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Latte Objections: Feathered Dinosaurs

February 16, 2018

God’s creation truly is amazing when one takes the time to think on it. The devotion of Genesis 1-2 to God’s creative acts gives creation a special prominence. Those two chapters provide more detail as a narrative than other texts give us about other events in biblical history. Truly, many of us wish for even more detail than provided! A few years ago, I heard thinker Udo Middelmann state that the Bible begins by answering the question, “Why is there an earth?” The creation account contains much to amaze and awe the biblical reader, and it fascinated even the earliest Christian believers.

 

The creation accounts also give rise to much controversy. Just a few short years ago, a major Christian artist announced he no longer believed Genesis 1-2 represented literal history. Apologists like Ken Ham make the veracity of the first chapters of Scripture their main defensive thrust. The subject of creation and evolution has entangled countless school boards across the USA, often making news when it does. The controversy has an age to it. After all, the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial reached a verdict in 1925. 

 

I think I was still a child when the first hypotheses or evidences arose that some dinosaurs possessed feathers. As a non-believing dinosaur enthusiast who knew that would not sit well with my parents (and therefore, me), I put that out of my mind. It was only in one book in our school media center (ahem, library), and they looked silly. Besides, the kid who checked the book out was the sort who would trip you during kickball, and run to the teacher with some amazing tears as soon as you confronted him on it. 

 

As time progressed, more evidence emerged of some dinosaurs (or some thing!) possessing feathers. Of course, this has immediately been interpreted as solid evidence of the dinosaur-to-bird link, which really serves as a part of the fish-amphibian-reptile-dinosaur-bird chain. Nothing about the promotion of such evidence is surprising. 

 

As lovers of Creation, we should note two things. 

 

First, most of what we thought we knew about dinosaurs in the past was either wrong or woefully incomplete. The study of dinosaurs will turn 200 years old soon, but its genesis in 1822 means it is the much younger brother to fields of study like physics, astronomy, and geology, which all began in antiquity. Therefore, we should expect the field to be in a constant state of flux, though advancement has a rapidity to it given the rapid ability to transmit information. Dinosaurs do not prove to be “terrible lizards,” and body structures similar to birds were noted even in my Questron dinosaur book I owned in the late 1980s.  


 

 

 

We should always expect new information and discoveries in areas of study that are, well, new. 200 seems old, but again, compare the number to the study of mathematics, and you realize paleontology, as it relates to dinosaurs, can barely walk and ingest solid food. 

 

Second, the discovery of something like feathers on these extinct animals is exciting! Everything found in the natural world resulted from God’s intentional act to create (recall John 1:3). Science might not be your thing, but science does indeed probe what God has done. Christians should not shy away from the study of science, even in the academy. In fact, the abandonment of the sciences by Christians helped it get to such a place of hostility toward Christian belief. Anyone with an ounce of historical knowledge knows men like Isaac Newton and Gregor Mendel were men of faith. While these men (and many others) would not be in the same place I am and my church is theologically, they were men who saw their scientific endeavors as a means of glorifying God, and they certainly did not see their work as contrary to belief in the supernatural. 

 

To the objection then.

 

Generally, the reminder of feathered dinosaurs arises in the context of a Evolution vs. Creation debate or an aggressive discussion of faith against science. It comes out as some sort of silver bullet in support of transitional fossils moving from dinosaurs to avians, and therefore-evolution-is-true-and-your-Bible-is-a-fairy-tale-and-Christians-don’t-know-anything-hail-the-Flying-Spaghetti-Monster.

 

Be careful in this debate, Christian. Should you “win the argument,” you probably have not brought your opponent into the service of Christ Jesus. You could perhaps argue someone out of an evolutionary worldview and right into Islam or Mormonism. Know where your argument goes. Your apologetic must wait the table of evangelism.The point is never to turn someone away from evolution or atheism. The point is to be a vessel the Holy Spirit uses for another person to yield to Christ Jesus.

 

The objection ostensibly serves to prove naturalism, the belief that only the natural world exists. As mentioned above, it purports to prove an aspect of evolution, specifically the existence of transitional forms. Transitional forms serve as the bridge between recognizable organisms. If dinosaurs yielded birds, some sort of animal must have possessed recognizable characteristics of each sort of animal, and these feathered dinosaurs fit the mold. Therefore, evolution, says the naturalist. If evolution, not your God, says the naturalist.[1]

 

So it goes. Or does it? Is there any reason for anyone to freak out over dinosaurs with feathers? Is it worldview shattering? Or only earth shattering? I’ll let you be the judge. 

 

 

 

Here you have a monotreme. A sort of egg-laying mammal. This particular example also has a mouth found only on birds and it produces a potent venom delivered by a stinger. The creature seems a hodge-podge of different traits generally found only in non-mammals. And yet, there it is. 

 

In the ocean, we might find this:

 

 

 

Yes, indeed a fish with a transparent head. If any animal in God’s Creation finds description as “weird-looking” I think this fish wins. 

 

We could go on about the giant salamander of China and others. But space and time permit it not. 

 

God’s Creation proves stranger and more wonderful than we could possibly imagine. Fish with transparent heads, y’all. Compared to what we find in nature, dragons and other mythical creatures seem positively boring. Feathered dinosaurs? Sure! Why not? Their existence proves exactly one thing:

 

They existed.

 

We’ve got animals generating their own electricity, giant bats, and honeypot ants. Whether feathered dinosaurs turn out to be a strange type of dinosaur, extinct birds, or something completely different, they exist as only one kind of the strange and wonderful wildlife God made to walk his earth. 

 

Christian, you need not worry about such an animal as a feathery velociraptor. No animal’s existence means that Jesus did not rise again from the dead after his crucifixion. Nor does it mean that Christ did not create the world; on the contrary, until their extinction, he upheld their existence. When you hear this one, your response is, “I know! Feathered dinosaurs! Marvelous!” Do not attempt to go into detailed discussions of ornithology, herpetology, and paleontology. You’re likely an expert in none of those fields. They are worthy fields of study, but they are beside the point. Feathered dinosaurs do not argue against your God. Do not let unbelief of another undercut your amazement at God’s creative acts. Rather, use the opportunity to glorify him for his majesty over the natural world.

 

[1]Some well-meaning individuals have attempted to harmonize Christian doctrine with evolutionary theory, and the project has convinced exactly zero evolutionists to believe Christian doctrine. Likewise, it Christians holding to a more traditional understanding of Creation have found it pretty unsatisfactory. 

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