Friday, 13 June 2008
In his book entitled Eight Kingdoms, Michael Pearl included a whole section on what he calls The Gap Fact. I haven't read the book, but Mike was so kind as to excerpt that section on his website, usually available via clicking on the post title above (UPDATE: Alas, like most old links, it has gone dead. But I have gotten a hold of the book itself, which turned out to vary slightly from the version quoted here).
Without coming out and naming any of them, Mike really takes Creation Scientists to task for rejecting what they call The Gap Theory. But Michael Pearl's "Gap Fact" is a rather different animal than the Ruin-Reconstruction Theory of Thomas Chalmers and C. I. Scofield. The Ruin-Reconstruction Theory starts with the latest geological speculation about the earth's history, and then goes to the Bible to try to find a place to fit it in. Michael Pearl's Gap Theory, however, starts and ends with the King James Bible, without any more regard for what the old-age geologists may think than for the latest theories of Scientific Creationism.
Well, to a point. Mike opens his excerpt with the startling statement, "Modern secular scientists believe that the earth and universe are millions of years old. We who know and believe the Bible reject that claim outright." But having rejected millions of years as having been way too long (actually, that isn't nearly long enough; geologists now maintain that the earth and universe are several billions of years old), he goes on to say, "After many centuries or millennium the earth, created “to be inhabited forever” (Isa. 45:17-18), was renewed with man, a creature of less statue than its original custodians (Heb. 2:7)."
Leaving aside the two misspelled words, this sentence begs the question of the length of the Gap between the first two verses of Genesis. How could its duration in years be expressed so vaguely as hundreds or thousands, but to the unquestioned exclusion of millions? For that matter, where does he come from with the idea that the Gap must have lasted for centuries--or even a decade? He seems to be unsure of how far to trust the geologists while rejecting both their claims, and those of the Young Earth Creationists (YECs), as to the true age of the earth.
But regardless of his own vague theories as to its duration, Mike makes what first appears to be a pretty good case for its existence. I won't go into all the details here, since the link is usually available, but I will interact with some of the points he brings up.
1) History of the Gap Fact
"Furthermore, well before Darwin came along, and before backslidden Christians sought to make time for evolution, Bible believers knew and proclaimed that the earth existed before the six days of Genesis. One example will suffice. Everyone is familiar with 5th century Augustine. He wrote in his Confessions that which was commonly believed in his day." (He goes on to quote from book 12:VIII:8)
This is a valid point, but it is helpful to his thesis only because Augustine quotes from a Latin version of a Greek recension of a Hebrew edition of the book of Genesis. Had Augustine been able to read Hebrew, it would have erased the heaven/heavens distinction which forms a major pillar in Michael Pearl's Gap Theory. In fact, Mike goes on to say, without any documentation whatsoever, "The Jews of old recognized this obvious truth, that the earth was created sometime before Gen 1:3. They had no reason to be biased one way or the other. They just believed the Hebrew text as it read and therefore believed in a “gap”." Somebody had to make this up, because it simply isn't true. One wonders if Mike even realises, as enamoured as he is with the King James Version, that in Genesis the majority Hebrew text consistently has "heavens" and the Greek "heaven," with the KJV not consistent in following either.
Mike makes a big deal out of the recent origin of the anti-gap (YEC) theory. He writes, "When I open up a commentary, unless it was written in the last twenty five years, I know that it is going to assume the reality of a gap. I went through the ones in my library and all but one recognized the gap. They are: The Bible Knowledge Commentary; A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory; The Wycliffe Bible Commentary; Jamieson, Fausset and Brown; and Bible Believer’s Commentary. None of them sought to insert evolution into the gap. . ."
But here he misses the whole point of the Ruin-Reconstruction Theory. It is not to insert evolution into the gap, but the long ages that evolution requires. Gap theorists roundly reject evolution while wholeheartedly accepting billions of years. This is just one of the inconsistencies that YEC's point out about it--not whether or not it is based on a clear understanding of Genesis 1:1-2.
2) Geological evidence for the Gap Fact
It appears that Mike is as ignorant of geology as he is of Hebrew. He states, "The evidence for the historical position of a gap is much more extensive scripturally and does not resort to extra Biblical arguments to support its position. We don’t point to the age of rocks or the time it takes for sand to form, etc. We know that regardless of when the earth was created or how old it is, it had to have been created with the appearance of age, just as was Adam. The trees God created had growth rings and rocks contained fossils."
Here Mike confuses growth rings and fossils with indications of age. Growth rings are merely indications of cyclic dormancy, and fossils are indications of underwater burial. Neither of these necessarily have anything to do with age, and it seems ludicrous to so matter-of-factly attribute them to God's creative activity. It is much more likely that God directly created sand so that the plants would have something other than solid rock, layered or otherwise, into which to sink their roots!
One point that is well put is that the second day of creation is obviously referring to God operating on previously existing material. But even here Mike's language trips him up, when he refers to the "days of creation." Elsewhere he makes a major distinction between "creating" which he only sees occurring on days five and six, and "making" which he sees as occurring on all six days. But he never calls them "the days of making!"
Well, perhaps I am being too general in ascribing the act of 'making' to the first day. Mike never clarified whether God 'made' light, or 'created' it. But he elsewhere claims (based on Job 28:7) that the stars were part of the original day-zero creation. How stars could exist without any light to shine forth from them, he never explains. True, it would be downright handy to have stars billions of light-years away not having to be only 6000 years old. But he's already rejected millions of years, so this helps his case not a whit.
3) Linguistic Evidence for the Gap Fact
Now as Mike gets into the original languages of Scripture, he obviously leaves behind the familiar and launches out into the wild and wonderful world of dogmatic speculation. Now, I'm no scholar of the biblical languages, and I haven't put enough study into this topic to give as accurate a picture as possible of the situation, but it took me no time at all to find his theory full of holes at this level.
For instance, he confidently states:
"There are two different words used in regard to God’s creative words—created and made. These two English words correspond exactly to two Hebrew words (also two Greek words and two Latin words in the Greek and Latin translations)."
This is not totally bogus, as there actually are two different Hebrew words that correspond to two words each in Greek, Latin, and English. However, this is far from being an accurate description of the case in Genesis. While the KJV follows fairly closely to the Latin in translating bara/creavit as 'create' and asha/fecit as 'make,' there simply is no such correspondence in the Greek words epoihsen and egeneto. Epoihsen is almost always used to translate both words, and egeneto only appears in parallel, as an an alternate translation of bara! And even in the Hebrew, both bara and asha are used of creating man in God's image, which Michael Pearl tries to split up into creation of man's soul (bara) and his body (asha)--a point he takes pains not to bring out.
4) Divine Inspiration for the Gap Fact
My final point shows the danger of basing a doctrine on the idiosyncrasies of the King James Version. Speaking of the anti-gap theory, Mike writes,
"If God made the heaven and the earth in six days, as the two passages above declare, then the passage in Gen 1:1-2 that says “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” could not be other than part of the six days, not some event prior to it as the gap proponents claim. Their argument would be entirely valid and irrefutable if the passages rendered the word heaven in the plural as it does elsewhere, and if it said created instead of made. But the Holy Spirit rendered heaven singular, indicating that only one of three heavens was created in Gen 1:1. "
Actually, this is saying too much. Because the Hebrew of Genesis One already does say 'heavens', and saying 'created' rather than 'made' would not destroy the meaning. The anti-gap argument does not stand or fall on the Bible version used to support it.
But Micheal Pearl's Gap Theory does.
Need I say more?