I was watching a PBS special program recently, part of their Nova series. I find Nova to be absolutely fascinating because it frequently deals with the natural historical record of the universe. This particular episode was on the topic of "blue hole" diving in the Bahamas. I had never heard of blue hole diving, but soon learned that it is a type of very dangerous, but potentially highly rewarding cave diving. Thousands of years ago, sea level was not so high as it is today in our era. The Bahamian Islands are composed largely of coral, and natural erosion forces have created a network of spectacular underwater caves which often have a depth of 250 feet or more. In these miniaturized ecosystems, there are eons worth of sediment, stalactites, mixtures of fresh water and salt water (responding to the ground table and sea level), and assorted chemistries attributable to the life forms which inhabit such caves. The caves are a natural museum for the preservation of the skeletal remains of past life which at one time surrounded the blue hole. Bones and shells which are frequently found are of nearly museum quality, naturally preserved by the waters, and virtually undisturbed for nearly their entire existence.
Many ideas raced through my mind as I processed what was unfolding on my TV screen. At one point, geologists were shown slicing one of the cave's stalactites, using a high speed diamond tipped saw blade. The cutting revealed many layers, each of which indicated a season, and the climactic conditions that existed in each season, extending back even through several ice ages. While there is no natural iron content in the Bahamas, there were deposits of iron dust in the layer immediately preceding each ice age. I learned that each ice age is anticipated by a massive build up of dust from the Sahara Desert across the ocean, known for its high iron content. Interesting.
Those who watched this show, depending on their particular beliefs or agenda related to God, might see this and think to themselves, "Ah, more evidence invalidating the Genesis account of creation!" But, does it really, or is this yet another example of seemingly sophisticated but in reality simplistic thinking in which we humans often indulge? Who told us that the earth is only approximately 6,000 years old? That is written nowhere. It is a guess, based largely on interpretation. Even if one embraces the so-called "gap theory" creationism, who told us that each day of the Genesis account is an actual 24 hour day? Certainly, we're all familiar with the scriptures which indicate that for God, a day is as a thousand years, but who is to say that even that is literal, as opposed to a figurative description to make the relativity of time and space understandable for a generation of humanity which largely predated modern science? These are all man-made assumptions, some of which are actually taught as part of the official doctrines or dogma of different church groups. But, they are no different from any other extra-biblical teachings which frequently dog organized religion. It is an attempt to legalistically spell out all of the specifics, and to provide answers that are often not even implied. If a Creator wanted us to focus primarily on our own human lives, wouldn't there be a little mystery behind the ultimate beginning of mankind, and the ultimate fulfillment, or end?
Time as we know it is relative to a fixed point in the universe, broadly our own solar system, and specifically our planet. Our time is not absolute for the entire universe. As an example, as we examine what might constitute a day, or a year, relative to the rotation and orbit of the planet Uranus, it's a no brainer that these values will differ quite widely from what we experience on planet Earth. Since these values would vary exponentially throughout the cosmos, for an eternal, omniscient being to communicate with His charges, He would need to link Himself to their own understanding of these things, although He Himself is not constrained or confined by such boundaries. He would have no problem understanding us, but the probability of our own human miscommunication, or misunderstanding relative to Him and amongst ourselves would be high. This is especially true of the generations of people who lived prior to Copernicus, Galileo, and our own Albert Einstein. The time periods in the creation narrative, at least as seen from the Creator's perspectives, would be subject to skew as interpreted by man.
The only terms a writer could use to describe elapsed time to a bunch of pre-Einstein goat herders would be the relative words "day" and "night". If this written description was indeed inspired by the aforementioned Creator, He would have known that once mankind developed sufficiently to understand relativity, the description would still remain appropriate in its reinterpreted, or expanded form. Whether a creator used a slow, gradual method of creation (evolution), or a fast, instant process is largely irrelevant. The creation narrative in Genesis can lend itself to the "Big Bang", expanding universe, and the evolutionary process just as well as it can to instantaneous creation, although to me it makes more sense for an eternal being to take His time. There would be no need for hurry.
Some might wonder about Adam and Eve, whether they were literal created beings, or byproducts of a guided evolutionary process. Part of any creative process involves introducing components into a project at the time the project is prepared for them. Those who have maintained aquariums and terrariums have a deep appreciation for this ecological principle. Anthropologists acknowledge that the human species made an incredible, observable leap forward in terms of accumulated intelligence and ability to preserve and share this intelligence dating from approximately 10,000 years ago. Despite the denials of the 6,000 year/literal 24 hour types of creationists, we know that there are distinct sets of fossils related to specific stages of mankind's development. There is adequate room for the introduction of an Adam, and an Eve into this system. At some point or other in an evolutionary process, one would expect to find the first beings with modern brains, both hemispheres communicating under single control, and for these to be common ancestors for all people with some version of that modern brain today. A Christian would be quick to point out that the writers of the New Testament believed in Adam. Both Jesus and Paul seem to have been convinced that the characters in the Old Testament literally did exist.
Do our geological records invalidate the Bible? As a truth seeker, I don't know that I'd be comfortable rushing to such a judgment. Science presents a neutral evidentiary trail, and often seeks to interpret or explain it. In its purest form, it neither presumes, nor denies a creator. That is left to the individual. The modern church has no problem whatsoever in incorporating Galileo's now much confirmed model of our solar system, and the other astral bodies into belief, although this must have been a source of residual confusion and debate during the generations surrounding his lifetime. What of Darwin's more recent research, and much of our modern science? Is it not possible that the church today and some prominent Christians are behaving in a way similar to the that of the church during the time of the Renaissance? And, would we really respect their integrity if they did not treat their cherished beliefs in a loving, repspectful way, cherishing them, and attempting to preserve them? That is exactly what we'd hope for them to do.