On February 4, 2014, the much hyped debate occurred between Bill Nye, supporting evolution, and Ken Ham, supporting creationism. The debate centered around which origin theories were acceptable science. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube if you desire.
Disclaimer: I did not watch the debate. In part because it is long and I haven’t had the time, but also because I believe it is a non-issue. So why am I writing an article on it?
The focus on evolution vs. creation distracts from what Genesis 1 actually teaches.
The approach to creation that Ken Ham promotes overlooks the obvious. It takes Genesis to be a modern, Western historical narrative. It is not. But Ken suggests if you don’t believe in his interpretation of the text, you do not believe in the Biblical creation nor the Bible.
Likewise, the theory of evolution remains just that: a theory. One that can find supporting evidence with inner-species evolution, but not much showing inter-species. Due to the fact that so little of animal life on this planet gets fossilized, it would be impossible to prove the theory from the fossil record. There are too many gaps, making faith-based leaps of logic a necessity. Theories within a theory.
I think most of us have heard all the arguments. I personally chose to accept what it says without the need to defend it. The reality is that it says God created the world and us. Whether He chose to do it in six literal days or 36 million years is irrelevant. Genesis 1 can be interpreted validly either way. If I arrive in Heaven to discover that God took millions of years to create the world and used evolution to create us, it won’t shake my faith in the least.
Creationism is about who and why this world and universe exists, not about how.
One of the first things I learned in Biblical exegesis is to determine the type of literature I’m interpreting. To interpret Jesus’ allegory of the Vine and Branches in John 15 literally would be to miss the point of Jesus’ message. Likewise, an analogy or type used in Scripture can be both literally and symbolically true.
What many people miss is that Genesis 1 is constructed as Hebraic poetry. Does this mean it is all symbolic? Not necessarily. However, it does mean how you read it and the message you get should be informed by that type of literature.
Why is it poetry? Because Hebraic poetry is structured on a rhyme of thought instead of words. It uses parallelism and contrasts to make its points. This is typical of Psalms and Proverbs.
O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. (Pro 8:5 KJV – parallelism)
He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends. (Pro 17:9 KJV – contrast)
Likewise, the more the same thing is said in different ways, the stronger the emphasis.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psa 23:2-3 KJV – 4 parallel statements on God’s comfort in times of sorrow)
If you ignore the concerns about evolution or six literal 24-hour days, what you discover is that the period of time labeled as “a day” is being used to create a parallel structure. When viewed this way, the scientific sequence actually makes more sense.
Days one through three detail the creation of environments. Days four through six parallel those days with the creation of the entities within those environments.
Day one, for example, talks about the creation of light. Day four, about the sun and stars. On day three and six, you get a two-parter for each day. Day three shows the creation of land while day six fills that land with animals. But the second half of day three, God creates the plants, where as in day six, He creates man.
In both cases, the second half of the days creates links to and within creation. The plants link the inanimate life to the animate, while man links animal life and the world to God. This dynamic is highlighted in a triple parallel statement for emphasis:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Gen 1:27 KJV)
The message? We’re all linked to this world, and designed to be linked to God, through man who was created in His image (having a capacity for divine life to live in him) and His likeness (the divine life living in him).
This message sets up not only the context of the Fall, but our redemption.
For God rested on the seventh day, to which there is not given a parallel structure. It isn’t until Jesus Christ dies and rests in the tomb on the seventh day of the week—the Sabbath—that the eighth day of creation occurred when He rose from the dead.
This is why you’ll find most early church baptistries were eight-sided. Dying with Christ and being raised to new life in Christ was to enter into the eighth day of creation.
That’s the message of Genesis 1. I have no problem believing that God created the world in six literal days. He’s certainly more than capable. Most pre-Darwin interpretations default to speaking of them as days without any qualifications. Likewise, if those days represent an undefined time period and are used more as poetic divisions than actual days, as the Hebrew would allow, I’m fine with God creating the world and us in that way.
But how God created the world and us, and in what order He did is not the point of Genesis 1. The more we focus on a side-show like the debate between Bill’s and Ken’s, the more we take our focus off the Gospel that Genesis 1 points to. The meaning is so rich as conveyed, it’s a shame we focus on surface details. Evolution can’t prove God didn’t create us, nor can Genesis 1 be used to say God didn’t use evolution.
In the end, what is the point of how God did it? The real point is He did, and He did it for a reason.
When’s the last time you did a study on Genesis 1 that didn’t end up focusing on evolution vs. creation?