“let it separate…be gathered together” Genesis 1:6-19
In my previous post, A New Day for Faith, I referenced the debate happening among Christians over the timeframe of creation and the age of the earth. This debate raises an important question.
Why would we not accept what the Bible says “at face value” and believe it, regardless of whatever evidence science may offer?
The Bible uses different types of writing to teach us what God wants us to know. Like our writing today, each of those types has its own rules for how you should understand it. For example, you don’t listen for a story in a song the same way you would read it in a newspaper.
The writing in Genesis 1 is different than any other type.
Sometimes a story in the Bible has another meaning, like an Old Testament prophecy (Ezekiel 17:3-8), or one of Jesus’ parables (Mark 4:2-9). These stories are usually followed with an explanation of what they mean (Ezekiel 17:9-24, Mark 4:14-20). All types of writing usually have clues, or pointers that help us know which rules apply.
But Genesis 1 doesn’t easily fit into any of these categories. It seems to use several different types of writing all put together. That means the rules for interpreting it are not clear, which is why Bible scholars disagree on how it should be interpreted. (For a sample of this, Google Literary style of Genesis 1.)
So what else could it mean? I believe the Bible is true, so Genesis 1 cannot be a myth or legend. Rather, it sets the stage for everything God wants to teach us. Genesis 1 introduces us to God in a way that will ultimately prepare us to meet him face to face.
It’s possible that in Genesis 1, God is giving us big categories for how he will work in the world. In this view, his work finishes in the Sabbath (Gen. 2:1-3), which represents our eternal salvation (Heb. 4:9). This teaches us what God has accomplished for us, and what work we still have to do (Phil. 2:12-13).
This is referred to as the Framework View. It arranges the six days of creation by the kind of work God does, and not when he did that work. That would mean Genesis 1 does not record the sequence of creation, but its significance.
Reading Genesis 1 this way still presents some challenges. But it also means we don’t have to choose between what God is telling us, and what we know about how our world works based on science.
Once again, it is possible that creation happened exactly as the text describes it, and that God did things in ways that contradict what we know from science. We would need to accept by faith, for instance, that God created plants before he created the sun.
Those of us who have been raised with the Bible may not wrestle much with these unanswered questions. But we must be aware that a new reader who knows about science will have these and other questions when they try to take Genesis 1 “at face value.”
But God does use these questions to draw them into his Word. And there they will meet him face to face.