Most of us have been pulled over by a cop. Imagine for a moment that this happens to you. The cop flashes his lights, you dutifully pull over, hand over your license and registration. He informs you that he pulled you over because you didn’t stop at the stop sign. You respond with, “But officer, I interpreted the stop sign to mean, ‘Stop pressing the brake,’ so of course I drove faster!”
Pretty absurd right? Everyone knows the cop would slap you with a ticket. We all recognize shenanigans when people behave this way with mundane activities. But this behavior isn’t any cuter when theologians do it. And we see this sort of thing when it comes to the meaning of the creation week.
USA Today published an article entitled “Creationism support is at a new low. The reason should give us hope.” The article notes that, “New polling data show that for the first time in a long time there’s a notable decline in the percentage of Americans — including Christians — who hold to the ‘Young Earth’ creationist view.” The article states, “According to a Gallup poll [All Rise! – SB] conducted in May, the portion of the American public taking this position now stands at 38%, a new low in Gallup’s periodic surveys.”
What is the reason for our “hope,” according to the article? “As the poll reveals, the biggest factor in the shift is a jump in the number of Christians who are reconciling faith and evolution. They are coming to see evolution as their God’s way of creating life on Earth and continuing to shape it today.”
This really shouldn’t encourage anyone. We must clearly distinguish between what a document says and whether we accept that proclamation. The stop sign is a clear indication that a car must come to a full stop. You can accept this or reject it, but no one can reasonably interpret a stop sign to mean something else.
We must keep this distinction in mind when it comes to the creation week. So what does the Bible say about the age of the earth? Kenneth Gentry notes in his book As It Is Written that the Bible very clearly says that the earth was created in six literal twenty-four hour days. There is simply no way getting around this. He adduces several lines of evidence concerning this.
First, the lexical meaning of the Hebrew word yom simply means a literal, twenty-four hour day. He cites nine biblical scholars who all agree that that is the meaning of the term (p. 31). Further, he states, “The Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament notes that there are two primary meanings of yom: (1) ‘The basic meaning of yom is “day (from sunrise to sundown)”’ and (2) ‘in the sense of the astronomical or calendrical unit’ (TLOT 2:537 538)” (p. 94).
Second, although yom can be used metaphorically, such as with the phrase “the day of the Lord,” the grammatical construction used in Genesis 1 always means day. Each day in Genesis 1 is bracketed with the phrase “evening and morning.” This clearly points to yom being a literal day.
Third, other passages in Scripture refer to the days as being literal days. Ex. 20:11 says, “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.”
Fourth, there are also a number of passages that, without argument or explanation, refer to other passages in Genesis as literal. This is bolstered by the fact that Genesis is not poetry, but prose. “Indeed, Hasel (1984, 11) argues that ‘from a purely comparative approach of the literature structures, the language patterns, the syntax, the linguistic phenomena, the terminology, the sequential presentation of events in the creation account, Genesis 1 is not different from the rest of the book of Genesis or the Pentateuch for that matter.’” If Genesis 1 is not historical, then the rest of the Pentateuch isn’t. And numerous other passages interpret Genesis 1 as historical. Hos. 6:7 says, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant.” 1 Cor. 15:21-22, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Not to mention the genealogies of Jesus in Luke 3 and Matthew 1. See also Psalms 78 and 105.
Keeping in mind the distinction made earlier, this means that regardless of the linguistic shenanigans someone may want to engage in, regardless of whether anyone accepts what it says, the text of Scripture clearly declares a literal six-day Creation. This comes from the style, lexical meaning of the words, and the fact that Scripture itself interprets it that way.
What this means is that the reason people are willing to accept evolution is because they are rejecting what the text of Scripture clearly says. This strikes at the very heart of Christianity. Jesus Himself taught, “Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35). By rejecting the text of Scripture, we are rejecting the authority of Jesus, and thus of God Himself. We are rejecting God’s guide for our life, as He Himself declares to us that His “Word is a Lamp unto my feet” (Ps. 119:105). In other words, the reason people are trying to reconcile evolution with the existence of God is because they are becoming more atheistic.
Sunrise to sundown is a good definition for a day. I think that’s what any sane man would use. But what about before there is a sun, as during the first three and a half days? (I’m asking for a friend.) I heard John Lennox has a good book on the issue, but I haven’t got to it yet.
After each day of creation the scriptures says “So the evening and the morning were the first day.” This included the first several days before the sun and moon were created.
Respectfully (sometimes I’m a little snarky which doesn’t easily convey respect, but I mean it), truly respectfully…
I think you’re making a point here, but I’m just not sure what that point is. I’ve thought on it for about a week now. Maybe you mean to say something like: Genesis says there was a morning and an evening so their must have been. Then you can drop the mic and walk off stage. But if you stay on stage, maybe followup questions are in line. Allow me to develop this slowly…
A passage from a book keeps popping into my head. Its from Blood Meridian. Back around 1850, a singularly impressive man called “the judge” gives his fellow travelers across the American southwest “an extemporary lecture in geology” claiming to “read news of the earth’s origins” from the rocks he’s collected. Some of his audience “would quote him scripture to confound his ordering up of eons… The judge smiled. Books lie, he said. God don’t lie [someone replied]. No, said the judge. He does not. And these are his words. He held up a chunk of rock. He speaks in stones and trees. and bones of things.”
I can’t break with scripture. Neither can I disagree much with the judge – that God speaks in stones and trees, and bones of things. The evolutionists ask me to affirm a theory that I cannot understand. They say I cannot understand because I’m either too ignorant or hung up on a belief in God. Maybe I am too ignorant. But it seems to me that I can’t understand because there are too many holes in their theory and there is seemingly no one who can understand it all; their apologists have no epistemological legs to stand on. So I have trouble believing a theory I can’t understand. That reason for rejection seems quite sound to me. And yet there are many who believe a competing theory that I also can’t understand. Maybe they, and you, do, but I struggle with it. I dont think I should believe an atheistic evolutionist’s incomprehensible theory. Should I believe a theistic Christian’s theory. (Of note, I am a theistic Christian.)
I can’t break with scripture, neither do I claim the ability to fully understand it. And if I’m going to believe Psalm 19 that the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim his handiwork… If I’m going to believe Romans 1 that what can be known about God is plain because God has shown it… that his power and nature are clearly perceived in the things that have been made… If I’m going to believe that scripture then I’m going to expect to see God’s words written in “stones and trees, and bones of things.”
No offense is intended but mic-drop answers from Genesis 1 are not intellectually satisfying. Other parts of scripture are meant in a more figurative way. This makes that scripture no less true, but it changes the understanding of that scripture. I read someone once describe the concept in this way: that Isaiah 40:3-4 is not prophesying a grand construction project. How can we be so sure Genesis 1’s timing is not meant in a figurative way as well? Why does it need to be six days? What is the big deal with six days?
Now I’m not arguing against six days. I think six days is very possible. I could just as easily believe six hours or six seconds. But the no sun for 3 days issue is troubling. And the seventh day – the day of resting from his creating – seems to be stretching on even through today. I certainly think God has the power to do it and I think there is a lot of evidence that He made the world. I don’t however see much evidence that he did it really quickly, but I’m prepared to believe that. (I’m like the Fox Molder of Creation Theory: I Want To Believe.) My chief concern comes from the wording of Genesis 1. Genesis 1’s wording strengthens your belief that God made the world in 6 days, but it hampers my belief.
Sorry for the lengthy response. It just seems like a question that deserves more than a sentence or two. I hope to look back on the question in 20 years and think myself a great fool for having not fully believed in a six day creation. But why do six days matter? And how can we be sure that is what the text truly means to convey? I believe that in another 10 or 15 thousand years we will have lots of evidence and these questions will be put to rest. In the meantime, maybe we should just “let the mystery be.” Or maybe not. Letting the mystery be doesn’t seem to be a popular idea with contemporary apologists.
Thoughts welcome but not required.
(Also I appreciate the podcast. I’ve even thought about buying the coffee, but I really like my Topeca.)
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