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And Now A Brief Time of Q&A

January 24, 2012

When I recommended in my earlier post A Very Good Place to Start, that you hold your questions for the moment, I did not say never ask questions. I only said the best place for us to start was by listening, absorbing, meditating, mulling on the text of Genesis one as God’s initial self-introduction. When we do, we find (I suggested) a series of self-revealing acts, none of which was done by necessity, and all of which were designed to communicate a fundamental and vital truth about the God with whom we have to do. Thus the acts themselves and what the text tells us about God and His first works convey a wealth of understanding that we will not grasp sufficiently, if we allow our heads to be distracted by matters we are curious about.

Now that you have mulled, and assuming you are sufficiently filled with awe, gratitude and allegiance, I now open the floor for questions. At least, I’ll attempt to field a few, in terms of how I would answer them. Beyond this, you’ll have to go over my head (which is not that high, believe me.) So, any questions?

Yes, this idea of light on day one but no sun until day four seems ridiculous to me.

I’m not sure that’s a question, but are you basically saying whenever you’ve seen the universe being created, it didn’t happen that way?

No, I mean, I don’t see how you can have days without the sun?

Okay, still not a question. But are you saying if you can’t quite see how it works, you are justified in doubting it happened that way?

No, no. Okay here’s the question. How could there have been days taking place before the sun was there to make it day?

I don’t know of course. I wasn’t there and the text doesn’t tell us. But we do see God’s Spirit deigning to be locally present to the earth: “hovering over the waters” and we learn that God robes Himself in light. Wouldn’t that do it? Not saying I know it worked this way, but wouldn’t that be one way it could have happened?

I guess. I just don’t see why.

So which came first, the light or the lamp? If we continue to mull over it as a self-revealing act, what could we say? That the source of life, truth, time and right is God Himself and not the universe?

What about prefiguring Christ, of whom John says: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (1) But then came John the Baptist, who came “to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. (6-8)

And Jesus Himself said of him: “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. (5:35-36)

I don’t know. That just sounds like the sun and light situation of Genesis one to me.

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars” (1 Corinthians 15:41) But ultimate glory belongs to God.

Well, what about the suggestion that day one and day four are really talking about the same event?

Hmm. You mean a Kline thing, Framework? Well, we see correspondence of course, first three days, next three days. That much speaks for organization. Is that surprising? God presenting order and organization? No. Beyond this, is the correspondence so close that it really suggests identity rather than just similarity?

Let me ask you this. If I said last week I went to church on Sunday. And I also told you I went to church on Wednesday, would you think I was talking about one and the same visit to church? Or two?

Well, two, of course.

Why?

Because you said one was on Sunday and the other was on Wednesday.

Right. So why wouldn’t we understand the same thing when the text tells us God created light on Sunday and the sun and moon on Wednesday?

Um. Cause we call it Sun-day?

Riiight. Any more questions? You in the back.

Let’s talk about science. My problem is that if you interpret the text as you suggest, it conflicts with science.

Does it? Really? Do you mean by science the rigorous application of observation and reasoning which is geared to eliminate bias, control for variables, and lead us to the most probable conclusion? That science?

I guess so. Yeah. What you said. Science says it didn’t happen that way. I think we should consider other ways of reading the text so it doesn’t conflict with science.

I see. Well, let’s back up again and examine your assertion that the offered understanding, spoken into existence by God, spaced out over six days, is contradicted by science. How are we going to do this?

Given we are testing a certain scenario: call it six-day creation, what kind of observation situation are we going to set up in order to consider it scientifically?

Let’s say we take as a hypothesis the six-day understanding we’ve been mulling over from the other day. If indeed God did do it that way, what would we see now in terms of visible, observable, measurable phenomena?

I, uh, I don’t know. How do you expect me to answer that? We’ve only got a few details. You said yourself that 99.9999999999 % or more is not told us. How could we even begin to answer that question? We don’t know enough to say what to expect.

So what you’re saying is this approach is going to take us nowhere. That if it really did happen this way, we couldn’t begin to know what the universe ought to look like. And if we don’t know what the universe ought to look like, we cannot know that it doesn’t look like that. So strike one for science.

Yeah, but assuming a six-day creation is not science anyway.

So let’s take the opposite approach. Let’s take as our hypothesis that the purported six-day fiat creation did not happen. That’s an assumption scientists make, isn’t it? Uniformitarianism? Six day fiat creation is specifically excluded by the principle of uniformitarianism, right?

So if a chain of reasoning that begins by assuming six-day fiat creation didn’t occur also ends up concluding that six-day fiat creation didn’t occur… who’s surprised by this outcome?

Isn’t that a tad circular? Garbage in, garbage out. Science hasn’t demonstrated anything, because science with a built-in bias isn’t science.

In fact, if God’s act of creation is invisible or opaque to human observation, it’s going to be beyond science. And if you begin with a false premise, you’re likely to end up with a false conclusion. Aren’t we asking just a bit much of science?

Okay, but the universe is clearly billions of years old. Not six thousand years.

Excuse me. Where did you get the six-thousand figure. Was that somewhere in the previous post?

No, but everyone knows, a six-day creation means the universe is only six-thousand years old.

Everybody but me, I guess. Perhaps you’re thinking about the genealogies. They’re not in Genesis one, but we get some pretty soon. Sure, add those up and you’ll get something like six-thousand. A bit more if you take the LXX figures as more likely original. If you figure for occasional gaps in them, maybe its more like ten or twelve thousand. But that’s for the existance of mankind. You were talking about the universe.

Okay, then, six to twelve thousand years–and two days–if you say the stars were created on day four and man on day two. That’s two days, fourty-eight hours. The stars are much further away than that, much, much older. Obviously.

Aren’t you making a few unwarranted assumptions?

Such as?

Remember the 99.9999999999 % we don’t know? “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33) You limit Him to some two-demensional, linear way of thinking. If He proceeded in one of the myriad ways He could have acted otherwise, your reasoning is pointless.

For example, what do we know about the relationship between time and space? You listen to Einstein. You listen to Hawking. And they can spin all kinds of nearly incomprehensible theories about the fabric of the universe. Curved space. Time relative to velocity.

So what if, say, as God stretched out, so to speak, the stars and galaxies away from the earth in space, He also did so backward in time? Just a wild speculation, of course. But if he designated their creation on day four of earth, but build into the fabric of space a vast span of time, well, wouldn’t that mean even if man were six to twelve thousand years old, the stars could be billions of years old, with no problem.

I guess so, if…

Gives new meaning to A Brief History of Time, doesn’t it. Not saying, you understand, that I have some way of knowing God did it that way, but it’s one possiblity. We’re not limited to your earlier assumption.

Hmm.

Or simply earth had one time frame during that week and the heavens another. Say for every day on earth, ten billion years passed out there. You’re average third grader has no problem with such a concept in the Narnia stories. And if C.S. Lewis could think of it, I’m pretty sure God could have.

Yeah, and next you’re going to give me that old “appearance of age” thing.

Could be. That’s a theoretical possiblity. Or even actual age. The universe was created in medias res, perhaps. Like at the opening of Lord of the Rings. There are thousands of years of history–the narrator tells us as much–though all this predates the beginning… of the movie.

Listen, we spent some time mulling over the six-day fiat understanding of the text. Something that anyone can derive from it with no difficulty. If it posed some problem, this basic reading, well, then perhaps we’d have reason to look for another one. But I suggest that if you read it, once you take it in for what it says, it is eminently satisfying. More than satisfying; it is profound. It is, to the Biblical theist, perfectly acceptable as is. One fails to see any real objection to it. It’s, at the very least, good enough.

If you’d spend as much time considering alternative interpretations of the physical cosmos–which is a much harder book to read–we don’t know the language–and it’s hardly begun to be translated–if you’d put a tenth of the energy into rethinking your view of the universe, you wouldn’t have to spend a second considering alternative interpretations of a single chapter, which is, after all, pretty easy to read.

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