There is a lot of things going around on-line these days about the religious beliefs of candidates. Much of the writing is negative and stereotypes not only the candidates in question, but Christians in general as well. With all of this going on I thought it appropriate to do an article or two on creation from the biblical standpoint and see if I can't clear up a few misconceptions about what the bible says and doesn't say about God's creation.
We are told by the media that we Christian believe that the entire universe was created in just seven days about 6,000 years or so ago. Well, many Christians do believe that, I won't deny it. But our interest here is what doe the bible say on the subject. What is says is something many of my readers will find surprising, and some may object to. All I ask is for those who are taken aback by what I write take a few to sit back and think on it before jumping all over me with your posts.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
“εν αρχη εποιησεν ο θεος τον ουρανον και την γην “ (LXX)
“בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ׃ " (BHS)
That's it, that's all it says as I just quoted in English, Greek,and Hebrew. It just tells us that God created the heavens and the earth and nothing else. It doesn't tell us when he did it, that is, how long ago. It doesn't tell us how he did it. It just tells us he did. Everything else inferred about it, that he had a co-creator for the universe, that co-creator was the Word, or Jesus in his pre-human existence, all of it is inferred from elsewhere in the Bible.
From this statement we can infer that the initial creation of the heavens and the earth could well be billions of years ago as scientists allege. And that would make quite a bit of sense because what we see so far through our telescopes indicates universal creation is quite a bit of work which logically would take some time. Some spectacular photos we've been treated to courtesy of the Hubbard telescope may well show stars in the process of being created, at least that's what scientists think. If true those pictures show us that God was patient and took his time to build this universe for which he has great plans. So where does all the confusion come in?
It is simple really. Theologians can't seem to separate that passage of scripture from the ones which follow. They insist the two are expressions of the same event, the first tells us he did it , but the second tells us how he did it. I humbly submit they've got it wrong.
I believe that when had Moses write the first chapter of Genesis the way he did the wording was deliberate. We are meant to understand that God first made the heavens and the earth, and then turned his attention to the earth specifically to prepare it as the home for his supreme creation on the material plane of existence, mankind. That theory conforms remarkably to what scientists think happened, despite their denial of a supreme being, and is the only theory which is realistic. Note the very next verse:
“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.” (Gen. 1:2, ASV)
Isn't this exactly what we might expect if the theory this writer advances is correct? Doesn't it makes better sense than the belief that the heavens were empty on this plane of anything other than the earth, the conclusion one has to reach if one reads the scripture with the traditional understanding? This also eliminate one problem with the traditional theory, God “creates” light on the first day of creation (Gen 1:3-5). If the entire universe was created during that six-day period then when were the heavens and the earth created? The bible tells us that only light was created that first day. Think about it.
So, we're at the point where we see things from the perspective of the earth. The picture scientist present for us as to the early days of the earth is remarkably similar. The earth isn't much more than a huge piece of rock covered in water and surrounded by a dense, toxic atmosphere which doesn't allow light to penetrate to the surface. The first logical thing to do is to get rid of the toxic gases which are dangerous to the life god plans to create and place on the earth. That would let light shine through the atmosphere and light would seem to be created from the standpoint of one standing upon the earth when it happens. That the amount of light shining through would initially be little and grow brighter as the gas clouds continue to thin is apparent given the progression of the narrative.
As the light reaches the surface the water begins to evaporate at God's command causing the toxic gas clouds to be replaced by water vapor and clouds, creating the “firmament” of verses six through eight. That is the second day, or more properly era by the way. Next, when the water evaporates enough to drop the sea level dry land appears and God calls forth first life, plant life. The scripture here only speaks of the obvious and most vivible forms of life, the vegetation one looking on would see. Again, we are here being presented a picture from the standpoint of one standing on the surface of the earth while this is happening. This is also consistent with what scientists believe as they believe plant life, both single as well as multi-cellular was what came first. Both developments, land and vegetation form the accomplishments of the third era.
God's next work is to clear up the atmosphere to the point that the luminaries, the sun, moon and stars now shine down upon the earthly surface. Then God goes on over the next eras to first create animal life in the oceans, then upon the land. Then he finally creates man. Again, although these sequences don't quite match up completely with what scientists think happened, they do match up well enough to give one pause for thought. Try that one against any other creation account written. Only the bible comes anywhere close.
One note then one word. First, note the I kept using the word era to describe the creative days. The Hebrew word yom, or day cover pretty much the same range of meanings as our English word and can refer to an era as well. And I think that meaning is the appropriate one here. Next, in spite of the impression given I don't believe the bible must conform with science. However, I do find it a basis for confidence that the two have some remarkable agreement when one compares them objectively. I've watched some of the fossil finds concerning birds changing the scientific view slowly towards the bible's statement and see that as a further confirmation of the veracity of the biblical account.
It is amazing to watch god's word being confirmed in such matters as it gives us a more sure foundation for our faith in the other things it has to say. That makes it a solid standard from which we can proceed to discuss other aspects faith and belief.