Monday, July 31, 2006

Old earth hermeneutics from a non-believer?

In my experience, i've known evolutionists to be very opposed to Creationism scientifically. But biblically, most are quite receptive. Let me explain. Evolutionists rely on a lot of "ammunition" to attack the Bible from every angle possible. So what do they do? They destroy the foundation. Why attack the structure of Christianity and the cross when you can attack them where they least expect it, at the foundation? And so, when Old-earth "creationists" come along and tell us that we can interpret the days in Genesis to mean long periods of time, the evolutionists will stand side by side with young-earthers in defending the biblical model of a young earth. Why? Because evolutionists recognize the Old Earth position to be a compromise, and an inconsistent one at that. Does this mean that Creationism is helping evolutionists? Absolutely not, because Biblical Creationism is the only way to fight the evolutionary establishment because the Bible gives us the true history of the Universe!

Why am I saying all this? Well, i've had the rare privilege of hearing from a non-christian defending old earth creationism. I don't know if this person is an evolutionist, but it certainly reminded me of those evolutionists that often criticized the Old Earthers for thinking that the Bible supported an old earth. Her words are in bold and mine are inserted in between. Notice how the Old Earth case is left helpless and wanting!

Jamie, thanks for writing! I'm honeslty quite impressed that you know as much as you do, being a non-believer. I'd like to know more about you; why the Bible interests you, how you came to not believe, or anything related to this. I'd like to respond to some of your points. I will continue to stand by my original assertion that people don't question the length of days in Genesis for biblical reasons. The ONLY reason why people question Genesis was because of the rise of Uniformitarian thinking in regards to geology and biology. Ask yourself: How come, before the 18th century, people weren't questioning the length of days in Genesis? Isn't it ironic that immediately after Uniformitarian thinking became popular that theologians started questioning these things? Anyways, your words will be in bold:

"In the morning it [grass] flourishes, and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades, and withers away."
-Psalms 90:6
"And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day."
-Genesis 1:5
"And God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day."
-Genesis 1:8
"And there was evening and there was morning, a third day."
-Genesis 1:13
and so on..

Let's talk about grammatical sense. So, does your grass flourish in what we both think of as a morning and does your grass wither away in that same evening?

First of all, it is not proper hermeneutics to use words that are clearly written in poetic language to define what words mean in a historical narrative, such as Genesis. Secondly, Psalm 90, if you read in context, it is attempting to express the eternality of God and how we should make the most of our time, given how short our time is on earth; not define the word "day."

Thirdly, let's use your approach and take Psalm 90:6 literally. Do you really think the Psalmist is trying to tell us that "morning" is an indefinite period of time? Or could it be that "flourish" means something other than "the time it takes for a seed to turn into a strand of grass?" If you look at the Hebrew, tsoots can easily mean to "show its self." Or in other words, the Psalmist is saying, if we take him literally: "In the morning the grass reveals all its glorious splendor, and in the evening it withers away."

All the Psalmist is trying to tell us is that God is not bound by time. Grass grows, and then it dies. People live, and people die. And the moral of the story? Psalm 90:12 tells us, "Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom." So, if Psalm 90:6 means anything, it is telling us that life is very short.

The Hebrew word yom actually has three different plausible meanings.
A 12 hour period of time, a 24 hour period of time, or an indefinite period of time.
It doesn't always mean a 24 hour time just like "day" in English doesn't.

No one is claiming that "day" always means an ordinary day. Just because a "day" can mean an indefinite period of time doesn't mean you can just interpret "yom" to mean whatever you want. WORDS MUST BE DEFINED ACCORDING TO THEIR CONTEXT. And so I must ask: When does day mean "day," and when does day not mean "day?" Does day only mean "day" outside of Genesis 1? Think about it, you don't see theologians sitting around wondering, "Ok. So was Jonah in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, or three thousand years? Or did Joshua and his army march around Jericho for 7 days or seventy million years?"

For me, I let the text speak for itself. Whenever "day" is used with a number, it always means a literal day. Whenever "day" is used with evening or morning, it always means a literal day. What do we have in Genesis? Evening, morning, number, day. Evening, morning, number, day. Whala!! Sounds like the author is trying to tell us something!

-The Day of the Lord is a seven year period of time.
-"This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven." Genesis 2:4.
So, was it ONE day or was it six?

Is "day" in Genesis 2:4 used with a number? No. Is "day" used with evening or morning? No. Then maybe its not an ordinary day. Again, words are defined according to their context. And again, no one is denying that "day" can't mean an indefinite period of time.

"For it will be a unique day [echad yom.. ordinal combined with yom] which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light."
-Zechariah 14:7
exactly how it is used in Genesis..
"And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day [echad yom..ordinal combined with yom]."
-Genesis 1:5
The content of Zechariah shows that the day will last through at least summer and winter.. and that's obviously longer than 24 hours.

Let's quote Zechariah 14:7 in context to see if it supports what you say: 14:1-7 reads,

Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through my mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with you. It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; The lights will diminish. It shall be one day which is known to the LORDÂ?neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light.

As we can see, the "day" mentioned in verse 7 is obviously the same "day" mentioned in verses 1, 4, and 6. Verse 5 says that it is a day when the Lord will come. This means that it is describing an event that will happen on a particular day in the future. So, given this, how can the Second Coming of the Lord take a long period of time? I contend that it isn't going to. Rather, it will be instantaneous, "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye." (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:13). This means that it occurs in one moment of an ordinary day, which is not a long period of time. And where do you get the idea that this "day" is supposed to last through a season?

Thanks again for your response. I see absolutely no reason to doubt that Genesis means what it says, and I will be very open to any additional reasons, whether biblical or scientific, that God created in six days only thousands of years ago.


Anonymous said...

What is your view on the Analogical Days interpretation of the creation account in Genesis?

Mike-e said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "Analogical Days", but I do believe that the earth is around 6,000 years old and that the Creation days are literal 24 hr. days...if that answers your question :-)