Tag Archives: Genesis

Did God Create the World as “Perfect”… or As “Good?”

Most of us have heard the story.

God created the world in six days. On the first through fifth day, God declares what he has created to be “good.” Then, we get a step up on the sixth day, when humanity was created, God saying it was “very good.

But is “good” the same thing as “perfect?”

According to a few sermons I have heard over the years, “good” and “perfect” are synonymous. But is this Scripturally accurate? Is this really what the Bible teaches?

 

On the one hand, linking “good” and “perfect” sounds like a reasonable assumption. After all, Christians believe that God is indeed perfect. So why would God create anything other than something that was perfect?

Makes sense, right?

Many who take this view go onto believe that when Adam and Eve sinned, not only did they introduce human sin, suffering, and death into the world, they also introduced animal death and suffering into the world.  If humans had never sinned, then the animals never would have died either. This is consistent with what is considered to be a contemporary, Young Earth Creationist reading of the first few chapters of Genesis.

This is probably the strongest theological argument in favor of God creating the world, from nothing, within a span of six 24-hour days. It does make me wonder about where the mayfly fits in this timing scheme, with its life span of only 24-hours, but just go with me here….

In summary: God created the world perfectly. He would never create a world with millions of years of death, cancer, and suffering in it. For those things, we have Adam to blame. Not God.

This makes for a captivating story.

It might even be true.

But there is a difficulty with this reading of Scripture.

Take Genesis 1:2, the second verse of the Bible, before we even get to day one of Creation, for example. Here we read the first part of that verse:

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep….(ESV)

If God created this universe as “perfect,” why would he create the earth, starting out, with what was without form and void? Was this really God’s doing?

How is an earth, without form and void, “perfect?”

Or, how about a little bit later, when God speaks to the humans he has just created, on day six:

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth…..(Genesis 1:28 ESV)

The word “subdue” is highlighted, because it sounds so… well…. rough and rugged, to say the least. If God created everything “perfect,” then why would humans be called upon to subdue the earth? Why try to subdue something, if it was perfect to begin with?

Some do raise answers to such questions. For example, some claim that God’s command to subdue the earth, only applies to the ground itself, and does not include the animals. To subdue the rocky ground, for farming, is quite different from trying to subdue the animal kingdom.1

I will leave it to the reader to consider if such an answer is compelling or not.

Biblical scholars tell us that, in the days of people like Abraham and Moses, the other gods surrounding ancient Israel,  such as Marduk of the Babylonians, and Atum of the Egyptians, were pretty much a disorderly mess, particularly when it came to the creation of the world. Pagan stories about creation treated the concept of creation itself as a kind of afterthought.

The Bible, on the other hand, tells a much different story.

It tells us that the God of the Bible is a God of order. He brings order out of chaos. Perhaps this is what Genesis has in mind, when in verse 2, we read about the earth being without form and void, which is consistent with a picture of chaos. As the reader proceeds through the days of Creation, the sense of a gradual movement from chaos to order emerges, such as when the creation of light, on day one, gets superseded by the appearance of the sun and moon, on day four, to mark off the days and years.

Then we read on down to day six, where God creates humanity to have dominion over all of the good that God has created. Perhaps, this is what is going on in Genesis, that God’s act of creation is a way of bringing order out of chaos. That might help to explain why God created everything good, but not necessarily perfect.

The perfection of creation was certainly on God’s agenda, but perhaps he created humankind specifically to help bring about that perfection of Creation…. However, as the story goes on, we pretty much blew it with the whole “eating of the forbidden fruit” in the Garden episode.

This still leaves the question open as to why there was chaos to begin with, and why the earth needed to be subdued? Unfortunately, the text of Scripture does not give us a direct answer to that question. It just leaves that question out unanswered… simply hanging there.

Thankfully, whatever we make of this state of chaos, in the initial creation, and the need to subdue the earth, the New Testament completes the story, that “for the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19 ESV). As God’s people experience redemption, through the power of the Cross of Christ, we look forward to the day when Christ will restore all things, and cause all of Creation to have its eager longing fulfilled.

As Christians continue to debate about the age of the earth, and exactly how God brought about the creation of the world, and what sin, evil, death, and suffering have to do with it, it is a question worth thinking about.

Notes:

1. Terry Mortenson, a scientific historian, with Answers in Genesis rightly argues that “In Genesis 1:28 man is commanded to subdue (kabash) the earth…Kabash means to take complete control of something, to make it subservient.” But then Mortenson adds, ‘The text does not say that man should subdue the animals….The fact that God uses a different verb (radah) to refer to man’s “rule” over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything that moves on the earth, strongly suggests that “subdue” relates to the non-living creation and “rule” relates to the living creatures. But nothing in the context warrants reading into “subdue it [the earth]” the idea that the creation had been filled with natural evil (death, disease, extinction, asteroid impacts, tsunamis, etc) for millions of years prior to man.’ Isolated by itself, Mortenson’s argument has a lot of appeal. Hebrew parallelism could indeed be in play here. But look more carefully at Mortenson’s contextual argument. What Mortenson ignores is the whole context of the verse, by omitting the very first part of the verse: “And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” This is a command for humans to procreate and “fill the earth” with offspring. To suggest that “”subdue’ relates to the non-living creation;” presumably the physical ground of the earth, as Mortenson does, would suggest that humans are to fill the non-living creation with living humans. Once you fill the “non-living creation” with the “living creation” of human beings, then the “earth” is no longer a non-living creation. Terry Mortenson is a smart scholar, but his exegetical argument appears to be greatly forced. I am no grammar scholar, but why anyone would find this exegesis of the text convincing is baffling. But there you have it. 


Did Abraham Receive the Call to Go to Canaan While in Haran, or in Ur?

Answering this question is actually a fairly easy one to tackle. But there are two ways to go about it, and each way gives us a different picture of what the biblical writer is trying to do in Genesis.

In Genesis 11:26-32, we get the story about Terah, the father of Abraham (whose name was slightly different at this point, “Abram.”):

When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran. 
Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child. 
Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran (Genesis 11:26-32 ESV).

In summary, Abraham’s family moves from the land of Ur (in modern day Iraq), to Haran (in modern day Turkey), an area about half-way along the journey, across the Fertile Crescent, well short of reaching Canaan.

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Is Genesis History?, or Is Del Tackett Confusing Film Viewers?

tackettfilm

The run-up to the one-night showing (tonight) for Del Tackett’s latest film, Is Genesis History?, introduced here at Veracity, is in full swing. So, I just have a brief follow-up: Christian media outlets across the country anticipate large crowds to go see this film in theaters nationwide.

For example, yesterday on “Hour 2” of the Eric Metaxas show, Del Tackett was interviewed by Metaxas. Eric Metaxas, a Christian public intellectual, himself is agnostic on the exact meaning of the “days” of Genesis, but he had a very friendly and warm conversation with Del Tackett, who endorses a literal, 24-hour view of the “days” of Genesis 1.

Tackett explains that the film relies on extended interviews with scientific and other experts, to defend the concept of Young Earth Creationism, the belief that the earth is no more than about 6,000 years old, contrary to the mainstream scientific paradigm, that argues that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.  For example, Tackett interviews Hebraist and Semitic language scholar, Steven Boyd, who argues that the plain meaning of a literal, 24-hour day should be taken for each of the six, creational “days” of Genesis. A number of scholars take the view of Dr. Boyd, who is (unsurprisingly) a Young Earth Creationist, but does every scholar agree with this view? Apparently, not.

I decided to ask an Orthodox Jewish friend of mine, to get an answer from a Jewish perspective. After all, Jews and Christians share the Book of Genesis together in their Scriptures. As I expected, Jewish interpretation of the “days” of Genesis mirrors the variety of Christian views on the same topic, and the scholarly disagreements go back hundreds of years, predating the 19th century advent of Darwin’s theory of biological evolution, by a number of centuries.

As it turns out, even though Del Tackett’s list of scholars and scientific experts lean towards the Young Earth side of the debate, at least one of the experts interviewed, philosopher Paul Nelson, associated with the Discovery Institute, now says that Tackett’s Is Genesis History?  unfortunately “presents a false dichotomy” and that he “dissents from my role” in the film. The issue for Dr. Nelson is not the age of the earth, but rather, the question of “intelligent design” vs. “no design.”

Mmmmm…..

In the film trailers and in promotional interviews, Del Tackett, has a very homespun, unassuming demeanor, contrary to a lot of rancor this kind of debate often generates within the church, which is quite refreshing. But when I heard Del Tackett talk about soft tissue found in dinosaur fossils, I began to wonder if Del Tackett fully understands views contrary to Young Earth Creationism. So, it remains to be seen whether or not Del Tackett’s Is Genesis History? will serve to provide clarity in this controversial debate, or if it will be an awkward appeal to “alternative facts” that will only confuse believers, who simply want to be able to adequately defend the Bible, in a world that is often hostile to its central, core message.

If you are still interested in seeing the film, there are two showings in Williamsburg, Virginia, at Regal New Town Stadium 12, at 7:00pm, tonight, with tickets still available at the time of this blog posting.

UPDATE: 02/25/2017

All showings in Williamsburg on Thursday were sold out. An encore showing will be next Thursday, March 2nd.

A few early reviews of the film are in, and as to be expected, the reception is mixed among Christians:

Biologist Todd Wood: One of the Young Earth Creationist scientists in Is Genesis History? "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Prov. 25:2)", which is Todd's tagline on his blog.

Biologist Todd Wood: One of the Young Earth Creationist scientists in Is Genesis History? “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Prov. 25:2)”, which is Todd’s tagline on his blog.

If you want to find out more about some of the other scientific experts in Is Genesis History?, I would encourage you to first check out the blog for biologist Todd Wood, who this week published a Q&A regarding the film, on his website. Todd Wood understands and appreciates the mainstream scientific consensus, but he consciously adopts a worldview aligned with his Young Earth Creationist interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis. Todd Wood is crazy smart, and quite likable, in my mind, even if he is more narrow in his beliefs. Whether or not Dr. Wood is able to come up with a viable scientific model, in which his hypotheses can be tested, a difficulty he readily admits, is another matter.

UPDATE: March 1, 2017

Here is another review from BioLogos. It would be great somehow if BioLogos and AnswersInGenesis were able to sit down and have a conversation together:

  • Gregg Davidson, an evangelical Christian and a geologist, and others, respond to some of Steve Austin’s comments in the most early part of the film (as seen on the film trailer, too), that suggests that geologists are abandoning the prevailing theory of long ages for the formation of the Grand Canyon. Steve Austin is a Young Earth Creationist scientist, and Davidson and his co-authors in this essay dispute Austin’s explanation based on actual evidence, while nevertheless affirming that “Our worldview is based on a belief that the Bible is true – cover to cover, from Gen. 1:1 to Rev. 22:21

UPDATE: March 6, 2017

I thought about publishing a new blog post, but I was not convinced that doing so would help to encourage dialogue or fan the flames of frustration, so I am merely updating here.  Todd Wood, one of the biologists in the film, that I highlighted above, has written a very thoughtful response to the claims of detractors, and one of the film’s experts, Paul Nelson, as noted above, that Is Genesis History? is promoting a false dichotomy. Todd Wood’s post is a bit difficult for me to grasp coherently, but I really appreciate the conciliatory tone that he displays. I just wish everyone in the Young Earth Creationist community were a little more like him.


Does the Bible Speak Definitively On the Age of the Earth?

Albert Mohler

Albert Mohler: Theologian and defender of a Young Earth view of Creation.

C. John Collins

C. John Collins: Old Testament scholar and defender of an Old Earth view of Creation.

I recently listened to a debate between Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. C. John Collins, with the provocative title, “Genesis and the Age of the Earth: Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?” Christians have very different views on this topic, and sadly, a lot of debates of this sort tend to descend into either rancor, or simply talking past one another, particularly for debates with non-believers. But this debate, intended for an audience of Christian pastors, was different, and for that reason, I thought it worthwhile to make some notes and share them here on Veracity. You can view the debate yourself at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s website, and I would encourage you to do so to get the most out of my following comments and observations (another synopsis of the debate is available here).

Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, answered the debate question with “yes.” But in doing so, I appreciated what Mohler had to say about the very nature of this debate. As he put it, there are three different orders of theological debates that have an impact in the church:
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Bill Nye Visits the Ark Encounter

Exactly three years ago today, the arguably most recognizable popular advocate for modern science, Bill Nye, debated one of the most controversial leaders in evangelical Christianity, Ken Ham, of Answers and Genesis, on the topic of creation. Since then, this debate has received nearly 6 million views on YouTube, which is a lot for a two-hour debate on science and the Bible.

This past year, Bill Nye returned to Kentucky to take a tour of the new Ark Encounter exhibit, just days after its opening. Cameras were rolling as Answers in Genesis recorded the casual, yet often heated, discussion between these two iconic men. Bill Nye and Ken Ham represent two very opposite ends of the pole on this topic, so I frankly found the discussion rather frustrating and exasperating. It felt like the two sides were just talking past one another. Nevertheless, it gives a good example of the type of challenges Christians face when defending their faith, with skeptics who are enamored by the prospects of modern science.

UPDATE: April 2018.  I originally posted a 2o-minute edited version of the discussion, which has since been taken down. Here is the full 2-hour version, from Answers in Genesis:


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