I recently told friends that they had no reason to fear the book of Genesis, it’s account of creation, and the story of the global flood. In fact, I said, they could embrace Genesis as truth without fear of what pop science would have them believe about the Earth.
I’m convinced thoroughly that it’s so.
Before I move on to offer reasons for Christians to applaud Genesis in future posts, let me first take on two half-measures that (though they should have been banished to the junkyard of false theories a long time ago) persist in the church to this day.
Two theories were advanced by well-meaning Christians as methods of reconciling the vast age of the Earth (postulated by popular geology) with the Genesis account of creation. The theories emerged after a rather remarkable farmer, and member of the Scottish Enlightenment movement, named James Hutton began writing and speaking in the latter half of the 18th Century on his explanations for the observed strata in the Scottish cliffs.
Hutton explained the strata by alleging that very long periods of time must be associated with each layer within the strata; each of the various unconformities occurring therein. As a skeptic, and a man committed to advancing reason over dogma, the theory killed two birds with the same stone: It invigorated the science of geology while repudiating the dogma of a Judeo-Christian creator. No such creator was necessary. The Earth came to be as it is, Hutton reasoned, over an unimaginably long period of time.
Charles Lyell expanded upon Hutton’s work in the early-19th Century, where an out-of-work clergyman named Darwin added fossils and finches to the mix and, viola! Deep geologic time became an established fact!
Of course, such an idea was difficult for Christian clergy and apologists to ignore.
Throughout the pulpits of Europe, the UK, and the American continent, preachers of the Word found it troubling that science had seemed to have rebuked so completely the Genesis account of creation. How would they now fasten into the pews a congregation whose minds were questioning the very first utterances in the Bible?
How indeed? The two primary responses were the Gap theory and the Day-Age theory. Either of these, they reckoned, would allow for believers to sigh in relief that Genesis and “science” could reasonably co-exist within the construct of a very old Earth. As with many half-measures, both theories suffered at the start from a lack of veracity.
The Day-Age theory says that each of the first six days of creation presented in Genesis were not days as we would understand them. Rather, each day was a very long period of geologic time. So, the barkers reasoned, if each day was an unknowably long period of time, then Genesis could agree with any number that the scientist put forth as the age of our planet. ‘Two billion years? No problem. Four-point-six billion years? No worries, man! We can take any age. We don’t know how long these ages of days were.’
Here’s the problem with the Day-Age theory: Language. That’s right: Language. It might look enticing in the English. But, it cannot be reconciled with the Hebrew words and grammar used in Genesis Chapter One.
This isn’t, by the way, just a mere preference. It’s a matter of breaking linguistic rules, and then forcing meaning onto words that don’t carry such meanings. Let me be very straightforward: The Hebrew does not, and cannot, support anything besides what you and I would understand as a day in the Genesis account of creation. It’s not in the text, and it cannot be made to fit there.
The Hebrew word for “day” spelled in a simple form in English as YOM, is generally used in the Hebrew to mean a day as we understand it. Sometimes, without a modifier, it could mean a different period of time as required by the context. But, in every instance in the Bible where YOM occurs with an ordinal (explanation: The numeral is “six” and the ordinal is “sixth”) it’s ALWAYS referring very clearly to a plain and ordinary day.
Furthermore, God (perhaps knowing the level to which the enemy would go to disavow His Word) took that known linguistic pattern (which always rendered “Day” as an ordinary day) and added “evening” and “morning.” Like Spanish exclamation points before and after ¡Hola, mi amigo!, “evening” and “morning” occur as profound bodyguards to the plain meaning of the Hebrew “day.”
It cannot be overstated how inflexible this rendering is in its meaning:
YOM + Ordinal = Always a day as we know it.
YOM + Ordinal + Evening + Morning = Emphatically a day as we know it!
I hesitate to add this next point because no further proof is necessary. Really. The above rules of language make untenable any argument that the days of creation are something more than what we understand a day to be. However, because it still occurs in conversations and on discussion boards, let me address this: Plants were created on Day Three, and light for the Earth on Day Four. So, how did plants carry out photosynthesis?
Some would make the argument that light was created on Day One. So, plants had light. Nope. A careful study of the Hebrew shows an array of really interesting choices for the different Hebrew words rendered in our English as “light” and other words in the category. Rather than wrapping completely around that axle, let me just state that, although light existed as of Day One, no luminary was made to shine upon the Earth until Day Four.
At this point, a firmly entrenched Day-Ager will counter that God could have presented light to the plants throughout the millions of years that Day Three persisted, and then turned that job over to the sun on Day Four.
Listen, don’t miss this next point, because it’s really easy to overlook in all the, um… excitement: It’s fascinating that someone who gravitated to the Day-Age theory as a way of escaping the miracles of a Creator God – miracles made unnecessary by popular science and its very old Earth – would then invoke that same God and His miraculous powers in order to bolster up Day Three of the floundering Day-Age theory.
—> You may need to contemplate that for a moment before moving on. Don’t be put off. Lots of us were fooled by the same thing.
The Day-Age theory. Whether you look at it linguistically, philosophically, or scientifically, it cannot stand. Remember: Jewish rabbis and Hebrew scholars made no real challenge to the meaning of “YOM” in Genesis Chapter One for thousands of years. It was purely a fabrication of imagination, and then only forced on the text after the emergence of an old Earth model championed by popular geology. The Day-Age was created out of thin air to assuage the fears of the believer who was confronted with the supposed scientific truth of a very old Earth.
Actually, it’s the fears of the materialistic scientist that need coddling. Because, when you look closely at the various parts of old-Earth theories, the troubles start showing up like bees to a BBQ.
But, that’s for a future post.
Finally, and briefly, let me mention the Gap Theory, cousin to the Day-Age theory, and equally as farcical. The Gap theory supposes a literal multi-billion-year gap occurring in Genesis Chapter One at verse two. Here’s the argument.
Verse two should be rendered in the English as something like this:
“And the Earth was for a long time (or else became) formless and void, darkness fell over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God brooded over the waters.”
By this rendering, Gap theory adherents explain that God, after creating the Heavens and the Earth as per Verse One, had had to destroy the old Earth (usually as the result of either Satan’s fall, or the fall of pre-Adamic humans). That’s why the Earth “became” or “was for a long time” formless and void, and why there was darkness, and why God got all broody.
Interesting. Not valid, in the Hebrew language. But, like a Stephen King book, it makes for interesting reading. Again, it isn’t valid.
Quickly, let me state a few brief points from the Hebrew.
Because of the double expression in verse two (which is a Hebrew linguistic styling that indicates how to treat the remaining sentence components) the verb “it was” cannot assume emphasis. It must (and cannot do other than!) assume the role as a copula. Therefore, the very structure of the Hebrew sentence demands that any thought taking on the meaning that the Earth transformed, or else was there for a long time, must be discarded. The plain and obvious rendering of the Hebrew is very much along these lines:
“And now, as far as the Earth was concerned, it was unfinished and empty, and darkness was upon the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
Before my wife & I opened our restaurant in 2007, we leased a kind of suite in a strip mall that’s known as a “vanilla shell.” Vanilla shells are new spaces that have floors, walls, ceilings, electricity, plumbing, drainage, and all the basic components of a useful suite. Understand this: The space had been built. We came in and finished it with the trappings of a restaurant, and after that people went there to eat.
There’s a progression, in there, to consider!
Listen: The analogy isn’t far off. God didn’t create an Earth that was “unfinished” per se. It was complete in its form. It lacked, however, the trappings necessary to support life. Just as my wife and I put in counters and sinks and tables and stove tops and coolers and the rest of the things necessary to support a restaurant that could feed customers, God had “built” the Earth, but had not yet added the trappings necessary to support the miracle of life, which was the very reason the planet was formed.
The Earth had not come to a wasted state, and God wasn’t “brooding.” The word, there, by the way, conveys the idea of a vibrant moving plus a protective watchfulness or hovering… nothing like the idea that God was being moody and brooding (allegedly because He’d had to waste His first Earth).
The concepts presented by the Gap theory are utterly undone by the Hebrew language. There’s no place, linguistically, for a gap; nowhere to put it. It isn’t in the text.
This gives us the plain and straight forward meaning of the text: That God created the Heavens and the Earth over a period of six regular days, as we understand days, and that He rested on the seventh day. The Hebrew scripture could hardly be any clearer.
What’s that leave for us to know? Simply this: That the theory of the universe and the Earth being billions of years old is not supported by the Bible.
We have a choice to make. We can believe the musings began by a quick mind seeking to escape the need for religious explanations, musings later championed by a materialistic community of scientists who do not accept the idea of a creator God; we can accept their theory that the Earth and stars are billions of years old. Or, we can believe the Genesis account of creation.
Please hear me in this: We cannot make both fit together.
As with so many things that Jesus taught us long after the events of Genesis took place, we must either accept the Word of Almighty God, or we must reject it. We cannot remain in between.
If you’re reading this, and you’re a Christian who has heretofore believed the Gap theory, or the Day-Age theory, or somehow wanted to combine the Bible with pop science, let me end with this thought:
The Bible’s presentation of the account of Creation, as well as the global flood, both of which are given to us in the book of Genesis, provide for us better models explaining why the Earth is the way it is than the theories associated with the old Earth models. I’ll give you some of that information in follow-on posts.
Let me also add that, at the end of the day, both the Christian and the agnostic scientist will have to rest their beliefs on faith. I trust Almighty God and His word, and, in that, I’ve got at least the written history in Genesis to trust. The materialistic scientist is in the unenviable position of having to trust nothing but some pretty weak scientific models to support their beliefs. How weak?
That’s for next time…