Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Creation and Science Part 6

This is part 6 of a series that examines the evidence for a universe created by an Intelligent Designer. I would say that this Designer/Creator is the God of the Bible, but the evidence for this second bit will need to come later. To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

Reconciling Content

What are some of the alternatives to reading Genesis 1 as other than containing God's work over six contiguous twenty-four hour days?

The Formless and Void Earth

Genesis 1 starts with a summary statement, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." It then goes on to say, "The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." When did this happen? Was it part of day 1 or before day 1? Note the next phrase, "Then God said,..." This phrase marks the beginning of all the other days, and it is not illogical to say that Genesis 1:3 marks the beginning of the seven days, leaving an indeterminate time for God to brood and plan. This is really only a small point and does not do much to address other issues about what happened on which days, but it is important to keep in mind that a history of the universe is possible before the first day without any violation, and indeed with the support of the literary structure.

This "brooding" fascinates me. When I read it, I think of Proverbs 8:22-31:

The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. From everlasting, I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills I was brought forth; while He had not yet made the earth and the fields, nor the first dust of the world. When He established the heavens, I was there, when He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, when He made firm the skies above, when the springs of the deep became fixed, when He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth; Then I was beside Him as a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of men.

It is worth noting that there is no fixed chronology in the above song. Note the repeated references to springs, skies, earth, and heavens. It is like the whole is just to wonderful to take in all at once.

Poetic Structure

Some have noted that the arrangement of Genesis 1 contains a parallelism that is usually associated with Hebrew poetry. I have noted this in the table below:

Day 1: Light and Darkness Separated Day 4: Light and Darkness filled with the heavenly bodies.
Day 2: The sky separates heavens and the waters Day 5: The sky is filled with birds and the waters with fish.
Day 3: The dry land and vegetation appear Day 6: The dry land is filled with animals

The first half brings order to the formlessness of the earth and the second half fills its void. This is the important connection with Genesis 1:2, "and the earth was formless and void." It again demonstrates that the earth was there prior to the beginning of the first day. The first day was the beginning of the shaping. We can also conclude that Genesis 1 is geocentric in its perspective. It tells us about the fashioning of the earth and may not have that much to say about the rest of the heavens. It is the earth that was formless and void, and it is the earth that is shaped and filled.

Poetry may or may not have to conform to the way things actually happened. Look at Proverbs 8:22-31 again. That is a song of wisdom and exhibits no concern for chronology or the correct sequence of one event following another.

If Genesis begins with a Song of Creation, the repeated pattern of "there was morning evening and there was morning, one day." becomes a poetic device. I can hear some reasonable objections rising here, but read very closely, "one day," "a second day," "a third day," etc. The absence of the definite article can mean that chronology is given second place to structure. A man could list his children, "Arnold, one of my children; Judah, a second child; and Sarah, a third child" Or he might say, "Sarah, the first child; Arnold; the second child; and Jude the third child." The first lists the sons, followed by the daughters. The second lists the children in birth order.

We need to know how dramatically different Genesis 1 is compared to the creation accounts of Israel's neighbors. They are full of battles with sea monsters restraining creation and gods who do battle and slay them. God fashions the world by the Word of his mouth. Genesis 1's Song of Creation takes on and defeats other ancient songs of creation. The poem serves as a polemic against the mythology of its day.

Mapping the Six Days to Science

Hugh Ross' Reasons to Believe website is the best resource to explore this avenue. He takes the concept, established above, that Genesis 1 tells about the shaping of the earth from the earth's point of view. He then refines and further says that the viewpoint is from the surface of the earth, and then maps the Genesis days to these scientific events:

  • God Created the Heavens and the Earth: Big Bang, formation of the Solar System
  • The Spirit of God brooding over the surface of the waters: Design and creation of single celled organisms
  • Age 1: The cloud cover begins to decrease, allowing the light of the sun and moon to diffuse through.
  • Age 2: God created a stable water cycle of evaporation and condensation.
  • Age 3: God creates the mountains and continents. God creates the plants to grow on them. Oxygen levels increase in the atmosphere.
  • Age 4: The increased oxygen creates the ozone layer and God disperses the now unneeded cloud cover and lets the sun, moon, and stars shine through.
  • Age 5: God creates the fishes in the waters.
  • Age 6: God creates the animals and finally He creates man.

For Hugh Ross, the creative activity of God is direct and special. There is no evolution here. At one point in time, there were no sea creatures, and then there were sea creatures fully formed. It is interesting that the fossil record supports this concept. It especially explains what is known as the Cambrian Explosion at which time all modern phyla and then some suddenly appear in the fossil record. There was nothing before. For Hugh Ross and others that is evidence of the God's actions in Age 6.

It is somewhat remarkable that, although the picture is contrived, the day/ages map as smoothly as they do. One must acknowledge, on the one hand,  that Moses did not have the above notions in mind as he wrote. On the other hand, there is nothing essentially wrong with the understanding shifting to accommodate discoveries impossible during the times of Moses. Rather we can give praise for a creation account that has the ability to move into the realms of modern cosmology.

Final Words on This Topic

There are other ways of dealing with Genesis 1 and science. I have highlighted the ones with which I am the most familiar. None of them are perfect. They all have problems. And really, even the six-by-twenty-four is not perfect, even if current cosmology supported it. As I wrote in the fifth post of this series, the sixth day packs in a lot of activity. It is one thing to have God do all that creating. It is another thing to force Adam to do and feel so much in such a short amount of time.

I hope that those of you who read this conclude that I have been fair to the material and have maintained integrity in handling the Scriptures. I have just recently read where the second generation of creation-scientists are instituting a peer review system and endeavoring to pay attention to those all important details. This can mean nothing but good, and I am glad to hear such things. I await their work.

In the meantime, I plan to steer my blogging course back to more direct Scriptural themes. If I might borrow from Francis Schaeffer, I have been writing about the God Who is There. But He is There and He is not Silent. I will steer my course once more to His written Word: the special revelation that communicates His desire to have us for His own. Our universe was not wound up like a top and left to spin wherever. No, He continues to create and interact with His creation day in and age out.

Thursday: After 6 days on Creation and Science, I am taking a day to rest.

<>< Test Everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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