“And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Genesis 1:5
For most of the history of Christianity, those who have read and taught the Bible have assumed Genesis 1 is describing six, 24-hour “days.”
Along with this interpretation came the assumption that the Bible’s record of the ages of the men recorded in the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 was also literal.
Adding these lifetimes, to other historical information gives us about 4,000 years to the time of Christ. This makes the age of the earth about 6,000 old.
Only in the last 200 years or so has there been serious debate about the time frame of creation. That was when the interest in exploration began to reveal things about the natural world, such as fossils and the variety of species of plants and animals.
Science gave evidence that questioned the Bible’s answers.
This prompted many, including Charles Darwin to speculate about what these fossilized plants and animals were, as they were different than any known living species. (See my post The Origin of Evolution) They raised questions about how the Bible’s account of creation had been understood.
Later, science developed the ability to observe the size of the universe and detected expansion among the galaxies. This presented a serious challenge to the belief that the universe is 6,000 years old. We now have observable evidence that some believe argues for a universe that is billions of years old. (See my post Learn to Look Again)
Many Christians are unconvinced that there is enough evidence to prove Genesis 1 means anything other than six, 24-hour days. Yet, our widely held knowledge of the physical universe creates many questions that earlier Bible readers would not know to ask. What do we do with that evidence?
This raises a bigger question about our faith. Can the Bible still be true if it mean anything other than a 24-hour “day” in Genesis 1? If the answer is no, then we must reject the argument that scientific evidence proves an older universe.
But some have concluded that both the Bible and the scientific evidence can be true. (See my post Agree Then Disagree) This means that in Genesis 1, God was telling us something else about creation, and not that it happened in six, 24-hour days.
The contrast between these two views is enormous. And how we interpret Genesis 1-2 influences how we read the rest of the Bible. This is an important subject that I will deal with more in later posts.
But it’s important to note that this particular debate takes place between Christians about one of our most important beliefs; the truth of the Word of God. Many serious and respected Evangelical scholars are on both sides of this debate, and both sides draw on science to support their view.
Since this is a discussion inside the Family of God, we must go about this in a way that upholds our Christian witness, regardless of which view we take.