Questions on Creation
Were there really dinosaurs on earth? If so, when and how is this compatible with the Genesis account of creation?
These are frequently asked questions, and important ones, since opposing viewpoints thrive and conflicting worldviews rest on differing assumptions.
While we can’t absolutely rule out the idea that dinosaur fossils were created by God and aren’t evidence of extinct creatures, we consider it most probable that various dinosaurs did indeed exist. And we’re well aware that some Christians are reluctant to accept this evidence because they think it conflicts with biblical revelation.
We are less certain what these extinct creatures really looked like. Dinosaur fossils usually consist of fragments. Even if scientists find nearly complete skeletons, they still must guess what the animal originally looked like. Questions abound: Were they sluggish or swift, cold-blooded or warm-blooded? Were they fat or slim, hairy or feathered? Reconstructing dinosaurs from fossil remnants involves much guesswork and yields frequent disagreement among scholars. Answers are elusive, and speculation is widespread despite occasional knowledge of significant skeletal structures.
Working with evolutionary assumptions, many claim this animal group existed between 230 million and 65 million years ago, with individual species of dinosaurs continually evolving and going extinct. The bony fossils don’t establish that timetable; these conclusions stem from evolutionary preconceptions coupled with dating methods that reflect an evolutionary bias. When presented as “scientifically proven,” however, this timetable intimidates Christians.
Relying on Bible information, we believe dinosaurs were created on day five and/or day six of creation (Genesis 1:20-25). Precisely when and why they became extinct is not revealed. Despite hundreds of dinosaur “names” in use today, there may well have been relatively few “kinds” of dinosaurs taken on Noah’s ark. If they were still living at the time of the great flood, each kind was represented on board the vessel.
How long they existed after the flood we don’t know. An examination of ancient literature from varying geographical areas reveals compelling evidence that “dragons” were real animals comparable to modern reconstructions of dinosaurs. Biblical descriptions of certain creatures may well be references to now extinct dinosaurs (Job 40:15-21 and Job 41, for example). Losing species to extinction (currently estimated at more than 27,000 species per year) seems to be a long-standing phenomenon on earth since the fall.
COMPATIBLE WITH SCRIPTURE? YES.
The main debate over dinosaurs isn’t about the fossil evidence itself but flows from different assumptions about time and history. Those assumptions are coupled with limitations of evidence and of human ability to know details in the history of God’s creation. It’s really about the most trustworthy source of information. Is it God’s incomplete yet adequate account of earth’s history? Or man’s incomplete, changing, and inadequate theories drawn from limited and ambiguous discoveries bolstered by evolutionary presuppositions? The Christian approach is to walk by faith. The reality of dinosaurs is fully compatible with Scripture and Christian conviction.
Whenever we revisit this topic, vital truths come to mind. The praiseworthy power of God coupled with his love of diversity in his creation is highlighted. The devastating impact of sin, contributing to the extinction of dinosaurs and so many other animals and plants, merits sober reflection. When striving to grasp details of earth’s early history with our limitations, we can appreciate the wisdom of this sentiment: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Ultimately we praise God for revealing his remedy for sin and his key to releasing all creatures from sin’s consequences: the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
I am struggling with the biblical account that the earth was created in six, 24-hour days. There is significant scientific evidence that the earth and the universe are significantly older. Carbon dating is just one example of a scientific method that helps determine the age of historical objects. I understand WELS believes that the bible is 100% the inspired, factual word of God, but isn't a thousand years like a day to the Lord? As an example of evolution that we see, bacteria are constantly mutating based on exposure to anti-biotics. Man bred wolves to become multiple breeds of dogs; is that evolution? I would appreciate your response to these questions.
As Christians, our starting point is that Scripture is always true and truthful. (Numbers 23:19; John 17:17) That means that if Scripture says one thing and other sources say something else, we side with Scripture. We side with Scripture because God is ultimately its author, even though he used human beings to write down his words.
Another important principle regarding Scripture is that we interpret Scripture as the context directs us. This means understanding the genre of the section of Scripture under consideration. Genesis 1 and 2 are historical narratives. So, we understand the content literally, not figuratively or poetically. Thus, the “days” of Genesis 1 are days—periods of time that have “evening” and morning.” There is nothing in the language of the Bible’s creation account to indicate that the days were longer than 24-hour periods.
References to 2 Peter 3:8 (“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”) have no connection whatsoever with the creation account. 2 Peter 3:8 speaks of God not being bound to or affected by time. A day on earth affects God no more than a thousand years on earth. God does not age. He is not affected by time. He exists outside time. He is eternal. When people try to say the days of the creation account were longer than 24-hour periods because of what 2 Peter 3:8 says, they are guilty of illegitimate biblical interpretation.
Do we find variety within species? (That is another question you raised.) We do. But we do not find change going across the biblical “kind” (Genesis 1).
Carbon dating is not as precise as it is made out to be. I can suggest a paper at the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File that addresses this subject. In fact, there are numerous papers on file that address creation and evolution. You will find some of those papers addressing the fact that God made the world with the appearance of age. (There were fully mature fruit trees, for example, to provide food for Adam and Eve.)
I can also direct you to the website of the Lutheran Science Institute, an organization within WELS, that can provide you with even more reading material.
When it comes to creation, the Bible presents an eye-witness account. The only one present was God, the Creator. He tells us that he spoke and called things into existence. He did not oversee an evolutionary process, nor were things made apart from him. He spoke, and his powerful word created. “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11). The biblical record is clear: God is the creator. God bless your study of his word.
The Bible tells us that only God is eternal and uncreated (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-2). The Bible also teaches that God created everything in six days (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11). This includes the angels (Colossians 1:16). What the Bible does not tell us is on what day of creation week God created the angels.
While the time of the angels’ creation is a mystery for us, their existence is not. How wonderful it is to know that they carry out the will of God in serving God’s children on earth (Psalm 103:20; Hebrews 1:14)!
The particular subject matter being taught to your child gives you a special occasion and need to bring up your child “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
You can explain to your child that when people reject the truth of God’s word—in this case, the historical account of creation—they replace it with their own ideas. You can teach your child from Genesis 1 and 2 what God the Creator says about the way in which he made all things. Since God always speaks the truth (Numbers 23:19) and because whatever is in his word is truth (John 17:17), we know and believe that God’s biblical record of the origin of all things is factual.
To help teach the truths of creationism to your child, you may be able to obtain printed resources through your congregation’s Sunday School or church library. Additionally, Northwestern Publishing House has materials for teaching the truth of God’s creative work to children. This link provides examples of those materials.
You do not mention whether or not one of our Lutheran elementary schools is an option for you, but the biblical, Christ-centered education in those schools is a great blessing you could provide for your child if you have that opportunity.
Practically, you will want to debrief your child to see what he/she thinks of the evolutionary material being taught. Listen and ask questions. Remind your child that standing up for what God says in the Bible is not always popular. Pray that God the Holy Spirit uses your Bible instruction with your child to deepen and develop Christian faith. God bless you as you continue teaching your child what a loving, powerful God we have.
Does the Bible preclude life on another planet? With the vastness of space, we often hear of other planets that could be capable of sustaining life. Genesis details the creation of earth, but doesn't mention the possibility of life elsewhere. Can we read from its silence that there could be no life elsewhere, or could life beyond earth be possible, according to Scripture? Thank you.
The only extraterrestrial life of which the Bible speaks is that of the angels. Scripture throughout speaks of God’s interaction—especially his saving activity—with people on this earth (John 3:16). Similarly, Jesus spoke of the need to take his gospel message to “all the world” (Mark 16:15).
God’s record of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 describes a vast universe, with people on earth as the crown of his creation. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests the possibility of life elsewhere.
No precise number is available. Biblical chronologies—and they are incomplete—suggest that God created the world within the past 6,000 to 10,000 years. Of course, God created a fully mature world, so objects had age at the very beginning of time.
My family is planning a summer vacation and we will be passing close to Cincinnati, which is near the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter. In your view, would these attractions provide us with a Christian perspective and message that is worth considering? We are aware of some who have described the visit as valuable and edifying. Thanks for your help.
I have not yet visited those attractions but hope to do so. Friends who have visited tell me that the experience is worthwhile. Safe travels!
Scripture does not spell out a precise number. Even with gaps in the biblical chronologies, it is very likely that there is a world history of under 10,000 years.
I'm in a bit of a debate online about the Young Earth Creationists. It is my understanding that the WELS holds to this theory, due to God creating the universe in 6 days. One of the counters brought to my attention is in regard to ancient writings and art, seemingly dated at near-our 10,000 year old earth, or older (as in cave drawings and ruins of civilizations). My question is, how do I address this? What evidence can I present (besides the historicity of the resurrection) to make our viewpoint more convincing?
Probably the best way I can help you is to refer you to the resources of the Lutheran Science Institute, an organization within WELS. There is information on their website that can help address your question.
One of the sections on their website is “Creation Apologetics.” Another section is titled “Dating Methods.” If you are interested, there is contact information on their website to follow up on your question.
This link will take you to the homepage of their website.
Why did God create the universe? I am struggling with ’s motivation with creating us and the world. I know is a tall task. I am hoping for some explanation from the Bible as to why God created us. My sinful nature keeps me coming back to the answer that this world is some strange experiment of God’s or that he was bored. I know this is not the case because God already knows all of history. But I don’t have any other biblical truth to show insight to God’s reasoning.
We can rule out boredom or loneliness as reasons for God creating this world and the people who inhabit it. The Bible states: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24-25).
Psalm 149:4 informs us as to God’s reason for creating everything: “For the LORD takes delight in his people.” It was not to fill a void that moved God into creative action. No, God became the Creator because of his desire for people to share in his goodness and glory. And of course that takes place when people are led to embrace Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in faith as their Savior (John 3:16).
Keep fighting the thoughts of your sinful nature. It is entirely opposed to God (Romans 8:7). Continue to build up your new self through regular use of God’s gospel in word and sacrament.
Recently, I asked a question and received my answer. Thank you. However, I have another concern about something I ran into this summer. My wife and I went to the creation/ark museums in Kentucky. The experience was great and revealing. My concern is what can you tell me about Ken Ham and the creation/ark museums as they relate to God's word and our doctrine? My concern is that the entire presentation seems to be law oriented with Christ sprinkled throughout. Your servant in Christ.
A predecessor in my position offered this general overview of Ham’s theology: “Ken Ham defends the doctrine of creation against evolution…Since his main purpose is to defend the truthfulness of Genesis, his site does not give much indication about his position on such topics as the sacraments and the millennium. He does uphold basic doctrines such as the Trinity, the virgin birth, and so on. A quick tour of his site suggests he focuses on fundamental doctrines and does not deal specifically with controversial doctrines, since this is not his purpose.”
I attend a Baptist church and am studying apologetics and have joined a discussion group about evolution vs. creationism. My problem is that most of the questions that I ask evolutionists about they have good answers and when I look it up in Google, they seem to be right. So, I am starting to think that maybe Christian apologists and theologians don´t really know about biology and science and that makes me want to leave the faith.
There is no question in your submission for me to answer. If you are looking for more reading material on Christian apologetics, you might be interested in Clearing a Path for the Gospel: a Lutheran Approach to Apologetics. The book provides detailed information on biology and science, as it presents scriptural teaching.
By all means, don’t abandon the Christian faith. Without Jesus, there is nothing. With him, we have everything we could ever want or need. The Holy Spirit creates saving faith in Jesus through the gospel (Romans 10:17). The Spirit uses that same gospel to strengthen and preserve faith. So, use God’s gospel in word and sacrament to stay close to Jesus.
Hebrew 11:3 helps puts Genesis 1 and 2 into perspective: we take God at his word when he tells us how he created all things. God was the only one present at creation. The Bible contains God’s inspired record of how he called all things into existence. To claim a different way in which this world came about is to call God a liar.
“Your word is truth” (John 17:17). That was Jesus’ assessment of God’s word, the Bible. “Truth” covers every part of the Bible—including the account of creation. You can trust Jesus.