of the one, *death* reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in *life* through the One, Jesus Christ.
    “18So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of *life* to all men. 19For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, as sin reigned in *death*, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal *life* through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NASB; asterisks mine)
    The words to be analyzed are enclosed in asterisks.

    In your article you quote these verses first quoting them inserting “physical” before each of them and then quoting them with “spiritual” before each of them. Then a comparison was made between these two quotes to see which best fits the context. But you cannot do this because each word as it stands in each sentence has its own context at that point. And “Context determines meaning” as they say.

    For Paul, spiritual life for a Christian can mean spiritual life in this life and eternal spiritual life in the next life. For example, verse 18 speaks of “justification of life.” Which I explained in my last comment means that it is our justification that leads to and makes possible the new life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Also verses 21 shows that both the righteousness and the eternal life come from grace, which is a spiritual aspect of salvation:

    “…so that, as sin reigned in *death*, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal *life* through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NASB; asterisks mine)

    First, when we are dealing with Adam we are dealing with basically physical death because Paul uses physical death that everyone agrees upon occurred between the time of Adam and Moses. Adam was created a physical soul as I explained in my comment to you on November 8. Paul’s whole argument in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 depends upon the creation of Adam’s being a physical soul. As I mentioned elsewhere, Adam died spiritually in the Garden because His sin broke fellowship with God, and separation from God is a type of death.

    Therefore, when death from Adam’s transgression is mentioned, it is basically physical and when life is mentioned from the work of Christ, it is basically spiritual but it will lead to the resurrection of the body and eternal life.

    Have a great day.

    • Gary,

      Your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 is not consistent with what I find there:

      40 And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The glory of the heavenly body is one sort and the earthly another.

      42 It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.[c] 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”;[d] the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven.

      I don’t see an indication in this passage, or any other in scripture, that when God made Adam a living person or living soul, that Adam’s physical body was immortal. Based on the sections highlighted above, a physical body is perishable and a spiritual body is imperishable.

      Where does scripture say that Adam was originally immortal?

      • Gary Mayer says:


        I am not saying that Adam’s body was immortal. But, of course, man does have a spirit that continues on after this life. Luke 16:22-23 makes this plain:

        “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.” (NASB)

        Then we have Daniel 12:1-2:

        “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (NASB)

        Daniel was the prophet who prophesied the exact time of the coming of Christ in 9:26.

        And the words of the angel in Revelation 14:11 make God’s plan very clear:

        “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (NASB)

        Paul calls the antichrist “the man of sin”; he does not call him “the angel of sin”; therefore, he must be a human like the rest of us. But Revelation 20:10 describes his fate:

        “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (NASB)

        Please notice that “they will be tormented” is in the plural. It includes both the devil and the beast (the antichrist). The Greek verb here is in the plural.

        Add to this Revelation 20:13-15:

        “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (NASB)

        It is not easy to believe what the Bible teaches on some topics, but Jesus was the divine Rabbi. He wore a rabbi’s garb. Those who claim to be Christians believe and follow His teachings. This is why Jesus said,

        “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (NASB)

        The good news is that the grace of God will meet us at our need and save us through the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, Yes, man is immortal in that God will reserve him for reward or judgment. I am not saying that Adam would have lived in the Garden for ever without something to sustain his life. That was not the point of the Garden. The Garden was to make life for Adam enjoyable so that Adam would have no excuse for rebelling against God. Adam was in a “controlled” environment.

        • Gary,

          Ideally I would write an entire well-researched blog post on this but I don’t have the time. This will have to do.

          I was taught “eternal conscious torment” and “smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” from earliest memory. Most conservative Christians say they believe this.

          Based on their behavior – as in how much priority they put on carrying out the great commission – I don’t think they believe it for 12 seconds. Actions speak much louder than words.

          But in any case when I study the Greek words and the context I find the “eternal conscious torment” doctrine unpersuasive.

          First of all, it makes the gospel BAD news not good news, because it suggests that the majority of the human race is going to languish in unimaginable amounts of suffering for unimaginable length of time by a God who is infinitely cruel and infinitely merciless.

          The OT says little about hell. When I look up all the verses referring to hell in the NT, the majority describe it as death and destruction.

          “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

          A minority of those verses imply something more severe than that, like the word “eternal” which is from the Greek word aeon which means long period of time, not eternity.

          The strongest statements about the severity of hell come from the book of Revelation.

          First, Revelation is last on the list of books one should take most literally in the NT for obvious reasons. Then when we dig deeper – Revelation 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”

          That phrase “rise forever and ever” comes from Isaiah 34 which says:

          For the Lord has planned a day of revenge,
          a time when he will repay Edom for her hostility toward Zion.
          Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch
          and her soil into brimstone;
          her land will become burning pitch.
          Night and day it will burn
          its smoke will ascend continually.
          Generation after generation it will be a wasteland,
          and no one will ever pass through it again.

          So looking deeper into the original context, this imagery actually comes from the OT description of a city destroyed that will never be rebuilt.

          You’ll recall earlier I referred to Genesis 3:

          “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

          If I take this verse as the starting point of the topic, this says that people being punished by God are NOT immortal. I don’t know how to take the above verse seriously and come to any other conclusion. This is literally the first thing the scriptures have to say about judgment.

          (Unless you wish to insert “Let us give him the tree of life after he has left the earth, so he can become immortal then and we can torture the man with fire forever and ever and ever.” This is apparently what most conservative Christian denominations claims to believe. But I don’t think it makes sense.)

          So the conclusion I reach is that immortality is only granted to people who have eternal life and God does not continue to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the shrieks and cries and pleas for mercy for a time that lasts so long that 100 million billion years is not even the beginning.

          I do not believe God to be so cruel, nor do I believe the scriptures make a case that he is. I find the ECT arguments unconvincing.

          There’s a set of books called “Faith of the Early Fathers” by Jurgens. If you buy Volumes 1 2 & 3 you can see what I call “hell inflation.” You can look it up by topic and start to see, as hundreds of years go by, the descriptions of hell get more lurid and frightening and how they start elaborating on it. I think the New Testament depiction of judgment has been significantly distorted by Bible translators.

          For example, in Acts 17 and then in John 15 Paul and Jesus talk about people who are ignorant not being guilty for their ignorance. In 200AD, a guy named Origen espoused an idea called “apokatostasis” which was the idea that God’s judgment is not retribution but correction. Augustine came along 200 years later and he articulated a very strong doctrine of original sin and a view of humans as being unable to free themselves from sin and addiction. Augustine’s views were embraced and have been ever since.

          Origen was declared a heretic but I think Origen is right. The ECT understanding of judgment is merely a representation of man’s most debauched and violent fantasies… a million times worse than any holocaust… projected onto God.

          If ECT is true, God is not love… God is hate.

          This is why I believe it’s difficult to make a strong case for eternal suffering in hell, if you read all of the verses in context.

    • Gary, there are other posts you have made which I have not had time to respond to. Will do so as I’m able.

  2. Tom Godfrey says:

    Gary Mayer,

    Thanks for your latest reply. Yes, by the grace of God, our family gathering on Thanksgiving Day was a happy one.

    Maybe we have made some progress in our discussion of the Sabbath issue. On November 26, you wrote, “In regard to Exodus 20: 8-11, it never says that God rested on the Sabbath Day; it says God rested on the seventh day in every case, even though saying that God rested on the Sabbath day would have given the commandment more thrust.” I replied, “Your point about Exodus 20:8-11 seems to involve a distinction without a difference,” and I explained why. In your latest (November 29) reply, you wrote, “He [God] sanctified the Sabbath day (which every reader knows is the seventh day of the Jewish week[)].” Do we now agree that it was both the Sabbath day and the seventh day of the week that the Lord blessed and made holy because he rested on it? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so if I misunderstood, please clarify.

    You said, “From Psalm 90:4 we should expect God’s work days to be longer that ours,” but I disagree, because this verse says nothing about either God’s work days or ours. It refers to three periods of time—1000 years, a day (specifically, yesterday, possibly a Sabbath), and a watch in the night, but it does not allow a mathematical comparison of God’s periods of time with ours. We should include 2Peter 3:8 in this discussion, where the third period of time is not mentioned, but the comparison between the other two periods is made in both directions. I think it should be clear from these verses that it would be wrong to conclude that God took 6000 years to finish work on creating the heavens and the earth, or, using “a watch in the night” instead, six to eight times longer.

    Since God exists from everlasting to everlasting (Ps. 90:2), he experiences time differently from the way we do, all right, but I think all three of those periods of time should be understood the same way we normally understand them with regard to length, so the point is that in the sight of God, a thousand years by our reckoning seems to him like a very brief span of time, or vice versa! If this is true of a millennium, a single day by our reckoning could seem to him like a fraction of a second. God worked during the six days of creation, setting a pattern for mankind, but it does not follow that “we should expect God’s work days to be longer that ours.” If they were longer, I think the Bible should plainly say so.

    The big idea behind trying to justify a belief that God’s work days are longer than ours is just part of your effort to harmonize the Bible and “science” (in some undisclosed special sense), right? Well, let’s think about this. If it took God six days to create the heavens and the earth, how long does each day need to be to satisfy your “scientific” authorities and achieve harmony? It needs to last about 2.3 billion years on the average, right? Do those six work days overlap? If they do, they might be even longer. Were there gaps of unspecified length between those days? Should it be legal for Israelite work days to overlap or have gaps between them like God’s work days? Did they even have a single, fixed length, or were some longer than others? What do your authorities say?

    Besides those troubling questions, there is also the issue of the seventh day of rest. If God is supposed to have used evolution over billions of years to reach the state of the heavens and the earth that we observe today, when did he ever rest? Scientists would assure you that evolution, both stellar and biological, is still in full progress, so to harmonize with this doctrine, must we conclude that God is still as busy as ever creating things? Or should we conclude that God never worked even one day? Did he just say the word to start the Big Bang in a split second, and ever since then, he has only waited and watched time, chance, and the laws of nature do the rest? How does a “day” of rest fit into this scheme?

    Frankly, I don’t see any reasonable hope for harmony through your approach. I think you end up with God’s work week bearing no resemblance at all to ours, and using them as a model injects confusion. I recommend using a more normal definition of science that makes it about what is currently observed and studied through the scientific method, including repeatable experiments that can be used to verify or falsify hypotheses, where the no-miracle presupposition makes sense. It should not involve speculation about possibly miraculous origins, speculation based on a study of incomplete, currently available clues. This way, harmony is automatic. Genesis tells us history. Scientists tell us about nature and the laws of nature as currently observed. No conflict. No problem.

    In many languages, the native word for day can be either one seventh of a week or just the illuminated part of it. I think this is a much more satisfactory reason not to be surprised to find the very same two meanings used in Gen. 1:5. Your longer, more complex explanation may be quite sound, but why beat around the bush? I don’t see how it supports your thesis.

    On the discourse analysis issue, you referred me to your book with “the verses that inductively yield [your] conclusions,” but this hardly addresses my point that any rules you devise should successfully cover all of the instances where the meaning is clear without regard to the position of vav. Once you have those rules, you should tentatively apply them to just those other instances where the meaning is unclear, without being dogmatic, since the true rules might differ from yours. I think we agree that the toledoth in Gen. 2:4 clearly refers to the opening narrative, so this reading cannot be overturned by applying any legitimate set of rules that you suggested in your book, and there is no need for an ad hoc extension of “the formula” just to force a fit for your rules. If you disagree, please explain why.

    Thanks for providing another rationale for your belief that the two accounts refer to two periods of creation separated by many years. Let’s consider it next.

    I think your big idea is that the order of creation is different, so the second narrative cannot be just a more detailed, human-centered account of a part of the global story of creation already covered in Genesis 1. You believe that the birds and other animals are created after man in Genesis 2, but is it because you favor the KJV translation of Gen. 2:19a over the NIV translation of it? If so, can you explain why?

    “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: …” (KJV)

    Here, use of the simple past tense implies that Adam may have already been created when the birds and other animals were formed. Technically, however, both clauses report past action, because we have two separate clauses, both with past tense. I think we have to allow the possibility that the first clause is about earlier events. We could properly say in English, “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field earlier on Day 6 and every bird earlier still on Day 5 and brought them to Adam afterward on Day 6.” The details regarding order of creation are not included in this narrative simply because those details were already given in the other narrative.

    “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; …” (NIV)

    Here, use of the pluperfect tense implies that the birds and other animals had already been formed earlier, before the time when God presented them to the man.

    Regardless of which translation is better, I think your new rationale collapses. If you disagree, please explain.

    You included speculation about the number of animals created and where they were when Adam named them, but I don’t think you can build much of a case for two creations on such speculation. Maybe you weren’t even trying to do that. If so, never mind.

  3. Gary Mayer says:


    No, we do not agree. It was the work then a day of rest regarding which the Jews were to follow God. The Genesis account is extremely simplified and it is homiletically in nature for the benefit of the Hebrews, who needed to begin it thank God for things instead of complaining. Moses used SIMPLIFICATION and CONSOLIDATION. This becomes clear when one compares day 4 with day one. The day-night cycle was created on day 1 and the system of luminaries with made this possible was created on day 4. The luminaries, according to the scientists were in creation for billions of years; Moses consolidated them all into day 4.

    God’s work days may not have been equal in length; that was not the point. The point was work, then rest. Here are my comments, which relate also to God’s working, to the Intelligent Design community. (It is from my book “New Evidence for Two Human Origins: Discoveries That Reconcile the Bible and Science, 2015 edition, AuthorHouse). Biblical quotations are from the NASB.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Evidence for the Existence of God from the Preciseness of God’s Creative Acts

    It is not necessary to hold to an ex nihilo or de novo view of the creation of mankind in order for you to see the teleological evidence for the creative hand of God in the universe. According to the Bible, God worked for six creation days and then rested on a seventh day. Does this mean that the work that God performed on these six days must show evidence of miracles? I don’t believe so. The Bible nowhere refers to these creative acts with the terms miracles, wonders, or signs. Of course, when God brought into existence the universe from nothing, that was a miracle. When the Bible says that God rested on the seventh day, it must mean that God’s activities were only relatively reduced from what they had been because the Bible says that the Lord Jesus Christ “upholds all things by the word of his power.” This means that if He completely took His power from the universe, it would cease to exist as we know it.
    These following verses show that God providentially acts in His creation. These actions, I believe, can be classified as work, even as miracles can be classified as work. Jeremiah 50:25 speaks of God’s decision to overthrow Babylon, the most powerful kingdom of that day. God had brought that nation up against Judah to punish Judah for its sins, but Babylon acted arrogantly and God punished them for it by bringing other nations against them. Please notice this is described as God’s work:

    The LORD has opened His armory
    And has brought forth the weapons of His indignation,
    For it is a WORK of the Lord God of hosts
    In the land of the Chaldeans. (emphasis mine)

    The New Testament speaks of God’s working to cause all things to happen according to His desires: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works [from Gr. energeo] all things after the counsel [plan] of His will” (Eph. 1:10-11). The Greek verb energeo is defined in Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible: “to be active and energetic, to effect, prove oneself strong.” [Zodhiates, ed., Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, “Lexical Aids to the New Testament,” v.s. “1754. Energeo.”]
    God rules in this world according to the Psalmist “by his MIGHT”: “He rules by his might forever; His eyes keep watch on the nations” (Ps. 66:7; emphasis mine).
    The Israelites’ law called for certain tithes to be set aside for the operation of the theocracy. Their lack of obedience was also a reflection of the people’s backslidden hearts. Therefore, God was displeased when the people ignored obeying this law. God said,

    “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes….” (Malachi 3:10)

    From these verses we learn that God has ways of directing the affairs of men on this earth through providence to bring about His desired end. This could have been how God worked when He was preparing the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them during the six days of creation. In the creation of matter, probably through a highly controlled “big bang” with its inflation expansion phase, the creation miracle of God becomes obvious, but after this, His working may be much more behind the scenes.
    We shall discover in chapter 11 that God’s creative activity includes searching out His finished product after He makes it [Job 28:12-28]. If we shall concede that God’s ultimate goal for his six days of creative activity was the placing of mankind in a suitable environment, we shall be able to see that He was not finished with His creative work until mankind was created and living successfully on the earth. God did not finish searching out the results of His creative activity until mankind was present on the earth.
    It probably would be a mistake for us to insist upon finding miracles in God’s working when He was creating the biosphere.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    In regards to Genesis 2:19, I can easily explain why “formed” is not in the pluperfect. For one thing, the subject follows the verb in Hebrew. If it had been written before the verb, it would have indicated the pluperfect. But “formed” could have been translated in the pluperfect anyway if the context would have indicted it, but the context forbids it due to verse 18: “And Jehovah God said, It is not good, the man being alone. I will make a helper suited to him” (Green). “I will make” is in the imperfect tense, and in its context must be taken in the future tense. To translate verse 19 in the pluperfect is impossible, because the first helpers made for Adam were the animals. We know this because verse 20 says,

    “The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.” (NASB)

    As you know, names then reflected the character of the named. Adam considered each of these animals in regard to their suitability for a helper.

    The translators of the NIV had had (pluperfect) their minds made up concerning these creation accounts before they translated this verse.

    It appears that we have come to a stalemate in our discussions; so I am opting out. It has been good to go back and forth with you.

  4. Tom Godfrey says:

    Gary Mayer has opted out of our discussion of his ideas. Participation in any discussion here is completely voluntary, of course, and everyone gets to opt in or out based on his own interests and priorities. Just in case third parties read our comments, I am responding to his last comment anyway to tie up some loose ends. I welcome anyone to respond to any point or question left on the table. Some of them might be answered cogently in Gary’s book, which I admit I have not read.

    Two passages on the Sabbath law (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:12-17) present God’s “six days” of work, presumably as a helpful model for human labor. If the law requires only “work then a day of rest,” as Gary insisted, and each “day” of work or rest really was left wide open to private interpretation, whether 12 hours, 24 hours, many years, or whatever, then we should all agree that it would be practically impossible to violate the Sabbath law. One exception might be someone who works non-stop without resting until he drops dead, in which case, no one else would ever need to punish the guilty party. I maintain that the law had real meaning, and it could be enforced (Num. 15:32-36), just because every one of those “days” had to be a day of ordinary length, with no flexibility to accommodate billions of years for creation of the heavens and the earth.

    Gary said, “The luminaries, according to the scientists were in creation for billions of years; Moses consolidated them all into day 4,” but I think he missed a key point. According to the Bible, work on the heavens was finished by God before the seventh day, but any scientist who speculates about the origin of stars, galaxies, and stellar systems—while considering God to be, at best, a passive onlooker—would insist that this work or process began billions of years ago and should continue without interruption for billions of years into the future, regardless of the fate of the earth. If they are right, then confining this aspect of creation to a single day in the past should be regarded as prevarication concerning both past completion and the time involved, regardless of whether it also counts as simplification or consolidation.

    Gary kindly shared an excerpt from his book, including this: “Does this mean that the work that God performed on these six days must show evidence of miracles? I don’t believe so. The Bible nowhere refers to these creative acts with the terms miracles, wonders, or signs. Of course, when God brought into existence the universe from nothing, that was a miracle.” This raises at least two questions.

    First, how can any work “show evidence of miracles”? If the speculation of modern experts regarding origins is allowed to trump Genesis, then we should expect the resulting story to lack any appeal to miracles or supernatural agency. Those experts insist on the no-miracle presupposition, so if any physical evidence cannot be explained by known natural processes, no God-did-it solution will be entertained. In this case, they are faced with an unsolved mystery that they hope to be able to solve later as more is learned. For people inclined toward doubt, the nature of the evidence is entirely irrelevant with regard to the possibility of miracles. For a nice case study of this reality, see the story of the healing of a blind man in John 9.

    Second, if we consider something reported in the Bible to be a miracle, does it matter whether we see “the terms miracles, wonders, or signs” mentioned? Gary assured us that bringing the universe into existence was a miracle, but where does the Bible ever refer to it as such? This point may be less germane to our discussion, but we can probably think of several historic events reported in the Bible without any mention of a sign, wonder, or miracle, and yet it seems perfectly reasonable to put them into this category (for example, Gen. 7:15-16; Gen. 11:7-9; 1Kings 17:1-6). Scientists should feel free to speculate about purely natural explanations for such reports, of course, but in most cases, they simply dismiss them as myths, legends, or works of religious fiction. Study of relevant physical evidence is seldom possible and never required.

    Gary’s point that God is at work even now is well taken, but it evidently misses the point that God finished making the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” in exactly six days (Ex. 20:11), and then he rested but, as Gary pointed out, not absolutely. By the same token, no living person who rests on a Sabbath day rests absolutely either. Even breathing requires some measure of work.

    To defend his take on the order of creation in the Genesis 2 narrative, Gary explained why he rejects use of the pluperfect tense in Gen. 2:19 without addressing my point that even without use of the pluperfect, the verse does not necessarily indicate the relative timing of events among themselves, only the fact that they all happened in the past. Gary may disagree, but on what grounds?

    The relative timing of the first event in Gen. 2:19 and its second event is hardly controversial, regardless of how the first one is translated, whether “And … the lord God formed” (KJV) or “Now the Lord God had formed” (NIV). Either way, God clearly formed those birds and animals before he presented them to Adam for naming, but were the birds formed before or after the other animals? Even more importantly, were any of them created after Adam? The choice of tense for the translation has no bearing on either one of these most relevant questions, but it does seem quite clear in this case that use of the pluperfect tense is perfectly appropriate in English, given the obvious relative order of the events. Creation order is not in focus here. This order had already been made perfectly clear in Genesis 1.

    Gary’s point about changing word order to indicate pluperfect tense could be misleading. Hebrew verbs actually have only two tense forms, perfect and imperfect, so there can be no one-to-one mapping to English verb tenses. The rules for translating them properly are too complex to detail here, but context is critically important.

    The normal word order for Hebrew is verb-subject-object (VSO), but a writer can switch the order to subject-verb-object (SVO) to put emphasis on some contrast. This switch often indicates that the tense should be understood as we understand our pluperfect (or past perfect) tense, but I think this device is available only if the grammatical subject is a noun.

    Technically, Hebrew is a pronoun-dropping language with highly inflected verb forms, so the subject might be understood from the verb form alone, with no separate word representing the subject whose order with the verb could be switched. Besides this, even though the switch in word order is evidently the only explicit way for the pluperfect tense or sense to be expressed in Hebrew, the pluperfect tense can indeed be properly used in an English translation even if the verb precedes a noun subject (the normal order) in the Hebrew source text. To illustrate, consider Gen. 3:1a (וְהַנָּחָשׁ֙ הָיָ֣ה עָר֔וּם מִכֹּל֙ חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָׂ֖ה יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֑ים), where the verb (עָשָׂ֖ה) comes before the subject (יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֑ים) as usual, and yet use of the pluperfect in the translation is clearly appropriate, even without reversed word order in Hebrew:

    “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” (KJV)
    “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.” (KJV)

    Gary admitted that “formed” (the first verb in Gen. 2:19) “could have been translated in the pluperfect anyway if the context would have indicted it, but the context forbids it due to verse 18 […] To translate verse 19 in the pluperfect is impossible, because the first helpers made for Adam were the animals.”

    The really interesting question here is whether those animals were made before or after Adam. I see nothing in this passage that demands that they were made after Adam, as Gary requires for his proposed two-creation theory. Neither do I see anything here to indicate that some animal was designed to be a helper for Adam, but this is beside the point. In any case, whether animals were “the first helpers made for Adam” or not, the point is that they may well have been made on Day 5 or earlier on Day 6, before Adam was created, so why should the pluperfect be impossible? I don’t get it. Maybe we need the help of a real expert in Hebrew.

    Gary also claimed, “The translators of the NIV had had (pluperfect) their minds made up concerning these creation accounts before they translated this verse [Gen. 2:19].” He might be right about this, but if so, I imagine their conclusion was at least based on a careful study of those accounts. As far as I am concerned, it remains to be seen whether Gary’s two-creation theory has any more solid basis than what he chose to explain in this discussion. Surely the Sabbath laws were written many years after both creations, if there really were two of them, but then how do we explain the claims in Exodus that everything was supposed to have been created in just six days? Personally, I am sticking with belief in a single creation completed within those very same six days.

  5. Tom Godfrey says:

    Oops, the second translation of Gen. 3:1a in my last comment is from the NIV, not the KJV (copy/paste error). Sorry about that.

  6. Mark Chenoweth says:


    Do you lean more towards annihilationism or or universalism then?

    Do pick up David Bentley Hart’s “That All Shall be Saved.” I’m not comfortable with his making universal salvation basically an ontological necessity, but it nevertheless seems by far, the most plausible position to take.

    Also, Ilaria Ramelli’s “A Larger Hope” explodes the idea that universalism was a small minority position in the early church. For the first 500 yrs, it was possibly the majority.

    For a good discussion of the alleged condemnation of “Origenism,” see

    Maybe you’re already aware of all these resources. Anyway,

    Hope you’re well.

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