“Six-day creationists are hardliners, pushing an extreme view and causing unnecessary confrontation.”
“There are many theologians who will tell you the days could symbolize long ages…”
“I can believe in creation, but not a young earth – anyway, where in the Bible does it tell us when God created?”
Mainly because the idea of a very ancient world is so deeply entrenched in our culture, many Christians, understandably, feel uncomfortable, even embarrassed, when other Christians claim the Bible teaches a recent creation in six ordinary days.
It is commonly held that those who insist on a literal six-day creation must surely be extremist. If someone wants to believe in a young earth created in six ordinary days, OK, but why push it down the throats of other Christians? After all, many good, solid evangelicals and Bible teachers accept that the days are, or at least could be, symbolic.
One can sympathize with such positions. Except for a few people who thrive on being “anti”, none of us wants to appear out of step with the majority of educated folk.
However, there is a much more important issue here than one’s need to feel “socially acceptable”, or to be regarded as moderate and non-extremist. It is, simply speaking, a matter of intellectual and exegetical integrity—even honesty.
I would not dare say this about many other issues on which Christians disagree. Scripture is not always as plain (at least to our fallen minds) as we would wish it to be. Even the Apostle Peter claimed that parts of Paul’s writings were hard to understand.
The Bible uses Allegory, figures of speech and other literary devices on occasion. Often this is obvious, but occasionally sincere scholars disagree on whether a passage is literal or symbolic. But is this the case in Genesis 1-11? The answer is a resounding “no”. I am making the seemingly bold claim here that there is no way in which the Hebrew text of Genesis 1-11 can mean anything other than what the fresh-faced child, picking it up for the first time without preconceptions, has always seen as obvious.
If I were to quote one scholar to back up this statement, the reader may not be impressed. But what if that scholar was a leading Oxford University professor of Hebrew who claimed that, as far as he knew, all other similar world class Hebrew language scholars were of the same mind?
The following is an extract from a letter written in 1984 by Professor James Barr, who was at the time Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford. Please note that Professor Barr does not claim to believe that Genesis is literally true, he is just telling us, openly and honestly, what the language means.
Professor Barr said,
“Probably, 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(s) of Gen. 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the ‘days’ of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.”
There are many theologians (as opposed to Hebrew language experts) who insist on long days, for example.
But the above makes it clear that it is hardly likely to be the text itself that leads them to this conclusion. Rather, it is almost certainly the desire to accommodate and harmonize opinions and world views (in this case, the idea of long geological ages) which arise from outside Scripture.
Of course, arising from outside Scripture does not necessarily make anything wrong; but in this case, the clear, unmistakable teaching of the scriptural text is completely incompatible with, even opposed to, the extra biblical viewpoint we are considering. It is, therefore, completely unacceptable to claim that Scripture may actually be teaching this view!
Faced with such a unanimous consensus of scholarly linguistic opinion (backed by the common sense understanding of countless millions of Christians through the ages), it is no longer intellectually honest to say that the issue of the time and mode of creation (or the related issue of global versus local flood) is in the same category as disagreements over mode of baptism, church government, or prophecy. Disagreements over these latter issues arise from different understandings of Scripture itself, not from seeking to accommodate (or to defuse debate over) a world view that directly opposes a teaching of Scripture which is unanimously declared by experts to be the plain meaning of the text!
I suggest that the only intellectually honest approach for a Christian is either to believe what the writer of Genesis is saying, or reject it as untrue.
To disbelieve it brings the following problems:
- How can you know which other parts of Scripture are in error as well—that is, how can you reliably know anything at all about Christianity?
- What about the New Testament evidence that Jesus and the Apostles (including Paul) regarded Genesis 1-11 as inspired Scripture, giving us ‘true truth’ about historical characters and events?
- What happens to the very basis of the Gospel—that is, the Fall into sin, death and bloodshed of the whole creation for which the Savior shed His blood in death (I Corinthians 15:21, 22; Romans 5:12; Romans 8:19-22)? Those who insist that the days could be millions of years often forget that these “millions of years,” in the popular view, are represented by layers of fossils which are interpreted not as the results of the biblical Flood, but as creatures having lived (with struggle and bloodshed) and died before anyone called Adam could have appeared.
To put it simply, there were Genesis “days” before man appeared, and if you read the days as “ages” (remember that these “ages” are said to be shown by layers containing dead things called fossils) you’ve just put death and bloodshed before Adam!
If the reader is by now feeling despair, the answer to the dilemma is to look again at the modern world view you may have been trying to harmonize with Scripture. It is not—it cannot by definition be—based on the scientific method (repeatable testing and observation). It is based on faith in the opinions of men who were not there at the beginning, and who are part of a humanity in rebellion against its Maker.
Finally, there is a large amount of scientific evidence consistent with a recent, six-day creation and a global flood. To accept, by faith, the biblical statement “Thy Word is true from the beginning” (Psalm 119:160) is a reasonable position, which reasonable people, including scientists, can accept without committing intellectual suicide.
Being made aware of this “reason for the hope” through the ministry of creation-science has opened the door for many to new horizons of joy and peace through the experience of a totally integrated faith; one in which all of nature and external reality, as well as personal experience, at last makes sense in the light of God’s Holy Word.
Author: Creation Ministries International, adapted from an article in Creation Magazine.