A More Powerful Creation

I have decided that I don’t believe in a young earth.  By this I mean that I do not understand the bible, and in particular the early chapters of Genesis, teaches that the earth was created a few thousand years ago.   I don’t believe that the 7 days in Genesis 1 are twenty four hour periods.  Nor do I believe that they are long periods of time. This is known as the “day-age theory”, which struggles when you have plants appearing on day 3, before the sun appears on day 4!  I simply believe that the creation story is a Holy Spirit inspired story written to teach Israel (and us) important truth about God.

I’ve reached that conclusion after many years of thinking, reading and reflecting.  I think that the author of Genesis is simply not trying to give us a narrative of what happened at creation – they are trying to teach theological truth to the nation of Israel.  Theological truth, as opposed to scientific truth.

So last night I read Genesis 1 again with these conclusions in mind.  I was blown away.  In the past I had read it and wondered how it all fits together, how I am meant to understand it, how it works with what science tells us about our universe.  Those questions were so prominent in my mind that I was losing sight of what the passage tells us about God.  I was focussing on what it tells us about the world, and how it integrates with what we now know about the world.

But when you read it focussing on the theology that it is teaching all of a sudden the focus is on what the focus was always meant to be on – the truth about creation.  What struck me afresh is that God is the creator, there is one God, he made his creation free of sin, He is the one behind all the magnificent variety that we see around us, he put mankind at the pinnacle of his creation, man is the culmination of his creative genius and is above the rest of creation, man is meant to have dominion over the earth, and he rested when he finished.

These are the truths that I believe the author wants us to see.  To communicate those things is, I believe, is why Genesis 1 was written.  When we stop reading it to see how we can win arguments with angry atheists like Richard Dawkins then we are freed to dwell on the truth about God that is revealed to us.

Far from being less powerful if you abandon belief in a young earth, Genesis 1 is more powerful when you place it’s theology where it should be – front and centre.

Perhaps you can believe in a young earth and still focus on the theology of Genesis 1 without being caught up in the creation/evolution debate.  I have found that difficult.  The evolution question hangs over it like a dark cloud.  When you realise that the writer is not fussed about those issues then the cloud lifts and you are free to be impacted by what we learn about our creative God.

A final thought – just because I have decided that I don’t believe in young earth creationism that does not mean that I therefore believe in evolution.  The problems with evolution that Philip E Johnson identifies in “Darwin on Trial” are severe in my mind.  I just think that the author of Genesis is not trying to write something that modern scientists can interact with.  It’s just not that sort of a document.

Thoughts, comments and heated debate welcome!

John

10 Responses to “A More Powerful Creation”

  1. John Lennox uses metaphors too (as do you). Obviously neither yourself, John Lennox nor the Creator of language expects people to make silly statements saying we should cut off our hands etc. That is not a literal reading it is a wooden reading … only contrived to make a point.

    How the bible should be read is as the writer intended it to be understood. In the case of Genesis it is as a historical account. Saying it is poetry just because scientists like Hugh Ross do not believe in miracles of creation is imposing wishful thinking on the text.

    Oxford Hebrew scholar James Barr wrote: “… so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience”. Barr does not believe Genesis is truth, but he understands ancient Hebrew texts!

    Let’s also ask the scientists who do not believe in a miraculous creation if they believe in the flood, Babel, Abraham, the Exodus, manna, parting of the Red Sea and Jordan, walls of Jericho falling, David slaying Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, his friends in the furnace … if Jesus ever existed, if He was born of a virgin, if He was resurrected from the dead, if He ascended into heaven, if He is returning to judge the living and the dead. If they do not then it is pretty clear they are not Christians and their motive for undermining scripture ought to be obvious. If they do believe all of those other miracles then they being very inconsistent.

    In fact I feel that it is compromising Christians that come up with these schemes to “harmonise” the most egregious acts of God with the consensus views of non-Christians.

    We don’t need to impose our “science” on the bible. Let it speak for itself.

  2. Great post, John. You’ve opening a can of worms with this one 🙂

    I’m in total agreement with you on the Gen 1 creation account being theological in nature. I don’t believe we’re meant to take from it that God created everything in 6 consecutive 24 hour periods, in fact I don’t believe Genesis says anything about the age of the earth – young or old.

    Genre and context are crucial. As you say, it is the truth about God and his purpose in creation that the writer wants us to know, and he uses a poetic form to teach these things (poetry doesn’t equate to lack of truth). We should also remember that it was written in the context of a time when there were a number of creation stories in circulation, and when you read Genesis as a critique of those other stories, the differences are astounding – God does not have to battle chaos or other gods; the earth is not a byproduct of such battles; humans are not made because the gods are tired of working etc.

    This does not meant that I am an evolutionist. Evolution (at its basics of mutation and adaption) clearly does something, but it cannot bear the weight put on it by some who want to dismiss the existence of a creator.

    Having said all that, the form of words “and there was morning and there was evening” is a normal Hebrew way of referring to a 24 hour period, and we must take the meaning of the original language seriously.

    This tension has been (largely) solved for me by John Lennox (professor of mathematics at Oxford) who I had the privilege of spending some time with early last year. Since then he has written his thoughts on this topic in a very helpful little book titled ‘7 days that divide the world’.

    His thesis is that the six ‘days’ are indeed 24 hour periods during which God inputed new ‘information’ into the ‘system’, but they are not consecutive days. It took time for each new bit (or bits) of information to take effect before the next input – and the text says nothing about how long those in-between periods were. There is a lot that goes into the argument, and he is far clearer and more persuasive that the above paragraph conveys, and although I am still thinking it through, there is much that makes sense in it.

    BTW – he too refers to the earth being set on pillars passage as an example of a text that was happily read literalistically before Copernicus came along and proved that the earth moves around the sun. Today we read that text in a more metaphorical way without compromising belief in a sovereign creator God.

    He also points out that the word ‘day’ is used in 4 different ways in the passage, 3 of which aren’t 24 hour periods – it is a complex text 🙂

    • Thanks Michael and Al. I think what I am trying to say is if the author of Genesis looked at the “Answers in Genesis” website he would react by saying, “No – that’s not what I meant at all!” It’s all about how the author intends us to read the text. For me I have been helped to think through these issues by Peter Enn’s book “Inspiration and Incarnation” which looks at how Christians should grapple with some of harder issues in the Old Testament and is completely brilliant. You can get it delivered for less than $15 through Book Depository.

  3. Hi John
    I do believe in the young earth ,have a look at the answers in Genisis website that will give more flesh to the argument .
    Looking at the time line from Adam to Christ and then to modern day the bible is quite clear in support of a young earth.
    The problem we have with the bible is we cannot pick and choose what we do and do not believe .
    With regards to evalution I dont think it hangs like a cloud over anything as it is a very easy theroy to disprove.
    The Genisis story I believe can be taken at face value as their is ample evidance ignored by most secular scientists that supports a young earth theroy.

  4. This comment from Sheridan was posted on facebook:
    I take the word of God literally. Who am I in my feeble humanity to debate it’s accuracy. I think we enter dangerous territory when we start coming up with our own conclusions on how to interpret the text. Keep it simple I say. xox 🙂

    • Sheridan I’m not sure that you do interpret the bible literally. When Paul says “greet one another with a holy kiss” do you do it? When Jesus says “if your hand causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away” do you take it literally? No, and you would say to me that that those are not meant to be taken literally – they are literary devices that the authors don’t intend to be taken literally. Someone who did take it literally would be missing the point. And you would be right. I think that what you are trying to say is that you interpret the word of God as the various authors want you to interpret it.

      So when Hannah prays and says, “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, And He has set the world upon them” (1 Sam 2:8) do you take it literally? Do you believe that the earth sits on pillars? No. That’s not what the author wants us to take away from that passage. And so when the author of Genesis 1 describes 7 days of creation, the question is “how does the author want us to interpret the passage?” I have come to the conclusion that the author is telling a Holy Spirit inspired story that teaches truth about God, and he does not intend for us to take it literally, in terms of the days being 24 hour periods.

  5. This comment from John Symons was posted on facebook:

    I think the author does well to be blown away by the theological aspects of the creation story – they are not to be missed and I agree that people who get caught up in the other debate without being touched by this are missing a big deal. However I think he fails to do it justice by throwing his hands up in the air about the plain sense of the text. As a highly qualified Biblical scholar who has a very strong “hobby” study habit in science, I have also been blown away by the accuracy and consistency of this account with the observable world. He comments that “Evolution hangs over it like a dark cloud” or words more or less to that effect. In that case I would encourage him to keep turning it over in his mind and to keep examining the text, and science as well. The journey is not over. The more I study evolution, the more I am struck by its intellectual poverty. The more I study the Biblical text, the more I am blown away by both the theology of it, and the other things as well. Blessings to you and yours! 🙂

  6. Which other books in the bible have an author who is not God?

  7. Hey John… nice work. Have you read Francis Schaeffer – Genesis in Time and Space. It brilliantly places Genesis chapters 1-11 in a historical setting. I am not sure that it will contradict your argument over the ‘time taken’ for creation but it is as scholalry as it is spiritual in setting down the case for the ‘history’ of creation and God the creator in our time and space.

    You probably have gathered that I love this book and recommend it to anyone interested in the debate you have set forth here – even though it is more than 30 years old now and written before many of these debates heated up.

    Loving the blog mate!

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