Six Day Creation
Good morning. Please turn to the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Several weeks ago we began the process of studying John's gospel. We will return to these studies about once a month. Today we will continue our discussion of verse three. When we looked at verse three last time we focussed on the deity of the creator. Today we will focus on the work of the creator, specifically, His work of creation. Let's begin by taking a close look at John 1:3, where we read "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."
The all things in verse three refers to all created things.
Came into being
The phrase came into being indicates the depth of the work of creation. It is one thing to create something using existing materials, but Jesus creates his own materials. Where there has been nothing, Jesus creates matter, energy, information, time, and space. In Hebrews 11:3 we read, "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible."
The phrase through him further clarifies that creation is a Trinitarian effort in which Jesus is the agent through whom it takes place. While both Father and Son and Holy Spirit are involved in creation, Jesus is the agent through whom it happens. We also see Jesus as agent in several other verses, for example, Colossians 1:16, "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him."
apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being
Gerald Borchert, in his commentary on John, picks up on the word nothing, writing that the Greek word for nothing, oude hen, could be translated as not one single thing, "which thus emphasizes the involvement of the Logos in the bringing into being all of reality except the uncreated reality of God." So Jesus is, without exception, the origin of every created thing. This point is consistent with what our church constitution says about creation.
We find a summary statement on page 5 of that document. I have reformatted this statement into five points:
While the Gospel of John shows Jesus to be the agent of creation, for the details of creation we must turn to the book of Genesis. Because we believe that the Genesis account is historical, we also affirm the 1689 Baptist Confession where it says, "In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good."
We believe that the age of the earth, biblically derived, is measured in thousands of years, not billions of years. This is sometimes called the young earth view. You can biblically approximate the age of the earth from the creation account and from the genealogies. In contrast, proponents of the Big Bang theory and evolution say that the universe is around 15.7 billion years old and that the earth is around 4.6 billion years old. This old earth view has even been accommodated by many who describe themselves as reformed or evangelical. Nigel Cameron writes about this accommodation in his book Evolution and the Authority of the Bible saying:
In other areas, evangelical Christians have taken their stand on the teaching of the Bible and refused to allow consensus opinions of the secular and liberal Christian world to determine their own. Yet here there has been a remarkable readiness to fall in line, irrespective of the teaching of scripture.
We find an example of what Cameron is describing in this quote from A. A. Hodge in his book The Confession of Faith, page 82:
Since the confession was written the science of geology has come into existence, and has brought to light many facts before unknown as to the various conditions through which this world, and probably the stellar universe, have passed previously to the establishment of the present order. These facts remain in their general character unquestionable, and indicate a process of divinely regulated development consuming vast periods of time.
Like many in his day, Hodge regarded the claims of geology as unquestionable facts. As a church, we stand apart from many, even in the evangelical and reformed community, when we affirm a literal six day creation, a literal Adam and Eve, a literal fall and judgment, and a literal flood that covered the whole world. But stand we must. My purpose today is to help you to stand with confidence. Primarily, we will address this question: did creation take place in the space of six literal days? By literal day, we mean a normal, calendar day. We will address this question by looking at three topics:
Six Day Creation and Scripture
Scripture and the Young Earth View.
Regarding six day creation and scripture, our confession affirms and the scriptures support the view that creation took place in six literal days. Genesis is historical, and the days of creation are days in the normal sense of the word. In support of this view, Kenneth Gentry provides ten arguments. I'll list them and then discuss them in detail:
Now we will consider each of these arguments.
Probably, 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 Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the idea that creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience.
I have attempted to express in a very concise way Gentry's arguments for a literal interpretation of the creation story. For a more complete discussion, I would encourage you to get a copy of Gentry's article In the Space of Six Days.
Scripture and the Old Earth View.
As for those evangelical and reformed scholars who do not see literal days in Genesis 1, how do they interpret the story? They have at least four theories.
All of these denials of six day creation appear to be attempts to twist the plain meaning of scripture in order to accommodate the old earth theories of science. Nevertheless, people have attempted to find within scripture reasons for a non-literal interpretation.
Some have suggested that the creation account should be treated as poetry. This would permit a more non-literal interpretation, but most of the common elements of Hebrew poetry are missing from the creation account. As John Currid says in his commentary on Genesis, "There are few, if any, internal content matters in Genesis 1 that would reflect Hebrew poetical practice."
Some believe that the presence of light and heat before the creation of the sun requires a non-literal interpretation. But is God truly restricted to the means at hand? Is not God able to provide heat and light without the sun? If it bothers you that the sun was not created until day four, consider that in the new world there will be no need for the sun at all. For in Revelation 22:5 we read, "And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever."
Others have argued that a non-literal interpretation of the creation story would eliminate the apparent contradiction between the creation account in chapter 1 and the creation account in chapter 2. What are they talking about?
In Genesis 2:5-7 we read:
Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being
This is not a contradiction of Genesis 1:9-13, which says that God brought forth vegetation on the third day. The shrubs of the field are weeds. The plants of the field are cultivated plants like wheat and corn. Man's perpetual battle to till the ground, fight against weeds, and grow edible crops did not being until after the fall. More on this explanation can be found in Cassuto's commentary on Genesis, where he explains that the Hebrew words used for plant of the field are also used in Genesis 3:18, where, talking about the curse, we read, "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field."
Scripture and the ability of God to create.
Clearly, it is the testimony of scripture that creation was accomplished in six literal days. But does scripture reveal God as one who has this kind of power and ability? Could God, as He is described in the Bible, have done this? Not everyone believes that God is infinite in His wisdom, power, and glory.
For example, a friend of mine was in a university biology class where they were discussing genetics. Somehow the subject of God came up, and the professor said, "This would be too hard for God." People easily think something is too hard for God when they fail to understand the infinite difference between man's ability and God's ability.
Consider man's ability. What does man require when he wants to build something? Suppose a man wants to build a house. He needs certain basic things: resources, time, understanding, and authority.
First, he needs resources. He needs material resources like wood, bricks, nails, sheet rock, and paint. He needs human resources -- laborers who know how to use these materials. And he needs financial resources -- money to buy materials and money to pay his laborers.
Second, he needs time. It often takes several months to build a house.
Third, he needs understanding. He needs understand regarding the best order of tasks. For example, he should probably build the foundation before he builds the roof. He needs understanding regarding methodology of hanging sheet rock. And he needs understanding regarding structural integrity: how to build a house that will not fall down or tilt.
Fourth, he needs authority. Subject to land and zoning regulations, he must apply for a building permit, and he must conform to building codes.
Therefore, when a man sets out to build a house, he embarks upon a long and tedious process with many requirements with respect to resources, time, understanding, and authority. Furthermore, because he is a man and not God, he has to use existing resources rather than create resources out of nothing; he has to act within the constraints of time; and he has to work within the laws of nature.
God does not have these kinds of constraints, and we clearly see this from the miracles he performed. Consider just three of them:
In John 2:1-10 Jesus changed water into wine. It happened quickly, it happened with no apparent resources, and it happened over and above the laws of nature. Now, to create wine, carbon had to be added to the water. John MacKay rhetorically asks God, "If you've got the talent to turn water into wine, why did you take six days to create the world?"
In John 5:1-14 Jesus healed the paralytic. This man had been paralyzed for 38 years. But when Jesus healed him, it happened quickly, it happened with no apparent resources, and it happened over and above the laws of nature. All Jesus had to do was speak. Now, what would happen today if a doctor repaired a leg that had not been used for 38 years. You would still have a very fragile person who needed serious physical therapy. The muscles would be like jelly, the bones would be very delicate, and the abilities of coordination and balance would have to be relearned. Yet, this man was able to pick up his mat and walk.
In John 11:1-34 Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead for so long, he stank. His body was filled with deadly, destructive bacteria. His muscles were stiff. His organs were so corrupt from decay, even if it had been possible to donate organs in those days, they would have been useless. Yet, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, it happened quickly, it happened with no apparent resources, and it happened over and above the laws of nature. All Jesus had to do was speak, "Lazarus come forth."
From these miracles and many others, the following statement should be clear: When God sets out to do something, He is not limited by time, He is not limited by resources, and He is not limited by the laws of nature. His word overrides all natural factors.
Given these facts, is it unreasonable to believe that God created the heavens and the earth in the span of six literal days? He had the ability, and the plain sense of scripture clearly affirms that God did, indeed, create the heavens and the earth that fast.
This six day creation view stands in contrast to the popular theories of science. So next we will consider six day creation and science.
Six Day Creation and Science
Science and scientists.
It is important for us to realize that when we reject scientific theories that support an old earth, we are not rejecting science but theories about science. For scientists do not always agree. There are competing views, minority views, and majority views. Over time some views are retained and others are discarded. Today we are blessed to have many scientists who have earned their doctorates at accredited universities and who have worked hard to discover scientific evidence that supports the young earth view. We should make an effort to hear what they have to say. Proverbs 18:17 provides guidance regarding this disagreement among scientists. It says, "The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him."
If all you ever hear is support for the old earth view, you are not going to be aware of support for the young earth view. For this reason, especially if you are a student or a parent, I urge you to familiarize yourself with web sites that support the young earth view, web sites such as:
Science and support for an old earth.
The arguments that old earth and old universe proponents use are well known. Here are just a couple of them:
Science and the scientific method.
I want to respond to these old earth observations. But before I do, let us consider the scientific method and how it works. The scientific method involves the following steps:
With respect to the age of stars and the age of coral, if our theory is that the universe and the earth are billions of years old, this would allow enough time for us to see stars and to grow huge formations of coral.
Then young earth scientists come along, for example, Barry Setterfield, who proposes that the speed of light is slowing down. Now I have to admit, the first time I heard this I was embarrassed. Surely we can do better than this, I thought. After all, everyone knows that the speed of light is constant. (I said this not realizing that the speed of light is constant at a particular point in time, not across time). Little did I realize that Setterfield's proposal was taken seriously in the secular scientific community. On October 24, 1989, a seminar was held at Stanford University to discuss Setterfield's work, at which time it was noted that two other scientists, a Frenchman and a Russian, had come to the same conclusion. The speed of light had been measured as early as 1675, and there was clear evidence that it was slowing down. This would mean that at the time of creation the speed of light was much faster than it is today. Hence, we get to see stars much sooner than originally thought. Meanwhile, Setterfield's theory is only one of several other theories regarding the speed of light and the visibility of stars that have been proposed in the young earth scientific community. Even if his theory is eventually disproven, there are still other theories that support the young earth view with respect to light and stars.
As for the growth rate of coral, the rate is not constant at all. It can be increased by heat, and it can be increased by adding nutrients to the water. In fact, a reef can even form overnight when there is a storm that dislodges coral and causes coral from several places to be collected in one place.
This demonstrates something about the scientific method. When scientists seek to demonstrate that a proposed theory is consistent with known facts, the consistency does not prove that the theory is true. There may be alternative explanations that were not considered.
Suppose that when I get up in the morning I find a wet place in the carpet. Using the scientific method I do the following:
Does this prove that Blaze is guilty? Suppose that I am later standing next to the wet spot, and I feel a drop of water on my head. Suddenly, I realize that Blaze's apparent accident was, in fact, water from a leaky roof. My presupposition that the dog was the only thing that could have caused the wet spot is wrong. There were alternative explanations for the wet carpet that I did not consider. Young earth scientists are providing alternative explanations. They are defending the claims of scripture by using real science to challenge old earth theories. They are able to do this because they have different presuppositions.
Science and presuppositions.
Another word for presuppositions is assumptions. When doing research, people always start with assumptions. Your assumptions, your fundamental beliefs, determine how you see nature. If a scientist happens to be an atheist, the way he sees nature might be determined by materialism, the view that the physical reality is all there is; naturalism, the view that all of reality can be explained without suggesting divine intervention; and uniformitarianism, the view that the long-term rates of change in nature are constant. These presuppositions will determine what he sees when he looks at nature.
However, if the scientist happens to be a Christian, other assumptions will guide the way he sees nature. If he is open to six day creation, he will not shy away from evidence that supports a young earth. If he believes in a world-wide flood, he will probably use this as a possible explanation for some of the situations he finds.
Science and support for a young earth.
I am delighted to be able to say that young earth scientists have found a great deal of evidence that appears to disprove the old earth view and that supports the young earth view. Here are some of the things they have found:
These are just a few of the scientific observations that support the young earth view. Many others are listed in Russell Humphrey's Evidence for a Young Earth View. Therefore, when we argue that the earth is young, we need not be embarrassed. We need not hang our heads low, for we have seen that the young earth view is clearly supported by both scripture and science. These facts should strengthen the hope we have as Christians. As creation reveals the power and wisdom of the creator, let us be assured that we can trust Him to carry us safely into the life to come.
Six Day Creation and Hope
Hope and Job's trials.
God especially intends for creation to encourage us when life is difficult. Times of suffering challenge us to hold onto the hope we have in God. Job was severely tested. Yet God never explained his dealings with Job. Instead, he told Job to look at creation. In chapters 38 through 41, God humbles Job by presenting the glory of God as reflected in creation.
Hope and Israel's trials.
God also told the Jewish exiles in Babylon to look at creation. In Isaiah chapter 40, we see this theme. Starting in verse 12, after making several promises that must have seemed incredible to people who had lost everything, we read:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance, and the hills in a pair of scales.
Then starting in verse 27 we read:
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth [Don't miss this, the creator of the ends of the earth] does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
Hope and the believer's trials.
The evidence of the hand of God in creation encourages us to look forward to the new creation. In Revelation 21 we read:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'
As creation continues to reveal the glory of God, it encourages believers and frightens unbelievers. Who can blame unbelievers for searching so desperately for some way to avoid facing the truth: the truth that the God who created the world will hold the ungodly accountable for their sins, the truth that they will one day fall into the hands of an angry God and experience his wrath for all eternity.
Yet, the Lord is still creating. Every day he creates new hearts in sinful people. They become new creatures who love the God they used to hate and serve the God they used to ignore. Does this sound like you? If not, why not?
As we read in Isaiah 55:6-7:
Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
Meanwhile, let believers be encouraged:
Let us pray.
Father, it is my prayer that true believers will stand firm in their faith against the misunderstandings of so-called science, it is my prayer that young earth scientists will continue to find compelling evidence that supports the young earth view, and it is my prayer that their findings will become common knowledge in this fallen world. Amen.