“MISSING LINKS” IN RELIGION
The so-called “missing link” argument has been leveled against the concept of biological evolution ever since its inception. Over the years, however, more and more gaps in the fossil record of human evolution have been connected, and the force of the argument has been greatly attenuated. That is not to say that all of the breaks have been, or ever will be, filled in, considering the great ages involved and the likelihood of natural destruction of the evidence.
Still, so much other evidence has been accumulated, that for evolutionists there is no doubt as to the validity of their basic premise.
And yet, despite all the evidence, there remain some stubborn religionists who retain the “missing link” weapon in their arsenals. And so, to bring this argument home to such persons, some examples of “missing links” of their own are provided herein. From these they can see whether such deficiencies are really a cause for alarm.
Here are some examples of gaps in the biblical evidence for basic doctrines and beliefs:
1. What was the date of Jesus’ birth? Nowadays a person must be able to present a birth certificate and to provide a date of birth on every legal document, but this cannot be done for the Founder of Christianity. The date, details, and circumstances of His birth are being continually debated by experts. One Bible scholar has admitted that “the interval of time from 6 B.C. to A.D. 4 is known among historians as ‘that dark decade’” (The Birth Of Christ Recalculated by E. L. Martin). Now, does this “missing link” invalidate the life of Jesus? Obviously not. Too much other evidence is available to prove His historicity.
2. Where are the tablets of the Ten Commandments? Where is the Ark of the Covenant? Where is the huge bronze laver of Solomon’s temple, the high priest’s breastplate, the sword of Goliath, the rod of Aaron, the edict of Darius, or the Holy Grail? These and other well known artifacts of the Bible-times community would be of great value as authenticating evidence, should they ever be found. But does the absence of these “missing links” really call for any doubt as to the real occurrences to which they were connected?
3. Where are the fossil bones of unicorns, satyrs, cockatrices (fiery flying serpents), and fire-breathing dragons (leviathans)? It would be nice to find a single tooth from any of these creatures. But, nobody really expects to find the remains of these legendary creatures, and neither does any reasonable critic hold a religion accountable for obvious primitive folklore in its ancient writings.
4. Where are the original manuscripts of the Bible? The whole case for one particular school of biblical inerrancy falls flat for lack of “Exhibit A” in their defense, the so-called “inerrant autographs.” And yet, this “missing link” does not disprove the essential validity of Scripture. The very existence of the documents presently in hand is an obvious indication that they must have evolved from earlier manuscripts, no longer extant.
5. Where are the lost source books that are cited in Scripture, including the books of Jashar, of Gad, of Nathan, of Ahijah, of Iddo, of Shemaiah, and the Wars of Yahweh? Where is Paul’s missing letter to the Corinthians? Where is the original source of the quotations of Jesus, the famous “Q document?” These writings were all referenced or quoted in the Bible and yet, they have not been preserved. Surely they must be considered as “missing links” of information that are vital to the clarification of certain textual problems that continue to perplex and mystify all believers.
6. Where is any secular historical evidence for the life of Abraham, of Joseph, of Moses, of Jonah, or of Elijah? These major characters of the Bible story are not mentioned by any other contemporary sources, and yet their essential historicity is questioned by few. Also, it is possible that archćology may one day fill in evidence that will prove conclusively the previous existence of these “missing link” personalities.
7. Where is the authentication of the identity of the authors of Ecclesiastes, Hebrews, and Revelation? These have been attributed to Solomon, Paul, and John bar Zebedee respectively. But is their place in the Bible canon seriously affected by this “missing link” of anonymity?
8. Where is the true record of historical events that can reconcile contradictory data in various parallel accounts in the Bible? The differences between the four Gospels, between Kings and Chronicles, and between Josephus and the canonical books of Israelite history have challenged the minds of theologians for centuries. But as new discoveries of ancient documents continually come to light, it is hoped that a better glimpse will be provided into the dim happenings of the past. Since theology is itself a science, it must also deal with scientific problems such as “missing links.” In fact, theology is a scientific treatment of documents and doctrines that always hopes for better data and new insights to bring more reality to theories and unsupported beliefs.
9. Where is the “missing commandment” that sanctions worship on Sunday, that allows pork to be eaten, that condemns the consumption of alcohol, that outlaws slavery, that prohibits gambling, that proscribes the misuse of drugs, that sets aside religious taxation and all forms of church-state union? The Bible’s silence in these areas must be a cause of some concern to the literalist who requires everything to be spelled out clearly and precisely somewhere in the Bible. And yet, has this lack of clearcut mandates from Scripture prevented reasonable Christian men from reaching deeply-held convictions of right and wrong in these areas? Surely the leadership of the Holy Spirit in His Church has served to fill in these gaps of information, these doctrinal “missing links,” and to go beyond the narrow realm of prooftexts in the advancement of the Kingdom.
In conclusion, it is not the point of this discussion to attack religion, which for this writer is as valid in its area as science is in its domain. The reason for this essay is simply to discredit the real importance of a hiatus when what is missing can be so easily supplied by normal human intelligence and reasonable deduction from the evidence that is available.
Many “missing links” have been found in recent archćological discoveries and still others are under investigation - such as the Shroud of Turin. Doubtless, as with the record of human evolution, more and more evidence will be accumulated with the passage of time.
In the meantime, in the light of what is known, it would behoove both the religious and the scientific camps to desist from criticizing the basic validity, reality, and authenticity of either school of thought. Stated simply, men who live in glass houses should not be throwing stones.
Richard L. Atkins
WHAT MISSING LINK?
A tabulation of the known fossils of the human species is quite complete.
14 Million B.C. Ramapithecus, the oldest non-ape progenitor
2 Million B.C. Australopithecus, walked upright, used simple tools
1.8 Million B.C. Paranthropus, vegetarian, likely made extinct by Homo habilis
1.7 Million B.C. Advanced Australopithecus (Homo habilis), stone tools
1 Million B.C. Homo Erectus, used fire and led communal life
100,000 B.C. Neanderthal Man, made advanced tools
70,000 B.C. Cro-Magnon Man, paintings and carved figures
50,000 B.C. Modern Man, advanced civilization