AND SCIENCE: SOME BASIC FACTORS
The present topic
has resulted in many books and articles. It is not my intention to go
into all the aspects that undoubtedly deserve attention, but to set out
the broad lines of how we should relate the two and understand the relationship
that does the most justice to both the Scriptures as well as the natural
There are four
basic truths or principles that should be kept in mind.
In the first place,
the Word of God is clear or perspicuous. This means that believers who
read the Bible are not dependent on specialists, be they in science
or theology, in order to understand the basic message that comes to
them there. When the child of God reads and studies Scripture, humbly
submitting himself to the Word and asking for the guidance of the Holy
Spirit, then the Word is a light on his path, a lamp before
his feet (Psalm 119:105). Believers are able to judge and are called
upon to judge any interpretations of Scripture that are suspect (cf.1
Corinthians 2:15; 1 John 2:20). This clarity of Scripture does not imply
that there are no difficulties in interpretation or perplexing passages.
It therefore also does not deny the need for the scholarly study of
In the second place,
God's Word is self-sufficient and self- authenticating. It does not
need our reasonings and proofs to show that it is trustworthy and true.
As we confess in Article 5 of our Belgic Confession: "We believe without
any doubt all things contained in them [i.e. the holy Scriptures], not
so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but especially
because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God,
and also because they contain the evidence thereof in themselves; for,
even the blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them
are being fulfilled."
Thirdly, God's Word
explains itself and is its own interpreter. Behind the many books of
Scripture is the one Author, namely God. This means that there is a
basic unity underlying all of Scripture. One part of the Bible can therefore
be used to explain another part. If there are difficulties in understanding
parts of Genesis, then relevant information found elsewhere in the Old
Testament or New Testament can and should be used.
Finally, God's Word
has the last say. If there is a real contradiction between what men
say and what God says in His Word, God's Word must be maintained and
the word of man must be put aside.
the Bible a scientific textbook?
It is often said
that the Bible is not a scientific textbook. This is true. It would be
misusing Scripture to utilize it as if it were, for instance, a modern
handbook on biology or physics. The Bible does not speak in a scientific
way but uses the language of everyday experience. This means, for instance,
that when phenomena in space are spoken of, geocentric language is used,
that is the language of our everyday orientation as those living on this
world. For example, to say that Joshua's words, "Sun stand still!" (Joshua
10:12) prove that the sun rotated around the earth is proving too much.
This is everyday language which should not be pressed. We today who imagine
that the sun is stationary still speak of sunrise and sunset. We do not
say, when there is a beautiful sunset, "what a beautiful turning of the
earth!" We speak geocentrically, the language of our daily experience.
Similarly we cannot prove that the world is round on the basis of Isaiah
40:22 which reads: "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth..."
The circle probably refers to the horizon. Scripture speaks according
to our geocentric orientation.
However, to deny
that the Scripture is a scientific textbook does not mean that it does
not give facts that need to be considered by scientists. It certainly
does! He who does not consider the contents of Scripture ignores facts.
Also scientists need to consider Biblical data for they are true and
need to be considered in scientific endeavours; facts like creation,
the fall into sin, and the world wide flood. Wherever the Bible touches
upon topics of scientific interest it is reliable. The fact that "all
Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16) means that it can be
trusted for whatever it teaches. The Bible can never function as simply
a source of data. No. It stands in a class all by itself.
It is normative, also for scientific endeavour.
must provide the larger framework for scientific endeavour. Although science
works with certain "laws of nature," these laws must never be absolutized.
Only God is sovereign. He created these "laws" and He can therefore "break"
them if He so desires. For example, in geology, a basic principle is that
natural processes continue at a constant rate. They have always gone at
a certain rate and will continue to do so also into the future. However,
since God created and rules over this world, we can never absolutize and
make autonomous the particular processes that are at work and the rate
at which they operate. For these processes as such do not have the final
say. In Deuteronomy 29 we read for instance that God reminds His people
that He had led them through the wilderness for forty years. Now according
to the natural laws of nature and processes we are familiar with, that
would have meant that Israel would have gone through many clothes and
sandals. The regular "wear and tear" of daily life would have seen to
that. However God said: "your clothes have not worn out upon you and your
sandals have not worn off your feet" (v.5). God who alone is sovereign
overrode those "laws of nature." He can do this whenever He pleases.
For this reason,
to take geology as an example, one can never simply assume that the
present is the key to the past by studying the rates of erosion and
rock formation. One needs to remember as well that in the beginning
God created everything with the unavoidable appearance
of age. One needs to remember the catastrophe of the world-wide flood
which could also result in certain data appearing to be older than would
have been the case under a more uniform rate of erosion, sedimentation
etc. One needs to work with these Biblical data. Now sometimes it is
said that God would have been acting in a deceptive manner by making
things look older than they actually are. But God is not being deceptive
by, for instance creating man and the trees (bearing fruit!) with the
appearance of age, for God has told us in His word that He has done
of taking full account of what the Word of God says when doing scientific
work is underlined when one realizes that science can say nothing sure
about origins. By definition science can only be sure about data and processes
that can be reproduced and tested. Science can therefore say nothing about
the act of creation as a scientifically verifiable fact. That is beyond
the competence of science.
conflicts with facts. God does not contradict Himself in His Book of
Creation and His Book of Special Revelation. We need to remember that
if we are to understand rightly we are to read the Book of Creation
through the glasses of the Scriptures. The one means, the Book of Creation,
is not understandable without the other, the Book of Special Revelation.
That is because our minds have been darkened by sin and we cannot truly
understand creation without the Bible.
Although there actually
cannot be a conflict between the books of nature and revelation, conflict
does arise when scientific theorizing is influenced by a denial of the
Word of God. The theory of evolution, along with all the presuppositions
that inform it, is a good example of this. Conflict between the books
of creation and special revelation can also arise if Scripture is wrongly
understood. If one insists that Scripture does not allow you to believe
that the earth revolves around the sun instead of vice versa, then one
goes further than Scripture (cf. the seventeenth century struggles around
Galileo). However, although mistakes in understanding Scripture have
occurred and are possible, we should not now relativize all interpretation
of Scripture, but we should be careful that we do not go further than
Scripture does. Christian endeavours in science, done on the basis of
Biblical presuppositions and within a Scriptural world view can never
come in conflict with Scripture. Secularized science can. "But then
we have in essence a conflict, not between science and faith, but between
unbelief and faith."3
of Scripture may never be subjected to the condition that it must fit
the current scientific theory. Faith must never be put overagainst rationalism
as if it is some sort of contest. Scripture has the first and the last
say! We accept it in faith and do not need "proofs" from science or
any other discipline that it is true. After all, science is only man
trying to understand God's creation. It therefore has a modest place
and its theories are only that and nothing more.4
This last point
can be underscored by listening to the words of some well-known scientists.5
The scientist-philosopher Karl Popper noted: "We keep in science getting
a more and more sophisticated view of our ignorance." In a similar vein,
F.A. Hayek is quoted as saying: "It is high time that we take our ignorance
more seriously. We have indeed in many fields learned enough to know
that we cannot know all that we would have to know for a full explanation
of the phenomena." And finally R.A. Alberty, Dean of the School of Science
at M.I.T., said: "The more we know about the universe, in a way the
more we do not know about it....Every time a scientist makes a discovery,
he realizes that there are ten more things he doesn't know."
For what follows I am especially indebted to J.A. van Delden, "Bijbel
en wetenschap" in his Schepping en wetenschap (1977), 48-59.
See also A. Keizer, Wetenschap in bijbels licht, 23-26.
further on this topic, e.g., H. Bavinck, Gereformeerde dogmatiek,
I (1967; this ed. first pub. 1906), 445-451.
Delden, op.cit., 57.
the above see J. Byl, "Science and Christian Knowledge," Reformed
Perspective, 2:6 (1983), 4-9.
following quotes have been noted by L. de Koster in Christian Renewal,
5:14 (1987) 19.
God said." Repeatedly throughout Genesis 1 we read those words, "God said,"
followed by an act of creation. God speaks and it is there. God creates
by speaking. What does this mean? In seeking an answer, we must be governed
by what Scripture tells us. Several passages come to mind.
can think of Psalm 33:6 and 9. "By the word of the LORD, the heavens were
made and all their host by the breath of His mouth....He spoke and it came
to be; He commanded and it stood forth." (Compare also Psalm 148:5b, "...He
commanded and they [i.e. his created works] were created"). God created
by His word.
was involved with the creation by the Word is made more clear as we go
to the New Testament. As the reader of Scripture knows, "the Word" is a
name for the Son who was involved in the work of creation! "In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in
the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him
was not anything made that was made....And the Word became flesh and dwelt
among us full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of
the only Son from the Father" (John 1:1-3,14; cf. 1 John 1:1-3; 5:1; Revelation
19:13). The reference to the Word in creating is further also illuminated
by 1 Corinthians 8:6. "Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom
are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through
whom are all things and through whom we exist." One can also think of Colossians
1:16 and 17. "For in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or
authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before
all things, and in Him all things hold together" (cf. Revelation 3:14).
we read the words "and God said" in Genesis 1, in the light of Scripture,
then what is not immediately obvious in Genesis 1, becomes more clear elsewhere.
God's creating by the word involved the Son. The word that God spoke was
not without content. It was a powerful and living word. The word by which
He called into being things from nothing was powerful for it was spoken
in and through the Son.1 Our confession can summarize the Biblical
truth on this point according to the testimony of the Scriptures (cf. above)
as follows. "We believe that the Father through the Word, that is, through
His Son, has created out of nothing heaven and earth and all creatures"
(Belgic Confession, Art. 12).
there be light' and there was light"
God's creation of heaven and earth, His first work of creation was light.
Light as we know it is part of creation. It was made. God spoke and it
importance of light is evident, not only from its place in God's work of
creation, but also from our own experience. Who can imagine the possibility
of life without light?
is significant that light was created independently of the sun, moon, and
stars which were created on the fourth day. Although we will be coming
back to this in a future article, suffice it for now to note that "There
was a time when men said that this was a scientific error, but men do not
speak like that anymore."2 Rather than ridicule this order,
we should carefully consider the implications of this sequence of God's
first creating light and later the sun, moon and stars. This order of God's
creation work shows that light comes from God. He made it. Light does not
come in the first instance from the sun. Light is a gift of God, not of
the sun! What a tremendous gospel this is for our naturalistic age in which
people speak of the sun as if it alone makes life possible. For this reason
people can even fret about the future horror of a spent sun. For Israel
this order of God's creating activity was also of great comfort overagainst
the pagan religions which worshipped the sun. Not the sun, which is a part
of creation, but the Creator who alone gives light is to be adored.
God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness"
(Genesis 1:4). God's work was pleasing in His eyes. It was as He wanted
it to be so that the light could serve the purpose for which it was made.
Notice that the phrase "God saw that...[it] was good" was not used with
verse 2 where we read: "The earth was without form and void and darkness
was upon the face of the deep." God's creation was not yet as He wanted
it. The earth was not yet suitable for the purpose for which God had called
it into being.
fact that the created light was pleasing to God does not mean an end to
darkness. No. God makes a separation between light and darkness. Each gets
its place. God had made both (cf Psalm 104:20; Isaiah 45:7). Both are needed.
Think, for instance, of how darkness helps in sleeping! What the place
of light and darkness is, is clear from verse 5.
called the light Day and the darkness He called Night" (Genesis 1:5a).
It appears from this verse that the light which God had made functioned
in a way similar to the sun; that is, it was not always to be daytime.
Also nighttime was to have its regular place. It has been suggested that
this could point to a light source outside and beyond the world with the
earth rotating. In any case, the fact that God assigned names to the periods
of light and darkness is significant. This shows God's power and sovereignty.
Think of Psalm 74:16a. "Thine is the day; thine also the night." God made
the separation between light and darkness and God gave each their name.
there was evening and there was morning, the first day" (Genesis 1:5b);
that is nighttime and daytime making one day. From Exodus 20:11 we know
that God created heaven and earth in six days. We may therefore assume
that the first day began in darkness with God's work of creation in the
beginning (vv. 1,2). This darkness was followed by the creation of light.
The first day ended with the coming of evening, which was counted with
the following day (Genesis 1:8; similarly with the other days. Cf. vv.
13, 19, 23, 31). In view of the way the first day was made, it is understandable
that the Bible reckons a day from evening to evening (e.g. Leviticus 23:32;
Psalm 55:17; Luke 23:54).3
did day one and the other days of the week of creation consist of? What
constituted a so-called "creation day"? The Lord willing, more on that
the next time.
further on this, H. Bavinck, Gereformeerde dogmatiek, II (1967;
this edition first published in 1907) 385-389.
E.J. Young, In the Beginning (1976) 40.
Our custom of starting the day at midnight derives from the Romans. G.F.
Hasel, "Day," The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, I (Revised
Edition, 1979), p. 877.
DID THE DAYS OF THE "CREATION WEEK" CONSIST OF?
did the days of the `creation week' consist of? Were these days as we
reckon days? Or were they long periods of time so that each "day" lasted
thousands or even millions of years? There has been much controversy about
this point and before we enter it, one thing must be clear. Decisive is
what Scripture says about this. The Bible is the Word of God and is therefore
normative also for this question. To the Scriptures we must submit. Considerations
that arise from outside Scripture are secondary. For example, what an
important figure in the history of the church said about the subject,
or what science is currently teaching about it are all secondary considerations.
Of first importance is what Scripture says. Indeed, we would not even
know of the creation work of God in seven days if God had not revealed
it to us in His Word. It is to that same Word that we therefore must turn
for answers to our questions.
meaning of "day"
does Scripture say? If we turn to Genesis 1 and 2 and read these chapters
carefully, we notice that the term "day" is used in different ways in these
chapters. The context makes this clear. In Genesis 1:5, "day" refers to
the time that it is light. "God called the light Day and
the darkness He called Night." However, in Genesis 2:4, "day" refers to
a longer period of time, namely, the six days of creation. "These are the
generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created, in the
day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens." So
we see two different meanings of "day."
what about each day of the creation work of God? The first, second, third,
fourth day etc. What is meant by "day" then? The answer must be that there
is nothing in Scripture to suggest that these days were anything other
than days, as we also reckon days, days that include daytime and nighttime.
for this position
the first place, six times we read the words "there was evening and there
was morning," followed by the number of the day (Genesis 1:5,8, 13,19,23,31).
This formulation shows that the author wanted there to be no doubt about
how these days are to be interpreted. These are days that had an evening
and a morning and were in this respect normal days. It will not do to try
to drive a wedge between the first three days and those that followed;
that is, those without sunlight and those with sunlight. Whatever the exact
source of light was for the first three days, Genesis 1 makes it clear
that all the days are to be perceived as the same. They are all days with
an evening and a morning, days as man still experiences them.
whenever "day" is modified by a number, (and that happens over one hundred
times in the first five books of the Bible alone), it always refers to
a literal day. From a purely grammatical point of view, it is therefore
highly unlikely that the days of the creation week would have been anything
different from what we normally consider a day. Consequently, standard
Hebrew dictionaries of our day give the meaning of "day" in the passages
under discussion as a regular day1 and not as a long undetermined
period of time. Similarly scholars commenting on the text, irrespective
of whether they value Genesis as the Word of God or not, recognize that
there is no justification for seeing aeons of time referred to.2
the fourth commandment reads: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is
a Sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work...for in
six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and all that is in them, and rested
on the seventh day..." (Exodus 20:8-11). It would make little sense to
understand the term "days" in one part of the commandment literally (work
six days and rest on the seventh) and understand it figuratively in another
part (for in six days [millions of years!?] the LORD created). In this
context it is noteworthy that nowhere in the Old Testament is "days" (the
plural) used in any but a literal sense. If the days of the fourth commandment
(in six days the LORD created) are actually ages or the like, then this
is a unique use of the word and without any explanation or hint that it
is symbolic for a long period of time.
if Adam lived in part of the sixth day and this day was a long period of
time, how old did Adam then become? There is clearly no room for a long
period of time. With the third child of which Scripture specifically informs
us about, Adam was 130 years old (Genesis 5:3).
six days in which God created heaven and earth and all that is in them
are to be understood as days and not long periods of time. To be sure,
they were also special and unusual days. Certainly! These were the days
God made the world! The first three days were also special because they
had no sun to give the daylight. Unique in world history! But nevertheless
these too could be called days with evening and morning. And so these were
days as we experience them, with nightfall and morning, light and darkness.
to seeing the days as normal days
have been raised by those who reject the conclusion reached above. Let
us consider the main points of disagreement since these objections include
arguments from Scripture.
Aalders has written that "it is obvious that the creation day was limited
by morning and evening, by the beginning and ending of the beaming light.
Our 24-hour day includes the night and as such is a different concept in
itself."3 However, J.A. van Delden has correctly responded4
that if you want to speak rigidly in this vein, it is more consequent to
say that the "day" of Genesis 1 refers to the night, for the text mentions
evening first! ("There was evening and there was morning, the first day.")
This is definitely not the direction to go. Genesis 1 clearly shows that
the day was reckoned from the evening up to and including the next day
(summarized in the word "morning").5
3:8 is often referred to in order to argue that the days in Genesis 1 were
not really days, but long periods of time. We read in that passage, "Do
not ignore this one fact, beloved, with the Lord one day is as a thousand
years, and a thousand years as one day." But, notice that in this passage,
"day" is a normal day. This passage does not support a figurative or non-literal
interpretation of "day" in Genesis 1. It does indicate that for God a day
is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like
a day; but, not equal to a day! The point is that God is not limited as
we are by time. He is God! And therefore, Peter suggests, the church should
not despair. God can do in one day what would take man a thousand years!
God hurries to come. That is the context of 2 Peter 3. If one applies this
sense to the context of Genesis 1, then God can do in one day, what an
evolutionist thinks should take thousands of years or more. A similar argument
can be applied to Psalm 90:4. ("For a thousand years in Thy sight are but
as yesterday when it is past.")
the argument is heard that when Scripture says that God created everything
in six days, this is only a manner of speaking. God does not really mean
it literally. He is only using terms understandable to us as humans. He
speaks, to use a learned word, anthropomorphically.6 Now it
is true that God in His self-revelation condescended to the level of man
and used words, expressions, and also means that man could comprehend.
For example, although God does not have a literal back or face yet He showed
Moses His back and hid His face (Exodus 33:23). In this way God in His
self-revelation came down to man and made Himself known. Yet we know that
God is not a man for Scripture informs us that God is spirit (John 4:24).
There is, therefore, no ambiguity on the identity of God in His self-revelation
for the Scriptures make clear what the meaning is. However, it is an entirely
different proposition to say that God's revelation in His Word cannot be
taken for what it says, because what is written in Scripture is only a
human way of speaking to us. Such a position would necessitate that the
theologians or scientists decide what part of Scripture has to be reinterpreted
or reworded so that we know what God actually meant to say. Can we improve
on the way God speaks to us in His Word? Scripture says the Word is
near to us (Deuteronomy 30:14; cf. Romans 10:8). God revealed exactly what
He wanted to say and meant (cf. 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16). Once we
start insisting on "re-translating" Scripture so that it is "understandable"
for our age to show what God "really meant" to say, we are lost. Where
do we stop? What is God's idea and what is man's? This is the misery of
so much modern theology. But, God's Word is clear and perspicuous. It is
a lamp before our feet. Its intent and message is plain.
objection to understanding the days of creation literally is the insistence
that the seventh day never ended. The proof is said to be the fact that
the text of the creation account does not include with the seventh day
the words "and there was evening and there was morning, the seventh day."
The reason for this omission is said to be that the seventh day still continues
for God is still resting from His work of creation. Now, if the seventh
day is of such an extended length, (so the reasoning goes) does this not
suggest the same for the first six days of creation?7 In response,
it should be noted that the order is different with the seventh day. The
words "the seventh day" now come at the beginning and not at the end of
this day. As such that is not so surprising for God did not create on this
day. In this respect this day was different from the preceding days for
which a variety of creation acts could be mentioned. But note, it is still
called a day, with a number, just like the preceding six days, and it should
be understood accordingly. There is absolutely nothing in the text to indicate
that this seventh day never stopped.8
argument for seeing the seventh day still continuing has been sought in
John 5:17. In that chapter, we read of the Lord Jesus healing a lame man
on the sabbath. When the Jews found this out, they persecuted Jesus "because
He did this on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, `My Father is working
still and I am working'" (v. 16b-17). On the basis of this passage it has
been concluded that "Jesus' reasoning is sound only if the Father acts
during his sabbath; only on that condition has the Son the
right to act similarly on the sabbath....God's sabbath, which marks the
end of creation but does not tie God's hands, is therefore co-extensive
with history. Our Lord himself did not see the seventh day of Genesis as
a literal day."9 However, this interpretation reads far more
into the text than what it says! The point is that if the Father also works
on the Sabbath (in His work of preservation and redemption) than so can
the Son. There is nothing in the text to suggest that the Sabbath on which
God is working is any other than the Sabbath that the Jews observe and
on which the Lord heals.
the basis of the above, we can conclude that the six days in which God
created heaven and earth were just that, days with evening and morning.
There is nothing in the Bible to suggest otherwise. Why then has there
been so much discussion and doubt sown on this point? There are other
factors involved which affect one's approach to the Biblical text. We
hope to look at these the next time, D.V.
1 See, e.g.
W. Baumgartner et al., Hebraisches und aramaisches Lexikon zum Alten
Testament, fasc. 2 (1974), 382.
2 See, e.g., J. Skinner, Genesis (International Critical Commentary;
1930), 21; W.H. Gispen, Genesis I, (1974), 50.
3 G.C. Aalders, Genesis I, 58.
4 J.A. van Delden, Schepping en wetenschap, (1977), 80f.
5 Cf. also the end of the preceding article in this series, "The First
6 A closely related theory is the so called literary interpretation which
"takes the form of the week attributed to the work of creation to be an
artistic arrangement, a modest example of anthropomorphism that is not
to be taken literally." H. Blocher, In the beginning, (1984), 50.
7 See, e.g., H. Blocher, In the Beginning, 56.
8 See, e.g., Young, Studies in Genesis One, 77f, n.73.
9 Blocher, In the Beginning, 57.
SCRIPTURE AND THE AGE OF THE EARTH?
a preceding article, I concluded that there was nothing in the Bible to
suggest that the six days in which God created heaven and earth were long
periods of time stretching to thousands or millions of years. If the Bible
is so clear on this point, why then has there been so much controversy
about this matter?
rise of science
answer is that many have been trying to harmonize what was perceived to
be scientific truth with what is written in Genesis 1. Prior to the nineteenth
century, the age of the earth was generally regarded at about six thousand
years and there was no concerted effort to make the days of Genesis 1 into
something more than that. However, with the rise of scienctific theories,
(initially especially the study of geology), all that changed. The gap
theory and the day-age theory (which earlier articles in this series dealt
with) were the two main means used to attempt to harmonize what science
had concluded and what Scripture said.
one not be concerned with what science is saying? There is certainly a
legitimate place for science; but, when we are dealing with issues like
the creation or origin of the world about which science can say nothing
in the strict sense of what science is all about,1 we need to
rely on God's account of what happened. He was there. He created the heaven
and the earth. And He has informed us in His Word what we need to know
about that topic. Accepting that account for what it is, namely God's
Word, must be our starting point. "By faith we understand
that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was
made out of things which do not appear" (Hebrews 11:3; cf. Job 38:4; Isaiah
latest theory from science about origins should not influence one's exegesis.
When one surveys the vast majority of "conservative" literature on the
subject of Genesis 1, it is obvious that there is still far too much concern
to harmonize Scripture with the current scientific theories on how the
world began. These theories come and go. But the Word remains forever and
it is that Word that must be understood in the first place, not on the
basis of what science is doing, but on the basis of what Scripture itself
says about the issues under discussion.
live in an age in which often more is expected of science and large periods
of time than of the ability of God to create as recounted in His Word.
It is therefore interesting to note that in the early centuries of Christian
exegesis Augustine suggested that God created everything in a single moment.
The days thus expressed not the temporal but the causal order in which
the parts of creation relate to each other.2 Although this exegesis
is to be rejected, it does reveal something of the mindset of one like
Augustine. Such an understanding presupposes that God did not need six
days to do what He surely could have done in a single day or even in an
instant! Such a view assumes that God is omnipotent and that He can do
whatever He desires. But such an assumption hardly functions
in our scientific age. Instead one often sees contrived ways of making
room for large periods of time in which the origin of the world could have
taken place. Today, Biblical scholars often appear embarassed by the work
of creation taking place in six days and seek ways to avoid such a conclusion.
In the evolutionistic thinking of this secularized age there is no place
for Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth. We must be very careful
that this spirit does not influence our approach to the creation account
age of the earth
question that is often raised in this context is: How old is the world?
Very briefly, the following two factors should be noted.
It is not
the purpose of Scripture to answer such questions of curiosity. However,
what the Bible tells us is true and needs to be taken into account also
when discussing issues like the age of the earth. Two critical factors
immediately stand out. First of all the length of the days during which
God created all things. We have seen that these were not long periods
of time, but days as we also experience days, with evening and morning,
darkness and light. The second factor is the genealogies which are found
in Genesis 5 and 11.
genealogies be used to compute precisely the amount of time that has
elapsed from creation? The answer is no. The reason is that genealogies
recorded in Scripture frequently omitted generations. A well known example
is the genealogy found in Matthew 1. In Matthew 1:8, three names which
are found elsewhere are missing between Joram and Uzziah; namely Ahaziah
(2 Kings 8:25; 2 Chronicles 22:1), Joash (2 Kings 11:1; 2 Chronicles
24:1) and Amaziah (2 Kings 14:1; 2 Chronicles 25:1) and in verse 11
Jehoiakim is omitted after Josiah (2 Kings 23:34). Indeed, in verse
1 the entire genealogy is summed up thus: "Jesus Christ, the son of
David, the son of Abraham." Many Old Testament examples can also be
mentioned.3 Genealogies were often reduced because a full
listing was not necessary for the purpose of the author. This should
make us cautious in assessing the chronological value of the genealogies
found in Genesis 5 and 11. Indeed we know, for example, that Genesis
11:12 skips a generation. It says that "when Arpachshad had lived thirty-five
years, he became the father of Selah." From Luke 3:36 we know that the
name of Cainan has been omitted so that if there are no other omissions,
Genesis 11:12 actually tells us that when Arpachshad had lived thirty-five
years, he became the grandfather of Selah by begetting
Cainan, (for according to Luke 3:36, Cainan is the father of Selah).
The point is that terms like "became the father of" or "begot" do not
necessarily indicate direct father and son relationship. The expression
"became the father of" can refer to a grandfather or great grandfather
relationship to the distant relative who is named, rather than referring
to an immediate offspring. As one scholar has correctly expressed it:
"So in Genesis 5 and 11, `A begot B may often mean simply that A begat
(the line culminating in) B'."4
light of the above, it is understandable that the Bible never deduces
a chronological statement from these genealogies. Nowhere are the numbers
given in these genealogies totalled. Scripture does not tell us how
much time elapsed from the creation of the world or from the world-
wide flood. (Scripture does give numbers of years for other important
events. Cf. Exodus 12:40 and 1 Kings 6:1.) The genealogies in Genesis
5 and 11 do not have as their purpose to give chronological information
and we should therefore not use them for that end.
thus reject the famous calculation of James Ussher (1581- 1656) by which
he placed creation at 4004 B.C., a date he derived in part also by using
the genealogies in Genesis as a chronological tool. On the other hand,
the Old Testament gives every reason to believe that the world is thousands
and not millions or even billions of years old. Since the Bible does
not tell us how old the world is, a precise answer cannot be given on
that basis. Among those who accept that God created everything in six
days, the age of the earth that is often mentioned is no more than ten
thousand years. The evaluation of the scientific data on which such
a date is based is beyond my competence;5 but such an age
does not seem impossible in the light of Scripture.
1 Cf. my earlier
article, "Bible and Science: Some Basic Factors."
2 Noted by Bavinck, Gereformeerde dogmatiek II, 460.
3 For example, compare 1 Chronicles 6:3-14 with Ezra 7:1-5 and the impossibility
of the completeness of the genealogical
relationships found in 1 Chronicles 23:6 and 26:24. See further W.H. Green,
in W.C. Kaiser ed., Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation,
4 K.A.Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 39.
5 See e.g., P.D. Ackermann, It's a Young Earth After All, (1986),
60; J.A. van Delden, Schepping en wetenschap, 182; W.W. Fields,
Unformed and Unfilled, 198-199.