Friday, September 20, 2013

Creation Days - Real or Analogy?

Are the creation days real days - or not? This has become a contentious issue in Reformed and Presbyterian circles.

In recent posts, Rev. G.I. Williamson (retired minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) defends six-day creation, whereas Dr Vern S. Poythress (professor at Westminster Theological Seminary) favours analogical days.

1. Defending Six-Days 

According to Rev. Williamson, God's creation of the universe is a foundational doctrine of the Bible. Both the Bible and the Westminster Confession clearly state that God created the world in six days. Hence, waffling on this contradicts our claimed allegiance to the Bible and Confession. This seriously weakens our testimony to unbelievers. 

Rev. Williamson notes that a  prime motivation for rejecting six-day creation is the desire to be respected by intellectuals and scientists. A case in point here, that I might mention, is the well-known apologist Dr. William Lane Craig, who finds young-earth creationism a huge embarrassment (for an excellent recent critique of Craig, see Dr. Jonathan Sarfati's response).

Rev. Williamson finds that alternative views of the creation days (e.g., day-age, framework, analogical days) are very explicit about what did not happen (i.e., creation in six real days), but very fuzzy about what actually did happen. This, of course, is related to the desire to avoid potential conflict with mainstream science.

Further, Rev. Williamson states that the denial of six-day creation has been destructive. It has led to the acceptance of evolution, and to doubting the Biblical account of Adam and Eve, thereby undermining fundamental Christian doctrines.  

Rev. Williamson concludes by urging that we humbly submit to God's Word:
"I am more and more convinced that what seminary professors, pastors, and elders need today is a good dose of Job and Ecclesiastes, because (if they did have that) they would again be able to teach and defend what the Westminster Standards say about creation. The Standards say God “created all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.” But in spite of some ‘fancy footwork’ by adherents of these different views, what our standards clearly say is no longer what we really believe and uphold in all our Orthodox Presbyterian Churches and Presbyterian Church in America congregations. And I think the reason is that too many who profess adherence to the Westminster Standards have been seduced by the cultural consensus which says modern scientific people now know better than our Reformation fathers. They think modern science has now made that part of our Reformation creed (taken in its obvious sense) obsolete....
 I am more and more convinced that many who think they are orthodox, and certainly intend to be, have nevertheless handled Genesis 1 and 2 in the same way the modernists handled other texts of the Scripture. This was not their intention. But it is the sad result. I therefore believe the time has come to simply say — loud and clear — “the emperor has no clothes on.”

2. Defending Analogy 

Now consider Dr. Poythress' short booklet (32pp) on Christian Interpretations of Genesis 1. This is part of the series Christian Answers to Hard Questions, edited by Peter A. Lillback and Steven T. Huff.

The cover gives a brief summary: 
"...Poythress examines which of the contemporary interpretations of Genesis are most consistent with scientific evidence and careful biblical interpretation. He presents the case for young-earth creationism, mature creation, the day-age theory, the analogical-day theory, and the framework hypothesis to see which of them stand up to scrutiny."
 Dr Poythress rightly affirms that the Bible is the Word of God, and thus trustworthy and infallible, whereas science is always tentative and fallible. Hence, in case of conflict, Poythress asserts that the Bible should have the preference. So far, so good.

Unhappily, Dr Poythress virtually nullifies this essential epistemic presupposition by driving a wedge between the Bible and its interpretation. He writes: 
"Even though the Bible is infallible, however, we as interpreters of the Bible are not. If there appears to be a conflict between the Bible and science, we have to inspect whether the science has failed because of its fallibility. But we also have to inspect whether we have failed to understand the Bible rightly." 
 Consequently, he objects to young-earth creationism primarily because he deems it to face too many scientific difficulties. Dr Poythress wonders:
"People might ask themselves whether the growth in difficulties shows that the starting assumptions of the whole project [i.e., young-earth creationism] may be wrong. Do some other approaches to science and Genesis do better justice to the evidence?"
In the final analysis, Dr Poythress favours the analogical- day theory, which maintains that the days in Genesis 1 are God's workdays, which are only analogous to human workdays. How exactly we are to view these divine workdays is not made clear. One is reminded here of Rev. Williamson's observation. But it does seem to entail that they tell us nothing of historical significance, such as the time-span or sequence of the creation events. 

Dr Poythress's main exegetical argument is that, since God's rest is everlasting, so is God's day of rest (Day 7). From this, he infers the other creation days are likewise only analogous to our days.

My difficulty with this is that Genesis 1 clearly refers to the creation days as measured on earth. The day is defined as a period of light (Gen.1: 5). On Day 4, the Sun is created to rule the day, and to give light on the earth (Gen.1:14-18). Hence Days 4-7 are definitely solar days. God blessed the Sabbath as a particular solar day (Gen.2:3). Surely He did not bless the entire time-span from creation onwards. The first Sabbath is simply the first day of God's  everlasting rest.

Given the exegetical weakness of the analogical-day theory, it seems to me that its prime appeal is that its essentially metaphorical approach sidesteps any possible conflict with mainstream science.

Interestingly, Dr Poythress's openness to mainstream chronology clashes with another article on his website: Reversing the Fall and Setting Creation Free. There Poythress argues (referring to Rom.8:18-25) that Adam's Fall resulted in a radical disruption that spoiled the entire, originally good, creation. Among the post-Fall changes, he lists the appearance of thorns, thistles, and mosquitoes.

Yet, mosquitoes have been found, preserved in amber, allegedly dating back to more than 75 million years, and thorny plant fossils date back more than 300 million years, long before man appeared. At least, according to mainstream science. Indeed, mainstream chronology entails that Adam's Fall had no visible effect on the natural world. Therefore, consistent old-earth creationists must hold that mosquitoes, thorns, predation, pain, suffering, and death were all part of God's very good creation. This is contrary to Dr Poythress's belief in a radical fall.

In conclusion, Rev. Williamson has written a timely warning that should be carefully heeded, particularly by leaders in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. 



Steve Drake said...

"...alternative views of the creation days (e.g., day-age, framework, analogical days) are very explicit about what did not happen (i.e., creation in six real days), but very fuzzy about what actually did happen."

Exactly so! You can't get a one of these brothers propagating these alternative views to put it on a timeline; a straight,linear historical accounting of the order of events with dates. It's like trying to squeeze an old slimy wet bar of soap. You squeeze just a bit too hard and you're left chasing around the bathtub for it.

Sean said...

If Dr. Poythress thinks people have scientific problems with a 6 day creation, what does he suggest we do with those who have scientific problems with the resurrection from the dead?

RubeRad said...

Try Hugh Ross. He's all about lining up the biblical chronology with earth history.

RubeRad said...

(a) I'm sure Dr. Poythress would urge counseling that resurrection is a critical doctrine for orthodoxy. 1 Cor 15 couldn't be any clearer. (b) Apples and oranges. There is no scientific evidence against the resurrection, and at this late date, I doubt there could be. Those that claim 'scientific' problems with the resurrection just straight-up have problems with miracles.

Steve Drake said...

Problem with Ross, his dates move around so often it's like trying to swat a fly in mid-air. Kinda hard to pin down until it lands somewhere.

Reuben said...

not really apples and oranges...the Bible compares creation to resurrection or even regeneration Rom 4:17 (also CoD ch3/4 art 12)

JohnV said...

Dr. Byl:

I am heartened by Rev. Williamson's article; truly heartened. Here is someone who states things so clearly:

"Is it not time for us to come to ourselves, like the prodigal in a far country? Is it not time for us to seek real progress by a return to the living God?"

He is right. I would only add that what many call "science" is not really science, and that what many call "observation" is not really observation. We are battling worldviews, not real science and true observation. I believe that was also your point in your book which challenges evolutionism.

If we would only take the blinders of unbelief off, take off those spectacles that the world has convinced everyone they should be wearing. Then we would indeed see something quite different, and lot closer to the real reality.

And we even have the Word of God as our guide. So what is keeping us from returning to good sound sense?

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.


Jim Pemberton said...

Without taking the ramifications of conclusions into consideration, the hermeneutic of Genesis 1 is fairly straightforward. One question is whether God knew he was writing something that would be difficult to reconcile with evidence that is often ambiguous. Of course he did. It's one of those areas where we either need to exegete the text faithfully or develop a hermeneutic that supports the conclusions that jive with those of the naturalistic scientific community.

The question is whether God created all there is at the beginning of time and lets it run its course on its own occasionally interjecting something new, or that he created all things from beginning to end, not only starting it, but sustaining it as an eternal testimony of his character. The Hebrews seemed to have this understanding as evidenced in their eschatology. I don't know, but I suspect it is the source for the millennium in Revelation 20.

So I suspect that solar days and analogical days are not mutually exclusive. However, it seems that the more viable analogy for analogical days are not creation past to account for evidence caused by the supernatural onset of all things, but all of history following the onset of time including that which lies before us.

MSC said...

Special creation is a critical doctrine for orthodoxy (as Williamson argued). Genesis 1 couldn't be any clearer... there is no scientific evidence against special creation... Those that claim 'scientific' problems with special creation just straight-up have problems with miracles.

MSC said...

If modern science had not decided to interpret facts/ data, etc. through the lens of Naturalism, establish that as invariable fact and propagandize it in the culture, I doubt any serious Bible interpreter would have ever had a problem with the straight-forward text of Genesis 1 that prevailed for centuries. We have allowed the presuppositions of unbelief to browbeat us into submission. We have not sanctified Christ as Lord in making our defense of the faith (1 Pet. 3:15). Rather we have sanctified the former. How sad.

Henrietta said...

Faith is what is required for both creation and resurrection:

Heb 11:1 -3: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

Long, very long, before there was the concept of evolution, God so willed that these words be written in Genesis 1, 6 and 7 : “AFTER HIS KIND”. Plantlife came forth “after his kind”; sea creatures came forth “after his kind”; animals “after his kind” and the same with birdlife. The same phrase is repeated in connection with the animals that went into the ark .

Gen 7:14 “They, and every BEAST AFTER HIS KIND, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth AFTER HIS KIND, and every fowl AFTER HIS KIND, every bird of every sort.”

This leaves no room for macro-evolution.

Henrietta said...

I really enjoyed this videon:

Henrietta said...

No one in the video could cite even ONE example of change of a kind.

Henrietta said...

A very short trailer, just to whet you appetite for the 38 minutes:

john byl said...

Hi Henrietta

Thanks for your comments, as well as the link to the video "Evolution vs. God" by Ray Comfort--an interesting apologetic approach to university science students.

Steve Drake said...

Yeah, it was more like a hijacking and analogous to theft. A definite plan and action by rebellious unregenerate men to 'free the science from Moses' as Lyell put it.