Until Someone Unsettles It

The creation account in Genesis is read in different ways. It would be easy therefore, to jump right into the Genesis text and show that I read it in one of those different ways.

I do read it in one of those different ways, and bringing out arguments accordingly would be easy. Before getting to my main set of points, let me give just one example. All sides agree that the Hebrew word for day — yom — admits of different meanings, just as the English word day does. For example, I could say, “Back in my grandfather’s day, he was a champion at picking corn, and, while it was day, could average ten bushels a day.” Now several things are true about this. One is that my grandfather really was a champion at picking corn, but that is another story for another time. The second thing is that day has three different meanings in the course of just one sentence. Day first means time, “in my grandfather’s time.” Second, it means “while the sun was up,” day as opposed to night. And third, it meant “twenty-hour increments,” Tuesday and then Wednesday, and so on. But the third thing to note about this is that for native speakers of English, the different uses of day do not throw us in a state of consternation. We pick up on all kinds of contextual clues that enable us to tell what is going on. Now when the Hebrew word yom is used elsewhere in Scripture, and is associated with evening and morning, it always means twenty-four hour day. And when it is used with either a cardinal or ordinal number it always means day.

Okay, so this is me taking my position about Genesis in a discussion of Genesis. But let’s come at this from another angle. Since we are talking about readings of Genesis, let’s turn to other readings of Genesis elsewhere in Scripture and see what we find there.

Since this is a debate about the interpretation of a passage, I want to begin by appealing to authorities, of equal authority to Genesis, who are themselves interpreting the passage. Not surprisingly, I want to begin with the Lord Jesus.

1. In His discussion of divorce, Jesus refers to the first man and the first woman, and He does so leaving an incidental time stamp on His statement, revealing how He understood the relative timing of the creation and the lives of our first parents.

“But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;” (Mark 10:6–7).

The Lord says that God made man “male and female” from the beginning (arche) of creation (ktisis). Now this makes good sense if Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day of creation, at the climax of that week, but it makes no sense if Adam and Eve emerged from a group of hominids billions of years after the first act of creation. Jesus doesn’t say He created us male and female from the beginning of our race. God created us male and female at the beginning of the creation.

Now any sentence that begins with “the Lord Jesus was wrong about Genesis because . . .” is theologically problematic. There are those who want to understand the incarnation in accommodationist terms, wherein Jesus fully participated in the ignorance of His times on certain matters. But this creates insurmountable problems for anyone who wants to call Jesus Lord. If He was mistaken about something like this, if He was reading the text wrong, what shall we then do with the Sermon on the Mount? What shall we do with those portions of the Sermon on the Mount that are particularly, um, confining?

2. The apostle Paul makes a passing reference to the creation that works in very much the same way.

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Since the time of creation, mankind has clearly seen the majesty of God in that creation. Since the creation, God has been speaking, and as long as He has been speaking, there has been someone there who should have been listening. He is not saying that we can see the divine majesty now in the created order. He is saying that God’s eternal power and Godhead have been clearly seen “from the creation of the world.” This does not, in Paul’s way of expressing it, leave room for billions of years with an empty auditorium.

3. How was the Genesis passage read later on in the Old Testament?

“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Ex. 20:11).

“It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Ex. 31:17).

Out of all the “explanations” of Genesis that are out there — gap, day/age, framework, etc. — the one that strikes me as being least like special pleading is the case that Wiseman made in Clues to Creation in Genesis. He argues that the days of Genesis are in fact 24-hour days, but that they are days of revelation, not creation. Adam was learning how to write (on cuneiform) and the evening and the morning were the first day (of writing) about the order of creation. But these passages in Exodus exclude that reading. In these passages, it was six days of fashioning the earth, not six days of revealing to Adam what He had done. So the Lord made the heaven, earth, sea, and everything in them, in the course of six days, which six days were the model for Israel in keeping the sabbath holy. It is clearly a pattern for weeks established by the first week.

It is a pattern, incidentally, that we still keep for that reason alone. There is a basis in the natural order for the other time markers we have — days, months, years, and so on. But the week has no cosmological basis. The only reason that seven days seems fitting before we start counting over again is the fact that God made the earth in this length of time.

4. As I have argued elsewhere, Adam was the one who brought death into the world.

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Rom. 5:12–13).

In an old earth, theistic evolution scenario, death has to precede Adam, because death is the mechanism that God used to create Adam. The fossil record is a gigantic graveyard record, and if it is older than Adam, then Adam cannot have been the one who introduced it all. And if Adam descended from these struggling and dying creatures, then what was God telling him when He said “the day you eat of the fruit you shall die”?

Someone might want to say that this just refers to the death of humans, not the death of animals. In addition to the fact that Adam’s great great grandparents had fallen into a tar pit, there are multiple problems with this:

First, the Bible teaches from beginning to end that the plan of salvation is intended to restore the entire created order. In Genesis, we were banished from Eden and the tree of life, and at the end of Revelation, the tree of life is there beckoning us, with leaves for the healing of the nations. And in that return to the Edenic state, God includes the creatures, which means that these creatures were included in the bliss we fell from. Why would they be restored with us if they didn’t fall with us?

“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, And the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: And dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord” (Is. 65:25).

Second, to exclude the created order from the effects of the Fall (saying that death was normal outside the human race) ignores what Paul says about how the creation is longing for the manifestation of the sons of God, knowing that its destiny is inexorably linked to ours.

“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom. 8:22).

Third, it calls the goodness of God into question. There is a certain splendor in the way our fallen world works — e.g a lion chasing a gazelle — but which would be creepy in an unfallen world. Did God really call millions of years of screaming pain good?

And last, the curse given to Adam makes no sense if the Fall affected only mankind. After Adam sinned, and God cursed the world around him, what did that curse do exactly?

“And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field” (Gen. 3:17–18).

If you are going to listen to an unbelieving interpretation of rocks over against a faithful exposition of Scripture, you have a problem. We have fossils of thorns and thistles that antedate man by 300-400 million years — provided you always believe those who say the science is settled. But the science is always settled until somebody unsettles it.

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Katecho
Member

Excellent. Particularly enjoyed the argument in #1. Regarding the term “yom” (day), Doug is careful to outline several ways that the term can be used in Hebrew as well as in English. Still, we don’t need to guess at how the term is being used in this context because Genesis explicitly defines the term “yom” before it starts to use it over and over. It has a technical definition in Genesis 1:5. “God called the light day (yom).” This means that the day must be demarcated by the presence of light. There is no other contextual way to get around… Read more »

Tony from Pandora
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Tony from Pandora

Can you clarify your comment “Since the creation, God has been speaking, and as long as He has been speaking, there has been someone there who should have been listening.” Are you saying humans are the ones listening?

God spoke the light and the dry ground into being before humans were around to hear it. I’m just trying to fit this in with the rest of the post.

I understand Christ and the Holy Spirit are eternally with God. Perhaps he’s talking to them?

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

I wasn’t won over by your arguments but you were making some very good points right up till your last paragraph. You joint most other YEC in the great copout that science currently does or at some point will bear out Ussher’s age of the Earth. If you send a group of zealous young men from your church into grad schools as scouts and spies they may come back with some terrifying tales from the dorms but they are not going to find any great conspiracy to age the Earth. Have the courage of your convictions and confront the aged… Read more »

Matt
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Matt

Context determines meaning. Regarding yom, a huge contextual clue is the phrase, “and there was evening, and there was morning, the Nth day.” I am curious how people who take yom to be a long period of time would understand this phrase, repeated for each of the six day of creation.

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

It’s a common straw manning strategy (only vaguely hinted at here with the use of “accommodationist”) to assert that belief in an old Earth while holding to other essential Christian doctrine is a sure fire strategy to gain tenure and be invited to cocktail parties with Richard Dawkins. If you think that believing in a 5 billion year old Earth while also believing in the resurrection or in eternal damnation makes you more palatable to atheists then you haven’t spent much time around atheists. What it does mean is that you are alienated from both atheists and the majority of… Read more »

Carson Spratt
Member

Barnabas: perhaps, instead of adjusting your “literalness level” and then seeing what you get out of Scripture, it would be better to let Scripture tell you how literally it wants to be taken. The proper level of literal/metaphorical is dictated by Scripture itself. Could you possibly respond to Doug’s arguments which point to the fact that Christ, Paul, and Genesis itself all take the 7-day creation as a literal, historical event?

Barnabas
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Barnabas

He has shown no such thing. I can only assume that Jesus would not get into the details of creation for the same reason that the ancient Hebrews weren’t given a precise, scientific narrative. It didn’t serve his purposes and would only have destracted from his message. Pastor Wilson’s strongest argument would be that of death not entering into the world prior to Adam’s sin but certainly we have many scriptural examples of death meant in a spiritual sense (that being no less “real” than a ceasing of cellular metabolism). Adam himself did not literally die when he ate the… Read more »

David R
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David R

“Also, sin had already entered into the world with the falling of Satan to Earth and in the presence of the lying serpent.”

This might be your problem right here. The Bible explicitly says that sin entered the world through Adam and death through sin (Rom. 5:12). If you are willing to throw this aside, what else are you willing to jettison.

Matt
Guest
Matt

But the science is always settled until somebody unsettles it.

You act as though the YECs have never been allowed to try. They have, and they failed. Your position is essentially that if we didn’t have all this rampant god hatred around, then everyone would, using all the tools and methods of modern science, come right to the conclusion that “yes, the world is totally like 6000 years old”. If you have to propose an enormous conspiracy of bad faith in order for your position to make sense, you might want to revise your position.

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

David R –
Well, I guess you have an apparent contradiction on your hands. Since your holiness is exhibited by how literally you take each scripture you can’t look for nuance or context. You might have to “jettison” some.

David R
Guest
David R

@Barnabas – I’m not the one battling contradictions where there are none. Plus, there is not a lot of nuance or context in Romans 5:21. Its pretty explicit and straight-forward.

Carson Spratt
Member

Matt: I suggest broader reading. If you think YEC has nothing, then you haven’t been looking in the right places, or looking at all. Try this for a good start. Perhaps research some of the predictions of Catastrophic Plate Tectonics. Or read up on fossilized whales, or polystrate trees. There’s a lot of good stuff out there: to simply dismiss Young Earth Creationism, particularly when it is frequently ridiculed, not answered, and denied any hearing, is to buy into a very narrow view of science.

Flavel
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Flavel

Thank you, Pastor Wilson, for this. I wonder if another way to come at this polemically is to show that none of the “Christian” theories of evolution proffered to save us from the embarrassment of “denying science” do in fact line up with modern Darwinian cosmology. The day-age theory certainly does not—at least if we are to take the ages as occurring in order. Nor does the gap theory to my knowledge. In other words, if you (for the sake of argument) give the theistic evolutionists any interpretation of yom that they wants they still won’t be able to come… Read more »

Arwen B
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Arwen B

Barnabas said: Adam himself did not literally die when he ate the fruit as had been warned. He eventually died literally but the immediate and more significant meaning was a spiritual death. Have you considered that you are looking at this backwards? That real literal death is not physical, but spiritual? Sin is failure to hit the targets God set up for us. When Adam ate of the tree, he failed to hit the target that God set for him (i.e. not eating of the tree), and in doing so, separated himself from God. If God is Life, then separation… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Barnabas wrote: If you send a group of zealous young men from your church into grad schools as scouts and spies they may come back with some terrifying tales from the dorms but they are not going to find any great conspiracy to age the Earth. Have the courage of your convictions and confront the aged creation. I’m disappointed in this kind of response from Barnabas. What do grad schools teach about the permanence of death? Does one have to assume a conspiracy to explain why grad schools don’t teach and affirm the resurrection? Wouldn’t the authority structure of the… Read more »

prayersofadoration
Member

Jesus’ “from the beginning of the creation” and Paul’s “from the creation of the world” might not be time references but direction references, so to speak. I know no Greek though so help me here.

“Did God really call millions of years of screaming pain good?”

What if he did?

bethyada
Member

Tony, Doug’s comment follows his quote of Paul. So “God is speaking” refers to what Paul said, ie: For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

This particular “speech” is God speaking to humans.

Gregori
Guest
Gregori

Katecho. Here Here and Amen. The appeal to scientific authority in the Church especially among the Learned is frightening

Gregory C Dickison
Guest
Gregory C Dickison

Some random thoughts on the passing scene: What do y’all mean “looks old”? Those rocks don’t look a day over 6,019 to me. If Adam was created to look, say, 35 years old, how is that an argument against his being created the day before yesterday? To say that YEC has not met the scientific smell test misses the point. Does YEC submit to science, or to God’s word? Isn’t Jesus the Lord of science? If God’s word is merely metaphorical on creation, why is it not metaphorical on the parting of the Red Sea, turning water into wine, or… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

katecho,

I understand the heathen’s rage. What puzzles me is how someone/anyone who nominally (by calling themselves Christian) believes in creation ex nihilo by a Being Who says “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me….Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth” could have the audacity to think that because they do not understand it, that He cannot do it.

Asking as a friend of the court, about when in history did God’s people start questioning creation?

Isaac
Guest
Isaac

My favorite arguments for believing the Bible when it says these were 24-hour days (“evening and morning”) have all been listed except one: if evolution is true then you can throw out the Bible’s ethical system. Either the world is made better by the strong dieing for the weak or the world is made better by the strong killing the weak. I get so frustrated by Christians believing that interpreting rocks and fossils in a way that fits a certain creation myth is science. Neither the secular creation myth nor the true creation myth are falsifiable. Both groups interpret the… Read more »

kentwarrenmcdonald
Member

I have also heard the question: How does light get created on day one and the sun on day four?

Take a look at 1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

And again in Revelation 21:23 “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

The glory of God Himself was the light shining on creation prior to the fourth day.

prayersofadoration
Member

“God is light” and God is uncreated therefore light, at least as John uses the word, is uncreated and not that energy emanating from the sun. A commenter left a link in one of the earlier posts in this series that I found helpful. Here it is. The basic idea is that if you use the speed of light as your clock instead of Earth rotations then time dialation reconciles six days to however many billions years the universe appears to have on it. Another idea I wish the belligerents in this fight would come to grips with is that… Read more »

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

“Let there be light” would seem to indicate created light. (Likely this utterance created the “Big Bang.”) The statement that “God is light” should be read DUM, DUM, DUM!!!!…metaphorically.

melody
Member
melody

14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and… Read more »

melody
Member
melody

Just in case anyone thinks that God Himself did not write the ten commandments;
Exodous 32:15 “Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Did God really call millions of years of screaming pain good?

Does God call thousands of years of pain something He works together for good?

antexw
Member

Excellent, Doug! Excellent, katecho! It really does come down to ultimate epistemic authority; God’s word/reasoning as read in Scripture or man’s word/reasoning in uniformitarian presumptive extrapolation based on his present observations. Along with the resurrection, such “scientific reasoning” that “confronts the creation” would not allow for belief that the wine Jesus provided for the wedding in Cana was much older than the wedding itself. “Ahem, we all know by induction from our past observations that wine takes much longer to come about — surely, science without any conspiracy whatsoever has settled this if we are willing to honestly confront creation.”… Read more »

Tom
Guest
Tom

How does the trancendant God who created the universe, wherein time is a byproduct that can theoretically be clocked differently in vast amounts by observers within it, create a tiny speck in that universe based on the time table of that tiny speck making one rotation? It is not limiting to say he can’t. There are things God can’t do, like go against his own nature.

Jane
Member

Tom, maybe God didn’t base His timetable on the rotation of the earth. Maybe He made the earth rotate in the amount of time He called a “day.”

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Hi Tom —

Are you saying it is not in His nature to be able to do XYZ?
or that it is not in His nature to want to do XYZ?

Take self-contradiction.
We do that.
Can He?
Will He?

Take sin.
We do that — for now.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Jane, yes but the question still remains whether our perception of 24 hours can even be measured with the timeless creators. Talk about different observers!
The question the artist is invariably asked is, How long did that take you? We are always impressed with a quick hand. I’m only suggesting that we shouldn’t let our finite perception of the passage of time be a factor in praising the glory of His handiwork and whether or not we take the 6 to 1 model as literal earth days.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Hi Eric, yes God cannot contradict himself because He is truth. I’m not sure I’m tracking you on whether He would want to or is able to. It sounds like a distinction without a difference.
In the same way that God is not bound by sin, yet is able to communicate to us about sin, perhaps not being bound by time he has communicated to us about the 6 to 1 model where we live and in a way that we can understand.

J_WA
Guest
J_WA

If one believes that the creation account is meant to be read metaphorically, I don’t see why that person would not also believe that the references to “6 Days” and “Beginning of Time” by Jesus, Paul, and other Biblical authors were referring to said metaphors. I don’t see why these authors referring to the facts of the text necessarily implies they took those facts in an entirely literal sense.

Jane
Member

Tom, no, we shouldn’t let our concern over length of time overshadow our appreciation of the glory of creation. That is certainly true.

But God transcends time; that does not mean He cannot comprehend it. While there are things He cannot do because they are not logically possible things to be done, there is nothing (such as lengths of time) that we can comprehend, that He cannot.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Jane, I certainly didn’t mean that there was anything that God could not comprehend. The things that God cannot do are not limiting. In fact they are the opposite. In other words, God cannot, not be God.
The lack of comprehension is entirely on my part. I’m trying to wrap my mind around the notion that…one day, on a Monday afternoon, at 3:45, God created time, and if that even means anything.

gabe
Guest
gabe

Hello Doug, once again a fantastic treatment of an often minimized issue, especially one with so much Theological weight. I was wondering if there is a way to contact you specifically like with an email?

thanks

Andy Chance
Guest
Andy Chance

I do not doubt the relatively young age of the earth or that the Genesis account records six literal days of creation. I ask (because I really want to know), “Is animal death before the Fall really incompatible with YEC?” Because surely the emphasis is on human death. And by observation, it looks like carnivores were designed to be carnivores. And could thousands of years of joyful meat-eating really be wrong? And will there really be no meat-eating in the new heavens and new earth? Isaiah 25:6-9 indicates that there will be meat eaten at the marriage supper of the… Read more »

Pete
Guest
Pete

DW writes:

As I have argued elsewhere, Adam was the one who brought death into the world.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Rom. 5:12–13).”

And here was I thinkin’ that the Apostle Paul wrote that…

craig
Guest
craig

Taking the text literally, I am not under any curse, as I am not a farmer.