Lesson 7


In previous lessons we have explored the nature of God and the nature of man as created in God's image. We have seen a model of why God would create man and we have seen that there is a logical reason for our existence. The next question is a relatively unimportant one as far as our basic theme is concerned. This is because the existence of God is not dependent upon how He has accomplished His will. Let us examine the broader and perhaps more vital question of God's creative technique in general.

The Hebrew concept of creation involves two different modes or means of bringing things into existence. One of these is the process of miraculous creation and is along the lines we discussed before. In an earlier lesson we saw that to the man in Flatland it seemed that matter was created from nothing when the sphere touched the plane of Flatland. This process of creating from nothing is the concept normally indicated by the Hebrew word bara. This is the word used in Genesis 1:1 when the Bible says, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The word bara is used 42 times in the Old Testament and in every case the usage is in reference to something God does--never in reference to something man does. The Jewish Publication Society says, "The Hebrew bara is used in the Bible exclusively of divine creativity. It signifies that the product is absolutely novel and unexampled, depends solely upon God for its coming into existence, and is beyond the human capacity to reproduce" (Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis [Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989], page 5).

As a contrast to this concept of creation, we have what I will call indirect making. This concept is conveyed in Hebrew by the word asah and implies that something came into existence, not by a miraculous process from nothing, but rather was formed or shaped from something that already existed. If you are sitting in a building as you read this, God did not miraculously blast that building into existence from nothing. This is not to say that God had no role in the construction of the building because He certainly produced the calcium carbonate, silicon dioxide, and other chemicals that formed the concrete, glass, and the like. He also created man to build it. The point is that there are many things that come, have come, and will come into existence without God miraculously producing them.

In Genesis 1 the word bara is used in verses 1, 21, and 27. Things like time, space, matter/energy, life, and man's soul seem to be the objects of this description. In the other verses, it would seem that we are being told that the process of God is one of making, molding, forming, and/or shaping things that have already been created. Some may object to this super-literal interpretation of bara and asah by responding that there are exceptions to the usages I have described. Such a criticism is valid. In most manuscripts Genesis 1:26 says God made (asah) man in His image, and in verse 27 we are told God created (bara) man in His own image. This might suggest those terms bara and asah are interchangeable. It might seem to suggest that the literalness of the kind that we are describing cannot be supported.

The fact of the matter is that they are two different words and they do not ordinarily mean the same thing, and such cases frequently occur in the Hebrew language. We answer such problems by the context and by careful consideration of what the author is attempting to convey. You will notice that verse 26 is a communication between the persons of the Godhead. The exchange is between God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ. (See Genesis 1:2; John 1:1; Colossians 1:16-18.) For the Godhead, the creation of man was not a miracle. Unlike the man in the Flatland story who could not understand the appearance of the circle in Flatland, the sphere had no trouble understanding how the circle was produced. It was no miracle to the sphere. To us human beings the creation of man is miraculous, but it was not beyond God’s understanding.

In verse 27 the discussion is in reference to man, explained in man's dimension for man to understand. This is a miracle because the process is outside of man's capacity to duplicate or even understand. It is appropriate that asah was used in verse 26 and bara was used in verse 27. The attempts of liberal theologians to compromise the literalness of language and remove any specific meaning is an unfortunate compromise and completely unnecessary.

The interesting thing about man's creation is that there are two different aspects of man that are described in the Bible, and they are described as having been produced in two different ways. In Genesis 1:27 we see that man is created (bara) in God’s image. We saw in Lesson 5 that this description refers to man's soul--his spiritual makeup. In Genesis 2:7 we read, "And the LORD God formed (yatsar) man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Obviously, this is in reference to man’s body--his physical makeup. Similar language is used in Genesis 2 to describe the animals. God made man’s body from the materials that make up the ground, and we are told in other biblical references that our bodies will return to the ground from which those materials came. Man’s spiritual makeup is a miraculous act of God. God created (bara) man’s soul and that soul is eternal in nature.

How does evolution fit into this discussion? Obviously man's spiritual makeup is not subject to physical laws, because the soul is not physical. Whatever application evolution might have in the discussion of man would have to be understood as dealing only with man's physical makeup. Perhaps we, first of all, need to define what the word evolution means. Evolution refers to an unfolding type of change. It is not a dirty word or an evil concept. Evolution is a fact. Things do change! You are evolving from an infant to a mature adult. Your city is evolving in many ways. Even in a biological sense things do evolve. To the right are three pictures of newly evolved forms of life.

In recent years various authors have attempted to put adjectives in front of the word evolution to specialize their understandings of different kinds of evolution. Macro- and micro-evolution are sometimes used to restrict what type of change the author believes has occurred. These are questions related to various theories of how the world came to be. Those who believe in naturalism wish to suggest that the kinds of change in the pictures above have taken place in unlimited ways and that all of life can be explained by natural processes in which God had no role. Those who believe that God is involved in the creation feel there are limits to what chance can do, and would limit the degree to which evolution occurs. This is a changing field, and will continue to be modified and debated as more evidence and data becomes available.

We should also mention that in addition to the definition of evolution, the word species and the word kind need to be carefully understood. Most biology books will define a species as a group of plants or animals that can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. The radishes pictured on the previous page cannot interbreed with their great-great-great-great-great-grandradish and produce fertile offspring so it is a new species. Many insects can undergo similar evolutionary changes, much to the frustration of fruit growers and farmers. These new forms, however, are not new kinds. The biblical word kind which is the Hebrew min is a very broad word. First Corinthians 15:39 is a good place to see this distinction. Paul says in the passage that there are four kinds of flesh: "the flesh of man," "the flesh of beasts" (mammals), "the flesh of fish," and "the flesh of birds." This is the same set of biological groups used in the creation account of Genesis 1 and also in the flood account of Genesis 6. The terms are very broad. He does not say the flesh of bass, the flesh of crappie, the flesh of perch, the flesh of striper, etc. He says the flesh of fish, which would allow evolutionary change between various species of fish to produce the diversity we see in today's world. None of the varieties in the picture were known on the earth 200 years ago. The question is not whether or not things change, the question is whether life and man are products of blind chance or whether they are a product of God’s design.

In man's case it is obvious that change has taken place. If Eve is in fact the mother of all living, as Genesis 3 says and as genetic research confirms, all races of men on the earth must be her descendents. The fact that all mankind is one species and has not mutated so that there are multiple species of mankind is a supporting evidence of our common origin. Black men, white men, orientals, Polynesians, and the like all come from mother Eve. That means that Eve must have carried the genetic potential to produce all these races. As people migrated to equatorial areas of the earth, the possession of dark skin, black eyes, and a variety of other characteristics associated with black races offered advantages to survival in the climatic conditions present. Migrations to northern latitudes favored light skin, blue eyes, blonde features, and a variety of other characteristics which favored survival in colder conditions. Once again, this is evolution. God has made (asah) the races so that survival can be possible on a changing earth.

How much change like this can occur? To what extent has man changed? There are those who suggest that such change can progress to such an extent that our ancestry can mechanically be traced back to an accidentally produced single-celled organism. We will explore that suggestion in later lessons. Some would agree with that assessment, but would suggest that God used or controlled the process. This understanding is called theistic or mitigated evolution. Some would say that God created Adam and Eve as we are today and that the changes that have taken place have only been within the family of man. There are other views ranging from creation by aliens to a denial of any change at all.

What do you think? We are not going to embark on an anthropological debate in this lesson. To do so would require reprinting the lesson every week because new discoveries are made at rapid rates. The important thing to realize is that what separates man from other living things is not his body or his chemistry--it is his spiritual makeup. Can you visualize how a spiritual creation is accomplished? Of course not, because it is not a part of our three-dimensional world. Can you visualize how God could have made man’s body? Of course you can, because our bodies are three dimensional and operate in familiar conditions. One explanation of man's being made is seen in the following chart (below left).

What are the weaknesses in such a model? There are many problems in this physical hypothesis. Evidence is fragmentary at best. The physical definition of man is very ambiguous so that most anthropologists have difficulty deciding whether erectness, brain size, tool use, or cultural characteristics should be the dominant concerns. Soft tissue is not ordinarily preserved as a fossil, so actual appearance is difficult to determine. Dating methods are based on assumptions that are increasingly dubious, and sampling and analysis techniques are prone to error. The greatest weakness of such a model is that it does not really deal with what separates man from other living things--man's spiritual makeup.

We have seen that God created man in His image and made man's body of the dust of the earth. What was this first man like? Was he a caveman? What is a caveman? It is a man who lives in a cave! If you can find someone who is willing to live in a cave, you can see a caveman today! This does not mean that the first man (Adam) and the first woman (Eve) were stupid! Paintings in caves like the one below indicate great skill and intelligence by the artist that drew them. It is true that these first people had little knowledge. There were no books, schools, or television to convey the knowledge and discovery of others, so all learning was accomplished by those first people themselves. What these ancient people were able to do was incredible. How rapidly they developed in their ability to control their environment is remarkable. Anyone who has seen the remains of the ancient Inca, Mayan, Chinese, or Egyptian cultures has to be impressed with their ability and intelligence!

As man migrated from the Fertile Crescent area bounded by the rivers described in Genesis 3, he found himself in new environments with new challenges and problems. His body adapted to new climates and he modified his environment to fit his needs. Ancient peoples built irrigation systems, constructed all kinds of boats, made floating gardens, and built observatories to measure the passage of seasons. This scenario is consistent with the descriptions in the Bible and with all available scientific evidence.

When we cut through tradition and bad science, we find that the biblical account is not a fairy tale full of myths. We do not have all the answers about everything God did to make us the unique beings that we are, but what we know is logical and consistent with the Bible.

© 2009, John N. Clayton

Lesson 7 Questions

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