(Third in a series on the old-earth/young earth controversy.)
I am reading Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2017), a sort of symposium presenting an interchange among Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis for young-earth creationism (YEC), Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe for old-earth creationism (OEC), Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute for intelligent design (ID), and Deborah Haarsma of BioLogos for evolutionary creationism (EC).
I was already aware of the omission of the phrase, “And there were evening and morning, the [nth] day” from the discussion of the 7th day (Genesis 2:1-3), but had not fully appreciated the implications until now.
In context, the omission is very conspicuous and requires explanation. Perhaps the most popular explanation is that the 7th day did not end, that it indeed continues to the present. God rested from his creation activity and continues to rest from it. “God rested” would be taken to imply “God rested permanently,” or at least until further notice. I suppose that would become the eighth day. (Wow, we could form some sort of eschatological movement and call it “The Eighth Day”!)
It would certainly be difficult to show that explanation to be implausible. But if the 7th day did not end, then it was longer than 24 hours; and if the 7th day was more than 24 hours, then on what basis can we confidently say that the first six days were themselves 24 hours long? Isn’t it young earthers’ argument that we are addressing an ordinary 7-day week? But if the 7th day was more than 24 hours, that alone would mean that it was not an ordinary 7-day week.
And if we cannot confidently say that the first six days were 24 hours each, then we also cannot confidently say that the Genesis account is incompatible with standard interpretations of modern scientific observations.
There is no need to show this explanation to be true: if it is even possible, OEC’s fidelity to scripture is established.
And yet . . .
Yet the text nevertheless recites, after each of the first six days, “and there was evening and there was morning, the [n]th day,” which unavoidably seems to imply the phenomenological effects of the rotation of the earth, once around. How else can one make sense of it? How far do we stretch the ordinary meaning of the text in order to reconcile it with what modern geology and astrophysics seem to be telling us? I think this remains a challenge for OEC.
Presently I don’t have an answer. My solution is simply to leave the question open in the hope that someday I will understand. Emphatically, I do not throw Genesis out the window; but then, neither do I throw modern astrophysics out the window.
God is the author of both the scriptures and nature. What he has revealed about himself in each must be compatible with the other. If it appears otherwise, the defect is not in the revelation but in our understanding, and requires further inquiry.
In the meantime, I prefer to emphasize what we do know. Science has vindicated the biblical world view in very impressive ways, both generally and specifically. We know there is a God, and everything science tells us about his attributes (personal, intelligent, powerful) is true to the biblical revelation. Knowing all of that, it becomes possible (and permissible, I think) to tolerate the uncertainty we have about the proper interpretation of Genesis.
And we have barely begun our investigation.