Dr Henry Morris, in his commentary on Genesis, asks a question that shouldn’t be necessary but unfortunately is: ‘Suppose the writer of Genesis wished to teach his readers that all things were created in six literal days, what words would he have used to best convey this?’
The answer stares us in the face: the very words that are found in Genesis 1.As well as mathematical and historical arguments (see ET, July 2016), there are other compelling arguments for saying so.
In the Bible ‘day’ means either a 24-hour period or the daylight portion of a 24-hour period. Genesis 1:5 fully defines ‘day’ and ‘night’ for us. Some argue that Genesis 1 uses the word symbolically, but a word cannot be symbolic the first time it is used, since a symbol represents something that has gone before. No created thing (apart from the angels) existed before Genesis 1.
‘Day’ in the Bible occasionally means ‘an indefinite period of time’; for example, in Ruth 1:1 it says, ‘in the days when the judges ruled’. But when ‘day’ is used like that, it is clear from the context that a literal day is not intended.
‘Day’ in the Old Testament never means a definite long period of time. And when the word is associated with a number, or with ‘evening’ or ‘morning’, it always means a literal day (see Refuting compromise, by Dr Jonathan Sarfati of Creation Ministries International).
Theologian John Calvin said: ‘God revealed that he created the world in six days, about six thousand years ago, to protect the church from fables about our origins, to glorify himself as the only Creator and Lord, and to call us to submit our minds to God’s will and Word’. Many evolutionary fables concerning origins are being propagated today. It is as though Moses, the writer of Genesis, knew this would happen and was trying to underline that Genesis 1 refers to literal days.
Have you ever noticed that no one wants to argue about the length of the days in other parts of the Bible? Why not? Is it that some evangelical theologians are embarrassed because the world pours scorn on what it sneeringly calls ‘creationism’ and these evangelicals feel the need to tamper with the text in order to gain intellectual acceptability?
Richard Dawkins once said the theory of evolution enabled him to be ‘an intellectually satisfied atheist’. Do we need to compromise the Word of God in order to be intellectually satisfied Christians? Even the theologically liberal Dr James Barr, Hebrew scholar and professor at Oxford University, admitted, ‘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 or writers of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the idea that creation took place in a series of days, which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience’.
Some would say Christians should focus on Genesis 3, not Genesis 1, since the implications of tampering with Scripture are far more serious in relation to Genesis 3 (here you have the Fall of mankind and first mention of the gospel).
The crucial importance of Genesis 3 for salvation is certainly true. But Genesis 1 is about the doctrine of God, the very One who provides that salvation. An attack on Genesis 1 is an attack on God himself.
The first verse in Genesis reveals God as creator before he is revealed as anything else. He said, ‘Let there be light and there was light’. Many Scriptures point to him as the mighty creator: ‘God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it’ (Isaiah 42:5); ‘the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them’ (Acts 14:15); ‘God, who made the world and everything in it’ (Acts 17:24).
So Genesis 1 is not just about creation, it’s about God in his might and majesty. Nothing is too hard for him. To take Genesis 1 in anything other than a straightforward way is to insult him by casting doubt on his omnipotence.
Henry Morris wrote, ‘Why would an omnipotent creator have to “create” something by a slow, wasteful, cruel process requiring millions of years? It would be far more reasonable for him to create every system in his universe fully mature and functioning in its intended purpose right from the start’.
Genesis 1 tells us ten times that God spoke and miraculous things happened. God spoke: job done! ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and the host of them by the breath of his mouth’; ‘he spoke and it was done’ (Psalm 33:6, 9).
If I said to you, ‘I’ve just baked a cake’. You might (!) say, ‘Yummy, can I have a piece?’ You realise a cake exists that didn’t exist before. The cake is not a mixture still waiting to go into the oven, or still in the oven cooking; it has been fully baked and is ready for eating. Any other interpretation is ridiculous. So it is with the words of Genesis 1 and the truths about God’s acts of creation they articulate.
We get light from other Scriptures too. For example, the Sabbath commandment only makes sense if it is about one literal day of rest, since Moses based his argument on six literal days of work in the creation week (Exodus 20:8-10).
The time period of a week is fundamental to our needs as humans. The Lord chose it and it has been almost universally followed throughout history. It was not an evolutionary accident.
The New Testament refers to 165 passages from Genesis. One hundred of these relate to Genesis 1-11, and they all speak of Genesis as true history. The Lord Jesus referred to Genesis 1-11 on six occasions, each time as true history.
Then consider Luke 11:50: ‘That the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation’. It does not say from the foundation of human history, but ‘from the foundation of the world’.
Or consider, ‘For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). If the first part of that verse isn’t true, maybe the second part isn’t true either!
Or, ‘For man is not from woman, but woman from man’ (1 Corinthians 11:8). This is exactly what Genesis 2 teaches.
Some may accuse me of having a hobby horse about this subject. My response is that preachers should only have one hobby horse: it is not creation, but Jesus Christ. All preaching should have one main aim: to get to Jesus Christ, to point to him as quickly, fully and warmly as possible. Men and women need to turn from their sins and trust in Jesus Christ, and love, serve and worship him.
But the Lord Jesus Christ is the creator: ‘For by him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through him and for him’ (Colossians 1:16).
The word ‘beginning’ in Greek is where we get the word ‘architect’. God the Son was the architect of creation. This means that he was there before the events of Genesis 1. He carried them through and was their eyewitness. He knew all about it.
Incredible as it may seem, there are ‘evangelicals’ today saying that Jesus didn’t know about creation. They suggest that Jesus got it wrong. That is surely blasphemy. And, if Jesus got that wrong, he might have got everything else wrong as well. And, if he did, we are in the mire, with no way out.
To think of a literal six-day creation as a side-issue is a huge blunder. The Lord Jesus said, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep [‘watch’, ‘guard’] my Word; and my Father will love him and we will come and make our home with him’ (John 14:23). Will we keep and guard all of his Word, or just the parts the world finds palatable?
If we want to evangelise the people of our generation, we must start where they are. They don’t believe the Bible any more; they don’t think it can be trusted. They believe evolution makes God redundant and science has disproved the Bible. But we must confidently affirm that taking the Bible ‘as read’ accurately fits in with science and history. It can be trusted, every page of it, including the very first chapter!
Andy Banton is general secretary of the Open-Air Mission.