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The Bible teaches that God created all things from nothing by His Word in six evening-and-morning days, and it was all good. Moderns and ancients, rich and poor, male and female, bookish and Bubba alike are meant to exult in that radical but clear concept.
As one consults interpretations held by earlier believers, one thing becomes clear: From the inception of God’s revelation until the 1800s, the universal Christian consensus about Genesis 1–2 was that God’s creation—majestic and breathtakingly involved—did not require a long developmental period. But shortly after 1800, novel ideas surfaced to challenge that historic agreement, and thereafter many Christians retreated to Creation schemes of lesser majesty. We now find Christians winking or compulsively fingering bunny-eared quotation marks around the word day. Others go even farther and nod to secularists as greater experts on Creation than Moses himself.
Many fine people have surrendered this aspect of the revealed faith out of their customary desire to avoid offending unbelievers. But Biblical Creation may be a doctrine that is inherently and unavoidably offensive to the natural mind.
This surrender to secularism, even if animated by believers’ good intentions, can have many tolls. Among the ministry surcharges are that we must: disenfranchise most Christians who lived before 1850; reinterpret earlier confessions absurdly; “wink” while singing or saying Scriptural words; preach vaguely or inscrutably on Creation; and diminish miracles. Most tragic in this “Reinventing Creation” process is the loss of confidence in Scripture’s clarity. For if the Genesis texts do not mean what they say, then numerous other texts are eventually doubted.
The first revelation about Creation contains no hint that the days are anything other than normal, sequential days with alternating night and day. Latter-day audiences may impose other meanings, but the Hebrew language itself neither demands nor suggests that the days were eons, which admittedly could have been expressed by different wording. The chronology of Creation even assumes the normal Hebrew reckoning, extending from the first part of their day, evening (sunset), through the night into morning.
It is exceedingly difficult to imagine agrarian Hebrew audiences in the second millennium B.C. readily “seeing” intricate triads and highly figurative poetry, or winking at the word day as if it meant “age.” That takes practice! For centuries, Hebrew temple worship included recitations of the Genesis narratives (partially explaining the tenacity of literal interpretations), and even to the time of Christ’s incarnation, no known examples of “framework” views, “day-age” theories, or any of the other modern brands existed. The Hebrew calendar, dated 5761, remains a potent witness to this fact. The earliest chronologies took those Genesis texts rather literally.
Jesus Himself never tried to deconstruct these passages. He embraced all of the old covenant personalities, including Adam, Cain, Abel, and Noah, as real, historic people with no winking.
The rest of the New Testament affirms that:
1. God created matter from things that were not (Rom. 4:17).
2. Material and immaterial things were directly created by Christ (Col. 1:16).
3. Believing in Creation takes faith (Heb. 11:3), and God created by His powerful Word without the need of assistance from lengthy processes.
The church agreed on these truths for centuries, until the weakened Western church began to accommodate modern mindsets. Even some of our evangelical heroes (Charles Hodge, who pledged to reinterpret Genesis “with the utmost alacrity” if the ages were proven lengthy, and Benjamin Warfield, who reconstructed John Calvin as a theistic evolutionist) unwittingly were children of their age.
Until the nineteenth-century fault line, however, the following Christians united to affirm that God created ex nihilo by His Word (not by evolutionary processes) and that the sum total of world history was far shorter than billions of years: Basil, Ambrose, Augustine, Anselm, Lombard, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Perkins, Ames, Ussher, Edwards, and even one of America’s first geographers, Jedidiah Morse, whose 1796 American Universal Geography dated the creation of Adam at 4004 B.C. Until the late 1800s, exemplars such as Charles Spurgeon still referred to “the events of the six thousand years which have passed since the earth was created.” Were all of these men misguided?
If one consults the Scriptures themselves and most godly commentary before 1850, it becomes obvious that earlier Christians did not “find” framework eisegesis or day-age views in Scripture until some elitist told them, retold them, and retold them again that Genesis should not be interpreted as straightforward history. Still today, when new Christians or people uninitiated into our Western scientific club read the opening chapters of Genesis, they think the same thing the early church did: God created in six ordinary days, and the miracle is all the greater for the shortness of time—all without winking.
To contextualize historically, the view that day equaled millions of years first arose when jazz was ascending to the musical stage, while the framework view became popular only after the Beatles! In contrast, the more straightforward view of Genesis prevailed during Bach’s fugues, the Scottish Covenanters’ psalm-singing, and even back to Gregorian chants and the Psalter of Solomon’s temple. Isn’t it odd that virtually no one “saw” these interpretations until certain nineteenth-century scientific revolutions occurred?
The earliest Christian thinkers did not “wink” when it came to this subject. They exulted, boldly proclaiming that the all-powerful God made everything by His own miraculous speaking. Neither did early Christians “nod” to secular trends and conform their interpretations to the period’s science. Do we really know better?
The church in all ages confesses that God knows more than even the smartest men. Until far better, not to mention simpler, interpretations are given, we should cling to Scriptural revelation and not repudiate earlier Christians as hopelessly naïve.
No one should underestimate sin’s centrifugal pull on the church’s theology. The world forcefully tugs on God’s saints to accommodate it and its ideas; thus, it might be better to be vigilant rather man accommodating. Otherwise, evangelicals may board a train headed for nowhere, while worldly scientists disembark, acknowledging the mounting problems with Darwinism and all its cousins.
If day isn’t “day” in Genesis 1, the church is hapless to answer the following:
1. How do we know whether the rest of Genesis 1 is anything other than poetry if evening, morning, or it was so are not actually true?
2. Why do the Old and New Testaments fail to allude to long days or slow, developmental Creation?
3. Why didn’t other godly interpreters discover long days, frameworks, or slow, developmental Creation until after certain scientific theories arose?
4. Where do we begin counting history and the weekly sabbath if the first sabbath was not a 24-hour day like the other six?
The more I study this issue, the more it appears to me that the classical view will survive; the others just don’t hold water. The old truths, not bedazzled by the spell of scientism, likely will sustain God’s people longer than the short half-life of interpretations held hostage to Darwin’s fling.
After all the ink dries, there are only two major interpretive options (not three or four): conformist or non-conformist. The newer, conformist view needs to be reminded of what Romans 12:2 says: “Do not be conformed to this world.” The second, older view needs to be emboldened and rise to tomorrow’s challenges. Moreover, it’s time that believers ceased being bullied by “experts”; our classical view of Creation is not a second-class view. It is the one that has been held by the orthodox for years—and for good reason!
We don’t wish to perpetuate the downgrade the church has experienced during the past century because of its inordinate conformity to the world. Instead, we maintain a miraculous Creation and call on secular thought to conform to that truth rather man diluting the faith. However, we’re not courageous enough to imagine somehow that secularists will finally tender their affection after we have sacrificed much of our virtue on naturalism’s altar. Lost sinners also will be more impressed with the majestic God of Creation than with the barely noticeable deity of modern accommodationism.
It’s time to remember and exult in the affirmation of Revelation 4: “ ‘You are worthy, O Lord … for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.’ ” The heavenly hosts neither wink nor nod as they glory in those truths. Neither should we.