Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Creation Account of Genesis

Thesis Statement
            This study will take a brief look at some of the views of the creation account in the book of Genesis, point out weaknesses of each, determine which ones conservatives embrace, and best align with the teachings of the Scriptures.
            For centuries the interpretation of the creation account in the book of Genesis was pretty static in that the commonly held teaching that the narrative was to be interpreted literally was accepted by the majority of the church leadership and those in attendance. However, with the advent of the enlightenment and the introduction of rationalism and empiricism, the historicity of the book has been called into question.
            Specifically, it is the first two chapters of the book that draws the most ire from those who find its account to be on par with such writings as the Epic of Gilgamesh or the stories of Zeus. [1]Others will concede that upper-story religious truth can certainly be found in the text, but will deny its historical value and the actual validity of the text where it seems to contradict the findings of modern science.
If indeed the creation account is not a literal account, but simply an upper-story narrative that is only meant to present moral or religious truth, how does that impact the teachings of the Bible? In this study, we will take a look at some of the various interpretations of the creation account, which ones conservatives hold to, and why. Of course, the size constraints of this paper greatly limit the depth to which any one of these topics can be discussed.
Views of Creation Account
The first view to consider is the mythological. According to John Walton, author of the NIV Application Commentary on Genesis, the mythical approach of interpreting this book is the “most troubling category for those who take the Bible seriously.” [2]The reason for this is because in our modern society the term almost automatically implies a “judgment that the story is not true or at least unhistorical.” [3]However, that is not necessarily the way those in the ancient world saw mythology. Instead, they saw myths as a means of explaining the world around them in story which usually had religious and moral purposes. Mythology to the ancient world was like science in our own in that both were and are attempts to understand cause and effect. C. John Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary insists that with that in mind, it is wise to shy away from triumphalism by arrogantly implying that our modern world is more sophisticated than theirs. [4]
            On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that the very word “myth” does by its very nature implies that not every aspect of the story is to be taken as absolute truth even though it is told as such. Millard Erickson, author of Christian Theology, adds to this by pointing out that myth is a literary device that is used to convey a “supernatural or transcendent truth in earthly form. [5] 
            Those who hold this view will contend that the Bible was never meant to have any authority in regards to empirical issues such as history or science. Instead, the authority of the Bible only rests in issues of religion and therefore serves to only bring men into a “proper relationship with God” [6]Those who hold this view usually embrace Naturalistic Evolution instead of Biblical Creation. However, they do so by ignoring the clear intent of the author. One example is that the writer clearly intended the book to be an actual historical account due to its narrative style, attention to genealogies (e.g., descendants of Adam and Noah), and dates (e.g., the exact date in relation to Noah’s life that the rain began to fall).
Those who view the book of Genesis as mythology only do so by ignoring the clear intent of the author. One example is that the writer clearly intended the book to be an actual historical account due to its narrative style, attention to genealogies (e.g., descendants of Adam and Noah), and dates (e.g., the exact date in relation to Noah’s life that the rain began to fall).
Pictorial Day
            A second view to consider is called the Pictorial Day. It is often times also referred to as the Revelation Theory. In essence, it says that the days in Genesis 1 are indeed “literal days of twenty-four hours each, but they are days only in the life of Moses. [7]The basic view is that in those six literal days, God revealed to Moses exactly how creation occurred, and as God spoke, Moses recorded what was said to him in a six day format.
This view also has accommodationalism in mind as that it still maintains the literal twenty-four hour days and yet also allows the scientific community to have the long periods of time that they demand for the formation of the Earth through the means of evolution. However, just like the Mythological view, it again discounts the clear intent of the author in that he clearly intended the book to be an historical account.
Old Earth Creationism
A third view of the creation account is called Old Earth Creation or Progressive Creation.   Like their Young Earth counterparts, they do believe that the emergence of different life forms was due to the actions of an intelligent creator. [8]The difference between the two is that this group does not accept the historical account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 to be literally true. Instead, they choose to view creation through the lens of science and insist that one can be a Christian and believe in Old Earth Creation as long as “one accepts the central doctrine of salvation through a profession of faith.” [9]
The most glaring problem that Old Earth Creationists face is that their theory does not fit the scientific evidence. In order to resolve the discrepancies between the Bible and Science, they insist in what is called the Day-Age and Gap Creation ideas. The Day-Age idea says that creation was by God, but he did it in “God-length days that may have lasted thousands, if not millions, of years.” They accompany the Day-Age idea with Gap Creation which says that “all life emerged in cycles of creation followed by long periods of stasis” that were repeated continually until humans were created.” [10]
Young Earth Creationism
A fourth view of creation is that of Young Earth Creationism. By most conservative scholars, this group is considered to be the most faithful to the Scriptures. Those who hold this view take the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 literally. This is to say that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal twenty-four hour periods. This means that God created everything by fiat. That is to say that God merely spoke, and it was created just as Hebrews 11:3 implies, “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.” (NASB). [11]
Young Earth Creationists also insist that earth cannot be more than 10,000 years old. And, they conclude that the fossil record bears out that a cataclysmic event did take place in time past, and that event is the worldwide flood that is recorded in Genesis 6.
Of course, this view does have its challenges. One of those is that modern dating methods do place the age of the earth much older than 10,000 years. These methods used by geologists today include carbon-13 and carbon-12 ratios which actually place the oldest fossils as far back as 3.86 billion years. [12]Also, to the modern scientific community, the idea of a supreme being calling things out of nothing is absurd and belongs strictly to the religious community.
Gap Theory
A fourth view of the creation account is what is called the Gap theory that first made its way into the mainstream as a result of the printing of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. This theory assumes a gap of time between versus 1 and 2 of Genesis 1. It is during this time that they postulate that a pre-Adamic world once existed and was subsequently destroyed in the rebellion of Lucifer and the fallen angels that are referred to in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14.
The reason for this view is found in Genesis 1:2 which says that “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters”. At issue is the word “was” which they believe should be translated as “became”. In other words, the earth became formless and void as a result of some act of judgment in time past. It is in this “gap” of time that they conclude that “all the ages that are demanded by geologists occurred and ended with the glacial age”. [13]The theory also explains why there is the apparent contradiction in how old science says the earth is and the biblical account.
The theory goes on to surmise that in Genesis 1:3, God starts the process of reparation as described in the six days of creation. The rational for this view comes from a “desire to reconcile the voluminous scientific evidence for Earth’s antiquity” and still concedes the six literal days of creation. [14]In the end though, too much of the theory rests on the translation of the word “was” and the questionable use of the phrase “formless and void.”   
Naturalistic Evolution
The final view for the purposes of this paper is what is referred to as Naturalistic Evolution. Before 1900, the issue of evolution was a non-controversial subject. Everyone for the most part embraced the biblical view of creation either by conviction or conformity. However, the issue of evolution was brought to the forefront by the Progressive Movement in the early 20th Century in a series of court cases that eventually came to be known as the Scopes Monkey Trial. [15]
In essence, Naturalistic Evolution teaches that all creation is purely accidental and that no supreme power was involved at all. It presupposes that everything came into existence in a randomly generated sequence through mutation and natural selection. [16]Of course, this view by necessity requires millions, if not billions of years, for these mutations to take place. Charles Ryrie puts it this way, “If one were to reduce the process to a formula it would look like this: M(utations) + N(atural) S(election) x T(ime) = Evolution.” [17]
It is interesting that in regards to the necessity of time for the evolutionary process to take place, Tremper Longman points out in his book How to Read Genesis:
“Many modern readers stumble over the six days of creation. They ask how it could have happened so quickly. It is interesting to note that before the nineteenth century and the work of Charles Darwin the question was just the opposite. For instance, in the sixteenth century John Calvin encountered skepticism concerning the biblical account because it took God so long to create. The biblical account seemed ridiculous to many readers in the sixteenth century because they knew that God could create instantaneously if he so willed.” [18]
However, in the end, Naturalistic Evolution does have its weaknesses as well. Some of these include issues with mutations that tend to be overwhelmingly useless or even detrimental, natural selection which rarely brings about improvements, time for probability and chance, and the second law of thermodynamics which says that all things move from orderliness to chaos.  
Biblical View
The final view that needs to be considered is the Biblical View. What does the Bible say in regards to the creation account? These issues include, but certainly are not limited to, the uniqueness of man, the origin of sin, and the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.
In regards to the uniqueness of man, the New Testament teaches that man is the pinnacle of God’s creation in that he was created in the image of God unlike any of the other creatures before him. Millard Erickson says of this, “There is something that gives humanity value from above. The value of humans is not that they are the highest products of the evolutionary process thus far but that the supreme eternal being has made them in his own image. It is not our estimation of ourselves, but the judgment of the holy God that gives us value.” [19]
The Bible also teaches that man rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden when they chose disobedience rather than obedience in regards to the Tree of Knowledge as recorded in Genesis 3. That single act of rebellion brought sin into God’s creation for the first time. As a result of that sin, death came upon all mankind both spiritually and physically. That is why Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And because of the wages of man’s sin that was introduced into the world by Adam and Eve, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
            Also, the teachings of both Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul are predicated on the historicity of the creation account. For example, Jesus’ response to the religious leaders in regards to divorce, Jesus referenced the creation account when he said in Mark 10:6-8, “But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.” Jesus clearly believed in an historic Adam and Eve.
            Also, the Apostle Paul referred to Adam and Eve on several occasions. When speaking to the Romans he said that “death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come (Rom. 5:14). Also, when speaking to the Corinthians, Paul said that “in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22), and that "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Cor. 15:45).
Also, when speaking to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 he said, “For it was Adam who was first created, andthen Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” It is also clear that the Apostle Paul believed in the creation account as well.
After looking at several alternative views of the creation account, the question is now which ones agree with or contradict the writings of the Bible? Most conservatives hold to the view of Old Earth Creationism, Young Earth Creationism, or the Gap Theory. On the other hand, most conservative evangelicals categorically reject the Mythological, Pictorial Day, and Naturalistic Evolutionary views.
The reason for these views by conservative evangelicals is because Old Earth Creationism, Young Earth Creationism, and the Gap Theory all involve an intelligent creator. Of course, they strongly disagree on particulars such as whether the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 should be taken literally, or that something happened between verses 1 and 2, but they all concur that an intelligent creator (God) was involved.
On the other hand, their rejection of the Mythological, Pictorial Day, and Naturalistic Evolutionary views is because those views reject the account in Genesis 1 and 2 as factual, deny the involvement of an intelligent creator, and they embrace Naturalistic Evolution and its view of random mutation and natural selection which contradicts the teachings of the Bible and thus “impugns the authority of Christ and His apostolic witnesses”. [20]
Charles, J. Daryl. Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013.
Collins, C. John. Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011.
Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker House Books, 1998.
Hitt, Austin M. (2009). The Evolution of Creationism in America. Science Educator, 18(1) (2009): 58-68, accessed December 5, 2014, http://search.proquest.com/docview/228783493?accountid=12085.
Hunt, Steven A. ed., Perspectives on Our Father Abraham: Essays in Honor of Marvin R. Wilson. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010
Longman, Tremper III. How to Read Genesis. Downers Grove, IL: Paternoster Press, 2005.
Phillips, John. Exploring Genesis: An Expository Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1980.
Ross, Hugh. The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998.
Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1999.
Schaeffer, Francis A. Genesis in Space and Time. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972.
Walton, John H. The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

[1] Francis A. Schaeffer. Genesis in Space and Time (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1972), 9.
[2] John H. Walton. The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2001), Kindle Location 423.
[3] C. John Collins. Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 28.
[4] Ibid., 29.
[5] Millard Erickson. Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker House Books, 1998), 91.
[6] Ibid., 405.
[7] John Phillips. Exploring Genesis: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980), 36.
 [8]Austin M. Hitt. (2009). The Evolution of Creationism in America. Science Educator, 18(1) (2009):
58-68 accessed December 5, 2014, http://search.proquest.com/docview/228783493?accountid=12085.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation, 1995.
[12] Hugh Ross. The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998), 29.
[13] Philips, 36.
[14] Ross, 24.
[15] Hit
[16] Walton, Kindle Location 1809.
[17] Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Truth (Chicago: Moody Publishers), 197.
[18] Tremper Longman III. How to Read Genesis (Downers Grove: Paternoster Press, 2005), 103-104.
[19] Erickson, 343-344.
[20] J. Daryl Charles. Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013), 53.

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