A Case for Young Earth Creationism, Part 4

So far I have appealed mostly to passages in the book of Romans to make theological points about the age of the earth, but now my task is to deal with the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 itself.  I will approach this by listing the various interpretations of the passage and showing why the literal interpretation of young earth creationism fits the totality of the evidence the best.

(1) The Gap Theory: Some approach this passage more or less in a literal manner, but they still opt for an old earth view by positing a gap of millions, perhaps billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.  Why, Gap Theorists ask, is the earth “without form and void” in verse 2?  According to them, it is because the Satanic fall occurred at some point between verses 1 and 2 and disrupted the order of God’s good creation, which had existed for a very long time.  The biblical creation account (Genesis 1:2-2:3), therefore, refers to God’s reorganization of the earth that he had actually created millions or billions of years before.

Few hold to this position anymore, and for good reason.  It hangs a truckload of data on silence.  It appears to be self-contradictory, because how could an original creation exist for billions of years without the sun, which wasn’t created until verse 16?  It does not make sense of the flow of the text, which clearly reads like a summary (v. 1) followed by a detailed account (vv. 2ff.), a writing style that happens quite often in Scripture.  The Gap Theory will not do.

(2) The “Day-Age” view: According to this view, the Hebrew word yom (“day”) does not indicate a regular day but rather a lengthy period that accounts for the millions, or even billions of years that the earth has existed.  Day-Age proponents argue that the word yom may be used flexibly, much like we use the word “day” in different ways.  For example, I might say, “In Calvin’s day it was much more common for people to be executed for heretical teachings than it is in our day.”  Obviously, I don’t mean a twenty-four hour period by the word “day” in that sentence.  I mean something like “age.”  Day-Age proponents further argue that this reading harmonizes the Genesis account with modern science.

I reject the Day-Age view because, while yom may certainly be used in various ways, context must decide its usage in every instance.  This passage clearly has regular days in view.  I know of no other examples where the word “day” can be used in a numbered sequence (“first day,” “second day,” etc.) where the meaning of “day” is not a regular day.  But that is precisely what happens in this text.  Furthermore, the repeated formula of “evening and morning” clearly indicates that a normal day is in view.  One might object that “evening and morning” do not constitute a twenty-four hour period but rather just the span of time from evening to morning, but that would be to read the passage woodenly, not literally.  The phrase “evening and morning” is simply a metonymy for the whole day, much like a person in our time might say “sun-up to sundown.”  We must not press language beyond its intention.  The Day-Age view falters on the way the word “day” is actually used in this passage.

(3) The Literary Framework view: Some argue that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is a literary description of creation, not a historical description.  On this reading, the word “day” retains its normal usage, with the understanding that the author has no intention of giving a step-by-step account of how creation actually occurred.  In reality, the world was probably created more or less the way scientists believe.  The repetitious nature of the account and its symmetrical proportions (with days 1 and 4 corresponding, days 2 and 5 corresponding, and days 3 and 6 corresponding, climaxing with day 7) indicate that the author is giving a poetic impression, not a scientific description.  The narrative was written to counter other ancient near eastern creation myths.  It seems to be deliberately shaped around the Jewish practice of the Sabbath, which is another indication that its purpose is not to describe history.

Of all the views, this one has the most to commend it if the literal view is rejected.  The passage does indeed have a number of poetic elements.  However, it is not Hebrew poetry.  If Genesis 1:1-2:3 were placed in the book of Psalms, it would stick out like a sore thumb.  It has certainly been crafted into a literary masterpiece, but it does not strictly follow the conventions of Hebrew poetry (namely, parallel line couplets).  The Masoretes did not recognize it as poetry, because they gave it accent marks consistent with prose.  It stands at the beginning of a book that clearly is not a collection of poetry but rather a historical narrative.  Other historical accounts show evidence of high literary craftsmanship.  Bruce Waltke (who does not agree with my view of Genesis 1:1-2:3, I will admit) has shown that the account of the flood in Genesis 6:9-9:19 is one giant chiasm, and yet that does not prove that it is not a historical account.  The Gospels show similar signs of literary craftsmanship, but they too intend to give us theologically interpreted history.  The literary marks of Genesis 1:1-2:3 do not prove that it is not a historical account.

The same may be said for the claim that it is a polemic against rival creation myths.  I think that is probably true, but I don’t see how that proves anything.  To my mind, the best kind of polemical account would be one that represents what really happened.  As for the account’s relationship to the Sabbath, this actually represents the strongest argument for a literal interpretation of the passage.  Exodus 20:8, 11 reads as follows:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. . . For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

One may argue that the Sabbath practice gave rise to the creation account, but one would be doing so against the explicit declaration of Scripture.  I don’t know what else to make of Exodus 20:11 than that God gave the Sabbath command on the basis of the work he did in creation, a command that wouldn’t make much sense if God did not actually create everything in six days.  One of the foundational principles of biblical interpretation (for those with a high view of biblical authority) is that Scripture is its own best interpreter.  If we let Scripture interpret Scripture, I don’t see how we can avoid the conclusion that the earth was created in six days. 

Plus, the “literary framework view” suffers from the theological problems that I outlined in previous posts about death (at least in the animal kingdom) prior to the Fall.  For these several reasons, I judge it to be inadequate.

That leaves us with a more or less literal understanding of Genesis 1:1-2:3.  No, it is not a strictly scientific account.  It uses literary conventions, figures of speech, phenomenological language, etc., but it does spell out a clear process and timeline by which God created the heavens and the earth.  Some object that this reading is nonsensical, for how could “days” be reckoned prior to the creation of the sun, around which the earth orbits?  While that is a good point (we count days based on revolutions of the earth as it is drawn by the sun’s gravity), I don’t think the concept of time itself necessarily depends on the movements of the earth.  In other words, time exists regardless of where you are and how you are moving.  Of course, I realize that modern physics has shown that space and time form a continuum (something I am not competent to discuss in detail), but I don’t know that that would change very much in this case.  If the days were not exactly twenty-four hours, I don’t see that as a problem for my view, so long as they were lengths of time close enough to approximate a day.  This is how John Feinberg argues in his book No One Like Him

 But what about the objection that light could not exist on Day 1 prior to the creation of the sun on Day 4?  I understand that objection, but I don’t find it too hard to imagine that God could create light to exist on its own, only later to be channeled to a definite source that would, from that time on, replenish it.  And if we believe that God did it that way, then it may even help us with some of the scientific objections to young earth creationism.  But more on that later.

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4 Responses to “A Case for Young Earth Creationism, Part 4”

  1. The Orange Mailman Says:

    Fenderpooh-

    I have used Ezekiel 28:11-19 to show that Satan was in his unblemished form in the garden of Eden. It also seems that Isaiah 14:12-14 gives Satan’s thoughts as he is on the earth and determining to ascend into heaven and establish a throne for himself beside God’s throne.

    How could Satan be sinning for the first time in the garden of Eden which was not planted until the sixth day of creation if he fell eons before? I like the series on creationism you are doing. I look forward to more.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  2. Matthew McKenna Says:

    I really have to point this out. This was filed under the ‘science’.

    I am having a difficult task finding any science in this entry.

  3. fenderpooh Says:

    “Science” simply means “knowledge.” I have filed this whole series under “science” because it all pertains to the age of the earth, which is a scientific question. I suppose I could make a new category called “doctrine of creation,” but that’s a little more specific than I want to get with my categories.

  4. Luke A. Says:

    You’re losing me Aaron….

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