12 Here Comes the Sun
Bible and Science – Here Comes the Sun
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night:…And the evening and the morning were the fourth day (Gen. 1:16-19).
Where did modern man come from? Are we the product of a long evolutionary line that originated with monkeys and eventually branched off to form what is now called homo sapiens (which means wise human being) or were we the result of specific creation by the power of the LORD God?
The great court case
One of the most famous trials in the history of the United States considered these questions. It took place in 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee, and involved a public school educator named John Thomas Scopes who was tried for teaching the Darwinist view that the human race descended from monkeys.1 Teaching evolution was in direct violation of a state law which permitted only the literal Biblical interpretation of the creation story from Genesis 1. The trial became famous, indeed infamous, not only because of the issues involved, but because two of the most prominent lawyers of that day were pitted against each other. Assisting the prosecution was William Jennings Bryan, who had thrice run for the Presidency of the United States and lost all three times. He was a devout Christian who saw himself as upholding the scriptures by helping to prosecute this case. On the side of the defense was Clarence Darrow, who just the year before had successfully defended Leopold and Loeb.2
Darrow came to Dayton, Tennessee, to uphold what he believed was the cause of modern enlightenment. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was looking for a test case to overturn creationism and offered free counsel to any teacher who agreed to defy the law. Scopes was a convenient and willing tool. Ironically, Darrow and Scopes lost the case3 and Scopes was fined $100. The Tennessee law was not removed from the books until 1967, long after Darrow had passed away.
Main issues still alive
What makes the Scopes trial so important for the Bible believer is that the issues raised in that courtroom in 1925 haven’t gone away. The writings of the popular press4 and theater5 have served to make Scopes and Darrow heroes while Bryan is usually made out to be a naive old fool. Bryan was maneuvered into taking the witness stand as an “expert witness” and questioned at some length on the veracity of the Genesis creation story. Darrow cleverly trapped him into making a number of nonsensical replies. Unfortunately, the same questions often come up today, because opponents of the Biblical version of creation have read about the Scopes trial, or are familiar with the theatrical version,6 or simply because they have been similarly influenced by the theory of evolution almost as if it were a religion itself. What were the questions that were posed to Bryan that caused him to stumble?
Bryan trapped on order of events
Darrow started by asking if Bryan took everything in the Bible literally. Bryan, being no fool, said mostly but of course there were also figurative things in the scriptures. He was then asked if he thought that the six days of creation were six literal 24-hour days. Again Bryan, who was not the strict fundamentalist that he has sometimes been portrayed in history, stated: “My impression is that they were periods.” (We intend to go into the time periods of the creation week in another chapter.) Then he got into some difficulty when Darrow asked if he believed literally that the order and time structure of creation was exactly as stated in Genesis 1. How then could the Sun appear on the fourth day of creation when three days had already happened!
Questions such as these are still posed by skeptics seeking to subject the Bible to scientific ridicule. Bryan stumbled over this question (and others) and really had no good answers. He became so flustered that he was trapped into saying things that were nonsense. At one point, in response to a question which asked whether he had previously thought about these difficult Bible passages, he replied: “I do not think about things I don’t think about.” The popular press had a field day with this statement. Ironically, Christadelphians can get themselves in the same situation if we don’t think about difficult questions and instead put our heads in the sand hoping they will go away.
Some of the problems
Even today Bible scholars, who have no doubts in their own minds, have to realize that it may take more than unquestioned faith to convince the skeptic, or possibly even their own children who are faced with these difficult Biblical questions in school or by their peers. An answer based on “God can do anything He wants” may be perfectly correct, but hardly sufficient to convince the doubter. We are admonished to,
Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man(Col. 4:6).
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear(I Pet.3:15).
Let’s examine some of the difficult issues about the creation story and see what the scriptures and science actually tell us.
The fourth day
The Genesis record states:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:..And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day(Gen. 1:14 –19).
In order to appreciate exactly what occurred on the fourth day of creation we have to backtrack and understand what really happened on the preceding days. First of all, the heavens and earth already existed before the first day of creation began, as we have already proved in an earlier chapter of these essays. The creation of the universe is dismissed after the first verse because from then on the focus of the rest of the chapter is on how creation was carried out upon the earth. The focus of the entire Bible is upon God’s plan and purpose with the earth and its inhabitants. The nature of the rest of the universe, while it may be interesting, is not a subject that will directly affect our salvation. Hence, from verse 2 onwards in Genesis 1, everything is written from the perspective of an observer upon the earth.
Basic preparation of the waters
The first step was that the earth’s environment had to be prepared for life. The exploration of nearby planets in recent years should make us aware that this was not a trivial task. If the earth was a barren rock-strewn wasteland like Mars or the moon, how could plant and animal life have ever flourished? If the oceans and rivers of our planet did not have exactly the right balance of mineral content and be free of poisonous chemicals like the methane oceans of Venus then how could life exist in the sea?
It is a fact that vast deposits of oil and natural gas (mostly methane) are sealed beneath our waters as drillings have found in the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, off the Santa Barbara, California coast and at many other locations around the earth. When the record says: And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (v. 2), I take it to mean He prepared the oceans, lakes and rivers of this planet for life; it is the power of God that is spoken of in this verse. It is by His spirit that the scriptures tell us we live, and move, and have our being (Acts17:28).
Preparing the atmosphere
Next we are told that God says let there be light (v. 3). Note it does not say ‘let there be the sun’. Of course not, because the sun was no doubt already there! What was happening (most likely) was that a sufficient clearing of the atmosphere was arranged so that light could filter through and penetrate to the surface. A cloud cover of impenetrable gases and dust particles must have covered the atmosphere of the earth such that no light could infiltrate to nourish the plant life that God was eventually going to create later on the third day.
We have seen incidents of this on earth in the past. In August 1883, Mt. Krakatoa, a volcano in the isles that comprise Indonesia, exploded and the records show that “volcanic dust in the atmosphere caused spectacular red sunsets over the next three years in the Northern Hemisphere. The volcanic dust may also have been the reason for a worldwide drop in temperature that lasted five years.”7
There is much geological evidence that volcanic activity was far more prevalent in ages past than it is today. The Los Alamos plateau in New Mexico is thought to be the collapsed dome of a vast volcano and there is also the picturesque Crater Lake in Oregon that is the remnant of a long extinct gigantic volcano. Similar dormant sites exist around the globe testifying to the distinct possibility that the earth’s atmosphere must have been polluted and overcast with volcanic dust and gases in ages past.
It is also thought, even further back in time some 65 million years ago, that the earth may have encountered a huge asteroid, which created an impenetrable cloud of dust and debris that covered the whole earth. There exists in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsulaan enormous crater some 190 miles in diameter thought to be the impact site of the asteroid. Coring samples taken from the region have indicated the long-ago date. The result of such an immense impact would be many times the effect of Krakatoa, thus it is not impossible to believe that the earth’s atmosphere was covered with an impenetrable cloud that needed cleansing if life would come (again?) out of the chaos.
Separation of the waters
Now let’s examine day 2. Here we read: God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament (v. 7). The word “firmament” in the AV means “an expanse, i.e. the firmament or (apparently) visible arch of the sky”.8 The NIV© translates “firmament” as “expanse” and goes on to state in verse 8 that God called the expanse “sky.”
In other words, once the atmosphere and oceans were purified (day 1) of noxious dust and possibly poisonous gases and chemicals, the next step was to create on day 2 a separation of the waters on the earth. Water from the seas and oceans were no doubt evaporated to form a dense cloud cover. This likely set in motion almost endless rainstorms, which not only finished cleansing the atmosphere but no doubt also helped shape the rivers and lakes.
Dense cloud covers are the norm on some planets in our solar system; Saturn is one such example. Weather patterns on that planet make even the worst conditions on earth merely a picnic in July! Storms on Saturn are massive and can last not for days, but for months, years and even centuries. If earth had conditions like this on day 2, then even though light could filter through to nurture the plant life created on day 3 (vv. 9 – 13) apparently it was still not possible for an observer on earth to see either the sun or the moon.
Many years ago I spent March and half of April working at the British NSF laboratories at Daresbury; during that period, it rained 44 of the 45 days that I was there. A few days near the end of that dreary 6-week period the sun broke through the seemingly endless overcast and appeared for a few hours. The next day the local newspaper had a banner headline wondering what that strange yellow orb was that had been briefly observed in the twilight sky. Thus by our own experience, if we go through indeterminable foul weather where for days at a time we don’t see the sun, we still can discern night and day. A cloud cover like this must have enveloped the entire earth on the third day of creation. Light could filter through, and while night and day were discernible, an observer on earth could see neither the sun nor the moon. That takes us to the fourth day of creation.
The fourth day
If you’ve followed everything I’ve said so far, the events of the fourth day should be easy to explain; on day 4, God created weather. The text is perfectly clear And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth (v. 17). Thus on the fourth day the cloud cover was broken and weather patterns established. This allowed one to observe clearly the source of the lights that had previously illuminated the earth.
The creation of weather may sound trivial, but not if one is aware of the tremendously complex weather patterns that occur on this planet. We know how even moderate changes in our present climatic conditions could make earth uninhabitable. Some examples to contemplate: if the average global temperature increased by 5°C the ice fields of the north and south polar regions would melt and the earth would be inundated with water. Most of North America would be submerged except for the two mountain divides of the Appalachian and Rocky chains.
Take things in the other direction: suppose the average temperature dropped 5°C. The earth would then be driven into a vast ice age and most of North America, Europe and Northern Asia would be overrun with glaciers. Apparently both of these conditions existed in ages past, hence the fine-tuning of climate and the appearance of the sun and moon that happened on day 4 was absolutely essential to the existence of human life, as we know it in the present age.
A straightforward answer
Now the suggested answer to the question of how the sun and moon did not appear until the 4th day is simple: that is the day in which they could be clearly observed from the point of view of an observer upon the earth.9
Thus with some detailed study of the creation story in the scriptures, combined with a little bit of what we now know about planetary sciences, the hard questions raised by Clarence Darrow and other Biblical skeptics should not faze any Bible scholar.
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? …. Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place(Job 38:4, 8-10).
By John C. Bilello, Ann Arbor, Michigan
1 The background information on the Scopes case was taken from the trial transcripts and the newspaper reports available from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law Library.
2 Nathan F. Leopold, Jr. and Richard A. Loeb were the two teenagers who had kidnapped and murdered 14 year-old Bobby Franks in an attempt to commit the perfect crime. In that trial, for perhaps the first time in American jurisprudence, Darrow used psychiatric evidence with respect to the mental competency of the defendants to argue against the death penalty, which he vehemently opposed. Darrow won his point in the Leopold-Loeb case and the two were sentenced to 99 years in prison without parole.
3 Darrow himself made the motion that his client would plead guilty to prevent Bryan from making a closing summation speech. He did not want to give Bryan, who was well known as a great orator, a chance to recover from his testimony. Darrow intended to then appeal the case to the Tennessee Supreme court where he thought he could get the statue overturned on constitutional grounds, but this never happened. Instead it was overturned on a narrow legal technicality.
4 The dispatches from Dayton, Tennessee by H.L. Mencken, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, were distributed all over the United States. The picture of Bryan and the creationists as buffoons and dolts was the image Mencken spread to America.
5 Inherit the Wind, by playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, was a thinly disguised fictional account of the Scopes trial. The names of the protagonists were changed, but the essence of the story is based on what happened in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925 and the message is an embellished version of enlightenment vs. anti-intellectualism.
6 I know it happened to me when I got into a debate in 1955 with my high school biological science teacher and similar questions were raised almost 25 years later when my children were being educated.
7 Article by Katharine V. Cashman, in World Book Encyclopaedia Electronic Edition©.
8 Strong’s number 7549.
9 I have ended, of course, exactly with what Bro. John Thomas stated as his views in Elpis Israel.