September 9, 2006

Six-Day Creation

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Permalink

I read Gary North’s “Basic Implications of Six-Day Creation” (The Dominion Covenant: Genesis, pp. 425-454) in the hope that he’d say something about … well, about the basic implications of six-day creation.  Oddly enough, he doesn’t.

He does talk a lot about God as the creator and the implications of God’s creation of the world.  North has a great gift for summarizing complex positions in easier terms (though I have to admit that this essay doesn’t seem to be his best work: several times I couldn’t follow the flow of his arguments).

For instance, talking about the pagan view of “creation” in which there is no Creator-creature distinction and God, though higher on the chain of being than man, is still just part of “being in general,” he says, “At best, the pagan god is Dr. God, while we humans are only Mr.” (p. 429).

His brief discussion of the pagan chaos festivals (e.g., Saturnalia, Carnival, and Mardi Gras) as ritual returns to (what pagans see as) the primordial chaos in an effort to escape from law, order, and the “burden” of time and begin a new creation was suggestive, though more detail would have been helpful.

I also appreciate his emphasis on the connection between meekness and dominion: “It is meekness before God which gives man dominion over nature” (p. 437).  It would have been nice if North had added something about meekness before men, too.

All of that is good stuff.

But the title of his essay wasn’t “Basic Implications of Creation.”  It was “Basic Implications of Six-Day Creation,” and about that North said nothing.  All the implications he pointed out would still have been there if God had created the world in a moment instead of in six days.

So what are the implications of six-day creation?  Why didn’t God do it all at once?

Here are some of my thoughts:

First, Genesis 1:1 tells us that God created the heavens and the earth.  Those “heavens” are not the sky and outer space, which are the firmament heavens created on the second day (and probably expanded into “outer space” on the fourth day).  The heavens of Genesis 1:1 are the place where God’s throne is, where God is surrounded by the angels, who were also created at that time.  In fact, the creation of the angels appears to have been in Genesis 1:1a, before “and the earth,” because the angels (“sons of God”) sang when the foundation of the earth was laid (Job 38:7).

Heaven was created brightly lit, structured, and populated (by a host of angels).  Earth, in contrast, was dark, unstructured (tohu: without form), and unpopulated (bohu: without inhabitant) (Gen. 1:2).  The six days of creation, then, show God working with His creation, with what He formed in Genesis 1:1 at the beginning of the first day, to provide light, to structure the world (light and dark, evening and morning; waters above and waters below with a firmament in between; seas and dry land), and then to populate it (fish, birds, land animals, and finally man).

The six days of creation, then, set the course of history: God could have created the earth like heaven, lit, structured, and populated.  But instead he created it unlike heaven and gradually worked to make it more like heaven.  That’s what God is also going to be doing throughout history, moving the world from glory to glory, and culminating in bringing His people into His rest at the end (Heb. 3-4).

Even the progress from dark to light is significant, then.  God starts with darkness and moves to light, and so does the course of history.  There is increasing light: the increasing revelation from God throughout the history of God’s people in Scripture from the patriarchs through Moses to Jesus and the apostles, the increasing maturity and glory of God’s people, the increasing spread of God’s kingdom in the world in our history until the day when all will be light.  The movement from dark to light is eschatological and the six days thus point us to God’s increasing glory in history.

More than that, the six days then also set a pattern for man’s work.  As God takes hold of His creation, divides and forms and (re)structures it, beautifies it (e.g., plants on the dry ground), distributes it to others to enjoy and to rule for Him, and so forth, so man will also work with creation — with the addition that man, when he takes hold of God’s creation, is to give thanks.  And as God built a house for man to live in, man will now image and imitate God by using God’s creation — and multiplying — in order to build the word (and people in particular) into a house for God.

Looking at what I’ve written, I can see that I’ve gleaned a lot of this from James Jordan who, it seems to me, is one of the few guys who has devoted much thought to the implications of God’s six-day creation.  I think there are probably many more implications to glean from Genesis 1.

And that’s where you come in.  Why six days?  What are the implications, not just of creation (as in North’s essay), but of six-day creation?

Posted by John Barach @ 3:28 am | Discuss (4)

4 Responses to “Six-Day Creation”

  1. U.T.Brito Says:

    Excellent insights Barach. I am as of yet not so comfortable with a young earth view, but I wonder how would those inplications not also apply to an old earth? Love to hear your thoughts

  2. John Says:

    Thanks, U. T.

    When you refer to “an old earth” do you mean “an earth which wasn’t actually created in six days” so that Genesis 1 doesn’t describe what actually happened in history, in chronological order?

    Even on that view, I suppose one could say, “The narrative of Genesis 1, though not historical, presents a literary interpretation of God’s act of creation, sometime way back in the past, and it’s written in such a way that it teaches us something about God’s purpose in history, the progress of development, the pattern for man’s work, and so forth … even though it didn’t happen.”

    You might be able to say something like that. But doing so would seem to be like saying, “The narratives of the resurrection teach us all kinds of good theology. There are lots of great implications. And those things are true even if the accounts aren’t historically accurate and even if the resurrection didn’t happen.”

    I think with regard to the resurrection, we’d want to say that the theological and practical implications depend on the historicity of the events described. No resurrection, no real implications of the resurrection.

    I’d say the same thing about creation in Genesis 1.

    That’s an off-the-top-of-my-head response anyway.

  3. U.T.Brito Says:

    Thanks for taking your time John.

  4. Richard Oosterhoff Says:

    John, thanks for the incisive comments on North’s work. I think you’re spot on – but I also think it would help to carry that same critique over to your off-the-top-of-your-head response: you’ve outlined what a denial of the historicity of creation, broadly understood, implies. But not a six-day creation, I might argue.

    It seems to me that the kind of narrative present at the beginning and end of God’s written revelation is very different in kind (note, I’m not saying different in import) from the very focussed revelation we find literally at the crux, the centre of Scripture.

    I don’t get how dubbing something “literary” immediately puts it into a category of lesser truth. Perhaps a less controversial example might be the book of Job, which even conservative scholars find highly literary. Is it therefore suspect to the core – or guilty of possessing a lesser core?

    But these small rants are likely old news to you. Thanks for the thoughts!

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