Every week I receive wonderful questions from believers and skeptics alike. I publish one of those questions with my attempt to answer it here every week. This past week I was asked if “Genesis 1 makes any sense?” The questioner read the text and was confused how it was that light is created on day one but the sun and stars aren’t created until day four. This seeker also was confused by the text seeming to claim that the moon is a source of light and that animals and people are created but the fossil evidence points to a great gap between certain creatures such as dinosaurs and the existence of humankind. Once again, this is a great question!
In my opinion, there are a number of possible responses that a Christian may reasonably hold. Within conservative Christianity there are those who hold to theistic evolution, old earth creationism and young earth creationism. I will try to do justice to each in reverse order.
First, young earth creationists are best represented by the ministry Answers in Genesis, which runs a good website, publishes books, journals & videos and also is connected with the Creation Museum. Young Earth Creationists argue that Genesis 1 can be taken literally without embarrassment. They maintain the “light” mentioned in day 1 is God Himself. They argue the fossil evidence is incomplete and that it is possible we will find evidence that humans and dinosaurs co-existed. They believe the earth is roughly 6000 years old but the appearance of old age comes from events such as the global catastrophe of the flood recorded in Genesis 6-9. Young Earth Creationists include Theologian Wayne Grudem and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler.
Second, Old Earth Creationists are best represented by the ministries The Discovery Institute and Reasons to Believe. Old Earth Creationists fall into several categories when it comes to interpreting Genesis 1. Some hold to The Gap Theory, where they view Genesis 1:1 as a complete statement and Genesis 1:2 as the re-creation of the world for Adam & Eve possibly billions of years after the creation of the universe. The theory has been best articulated by Old Testament scholar John Sailhamer in the book Genesis Unbound (Dawson Media 2011). Notable champions of The Gap Theory include pastors Mark Driscoll and John Piper. Other Old Earth Creationists see Genesis 1 as poetry or a Psalm that should not be taken literally even though it truthfully claims God created the universe out of nothing. The reason they see Genesis 1 as a poem is that Hebrew poetry often contains “parallelisms” such as those outlined below:
Day 1 light————————–Day 4 sun, moon & stars
Day 2 sea & sky——————–Day 5 fish & birds
Day 3 dry land & vegetation—–Day 6 animals & people
Hebrew scholar John Walton of Wheaton College takes this view in The Lost World of Genesis One (IVP 2009). Other works by proponents of Old Earth Creationism include Seven Days that Divide the World by John Lennox (Zondervan 2011) and In The Beginning We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context by Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden (Kregel 2012).
The final view is theistic evolution. This view is best represented by the The Biologos Foundation. Theistic evolutionists hold to Darwinism and believe Genesis 1-3 are myth or a parable but many, such as Dr. Francis Collins, believe the resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact. Collins and former Westminster Seminary Professor Peter Enns have become the most articulate advocates of this view.
I personally hold to Old Earth Creationism. I think the fossil evidence is clear that the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old and that people and dinosaurs did not co-exist. I once held to the Gap Theory but have been moving more toward the poetic view of Genesis 1. However, I deeply respect Young Earth Creationists. I have met and spent a little time with Ken Hamm and found him to be a bright, godly man. I do not hold to theistic evolution because I don’t believe the fossil record or the complexity of life support Darwinism. Regardless of what view a Christian takes, I do believe Genesis 1 makes sense and points to a God who freely created the universe out of love.
Please keep the great questions coming. They fun to wrestle with and I hope you enjoy them as well.
Until then, grace and peace to you all.