Why the Delay?

On page 100 of The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion, Herman Wouk (if I’m interpreting him correctly) talks about how human beings have been on earth for such an infinitesimal amount of time, in comparison with the vast age of the universe.  I once saw a visual aid about this in a museum: it showed a line, which represented the age of the universe, and a very tiny sliver of that line was how long humans have existed.

An atheist I know once made that point to me: If there is a God, he wondered, why did God take so long to create human beings?  Of course, young-earth creationists believe that God didn’t take that long, so they don’t struggle with this issue, but those who accept modern scientific consensus while also believing in God as the creator may wonder why there were so many millennia before human beings, who are supposedly the focal point of God’s plan, finally appeared.  Then there’s the issue of theistic evolution.  Many who consider a scenario that accepts evolution and God as creator may inquire: Why didn’t God simply create human beings in one fell swoop, rather than allowing them to develop from proto-human creatures?

I have the same sort of question about the narrative that I got growing up, within Armstrongism.  I was raised on the gap-theory, the belief that there could be billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.  The gap-theory accepted the scientific consensus regarding the age of the universe, and it was open to the eras of dinosaurs and mammoths occurring during that time.  But I wonder what exactly the point was.  Why didn’t God just cut to the chase and make human beings, who, as I said, are supposedly the focal point of God’s plan?

A common answer is that time is not a factor with God.  What to us is a long time is not necessarily a long time for God.  I’m cool with that, pretty much.  I’m a little skeptical when Christians apply that insight to eschatology, when they argue that Jesus’ statements that the end is near are not necessarily false for the simple reason that “near” to God may not be what’s “near” for us.  I’m skeptical because that would be mis-communication on the part of God: wouldn’t you expect for God to adopt our understanding of “near” when he speaks to us, since that’s essential to communication?  Moreover, if God were attempting to comfort suffering people with the notion that God’s reign is near, when it’s not actually near but could occur centuries after their time, then the comforting message is false.

But, when it comes to origins, I’m more open to the idea that God may not measure time as we do, that millions of years could have gone by, but that wasn’t much time for God.

Why would God use evolution, though?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps God foresaw that evolution by natural selection would lead to the result that he wanted—-intelligent life.  God’s strategy may not be so much to micromanage every little detail, but rather to allow events to unfold, and to be there whenever we want a relationship with God.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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