Primer on Origins Views for Christians (Part 3b of 3)

“The facts of nature yield positive help in many ways for interpreting Scripture statements correctly, and the discipline of wrestling with the problem of relating the two sets of facts, natural and biblical, leads to a greatly enriched understanding of both.”  — J.I. Packer, noted Christian theologian & pastor

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3a

Creation Days cont’d…

“Non-Literal” Approach

Figurative Day

Alternate Names: Simultaneity View (Bavinck referring to Augustine’s position), Instantaneous Creation
Big Idea: Creation was all instantaneous, and the “days” in the biblical narrative are just to help our understanding and perhaps to model the work-week/Sabbath.
Noted Advocates: Clement(?), Augustine, Origen(?), Sir Thomas Browne, John Milton
Resource(s): The Literal Meaning of Genesis (415) by Augustine
Note(s): According to Charles Hummel, Augustine believed that “the structure of the days is intended to teach the *order* in creation.”

Science & Faith - Friends or FoesNon-World

Alternate Names: n/a
Big Idea: One can best look at Genesis 1 with a childlike faith and accept it as a simple, beautiful, profound, and factual statement of creation. There is no world view presented in Genesis 1. The intent is far too sublime and spiritual for one to presume that it teaches anything at all about a cosmological world view. That said, the text does allow for both long periods of time and a certain amount of natural process; scientific evidence indicates that the cosmos, Earth, and likely life are all quite ancient.
Noted Advocates: Donald England
Resource(s): A Christian View of Origins (1972) by England
Note(s): 1) “It is presumptuous to suppose that a vast time interval existed between verses 1 and 2; yet this is a distinct possibility which cannot be excluded…. The use of ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ implies solarlike days as we know them today, yet mention of the sun is not made until day four. It is, therefore difficult to imagine how days one through three were literal twenty-four-hour solar days unless the creation of the sun was included in the ‘heavens’ of verse 1 but was not ‘revealed’ or made evident until day four…. One cannot rule out the possibility of a long time interval between day two and day three. Also, between day three and day four a vast time interval may have existed…. However, there is no Biblical basis for assuming the existence of these time intervals.” 2) While not quite being anti-scholarship, England often cautions against being overly critical or spending too much time parsing out individual word meanings. For example, “[We must] not insist upon a strict and critical interpretation of the text but rather approach Genesis 1 with a childlike and unpresumptuous faith.” 3) Since England is extremely skeptical of natural processes being able to explain on their own either abiogenesis or the diversity of life, this view is probably only appealing to OECs who are hesitant to take a concordist position.

Analogical (Work-)Day

Alternate Names: Anthropomorphic Day, Discourse Analysis View/Approach
Big Idea: The “days” are God’s workdays, their length is neither specified nor important, and not everything in the account needs to be taken as historically sequential. That said, there are textual clues that they are not “ordinary” days, and the sequence of the days does matter. The origin of everything (v. 1:1) takes place an unspecified amount of time before the workweek, so those 6 days are not necessarily the first 6 days of the Universe’s existence. God is characterized as a workman going through his workweek, taking his daily rest (i.e., the night between each evening & morning), and enjoying his Sabbath “rest”. Thus, we understand what He did by analogy with what we do, which then provides us guidance in the proper way to carry out our own work & rest. This 6&1 pattern is echoed in Exodus 20:9-11. The Sabbath rest continues into the present.
Noted Advocates: Franz Delitzsch(?), Herman Bavinck, C. John “Jack” Collins, Vern Poythress, William S. Barker II leans this way
Resource(s): In The Beginning (1999) by Bavinck; Science & Faith (2003) and Genesis 1-4 (2006) by Collins; Redeeming Science (2006) by Poythress
Note(s): Unlike most Analogical Day proponents, Poythress takes the Framework advocates’ view that Day 7 is eternal.

(Literary) Framework

Alternate Names: Historico-Artistic, Artistico-Historical
Big Idea: We must recognize the exegetical implications of the unique literary and theological character of the inspired record, which was not given to satisfy our curiosity about sequence or chronology. Thus, the “days” are primarily a literary structuring device to describe the Creation week but without any material time indicators. Part of the argument is that the apparent creation of the Sun, Moon, & stars on Day 4 (while there was light on Day 1) is evidence that Moses was not trying to describe events in the order that they happened. Another part involves apparent “disagreement” between certain aspects of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2:5-6 regarding the respective creations of plants and Man. For some proponents, that is sufficient; those who follow Kline have a more involved interpretation.
The Kline-variety recognizes both a nonliteral element — building on Augustine’s figurative approach, while maintaining the historicity of the narrative — and a nonsequential element — stressing topical arrangement and temporal recapitulation. Kline has three exegetical arguments: 1) The Genesis 1 account lays out a logical order in the form of two corresponding triads, with each day being a snapshot of creative activity. The first triad reveals God forming the “creation kingdoms” of the Earth: Day 1 -> Light; Day 2 -> Sky & Seas; Day 3 -> Seas, Dry Land, Vegetation. In parallel, the second triad reveals God filling with “creature kings” that which he had formed: Day 4 -> Luminaries (i.e., Sun, Moon, “stars”); Day 5 -> Sea creatures & Winged creatures; Day 6 -> Land animals & Humans. The seventh-day rest, which focuses on “The Creator King”, is given heavy eschatological significance, extending into the eternal state. Special note is taken of Sabbath symbolism, chiastic arrangements and parallelism. 2) Expanding on the second general argument above, Kline argues that Genesis 2:5-6 establishes the principle of continuity between the mode of providence during and after the creation period, which would be a problem for sequentialist views. (This is not meant to imply that the divine activity was only providential, to the exclusion of supernatural, creative activity. To the contrary, the Creation Week was characteristically the era of supernatural creation.) This is known familiarly as the “because it had not rained” argument. 3) A two-register cosmology — “upper” (invisible) and “lower” (visible) registers — is used to explain the nonliteral nature of the time indicators in Genesis 1 within the overall cosmological teaching of Scripture. The upper and lower registers relate to each other spatially, not as different locations, but as different dimensions of the one cosmos. (This is not as exotic as it may sound but really a basic part of biblical cosmology.)
Noted Advocates: Arie Noordtzij, N.H. Ridderbos, Henri Blocher, Meredith G. Kline, Lee Irons, Mark Futato, John Jefferson Davis, Bruce Waltke, Charles Hummel, Ronald Youngblood, Keith Miller, Howard Van Till
Resource(s): Is There a Conflict Between Genesis 1 and Natural Science? (1957) by Ridderbos; Kingdom Prologue (2000/2006) by Kline, though he began publishing his view in the landmark article “Because It Had Not Rained” in the Westminster Theological Journal (1958); How It All Began (1980) by Youngblood; In The Beginning (1984) by Blocher; The Genesis Debate (2001) contribution by Irons & Kline; The Frontiers of Science & Faith (2002) by Davis
Note(s): 1) As per Charles Hummel, Augustine noted the symmetrical structure long ago. According to Jack Collins, English bishop Robert Grossteste (1168-1253) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) both held to the idea that the days of Genesis 1 follow a pattern of ordering (Days 1-3) and adornment (4-6), which is key to the modern “Framework View”. However, J.G. von Herder also recognized the powerful symmetry between the two triads of days in his The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry (1833), and some consider him the modern (god)father of this position. 2) The view developed with some variations over the years, with Noordtzij (translated by Ridderbos) credited with bringing a resurgence in the 1920s, but most nowadays follow Kline’s lead. 3) This position is held by many OECs and TEs alike, though the latter tend to deny the historical content. It could be held by a YEC, too. An ancient Earth and/or Universe is not required by the view, nor obviously is an acceptance of any evolutionary theory. Scientific content in the biblical text is thought to be rather limited. Moreover, it is agreed among Framework theorists that concentration on such details distracts from the intended theological message. Even so, Kline denies that his position is anti- or even nonconcordist.

Days of Divine Fiat

Alternate Names: Fiat Day(s), Days of Proclamation, Explanatory Day
Big Idea: Emphasis is on the sovereign commands of God rather than the means by which those commands were fulfilled or how long that fulfillment took. The days were 24 hours each, but they were merely the time during which God spoke his creational commands. Rather than being fulfilled instantaneously, the details of those commands were carried out over the eons — or, over 1000-year periods in the Millenarian View (discussed/refuted by S. Miller (1846)) — with “a great deal of overlapping in the periods of active creation.” From God’s point of view, though, the work of Creation was virtually completed as soon as He uttered His unstoppable fiats.
Noted Advocates: F. Hugh Capron, Alan Hayward
Resource(s): The Conflict of Truth (1902) by Capron; Creation and Evolution (1987/1995) by Hayward
Note(s): 1) Hayward emphasizes the common use of parenthetical expressions in the Bible, including in the Genesis creation account, which essentially puts the “commentary” following each creation command into parentheses. 2) John Lennox considers this view a variant on “Intermittent Day”. Indeed, Capron’s proposal has been referred to as the “explanatory” intermittent-day view.

seven-days-that-divide-the-world-lennox-johnDays of Revelation

Alternate Names: Revelatory Day, Pictorial Day, Pictorial-Revelatory Day, Vision Day, Days of Visions, Narrational Day
Big Idea: The creation record is part topical and part chronological. The days do not necessarily correspond to either a 24-hour day nor a day-age. They refer to periods during which God revealed His creative work to Moses either verbally (Wiseman) or in one or more visions (Kurtz). The work itself was accomplished over the eons.
Noted Advocates: J. Pohle, J.H. Kurtz (who mixes it w/ Gap Theory), P.J. Wiseman, Bernard Ramm, Donald J. Wiseman, Duane Garrett
Resource(s): Creation Revealed in Six Days (1948/1958) by P.J. Wiseman; The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954) by Ramm; Clues to Creation in Genesis (1977) by Wiseman & Wiseman; Rethinking Genesis (1991/2001) by Garrett
Note(s): 1) Similar to Ramm, noted 19th-century geologist Hugh Miller seems to have incorporated this into his view, which otherwise most closely resembled Day-Age Theory. 2) In a footnote, Ramm says, “[W]e are in exact agreement with Melvin G. Kyle when he wrote [in 1929]: ‘A combination of the revelatory view with the geologic view is thus probably the true explanation of the “days” of creation in the Genesis account.'” He later says, “We are then driven to the theories of moderate concordism and progressive creationism.” 3) Garrett’s book combines conservative theology with an investigation of the possible sources of information available to Moses.

Covenant Creation

Alternate Names: n/a
Big Idea: The “heaven and earth” of Genesis is not about the literal physical universe at all, but rather about God’s covenants with mankind.
Noted Advocates: Jeffrey Vaughn and Timothy Martin at BeyondCreationScience.com.
Resource(s): Beyond Creation Science (3rd ed., 2007) by Martin & Vaughn
Note(s): The book argues strongly against YEC; the hypothesis emphasizes the link between creation and eschatology, promoting preterism over a futurist approach.

Cosmic Temple Inauguration

Alternate Names: n/a
Big Idea: Genesis 1 “is not written to us” and, thus, should be read only from the viewpoint of the ancient Israelites in the context of their ANE worldview. No new scientific revelation or perspective is to be found. While the seven days should indeed be translated as the 24-hour variety, “[they] are not given as the period of time over which the material cosmos came into existence, but the period of time devoted to the inauguration of the functions of the cosmic temple, and perhaps also its annual re-enactment.” Or, as Gerald Rau has summarized it, “God establishes the whole Earth as His temple and takes up His residence there on day seven, similar to stories of the establishment of the temple in other ancient literature. Thus He gives creation function, rather than creating the form.”
Noted Advocates: John Walton; G.K. Beale(?)
Resource(s): The Lost World of Genesis One (2009) by Walton
Note(s): 1) This has some ideas in common with the Framework View, which is why some (e.g., John Lennox) consider this a mere variation of FV. 2) While the view does not specifically promote evolution, Walton says that the Bible does not address either the origin or history of life, therefore “very little found in evolutionary theory would be objectionable”. Several TEs have commended Walton on his approach, but Walton himself has not committed to any brand of TE. His comments, however, seem to place him in the Planned Evolution (PE) branch.

Religious-only

Alternate Names: Liturgical View, Polemical View, Cosmogonic/Cosmic View (not to be confused w/ Guyot’s version of Day-Age)
Big Idea: The Creation account in Genesis is meant only to be read for the religious truths to be gleaned from it and/or as a polemic against the pagan pantheons & worldviews of other tribes/kingdoms in the Ancient Near East. That is, “YHWH alone, uniquely transcendent and immanent, is responsible for bringing the cosmos, animal life, and humanity into existence — not Marduk, Re, or any other gods.” Many TEs prefer this approach.
Noted Advocates: Karl Barth, Claus Westermann, Brevard S. Childs, Conrad Hyers
Resource(s): The Meaning of Creation (1984) by Hyers; Genesis 1-11: A Commentary (1984) by Westermann
Note(s): 1) Some (e.g., Hyers, Westermann) incorporate elements of the Framework View, but because of higher-critical commitments, deny any “literal” historical content. As Hyers puts it, “If one is especially attached to the word literal, then what Genesis 1 literally is is a cosmological and cosmogonic statement, serving very basic theological purposes.” 2) While praising Kline, Blocher, & Hyers, theistic evolutionist Howard Van Till (The Fourth Day (1986)) states, “The days of the Genesis 1 story are clearly ordinary solar days. [But, they] have nothing to do with the cosmic timetable; they are simply literary devices in the story, not actual temporal intervals directly corresponding to events in cosmic history.”

Concordism

Holman Quicksource Guide to Understanding CreationBefore wrapping up, I need to mention another facet of this discussion, which was mentioned a couple times above: concordism. Simply put, concordism holds the narrative of Genesis 1 as a true chronology and tries to harmonize it with the scientific evidence of cosmic & Earth history. Most will agree that there are at least two points on a concordist spectrum. For example, some scholars have accused others of “extreme” or “unbridled” concordism, while the accused usually claim to hold a more “moderate” (or some other adjective) form. Unfortunately, there is no set agreement on how exactly to distinguish, and one’s definitions, as well as placement of other positions, is influenced by one’s own position and attitude towards concordism in general.

Bernard Ramm distinguished variations of concordism this way:

“By moderate concordism we mean that geology and Genesis tell in broad outline the same story. Both agree that the Earth was once in what may be called a chaotic condition. Both agree that certain cosmical conditions had to be realized before life could begin, e.g., the need for light, dry land, separation of waters and atmosphere. Both agree that the simple is first and the complex is later. Both agree that the higher animals and man were the last to appear. The time element is not stated in the Genesis record and must be learned from the geological record. Both agree that man is the latest and highest of all forms of life.

Moderate concordism differs from strict concordism in (i) not affirming that the word <yom> means period, and (ii) in insisting that the days are not completely chronological in order but part topical or logical.”

Howard Van Till uses the following method:

“A distinction may be made between ‘literal’ or ‘strict’ concordism and ‘broad’ concordism. The former interprets Genesis in a very literalistic manner and expects that scientific data and theories will agree with such an interpretation. The latter recognizes that the data of geology and other historical sciences cannot be reconciled with a literalistic rendering of the text and therefore accepts a variety of figurative, symbolic, or otherwise loose readings of Genesis — such as the idea that the ‘days’ of Genesis 1 may be interpreted as long periods of time.”

On the other hand, Hugh Ross identifies this distinction:

“Hard concordists look to make most, but not all, discoveries, new and old, in science agree with some passage of Scripture. Soft concordists seek agreement between properly interpreted Scripture passages that describe some aspect of the natural realm and indisputably and well-established data in science. RTB holds the latter view.”

You see the different shades of distinction, right? I have to say that I don’t think there are any true hard/strict/literal/extreme concordists anymore, at least among scholarly proponents that I have come across. (Possible suspects to fit that end of the scale would include those 19th-century Day-Agers that tried to fit certain geological ages snugly into the Creation Days and mid-20th-century Gap Theorist Harry Rimmer.) Van Till might think Calendar Day advocates are ‘literal concordists’, given their predominant emphasis on literalism. But, I think I would put them at soft/moderate/broad, or maybe somewhere between that and the far end. There are many nonconcordist positions, too, as well as those which go even further to proclaim the biblical account merely symbolic. Advocates of these two “schools” are often quite critical of concordists.

Though subject to revision, I have attempted to take these various definitions and construct my own 6-point scale of relative concordism. I tried to categorize all of the above positions accordingly — or, at least, the predominant modern versions, where applicable. (I was unsure of a few but gave it my best guess or put it in two spots with a “?”.) Then, I constructed this table, adding in columns to indicate which ones are favored by which of the three main positions on origins (from Part 1). [Note: Issues with WordPress prevented me from using right-justification and centering to spruce it up a bit.]

0-Symbolic
1-Nonconcordist
2-Minimally Concordist
3-Soft/Moderate/Broad Concordist
4-Semi-Strict Concordist
5-Hard/Literal/Strict/Extreme Concordist

0 1 2 3 4 5 YEC OEC TE
‘Young Earth’ Approach
Calendar Day y y
Relativistic Day(s) ? y
‘Partial Creation’ Approach
Gap y y
Hesitation y ? ?
Intermittent Day y y
Alternate Day(-Age) y y
Limited Geography y y ?
‘Long Day’ Approach
Millennial Day ? ? ?
Day-Age y y
Expanding Time y y
Theodical Approach
Kairological Interpretation y ? y y
‘Non-Literal’ Approach
Figurative Day ? ? ? ?
Non-World y y
Analogical Day y y ?
(Literary) Framework ? y ? y y
Days of Divine Fiat ? ? y ?
Days of Revelation ? ? y ?
Covenant Creation y y ?
Cosmic Temple Inauguration y y y
Religious-only y ? y

Whew!

So,… there you have them — twenty different ways of interpreting the “days” (<yamim>) of Creation in Genesis! They each have their strengths and weaknesses on the scientific, literary/linguistic, scriptural, and theological fronts. I encourage you to do some more research on those you have some interest in, reading both the pros and cons (and, when possible, responses to those pros and cons). You might want to start with the books whose images you see above, which were a few of my resources, since they each have brief discussions on several of the views. (I have yet to find one with all of the above, though, which is why researching this post was such a chore.) On the other hand, the ones that specialize will give you a more thorough treatment of their respective views.

I’m no expert, but if you have a question about a particular view or want a book recommendation, feel free to leave a comment below. Meantime, I’ll sign off with this fine quote…

“Whatever creation theory we individually may prefer, we must affirm that the entire creation has been brought into being by the design and activity of the Triune God. Moreover, we also affirm that the New Testament treats the creation and fall of Adam and Eve as historical events in which the Creator is especially involved. We urge all sincere and conscientious believers to adhere to what the Bible plainly teaches and to avoid divisiveness over debatable theories of creation.”  — “The Doctrine of Creation” (adopted by the General Presbytery in session August 9-11, 2010)

Amen!

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