A friend of mine recently started a pretty huge debate regarding evolution on his facebook page. I normally try to stay out of these debates because I find them quite frankly, irrelevant to the Christian faith. There was a time when I spent a lot of time reading and researching the different views, but as I've gotten older, they've seemed like a side show to the gospel.
I am quite aware of the claims by certain fundamentalist that if you reject a literal creation, you somehow undermine the entire truth of scripture. I've sat through several Ken Ham lectures, and read lots of books on creationism, and this is certainly an all or nothing, black or white claim I find extremely frustrating. For this reason, I very much appreciate you saying: "I do not make belief in a six-day creation a necessary mark of orthodoxy or a necessary mark of a Christian." There certainly are people who do, and I appreciate this viewpoint entirely.
However, I've been wanting to address this issue for a while now simply because it tends to keep coming up. I'm aware that my friends and families have radically different views on this subject, but I hope you can read this post and appreciate my desire to read the Bible correctly, which is something I think we are all trying to do. I won't be addressing evolution, but simply the assertion that "God created all things in six-literal days".
(The Original Post: Why I Am a Six-Day Creationist)
When I was learning hermeneutics in my first year at Bible College (a conservative, evangelical bible college) I was taught that reading any passage out of its context is the first mistake anyone can make. The authors intent is a key component in reading the scriptures, we can't simply leap from the authors original intent into something else - it has to be true to the scriptures. Just what was the writer of Genesis trying to say, and what can we take away from it today as honest theologians?
First, we have to understand that the first two chapters of the Bible were not written in a vacuum. In fact, when we read other ancient near eastern creation stories, you begin to see similarities. The writer of Genesis was echoing the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation myth that had existed in written form for centuries before Genesis. You can't ignore that context. A list of the similarities and differences can be found here.
That is why the first two chapters are absolutely brilliant, and some of my favorite chapters in the Bible. The writer of Genesis is using a story already familiar with his culture to share the supremacy of the God Yahweh. It is a stinging polemic. It is not however, a scientific chronology of the age of the universe and earth.
When you start to read Genesis as a poem, when you start to realize that it's trying to say something
very specific, using an established cultural method - are we really prepared, as conservative bible interpreters to force it to say something it never intended to?
Tim, you say: "The Bible teaches a six-day creation." This is only partially correct. Of course the Bible teaches a "six-day creation", no one is really arguing that. We are trying to figure out what those six days mean.
You can start debating what a "day" actually means, but if this story is written using poetic metaphors, that argument becomes irrelevant. When you read Genesis 1, I am told that the Hebrew style is that of poetic parallelism. (I do not read Hebrew, but I assume the scholars to be correct). Day 1 (Let there be light) parallels Day 4 (the two great lights). Day 2 (water and sky) parallels Day 5 (sea creatures and birds), and Day 3 (land/vegetation) parallels Day 6 (living creatures/man). Day 7 is a day of rest, and in the context of the Ancient Near East, "rest" means "rule", and should be read as a king ruling.
It's easy to read Genesis 1 and come to the conclusion that the earth was created in six literal 24 hour periods. I would argue however, that you must completely ignore everything I have listed above if you are to do that.
Tim, you go on to say that "science confirms it."
I hope I don't offend you by saying this, but I must be honest.
This is so disturbing to me on so many levels.I am going to skip over the decades of geology research, the decay of radioactive isotopes science or the fossil record. In most of these discussions I find literal creationists to use a variety of straw men arguments to avoid actually discussing the science.
I enjoy laymen level physics however, and I will begin by making an assumption.
If you holds to a literal six day creation, you therefore must hold to not only a young earth, but also a young universe.
That being said, since the earth is able to witness the light from stars billions of light years away, many of which have died out, it can be reasoned that since light travels at a constant rate, the earth must have been present for billions of years for the light to reach us. It's pretty simple science actually. If you know how to use triangles, we can observe the distance of an object in space. We also obverse the red shift of the light, or rather, the light moving away from us. The universe is expanding. We are talking about math, and math is a fact.
The answer I've often received about this, is that God created the universe and earth with the "appearance of age". This is what I find most disturbing.
If this is true, it means that God created something, and although every form of reasoning determines it to have died, and died a long time ago, we are to assume the exact opposite, that it only appears to have died. For me, this calls into question the very nature of God, something as a conservative Christian, I am unwilling to do. I know this is not what people intend when they say this, but I have a hard time not receiving it that way. God has created man with the ability to reason. I cannot subscribe to a fantastical set of presuppositions to ignore something that is factual. I must believe that God created the universe, and brought "chaos into order" and that I can reasonably discern truth about his creation. Ironically, I don't think the writer of Genesis would have ever intended the God of Genesis to be that malevolent. In fact, he was writing a polemic against those types of Mesopotamian gods.
I am aware that you have most likely heard all of these arguments before, but I hope I could have challenged you, and anyone else reading this to consider what we may be saying by saying God created "all things in six literal days" and I hope we can all agree that the pursuit of biblical truth is a worthwhile pursuit, even if we do have conflicts from time to time.
God bless you!