The Origin of Life – May 12

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Series: Faith or and Science
Today: The Origin of Life
Genesis 1:20-1-2:1, 2:4-24

Rev. Laura Brewster

Introduction. Last week we explored how faith and science can together explain the origins of the universe. Science can explain the mechanics of how the universe was birthed and continues to grow. Faith illuminated by scripture tells us that God is the ultimate power behind creation. This week we move forward to discuss what faith and science can teach us about the beginning of human life on our planet. Can we integrate our faith in our creator God with what science teaches us about the evolution of life on our planet?

Scripture. There are two stories in the book of Genesis about the creation of humanity. Read the first creation story found in Genesis 1:20 – 2:1. Next read the second creation story found in Genesis 2:4 – 24.

Lessons from the Creation Stories in Genesis. If you read Genesis literally, the two stories contradict each other regarding the order of creation. If you read Genesis literally you will find other inconsistencies too. For example, according to Genesis, the first two people in the world, Adam and Eve, had two sons – Cain and Abel. But then Cain killed Abel in a jealous rage. That should have left only three humans alive on earth. However, in Genesis 4:14 Cain makes reference to other people who might kill him. Where did all those people suddenly come from? Bishop Scott Jones writes: “Maybe these and other questions indicate that Genesis is not meant to be taken literally.” We can opt to take Genesis seriously – though not literally – when we read it and ask ourselves questions such as: “What is the underlying lesson the author is trying to teach me?” When we ask that question, we come away with lessons such as: *God is ultimately the source of life on earth. *God intends for us to be in relationship with other people and with him. *God genuinely cares about our well being and provides us with what we need to sustain life. Genesis was written to teach us all that and more about the Creator and creation. It wasn’t written to serve as a science text on HOW God created.

Lessons about Creation from Science. Science tells us is that our earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and that a single cell organism developed about 3.5 billion years ago. That organism replicated and began a process of evolution that has led to a variety of life forms. Animals finally appeared on land about 370 million years ago. About 230 million years ago, dinosaurs became the dominant animal on earth, but they died off about 65 million years ago. Then finally about 195,000 years ago, the first specimens we would recognize as homo sapiens finally appeared. Again, scientists tell us all this happened through the process of evolution.

Harmonizing the Lessons from Faith and Science. If we read Genesis seriously and not literally, we can accept the faith lessons it offers us about God and also accept the lessons offered by science about how creation unfolded. We can accept both as offering us answers to different questions. Faith tells us WHY we are here. We are here because God opted to begin the process of creation. Science tells us HOW we got here. We got here through the process of evolution.

A Challenge for Those Who Read the Bible Literally. You may still wish to continue to read Genesis literally. If so, you may still find value in what we have heard today. If you have young people in your family who no longer attend church, consider asking them their opinion on faith and science. You may even want to share some of the following materials as fodder for discussion: Information on the website of the American Scientific Affiliation (www.asa3.org); The Language of God. A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Dr. Frances Collins; or ADAM AND THE GENOME: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science by Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight. Show your unchurched family members that you are willing to engage in conversation. In this way you may be able to crack open the door to a great discussion on faith.