In the beginning I believed in billions of years.
Then, about 8 years ago, a great friend engaged me in the most infuriating conversation of my life. He actually asked me to articulate my position. He wanted me to spell out how I thought Eden and Adam fitted into my evolution story. How evolved was humanity when they gained the image of God? When did death enter creation and how? At what point did I think the bible did start recording historical truth? What was my basis for distinguishing the mythological from the historical and why couldn’t I equally mythologize other biblical narratives? On and on it went. It was horrible.
I decided to think about this a bit more. As I studied further, issues arose around five areas in particular:
1) An argument from the language
There are other, better words that Moses could have used to indicate an age of time in Genesis 1. He did not choose them – he chose ‘yom’ which most commonly means ordinary day. It is true that ‘yom’ has a range of meaning (e.g. daytime as opposed to nighttime, a specific time or even a whole year). However in Genesis 1 the writer has gone out of his way to qualify ‘yom’ as a 24 hour period. Outside Genesis 1, ‘yom’ is used with ‘evening’ or ‘morning’ 23 times – in each case it refers to an ordinary day. ‘Yom’ is used with ‘night’ (as in Gen 1:5) 53 times outside Genesis 1 and in each case it refers to an ordinary day. ‘Yom’ is used with a number 410 times outside Genesis 1 – and in all those cases it refers to an ordinary day. And the pattern in Genesis 1? “And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”
Note the comments of Dr James Barr – a man who criticises evangelicals for trying to hold both to the plain meaning of the Bible and an old earth.
… so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or OT at any world class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the idea 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 extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the ark.
2) An argument from Scripture interpreting Scripture
Exodus 20:8-11 is difficult to answer. God has ordained a working week of six days with one day rest because that is exactly how He did His work of creation. We cannot stand above Scripture to interpret it and we don’t need to – the Bible interprets the Bible, and it does so here with crystal clarity.
3) The failure of any other hermeneutic to handle Genesis 1
James Jordan in this short essay explain this point brilliantly (Update: Even if his conclusions are too strong for my liking).
4) The parallelism of Adam and Christ
The gospel looks quite different if Christ recapitulates a mythical man’s mythical history. Union with Christ mirroring union with Adam also goes pretty wonky. It’s not impossible to salvage, but you lose a lot.
5) An argument from the Gospel
How did death enter creation? It is clear that this happened as a result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3; Romans 5). The blame for the curse and death lies squarely at man’s feet.
Death is not a God-ordained instrument of creation. His creation is very good. To believe in macro-evolution over billions of years is to believe in billions of years of death, pain and struggle which God used in creation, then pronounced very good and then blamed on humanity. This affects dramatically our doctrine of creation and in turn our doctrines of sin and redemption.
As these and other points slowly wore me down I found myself evolving into a creationist. I still remember the moment when I finally decided to take the plunge and become a complete nut-case. As I saw it (and still see it) I resolved that day to stand with the Scriptures and against the wisdom of men. As I saw it (and still see it) I decided to follow the bible to conclusions considered utterly ridiculous by the world.
Looking back, it has been one of the most formative moments in my theological development. Not so much for the theological implications of creationism over theistic evolution. At a more profound level it signalled a determination to trust the bible wherever it seemed to lead, even if – shock horror – I became a fool in the world’s eyes. I had been tethered by a desire to look wise in the world’s eyes. Now I was cutting those ties and could plunge much deeper into the strange and radically subversive world of the bible.
Of course dangers abound in the degree of emphasis we place on creationism etc. In future I’ll post on the problems of too much and too little consideration of these things. I may also post on how to discuss these matter in evangelistic settings. But for now I simply give you my personal journey. Not written to provoke debate (though I’ll interact with any for as long as my goldfish-like attention-span lasts). I’m just laying out a little of where I’m coming from.
If you want a moral to this story it’s probably 1 Corinthians 3:18:
Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.