Evolutionary Naturalism vs. Biblical Providence
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
Evolutionists are quick to credit random chance when explaining the origins of humans, animals, plants, or Earth’s sedimentary rock layers, even though the evidence points to God’s handiwork. Oddly enough, ancient Philistines likewise exhibited reluctance to give God credit for His work in the world, especially if doing so reminded them of their sin.
Concurrent calamities began when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant from Israel, took it to the city of Ashdod, and put it inside the temple of Dagon, their national god.1 Inexplicably, the idolatrous statue of Dagon, which had seemed safe and secure, suffered vandalism.1 Many Philistines died from some mysterious disease,2 and the bodies of others who survived grew “tumors” or “buboes.”2-4 A flood of rats plagued Philistine lands.4 Why were these extraordinary events striking Ashdod simultaneously? Were they connected?
In a bizarre response to the emergency, Philistine goldsmiths made replicas of the disease symptoms—and of the rats they suspected as the culprits.1 (Ironically, the rat sculptures may indicate that some Philistines mistook the affliction to be hemorrhoids when it was actually the bubonic plague, transmitted by infected rats and their fleas.3,4 )
Worse than underestimating the symptoms, the Philistine experts were irrationally slow to recognize God’s hand in the plague. Seven months after the capture of the Ark, they devised an experiment to test whether the Ark of the Covenant was having a supernatural influence upon living things near to it.
“Now therefore, make a new cart, take two milk cows which have never been yoked, and hitch the cows to the cart; and take their calves home, away from them. Then take the ark of the LORD and set it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you are returning to Him as a trespass offering in a chest by its side. Then send it away, and let it go. And watch: if it goes up the road to its own territory, to Beth-Shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we shall know that it is not His hand that struck us—it happened to us by chance.”5
By chance? Like modern evolutionary naturalists, the Philistines tried to favor their “test” results to suggest that their troubles were caused by random coincidences—just a series of bad luck unrelated to their blasphemous actions that insulted Israel’s God.
But it eventually became obvious to the Philistines in the afflicted communities of Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron that they were experiencing God’s “heavy hand.” Four not-so-random coincidences—insulting the Ark of the Covenant followed by Dagon’s broken idol, many Philistine deaths, many Philistines afflicted with tumors, and ravaging rats—confronted the Philistines with inescapable proof of God’s judgment.
The Bible’s lesson is that judgment awaits those who resist the evidence of God’s handiwork and disregard His authority. God is more powerful than anyone or anything and deserves all the glory.
- See 1 Samuel 4–6.
- See 1 Samuel 5:6, 9, 10-12.
- These words appear in 1 Samuel 5:6, 9, 12 and 6:4-5, 11, 17-18 as emerods (KJV, Geneva Bible), hemorrhoids (Darby), and tumors (NKJV, NAS, NIV), indiscriminately translating both ‘echôrîm (1 Samuel 6:11, 17) and ‘epholîm (1 Samuel 5:6, 9, 12; 6:4-5). The Philistines’ rat images are twice called hemorrhoids (‘echôrîm, a noun derived from the verb “to strain,” the action that produces them, in 1 Samuel 6:11, 17). Yet elsewhere the disease symptoms are reported as ‘epholîm, meaning mound-like “bulgings, swellings,” matching the large swollen lymph nodes (“buboes,” from βουβôv, Greek for “groin”) indicative of the bubonic plague (i.e., the Black Death). The providential plague was ‘epholîm, categorized in Deuteronomy 28:27 as a plague of the flesh.
- See 1 Samuel 6:4-5, 11, 18 (‘achbarîm = “rats”). The swollen infection sites (1 Samuel 5:9) correspond to buboes at the overwhelmed lymph nodes in the groin, armpits, neck, etc. That the plague in question was the bubonic plague—proximately caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacillus bacterium, being transmitted by the rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopsis) and the black rat (Rattus rattus)—is inferred by corroborating information with the biblical data provided in 1 Samuel 5–6 and elsewhere. See, Thomas, B. The Plague: Birth of a Killer. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org September 21, 2011, in light of Cansdale, G. S. 1976. All the Animals of the Bible Lands. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 132-134.
- 1 Samuel 6:7-9.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. 2016. Evolutionary Naturalism vs. Biblical Providence. Acts & Facts. 45 (4).