Doris shifted uncomfortably as Professor Hargreaves climbed into the pulpit. Moments later, the lecturer's opening words only confirmed her worst fears: "The bothersome God of the Bible is dead. The God of this modern age is a much more reasonable deity."
Professor Hargreaves quoted a number of eminent geologists and physicists, citing their opinions as proof that religion must always take second place to science. He then proceeded to lambaste the mediaeval church for their treatment of Galileo, saying that were it not for the plucky Italian, people would still be insisting that the world was flat.
Moving on to evolution and the Big Bang, the professor took obvious pleasure in belittling those Christians who held to a literal six days of creation, dubbing them narrow-minded simpletons whose greatest intellectual challenge came from understanding the index in their antediluvian hymn-books.
Doris had had enough. Letting rip an injudicious cry of "Blasphemy!" she burst through the broad oak doors of the chapel and fled into the college grounds. Twenty minutes later Dean Andrews grew weary of the pretentious prattling and made his own excuse to leave. As he padded along the verge of the well manicured lawn, he found himself drawn to the girl's soft but persistent sobs.
"There, there, my dear," the Dean said in what he hoped was a vaguely reassuring tone. "Don't you go letting old Herbert Hargreaves get the better of you. He has an inflated view of his own self-importance and a churlish fondness for lampooning his opponents. Now, judging by your recent essays, I would surmise that you hold to a 'young earth' view of creation."
"That's right, sir. I believe God created the world in six days. Afterwards he rested on the Sabbath."
"And this took place how long ago?"
"I see. And where exactly do the Scriptures state this?"
"Er, they don't as such. But Bishop Ussher did the calculation and everyone accepts it. Are you saying that you side with Professor Hargreaves?"
"Not at all, Doris. But as a member of this faculty I see it as my duty to teach you to employ your gray matter, a skill that seems largely to have fallen out of fashion in the modern church. Ussher had a phenomenal grasp of history but he based his calculation on the assumption that the Old Testament genealogies were complete. Hence when Genesis states that Cush "begat" Nimrod, Ussher took it that Cush was the biological father of Nimrod. You should know by now from your studies that Hebrew is not that precise a language. When the Bible says "father" it sometimes means "forefather." There could conceivably have been a gap of several generations between Cush and Nimrod, allowing for somewhat longer than your minimum 6000 years. You only have to examine Matthew's list of the ancestors of Jesus to see that it too contains noticeable gaps in its genealogy."
Doris' immediate impulse was to quote her pastor's sermon from the previous Sunday. In a manner uncomfortably similar to Professor Hargreaves', he had branded as heretical anyone who held a contrary view of creation. If man came from monkeys, he had hollered, his spittle reaching as far as the second row, then every word of Scripture was a bare-faced lie. Just then an unusual thought struck the young theological studentó in a recent sermon on the Mark of the Beast, her pastor had asserted that grocery bar codes all contain the digits 6-6-6. Yet when Doris had checked the shelves in her pantry, she had discovered that her minister sometimes got it wrong.
"Aha, I see that something has registered. Does this mean we have a serious brain underneath all that faith and righteous indignation?"
"It does make me wonder, sir, about that genealogy from Noah's flood through to Abraham. It is hard to imagine how mankind could have repopulated the entire earth in only eleven generations."
"I agree. My personal view is that the world may be between ten and twenty thousand years old."
"But that still allows for seven days of creation, doesn't it?"
Dean Andrews smiled as he turned to resume his stroll. "It does indeed. But you will come across Christians who in all good conscience hold to differing views. Don't allow anyone to spoon feed you their pet ideas as if they were gospeló especially not doddery old Hargreaves. Decide for yourself what makes the most sense and hold fast to your convictions. Live like this, Doris, and you won't go far wrong."
P.S. The more astute reader may have noticed that Professor Hargreaves' reference to Galileo was entirely inaccurate. The Italian astronomer was challenged over his [correct] view that the earth orbited the sun. No one in that day and age seriously considered that the world was flat. Christopher Columbus had set off more than a century before to find a short cut to China by heading west across the Atlantic. Not that Hargreaves would have admitted his mistake of course ...
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