Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Genesis Debate

This lesson concerned the book below, which is a debate between scholars holding three views on creationism. The authors and their views are listed below.

The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation

J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall
The 24 - Hour View

Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer
The Day – Age View

Lee Irons and Meredith G. Kline
The Framework View

The debate is structured as shown below. Each team writes an essay giving their view. Both of the other teams then write a response critiquing it, and then the first team writes a reply.

PART ONE: The 24 – Hour View Duncan and Hall
The Day – Age View response
The Framework View response
The 24 – Hour Reply
PART TWO: The Day – Age View Ross and Archer
The 24 – Hour Response
The Framework Response
The Day – Age Reply
PART THREE: The Framework View Irons and Kline
The 24 Hour Response
The Day – Age Response
The Framework Reply

From the Foreword of the book, written by Norman Geisler, and other materials in the book, five of the authors have advanced theological backgrounds. One (Hugh Ross) has a scientific background. All hold a high view of Scripture. The debate is not over the inspiration of Scripture, but its interpretation. None supports macro evolutionary theory of human origins. Each team vigorously argues that its view is more Biblical, without denying the sincere and genuine faith of the other teams.

From the back cover, here are two endorsements by well-known theologians.

For years those who affirm the Bible is without error have had differences about the days of creation. Here six able men, each committed to the absolute authority of Scripture, charitably discuss those differences. Regardless of which view you hold, The Genesis Debate is a powerful read for anyone interested in the creation debate. It will make you think and deepen your faith, helping you to see that God not only made the world, and all that is in it, but that He did it by the Word of His power, and for His glory.
R.C. Sproul

The Genesis Debate makes for interesting reading and serious discussion among all who hold the Bible in high esteem. The three positions defended here are clearly all within the boundaries of orthodoxy. Each view receives a fair hearing and each is well critiqued by those who hold the differing positions. Perhaps the best contribution this excellent book will make is the way it forces the reader to see three differing ways to read Genesis 1-2 without unnecessarily dividing the church into three argumentative and polarized camps. I am more resolved to encourage this discussion to greater depths of study and earnest discussion after reading this important book.
John H. Armstrong


Since many people are not familiar with the Framework view, I will briefly introduce it here. This view teaches that Genesis 1 only provides a theological framework for understanding God’s creation of the world. It is not trying to tell us whether the “days” were 24 hours long or ages long. That is not the point. The things described are historical events, but the sequence and chronology of them are not relevant to the story that is being told. The created things are arranged by topic to make a theological point, not to tell us the order and timing of their creation. The story is arranged to give us a framework in which to understand God’s message.

The framework: two triads in submission to the Creator
Creation kingdoms Creature kings
Day 1 Light Day 4 Luminaries
Day 2 Sky and seas Day 5 Sea and winged creatures
Day 3 Dry land, vegetation Day 6 Land animals, man
The Creator King
Day 7 Sabbath
Thus, the story is about God creating kingdoms and creatures to rule over them, as God rests on His throne, ruling over all. On day 4, the luminaries (Sun, Moon, and stars) are said to “rule” over day and night. On day 5, the birds and sea creatures were told to “be fruitful and multiply”. This language is similar to the command to Adam and Eve, and implies a kind of rule. This is a theme that is repeated in the seven day week and in several other occasions in Scripture, which are spoken of as 7 days, weeks, years, generations, etc., or as multiples of 7. This is so, even if the numbers do not strictly add up to 7. This is not science; it is a message describing God and His creation.

The lesson today covered the opening essay of the 24 hour view by Duncan and Hall, and part of the day-age response by Ross and Archer. This topic will be continued in our next class.


The 24 Hour View, by Duncan and Hall

Duncan and Hall claim:

The “days” of Genesis 1 are literal, 24 hour days.
They are only concerned with interpreting Scripture (exegesis) and with the history of its interpretation of “day” (yom). Only these two sources of information will be considered. Science changes with time and is irrelevant. It will eventually agree with Scripture when scientists “get it right”. Thus, Duncan and Hall are not like some young earth creationists who claim that science agrees with a young earth creationist view.
Strict exegesis of Scripture is only consistent with 24 hour days. It is the only orthodox view.
Believers of all ages have been able to correctly interpret Scripture.

The controversy over the “days” of Genesis is a recent one, basically of the last two centuries, and is driven by evolution.
Eminent scientists such as Isaac Newton were young earth creationists.
Augustine was a rare exception who did not support the 24 hour view.
The 24 hour view is the only literal interpretation.
“What is primary is what God intended to communicate about the creation days to Moses and his original audience and whether the rest of Scripture corroborates such original intent.”

1. God created the world from nothing and is distinct from it.
2. God shaped His creation from formlessness into order.
3. God’s world was originally good and, therefore, different from the corrupted world in which we live.
4. Man’s sin is entirely responsible for corrupting original creation.
5. God’s character (justice and mercy) is revealed as He responds to the Fall, the Flood, and Babel.

All evangelicals acknowledge these theological truths.

[Comment: some evangelicals do not agree with all of these points, as previously discussed in class.]

Two triads in Genesis 1:

God creates form (order) on days 1 – 3.
God creates fullness on days 4 – 6, filling the world.
He creates light on both days 1 and 4.
The glory of God is reflected in order, fullness, and light.

Historically, most interpreters have taught 24 hour days.
Creation reveals God’s goodness.
Beware of accommodating Scripture to science. Science can change.
If you let science influence your interpretation on this topic, where will it end? The slippery slope to evolution!
The Flood changed a lot of things that may fool scientific studies of the early earth.
The Fall affected mankind’s reasoning ability, and hence science.

The seventh day
The seventh day was a normal, 24 hour day. It marked completion of creation, but God still is active in other ways.
Calvin: “Inasmuch as God sustains the world by His power, governs it by His providence, cherishes and even propagates all creatures, he is constantly at work.”
Day-age supporters are wrong to say that there is no end to the seventh day, attempting to support long “days”.
The conventional, 7 day week makes sense if the creation days were seven 24 hour days.

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” John 5:17

This verse supports the idea that God is not currently at rest. He nurtures, but does not create.

And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” 5And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Heb 4:3-6

The Sabbath day is a gift to man and a promise for believers about entering God’s rest. It is a reflection of God’s original, 24 hour day of rest.

Some anticipated problems and responses:
The creation of light on day 1 and the Sun on day 4 is not a problem. God can do as He wishes, creating light on day 1 with or without the Sun.
The busyness of the sixth day implies longer than 24 hours?
Answer: Adam before the Fall was capable of more than he was after the Fall.
Yom has at least three meanings in Gen 1-2, therefore how can one be dogmatic that the creation days are 24 hours? Answer: what matters is the exegesis of Gen 1-2. “Evening and morning” indicate literal, 24 hour days.

Did trees have time to grow? If we take the words of Gen 1:12 and 2:9 in their plain sense, don’t they present us with instances of plants growing gradually over a period of time?

12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day. Gen 1

And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. Gen 2:9

Answer: This was during the creation week, so the growth was supernatural, not natural.

Scripture never teaches that the creation days were anything other than 24 hours long.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Ex 20:8-10

For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. Ps 33:9
Taking these and many similar passages to refer to creation days as long periods of time only comes from extra-biblical sources in the nineteenth century or later, not from Biblical exegesis.

Many similar verses from Genesis to Revelation are reviewed. While they do not explicitly teach that the creation days were 24 hours long, they give that impression very strongly.

God directly creates and sustains:
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Heb 11:3

God did not use natural processes to create. God directly creates and sustains. We know this by faith, not by science.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Col 1

Jesus Christ directly created and sustains.

History of interpretation of “days”:
“… since the twenty-four hours fill up the interval of one day.” Basil (329 – 379)
“But Scripture established a law that twenty-four hours … should be given the name of day only” Ambrose (339 – 397)
Augustine (354 – 430) was anomalous, teaching that all of creation happened in a fraction of a second.
“… one day is made up of twenty-four hours.” Aquinas (1224 – 1274)
Calvin (1509 – 1564) did not explicitly comment on the 24 hour view, but apparently would have supported it.
Luther, Ussher, Lightfoot, Newton, and others in the 1500 to 1700 time frame supported a 24 hour view.

[Note: Ussher and Lightfoot are the scholars who worked “backwards” through Scripture and other historical records to compute the date of creation (around 4004 B.C.), and many other dates along the way. Their computed dates were commonly included in footnotes or section headings in the King James Version of the Bible for a very long time, giving the impression to many that these dates were part of the Biblical text.]

Don’t modern interpreters know more than ancient ones?
Answer: Only if their exegesis is better than that of the ancient ones.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Eccl 1:9

This verse indicates that new interpretations are not favored.

The authors quote James Barr, who stated that no credible Old Testament scholar at any “world class university” construes the days of creation as anything other than literal 24 hour days.
The 24 hour view is the only historic, orthodox position.

What about natural revelation?
We should not grant natural revelation (which is always filtered by the interpreter) a status equal to, or greater than, special revelation as it has been interpreted by the community of the faithful and circumscribed by the analogy of faith… When forced to choose between conflicting sources of authority, we join the chorus begun by the apostle Paul,

“Let God be true, and every man a liar.” Rom 3:4

[Note: these are the views of Duncan and Hall. Their arguments may have strengths and weaknesses. Other young earth creationists who share the 24 hour view may use somewhat different arguments which may not share any particular weaknesses of the arguments of Duncan and Hall. Also, some young earth creationists believe that science gives important information and does agree with the 24 hour view.]


The Day Age Response: (by Hugh Ross and Gleason Archer)

There is agreement on many things such as the transcendence of the Creator, the singularity of the creation event, the Biblical case as well as a growing scientific basis for the recent, special creation of Adam and Eve and for the literal descent of all humanity from them. However, on many points these authors have different conclusions.

Revisiting church history.

Duncan and Hall view the day-age view as arising in the last two centuries to accommodate Darwinian evolution (1859).
However, Issac Newton did not support the 24 hour view. From the same letter (1680 A.D.) and paragraph from which Duncan and Hall think that Newton implied an agreement with the 24 hour view, Newton wrote, “Now for ye number and length of ye six days: by what is said above you may make ye first day as long as you please, and ye second day too.” In the same paragraph, Newton wrote that Earth’s first rotation took at least a year to complete. In the following paragraph, he said that the mountains were formed by gradual, natural processes. He also says that many of his contemporaries had similar views.

The views of some of the early church fathers are discussed. Some of them apparently did not agree with the 24 hour view, and held a variety of views on this topic in the first few centuries. All agree that Augustine (354 – 430) taught that creation actually happened in a fraction of a second. While this is not in agreement with the day-age view, it still illustrates that there was a diversity of interpretation of the “days” in early centuries.

Do all Old Testament scholars support the 24 hour view?
Duncan and Hall quoted James Barr, who stated that no credible Old Testament scholar at any “world class university” construes the days of creation as anything other than literal 24 hour days. The irony is that Barr’s statement comes from his attempts to discount, rather than support, biblical inerrancy and the integration of scientific fact with Scriptural truth. His definition of “world class university” apparently refers to schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and many European theological schools in which unbelief is common. Many of them would say that the 24 hour view is the only credible interpretation of Genesis as a way of demonstrating that the Bible is in error, since this does not agree with conventional science. But the statement was wrong when made because Gleason Archer and Walter Kaiser, among many other highly reputable Bible scholars, did and do support the long-day interpretation. Also, no evangelical Old Testament or Hebrew professor who participated in the 1982 International Council on Biblical Inerrancy concluded that the Genesis creation account mandated six consecutive 24 hour creation days. No doubt many of them supported the 24 hour view, but felt that other views were reasonable and acceptable.

What about science?
Duncan and Hall repeated assert creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) where Genesis 1 does not. For example, in the case of “light” in Gen 1:3, the word for God’s creative activity is haya, not bara. This suggests that the light appeared (shone through clouds), and was not the original creation ex nihilo of light. This is exegesis, which is Duncan and Hall’s emphasis. It also makes the account agree with science. Similar arguments can be made for other things (appearance of the Sun, continental land masses, etc). Duncan and Hall misrepresent the physics of stellar burning (with implied great age) as uncertain and widely disputed. It is not. On this basis, they discount generally astronomical research.

Duncan and Hall frequently equate astronomy with Darwinian evolution in terms of uncertainty. Biological history is inferred, astronomical history can be directly observed. All the life stages of stars can be currently observed. Biological evolution deals with incredibly complex systems, stellar burning involves very simple, well-understood physics. While the cessation of biological speciation requires no change in even a single law of physics, the cessation of star formation and stellar development would involve the overthrow of essentially all laws of physics. Modern physics strongly supports a single cosmic creation event ex nihilo (the Big Bang).

To be continued next week, Lord willing.

No comments: