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In the first article in this series I considered how our Creator’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and His divine nature are made known to us through what He made (Rom. 1:20). I explained how light, the very first thing which Jesus Christ spoke into existence, demonstrates the Godhead to us. Our eyes have been designed in such a way that they blend red, green and blue light together so that we are able to perceive every colour. This working tri-unity reflects the nature of a Godhead which consists of three distinct but completely united divine persons. In this article I consider how one of the most common phrases in Genesis 1 also informs us about the character of our Creator God.
Good teachers know that if their students are to learn the importance of a matter, then they need to tell them the same thing over and over again. For example, students often have the phrase “Read the question” impressed upon them frequently when preparing for exams. The opening chapter of the Bible is a passage in which two phrases are repeated an equal number of times. I noted previously that when we read “God said” in Genesis 1, John made clear that the speaker was Jesus Christ, whom he called “the Word”. He is the One through whom all things were made. We read ten times in this first chapter that “God said”. There is also a single Hebrew word which appears ten times in the same passage. It is the word ‘miyn’ (Strong’s No. 4327), translated in the Authorised Version as ‘after his kind’ or ‘after their kind’.
What can we learn from His repetition of ‘after his kind’ ten times between v11 and v25? To answer this question we need to consider two main points. The first is what is meant by the Hebrew ‘miyn’ and the second what it might tell us about the character of our God. Charles Darwin knew that this word was vital to Genesis 1, because when he published his theory he sought to undermine this very truth. Before discussing his scientific mistake, I need to make clear that Darwin was never positive (or neutral) towards the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His grandfather and his father were both unbelievers, who today would have self-identified as atheists. Darwin himself testified to the unbelief of his family in his autobiography; in the section on his “Religious Belief” he wrote:
I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.(The autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882: with original omissions restored. Nora Barlow ed. New York, W.W. Norton, 1969. p. 87.)
When his adult son George sent him an anti-Christian essay to review in 1873, Charles replied suggesting it was too direct. His fatherly advice included the following:
Lyell is most firmly convinced that he has shaken the faith in the Deluge &c far more efficiently by never having said a word against the Bible, than if he had acted otherwise. (Letter: Darwin, C. R. to his son Darwin, G. H., 21 Oct )
Charles Lyell is today regarded as the father of modern geology. His writings did more than any others to persuade society that the earth was shaped through gradual processes which have been consistent over millions of years. This is why Darwin considered him to have undermined the Flood (Deluge). In so doing Lyell was the forerunner of his friend, preparing the way for his theory of biological evolution. Before posting his reply to George, Darwin added a P.S. the following day, part of which reads:
I have lately read Morley's Life of Voltaire & he insists strongly that direct attacks on Christianity (even when written with the wonderful force & vigour of Voltaire) produce little permanent effect: real good seems only to follow from slow & silent side attacks.
Darwin was not, as is often claimed, a Christian who became disillusioned after the death of one of his daughters. His paternal grandfather Erasmus Darwin wrote extensively about evolution. Of his father Robert, Charles wrote:
“Nothing is more remarkable than the spread of scepticism or rationalism during the latter half of my life. Before I was engaged to be married, my father advised me to conceal carefully my doubts, for he said that he had known extreme misery thus caused with married persons.” (The autobiography of Charles Darwin, ibid. p.95)
Having demonstrated that Charles Darwin was a sceptic concerning Christianity from his youth and that he strongly maintained this view into his later years, we now need to look at his understanding of the Biblical account of creation. Darwin was an undergraduate at Cambridge at a time when students studied a wide range of subjects including Divinity. Because of his unbelief, he decided not to go on and take Holy Orders after obtaining his BA. His studies included the reading of William Paley’s ‘Evidences of Christianity’ and his ‘Natural Theology’. In common with most writers of the day, Paley thought that in Genesis 1 ‘kinds’ was the equivalent of ‘species’ and this is what Darwin also believed. Thus, when he finally published “On the Origin of Species...” Darwin considered himself to be undermining the Bible without directly criticising it.
The reason why Paley and others thought this way was primarily because they read the Bible in Latin. The Latin Vulgate uses two Latin words to translate ‘miym’ and these are ‘genus’ (5 times) and ‘species’ (4). [N.B. it omits one of its three occurrences in Gen. 1:25] Consequently theologians used the term species to describe the restrictions put on biological reproduction by the Creator. Since Linnaeus established the foundation of the modern biological classification system, both ‘genus’ and ‘species’ have taken on different meanings. Species is now the lowest classification and genus the one above it. Neither of these however should be confused with the meaning of the Hebrew ‘miyn’, because Hebrew pre-dates modern scientific classification. The Septuagint translated ‘miyn’ with the Greek ‘genos’ [Strong’s 1085]. In the New Testament this is translated in several ways, including ‘family’ in Acts 7:13 & 13:26 (NKJV). It is reasonable to suggest that ‘miyn’ should be considered as the equivalent of the modern classification of ‘family’.
Family is a higher order than genus, and today we speak of the cat family, the dog family and so on. Members of the same family can generally interbreed and produce fertile offspring, though because of degeneration this is not always so. It is true of the bear kind (Ursidae) for example, [N.B. giant panda and koala are not bears] where besides observed crosses between species (in the wild as well as in captivity) research has also found genetic evidence of multiple instances where genetic material has been passed across species boundaries. Even though Darwin has been very effective at undermining faith in Jesus Christ, he was actually aiming at the wrong target when he wrote about species. Species is not the equivalent of Biblical ‘kind’ – family is. Species are man-made divisions between members of the same family and as such, new species do arise; it should be recognised though that this can only be demonstrated to be due to a loss of genetic information, rather than any acquisition of new instructions through mutations, etc. Mankind has a long history of breeding members of the dog family, but we have never been able to breed a non-dog from any of them.
Evolutionary atheists often argue that the Bible’s account of creation is not falsifiable; i.e. there is no way to prove it wrong scientifically. Darwin was of a different opinion because he and close associates like Lyell considered that, having shown that species were not separated by fixed boundaries, they had trumped the Bible’s authority. Today, many people continue to believe this to be the case, though it is usually expressed in terms of “Evolution is true, therefore the Bible isn’t.” Was the reason The LORD recorded ten times that His creatures would reproduce according to their families because He wanted to provide a test for the validity of the Scriptures, or was there a more important reason?
In these articles we are considering what creation itself demonstrates about our God’s character, power and divine nature. I suggest that the consistency which is integral throughout creation, not just in the reproduction of plants and animals, exists because it is an expression of the character of the Godhead which collectively brought it into being. In the Old Testament The LORD made the following statement clear through Malachi:
For I am The LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.(3:6)
Many years previously the self-seeking prophet Balaam had warned King Balak that the character of the God of Israel was unchanging (Num. 23:18-20). Later his words were echoed by Samuel when he told Saul that the kingdom had been torn from him:
And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.(2 Sam. 15:29)
This consistency of character is emphasised in the New Testament by James:
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures. (1:16-18)
Creation is consistent because it reflects the divine nature of our God, but we so often fail to appreciate what this means. What if a farmer had no idea what type of plants would grow from the seed he had sown? What if it were entirely random which kind of offspring a breeding pair of horses (or kangaroos) would produce? What if you had to test your milk every morning before you put it on your cereal to make sure it would not poison you? What if some days the petrol in your fuel tank was as non-combustible as water? We should be very thankful that creation is as consistent as the Creator who brought it into being. Sadly, many people mistake His faithfulness for a set of natural laws which even He is subject to. I am very grateful, even though we have ruined our Father’s good creation, that it still retains much of His character and has not adopted the inconsistencies of human nature.
The letter to Hebrew believers tells us much about the character and ministry of Jesus. He is the One through whom the Father speaks, He is the heir of all things and through Him the universe was made. All that in the very first sentence of the letter! Contrasting Jesus with angels, in 1:8-12 the writer attributes both Ps. 45:6-7 & Ps. 102:25-27 as being the words of God the Father to God the Son! I will quote just the second of these:
And: “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.” (v10-12)
Notice that here the author is confident of Jesus’ role in creation and that this heaven and earth have not been established for eternity but will be discarded when they are finished with. He then brings out a significant difference between creation and its Creator; “And they will be changed. But You are the same.” When we read the Psalm we might think it is speaking of the Father, but in Hebrews the Holy Spirit makes clear that it is Jesus the Son who will remain the same. We know that this is what the author of Hebrews meant, because he later expressed this truth in what is now a well-known confession:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (13:8)
Christians have much to be thankful for when we realise that our God does not change. A Creator whose character never changes is indeed a Rock on which we can build our lives through faith. A Redeemer who has promised to be faithful to us, provided we remain faithful to Him (Mt. 10:32-31), was certainly a real assurance to those Egyptian Coptic Christians as they knelt before their Islamic State executioners on a Libyan beach. If the God we serve was unreliable, changeable, possessed a volatile nature – like many gods of the Greeks, Romans and other pagan peoples – then where would any of us stand? Christians should be very thankful that His creation declares that He is The LORD Who will always be the same!
Randall Hardy – March
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Copyright Randall Hardy – March 2016
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This page last edited March 2016