Immigrants along the Oregon Trail were a tough lot. They left behind everything that had been stable and comfortable in their lives to seek opportunity in the West. They left civilization as they knew it behind them in Missouri and launched into a long, arduous journey across the prairies and mountains. Natural landmarks marked the trail so that guides could make sure the correct course was followed. Seeing these landmarks had to be a very comforting thing to both confirm location and as a waypoint of progress. The immigrants placed a lot of faith in their trail boss/guide to get them to California or Oregon territory, and I suspect many of them had heard of some of the key landmarks that lay ahead. One such landmark was called Split Rock, located in what is now south-central Wyoming. Split Rock is a cleft in the top of a mountain of rock that can be seen from many miles away. I recently visited this historic site and climbed on some of the nearby rock outcroppings that bordered the Oregon Trail. One thing that always impresses me is how tough and tenuous life must have been for those folks traveling west. Nothing was easy and the work probably never seemed to end.
Life remains complex today. I realize that isn’t anything new, but despite all the technology we enjoy, we seem more and more challenged as a society each passing year. Sure, the challenges are different than what our immigrant relatives dealt with, but they are still hefty hurdles. One aspect that is very disturbing to me is that so many people have become intolerant of other folks with differing views. Political leanings, religious views, climate change, and so many other topics have become points of volatility and even violence when opinions differ. Respectful debate in search of the truth rarely happens, but instead recitation of talking points, name-calling and personal attacks are employed at lightning speed. Friendships end. Families weaken. Culture crumbles a little bit more.
How life came to exist on Earth is one of these highly contentious topics. While there are several positions/theories/beliefs on this topic, the two I am most familiar with are the theory of evolution, as put forth by Charles Darwin and creationism, as put forth in the Holy Bible. Even among believers of each of these there exist a variety of tangential supporters. For example, there are some creationists who believe God created the Earth and people, but suggest the Biblical account is more parable than literal, so they subscribe to the notion that there was a long, extended period of time for all this to happen. In some cases the time-frame fits nicely with the proposed calendar of events an evolutionist might ascribe to. On the other hand, there are folks like me who believe in the literal 6-day creation, as recorded in the Bible. For the record, I did not always believe this. While I have always been a creationist, I first bought into a long, drawn out period of creation by God, where a “day” in the Biblical account was representative of a period of time that might be many years. Because I found that difficult to justify and had no real data to support it, I later decided that how it happened didn’t matter, so long as I believed God did it all. This was really convenient because I had less to defend and didn’t need to worry about pesky little details. At the end of the day, does God care if we believe in a 6-day, 6-year or 6-century creation? Well, He most likely cares more that we believe He is the creator; I don’t believe we’ll be thrown into Hell because we chose the wrong time-frame.
As a Christian, I came to find my vague position weak and self-serving. How could I so enthusiastically defend so much of the Bible as the inspired and accurate word of God, but then allow certain parts to be open to debate? Don’t get me wrong here, I am not a Biblical scholar by any means. There are a lot of parts of the Bible that I don’t understand and many questions I don’t have answers for, but I do believe it to be the true word of God. Are there some areas that might not have been translated perfectly by the many scribes and scholars who’ve maintained, translated and published it over the last couple thousand years? Most probably, yes. Fortunately, many accounts in the Bible were recorded by more than one person, so within the book there is some corroboration that can be done – many of these occur in the New Testament and help to confirm very important facts related to important things like grace, mercy, forgiveness and salvation. So while I allow that there may be some man-created errors within the text, I contend and support that these are minor errors that don’t change the ultimate meaning and lessons. Afterall, if I believe God created everything, then why wouldn’t I believe that He could keep His word on point? My position is based on what the text of the Bible says and the areas which aren’t fully explained require some faith.
So, back to how we all got here. There have been some very heated exchanges between creationists and evolutionists recently. A number of atheist organizations are not only forcefully pushing evolution as a fact (remember, even Darwin called it a theory), they are hostile toward those who believe in a God-creator worldview. They ridicule our position as foolish because we use “faith” to fill the gaps that we don’t understand. For many years I have contended that believing in evolution requires much more faith than believing in the Biblical creation account. While I was crawling over the rocks at the Split Rock historical site, I came upon this scene…
When you see stacked rocks like this, do you wonder how they came to be stacked? I suppose we could craft a few theories about their existence. Maybe the rock was much larger a couple million years ago, but erosion by wind and rain removed all the soft part of the stone, leaving these small clumps of individual rocks in precarious stacks. Or perhaps the stones were scattered, but after a couple million years they somehow migrated toward each other and ended up on top of each other. Maybe aliens landed here and deposited these stacked rocks here. I am sure we could come up with a lot of potential theories. But I also would suspect that, just like you and I, most evolution-believing people would take a look at this and quickly surmise that someone must have stacked the rocks. They and we would contend that there is no way this could happen all by itself – someone had to create it. Yet the same evolutionist would contend that with a bit of good fortune and millions of years, dust, gas and tiny particles of matter came together, formed life and eventually became human beings.
And here we thought stacked rocks were too complex to happen all by themselves. I guess it is just a matter of time…