by Jim Pemberton
A couple of weeks ago Justin Taylor posted an article entitled “Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods”. Since that time, many have posted articles refuting Justin’s arguments. In this article I will post links to some of the ones I know about and make a couple of observations myself.
First, let me start off by saying that in general I respect Justin. He’s a well-reasoned man of good character and genuinely strives for biblical accuracy. I just think he missed the mark on this one. Nevertheless, his article seems to have given many of us the incentive to hash this issue out.
Justin’s list of arguments includes the following:
- Genesis 1:1 Describes the Actual Act of Creation Out of Nothing and Is Not a Title or a Summary
- The Earth, Darkness, and Water Are Created Before “The First Day”
- The Seventh “Day” Is Not 24 Hours Long
- The “Day” of Genesis 2:4 Cannot Be 24 Hours Long
- The Explanation of Genesis 2:5-7 Assumes More Than an Ordinary Calendar Day
First out of the chute, I’ll point to those who answered each of the points:
Dominic Bnonn Tennant came out with “Biblical reasons to doubt Justin Taylor’s doubts about the creation days being 24-hour periods”. Dan Phillips on his Pyromaniacs site thinks Tennant gets the award for the best title, but doesn’t think it’s the best article refuting Justin Taylor’s arguments. I think Tennant makes some helpful points. Namely, #1 through #4 may be true, but don’t necessarily apply to the six days under dispute. Finally #5 creates problems for other interpretation. He also addresses a final point that Justin made about what God means by days and gets it right.
Paul Taylor of the Mount St Helen’s Creation Center also addressed each of Justin’s points well. His arguments expand on Tennant’s and he adds a good argument about a merism. Justin’s arguments point out one merism in Genesis 1:1 and ignore a second merism in Genesis 2:4.
The third response article I’ll present that answers each point of Justin’s original article is by Mark Snoeberger of the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (DBTS). He makes perhaps the best exegetical arguments against each point that most of us would miss. I won’t go into detail here, but you need to read his very coherent and understandable points. Presuppositional YECists rest our case on a good hermeneutic and solid exegesis of Genesis 1. This isn’t the tip of the iceburg but probably outlines the iceburg of the YECist argument from exegesis. He also links to two other scholarly papers written by his colleagues on the subject.
Another article from DBTS, this one by Ben Edwards, addresses Justin’s article. He doesn’t answer each point, but rather makes observations from historic theology, and they are good arguments. Justin’s case doesn’t sit well with a historic understanding of the creation account in Genesis despite his attempts to make arguments to the contrary. Of note, he does make this observation:
I’m not saying that Taylor’s arguments are as bad as the ones I used for examples, but if his arguments are not as exegetically and theologically sound as those for YEC (as I think McCabe’s articles above demonstrate) then they should not lead Christians to be less dogmatic about their position.
Next, Doug Wilson doesn’t mention Justin Taylor directly in his article “Until Someone Settles It”. However, given the timing of it, his article giving the classic arguments for YEC is timed rather closely on the heels of Justin’s article. Someone of Doug Wilson’s caliber making the classic arguments only adds weight to them.
Dr. Albert Mohler is no scholar to sneeze at particularly for his ability to comment on how theology matters. A few years ago he gave a speech at Ligonier Ministries’ National Conference. An article adapted from that speech entitled “The Theological Costs of Old-Earth Thinking” is reprinted on the Institute for Creation Research site. If YECists caution against backing away from a solid exegesis of the creation account of Genesis, Al Mohler makes the case well.
I don’t need to address Justin’s article directly when so many have done an excellent job. Mark Snoeberger pointed out that Old Earth Creationism (OEC) didn’t come into vogue until after Darwin. This is a significant observation.
The reason is because the science is apparently compelling. Actually, it wasn’t compelling in Darwin’s day. At least that’s what we recognize now. It seemed to be then. Why isn’t it now? Because we know that Darwin was wrong. Even so-called “Darwinists” today don’t think Darwin was right concerning his supporting arguments. That’s because science is better today than it was in Darwin’s day.
The point I don’t want to make is that the science will prove everyone wrong tomorrow. Actually, I want to point out that the science could prove everyone wrong today. Science knows that light isn’t what most people think it is and time doesn’t behave the way most people think it behaves. But most scientists don’t understand it to the point that many of them can’t apply it adequately to the problems in front of them. I’ll give you a simple example: When you go fishing and look into the water and see a fish, is the fish where it appears to be? No. Why? The same reason that your glasses can correct your vision: refraction. We know how to control light. What makes us think that there is nothing between us and what we see in outer space that hasn’t affected the light? Now, I’m not arguing that what we see isn’t really far away. But scientists have to make many assumptions in order to calculate the locations of what they see in the universe. In fact, there are many things that they can’t account for yet. Have you ever heard of “dark matter”? They apparently can’t detect most of what’s out there. How does all that extra stuff that they can’t see affect the light that is travelling those great distances? No one knows.
Also, Christian theistic naturalism is a conflicted philosophy. Why? Christian theism is at least dualistic and naturalism is at least practically monistic. That means that Christians believe that God is a different kind of stuff than his creation. We know this only because God revealed it to us. Naturalists believe that the only source of information we have is from the physical universe. How does this work out practically? If you believe that God does miracles like parting the sea, becoming a man, changing water into wine, healing people with a touch, raising people from the dead, or creating the universe with a word, you have to understand that these events are not natural. That means that they defy naturalistic means of measuring them after the fact. I wrote an article a few years ago on this very thing
My purpose in all this is to point out that what we know about the universe could be significantly flawed. There are easily other possible explanations.
On the other hand, OECists tell us that there are other ways that Genesis 1 could be interpreted. I’ve heard that argument many times before regarding many other parts of scripture. Who uses that argument? Liberals and Neo-Orthodox theologians. I’m wary when I hear someone make the case that the Bible doesn’t mean what it seems to say or that I should allow for some other interpretation of scripture for no other reason than “there is more than one way to read it.”
Much of this discussion has been on how to interpret the biblical creation account and none of the arguments makes sense unless you think that there is only one way to understand them. The most compelling arguments are among the YECists. I’ll take this opportunity to point you to the recent article by our own Ken Hamrick.
So we either hold that there is only one way to interpret the scientific evidence and ways to interpret the biblical text or we hold that there is one thing that the Bible means, and that way is knowable, and the science can be interpreted different ways because of various levels of uncertainty. Between those options, I’m going with more than one way to interpret scientific evidence and resting on a sound way to understand the Bible.