Seven Days that Divide Christianity - Riverside Indonesian Fellowship

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Bible Study 2021
Seven Days that Divide Christianity
(These are parts taken from a presentation by Dr. John Lennox, a scientist who is a Christian)

Among people who are convinced of the authority and inspiration of Scripture, you usually get no disagreement about the fact of creation, about the incarnation, about the miracles of Jesus, about His death, His resurrection and His return. But you do find disagreement about the interpretation of Genesis 1. Now that fact alone ought to make us humble.

They looked at Scripture and although you could interpret Scripture one way, you didn’t have to. Knowledge moved on and it opened up new interpretations. This is something that applies to today. Could it be that the controversy about the age of the planet and the interpretation of Genesis 1 also can be harmonized? Early on there was the idea that the week in Genesis is related to that week in ordinary life.

And indeed this is the Jewish year 5773 related to the time from creation. Luther and Calvin also held to this 24 hour view. But there were others in the ancient world, long before Darwin, who believed that the days in Genesis might be long ages. Augustine thought that the days in Genesis were difficult and that God created everything in a moment and that days just were an explanation for us.

These men did their thinking long before modern science. Many of them gave their life for their Christian faith. So let us look at these Genesis days. The interpretations are many, there are 16 different ones, but they morph into three or four mainstream ideas. Number one: the 24 - hour view which becomes a week and the thought that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.

Number two: the day–age view. The age represents successive periods of time of unspecified length. Number three: the framework view. The days are not in chronological order but in a logical order. The first three days representing form and second three representing fullness. The sky filled with birds and the sea filled with fish and the earth filled with animals and human beings.

And then number four: that there are days of revelation, the time where God revealed it to men. I suspect that most of you are somewhat familiar with these. But I want to explain to you the difference between chronological order and logical order. If you compare Genesis 1 with Isaiah 45:12 you will see what I mean. “I made the earth and created man on it. My hands stretched out the heavens.”

Chronologically this means that God created the earth before the heavens. But this is meant to be taken logically, not chronologically. When we are describing things we often mix up those two orders depending on our point of view. The framework view is one that is most talked about these days particularly the one given by John Walton which is called the Cosmic Temple view.

This is the view that the first three days and the last three days are in parallel. I just would like to make a simple observation that the fact that they are parallel is fairly obvious, but that does not mean that there is no chronology. You cannot put birds in the sky if there is no sky. So even the framework view has an implied chronology. So what should we think about all these different interpretations?

This makes me very careful. But I want to share with you a number of things that helped me think about it. There are different interpretations of the same text. So let us look at what the text actually says compared to what it means. Those two flow into each other. Let us look at the text again. Genesis 1 starts with a statement about the creation of heaven and earth in the first two verses.

Then we have six days of God’s creation and organization activity culminating in the creation of human beings in God’s image. And then we have the seventh day of God’s rest. Very simple, we have an introduction, the middle of a six day period and an ending. So the immediate conclusion is that this is a chronogical event. A brief history of time. It starts with something that has no form and is void.

And it ends with the earth full of all kinds of life and culminating the process is the highest form of life, human beings made in the image of God. Now let me just stop there. There is a sequence. This says, whatever you believe about the days, God did not create everything at once. There is a goal, human beings made in the image of God! Our world desperately needs to hear this today.

Human beings are the only creature in the entire physical universe that are made in the image of God. The heavens declare the glory of God but they are not made in God’s image. You are made in God’s image and that distinguishes you above every other creature. Let me remind you that here is America here is enormous pressure to devalue human beings to just another species.

The text in Genesis says that you as a human being are uniquely valued because you are made in the image of God. That is an immensely powerful and important message. So there is a sequence of days and a rest that becomes the model of our earth week. Everyone is familiar with the human working week. And know the law in Exodus, where it says remember the Sabbath day and in six days you shall do your labor and so on.

Genesis 1 portrays God as a creative being going about six days of work and taking a rest each night and having a day of rest at the end. But the thoughtful reader would realize that God’s work of creation is vastly different from our work. God does things that we cannot do. Indeed the Hebrew word of creation is only used as a subject for God. Our rest is not the same as God’s rest.

God never slumbers nor sleeps. God’s creation week was never repeated, but a human’s week is. So there are points of contact between the creation week and our normal week but there are major points of difference. But here is the key question, what is Genesis actually saying? First the word day is crucial here. This was first mentioned in verse 5 where we read, “God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.”

So what is the length of that day? Not 24 hours. By definition it is not. Many people say that when the word ‘day’ comes up it must mean a 24 hour day. This sentence contrasts day with night. And that reminds us of the different meanings of the word day. I came on Tuesday during the day. It is not saying the same thing twice. It says I came during the day time. The first word day is actually less than 24 hours.

Secondly, the second occurrence of day is in the same verse. Day 1 involves evening and morning and we understand that as a 24 hour day. So now we have two meanings for the word Day. But there are more. We come to the seventh day, the Sabbath, where there is no mention of evening or morning. And for centuries people have asked why? And Augustine made the suggestion that God rested from creating.

The Sabbath rest has remained till today and is still going on. Therefor there is no mention of evening and morning. That is a very long day for some Christians. So the Sabbath day is different from the six creation days before and also different from the first word Day on Genesis 1:5. God rested from His work of creation but not from His work of redemption. This is important.

That means that there were things going on during creation that are not going on anymore. God stopped doing them, there was a rest. Finally in Genesis 2:4, we read, “and God created,” but the word ‘and’ is the Hebrew word for day. So here is another meaning of the word day. Now in my younger days in college C.S. Lewis was a professor. It did not mean a specific day, it means an indefinite period of time.

It is used in Hebrew that way, and it is used in most languages that way. So we have several distinct meanings which are all primary meanings and they are all different. The Genesis text is approximately 100 words and here is a word that is used in five different ways which shows me that this writing is extremely sophisticated. It may look simple on the surface, but there is a sophistication that begins to emerge.

Verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” are separated from the period of days. Not many people have noticed that. Because every day from day two on begins with, “Then God said,”

So you would logically expect that day one begins with “And God said.” but that starts at verse three and not verse one. In other words the creation of the heavens and the earth, however you interpret the days, according to the text, did not occur on day one. Because if that is the case, and the Hebrew experts who I have consulted, they say that there is a change in the tense to make that extremely clear.

Verse 1 and 2 are written in such a way to indicate that this occurs before the main narrative. One of the major issues of Christianity is the question: how old is the earth or the universe? I’m not sure that Scripture even discusses that. Because whatever you think of the days, whether you think they are days of one week or very long days, they were not created in the beginning.

The beginning occurred at an indefinite time in the past. So if Scripture does not tell me when the beginning was, I should not worry about it. Because it is not the issue. We talk loosely about the age of the earth, but there are several ages we can talk about. There is the age of the universe, there is the age of the earth, there is the age of life and there is the age of humanity. They are not all the same.

I am simply making point number one, the text of the Bible does not tell us the age of the earth at all. What it now concentrates on is a sequence of days. Day one and day two and so on are 24 hour days. If you look at the Bible, you would usually say, the first day, the second day and so on. That is not what the Hebrew says, there is a word in Hebrew for that, but it is not used for the first five days.

It is only used for day six and day seven. Now if you were thinking about a normal earth week, you would have them all with the article or all without the article. You would not say the first day, but Day One, Day two, Day three, Day four, Day five but then ‘the sixth day’ and ‘the seventh day’. Now what does that mean? Forget about science, just use logic on it. There is a sequence of six days where it says, “And God said.”

These are creation days in which God spoke. So here is a possibility. What these days are is what they claim to be. God spoke and something happened. It might be some time until it all happened, but then God speaks again. And then something happened in the days passed, a sudden new level of complexity appeared. Genesis and the Bible say very little about how God created it.

John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” It is talking about existence, how you get something from nothing. And it said it came about by the Word. Listen to what it says in Genesis: “And God said.” “And God said,”

There are two days where God speaks more than once. On day three and on day six. On day three there is a difference between the inorganic and life. And in Scripture you do not get from the inorganic to life without, “And God said,” On day six, animals and human beings, you do not get from animals to human beings without “And God said.” This is the exact opposite of an unguided random evolution.

What is the irony of the whole thing? That in every one of the hundred trillion cells of our human body there is the longest word that has ever been discovered. The human genetic code, 3.4 billion letters long. Now do a little thought experiment, go to the beach anywhere, and you see Metaxas written on the sand, what do you infer immediately? You infer an intelligent mind behind that.

You don’t know what machine wrote that, but what you know is that you cannot explain it completely without the input from an intelligent mind. How is it that we can look at the 3.4 billion letters of the genetic alphabet in exactly the right order and when asked where does that come from, say chance and necessity? Really? As a scientist you can compare these two world views.

Naturalism says, in the beginning was mass energy, wherever that came from, they don’t know. And all of that of itself produced the universe, produced this life, produced you and your mind, and produced the idea of a God, because there is no God. The other world view is, that mass energy is not primary, it is derivative, in the beginning was the Word, and all things came to be through Him.

So it is either the primacy of mass energy or the primacy of a mind. As a scientist, in the beginning was the Word, makes infinitely better sense than the naturalistic view. Now Q and A, What is Science? Some say science explains things. No, the law of gravity only describes what happens but nobody knows what gravity is. Nobody knows what energy is. Compare that to the nature of God which is infinitely more complex than energy.

Q, If we have a young earth, what about the dinosaurs? A. With a young earth there is a big problem, but that is not what the Bible says. I cannot add or subtract from what the Bible says, but Genesis is both simple and very complex. Q, Did we come from apes? A. The Bible says that God made men out of the dust of the earth, humans are a special creation made out of pre-existing material.

Q. If you argue that it took a long time for the world to exist, logically there was death that also existed. But that happened before the fall, as Christians call it, before Adam sinned and introduced death into the world. How can that be? A. What exactly does Scripture say about this? Romans 5:12 says, “as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men.”

So human death is the result of sin. That is what Scripture says. This is not discussing other kinds of death. We have got to make distinctions that we are not used to making. Death and disease are not the same. Salmons go back to where they came from and they just die as part of the cycle of nature. So if human beings are a special creation, they are not as old as the earth, right?

Q. Do we have a common ancestry? A. It depends on the mechanism that produces that. What we observe is that there are commonalities. All cars have something in common, not because they are descendant from one another. But because they are designed by human intelligence. Living species have common elements because they are derived from a common mind, God.

I have not said anything about the meaning of Genesis 1. Are these days the most important message of Genesis 1? No. What is meant is the Word. I want to say only one thing, and that is about human beings. We are living in a society where we are accused of Speciesism where we separate us from the other species. My biggest argument as to why we are special is that God became one, Amen?

© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

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