That took me by surprise. John and I were having an interesting discussion; but when we touched on an idea about which he was unsure, he spat out, “You are wrong!”
We were discussing concepts of how life on earth began. Let me say here that there are hundreds – if not thousands – of theories, myths, legends, and accounts about the formation of life. No longer can we merely say that we believe in either evolution or creation; rather, we must now specify what we believe about evolution or creation.
Among the many concepts in what we call “evolution” we find: modern evolutionary synthesis, natural selection, cosmic evolution, and population genetics. Several creation concepts are intelligent design, the six [24-hour] day creation, the six [1,000-year, or more] day creation, punctuated equilibrium (although a version of this hypothesis is also accepted in evolution), and myriads of pagan creation stories. Here is an Egyptian myth:
“Atum willed himself into being, and then created a hill, otherwise there’d be no place for him to stand. Atum was genderless and possessed an all-seeing eye. He spat out a son, Shu, god of the air. Atum then vomited up a daughter, Tefnut, goddess of moisture. These two were charged with the task of creating order out of chaos.”
My first question here is: how can a non-existent being – therefore, having no will to exercise – will himself into existence? Absurd. But … back to my friend.
John and I agreed that God never had a beginning and that the Biblical genealogical record suggests He might have created man about 6,000 years ago. So far, so good. But John came to a mental roadblock when I said, “In the infinity preceding the creation of life on earth, I wonder how long God thought about and planned His proposed creation.”
That’s when John informed me, “You are wrong!”
Detecting a potential breach of friendship, I pondered on that before responding. John, a conservative Christian (as I consider myself to be), obviously felt that I had violated Scripture and he entrenched. I instinctively knew that if this were not quickly resolved, the remainder of the visit would be rather cold. Therefore, being considerably older than John, I did my best to identify with him and to keep communications open.
“Where am I wrong?” I gently asked. “You’re just wrong!” was the reply.
I was surprised at the repetition of his abrupt judgment, so I said, “You and I both live our lives according to the best of our understanding of Scripture. Tell me where I’m wrong, and verify it Biblically, and I will correct my beliefs.”
After considerable contemplation, John finally said, “I cannot verify it Biblically. Maybe you are not wrong, but I disagree with you.”
“Thank you for your openness and your honesty. I welcome disagreement; but please tell me, with what do you disagree?”
“It just seems to me that you are inferring that the longer it took God to design His creation, the better it would be. Why can’t God think it up perfectly one second and speak it into being the next?”
Now, we were getting somewhere.
“Good point,” I responded. “However, since God was here for eternity past, do you think He did absolutely nothing for multiple eons of what we call time? And was He impulsive in thoughtless creation when He DID ‘go to work’? Or could He have taken some time to think and plan? Who knows how long God actually thought about creating the cosmos, this earth, and life on it? The Bible doesn’t say, and only God knows.”
Communication was reestablished, our relationship was preserved, and John relaxed – a little. I told him I was mentioning ideas, not facts. The Bible doesn’t tell us everything, and we are free to use our God-given imagination to fill in the gaps as long as we do not disagree or conflict with what the Bible clearly and explicitly teaches.
I referred him to Scripture because for any Biblical discussion, we need to have a decent understanding of Scripture and history. Second Timothy 3:15-16; “Study [the Bible] to receive God’s approval as you correctly understand and teach the word of truth. But avoid useless arguments: for they will drive people further away from God.”
I suppose the major thought I was trying to help John understand was this: YOUR disagreement does not always mean the OTHER person is wrong. Think about that. In each discussion, debate, or argument, it is probable that both sides have something to learn. So employ the love of Christ as you interact with others.
By the way, John and I are still life-long friends.
Gene Linzey is a retired pastor, a Bible teacher, writer, author, mentor, president of the Siloam Springs Writers Guild.