Systematic Theology: The Whole Counsel of God[1] Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 15: Creation (part 3)

The Whole Counsel of God[1]

Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 15: Creation (part 3)

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all,
27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God
(Acts 20:26-27)

 

3. The Age of the Earth: Some Preliminary Considerations. Up to this point, the discussions in this chapter have advocated conclusions that we hope will find broad assent among evangelical Christians. But now at last we come to a perplexing question about which Bible-believing Christians have differed for many years, sometimes very sharply. The question is simply this: How old is the earth?

It is appropriate to treat this question after all the earlier matters, because it is really much less important than the doctrines considered above. These earlier matters may be summarized as follows: (1) God created the universe out of nothing; (2) creation is distinct from God, yet always dependent on God; (3) God created the universe to show his glory; (4) the universe God created was very good; (5) there will be no final conflict between Scripture and science; (6) secular theories that deny God as Creator, including Darwinian evolution, are clearly incompatible with belief in the Bible.

Old Earth- 4,500,000,000

Young Earth- 10,000-20,000

Are the Six Days of Creation Twenty-four-Hour Days?: Much of the dispute between “young earth” and “old earth” advocates hinges on the interpretation of the length of “days” in Genesis 1. Old earth supporters propose that the six “days” of Genesis 1 refer not to periods of twenty-four hours, but rather to long periods of time, millions of years, during which God carried out the creative activities described in Genesis 1. This proposal has led to a heated debate with other evangelicals, which is far from being settled decisively one way or another.

Old Earth View…

In favor of viewing the six days as long periods of time is the fact that the Hebrew word יׄום, H3427, “day,” is sometimes used to refer not to a twenty-four-hour literal day, but to a longer period of time. We see this when the word is used in Genesis 2:4, for example: “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,” a phrase that refers to the entire creative work of the six days of creation. Other examples of the word day to mean a period of time are Job 20:28 (“the day of God’s wrath”); Psalm 20:1 (“The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!”); Proverbs 11:4 (“Riches do not profit in the day of wrath”); 21:31 (“The horse is made ready for the day of battle”); 24:10 (“If you faint
in the day of adversity, your strength is small”); 25:13 (“the time [יׄום] of harvest”); Ecclesiastes 7:14 (“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other”); many passages referring to “the day of the Lord” (such as Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; Joel 1:15; 2:1; Zeph. 1:14); and many other Old Testament passages predicting times of judgment or blessing. A concordance will show that this is a frequent sense for the word day in the Old Testament.

It is important to realize that those who advocate long periods of time for the six “days” of creation are not saying that the context requires that these be understood as periods of time. They are simply saying that the context does not clearly specify for us one meaning of day or another, and if convincing scientific data about the age of the earth, drawn from many different disciplines and giving similar answers, convinces us that the earth is billions of years old, then this possible interpretation of day as a long period of time may be the best interpretation to adopt.

I want to also remind everyone that this view does not mean that those who hold it would affirm Darwinian Evolution. This view tries to wed the Bible with modern science. I will say that it is also important to realize that if we knew everything about the Bible and about science, they would line up perfectly.

Young Earth View…

On the other side of this question are the arguments in favor of understanding “day” as a twenty-four-hour day in Genesis 1:

  1. It is significant that each of the days of Genesis 1 ends with an expression such as, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” (Gen. 1:5 NIV). The phrase “And there was evening, and there was morning” is repeated in verses 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31. This seems to imply the sequence of events marking a literal twenty-four-hour day and suggests that the readers should understand it in that way.

Problem-that the first three creative “days” could not have been marked by evening and morning as caused by the sun shining on the earth, for the sun was not created until the fourth day (Gen. 1:14–19); thus, the very context shows that “evening and morning” in this chapter does not refer to the ordinary evening and morning of days as we know them now. So the argument from “evening and morning,” though it may give some weight to the twenty-four-hour view, does not seem to tip the balance decisively in its favor.

  1. The third day of creation cannot be very long, because the sun does not come into being until the fourth day, and plants cannot live long without light.
  2. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that in the Ten Commandments the word day is used to mean a twenty-four-hour day:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; … for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Ex. 20:8–11)

Certainly in that text the sabbath “day” is a twenty-four-hour day. And must we not say that verse 11, which in the same sentence says that the Lord made heaven and earth in “six days,” uses “day” in the same sense? This is again a weighty argument, and on balance it gives additional persuasiveness to the twenty-four-hour day position.

  1. When Jesus says, “But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female” ’ (Mark 10:6), he implies that Adam and Eve were not created billions of years after the beginning of creation, but at the beginning of creation. This argument also has some force.

 

In the context, the word day in Genesis 1 refers to six 24-hour days. Every time it appears with “evening and morning” or with a number like “sixth day,” it refers to a 24-hour day.

Did God create the whole universe, including the original plants, animals, and first two people (Adam and Eve) in six literal 24-hour days? Or did creation take place over millions of years?

To answer that, we should remember that the original readers of Genesis were not scientists or Hebrew scholars. Rather, they were former slaves—mostly uneducated— on their way to the Promised Land. The fathers were commanded to teach their children (Deuteronomy 6:1–7), so the Hebrew language in Genesis 1 must have been very clear to the common people, even to children.

When we look carefully at Genesis 1, in Hebrew or even in English, it is clear that God created everything in six literal (24-hour) days. First, we are told that He created the earth in darkness and then created light. Then He called the light “day” and He called the darkness “night.” And then He said (in the original Hebrew) “and [there] was evening and [there] was morning, one day.” He repeated the same statement at the end of the second day through the sixth day.

“SO THE EVENING AND THE MORNING WERE THE SIXTH DAY.” GENESIS 1:31

Everywhere else in the Old Testament, when the Hebrew word for “day” (םיוֹ, yom) appears with “evening” or “morning” or is modified by a number (e.g., “sixth day” or “five days”), it always means a 24-hour day.

On Day Four God further showed that these were literal days by telling us the purpose for which He created the sun, moon, and stars—so we could tell time: literal years, literal seasons, and literal days.

Then in Exodus 20:8–11 God commanded the Israelites to work six literal “days” and rest on the seventh because He created in six “days” (using the same Hebrew word).

Furthermore, Jesus and the New Testament apostles read Genesis 1–11 as straightforward historical narrative. There are additional good scholarly reasons for coming to that conclusion.1

There is no biblical or scientific reason to be ashamed of believing in a recent six-day creation. God has spoken clearly and truthfully. Will you trust His Word over the arrogant claims of sinful men?–AIG

Man’s response to God the Creator…
The doctrine of creation has many applications for Christians today. It makes us realize that the material universe is good in itself, for God created it good and wants us to use it in ways pleasing to him. Therefore we should seek to be like the early Christians, who “partook of food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46), always with thanksgiving to God and trust in his provisions. A healthy appreciation of creation will keep us from false asceticism that denies the goodness of creation and the blessings that come to us through it. It will also encourage some Christians to do scientific and technological research into the goodness of God’s abundant creation, or to support such research. The doctrine of creation will also enable us to recognize more clearly that scientific and technological study in itself glorifies God, for it enables us to discover how incredibly wise, powerful, and skillful God was in his work of creation. “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who have pleasure in them” (Ps. 111:2).

The doctrine of creation also reminds us that God is sovereign over the universe he created. He made it all, and he is Lord of all of it. We owe all that we are and have to him, and we may have complete confidence that he will ultimately defeat all his enemies and be manifested as Sovereign King to be worshiped forever. In addition, the incredible size of the universe and the amazing complexity of every created thing will, if our hearts are right, draw us continually to worship and praise him for his greatness.

Finally, as we indicated above, we can wholeheartedly enjoy creative activities (artistic, musical, athletic, domestic, literary, etc.) with an attitude of thanksgiving that our Creator God enables us to imitate him in our creativity.

 

 

[1] Based on Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan

[2] All Scripture from ESV Bible, Crossway

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