When I was a kid I knew what I want to be more than anything else in the whole world, Indiana Jones.
Actually, when I found out the same guy was also Han Solo, I really just wanted to be Harrison Ford. I mean, how much cool do you have to have in your DNA to be that guy?
By the way, when the new IJ movie comes out this summer I’ll be there with my boys at the midnight showing with the rest of the freaks, wearing my fedora. Oh, yes I will.
Anyway, I really thought I wanted to follow in the footsteps of good Doctor Jones for a while as an archaeologist. That is, until I realized they spent most of their time digging up nasty old bones and sifting through ancient garbage and NOT dodging ancient booby traps and outrunning huge boulders in jungle caves.
Yet, even as a pastor today, I am amazed how much archeology and bone digging is required in this profession.
Here’s a recent question I was posed via email that has been echoed many, many times:
Being a History Channel / Discovery Channel geek I’m having an issue with the whole prehistoric / dinosaur thing. Can you help me wrap my head around this and point me at some reading / website …so I can answer my own and my sons questions on this? What’s up with the bones? Someone told me about the “behemoth” mentioned in the bible but it looks like this really refers to a hippopotamus. I just don’t get this.
Well, well, well, what to do with the dinosaurs? Obviously, if you believe in dinosaurs you’re going to Hell.
Just kidding. Godzilla does not equal eternal damnation. But, I am trying to make a point that the dinosaur question is larger than it sounds, and not just because they were big lizards.
From the bones of dinosaurs hang a variety of arguments and philosophies dangling enticing prizes before educators, politicians, clergy and everyone else in the marketplace of ideas:
- existence of God
- argument from design
- Big Bang
- Young Earth
- Ancient Universe
These are all scientific debates that pack powerful theological punches, because if you ascribe to something scientifically here, then it means something theologically there. This is the battlefield.
Realistically, there is no way my mind or blog can cover/answer it all. But, I would like to give it a frame and a particular philosophical slant that (to use the language of the question asker) might help us get our head wrapped around it.
First, there are a hundred groups each with their own website and book who would dogmatically agree or disagree with me/each other, so, just know that if your looking for a fight or someone to confirm you, you can find them. You have to know what you believe about God and then use your head about what you see in the scientific world.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT DINOSAURS? Nothing. I mean, there is no Old Testament mention of St. Flintsone putting up posters of his lost pet Dino. But, some have said there are a couple of potential thunder lizard references in there.
As an example, Job 40:15 mentions a creature called a BEHEMOTH, but it’s pretty unclear what it is. Commentators have called it an elephant, hippo, brontosaurus, ancient alligator and a variety of other things. Here’s the problem, we have no idea what it is.
Look it up. It’s big, it’s impressive. It may have been worthy of a cameo appearance on Land of the Lost, but we don’t know jack. And, anyone who says they can tell you what it is operates outside of Scripture. In case you forget, that’s not a safe place.
This, like any other passage you may bring up, is not helpful. Why? God did not give us the Bible as a scientific textbook. It is a love letter and a theological manual and doesn’t try to answer some of the questions we want it to answer.
But, the Bible does say God created the World. The Bible does say that He did it quickly, seven days in fact. The truth is there are bones in the ground. Big bones. Old bones.
So here are the options for those who hold a Bible in one hand and a mososaur tooth in the other (i have one in my office by the way, so cool):
- God’s Creation Story straight up: The bones are legit, but the problem is with all the scientific dating practice and current scientific biases. Once they get the science stuff worked out, it’ll all make sense.
- God’s Creation Story with a twist: The bones are legit and the scientific scenario is accepted. In fact, God used evolution as His creative process. Can you say compromise?
- God’s Creation Story as a story: Science is science and we have to believe it. The old religious stuff was a way of coping with a world we didn’t understand until science enlightened us. Don’t you feel better now?
Sure, there are some nuance variations in between, but these have been the only major players other than, “I believe God’s Word and there are no bones, it’s just a huge conspiracy theory.”
I wouldn’t go there. Makes you sound a little stupid.
Personally, the 1st option is the safest theologically, but doesn’t help with those nagging kiddos who keep going to school and learning stuff and then coming home with questions. Wow, we need to put a stop to that.
Honestly, those questions should go deeper than our gradschoolers, they should be ours as well. I don’t think we could, or should be satisfied to hang out with option one.
And, we don’t have to!
For years I have clung to something called the Mature Earth Theory. This states that when God created, He created life in motion. He created trees, not seeds. He created birds, not eggs. He created Adam, not an embryo. He created a full grown earth, not a seedling planet.
How old did Adam look? Good question right? (And, did he have a belly button, HA?)
We don’t know, but we know he appeared as a man, full grown.
How old did the earth look?
We don’t know, but we know it appeared as a full grown earth.
What’s in the crust of a full grown earth? How old would it appear? What would an archaeologist see when they dug into it?
For me, this theory helped clear away much of the brush of confusion. In the past I have had to decide whether to believe God, or science. Or, I could believe God and science, but one had to be severely compromised.
It was like God said I give you a spirit and a mind, but I want you to completely ignore one of them.
With this theory I can believe that God is supreme and sovereignly created all that we know, just like the Bible said. And, I can still believe that scientists can date things to be billions of years old. Why? Because God made a full grown earth!
Oh, don’t get me wrong, not all questions are answered. Like what about UFOs and professional wrestling?
There is still plenty we cold talk about with regard to creation and science, but for me, this theory gives me the ability to stand with confidence in my spirit and my mind. And, it makes watching the Discovery/History Channel much easier to do.
The many questions they pose become moot when we realize God made a full grown earth. Maybe God allowed a few dinosaurs to finish their days at the beginning of Creation, or maybe they thrived incredibly across the face of the earth for years, or maybe they never even walked, but were created by the creator into the crust of His mature earth out of His sheer creativity.
I have no idea. I wasn’t there. But, I do know this, it’s great to know that God has made it all.