The Biblical Narrative: What Is Now, Isn’t What Was Then


Science has messed up an understanding of history. For example, back when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, scientists predicted an unrecoverable blow to the ecosystem. The devastation—“hundreds of square miles were reduced to wasteland”—caused by the blast, could not be overcome for hundreds of years. Or so they said, with the same authoritative voice that all scientific pronouncements are made.

Imagine the shock when nature didn’t cooperate with science. The predictions of ecosystem disaster were simply wrong: “For example, within just three years, 90% of the original plant species were found to be growing within the blast zone” (from “After devastation … the recovery”).

The point is, science thinks things thousands of years ago acted the same way researchers have observed them to act today—as if the intervening time did nothing to change the way things work. Consequently, things like people who were nine feet tall or who lived for nine hundred years simply get filed in the “just a myth” category. So does a worldwide flood and talking animals. We know these things aren’t true, the scientific rationale goes, because we’ve never observed these things.

One more problem—the basic idea of evolution, of survival of the fittest, suggests that the strongest survives, the smartest or most capable. In essence, in practice if not in philosophy, evolution suggests that people are getting better.

So how could there have been a period of time in which men were taller, stronger, smarter, and lived way, way longer than we do now? Science simply says it didn’t happen that way.

But what if the Bible is true? What if God did create Adam and Eve and all the plants and animals and called all He made good because it was all at optimum capacity? That scenario doesn’t leave much room for the natural order getting better. Unless God’s “good” was simple a good start.

How are we to make sense of the Bible in light of the observations of science? Or do we simply dismiss science as ineffectual in understanding history? Do we accept the Bible with no attempt to integrate scientific discovers? Take the existence of dinosaurs for example.

There are actually a number of theories that Biblical scholars have postulated through the years to explain dinosaurs. One is the gap theory—the idea that the dinosaur age existed in a period of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Another idea is that dinosaurs were corrupt and not taken onto the ark, so they died in the flood. Still another theory is that they were taken onto the ark but became extinct after the flood.

My own theory is that dinosaurs were in the serpent family, falling under God’s curse:

The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life (Gen. 3:14)

Just like Adam’s consequence for his sin affected all of mankind, might not the serpent’s complicit involvement in the temptation of Adam and Eve, affected the entire reptilian family?

Really, there are all kinds of possibilities if a person first accepts the Biblical account as true. And by “accepting the Biblical account,” I mean the entire Bible.

Consequently when Scripture says, in God’s way of reckoning time, a day is like a thousand years (see 2 Peter 3:8), that’s something to consider when contemplating a “six day” creation. So also is the fact that no way existed to measure twenty-four hours until God created the sun on “day” four. What, then, did God mean when He said, The evening and the morning were the first day? The second day? The third? In truth, we don’t actually know for sure.

But what about the giants and living for hundreds of years? Isn’t all that far-fetched?

Keep in mind, we’re starting with the premise that the Biblical narrative is true. The discussion, then, would be how do we explain these phenomena, not how do we prove them.

According to the Bible, in those early days there was one land mass; there was no rain, but a mist watered the earth; no animals were carnivores; and a person’s natural life-span was over eight centuries. And then there was a worldwide flood, a division of the land, people stopped living for hundreds of years, and they started speaking different languages. In other words, everything changed.

Is there a reasonable explanation for all this? Actually there is a possibility tucked into Genesis 1. Verses 6-10 discuss land separated from water, but also water separated from water by an “expanse,” or “heaven,” which we now call space.

What if our earth’s atmosphere once contained a layer of water that protected the inhabitants from the harmful rays of the sun? Wouldn’t it be possible to imagine people living far longer lives? And animals living on a different diet, not needing meat? Wouldn’t it also be possible to envision a worldwide flood if that layer of water gave way?

Some people also postulate a layer of water under the crust of the earth that protected the inhabitants from volcanic activity. Kind of like a thicker water table.

Which brings us back to the lessons of Mount St. Helens.

Because things are the way they are today, we cannot assume to know what the world was like thousands of years ago, unless we have written records preserved miraculously by the One who knows exactly how those records and scientific observation fit together.

In short, science doesn’t have to be feared or ignored, but it does have to be understood in light of the infallible record given to us by our omniscient, all powerful God.

This article is a revised and edited version of one that appeared here in March, 2013.

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