My young-Earth creationist (YEC) friends often have misconceptions about how old-Earth Christians (OECs) such as myself interpret the book of Genesis. Sometimes they are simply a bit bewildered, wondering how any Christian could interpret Genesis in any other way than how they do. Some YECs, on the other hand, are much more blunt, accusing OECs of distorting the Bible and denying it’s authority. This “After Eden” cartoon from Answers in Genesis illustrates the less-than-gracious approach that some YECs take.
Contrary to what is portrayed in the cartoon, there are many highly-qualified, Bible-believing, theologically-orthodox Old Testament scholars, theologians, pastors, and scientists who accept Genesis as the inerrant and authoritative Word of God who also believe that Genesis does not require a young Earth. These OECs do not do backflips to come to their convictions about Genesis. Old-Earth Christians in the past include preachers and defenders of the faith such as Charles Spurgeon, Francis Schaeffer, J.I. Packer, and Norman Geisler. I hope Answers in Genesis would not put “Scripture-twister” in front of the name of any of the names of any of these men.
Let’s take a look at some ways this “Genesis With a Twist” cartoon twists old-Earth creationism.
- “Day” is used in at least three ways in Genesis 1-2. In 1:5 it refers to the light portion of the day-night cycle. In 2:4 day refers to the entire creation period. In the “there was evening and there was morning, the nth day” verses, it means something at least analogical to the days we experience.
- It has been understood by many since the early church that because there were no markers for time, days one through three are not necessarily the same sort of days as days four through six.
- There are many analogies in Genesis 1. Human speech is analogical to, but not identical to, God’s speech. Human work is analogical to, but not identical to, God’s work. Human rest is analogical to, but not identical to, God’s rest. This suggests that it is possible that our work days are analogical to, but not necessarily identical to, God’s work days.
- A literal day in Hebrew thinking was not “evening and morning” but sunset to sunset. These statements mark breaks in God’s creative activity, not necessarily literal days.
- Many Bible-believing scholars recognize that the style and vocabulary of Genesis 1:1-2:3 is distinctive. The genre of the passage is not poetry, but it is not standard historical narrative either. This does not mean the passage is non-historical—I reject the the idea that the genre is “myth”—but that it is written at a higher literary level than what we see in Genesis 12-50. If one gets the genre of a passage wrong—and YECs may not be getting the genre completely correct—one is likely to get the interpretation at least partially wrong as well.
- Moses wrote Psalm 90:4, which says, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past.” The context (vv. 2-4) is creation. Modern YECs may be more concerned about literal days than Moses himself was.
- Genesis 1 does not teach biological evolution, but it does allow for God using processes along with fiat creation. “Let the earth bring forth living creatures…” (v. 24; also vv. 11, 20) implies that God spoke, and then things happened over some period of time.
- It is a stretch of interpretation to say that “after their kinds” in Genesis 1 means there are limits to biological diversification. YEC “baraminologists” now allow for post-flood hyper-evolution at the family level, which breaks down the traditional distinction between micro- and macro-evolution.
- Not all OECs hold to the day-age interpretation.
- Just about all OECs, and many theistic evolutionists, accept that there was a literal couple that we refer to as Adam and Eve, from whom we are all descended. The doctrines of original and universal sin are preserved, so the need for a savior is also preserved.
- We may conclude that the “very good” of Genesis 1:31 means something other than “perfect in every way” because there was something that was “not good” in Genesis 2:18.
- The Bible does not teach that there was no animal death before Adam’s fall into sin.
- Like all of Scripture, Genesis is simple enough for a child, and deep enough for brilliant scholars to devote their entire lives to.
- Peter acknowledges that some of Paul’s writings are hard to understand (2 Pet 3:15-16), so it should not surprise us that there are difficult things in Genesis.
- The Westminster Confession of Faith (1.7) has a good statement about the clarity of Scripture:
“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”
- I did not switch from being a YEC to being an OEC until I became convinced by biblical arguments that Genesis does not require a young Earth. I’ve summarized some of my current thinking on the interpretation of Genesis 1 in a couple articles:
- YECs do all sort of mental gymnastics in their attempt to make Genesis say all sorts of things that it does not say. Here are just a few examples:
- Genesis 1 does not state an age for the earth.
- The Bible does not teach that animal death did not occur until Adam’s sin.
- The Bible does not teach that the fossil record is the result of the flood.
- The Bible does not teach that the flood is responsible for the sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic rocks of earth’s crust.
- The Bible does not say what the fountains of the deep are.
- The Bible says nothing about a post-flood ice age.
I share the cartoonist’s conviction that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. I also understand that Christians disagree with each other about a number of important doctrines such as predestination, baptism, gifts of the Holy Spirit, the interpretation of end-times prophecies, and yes, the interpretation of Genesis. I have my convictions about each of these, some held more strongly than others. I don’t think it is helpful to portray those who disagree with me on these doctrines as doing mental backflips.
Grace and Peace
Analysis © 2020 Kevin Nelstead, GeoChristian.com. Feel free to use this review, such as in social media posts and comments, but please include a link to this page.
The “After Eden” cartoon is entitled “Genesis With a Twist.” Use of this cartoon in this review falls under the Fair Use provisions of copyright law.
In the opening paragraph I mentioned bewildered YECs and harsh YECs. There are also a number of gracious YECs who fully accept OECs as equals in the faith, speaking of us with love and respect, despite strong differences. I am thankful for these YEC brothers and sisters.