Nine Views of Creation
Everybody these days, it seems, has a different take on the Creation Account. The scientific community once had Christendom running scared with what seemed to be fairly conclusive evidence that the Bible’s understanding of the origin of the universe held no ground in reality. Not to be vanquished so easily, many Christians began searching for answers — for ways they might accord Scripture with science.
Differing perspectives on the Creation have existed for ages, but recently, the fervor seems to have raised a notch with people becoming increasingly dogmatic on the side of their own perspective. Christians of one perspective are becoming skeptical of the genuineness of the salvation of those who hold to another interpretation.
With all this in mind, it should be of benefit to summarize the differing views (while supplying bibliographies of additional resources for further studies) and allow Christians to make their own choices as to which view accords best with Scripture.
Facing the modern Christian are two distinct methods for interpreting the Creation Account: by consulting the discoveries of science or by consulting Scripture’s testament to itself. Within both methods are several perspectives and so we will treat each one briefly. Because the science-based methods focus more upon interpreting God‘s Word through the light of empirical data rather than through the hermeneutical demands of context, we will refer to all these methods as “theories,” while exegetically-based methods, being naturally more rigorous and adherent to the discovery of the true meaning of Scripture, will be called “interpretations.” We shall also begin with the science-based method and then proceed to deal with those views which are more thoroughly entrenched in Scripture in greater depth.
Science-based views interpret Scripture through the filter of their experience of general revelation. They see the sciences and their own observations of the world around them saying something incontrovertible; and so, they interpret Scripture in light of these things. Truly, the pressure of the scientific communities — both Christian and secular— can seem overwhelming and nobody wants to feel they have their head in the sand and are ignoring plain evidence. But never should the Christian allow current scientific understanding to supercede the historical and literary intent of the authors of Scripture. We will here discuss briefly several of these viewpoints, but dismiss them in the end as being built upon eisegesis.
Surrendering the historicity and honesty of Scripture beyond all other popular viewpoints, theories of theistic evolution force interpreters to mythologize the Genesis narrative. While maintaining that God did truly maintain control of all creative processes, the view strips Scripture of its accuracy by positing that Adam was not arrived at by fiat creation but through thousands of years of natural evolutionary process aided and directed by a divine touch. The specifics of the view are beyond the scope of this treatment as they question seriously traditional and conservative methods for the interpretation of Scripture—as well as its ability to function as an authority for the believer.
When the scientific community began discovering evidence to support long geological eras in the 18th century, a segment of Christendom felt compelled to syncretize their interpretation of Scripture with this newfound empirical data. Motive askew, they postulated that the universe was already in existence for an indeterminate duration before the Creation Week began (and hence allow for a very old earth, but are able still to maintain God’s recent fiat creation of mankind).
A once-popular revision of this theme is the Restoration Theory. Proponents of this version of Gap Theory believed that the universe was created full-form and populated only to be decimated by a cataclysmic war led between God and Satan. This war left the earth a wasteland, “formless and void” (and explains why we find fossilized dinosaur bones that seem to be millions of years old). So then, by theory, the recent Creation Week would be a re-Creation or restoration of a world that was once destroyed.
The hinge upon which Gap Theory turns is the interaction between verses 1, 2, and 3 ofGenesis 1. But while the theory’s suppositions are imaginative and interesting to ponder, they really must be forced upon the text — and are forced upon the text for a poor reason. A clear example of this eisegetical pattern of interpreting Scripture in light of science can be found in the following quote from a Gap Theory supporter:
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Rom 5:12)
But under Adam’s feet, entombed in the sedimentary rocks of the planet, was God’s testimony to the reality of the existence of death long before Adam; the fossil record; the evidence of a previous world that was destroyed and wiped off the face of the old earth. (NOTE)
This is a distressing demonstration of the Gap Theory hermeneutic. It is as if the author is saying, “Scripture says death came through Adam, but science says it came earlier, so we ought to change our interpretation of Scripture because science is our ultimate authority.” This reliance upon science as a hermeneutic principle is why we will not here give any real consideration to the view’s interpretive accuracy.
Easily one of the most popular of current theories to reconcile scientific evidence with God’s Word, the Day-Age Theory takes aim on the Hebrew word for “day”: yôm. Stating that the word, while often meaning a 24-hour period, can also refer to an indeterminate duration, these theorists proclaim that a valid (and moreover, proper) literal understanding of the Creation account will interpret each day as an era, or age, lasting a great length of time.
Popular among those who support a Day-Age Theory is a theory of Progressive Creationism by which God, having created the major types of the animal and plant kingdoms at the beginning of the Sixth Day, waits and watches as they evolve naturally within their groups until at the end of this lengthy period referred to as “the Sixth Day,” God creates man of the dust by fiat.
Now, while this is a fairly attractive position for many science-minded Christians, it simply cannot be arrived at from a grammatical-historical understanding of Scripture. There is no hermeneutical reason for any Believer to reinterpret Genesis to fit the Day-Age model.
- Boice, James Montgomery. Genesis: An Expositional Comentary — Volume 1 (Genesis 1-11). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1982 and 1998.
- Ross, Hugh. Creation and Time: A Biblical and Scientific Perspective on the Creation-Date Controversy. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navpress, 1994.
- — Creator and the Cosmos : How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navpres, 1995.
- Ross, Hugh, and Gleason L. Archer. “The Day-Age View.” The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. Ed. David Hagopian. Mission Viejo, California: Crux Press, Inc., 2001.
Once more relying upon science to form the filter through which we examine Scriptural truth, the Apparent-Age theorists sees a contradiction between science and God’s Word and feeling he must reconcile the two, he decides that God must have created the universe to look as if it were very old. After all, he posits, God made Adam full-grown, for what reason should we not believe that He made the rest of the universe old as well?
The Apparent-Age theory falls short in several places. First, it makes a blind speculation upon Scripture — something entirely outside of the revelation God has chosen to give us. Second, though Adam was created as a full-sized human, this does not necessarily mean that he had the wrinkles, cellular degeneration, and evidence of weathering on the day of his creation (and it seems unreasonable to assume he did). And third, the supposition that God creates things to look older than they really are seems to make Him out to be quite a prankster (and a counterproductive one at that!) and even a bit of a liar.
In any case, the Apparent-Age Theory rests upon speculation demanded by science and is not borne out by a clean grammatical-historical hermeneutic.
- Menninga, Clarence. “Creation, Time, and ‘Apparent Age’.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. 40.3 (September 1988) 160-162.
- Whitcomb, John C., and Henry M. Morris. The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961.M
Punctuated 24-Hour Theory
Strangely incorporating a 24-hour day perspective, the Punctuated 24-Hour Theory tries to have its cake and eat it too by squeezing millions of years (in the form of geological eras) between the days of the Creation Week. The Punctuated theorist feels that God created on the first day, let that stew for eons, created again on a second creative day, let that simmer for a long while, created once more on the third special day, and so forth.
Surely, an interesting hypothesis it is. But one that just does not find any sort of ground in the text of Genesis 1 and so becomes one more theory to dismiss before consideration because as far as this issue is concerned, we, as Christians holding to the supreme authority of Scripture, are only interested in the interpretation of that which God has revealed in His Word.
Often supporting its hypothesis using a Flood Geology, Scientific Creationism says that science demonstrates not that the earth is ancient and weathered by millions of years of natural processes, but that it is a comparatively young creation (generally between 7,000 and 15,000 years old). Using this system, they affirm that yes, the earth is indeed young and Believers can indeed hold to a literal rendering of Genesis 1.
Now while their work may indeed serve an apologetic purpose, this is really no way to come to understand that which of Scripture would speak. The student of Scripture should be able to demonstrate his interpretation of God’s Word based upon that Word alone. And so, in the next section, we will look at three methods of interpreting Scripture that find their foundation in the Scriptures themselves (rather than in the fallible witness of natural revelation).
- Whitcomb, John C., and Henry M. Morris. The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961.
- Creation Science Evangelism. Kent Hovind, Ph.D., President. 2001. <http://www.drdino.com>.
- Creation Research Society. 1975-2000. <http://www.creationresearch.org>.
- Institute for Creation Research. John D. Morris, Ph.D., President. 2001. <http://www.icr.org>.
Exegetically Based Methods
Interpretations that seek first to understand Scripture as it was written with no concern for the opinions of science are really the only way to properly look at the issues involved in the Creation Account. Now of course science can be useful to serve as a warning that perhaps we may need to re-examine our previous exegesis, but it should never serve any interpretive purpose for us. We should never allow anything but God’s Word to dictate our understanding of the matters of God’s Word. If Scripture says the world is flat, then the world is flat — no matter what science might say. If Scripture says the world is 8,000 years old, then the world is 8,000 years old — no matter what science might say. The only real question then is “What does Scripture say in Genesis 1?”
The following four interpretations attempt to decipher what the Holy Spirit truly meant when He inspired Moses to write his introduction to our Bible. Our examination of them will offer more detail and information than our previous summaries, but the final decisions about which interpretation most accurately reflects the true intent of Scripture will be left to you, the reader, for all of these positions are held to by true and learned Christian men. And with that, the views:
The most traditional of interpretations, the 24-Hour Interpretation holds that God created all the universe in the space of six, regular solar days. Most will argue against an eternal seventh day of rest, but the view is not necessary to the interpretation.
A straightforward reading of the text most consistently supports the 24-Hour Interpretation. When one comes to the text for the first time, their immediate and natural conclusion will be that Scripture is speaking of a regular six-day period in which God gradually created everything from nothing. Verse 1 is generally seen as a summary of the Creation Week, rather than a chronological event occurring prior to the Creation Week. God’s purpose in creating over the course of a human week is one of love, knowing that His people would readily identify with the cycle of days.
One of the interpretation’s strongest arguments is one from silence: while a figurative interpretation of the Creation Days is not impossible, it is believed entirely unmerited, for nowhere does Scriptural discussion of the Creation indicate or support any sort of figurative rendering. Moreover, the interpretation holds that those who suspect different meanings for the Hebrew word for “day” (yôm) “have no reason, other than cosmological assumptions, for construing [it] to mean anything other than a normal day” (NOTE).
And finally, standing on both a strong tradition and a simple (though certainly notsimplistic) rendering of the text, the 24-Hour Interpreter believes the final and considerable burden of proof sits in the lap of those who would contravene such a venerable position.
- Supposed Problems:
- The seeming temporal recapitulation of Day One and Day Four confuses a chronological reading of the days.
- The eternality of the Sabbath offers evidence for a figurative understanding of the Creation Week.
- The possibility that Genesis 1:1 is not a summarization, but rather, an event preceding the Creation Week.
- An argument from silence is inadequate to prove that the Creation Days are not figurative.
- The dischronologization and recapitulation present in Genesis 2 present difficulties for a chronological, 24-hour interpretation.
- Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries: Volume 1 (Genesis). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998.
- Duncan III, J. Ligon, and David W. Hall. “The 24-Hour View.” The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. Ed. David Hagopian. Mission Viejo, California: Crux Press, Inc., 2001.
- Jordan, James B. Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis One. Canon Press, 1999.
- — “Biblical Chronology.” Biblical Horizons. Oct – Dec 1997. <http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/ch/>
- “Six-Day, Literal Creation: Essential to the Faith” (entire issue). Chalcedon Report. No. 398 (September 1998).
Provoked by exegetical considerations, the Framework Interpretation sees the Creation Week as a topical guide unconcerned with a real chronology. Dividing the works of Creation into two triads, Moses presents his audience with a literary device to demonstrate theological truths of covenant promises and the role of the Sabbath.
Although the fiat creative events (“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light”) refer to actual historical events that actually occurred, and the Creation Week is presented in normal, solar days, the Creation Account really functions as a literary structure presenting the acts in a nonsequential, topical order. The purpose for this is theological.
The Framework Interpretation sees the six creative days dividing easily into two parallel sets of three (that is, two triads). The first triad — Days One, Two, and Three — deals with the creation kingdoms (or realms), while the second — Days Four, Five, and Six — deals with the creature kings (or rulers). A visual representation of this framework follows:
The rulers in the second triad are given rule over their realms (the first triad) at the time of their creations: the luminaries are established to “rule over” the day and night; the birds and fish receive a blessing of dominion over their respective realms (“Be fruitful, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth”); and even man is given this dominion over his realm specifically (cf. Genesis 2:5) and all the created realms generally (Genesis 1:26, 28). These realms and rulers are in turn subordinated as a whole under the divine King of Creation in His Sabbath rest on the seventh day. Just as man works six days and consecrates that work to God’s glory on the seventh day, so did God create a model for this by bringing the work of His six creative days under divine consecration to His own glory on the Seventh Day.
Not only does this interpretation see a theological frame in the Creation Week, but it sees no need for chronologization inherent in the text. In fact, the interpretation argues fairly sharply against making the Creation Account into a literal 168-hour sequence. Beside literary support (in the form of parallelism between Days One and Four, the chiastic nature of Days Two and Five, and dischronologization throughout), the Framework Interpretation applies God’s seeming use of ordinary providence in Genesis 2:5-6 to demonstrate that such providence is likely active throughout God’s creation of the universe.
This is a brief sketch of a multi-faceted interpretation and the sources below are recommended to garner a more accurate understanding of the view.
- Supposed Problems:
- The Fourth Commandment seems to demand a regular 168-hour Creation Week to base its command upon.
- The difficulty of relating the view is seen as a distinct disadvantage.
- Though there is evidence for dischronologization in related passages, this does not necessitate a nonsequential view of the Creation Account.
- Just because the Days arrange themselves into theologically relevant triads doesn’t mean they can’t behave literally as well.
- Mark Futato, “Because It Had Rained: A Study of Gen 2:5-7 with Implications for Gen 2:4-25 and Gen 1:1-2:3,” Westminster Theological Journal. 60.1 (Spring 1998) 1-21 (Part One/Part Two).
- Irons, Lee. “The Framework Interpretation: An Exegetical Summary.” Ordained Servant. Vol. 9, no. 1 (January 2000), pp. 7-11
- Irons, Lee, with Meredith Kline. “The Framework View.” The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. Ed. David Hagopian. Mission Viejo, California: Crux Press, Inc., 2001.
- Kline, Meredith. “Because It Had Not Rained.” Westminster Theological Journal. 20.2 (May 1958) 146-57.
- — “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. 48.1 (April 1996) 2-15.
Due to unfortunate choices in translation in the KJV, a historical interpretation of the Creation Account has been overlooked. With the universe already created in Genesis 1:1, the six creative days refer not to the establishment of the universe, but rather, God’s preparation of Eden for His people.
Most recently proposed by John H. Sailhamer, Ph.D., the view of Historical Creationism hinges on medieval Hebrew interpretations of the Genesis text. Because “heavens” and “earth” should be translated as “sky” and “land,” and “formless and void” is better rendered “unihabitable wasteland,” the Creation Account presents God’s preparation of the Promised Land in the midst of an unyielding wilderness — a land prepared special for His people.
Similar to the Gap theory, Genesis 1:1 indicates the universe created at a time inconsequential to the needs of the Genesis narrative. God prepares a piece of paradise on earth in the midst of wilderness and continually brings His people back to that place of blessing as a tutorial device pointing them to the blessing (and eventually eternal blessing) of God’s covenants with them.
The Historical Creationist also contends that most other views of Genesis 1 have been held captive by prevailing worldviews. In modern times, interpreters often push the text to accord with modern scientific views. The Historical Creationist maintains that the 24-Hour Interpretation only became so trenchant because of KJV translators’ reliance upon a faulty Platonic cosmogony and their willingness to push their translation into accordance with that view.
- Supposed Problems:
- Support for such “historical” translations are difficult to find.
- Not many modern scholars have lent their support to the view.
- Sailhamer, John H., Ph.D. Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1996.
- Historical Creationism. <http://hometown.aol.com/arkvow/creationism.htm>
To conclude this article, we should remind ourselves that whichever view we decide to support, it must be one that is presented by the Scriptures themselves and not one that we force upon it. And whichever we choose, we must never fail to uphold the historicity and inerrancy of God’s Word for it is that upon which the knowledge of our faith is built.
Additionally, it is important — once one decides upon the interpretation he thinks best represents the true meaning of Scripture — to not judge other people for their own views. One’s view on Genesis 1 is no more an essential to one’s salvation and spiritual well-being than is one’s eschatalogical beliefs. There are a number of perspectives on the Creation Week that while not necessarily correct, are not heretical either. We should grant our brethren the same benefit of deciding on an interpretation as we take ourselves.
We hope this brief overview has been helpful. God bless.
Study Resources :: Nine Views of Creation. Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/creation.cfm