Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Creation Confusion

I recently received a fund raising letter from a group called Reasons to Believe. In it the author Hugh Ross, who I actually had formerly thought was intelligent reflected on a conversation he had with an apologetics professor who noted that he got himself into trouble when his students brought up Genesis 1 with disputes over creation days 1 and 4.

“The professor listened intently as I pointed out how other biblical creation accounts, including Job 38-39, Psalm 104, and Proverbs 8 amplify the Genesis story of God’s activities on the six creation days. Since God inspired all of these accounts, the best interpretation of Genesis 1 will be one that yields an appropriately literal and consistent reading of all these relevant Scripture passages.”

“This integrative approach reveals that God created light when He created the physical universe before rather than on day 1. He also formed the Sun, Moon, and the stars before rather than on day 4 (even before day 1). His work on day 1 involved transforming Earth’s atmosphere from opaque to translucent, allowing light to penetrate Earth’s initially thick, dark cloud cover. His work on day 4 brought about transformation of this translucent (permanently overcast) atmosphere to a frequently transparent one, allowing the Sun, Moon, and stars to become clearly visible objects for the first time.”

“Not only does this approach to the Bible’s creation accounts resolve textural incongruities but it also removes apparent contradictions between what Genesis 1 teaches about cosmic history and what the book of nature—God’s other “book” of revelation—tells us about the Universe, Earth, and Earth’s life.”

It is surprising to me that Hugh Ross or the apologetics professor would think that this application of wisdom literature would clear anything up. Apparently though, the belief that something is inspired means that the inspiration is meant to only reveal literal, historical facts. That in itself is a huge problem but what about the idea that before day 1 of creation there was on Earth an “initially thick, dark cloud cover”. Would not that assumption cause a problem with Day 2

Gen. 1:6  And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7  So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8  God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.

Apparently working on the atmosphere was a two day job, calling it light on day 1 because He made the dark heavy clouds transparent and then on day 2 separating the mass of water into water and sky. Of course you still have the problem of day 4 with the creation of the Sun, moon and stars so maybe the atmosphere clearing was a 4 day process and it did not really clear up noticeably until day 4 when the inhabitants, none of whom existed yet, could actually see the Sun, moon and stars.

Of course this is, as per the letter, based upon the book of Job which clearly was not trying to set out the order of creation. Such passages as this:

 (Job 38:5-12 NIV)  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'? "Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?

Does that really sound like we are meant to take it literally? The poetry of Psalms and Proverbs won’t really supply much to the problem either. What they do is provide ways that one can read whatever ideas they want into the poetry. Naturally since they are all inspired they must also all be saying the same thing and since inspired they must be telling us the literal historical truth about creation. They are in fact in agreement. But that agreement is on the creation and the Creator, not at all about the process. Christians that try to explain the process fail in the logic of agreement even between Genesis chapter one, not to mention the differences between Genesis chapter one and chapter two. We can never get past the reality of our universe and our planet in the universe. Surely God knew that man would some day understand space and planets and distant suns and galaxies and He would have meant that His inspiration would not be held to literal understandings which were used to reveal God to a primitive people. Inspiration is not meant to indicate literalness of the account but the import of the account: the establishment of God as the first cause, not how the First Cause worked. Thus the Genesis account reveals a world just like the world we see around us, it does not and cannot tell us about a world that the author or we don’t know or understand. We are here but we don’t see God, He has chosen to reveal Himself slowly over time in a step by step process that culminated in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, inaugurating the reconciliation between God and man, the now and not yet of the Kingdom of God which will never end.

As I recall Hugh Ross is not a young earth creationist, he understands the evidence is too much against that idea but he has not realized the limitations of inspiration that is meant to relate to all people for all time. That just because at one time people believed inspiration said the earth was created in 6 days and inspiration listed genealogies that could only go back a few thousand years (Ussher’s 4004 BC date) that we must continually believe what those people believed because they lacked the scientific knowledge which would have led them to different interpretations had they had the knowledge we have. In other words they have accepted the traditions as inspiration rather than allowing the inspiration to work with us were we are today.

Without realizing how it is tradition rather than inspiration that has created the confusion of creation even someone who is not strictly trying to read the Bible as a literal document gets into trouble: making poetry behave as if it is literal by just picking and choosing choice bits of the imagery. It however does not work, the Christian religion has no need to embrace scientific materialism but it also does not need to accept tradition simply because we, like the scientific materialists, can’t explain origins. Somewhere there is a middle ground and we never get to the middle ground as long as we refuse to move from the ground we hold now. We are in a time when knowledge increases so quickly that it is hard to remember a time when we had to use a coin operated pay phone. All those phone books now sit wasting space because it is faster to look up the local business or address on the internet. We can’t live in the past in a world that advances so rapidly and we only hurt ourselves when we try to live in the past.

We need to realize that we don’t have all the answers and that some of our answers were simply wrong before and move on.

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