God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
There was a time when talking about the details of creation with other Christians was a pretty straightforward undertaking, but those days are long gone. Now theories abound on different ways to understand the creation story. Some hold that the creation account in Genesis should be taken literally, meaning that God created the earth in six, literal 24-hour days. Others argue that we have pressed the language of Genesis beyond what the original author intended it to mean. He was not trying to be scientifically accurate. The Bible tells us that "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" (II Peter 3:8). Thus, the six "days" of creation represent six allotments of time of indeterminate length. It could have taken God thousands of years to create. Still others argue that answering questions about the details of creation falls rightly to science and not religion. They would say that this is a general story telling us that God is Creator and that we should shift our interpretation of the Bible to fit the truths that science reveals. After all, science is only telling us what is true about God's creation, isn't it?
I am not going to take the time to argue extensively for one view over the other. The fact of the matter is that although I am convinced that God created in six 24-hour days, one can find Scriptural evidence that makes the second view a valid option. I have friends and family members that disagree with me, yet it does not affect our relationship in the slightest. There are some things we can disagree on and still get along. However there are other things that are much more serious. So today instead of arguing extensively for one view of creation over another, I want to warn you against two dangers that I believe you should watch out for as you consider how best to understand this passage for yourself.
The first danger is represented by the last view above. To be more specific, I want to warn you against putting anything above the Bible as your standard of truth. Scripture is 100% without error. It is absolute truth. In fact, it is the only source of absolute truth we have in this world. Everything and everyone else is flawed. Even your own judgment of what is true is flawed. Thus, nothing - not science or math or my opinion or your opinion or anything other than the Bible- should become your standard of truth. The Bible is the measuring stick by which we measure the truth of everything else in our world. We don't use anything else to measure the truth of the Bible, because any other standard is flawed.
The second danger is understanding the rest of the creation story too figuratively. There are some truths in the first three chapters of Genesis that are non-negotiable. These three chapters are the bedrock of the Christian faith, without which the whole framework of Christianity slowly begins to crumble. Let me explain by comparing the entire Bible to one big story. In any narrative there is a conflict or a problem that the characters are trying to overcome. Sometimes this is presented as a tension that needs to be resolved. This conflict or tension is what moves the story along. It is why the characters do anything in the story. They may go on a quest to find their lost son or their one true love, etc... Genesis 1-3 gives us the conflict that the rest of the Bible is trying to resolve. So, even if you begin to consider other ways of understanding Genesis 1, here's a list of things you really should believe in a literal sense:
- That God is the Creator. Without this He has no claim on our lives, no right to demand obedience or to inflict punishment.
- Man was created in God's image with a special relationship to Him and the rest of creation. This makes the Fall possible and helps set a framework for understanding Christ's grand sacrifice.
- There was a real Garden of Eden with a real man and woman named Adam and Eve who were really the first man and woman. This Adam and Eve really did encounter a snake that enticed them to sin, and they really did fall into sin. All of these elements are important to the conflict which the rest of the Bible seeks to resolve and to God's promise to redeem His creation.
Without at least these three things, the rest of the Bible is nonsense.
May the Lord give you wisdom as you seek to understand His truth.
For further reading...
- Genesis 1-3: Read the beginning of the story for yourself.