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Stephen Wong: Creation in Six Days? PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 29 June 2010 15:15

Creation in Six Days?

Referee: Dr. Benedict Kwok
Author: Stephen Wong

1. Introduction

Was the universe and the earth created in six days? This question can be a stumbling block for many people who want to put their faith in God. Many refuse to believe in God because of this question. This is an opportunity for the atheist to attack the authority of the Bible and the Christian faith. The answer to this question has been in fierce debate for at least a century, not only between atheists and Christians, and also among Christians themselves. Why does this question creat so much debate and led to such consequence? This paper will attempt to summarize the reasons for and against the arguments of the question, and ask the question: is the debate on this question that important after all?

 

The origin of the debate is from Genesis 1: 1-24, where in the Creation account, the days of the creation are separated by the phrase: “And there was evening, and there was morning”. While one can argue that this debate is about how one interprets Genesis 1-2, perhaps a more important reason for the debate is the Theory of Evolution.

 

Proposed by Charles Darwin in 18591, the basic assumption of the theory is that all living organisms evolving from simple to complex as a result of a process called natural selection, in which the fittest of the species will survive. The prerequisite for this theory is that the selection process took billions of years. Though still unproven, this theory is widely accepted nowadays and is taught in schools all over the world. While there are many unanswered question (e.g. many gaps in the fossil records, exact age of the earth), the theory has been elevated to the status of a proven scientific fact. Atheists use this theory to show that God does not exist, seekers need to overcome the previously taught Theory of Evolution before accepting Christian faith.

 

The influence of the Theory of Evolution is so great that it is accepted by many Christian denominations. For example, the Catholic Church (the largest church in the world) has made official announcement to support that evolution is compatible to Christian belief. This position is reflected in a statement from Pope John Paul II: “New findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis….If the origin of the human body comes through living matter which existed previously, the spiritual soul is created directly by God.”2

 

This and some other theories (below) to bring together evolution and Christianity have two common assumptions: a) the theory of evolution is true; b) the Scriptures describing the creation in Genesis 1-2 is not describing an historical event but poetic imagery. However, the implication for accepting evolution in the creation process is not without consequences:

  1. We are a product of random events, as a result of billions of years of evolution. It is therefore difficult to identify the purpose of our existence.

  2. Since we are not created by God directly and God did not intervene during our creation, our relationship with God is not clear.

  3. The authority of the Scripture is in question, as the process of creation described in Genesis cannot be taken literally. For example, Adam and Eve might not have been created directly by God as described in Genesis 1-2. This also brings up the question of whether Adam and Eve were really tempted by the serpent.

 

It is under such implications that many Christian groups and/or movements are actively working to challenge and rebuke the Theory of Evolution. Below are some of them:

 

2. Young Earth Creationism

The idea of Young Earth Creationism is led by Creation Science movement (or Scientific Creationism) which was emerged during the 1960s. Under this movement, several organizations were established, including the Institute for Creation Research, Creation Research Society, and Creation Ministries International. They believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2 and that God created the Universe and all life forms in six 24-hour days. If one add all the days and years accounted in the bible, the earth is only about 6,000 – 10,000 years. This “young earth” theory, if proven correct, can overturn the Theory of Evolution, further establish the authority of the Scripture for its historical account, and show to the world that we are created by God, not by chance.

 

The basic premise of the movement is Biblical inerrancy and literally interpreting that Genesis 1-2 is an historical description of how God created the universe. This is partly based on the linguistic analysis of Genesis 1-2 versus other books in the Old Testament. The verbs used in Genesis 1-2 are consistent with narrative accounts describing literal historical events, but not consistent with verbs used in poetic passages3.

 

2.1 Literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2

Creation Science movement believes that in Genesis 1-2, a “day” means “a single day” as we experience an ordinary day with 24 hours. The reason for this interpretation is as follows:

  1. The Hebrew word “yom” used in this passage means an ordinary day with 24 hours. In the Hebrew language, “yom” can mean: a period of light as contrasted to night; a 24-hour period, time; or a specific point of time. However the classic authoritative Hebrew dictionaries, “yom” in Genesis is specifically defined as an ordinary day as we experience nowadays4.

  2. The phrase: “And there was evening, and there was morning” was used to separate each day of the creation (Genesis 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). The period between “evening and morning” is the time between two consecutive days as it is understood nowadays, and during the time when Genesis was written by Moses. This phrase also indicates that the creation for each day is completed before the evening, which means the creation for that day took about 12 hours. More importantly, the phrase “evening and morning” helps to define “yom” as an ordinary 24-hour day as we understand nowadays.

  3. The word “yom” was used outside Genesis 359 times in the Scripture. Each time it means an ordinary 24-hour day.5

  4. Genesis 1-2 did not use the plural of “yom”, and it did not use other words such as “olam” or “qedem” which describe long periods or indefinite time.6

  5. In two other passages in the Bible, God commanded the Jewish nation to follow His example to work for six days and rest on the seventh.

For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:11)

“…. It is a sign between me and the sons of Israel forever. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed (Exodus 31: 17).

  1. Language-wise, literal interpretation of the word “yom” as an ordinary 24-hour day is accepted by the world’s authorities of the Hebrew language, whether or not if they believe the Genesis is describing an historical event. For example, this interpretation is supported by Dr. James Barr (Regius Professor of Hebrew, Oxford University) who himself does not believe that Genesis is an historical account of creation, in his letter to his friend, has the following statements7 :

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 their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience….

  1. Genesis is describing an historical event. The author of Genesis (Moses) was intended to pass on the idea that creation happened in 6 literal days. As the scripture is inerrant, the word “day” has to be accepted as a 24-hour day.

 

2.2 Physical evidence for a young earth

In addition to proposing this belief based on the Scripture, the Creation Science movement is also actively working on gathering physical, geological, biological evidence to support that the earth is young (6,000 – 10,000 years old). The generally accepted age of the earth of 4.6 billion years calculated by modern geology, using geo-chronological methods including radiometric dating. This movement seeks evidence to disprove that the universe is billions of years old. The evidence to support this hypothesis include:

  1. Carbon-14, which has a half-life of 5,730 years, is found in fossils, carbonate rocks, coal, diamond on a worldwide scale. If the earth is billions of years old, no carbon 14 should be present.

  2. Helium (gas), a byproduct of uranium (238U) decay to lead (206Pb), was found in high concentration trapped in Zircon (tiny) crystal in granites (radioisotope dated to be 1.5 billion years). If the rock is that old, the helium gas should have been escaped over time and nothing should remain.

  3. The decay of 238U to 206Pb is a slow process, with a half-life of 4.5 billion years, the presence of so much helium in granite was proposed by Creation Science to be a result of accelerated decay rate (during the creation or during the Genesis flood). As a result, the helium was produced faster than it could have escaped.8

  4. There are errors and inconsistencies in radiometric dating of rocks. For example: new rocks formed from volcanic lava (less than 70 years old) was dated 0.27 – 3.5 million years old, suggesting the radiometric dating is not trustworthy9.

 

2.3 Omphalos

To reconcile the literal interpretation of a six days creation and the apparent old age of the earth from the estimates of modern geology, Omphalos proposed another variation of the young earth creationism10. This argues that the universe was created in 6 days but with an appearance of old history. There is little evidence to support this theory and this is not widely accepted.

 

2.4 Criticism of the young earth theory

2.4.1 Criticism from the Scientific Community

The above “evidence” and theory for young earth has been refuted by the scientific community. For example, the United States National Academy of Sciences, the prestigious academy consists of top scientists in the world, states that: "Creation Science is in fact not science and should not be presented as such. ….Scientific interpretations of facts and the explanations that account for them therefore must be testable by observation and experimentation. Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science.” 11

 

Some of the theories proposed by Creation Science, such as accelerated radioactive decay rate contradicts one of the fundamental principles of modern science: Uniformitarianism, which requires one to apply the same physical and geological laws observed on the earth today to interpret the earth's geological history. The constancy of the decay rates is also governed by first principles in quantum mechanics, wherein any deviation in the rate would require a change in the fundamental physical constants. Though it is possible that accelerated radioactive decay rate occurs at one time, it is not testable by scientific methodology and cannot be regarded as scientific fact.

 

2.4.2 Criticisms from other Christian denominations

Besides non-Christians, Creation Science’s six day creation theory was also rejected by many Christian denominations on theological grounds, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, liberal wing of Lutheran, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian. These churches consider Genesis 1-2 as poetic and allegorical passages, not a recording of the literal history. Some of them accept the Theory of Evolution and that evolution and creation are compatible with each other (see below).

 

3. Other Christian Creationisms

A list of Christian Creationisms is shown in Table 1 (see Appendix). Some of the theories take a more literal view to non-literal interpretation of the Genesis. Some reject the Theory of evolution, while others accepted the theory. Below is a brief summary:

 

3.1 Gap Creationism

Gap creationists seek to reconcile that the Genesis creation account is inerrant and the apparent old earth age. They propose that there is gap of unknown number of years between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. The “was” in Genesis 1:2 (Now the earth was formless and empty…) was translated to be “became” , or “had become”12. This suggests that there was an ancient world before the six day creation.

 

In this interpretation, God created a universe millions and billions of years ago (Genesis 1:1) and life flourished in this ancient world. However, the world grew to be evil and God destroyed it. As a result of this destruction, the Earth became "without form and void" (Genesis 1:2). What happened afterwards (Genesis 1: 3-24) is a result of the second creation which took six 24 hour days, upon the ruin and chaos of this ancient former world. This theory can account for the scientific observations of the age of the universe and the earth, the dinosaurs, fossils, ice cores, ice ages, and geological formations which occurred in the gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, without affecting the literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account.

 

3.2 Day-Age Creationism

The Day-Age Theory does not take a literal view of the “day” in Genesis as a 24 hour day. The theory is said to be built on the understanding that the Hebrew word “yom” is used to refer to a time period, with a beginning and an end, and not necessarily that of a 24 hour day. It proposes that the “days” of creation are much longer periods (millions or billions of years). Each day can last an “age” as the name of the theory implies. According to this view, the sequence and duration of the Creation "days" is representative or symbolic of the sequence and duration of events that happened, rather than describing the actual duration.

 

3.3 Progressive Creationism

In this theory13, God created new forms of life gradually, over a period of hundreds of millions of years. God is seen to regularly involve Himself in the process of species development through special creative acts. This is distinct from theistic evolution. Progressive creationists generally reject Darwinist evolution because they believe it to be biologically untenable and not supported by the fossil record. They also reject the Young Earth Creationism and Gap Creationism.

 

3.4 Intelligent Design

Formed about 20 years ago, proponents of the Intelligent Design use the complexity of the living organism and the massive improbability of the existence of life in the universe as evidence to indicate the presence of an intelligent designer14. For example, the probability for a single protein molecule to fold correctly to have its biological effect at random is 10-74. This probability is so small that even if the earth is billions of years old, there simply is not enough time to form such a molecule, let alone an organism. Based on this low probability, Intelligent Design rejected the Theory of Evolution. Proponents of Intelligent Design are mostly Christians, but this does not take the assumption whether or not the Creation happened in a period of six days.

 

3.5 Theistic Evolution

To compromise between the theory of evolution and faith, Christian scientists like Francis Collins (Principle investigator for the Human Genome project to determine the genetic code of Human) propose a theory of Theistic Evolution15, which states that:

  1. The universe came into being out of nothingness, by the hand of God, approximately 14 billion years ago.

  2. Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life.

  3. While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose, the process of evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity and complexity over very long periods of time.

 

  1. Once evolution got under way, no special supernatural intervention was required.

  2. Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes.

  3. But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.

 

 

This theory accepts that God created the universe but did not create the living organisms. Though not stated explicitly, the origins of life and the process of natural selection is implied to have divine intervention. In other words, the theory proposed that God use evolution to create human. However, the spiritual nature of human cannot be explained by the Theory of Evolution.

4. Issues of the Christian Creationism Theories

The above theories are still being hotly debated, with many efforts to gather evidence to support its own views and/or to refute the others. However, there are many issues associated with all this theories, below are some of them:

 

  1. We cannot go back in time to gather the evidence.

Whether or not the earth was created in six 24-hour days, the above creationism theories cannot be validated because it happened in the very distant past. This issue would also apply to the Theory of Evolution. Since one cannot go back in time to prove or falsified, at the end, these theories will remains arguments and hypothesis.

  1. Difference in interpretations of Genesis 1-2

There are differences in the interpretation of Genesis in different Creationism theories, such as: whether or not this is poetic imagery or historical account; whether or not there is a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2; whether a “day” represent a long period of time. All these differences will only complicate how one should believe which one of them is correct.

  1. Biased evidence?

The evidence presented by most theories is incomplete at best, but mostly biased towards their own. For example, Young Earth Creationism presents data that suggested that the earth is young, but does not present data for a six day creation. The errors for radiometric dating was shown, but this does not suggest a six day creation or that the earth is 6,000 years. Also, Young Earth Creationism does not quote Scriptures passages of the Hebrew “yom” which can mean period of time longer than one day (e.g. Exodus 20:12; Job 20:28; Proverbs 24:10; 25:13; Ecclesiastes 7:14)16.

  1. Danger of literal interpretation for geology

In the past, literal interpretation of the bible had led to many mistakes for the Christian Church. For example, according to the passages in Job 9:6: “He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble.”and in Job 41, the earth was interpreted to be flat and rested on pillars and great sea monsters were there to guard the edge of the sea. Another example is that the earth is the center of the Universe according to the literal interpretation of Ecclesiastes 1:5: “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” This was how the writer understood the earth at the time. This literal interpretation was used by the Catholic Church to persecute scientist like Galileo. Taking the day in Genesis 1-2 literally as six 24-hour days would be in danger of having similar consequences.

  1. Use science to prove supernatural events

By definition, creation is a supernatural event. Creation means to make something out of nothing. Supernatural events and scientific observations are incompatible to each other. For example, in the First law of thermodynamics which is one of the fundamental laws of physics, all matters (and energy) are conserved and cannot be created from nothing. The basic concept of creation is against this fundamental law of physics. Scientific approach is therefore incapable to prove or disprove creation and other miracles in the Bible. To put creation and science together (e.g. Creation Science, Theistic Evolution) can only lead to confusion and futile debates.

  1. Issues of logic in the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2

If the creation as described in Genesis 1-2 is an historical event, one should apply the proper chronological order to understand the sequence of events. The 24 hour day as we know it, is defined by the earth’s rotation relative to the present day sun. The sun and moon was not created until day 4, what is a “day” and what is “evening and morning” in days 1-3? To account for this issues, Young Earth Creationism argues that since the word “yom” was used after the sun and moon was created, this should apply to the “yom” before day 4.17 However if this is the case, the writing here does not follow the logic in scientific description of historical account. In scientific writing, one has to first define the meaning of a term before using it. Without the sun, a day cannot be defined at that point of time. Other issues include: seed bearing plants and fruit bearing trees were created in day 3, this is before the sun was created. Here, the Creation Science argue that God use other light to get the plants and vegetation to grow. However this cannot be proven or falsified scientifically.

5. “Creation in Six days?” – Why ask?

The question of whether the universe or the world was created in six days is a distracting question from the most important theme in the Bible: salvation. The central message in the Bible is the salvation from sin by our Lord Jesus. Below are the reasons for us to avoid asking this question.

First, anti-evolution is not the answer. Because of the prevalence of teachings of evolution, Creation science and other Christian creationism theories were formed to overturn the theory. However, disproving evolution does not necessarily lead people to believe that God exists, or that He created the universe, or that they will accept the salvation. Also, the more we argue for the scientific evidence, the less people will believe, because we cannot provide concrete evidence for the six 24-hour day creation.

Second, the reason people do not accept the salvation of our Lord is not because of the Theory of Evolution. People reject salvation because they do not want to admit that they are created by God. They do not want God to restrict what they can do or think. They do not want to admit that they are sinners in need of salvation. Theory of Evolution is just an excuse for them not to believe. If one day the theory was proven wrong, they can find other excuses not to believe.

Third, even if they accept that the world was created by God, this would not lead them to receive the Salvation. There are many cults and religion in the world which believe that God exists and that God created the world, but what these people worship are idols.

Fourth, our faith does not rest on how we interpret Genesis 1-2, but on the realization that we are sinners in need of salvation. Even for people who are educated in atheistic society in which the theory is taught, they will accept the salvation once they realized that they are sinners and they can only be saved, not by their own work, but by the grace of our Lord Jesus. Evolution at that point is irrelevant. The recent explosive growth in Christianity in atheistic societies like China and Russia in which only Darwinist Evolution was taught, is a good testimony of the power of salvation.

Fifth, even if one believes in six 24-hour day creation, it does not necessarily lead one to accept the salvation of our Lord. The orthodox Jews, even though they believe that the Hebrew written in Genesis 1-2 clearly stated that the day “yom’ is a 24-hour day, they refuse to accept that Jesus is Messiah of this world and they are still waiting for another one. The length of “yom” in Genesis is not relevant for our faith.

6. Conclusion

God’s creation is already plain to everyone, no matter how they view the creation in Genesis.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)

This is a proclamation of the Scripture: what may be known about God has already been revealed and is plain to all man. God created the world and people know it. Just by looking outwardly at the things He created, we are without excuse of the presence of God. Just by looking inwardly at our sinful nature, and that the sense of right and wrong has already been written into our hearts, we are without any excuse not to accept that we are created by God, and in need of the salvation of our Lord. The answer for whether or not God created the world does not need any scientific proof, but already in everyone’s heart. Once we accept the salvation of our Lord, whether or not God took six 24-hour days to create the earth is no longer important.

1 Charles Darwin, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," 1859

2 Pope John Paul II’s message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. (October 22, 1996).

3 D. DeYoung, Thousands… not billions (2005) p.179

4 F. Brown, S. Driver., and C. Briggs, a Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1951, 398

5 J. Staombaugh, The days of creation: a semantic approach. TJ 5(1):70-78, 1991; www.answeringenesis.org/go/days

6 R. Grigg, How long were the days of Genesis 1? Creation 19: 23-25 (1996). www.answeringenesis.org/creation/v19/i1/days.asp

7 J. Barr, personal letter to David Watson, April 23, 1984. Cited in: The New Answer Book (Ken Hamm) (1982) p. 94

8 R. Humphreys, Young helium diffusion age of zircons supports accelerated nuclear decay. Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth. (2005) 2: p.74

9 D. DeYoung, Thousands… not billions (2005) p.124-130

10 Gosse, Henry Philip, 1857. Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot. J. Van Voorst, London.

11 Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS, Washington, DC, 1999

12 Scofield References Notes online, verse by verse notes on Genesis 1.

http://www.studylight.org/com/srn/view.cgi?book=ge&chapter=001; also footnote in NIV Bible in Genesis Chapter one.

13 http://www.answersincreation.org

14 http://www.intelligentdesign.org

15 F. Collins, The Language of God (2006)

16 W. Grudem: Bible Doctrine (1999) p. 135

17 K. Ham The New Answer Book 1(1982), p. 101

 

 

7. Appendix


 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 June 2010 15:27
 
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