Dinosaurs—were they masters of the world?
The problem is not with dinosaurs, those real creatures whose bones have been found over most of the world. It is with the worldview in which dinosaurs are invariably presented, even to the very young.
The Dragons of Eden
Famous evolutionist Carl Sagan wrote a book titled The Dragons of Eden to try to explain the puzzling ‘coincidence’ of widespread legends of huge, reptilian dinosaur-like creatures—dragons. Not willing to consider the obvious explanation (that the Bible is right and evolution wrong—dinosaurs and man did live together) he came up with the astounding proposal that since our brain evolved from a reptile ancestor, it still carries memories of living in the ‘age of reptiles’! There seemed to be an embarrassed silence from his evolutionist colleagues—there is no evidence that memories are encoded in DNA and passed onto offspring. At least Sagan recognized the problem which dragon legends pose for the evolutionary belief that no man has ever seen a dinosaur.
A major feature of the current Jurassic Park—inspired wave of dinosaur mania is the continual repetition that dinosaurs existed millions of years ago, dominated the earth, and died long before there were any people. This is opposed to the biblical world view, in which all things were created ‘very good’, with no death, disharmony, suffering, bloodshed or animals ripping each other apart before Adam’s sin brought death and bloodshed into the world.
Exodus 20:11 states that all things were created in six days (the same days as our ordinary working week, as the passage makes clear—which must include dinosaurs. So if dinosaurs died out millions of years before man, then obviously Exodus 20:11 would be wrong. But this passage forms part of one of the Commandments … so if dinosaurs mean that six-day creation is a campfire story, maybe they mean the whole Law was a campfire story, too?
The bottom line is: if the Bible can’t be trusted on such obvious things as dinosaurs when it comes to origins, how can it be trusted about the origin of sin? And, if the origin of sin is a myth (if sin is somehow our left-over animal ancestry), then the reason Jesus died is a myth too.
First Corinthians 15:21–22 tells us, ‘For since by [a] man came death, by [a] man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’. What about the future restoration? If there was an ‘age of the dinosaurs’ before man, then that’s all myth too. Scripturally, God promises to restore things to a sinless, deathless paradise—not to a world of dinosaurs eating each other.
The stakes are high for Christians; the validity of the whole historic Creation/Fall/Redemption view is on the table. That explains:
- why so many Christians are at least vaguely disturbed when dinosaurs become very prominently featured. They may not have thought all of the above through in every detail, but there is a real discomfort there—an ‘age of dinosaurs’ doesn’t fit naturally into the biblical world view, as every atheist would agree;
- why humanist and skeptic activists interested in the destruction of ‘Christian myths and superstitions’ (and their attendant moral values) are often gleefully in the forefront of dinosaur promotion to the public. Market the dinosaurs, and you are educating people, especially the young, about the alleged ‘real world’ of evolution.
Dinosaurs in the Bible
‘Dinosaur’ isn’t in the King James Bible—the word hadn’t been invented then. The Hebrew word—tannin or tannim—is translated 21 times as ‘dragon(s)’ in the Authorized OT, mostly in reference to then-living animals. Three times it is rendered ‘serpent(s)’, twice ‘whale(s)’ and once as ‘sea-monsters’. The classification is probably much wider than the dinosauria, and may include creatures living today. The Hebrew appears to have a ‘monster’ connotation, making the AV rendering ‘whales’ in Genesis 1:21 a legitimate one. Some versions occasionally translate it as ‘jackals’. In the AV New Testament, ‘dragon’ appears only in Revelation, used symbolically (as are other real animals).
Actually, if you strip away the evolutionary hype, there is nothing fantastic or eerie about dinosaurs. There is no reason to see them as something so startlingly different from the present world that it should be hard to conceive of them living on the planet at the same time as people or giraffes.
Size? The largest dinosaur was probably smaller than today’s blue whale. The average size was probably that of the great red kangaroo.
Big teeth? There are flesh-eating and plant-eating creatures alive which, proportionate to their body size, also have massive teeth.
Whether we look at horns, scales, armor-plating, reptilian eggs or whatever, it is hard to see anything mysterious or radically different from what we see today. In fact, Jurassic Park may have done us a favour by helping us to visualize people and dinosaurs living at the same time, which in the biblical view of history is necessarily true.
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park tries to make this coexistence appear wrong and unnatural. A theme running throughout is that nature/evolution is an immensely powerful, god-like force and should not be tampered with. (One of the film’s characters, a ‘chaos theorist’, referred to ‘God’, but this was more in the context of a pantheistic, New Age type of evolutionary god-force.)
A clear message of the film is that man has no inherent Genesis dominion/stewardship over the earth.1 People have no right to ‘mess with evolution’. The evolution-god has decreed that the dinosaurs should die out, so don’t revive them unless you want to pay the penalty.
That this reflects Spielberg’s own philosophy was revealed in a recent TV interview. He said that it would be wrong and immoral to make a dinosaur from DNA (if it were possible). Why? Because they had had their chance, their shot, at evolution. In other words, evolution, not God, becomes the absolute standard for what is right or wrong.
Watching Sam Neill gaze lovingly into the eyes of a plant-eating brachiosaur, or Laura Dern stroke a dying Triceratops is one thing, but can one conceive of people inhabiting the same planet as the film’s fierce, cunning Velociraptors? In fact, most of their fossils stand only about 1.2 metres (four feet) high, and there is no way of knowing their behaviour or intelligence for certain.
We know from Genesis, moreover, that pre-Flood man was no ignorant savage. With metal forging from the earliest times (Genesis 4:22), there would have been ample technological scope for man to comfortably exercise dominion over these raptors. And over Tyrannosaurus rex—even if it was the savage hunter the film portrays.2 In fact, with people in rebellion against the pre-Flood prohibition of meat-eating, T. rex may have been wise to avoid being in the same parts of the earth as man, so as not to be trapped and feasted upon.3
All of us, especially parents, should be concerned at the subtle anti-biblical messages accompanying ‘dinosaurmania’. Rather than avoiding the issue, parents should seize the opportunity to talk it through carefully, and should ensure their children are exposed to a healthy dose of biblically sound, quality dinosaur materials.
It doesn’t take a ‘chaos theorist’ to tell us that our society is slipping more and more into chaos, as evolutionary thought undermines the Bible’s authority. Death and violence are glorified as evolutionary might, rather than being seen as the serious consequences of sin. Sin is ever more trivialized, and the Gospel is seen as more and more meaningless to modern man’s culture—except as Christians are ‘waking up’ to the enormous relevance of the creation/evolution issue in our time.
Technologically superb it may be, but by distorting the biblical truth about dinosaurs and earth history, Steven Spielberg’s cinema spectacular serves to speed up society’s slide.
Dinosaurs: a quick summary
- Created on the sixth day, as was man.
- Death and bloodshed among animals reigned after the Fall.
- Two of every kind (broader than species) go on to the Ark.
- Ark huge; many dinosaurs small; even big dinosaurs start life from a football-sized egg. Reptiles often keep growing; maybe teenagers, not great-grandfathers go on Ark. God in control.
- Most dinosaur fossils from burial due to the Flood (or its after-effects).
- After the Flood, survived for centuries, as shown by dinosaur cave paintings, dragon stories, historical accounts (e.g. Alexander the Great). Also Job chapter 40—behemoth.
- Evidence of recent existence—fresh dinosaur bones, fragile chemicals found in fossil dinosaur bones—at most thousands, not millions of years old.
- Many species dying out all the time. Death is a part of the curse—extinction is not evolution, and is no great mystery. Reduced populations, different climate and ecology after the Flood. Remote possibility that some are still alive (e.g. in the Congo).
- Notice also that unlike earlier ‘monster’ movies, man does not end up ‘having dominion’—for example, lulling or at least trapping the monsters. According to Genesis, man’s dominion extended over all the animals ever created. Not so in evolutionary belief; dinosaurs at one time had dominion, not man. So for a society whose thinking has become more and more evolutionary, It is appropriate that the hero figures are saved from the raptors not by their superior intellect or technology, but by T. rex, exhibiting his evolutionary ‘rule of tooth and claw’. Return to text.
- Some evolutionists believe the ‘king tyrant lizard’ was in fact a passive scavenger. Return to text.
- Archaeological evidence indicates that early post-Flood man, even after the technological losses suffered at Babel, was able to use stone technology to trap and kill, even to the point of extinction, some very large animals such as the mastodon. Return to text.