You should keep in mind that as I write this post, I am not taking a specific position on issues such as evolution, God and science, nor the meaning of Genesis 1-2. In this post I simply seek to share some thoughts I have on these matters. At times and in various circles, creation debates can be very heated. I understand that. But sometimes I think the result is that things get a little blown out of proportion. I’m not suggesting we compromise on vital truth. But I guess I’m calling us to examine what constitutes as that vital truth. In class last year, Dr. Carson reminded us of the words of Francis Schaeffer: something like, “what is the least Genesis 1-2 must be saying for the rest of the Bible to be true.” Secondary truths are not by nature unimportant truths. And I don’t want to downplay their importance. But they must be distinguished from primary doctrines. And either way, no context excludes the necessity of charitableness.
How one interprets Genesis 1-2 is not intrinsically linked to debates over evolutionism
I’ll use myself as an illustration for this point… I’m going to claim ignorance here. I grew up at a time when these issues were hot. And therefore, I sat through many lectures and seminars on this topic (all coming from one general position, I should add). However, I haven’t yet fully studied these issues out for myself. And I’m not one to simply believe others’ testimonies without criticism and having examined the issues for myself. Therefore, I don’t have a definitive position at this point. My current position is to simply seek the truth of scripture, accepting whatever it actually says and rejecting whatever ideas are excluded by what it says. As I approach the interpretive debates over Genesis 1-2, I have very little concern for the evolutionary theory. It is in no way a driving force or influence in where I will land. I say this to illustrate the fact that individuals can hold to non-6 day positions (e.g., literary framework) without being evolutionists or having their interpretation be influenced or determined by evolutionary thought. On the contrary, one might simply believe the text itself indicates otherwise.
Genesis 1-2 was not written with evolution v. creationism debates in mind
This is important to remember. And I think it’s something a lot of Christians easily forget. We must remember that, although the Bible speaks into the 21st century, it was not written in the 21st century. If anything provides the context for Genesis 1-2, it is neither debates over Darwin’s theory of evolution, nor even science, but parallel ancient near eastern creation accounts to which the Bible provides a comparative and yet significantly contrasted account. As such, we should expect it to address concerns, questions, and issues facing ancient near eastern Jews, to whom it is originally addressed. Genesis 1-2 is about theological realities–the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of creation, etc. These theological realities are certainly not divorced from science–all truth is God’s truth and is interrelated. But it’s important to realize that Genesis 1-2 was not written to settle our debates concerning science nor to argue against evolutionism, although it may say things that concern these matters.
The Bible is not explicit about the age of the earth
At minimum, the Bible depicts the creation of the universe in six days. However, Genesis 1-2 do not say when this creation actually occurred. In other words, the Bible does not explicitly mention the age of the earth. Some believe that the age of the earth can be determined from the Biblical text, e.g., through calculating genealogies and such. However, some of these methods are questionable. Either way, we should remember that this issue is not a hill on which to die. Further, although evolution has a lot to do with the age of the earth, we should realize that the age of the earth does not necessarily have anything to do with evolution. What I mean by this is that non-evolutionist creationists can even disagree on the age of the earth. And that’s okay.
One can take a non-6 day position without the entire Bible’s authority being undermined or demolished
Whether or not one accepts the validity of any other position than a 6-day position (i.e., God created the world in 6, 24 hour days), he or she must not succumb to the idea that other positions necessarily compromise the entirety of everything else scripture says after Genesis 1-2. I grew up hearing individuals like Ken Ham and other well-intentioned folks at Answers in Genesis claiming things like, “If we cannot take Genesis 1-2 seriously, i.e., literally, than we cannot trust scripture’s accuracy. Consequently, the entire Bible is in question. Why should I believe the rest of scripture if I cannot believe its first two chapters?” This sort of argument seems very compelling until one realizes that it presupposes a 6-day interpretation is the only interpretation that honors the text of Genesis 1-2. In other words, it seems to suggest that all other interpretations concede that Genesis 1-2 is erroneous, and in such case must concede that the rest of scripture may likewise be full of errors. But this is misleading. Many if not most of those Christians who hold to non-6 day positions do so because they think the text is actually teaching such a position. For example, if the text is intended to be taken literarily, i.e., that God used 6 literary days to depict creation rather than necessarily using 6 literal days to create, than to interpret Genesis as literary is not to undermine scripture’s intention, authority, or accuracy whatsoever. If we fail to realize this, we may succumb to blowing disagreements over these issues way out of proportion.
Non 6-day positions are not necessarily (nor typically) non-historical
One misconception held by some may be that anything but a 6-day position views creation, as well as Adam and Eve for that matter, as non-literal and non-historical. They are viewed as myths, it may be thought. But this is not true at all. For example, to illustrate with the literary view again, a literary view is not suggesting that creation didn’t actually happen. Neither is it denying the historicity of Adam and Eve. It’s actually not denying anything. It’s simply affirming that Genesis 1-2 is meant to be interpreted literarily. But literarily does not exclude literally. I image a similar approach could be illustrated with other non-6-day views.
There are other creation accounts in Scripture besides Genesis 1-2 that need to be taken into consideration
Something that often gets lost in the creation debates is the fact that Genesis 1-2 is not the only creation account in scripture. Consequently, one’s view must take into account, jive with, and better yet, be supported by these additional texts. Even more so, one should realize that even Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25 are in fact two distinct creation accounts of sorts. Of course they are meant to be read together; but nonetheless they are distinct, like the left and right speakers of a stereo system. Further, one should take into consideration other texts that relate somewhat more indirectly to creation. Revelation 21-22 picks up on a lot of creation language from Genesis 1-2. Therefore, it should be brought into this discussion. For example, how does the fact that Revelation is of apocalyptic genre, which often employs symbolism, influence my understanding of some of the language borrowed from Genesis? Or again, one should take into consideration Exodus 20:11, which cites creation in 6 days (at minimum, depicted in six days) as grounds for the Sabbath on the seventh day. Every position should be able to incorporate these distinct texts seriously.
6-Day creationism is a legitimate view that should be considered seriously
Sometimes I’ll run into individuals who seem to entirely disregard the literal 6-day position as if it’s just some Fundamentalist, head-in-the-sand, unsupportable position. I cringe at this. For one, because I may land in a 6-day position myself. But two, because the 6-day position is hardly unviable and unsupportable by solid arguments. Substantial reasons can be given in favor of the 6-day stance. It should go without saying, but simply to belittle or marginalize a position is not to disprove it. Arrogance and confidence is not the same thing as an argument. Majority doesn’t equal true. If you don’t agree with this position, don’t belittle or marginalize it. Engage it honestly and genuinely. Wrestle with it. It deserves your respect, whether or not you agree with it, because many solid Christians have held to it throughout history and many still do today, with good reason too.