Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pondering the Existence of Dinosaurs...

Last night in Q&A at FBC Odessa I attempted to answer one of the most asked questions we have received over the past four weeks – Dinosaurs. Were their dinosaurs on earth? When were the dinosaurs present? What happened to dinosaurs? Where is the reference to dinosaurs in the Bible? Were their dinosaurs on the Ark?

These are good questions because they challenge us to dig deeply to determine what we believe regarding the Bible, science and creation. To this end, I want to ponder the issue of dinosaurs a little further for those who may not have been able to attend last night but have some of the same questions. I begin with some basic presuppositions.

First, I am not a paleontologist and did not take courses on paleontology in college or seminary. I also am not a physicist or archeologist. The following has originated from personal study and is the basic understanding that forms my beliefs in this area. Second, I am a creationist. The Bible teaches creationism. Any attempt to substantiate an evolutionary hypothesis from Scripture is a stretch that does not work. I do believe in the adaptation of animals over time to their environment but strongly oppose evolution as a viable thesis regarding the origin of man. Third, I hold to a “young earth” belief that dates the earth to be about 10,000 years old. I believe when God created the earth He created a mature earth. This poses no problem in my biblical hermeneutic of Genesis. When God created Adam & Eve – the first human beings – He created them as mature adults. When God created the animal and plant kingdoms, again they were created mature. If God created mature inhabitants, and we accept that, why would we not accept Him creating a mature earth? Now let’s talk about dinosaurs.

1. Dinosaurs existed on earth. I realize God could have provided fossil records to show only the appearance of them existing, but I do not believe that to be correct. I believe God created dinosaurs like He did all other animals on earth. This is supported by the abundance of fossil records that have been found principally in the Mesozoic strata proving the existence of dinosaurs on earth.

2. Since dinosaurs did exist, they were created on day six of the Genesis account of creation. Yes, I support a literal day being 24 hours in Genesis. Scientists and skeptics have long argued over the Hebrew translation of “day” and its meaning. I prefer to believe what God has said rather than diminish the authority of Scripture by postulating my beliefs of how creation took place and over what period of time. God defined the creation process in Genesis and He was the only eye witness. Not only this, but when using Scripture to interpret Scripture, the Bible supports a literal 24 hour day. For example, in Exodus 20:9-11 the Bible says “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” We readily accept a 24 hour literal day in this passage, why would we not accept it just one book previous in Genesis? Besides, the quoted verses from Exodus are translated from the Hebrew Bible, the Bible Jesus read and He never appears to be confused about the length of a day.

3. Dinosaurs became extinct at some point in time – no person knows exactly how that occurred. There were no eye-witnesses and the Bible does not speak directly to how or why they became extinct. Multiple scientific theories exist for their extinction – volcanoes, changes in environments, eating of dinosaur eggs, a dinosaur disease epidemic, food shortages, or a universal flood – but there is no ultimate proof. Therefore, to definitively state how dinosaurs became extinct is presumptuous when Scripture does not give a clear word on how this happened.

4. Dinosaurs were reptiles but most were not huge like the T-Rex we see on the movie Jurassic Park. Okay, assuming they were small, what if they were allowed to live and grow for many years, continuing to grow until they die? Before the flood the age of man was huge – Adam, 930 years; Seth, 912 years; Methuselah, 969 years. After the flood the age of life began to drop significantly with every successive generation. Terah, Abraham’s father lived 205 years. Abraham, 175, Isaac lived 180 years; Jacob lived 147, and Joseph lived 110 years. Imagine how large a West Texas rattlesnake that lived a total of 930 years feasting on jackrabbits would grow. I would not want to be around when it became hungry. I attach a picture of a rattlesnake recently killed in Odessa that proves my point to some degree.

5. Before the flood Dinosaurs were grass/plant eating animals. This seems apparent in light of Genesis 1:30 wherein God gave “to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” Then in post-flood Genesis 9:1-3, God provides meat for sustenance to man. He places the fear of man upon the animal kingdom and provides that “every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” Based upon these texts, it seems logical that if dinosaurs still roamed the earth post-flood they began eating meat at that time.

6. Were dinosaurs on the Ark and how was the Ark big enough to handle all of the animals? If dinosaurs survived the world-wide flood described in the Bible, they would have to have been on Noah’s Ark. Was the Ark large enough to handle the large influx of animals? The answer is “yes” it was. The Ark was a gigantic barge (450 ft. long x 75 feet wide x 45 feet high) with a displacement of 43,000 tons and an inside capacity/volume of 1.4 million cubic feet (one cubit = 17.5 inches). There were multiple decks and levels within the Ark. The total deck area is estimated at over 100,000 Sq. Ft. The Ark had a carrying capacity equal to that of 522 standard railroad freight cars or the equivalent of 8 freight trains with 65 freight cars each. This means that at least 240 animals the size of a sheep could be accommodated in a standard 2-deck stock car. Multiply that out (240 x 522) and you can see the ark’s capacity for animals the size of a sheep to be 125,280. Now most likely the animals on the Ark were young so replenishing of the earth could occur. To this end, if there were dinosaurs on the Ark, they would have been young and certainly smaller. But can I definitively state without reservation there were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark? No, but it is totally possible. (See "The Genesis Flood" by Whitcomb and Morris for more information on this subject.)

7. Where are dinosaurs found in the Bible? The clearest description of an animal that is extinct today but fits the profile of a dinosaur is the behemoth found in Job 40:15-24. This animal doesn’t exist today but did during the time of Job. It has been described as a brontosaurus – a creature not unlike Dino in the Flintstones cartoon. Now wouldn’t that have been a great pet?

As you can tell, this was not an exhaustive study on the creation and extinction of dinosaurs. There are Christian scientists like Dr. Kurt Wise, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who holds a PhD in Paleontology from Harvard University, that spend their entire lives studying what I have only touched upon today. Could I be wrong in some of the information I have provided above? I would never be so arrogant as to presume to speak with final authority on that which God’s Word does not present a thorough discourse, so yes, I could be wrong in some areas. However, God’s Word is authoritative and regardless of differing opinions, when God’s Word speaks it is accurate and without error. As Adrian Rogers stated on more than one occasion, "I would rather be accused of taking the Bible too literally than not taking it literally enough." To that I give a hearty amen!