Recently, I was listening to a podcast by my fellow CIA alum Ryan Pauly, "What’s the worldview behind the question?" Ryan made an interesting point about when you are dialoguing with someone, you often have to recognize the hidden assumptions people have based on their worldview. This is true when talking with non-Christians, but it is even true when we are talking with our fellow followers of Christ.
Ryan gave an example of a discussion on the age of the earth. He believes in an old earth but doesn't accept the Neo Darwinism theory of macroevolution (a perspective with which I also agree). However, he said that some Christians will automatically assume that if you believe in an old earth you also support macroevolution. They argue for a young earth and say that the only correct understanding of Genesis is that God took six, 24-hour periods of time to create the universe. This debate got me thinking about something regarding Jesus' time on earth, God's character, and a possible clue to help us better understand this issue.
When I was a kid, my dad taught me some basic woodworking and carpentry skills. I helped him build a bridge over a creek in our backyard, a treehouse, a storage shed and playhouse for my sister, and a deck on our house. I also learned the art of woodcarving. My dad's specialty was carved fish. He would take a piece of 2 x 4 about 8-10 inches long and transform it into a very quaint wooden fish. It fascinated me to watch my dad transform a simple piece of wood into a work of art. The process took several hours of carefully removing the wood, with intricate cuts to shape the eyes, gills, and other parts of the wooden fish. I even tried my hand at this a couple of times, although my carved fish were never as good as my father's. Despite my lack of skill, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I relished sitting in our basement next to the woodstove in the winter, chatting with my dad, and carving on a pine 2x4.
When I was in junior high school, I took woodshop (called Industrial Arts at the time) and loved the class. I enjoyed the process of transforming some random bits of wood into a functional or beautiful piece. I still have an old fashion wood car that I made many years ago. This project took several class sessions, but we had detailed, step-by-step instructions from the teacher. I was proud of my finished piece, and, again, really enjoyed the process of creating it.
A carpenter is a naturally creative person. He works with his hands, and a good carpenter can take the roughest, misshapen piece of wood and transform it into a thing of beauty. In the Gospels, we read that Jesus is a carpenter and the son of a carpenter.
Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
It's fascinating that for all the possible trades or skills that Jesus could have had, he chose to follow in his earthly father's footsteps and become a carpenter. Now, admittedly, this was quite common in the ancient Near East. The eldest son typically took up his father's trade or business as a way of supporting the family when the father passed away. But God certainly knew that the incarnate Christ would be a carpenter.
So what does this say about the character of God? The Bible is replete with descriptions of God as an author and creator. Analogies of Yahweh as a master craftsman, a potter, a silversmith, and weaver are found throughout scripture. He is also perfect, precise, and detail oriented. In short, the God of the universe is the ultimate craftsman. Does this mean God does not have the ability to create instantaneously? Certainly not. He could have created the universe at any point in the past in one fell swoop. He also could have created the universe and all life on earth over the course of 144 hours earth hours. But just as a human craftsman enjoys the process of creating a work of art, couldn't the God of the universe also enjoy the process, with its incomprehensible level sophistication and intricacy, of His creation unfolding over billions of years? I think He did.
In his two works "Why the Universe Is the Way It Is" and "Improbable Planet", Dr. Hugh Ross makes a thorough, scientific case for an extremely long, precise, unfolding of creation that has culminated with the rise of humanity at exactly this time in history. There is a vast amount of scientific evidence that indicates the universe is both ancient (about 14.5 billion years old) and is precisely "tuned" for intelligent life. To me, this points to a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, intelligent creator who is has enjoyed the long process of shepherding his creation to its current state (at least "long" from our perspective).
Could God have created the universe with all its incredible detail, precision, and beauty in a short period of time? Certainly. But I think a master craftsman enjoys the process of creation just as much as the final product. This is one theological/philosophical reasons I believe in an ancient universe.