7-Day Creation: Figurative or Literal?
"Creation" by Joe Tucciarone (copyrighted and used by permission)
His pictures can be found at http://members.aol.com/INTERSTELL/joe.html
In a previous chapter (Is There Life on Other Planets?), I gave some reasons why I did not believe there was extraterrestrial life. I pointed out that if the 7-day creation account in the Bible is taken literally (which I do) the universe would only be about 6,000 years old.
Not all "Christians," however, believe in a literal 7-day creation. I have found that these Christians fall into two general groups. The first group consists of people who do not believe God inspired the Bible. As a result, they do not believe it should be taken literally. They feel the stories in the Bible are fictitious and were written only to provide us with good teaching. These "Christians" tend to base their salvation more on good works and usually do not believe Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
The second group consists of people who believe God inspired the whole Bible. They feel the Bible should be taken literally unless there is ample reason to believe the text was meant to be taken figuratively (like a parable). The people in this group have come to the conclusion that the creation account is one of those passages that should not be taken literally.
It is important to understand that the people in the second group do not believe that we (or anything else in the universe) are a product of evolution. They believe God created each item unique, complete, and whole. Their disagreement with the creation account is the timetable of seven literal consecutive days. As a general rule, most of these people will say that the plants, animal, and people could have been created in consecutive literal days, but earth and our universe were created millions or even billions of years earlier.
Like the second group, I believe the Bible must be taken literally unless it is clearly shown otherwise. Unlike the second group, I do not believe the creation account is one of those passages that can be taken figuratively. Although I disagree with this second group, I understand some of the items that have led them to this viewpoint.
The verse, "With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years …" (2 Peter 3:8) is often used as justification to view this passage figuratively. They say that the creation "days" could have been thousands or even billions of years long. This approach creates a whole new set of problems, but this is not the reason I am writing this chapter. I want to address the actual reason that has led them to believe the creation account cannot be taken literally.
The main reason these Christians feel obligated to view the creation account as figurative is the fact that the universe appears to be billions of years old, not 6,000 years old. Obviously, if the universe is billions of years old it couldn’t have been created 6,000 years ago. There are many things that make the world appear old, but one of the most compelling items is the light coming from the stars. Some of the stars are so far away that it would take billions of years for their light to reach us.
Light travels at the rate of 186,282 miles per second. Therefore, it takes 8.3 minutes for the light from our sun to reach earth. The star closest to us (Proxima Centauri) is so far away that it takes 4.2 years for its light to reach us. It would take 170,000 years for the light from the closest galaxy (Large Magellanic Cloud) to reach us. Some galaxies are so far away it would take 15 billion years for its light to reach us.
The question, of course, is did God create the universe billions of years ago (in order to let the light naturally reach us) or did He create the universe fully functioning (with the light instantly visible to us)? In my opinion, creating a fully functioning universe is the most logical approach. For example, if I wanted to make a botanical garden, I would not plant seeds and wait 30 years for the vegetation to mature before I opened it to the public. I would import fully mature vegetation and start out with a fully functioning garden.
Some Christians have said that God would not have created a fully functioning universe because that would have given the universe an appearance of age. They say creating the universe with an appearance of age would be deceptive, creating a universe that looks like it is 15 billion years old would be the same as lying.
Would creating something that was fully functioning (and thus having an appearance of age) be deceptive and the same as lying? Let’s go back to the botanical garden I was talking about earlier. Didn’t I create an "appearance of age" when I imported mature plants for my garden? What was my motivation and intent? Was I trying to be deceptive or was I just being practical? Obviously, my intent was not to be deceptive. Likewise, I don’t think it would be deceptive for God to make a fully functional universe.
Some people may still insist that it would be deceptive for God to create anything with an appearance of age. For the sake of argument, let’s assume this is true. As you will soon see, taking this approach creates some other problems you may not have considered.
The biggest problem with this approach is there are several other things that must have started out with an appearance of age. For example, there was the original vegetation in the Garden of Eden, the original animals, and Adam and Eve. They were all created with an appearance of age.
What did the Garden of Eden look like when it was first created? Did Adam see a garden that was fully functioning with trees, plants, and rivers, or did he see a barren wasteland? Since the height and size of a plant shows its age, the existence of mature plants in the Garden of Eden would have given an "appearance" of age. Topsoil (decayed vegetation) accumulates at the rate of one inch every 100 to 500 years. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.) Therefore, the existence of topsoil would make the "new" garden appear old. Even local wind patterns are developed decades (and maybe centuries) earlier by global environmental conditions.
Obviously, Adam, Eve, and the animals needed food to eat from the very beginning of their creation. Therefore, mature plants had to be present on their first day. If we refuse to say God created mature plants (with the appearance of age) we are forced to say God created the Garden of Eden centuries before he created humans and the animals.
If you take this approach, you still have to answer the question of how God created the first plants: Did they start out as seeds or as little plants. (It’s kind of like the question, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?") When you think of it, both the seed and small plant have an appearance of age. No matter what part of the plant’s growth cycle you start with, it will always have an appearance of age. This fact is inescapable.
Some may say since Adam was not around when the plants were created, it doesn’t matter if God created them with an appearance of age. They say if there was no one around to be deceived, there can be no deception. If this is the case, why couldn’t God have created a fully functioning universe a couple days before He created Adam?
Some people may insist that plants could have been created without an appearance of age. We will, therefore, look at some other things that were created with an appearance of age. What did the animals look like when God created them? Were they created as adults or as babies? If they were created as adults they obviously had an appearance of age. If they were created as "newborn," they still had an appearance of age. For example, the gestation period for most mammals is 2 to 14 months. Just like with plants, any part of the animal’s growth cycle has an appearance of age.
Even if you were somehow able to present a convincing argument that a "newborn" animal does not show the appearance of age, we still have the question of who raised the baby to adulthood? Some animals don’t need much nurturing when they are young, but others need a tremendous amount of nurturing. You could say that God raised the first generation of animals, but that would be considered unnatural and thus "deceptive."
The most powerful example of something being created with the appearance of age is Adam and Eve. These two people were created as adults and thus had an appearance of age. If Adam was not created as an adult, we run into the same problems we discussed in the previous paragraphs.
What did Eve look like when she was created? Genesis 2:22 says, "The Lord God made a woman from his rib." The word woman means an adult female. Adam and Eve were called man and wife right after Eve was created (Genesis 2:25). Adam’s "helpmate" was obviously created as an adult; not as a baby or an embryo. There is no denying that Eve had the appearance of an adult and thus had an appearance of age.
As you can see, God created the plants, animals, and humans all with an appearance of age. If you think about it, there are many other subtle things that had to be created with an appearance of age. Therefore, I don’t find it unreasonable to say He created the rest of the universe with an appearance of age.
If we take the position that creating something with an appearance of age is deceptive, we must also say miracles are deceptive. Miracles, by their very nature, are an alteration of the natural course of events. Turning water into wine, restoring a person’s sight, or raising a person from the dead are not "natural." God had to change the laws of physics (and thus the item’s appearance) to perform these miracles. If altering something from its natural course of events is deceptive, then miracles are the most deceptive action of all. Obviously, I don’t think we want to say God is trying to be deceptive when He performs miracles.
I have one final point to make. Revelation 21:1 says that in the end times God is going to destroy the heavens and earth and create a new heaven and earth. When God creates this new world for us, will we have to wait 15 billion years for the light to naturally reach us before we can inhabit it?
Obviously, the things I’ve pointed out in this chapter do not prove the universe was created in seven days. The only thing it shows is God could have created a fully functioning universe without being deceptive. In my opinion, if God says He created the world in seven days, I think we should take Him at His Word.
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