Building a Community to Reach a Community

Genesis vs. Science

Can it be more than either or?

Posted on November 28, 2014

Introduction

In my early teen years I developed a profound interest in science, particularly the areas of chemistry and physics. I entered university as a science major and looked forward to preparing for a career in that field. At the same time my life as a follower of Jesus was becoming more intentional and I felt the nudge of God to make a vocational shift in the direction of theological study and church related service. The thinking at the time was that an arts degree was better preparation for seminary than a science degree so I switched to a psychology major. In the end I did not find that to be a necessary or helpful switch and have often wished I had completed more study in a field of my real interest and aptitude. However, over the years I have maintained interest in the sciences and given considerable attention to working out an integration of my faith and the scientific study of the history of our universe.

That integration is not a simple one and Christians are not of one mind as to the proper way to do so on every point. I do not claim particular expertise, but I have settled in a place where I am neither suspicious of science nor doubtful of the truth of Genesis. By settled, I do not imply that I have come to a final conclusion. There are loose ends and unanswered questions regardless of the conclusions one comes to and so this is in ongoing process of study, prayer, and conversation with others.

You may have worked out an integration of contemporary science and biblical text in ways that differ here and there from what I present in this paper. My commitment is to view alternative positions with respect and to hold to my own position humbly. It is worth remembering, that when it comes to an understanding of our origins, the large, life changing truths in scripture are ones on which nearly all Christians can agree without reservation and which cannot be contested by science.

How to read Genesis 1-2 for all it’s worth

The truth of any matter can be discerned through a variety of resources like experience, tradition, art, and the sciences. As Christians we also place Scripture on that list of resources and we give it primacy of place. It is an authoritative resource that helps us be discerning in all the other resources we use. This has led some Christians to frame things this way: The Bible tells us the real truth about how the world began. If science does not agree with that, then the science is wrong and even perhaps deceptive. The stakes are sometimes raised even higher with challenges like this: If you cannot simply believe what the Word of God teaches about creation, then you are on a slippery slope away from God. For Christians who understand the rigors of scientific inquiry, this presents them with a deeply troubling dilemma. But as I will seek to show, it is an unnecessary one.

To say that the Bible is our final authority on all matters of faith and living does not quickly settle every question. There are some statements in scripture where we all agree that it simply means what it says. E.g. “David reigned in Jerusalem for 33 years.” (I Chronicles 3:4) Many other statements in scripture have deeper meanings which require interpretation. E.g. “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples”. (Jesus in Luke 14:33). There are many meanings and implications to be drawn from those words. While we consider the recorded words of Jesus to be inspired and infallible, our explanations of what a text means in our context today cannot be considered infallible at the same level.

We may all agree that we should simply believe what the Bible teaches about creation, but in the process of interpreting the text, we do not all come to identical conclusions as to what in fact it intends to make known to us on every point. This does not mean that we are left in a sea of uncertainty when it comes to determining what the Bible really teaches. There are some well-established rules that guide us in our interpreting, helping to assure that the meanings we take from scripture are reliably consistent with the original intent and which speak to us with authority. Following good rules of interpretation also help prevent us from putting our own meanings into a text.

First Rule of Interpretation

We read things differently depending on the nature of the writing. A novel is read in a much different way than an operator’s manual. With regards to Genesis 1-2, here are the two most common ways of thinking about the nature of the literature in these chapters:

  1. We read the text as we would a news report or a laboratory report, with most statements taken as accurate science and an indication of a literal chronology. Those who take this view insist that the most natural way to read numbered days is to take them as actual 24 hour days.
  2. We read the text as a presentation of creation that explains the fundamental truths about God as sole creator but done in a way that leaves the questions of chronology and science open ended. Those who take this view point out some odd things about the 7 day account: three days occur before the sun is created by which day and night are measured on earth; the seventh day does not end like the other days; the order of creation appears to be different in Genesis 1 and 2.
  3. There are good reasons to be found in support of both positions. This should not be made out to be a test of our belief in the Bible and our submission to its authority. We are constantly making the distinction between historical narrative and figurative language all over the Bible. We all agree that when the scripture says: “Jesus stepped into the boat” (Matthew 9:1) it was a physical boat on a particular day. On the other hand we also all agree that when Jesus said “I am the gate of the sheep” (John 10:7) we are not to imagine the length and width of any actual wood. My conclusion is that the opening chapters of Genesis represent a report of real historical events but told in an artful way with some figurative language. That allows God to tell us much more than simply what happened and in what order.

    Second Rule of Interpretation

    In giving proper respect to the authority of scripture, we might think that the best way is to take the most apparent meaning, accept and submit to that, asking no further questions. In fact, to give proper respect to scripture requires us to ask a question like this: “As best we can determine, what was the message that God wanted the original readers or listeners to take from these words?

    God’s word was given for all people of all time but it was written to a particular group of people in a particular historical time and setting. There are meanings that were more obvious to the original readers than to us two thousand years later. When in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus tells of the father running to meet him upon his return, we today see that as a heartwarming expression of a father’s love. But first century Jews who heard Jesus tell that story would likely have been somewhat aghast. It was thought to be very inappropriate for an older man to run anywhere, much less a father to meet his rebellious son.

    God chose to reveal the truth about creation at a particular time to people who already had an existing understanding of the nature of things. Genesis 1-2 was written for our benefit 3000 years later as much as for anyone, but the revelation was not given directly to us in the same way as the original readers. Just as Jesus told parables in a way that made the best possible sense to the immediate listeners, so we believe that all God’s revelation was accommodated to the original recipients. If God had not revealed things in that way, it is unlikely that such writings would have been preserved as they would have been meaningless to them. We also assume that God is consistent in the core message that he communicates to his people at all times. Therefore the meaning we take from an ancient text today must have at least some connection to what it meant to the original readers. So that is why we make a serious effort at determining the answer to matters like these: what was the existing mindset of the people who first heard this revelation from God about creation? What was the meaning that God intended those first readers to take from the text?

    Answering those questions is not always an easy matter. It involves the work of scholars in the study of ancient languages, culture and history. That does not mean that scripture is closed to our understanding until we do that kind of serious research. In reading Genesis 1, the big idea that leaps off the page in almost every verse is the awesome power and wisdom and goodness of God in creating this world and the special place he gave to humans. Even children can quickly see and believe that truth without great knowledge of ancient culture and worldviews. The same is true about all the big ideas in scripture. They are accessible to all ages and levels of understanding.

    There are however many other matters that intersect with scripture that may not be important to all, but are very important to some. They may not be important to the central message of the Bible, but at some level they are very important. The reality is that most of these other matters are not child’s play. They require great scholarship and discernment on a wide range of knowledge bases. The question of the relationship between the Genesis account of creation and contemporary science is one such matter of inquiry.

    Entering the World of the First Readers of Genesis

    Imagine that we are among that select group of people who first heard Moses tell of the revelation God gave him about creation. What would have been our pre-existing understanding of such things?

    For the previous 400 years we and our ancestors had lived in Egypt. We often heard their stories of how things began and not having much else to go on we would have come to think of it as the Egyptians did. Our forefather Abraham originally came from Mesopotamia and perhaps there were also some old stories from that part of the world that he passed along. We would have had little reason to know otherwise because God had not yet spoken to us with a different perspective about our origins. Many centuries later a Jewish Christian scholar and missionary would write that the eternal nature and power of God is revealed in the created order (Romans 1:20ff.), but with our sin distorted minds, we don’t get much more than a general impression of God that way.

    Much of what Moses said in his report of God’s revelation would have sounded quite familiar to us. Genesis 1-2 bears remarkable similarities to the Egyptian stories that existed prior to Moses writing, along with some similarities to the stories form Mesopotamia. But what really caught our attention and got everyone talking were the points where Moses’ telling of creation was dramatically different from everything we had heard before.

    Let’s return to the present. Some people who are looking for a reason to be dismissive of the Bible are quick to conclude that Moses, in writing Genesis 1-2, plagiarized older sources, meaning that this writing is not in any way unique, nor can it be claimed as an authoritative revelation from God. In fact the evidence points to the opposite conclusion. The similarities between the documents are numerous and obvious. But of much more significance are the striking differences. It turns out that the opening chapters of Genesis are a strong polemic, i.e. a way of setting the record straight on some really important issues about the nature of God and our beginnings. That may not be immediately obvious to us today, but the first readers likely would have been startled by the way some of what Moses wrote challenged their beliefs.

    For example, Moses does more than reveal a different name for the God who created. Rather, he showed how the God who spoke to him is profoundly different from the gods of Egypt and Mesopotamia revealed in their stories. God in Genesis is absolutely sovereign, existing apart from the universe he created and in no way dependent on it. His power is infinite, uncontested and always good in its employment. There is no comparison of this true God with the collection of imperfect gods in the stories of Egypt and Mesopotamia who reveal all sorts of limitations and who are known even to fight among themselves.

    Genesis 1-2 also tells us the wonderful truth of God making man, both male and female, in his image, to have dominion over the earth, to be caretakers with him of this wonderful earth. The stories from these other regions give man a very different purpose - the gods make mankind to function as slaves so that the gods would not have to do any work.

    So when we start by asking what Genesis 1-2 meant to the people who first read it, one thing that stands out is the way it corrects these great misconceptions about whom the Creator is and why he made this world.

    Now the children of Israel at that time, along with all the surrounding peoples were what we call pre-scientific. They imagined a world without an understanding of fixed laws of nature and without knowledge of equations that defined a certain order and without the ability to measure things beyond the way they appeared to the naked eye. The world as they imagined does not look like the earth as we know it to be today. In a pre-scientific worldview, the fact that the earth is set on pillars makes good sense as it is the one thing that doesn’t seem to move. Science has made it clear that there are no literal pillars on which the earth rests. Likewise in a pre-scientific world, a story that tells of 3 days and nights occurring before the sun existed, by whose light the earth goes through its cycle of day and night – would likely have been a detail that would have gone unnoticed by them. Today with our scientific orientation, that is picked up right away as a problem to be resolved somehow.

    As we look into the details of Genesis 1-2, like that of the timing of the creation of the sun, we are led to the conclusion that while God was really intent on correcting the bad theology of his people, he seemed rather indifferent about correcting their less than scientific view of the earth. Some Christians disagree with that conclusion. They believe it would be impossible for God to reveal anything that was not the full truth from every possible angle. Their position is that God somehow included accurate scientific data into the Genesis 1-2 account such that it made good sense to the pre-scientific world in which it was first revealed as well as the scientific orientation of the 21st century.

    Other Christians do not see any loss of authority in recognizing that God revealed truth using the frame of reference of the ancient people. We know that in the area of moral teaching, God chose to reveal things progressively over time. “An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth” was a command from God that elevated the moral standards over the prevailing practice during the time of Moses, when it was most often two eyes for an eye. But this command represented only a partial truth of the will of God on that matter. Jesus gave the full teaching when he spoke about turning the other cheek and loving our enemies. If God could reveal moral truth progressively over time, surely it is even less of a problem for him to allow for human understanding of the physical realm to unfold over time.

    It is possible that God did not bother to update the science, so to speak, because he knew man would get to that over time through the gifts he gave to us, including the ability to learn and reason and to figure things out about the physical universe. There were more important areas where man would never be able to study or reason his way to a correct understanding: Who is God and what is He really like? What are the ultimate measures of right and wrong? What is the real purpose of our existence as people? Apart from a revelation from God, we in our finite existence and sin-distorted perspective would never get to the correct answer to such questions. It is to those matters that God made sure to speak to us with clarity in the story of creation he gave us in Genesis 1-2.

    Genesis begins with these words: “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. When people in the present era read that for the very first time, most likely the first question on their minds is: “What will this book tell me about how this all came to be?” But what if God had minimal interest in answering that particular question when he revealed these things to Moses in preparation for the writing of Genesis? What if God’s real purpose was to reveal essential truths about the one who made all of this and why things exist as they do?” Respect for the authority of the Bible means we must discern as best we can the original intention God in revealing each part and the parameters of understanding that he chose to work with.

    An excellent source for further study of the nature of the worldview of those who first heard the revelation from God through Moses in Genesis 1-3 is:

    Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden, In The Beginning... We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context, Kregal, 2012

    How people of faith should view scientific inquiry

    Many people in our culture demonstrate an almost blind faith in whatever scientists declare to be true. Media commentators often make disparaging comparisons between reasonable science and cock-eyed religious fairy tales. In such an environment it is natural that many Christians will become inclined to see science as an opponent to our faith and to view scientific inquiry with suspicion and fear. Before we yield completely to such attitudes, a little bit of history might be helpful. If we go back in time, some 400 years or so, it was an era in Europe that was dominated by a Christian worldview. It was also an era during which scientific inquiry really began to flourish. Those two observations are more than coincidental. The scientific method assumes order and immutable physical laws and equations and those assumptions are most consistent with a belief in a personal Creator who made a good universe. It can be said that Christian belief and scientific inquiry are old friends.

    Many find it useful to think of God as having two books by which he reveals truth: the book of creation and the book of scripture. The work of the scientist is giving God’s creation a voice. It is a complementary narrative to the book of scripture in which we are privileged to hear God’s word. The study of cosmology and biology will reveal “how” God’s creation unfolded and the study of theology will reveal the “why” of God’s creation, the wonder of the one “who” created, and the desperate need for a new creation. Rather than some sort of enemy to be resisted, Christians should welcome science as a providential gift of God. Given that one of the earliest commandments of God to humankind was to have dominion over creation and care for it as a gardener, science has been a resource that helps us to do better at obeying it.

    So the scientific field can be one of fruitful study for a Christian but it can also come off as an opponent seeking to undermine faith. So we must search out this next matter.

    The Real Points of Contention between Christian Faith and Scientific Inquiry into the History of the Universe

    Given the animosity that Christians sometimes feel from the scientific world, we might be tempted to dig in our heels and issue a sweeping challenge to: “Just believe the Bible and reject whatever science teaches that seems on the surface to contradict Genesis!” That should be seen as overkill. What we need to do is become more discerning as to where the points of contention really lay, and stand our ground only where it really matters (i.e. when science makes claims about the existence or non-existence of God).

    1. Contention that arises when we draw unwarranted scientific conclusions from Biblical texts.

    Not all Christians agree on the degree to which the creation account in Genesis is intended to give accurate scientific information about the process. But regardless of our position, it behoves us to be very cautious in making bold declarations that “this is the correct scientific understanding as taught in scripture”. History tells us one particular embarrassing example of what can happen when we do that.

    For a long time humans understood the earth to be in a fixed, immovable position. If anything moved in the larger universe, it was the sun and the stars. This perspective was seen to be taught in scripture. “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth”. (Psalm 102:25) and “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” (Psalm 104:5). Then along came Galileo and based on previous studies by Copernicus, declared that the earth actually revolved around the sun. Based on the interpretation of the texts above, he was declared by church authorities to be teaching heresy and sent out of the church. All Christians today understand that decision to be based on faulty interpretation of scripture. Almost 400 years later the church finally apologized and reinstated him as a good Catholic.

    We need to be cautious about repeating the same mistake today. We may read the text a particular way and be certain that it gives us the correct scientific understanding. But science is a work in progress. What if similar evidence will surface that will make our claims of “impossible” suddenly very likely? It is fine to draw scientific conclusions from scripture and argue our points with vigor but we must hold them tentatively and humbly. Let’s be honest and admit that some points of contention arise not because many scientists are atheists who leave God completely out of the picture, but because well-meaning Christians read too much scientific data into the biblical text.

    2. Contention that arises when true science becomes scientism.

    Earlier I described why Christian faith has historically been great friends with scientific inquiry. The findings of science are generally trustworthy because a personal God created an orderly universe. But science has its boundaries. It is a methodology limited to the study of observable, measureable data. So long as it operates happily within those boundaries it is a wonderful resource for man to discover truth. But what if scientists begin to make larger claims and declare that science alone can render truth about the world and reality? At that point they have crossed a line from scientific inquiry into a kind of belief system which might best be referred to as scientism.

    It is at this point that we need to call out scientists for a certain narrow mindedness. First of all, as Johnny Miller wrote in a book referred to earlier, “The latest word in science has never yet been the last word on science”. Those who suggest that we can generate an ultimate explanation of all things from science demonstrate profound over-reach. This quote from Thomas Burnett is helpful: “To claim there is nothing knowable outside the scope of science would be similar to a successful fisherman saying that whatever he can’t catch in his nets does not exist. Once you accept that science is the only source of human knowledge, you have adopted a philosophic position (scientism) that cannot be verified, or falsified, by science itself. It is in a word, unscientific.

    As Christians we delight in our very different worldview, one that is open to the possibility of a personal God existing apart from the physical universe and who out of his loving purpose, revealed things to us that science, even at its best, will never discover.

    3. Contention over a materialist or naturalist worldview.

    The conflict that Christians experience in the area of faith and science is often expressed this way: creation vs. evolution. That is not the best way to frame things as it contrasts two quite different matters and does not adequately identify the larger, more serious point of contention. It would be better to state the contrary views as: creationism vs. materialism/naturalism. Genesis 1:1 states the creationist perspective: “In the beginning, God...” In the beginning there was a divine being who by will and action brought into existence all that is. A materialist would say: “In the beginning there was some combination of pre-existing matter and energy, nothing more”. The difference between these two starting points is profound. For example, the materialist has no answer to questions like: “Is there any purpose to this universe and to man’s existence? Is there a definitive moral compass to direct and judge the way humans live?” One cannot determine any of that starting from nothing but a collection of atomic particles. A created universe will have some purpose, but we will need to know more about the creator in order to determine the details of that. That is where Genesis 1-2 really shines in giving us clear understanding of who our Creator is and what our purpose is as part of this universe.

    4. A Contention over Evolutionary Theory

    On the one hand, evolution is simply a description of a mechanism by which change and diversification has occurred in the universe and especially among life forms. By itself it is neutral when it comes to the question of ultimate origins. It can mesh with a creationist worldview and with a materialist worldview. A majority of evolutionists today are also materialists and that is why Christians often end up formulating the conflict in terms of “creation vs. evolution”. But evolution, which really is nothing more than a theory about the mechanism for change, is not per se contradictory to creationism. The real issue we contend against is the assumption of materialism.

    Evolutionary theory is more appropriately contrasted with theories about spontaneous generation or cataclysmic change in the history of the universe. Whereas evolution proposes long, slow gradual change the contrasting view is that there are sudden cosmic upheavals and sudden appearances of new life forms. It should be noted that there are theories that seek to bridge the two.

    Some scientists have taken a position called evolutionary creationism. It is also referred to as theistic evolution but the proponents prefer the first term as it clarifies their conviction that it is really creation that is unfolding. If a process taking billions of years was designed and launched and superintended by God, there is no diminishing of his sovereign creative power. Some Christians would object outright to that possibility. Their resistance usually has to do with the role of chance events and the violent, messy process proposed in the evolutionary theory. It is argued that such realities are simply unbecoming or incompatible with a sovereign God whose acts can always be characterized as good. There are good arguments to be made on both sides.

    It should be said that the awe and majesty that one experiences toward a creator is not in question in either position. Whether God created in a really short period of time through cataclysmic change or over a long, intricately designed process, it speaks equally well of his greatness and power and wisdom.

    5. A Contention over Bias

    Many Scientists like to think of themselves as more objective than the population at large. They think that the scientific method pushes them to go wherever their observations take them, without a pre-determined conclusion. In the real world all sorts of pressures work against that objectivity. When it comes to the study of the history of the universe some contention arises when bias seems to be in play.

    For example there is evidence in the fossil record for slow gradual diversification and there is evidence for cataclysmic upheaval and sudden appearance of species. There are some who because of a particular way they read Genesis, believe that the earth is very young, perhaps less than 10,000 years old. For them, evidence pointing to cataclysmic change tends to be more highly valued than evidence for an earth that is 4-5 billion years old. For those who do not believe in God, evidence for cataclysmic change is not their favorite data because present naturalistic evolutionary theory has no easy way to account for that and it leaves more room for asserting the involvement of a divine creator.

    In our scientific methodology, everyone, including Christians, need to be challenged to have the courage to revisit theories and assumptions along the way.

    Three large questions when it comes to understanding the universe

    1. To whom or to what do we trace our origins?
      Here the options are primarily two: to a personal creator or to some combination of impersonal matter and energy.

    2. Is there some purpose or destiny to this universe or does it simply exist for no apparent reason?
      How we answer the first question determines the answer we give to this question and clarity about our destiny can only come if a Creator reveals his intentions.

    3. How did our universe and our world come to have such diversity of form and life?
      While questions 1 & 2 are beyond the bounds of the scientific method, this question is definitely within its scope. It includes astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, archaeology, & genetics, etc. A case could be made that we do not need to know how so many galaxies came to be or the multitude of life forms on our earth. There is sufficient wonder and worship that is inspired just in observing that they exist. At the same time God has created us with a desire to know and understand and through that to exercise our dominion over the world in which we live. So the determined study of such matters is inevitable.

      The Bible has much more to say about questions I & II than question III.

    Three Possible Approaches to Take in the Reading of Genesis 1-2

    A famous author writes a short story that is read by many people. There is disagreement among the readers as to the best approach to take in order to take from the story what the author intended. Three points of view emerge:

    1. Some see nothing more than a story with interesting characters and an intriguing sequence of events.
    2. Some, knowing more about the author’s political views, read the story as a satire that exposes the failures of the government.
    3. Some, knowing more about the author’s personal life, believe the story is in many ways autobiographical. The author has disguised himself in one of the main characters.

    If the author is still alive, it might be possible to probe him with questions and find out what his real intentions were. If the author is no longer available, that task becomes more difficult.

    Something similar has occurred as Christians have read and pondered the opening chapters of Genesis. We all come with some pre-existing ideas about the best way to read these chapters based on conclusions we have come to about literary form and context and the very nature of scripture itself. In many cases, Christians have not really thought at any length about why they read the early chapters of Genesis the way they do and have not evaluated the alternatives. As I survey the landscape I find that Christians take one of three approaches to these chapters. I will present them by number rather than by label.

    Approach 1

    Genesis 1-2 is a simple, straightforward, chronological telling of how God created everything, much like a newspaper account or a lab report. The only context that is really important is the immediate literary context of the two chapters. Regardless of the times or cultures in which people live, they can read the account as is and get the main point. God created everything in six, 24 hours days. This generally puts Christians in an antagonistic relationship with contemporary science. Those who hold this view often present it as the only view that respects the Bible in uncompromising fashion. Christians are charged to choose between the Bible and science.

    Approach 2

    The most important question to research in doing any sound biblical interpretation is this: “What was the meaning that God intended the original recipients to take from this revelation?” God’s word was given for all mankind but it was written to a people at a particular time and place with a particular understanding of things. The meaning we take from it today must be consistent with the original meaning.

    Therefore the cultural and historical context becomes very important in properly interpreting a text. When God first gave Genesis to his people, their understanding of how things began was unduly influenced by the mythology of the Egyptians among whom they had spent the previous 400 plus years along with the thinking of other neighboring cultures. Genesis 1-2 is best read as a figurative account of creation intended as a polemic, a way of correcting the thinking of the children of Israel about the nature of God and the world.

    In revealing truth about the “who and why” of creation, God accommodated his revelation to the pre-scientific world views of the time so that they could best understand the most important truths. This can cause consternation among Christians living in a scientific era but it does not compromise the veracity of God’s revelation who leads his people into fuller truth over time, climaxing in the revelation of Jesus the Son of God.

    In this approach, much of the conflict with contemporary science is taken off the table. The Bible is viewed as mostly silent about the process by which creation unfolded.

    Approach 3

    The first approach emphasizes only the immediate literary context; the second approach gives primary emphasis to the cultural and historical context. The third approach makes the case that Genesis 1-2 must be read not as a stand-alone statement about the origin of the universe but as an integral part of Genesis and in fact the whole Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament). One of the primary themes of these 5 foundational books for the life of Israel is that of the Promised Land. God brought Abraham there to begin a new movement that would be critical for the salvation of the world. They sojourned in Egypt for 400 plus years and then God miraculously brought them back to the land. He established a covenant with them and gave them a comprehensive set of laws by which they could thrive in the land under the blessing of God.

    With this context in mind, Genesis 1-2 can be viewed as a two part account of creation. We are first told in Genesis 1:1 that God created everything over an unspecified period of time (in the beginning) and by means of an unspecified process. In the remainder of the two chapters, we are told how God turned a land that was inhospitable to man (a valid translation of “the earth was without form and empty”) into a land that was perfect for his people. We are not told how long God took to create the universe and plant and animal life, but we are told that God took 6 days to fashion the Promised Land out of wilderness. There are some variations in this approach that enlarge the purpose of the six days to include God preparing the world to be his temple and dwelling place.

    In this approach there is less conflict with contemporary science than the first approach as the process for most of God’s creative acts are left unspecified. There is more conflict with science than the second approach in that it proposes 6 days where God intervened with some very specific fine tuning work. That is simply beyond the bounds of science to determine one way or the other.

    Humility and Grace

    Let’s remember that Jesus did not say “Whoever chooses the right approach to reading Genesis 1-2 shall be saved.” The issues involved are significant but the position we take in the end does not determine our eternal destiny. Proper respect for the authority of the Bible is not in question in any of the three approaches. There are no slippery slopes toward compromise inherent in any of these three views. We all need to resolve the question: what shows more respect for the authority of scripture: to take the most obvious and immediate meaning of the text or to try our best to discern what meaning the original readers took from the text?

    Let’s hold our views firmly and discuss the points carefully but always with the humility and grace of those who still see many things partially as in a clouded mirror (I Corinthians 13:12) and who by the gracious work of God’s Spirit are still in the lifelong process of being “guided into all truth” (John 16:13)

    Pastor Lee Bertsch

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