A few hundred years ago a heretic of considerable renown by the name of Magellan set out to disprove Scripture, or so certain theologians considered his bold adventure of sailing around the world. After all, didn’t the Scriptures speak of “the four corners of the earth”? That should be proof enough for anyone!
Anyone who dared to voice the belief that the earth was round was subject to severe ecclesiastical opposition and possible censure. When the remnant of Magellan’s expedition managed to reach Europe some years later after sailing around the earth, the church realized that an undue amount of connotation had been read into the phrase “the four corners of the earth” and there was harmony again between Scripture and creation.
This same situation surrounded the development and conformation of the solar system theory that is recognized today, that is, that the sun is the center of our solar system and the various planets, the earth included, orbit around it. The theologians-would-be-scientists proclaimed that since man was the center of God’s creation, all the stars, the sun and the planets must revolve around the earth.
Subsequent investigation disproved this thinking and again, harmony was again restored between God’s General Revelation and His special revelation.
These two instances of apparent discord and the resolution of this discord have not been cited in indicate that wherever Scripture and science conflict that science is vindicated, for the overwhelming evidence is rather that repeatedly, Scripture has, as it were, predicted the findings of certain of the sciences, especially archeology. Yet it is true, that at various times, certain discords between Scripture and science have been resolved in such a way that indicated an incorrect interpretation of Scripture.
Neither of these instances disproved Scripture or in any way subtracted from the truth of the harmony of God’s creation.
A similar situation faces the church today. Various laboratory techniques which can measure with astounding accuracy the amount of radioactivity of various substances (including the well-known Carbon-14) have indicated that the earth is thousands of years older than Scripture seems to indicate. Not only that the earth itself is that old, but that for a half million years before the birth of Christ, animal and some sort of human life existed. This technique of measuring the radioactivity that remains in the samples submitted by archeologists is as sound a technique as can be found in any measuring laboratory. In fact, this method is so extremely reliable it has been compared to a yardstick!
Many of the efforts put forth previously to prove the age of the earth have been ungrounded theories and “guestimates”. But with Carbon-14, we have the apparent positive testimony of some of God’s own creatures (that is of some radioactive elements) that seems to contradict the testimony of Scripture.
Is there disharmony then between God as He has revealed Himself in scripture and God as He has revealed Himself in creation? There is, but only in our minds which have been made inefficient and beclouded by the effects of sin. By faith we continue to hold to the belief that ultimate harmony must exist even between these two seemingly paradoxical revelations of God.
So then, as young Christians, suddenly challenged by the phenomenon of Carbon-14 dating, we must first realize that this ultimate harmony does exist between the general and specific revelations of God. There is no question, but this is a trial of our faith, for it takes an exceeding amount of Divine enlightenment to be able to face these two opposite witnesses and yet be able to feel that somehow the harmony still exists.
Where can the solution be? Certainly, the traditional creation story and Carbon-14 dating cannot exist absolutely side by side.
Are there perhaps loopholes in the techniques for measuring radioactivity or in the theories themselves which generated the techniques? This would be the simplest answer, although at the moment it seems to be very unlikely.
Or are we perhaps in error when we hold to the traditional concept of creation as having taken place in the span of six twenty-four hour days? Were there perhaps at least a few “days” that were thousands of years in length rather than only 24 hours? Is the earth described in Genesis 1, verses 1 and 2 the remnant of a previous creation which was heaven but suffered complete devastation in the war between the fallen angels and the faithful? Did the earth then lie in this devastated condition for a few million years until God performed the acts described in the remainder of the chapter? Or did God perhaps create the earth with “built in” evidences of an age much greater than it actually is as a trial for our faith?
As I ponder these concepts, I feel as uncomfortable as one who knowingly walks on thin ice! These attempts to correlate the greater age of the earth with the creation story have always seemed to me to be but half-hearted compromises which were made only to preserve the semblance of orthodoxy. Who knows, one of them might contain some hint as to the ultimate solution.
But this is digressing from the matter we set out to consider – that we have two conflicting witnesses: God’s general revelation and his witness in Scripture. Also, what our attitude should be towards this conflict.
First, we can ignore neither for both are a part of God’s revelation of Himself. Secondly, the conflict must neither break down our faith in the Scriptures nor our desire to investigate further into God’s creation. God is a God of harmony, and certainly, someday even this apparent discord will be resolved into God’s pure harmony. That this is not evident to us now is due to the clouded state of our minds thru the influence of sin.
There is no reason to view this Carbon-14 theory with alarm or with apprehension. For it is but another discord soon to be resolved.
May God generously pour out his grace upon us that we may be blessed with an ever increasing abundance of faith in Him both in spite of and even thru these apparent discords in His creation.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 3 April 1959