And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
In our previous posts, we explored the idea that “faith” is not just really hoping for something with no basis, but faith is rooted in an objective truth that demands our trust. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem defines faith as:
Trust or dependence on God based on the fact that we take Him at His word and believe what He has said.
In Hebrews 11:1, the writer describes faith as the “assurance of things hoped for.” In other words, a confidence based on promises. He goes on to say, “the conviction of things not seen.” This doesn’t mean that the “things” aren’t there. They just are not seen. They are promises not yet fully realized.
Morning and Evening Provided
We saw in our review of Genesis 1:1-2 that the picture of the material world was one of emptiness and chaos. The Spirit of God was hovering and we were drawn in to the anticipation of something yet to happen. As we review Genesis 1:3-25 over the next couple of posts, we can learn quite a bit by what is repeated throughout the creation narrative. For this post, notice that a number and the phrase “evening and morning” are used for each of the six days of Creation.
We should at least make a passing reference to the various theories on the length of these “days.” The majority of the Church has landed on the view that these days are what one would expect from reading the Text: 24-hour days. But, within the last 200 years, even within evangelical circles, there has been a bit of controversy over this.
Controversy can be helpful, as it sharpens or changes one’s own views on the matter. Either way, it should drive us to the Text, which is where we should be anyway. I do want to be clear that I do not believe that those who hold a different view than 24-hour days in creation should be thrown “out of the camp.” This is an in-house debate and the point is: we’re still in the same house.
What’s in a Day?
Prior to about 200 years ago, there were a handful of folks who viewed this as more than 24-hour days, among them Augustine. Curiously, Augustine was trying to reconcile Genesis with the Apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus that seemed to argue that the world was created instantaneously. Augustine thought it was his duty to try to harmonize those two accounts.
Unlike Augustine, the Church has not generally recognized Ecclesiasticus as part of the canon of Scripture until the Roman Catholics got themselves in a box after the Reformation. They “officially” adopted it and other Apocryphal works and subsequently tried to pawn it off like that was always the way it had been. The Protestant position is that Genesis trumps Apocryphal works.
More recently, there have been various theories like the Day-Age theory, which says that Genesis recounts epochs, not literal days. The focus is to try to harmonize what is considered general revelation with special revelation. Unfortunately for the theory, the structure of Genesis bears little relation to the account of the world that modern presuppositions in the scientific community would try to impose.
Another theory is the Literary View, a form of which is sometimes called the Framework Hypothesis. Meredith Kline, who has been a professor at Westminster Seminary, has held to this kind of view. Briefly, and by no means fairly, the idea is that the account of Genesis is merely poetic and not referring to historical 24-hour days. Rather, it is a device used by Moses to express a spiritual truth.
While I appreciate Kline’s work on ancient near east covenants and their context within Exodus, the only way to get to Genesis 1 as purely “spiritual” truth is by approaching the text with that assumption. Even though there are poetic elements to Genesis 1 and 2, the Text does not invite you to that kind of myopic view, in my estimation.
That is not to say that the narrative Text is devoid of spiritual truth, far from it. God often, one could say “most often,” paints spiritual truth on the canvas of material reality. (e.g., 1 Corinthians 10:11) Even so, the predominant view is that of six 24-hour days.
My own view…for what it’s worth.
Scripture takes a serious view that the creation narrative is historical. For example, look at the link between the Fourth Commandment and the belief in the historicity of Genesis 1.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
If the same Hebrew word for “day” means a 24-hour cycle here, why should it be any different in Genesis 1? What necessitates a different understanding? The Text, or the prevailing presumptive theories of the age? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this.
Even so, next time we will look at the structure of this narrative and some things God reveals about Himself through the work of creation.