I am not committed to a literal seven day creation of the world.
I know that many in my church who are reading this may be shocked by my starting place. I do not want to alarm you. Please take a moment and let me explain. I believe that Genesis 1 is absolutely God breathed and true. I believe it teaches truth about the origins of the earth. However, I do not believe that the intention of this chapter is to be scientific. Let me explain:
- Genesis 1 is a poem. Poems are not the typical way to portray scientific truth. The poem reveals truth, but often uses pictures to portray a meaning. We don't read Song of Songs and assume that this woman really had a neck that looked like a cedar tree, it was an image to portray a truth. Genesis 1 shows that God's hand was all over the creation event--he did it, he made it, he ordered it and structured it and it pleased him.
- Even with this, I find the detail of counting days as an odd thing to find in a poem, and so I think there must be some reason that we have the specific reference to seven days. Therefore, my mind goes back toward the seven day creation.
- The question in my mind though, is what kind of seven day creation? The sun, the tool we use to measure days and nights and time, was not created until day 4 according to the poem. If this is so, then whatever time was being used to calculate days by God in this story is clearly not the time markers that we use today.
- I do believe that this poem appears accurate in terms of order of creation. Science affirms the same basic order of appearance of most objects. Light came before mass, trees came before animals, etc. Genesis and science are on the same page here (though for very different reasons).
Now I want to offend my scientific friends.
A really thoughtful Christian I have recently encountered online, Mason, posted an article on why he believes in evolution/old earth science as a Christian .
Mason is a thoughtful guy, and I encourage you to read his stuff. However, as I pondered his thoughts, it led me back to a problem that I see within the modern post-Enlightenment understanding of science. I will say it like this:
We teach and believe that science is the absolute truth of the universe.
Is this not evident in our times? We feel obligated to prove everything through the lens of science. If it is not scientific it cannot be true. I strongly disagree with this mindset.
Let me give you six reasons that I believe science cannot be viewed as the absolute truth of the universe, and why I believe it is too small a lens to govern how we read passages like Genesis 1 (or for that matter the Resurrection of Jesus).
- Modern science is, at its core, is the study of patterns. Patterns are things that we see as typically true. If it happens often enough, it must be true. However, because something happens most of the time, or even every witnessed time, does not mean that it is always true. Example: For years we believed gravity to be the most basic and concrete concept in the universe until we recently discovered that solar systems are accelerating in their separation from one another--we know witness that what we thought always happened (gravity pulls things together) is not true. Often times this leads us to ignore particular instances to focus on general patterns.
- We also must realize that scientific study is unable to concretely give answers because it cannot take into account the variables. Variables for any study are endless, no matter how precise we intend to be. Two people with the same heart blockages can live for different amounts of time, have different size heart attacks, etc. Why? There are thousands of variables in each ones life that we cannot account for. Atomic study cannot take into account the minute differences present in different atoms, each star is unique, etc. There is not a way to create a perfect pattern because of the uniqueness of our universe.
- We also must realize that though science can find patterns within our world, we cannot concretely answer questions about outside of our world. Does life require our pattern to work in other solar systems and situations? We have no way to know! Does light travel at the same speed everywhere? We cannot measure these things absolutely, because we can only study within a very limited area surrounding our planet. This is why most astrophysical study will always be considered theoretical.
- In the same manner, science cannot prove whether things have always reacted the way they react now (has science changed over time?) This is an extremely daunting thing to question. With the literally billions of variables within the universe, can any of them change the way science on this planet has worked from one point in time to another? Is there any way to know whether the evidence we see from archeology and geology is accurate, or our best guess based upon how the world works now?
- Science also cannot consider the out of the ordinary. Take the example of the Flood of Noah (assume with me for a minute that this event is true, whether you believe so or not). If there was a flood of the entire world, could it destroy our ability to study things from before it? Think about it, layers of dirt would be moved, washed away, placed elsewhere in massive proportions all over the world. Events like this would corrupt all the data we can accumulate because the only way of studying the world prior to such an event is either to assume it is true or untrue.
- Finally, and most importantly, science is a study of patterns within the natural universe. This means that it cannot account for anything from outside of the natural scope interfering with it. As Christians, we believe in a God outside of the natural world (God is not in nature, not just a binding agent of nature, but a sovereign outside of it), therefore whatever he does within nature cannot be measured scientifically. If God created the world in seven literal days, we would have no way of scientifically studying it, because he is other, unpatternable. He is not part of the pattern he creates. That is why resurrection is so amazing and mind boggling. The pattern tells us dead things stay dead. But a God outside of nature brought life again, and there is no scientific way to prove it!
This does not mean that I don't trust science at all, or even to an extent on big things such as the stages of universe development. However, it means that I recognize a higher, more absolute truth that allows me to sit comfortably in the realm of unscientific.
What do you think? Am I wrong? Is science absolute? Does Genesis have to be seven literal earth days? Please share your thoughts!