Genesis is a book of beginnings. The first chapter tells the story of how God came to this planet—whatever it was, which He had evidently previously1 created —and “improved His real estate.”2
Scripture indicates that the Creation story took place only several thousand years ago,3 in one literal week.4 That’s an awful lot to happen in just seven days, according to some people. Surely it must have taken much, much longer for the planet to develop—at least a millennium for each metaphorical “day,” say some; millions of years, say others. But assuming God’s power is infinite, the question ought to be, “Why did He take so long?”5 God could have created the whole planet in the smallest-imaginable fraction of a second, including everything on it in all its intricacies and in perfect working order. Why would He take a whole week?
One reason might have been the establishment of the weekly cycle and its recurring Sabbath. He knew humanity would need it. But beyond Sabbath, weren’t we created in His image, to be creative in our sphere the other six days of the week? Another answer to the “Why?” comes clearer, then, as we look at the “God/verbs” in Genesis one.6
At first glance, the chapter is about Creation, the beginning of life on this earth. Looking more closely, noting that each verb (action word) has God as its “subject”—the One doing the action, we see that Genesis 1 is about God and what He did on each day. The first verse presents a concise overview: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (KJV). God is the “First Cause.” He is the divine Designer-Originator. As we study the “works of [His] fingers,” we learn something about Him—which was to have been the purpose of science.7
Continuing through the first chapter, we see these subject/verb combinations of God’s enterprise: “God moved”8 (over the face of the waters); could this be seen as a type of divine survey? Then “God said” 9 —He specified in words what was to be done, and it’s interesting to see that “God divided”10 some parts from other parts, and organized them according to their function—“God set.”11 “God called”12 things He had made by names (except the animals, which would be Adam’s first job). “Let us make”13 fits into the sequence of another day of Creation Week, where we might have seen Him kneeling in the soft clay at a riverbank and forming with His hands the features of a man. Then He breathed His own breath into the new nostrils, and “the man began to live.”14
And “God saw”15 everything that He had made, and it was good—even “very good”16 —quality control!
The crown of His creation was man and woman, together made in His image. As we look at these “God verbs” in the context of humanity, might we reasonably deduce that He wanted us to be able to see what He did? As we learn from His example, might we be more deliberate and effective in our own crafting? First we see a need, then determine the steps to fill that need, and perform the necessary functions or fabricate the perceived apparatus from the supplies at hand, organizing and structuring them according to the plan in mind. Rather than speak substance into existence as God did, in our creativity we restructure or re-purpose the materials He has provided according to our own ideas. He designed our minds with that inventive capacity.
It seems that understanding who God is and how He works would play a crucial part in comprehending ourselves and our responsibilities. It should also help us come to balanced conclusions regarding the realities of the universe. But some might wonder, What practical difference does it make? Isn’t the creation/evolution controversy only so much theory and theology?
Consider John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Sanitarium, world-famous for both his surgical methods and his natural remedies. Swept from his Biblical moorings by pride, he drifted into pantheism—the idea that God is not a personal Being, but exists in everything we see. Thus he was prepared to embrace the concept that nature merely created itself. Why would that not be possible, if God were actually and literally part of everything?
But the “ifs” didn’t stop there. If the natural world did evolve, humans are merely on a par with the rest of the animal kingdom—so why could we not employ methods to cultivate man similar to what we do with cattle? We breed healthy animals and remove defective ones to develop a superior stock. “In 1914, Dr. Kellogg organized the first Race Betterment Conference in Battle Creek, Michigan….‘We have wonderful new races of horses, cows, and pigs,’ argued Dr. Kellogg. ‘Why should we not have a new and improved race of men?’ He wanted the ‘white races of Europe … to establish a Race of Human Thoroughbreds.’”17
The concept was based on laws of heredity discovered by Gregor Mendel in working with peas in Europe, and the evolutionary doctrine of “survival of the fittest.” It was called eugenics, meaning “good breeding”—eventually “well-born,”—a term coined by Francis Galton, early statistician and half-cousin to none other than Charles Darwin, father of modern evolution.18
Dr. Kellogg was only one of many proponents of eugenics in this country. Other Americans, including Leon Whitney and Madison Grant, wrote books on the subject, which were eagerly read in 1924 by Corporal Adolph Hitler in a German prison. He was profoundly moved. The idea of eugenics solved his problem, he said. He wrote grateful fan mail to Grant and Whitney, stating that Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race was his “Bible.”19
Within nine years Hitler was chancellor of Germany, having “seized power following an inconclusive election.”20 “During the 12-year Reich, he never varied from the eugenic doctrines of identification, segregation, sterilization, euthanasia, eugenic courts, and eventually mass termination…in lethal chambers.” He was purging his country of the “inferiors”—gypsies, homosexuals, dissidents, anyone deemed unworthy or defective according to his own standard, particularly Jews-anyone in his way of creating a “super-race.” In 1934, American “Joseph DeJarnette, superintendent of Virginia’s Western State Hospital, complained in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: ‘The Germans are beating us at our own game,’”21 although “before the death camps of World War II the idea that eugenics could lead to genocide was not taken seriously.”22 [From Wikipedia free online encyclopedia]
In Hitler’s evolutionary paradigm, since humanity developed and arrived on the scene through death and destruction, more of the same would only bring about further advancement. The Nazi worldview not only permitted war, but necessitated it. If they didn’t fight and overcome, they would be overcome; they “knew” it, because the science they believed had declared it to be so.23 “Nature is cruel, therefore we are entitled to be cruel”24 was his reasoning. The “survival of the fittest” became the model of operation of the Nazis, in self-proclaimed “applied biology”25 which would merely help natural evolution move a little faster. They themselves were the “fit”; they themselves would determine who were the “unfit,” feeling free to exterminate them as they wished, and experiment with whomever they chose in the process, to see what they could learn.26 They were “playing God”—but “creating” by destruction and subtraction. Their leader saw himself as a savior, “a second Christ who has been sent to institute in the world a new system of values based on brutality and violence.”27 The actual result of their faulty philosophy, the logical sequel of following “the lights of their perverted science,”28 was what we today call the Holocaust.
Of course every concept the Nazis advanced was not bad in itself. As “creators” of the super-race, they were the first to link tobacco with cancer. They decried not only smoking, but also alcoholic inebriation, and they promoted the benefits of exercise and hard work and a vegetarian diet—even the blessings of whole grains and soybeans! But the overall purpose of the healthful living propounded by Nazi Germany was far from glorifying the God who made them.29
And some of them did believe in God, but which god? Could it have been the Creator-God of the Bible? Is there any way they could have known and loved the selfless, merciful servant-God revealed by Jesus?30 He taught that “‘The most important commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” The second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” No other commandment is greater than these’”31 In the final Judgment, we will be judged not by the orthodoxy of our doctrine, but by the kind of person it has made us. “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”32 “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”33, 34
What is the practical outcome of our perceiving God as “creating,” as it were, through “subtraction”—that is, by means of destruction, tooth and claw, survival and evolution—instead of through “addition”— matter out of nothing but His own infinite energy? How will our characters be affected by our understanding of who He is and how He works? In what ways might our belief about the nature and character of God—as Creator, specifically—modify how we behave and how we treat one another?
If we work and play with God, creative in His image, in our sphere, will we be less apt to endeavor to “play god”? But if we refuse to learn from history, who of us is ready to repeat it?
1 Genesis 1:2 states that “the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”—which indicates that something was here before the action mentioned in the succeeding verse. Exactly what was here and for how long, the Bible does not say, which does not conflict with evidence of long ages in inanimate rock. See also Brand, Leonard—Faith, Reason, and Earth History.
2 White, Ellen—The Ministry of Healing, pp. 414, 415 “In the creation of the earth, God was not indebted to pre-existing matter. ‘He spake, and it was; . . . He commanded, and it stood fast.’ Psalm 33:9. All things, material or spiritual, stood up before the Lord Jehovah at His voice and were created for His own purpose. The heavens and all the host of them, the earth and all things therein, came into existence by the breath of His mouth.” [This understanding does not require that no pre-existing matter was here; it only states that God was not indebted to pre-existing matter. He would have created it at a previous time.]
3 The interlocking genealogy of Genesis 5, referring to the age of the father at the birth of his son, contributes more than information regarding lineage, as in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The Genesis 5 genealogy is closer to a chronograph, providing chronological as well as genealogical data—indicating at the very oldest a “young earth.”
4 White, Ellen—Patriarchs and Prophets, p.111 “[T]he assumption that the events of the first week required thousands upon thousands of years, strikes directly at the foundation of the fourth commandment. It represents the Creator as commanding men to observe the week of literal days in commemoration of vast, indefinite periods. This is unlike His method of dealing with His creatures. It makes indefinite and obscure that which He has made very plain. It is infidelity in its most insidious and hence most dangerous form; its real character is so disguised that it is held and taught by many who profess to believe the Bible.”
5 Research scientists are learning that some chemical reactions take place on the scale of femtoseconds. A microsecond is one millionth (10-6) of a second. A nanosecond is one billionth (10-9) of a second, and a femtosecond is one millionth of a nanosecond (10-15).
6 The “God/verbs” concept was original with Jim Davidson.
7 See Romans 1:20, The Message— “By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.”
8 Genesis 1:2.
9 Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, etc.
10 Genesis 1:7, 9, 14.
11 Genesis 1:17, 18.
12 Genesis 1:5, 8, 10.
13 Genesis 1:26.
14 Genesis 2:7, Today’s English Version— “Then the Lord God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; he breathed life-giving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live.”
15 Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25.
16 Genesis 1:31.
17 Black, Edwin—War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, p. 88: “In 1914, Dr. Kellogg organized the first Race Betterment Conference in Battle Creek, Michigan. The conference’s purpose was to lay the foundations for the creation of a super race, amid an atmosphere of lavish banquets, stirring calls to biological action, and scientific grandiloquence. ‘We have wonderful new races of horses, cows, and pigs,’ argued Dr. Kellogg. ‘Why should we not have a new and improved race of men?’ He wanted the ‘white races of Europe … to establish a Race of Human Thoroughbreds.’”
18 If the theory propounded in his book matched the title, The Origin of Species and the Preservation of the Favored Races (emphasis supplied), who should be surprised at its consummation in the Holocaust?
19 Black, Edwin—War Against the Weak, pp. 259, 260.
20 Black, Edwin—War Against the Weak, p. 277.
21 Black, Edwin—War Against the Weak, p. 277.
22 Wikipedia, “Eugenics.” See also Black, Edwin—War Against the Weak, p. 258 “The lethal chamber was a eugenic concept more than two decades before Nevada approved the first such chamber for criminal executions in 1921….”
23 Tuchman, Barbara W. —The Guns of August, p. 11. “‘War,’ [German General Bernhardi] stated, ‘is a biological necessity’; it is the carrying out among humankind of ‘the natural law, upon which all the laws of Nature rest, the law of the struggle for existence.’ Nations, he said, must progress or decay; ‘there can be no standing still,’ and Germany must choose ‘world power or downfall.’…She cannot attain her ‘great moral ends’ without increased political power, an enlarged sphere of influence, and new territory. This increase in power, ‘befitting our importance,’ and ‘which we are entitled to claim,’ is a ‘political necessity’ and ‘the first and foremost duty of the State.’ In his own italics Bernhardi announced, ‘What we now wish to attain must be fought for,’ and from here he galloped home to the finish line: ‘Conquest thus becomes a law of necessity.’”
24 Fest, Joachim—Hitler, pp. 679, 680 “We still do not know when Hitler made the decision on the ‘final solution’ of the Jewish question, for no document on the matter exists. Much earlier than his closest followers, evidently, he understood such words such as ‘elimination’ or ‘extermination’ not merely metaphorically, but as acts of physical annihilation, because such thoughts held no terrors for him. ‘Here too,’ Goebbels wrote with an undertone of admiration, ‘the Führer has been the fearless vanguard and spokesman of a radical solution.’ Even at the beginning of the thirties Hitler had, among his intimates, called for the development of a ‘technique of depopulation’ and explicitly added that by that he meant the elimination of entire races. ‘Nature is cruel; therefore we are also entitled to be cruel. When I send the flower of German youth into the steel hail of the war without feeling the slightest regret over the precious German blood that is being spilled, should I also not have the right to eliminate millions of an inferior race that multiply like vermin.’”
25 Edwin Black—War Against the Weak, p. 270. “Hitler’s deputy, Rudolph Hess, coined a popular adage in the Reich, ‘National Socialism is nothing but applied biology.’”
26 Josef Mengele, the most notorious “Death Angel” of the Holocaust, performed grisly medical experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz before their deaths—all in the name of “science.” He “considered himself a warrior in the battle for eugenic supremacy. In an autobiographical account, Mengele spoke of his desire to create a super race as his initial motive for becoming a doctor.”— Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, p. 356.
27 “Hitler—As he believes himself to be,” from A Psychologial Profile of Adolph Hitler: His Life and Legend by Walter C. Langer, Office of Strategic Services, Washington, D.C. (The Nizkor Project)). “…now when he is addressed with the salutation, ‘Heil Hitler, our Savior,’ he bows slightly at the compliment in the phrase—and believes it. As time goes on, it becomes more and more certain that Hitler believes that he is really the ‘Chosen One’ and that in his thinking he conceives of himself as a second Christ who has been sent to institute in the world a new system of values based on brutality and violence. He has fallen in love with the image of himself in this role and has surrounded himself with his own portraits.”
28 Winston Churchill—“Their Finest Hour,” House of Commons, June 18, 1940.
29 Compare “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).
30 Hitler referred to “the Jewish Christ-creed with its effeminate, pity-ethics.” (See “Hitler—As he believes himself to be,” from A Psychologial Profile of Adolph Hitler: His Life and Legend by Walter C. Langer, Office of Strategic Services, Washington, D.C. (The Nizkor Project)).
31 Mark 12:29-31, NLT
32 Matthew 25:40, KJV
33 Romans 15:1, KJV
34 White, Ellen—The Desire of Ages, p. 440 “By all that has given us advantage over another,—be it education and refinement, nobility of character, Christian training, religious experience,—we are in debt to those less favored; and, so far as lies in our power, we are to minister unto them. If we are strong, we are to stay up the hands of the weak.”
By contrast, eugenicists complained that Christians were interfering with the natural flow of evolution by helping the poor and socially downtrodden. Left alone, they would die and the race would be better off for their loss.
Consider a comment from Margaret Sanger, quoted by Edwin Black in War Against the Weak: “Organized charity itself is the symptom of a malignant social disease. Those vast, complex, interrelated organizations aiming to control and to diminish the spread of misery and destitution and all the menacing evils that spring out of this sinisterly fertile soil, are the surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependents. My criticism, therefore, is not directed at the ‘failure’ of philanthropy, but rather at its success.”