Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Response to Justin Taylor on 24-hour creation days (Part 1)

וַיְכַ֤ל אֱלֹהִים֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה׃ (Gen 2:2)

Over on TGC, Justin Taylor wrote an article that claims to provide biblical reasons to reject the creation days of Genesis 1 as being days of 24 hours period, in preference to an interpretation that is more in line with the Framework Hypothesis. Taylor is welcome to hold to his position, but are his reasons actually biblical?

Before we look at the reasons given, I would like to note how we are to address issues of disagreement. In doctrinal disputes, both sides normally hold to their positions because they think that the arguments for their positions are right. Hopefully, in the course of debate and dialogue, both parties will seek to understand the arguments from the other side and then formulate counter-arguments in support of their positions. In other words, even if one side were to disagree with the other and even with her arguments, he has to take note of her arguments and attempt a response. Generally, ignorance of what the other side is saying is bad, and does not help one's case at all.

Taylor gave 5 beliefs that together combine to give rise to a belief in 6-24 creation. According to Taylor, they are

(1) Genesis 1:1 is not the actual act of creation but rather a summary of or title over Genesis 1:2-2:3; (2) the creation week of Genesis 1:2-2:3 is referring to the act of creation itself; (3) each “day” (Heb. yom) of the creation week is referring to an 24-hour period of time (reinforced by the statement in Exodus 20:11); (4) an old-earth geology would necessarily entail microevolution, hominids, and animal death before the Fall—each of which contradicts what Scripture tells us; and (5) the approximate age of the earth can be reconstructed backward from the genealogical time-markers in Genesis.

Taylor then cites some of the views of theologians concerning the interpretation of the creation days, then he gives 5 "biblical" arguments that should cause his readers to doubt the 6-24 view, which I will look at later. But back to his 5 beliefs that supposedly combine to give rise to the 6-24 view of the Genesis creation days. Are these actually integral or even a part of the argument for the 6-24 view?

"Creationist belief" #1 is rather astonishing. There may or may not be creationists who claim that Genesis 1:1 is a summary or title over Genesis 1:2-2:3, but the question is not whether some creationists might use this to support their 6-24 interpretation, but rather whether one can take the 6-24 position regardless of how one interprets Genesis 1:1. I for one do not take the position that Genesis 1:1 is a summary of Genesis 1:2-2:3, so we can discount with supposed creationist belief #1.

Taylor's "creationist beliefs" #2 and #3 are indeed held by creationists, and I think we can defend them. "Creationist belief" #4 however is really curious. I suspect Taylor actually had the term "macroevolution" in mind rather than "microevolution." Be that as it may, having an old earth is less a problem for issues such as "hominids" and "animal death before the Fall" than holding to the cosmology of an old earth, which includes the supposed evolutionary and developmental timeline for life on earth (including the "Fossil Record"). As an example, a strict day-age view would not run foul of these hot button topics IF the one making the argument would simultaneously hold that there was no animal death before the Fall in "Day 6," whenever that is. The fact that those holding on to an old-earth simultaneously hold to an old-earth cosmology including animal predation and disease before the creation of Adam and Eve is the main issue, not old earth itself. As to how one can hold to an old earth without holding on to an old-earth cosmology, that is something for those professing to believe an old earth to answer for themselves; personally I don't see any way to do so.

"Creationist belief" #5 was certainly the belief by Reformed theologians such as Archbishop James Ussher. Regardless, one does not need to hold to genealogies without gaps in Genesis 5 and 11 to hold to young-earth creationism (YEC). Even if there are gaps and even if the numbers given in the genealogies are not precise, it staggers belief that millions of years can be smuggled into those gaps; it is just not possible. The positing of gaps can at the most increase the biblical time scale a couple of thousand years at the most, and even that is stretching things. After all, if one really wants to see what a biblical genealogy with gaps look like, look at Matthew's genealogy of Christ as an example! So the issue is not about reconstructing the exact age of the earth, but rather that the Bible gives a scale concerning the age of the earth, which is in the thousands rather than millions and billions of years.

Next, we look at Taylor's citation of church theologians. We notice that, besides Augustine, every single one of the theologians are modern theologians. Now, "modern" does not necessarily equals wrong, but "modern" does mean that the charge could be made that they adopted this interpretation of the creation days due to pressure from the supposed established view of "science." Therefore, while they may be stalwarts of the faith generally, their views on the creation days do not have the same imprimatur of authority. Speaking of authority, if one wishes to count theological heads, one wonders why Taylor does not count the Reformers (both Luther and Calvin) and the Reformed scholastics who all, almost without exception, held to YEC. Archishop James Ussher was not an anomaly for his time, and YEC was the general belief in all branches of Christiainity until the beginning of Modern Geology in the early 19th century.

Regarding Augustine, while he was certainly unclear on the creation days, yet he did so due to his ignorance of Greek in Sirach 18:1. The main question concerning Augustine however was whether he held to a YEC position, and in this, we can say that he answered in the affirmative.

We now approach Taylor's 5 arguments to cast doubt on the 6-24 interpretation. Taylor's first argument is that "Genesis 1:1 Describes the Actual Act of Creation Out of Nothing and Is Not a Title or a Summary." As I have previously said, I agree with that interpretation. Genesis 1:1-2 describe the initial creative act of God at time, t=0 to establish the beginning state for creation to happen. As for Taylor's appropriation of the Framework literary view, I have repeated Andrew Kulikovsky's deconstruction of that framework here, and will not repeat it again.

Taylor's second argument is that "The Earth, Darkness, and Water Are Created Before 'The First Day.'" That however is not an issue because in my view I have said that they were created at time, t=0. After they appeared ex nihilo, then time and the creation days began. Taylor's objection to the light being created in the first day while the sun was not yet created is not an issue, for we read in Revelations 22:5 that there will be light without the sun in the new Jerusalem. Light therefore can exist apart from the sun, and in fact we prove that all the time we create and use artificial lighting in our daily lives. Regarding the purpose of the sun and astral bodies in Day 4, as I have argued, we should not confuse teleology with ontology. Questions of purpose are important, but they are not questions of being. Such confusion only serves to muddy the waters instead of dealing with the text.

[to be continued]


terriergal said...

Fabulous job Daniel, thank you.

PuritanReformed said...