The Bible begins with those classic words of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning…” and from the outset its tone is different than what we might expect from a book of beginnings. When people begin books about God, so often they want to begin with a textbook description of His character and attributes. Another approach often in theology books involve a defense for the existence of God.
What I love most about Genesis’s infamous introduction is that the existence of God is not argued for but is presupposed and presented as a matter of fact. The Bible’s introduction is not concerned to satiate the critic who might claim that God must first prove Himself before His words might appear relevant. Instead, God’s power and authority pushes back against the critic by reminding him that his ability to blaspheme is only possible because God gave him a tongue with which to speak.
Genesis 1 contains the historical account of the creation of the universe. God made the entire created order in the space 6 days. There are many Bible believing Christians who have argued for what these six days could mean. Some see them as symbolic or figurative. Others utilized the days to be with reference to lengthy gaps of time. Still others consider Genesis 1 to be focused more as a literary device more than anything else. Though well-intentioned brothers and sisters in Christ may have a diversity of opinions, I think it is the simple plain reading of the text demands that the 6 days of creation be understood as 6 literal 24 hour days.
Why do I think this? The first question to be considered is “How powerful is God?” Is He capable of doing this feat in 6 days? Clearly, if we take the Bible as His Holy Word, that means without error, then there is no difficulty with the time frame for God can do all things. Secondly, we have to ask the linguistic question, “How is the Hebrew word for day used?” Certainly, there is the possibility of the word being used for a large period of time. However, whenever a number is attached to the Hebrew word for “day” it’s always with reference to a 24-hour day. In addition, we must consider the Law of Moses and the institution of the Sabbath. The Sabbath command to rest on the seventh literal day only makes sense if it comes after six literal days. Thirdly, Genesis 1-2 is not written in the poetic style (e.g., Psalm 33:6-9). Instead, Genesis 1-2 is written as a historical narrative.
As Genesis was penned by Moses, we must remember the context surrounding its writing. The people of God had been delivered from the land of Egypt. This was not a mere political bondage but also a religious bondage. God didn’t just destroy Egypt’s armies; He demolished Egypt’s gods with each plague slowly culminating in the destruction of Pharaoh. The creation narrative reminded Israel that God was the author of all things, and thus had authority over all things. As Creator and Sovereign, God was worthy of His people’s worship then, and even still today.
The Genesis account also acts as a clear apologetic (that is, a defense) against the parallel creation narratives of the ancient world that Israel would have known. God was not like those false gods. He did not perpetually die and need to be born again. He did not need the carcass of some defeated foe to create the universe or His people. He was not one god amongst many. Instead, He alone is the eternal God who creates, not by battle, nor by materials in His hands, but by the power of His word alone. God said, “Let there be…” and “there was…”
Today we live in a world that wants to make God fit into their preconceived notions about origins. The origin stories are granted the role of sovereign, while God is relegated to the background to await His place in this whole scheme. However, this fails in the same ways that the ancient myths failed: they fail to recognize the uniqueness of the God with whom they deal. God is the sovereign Creator. We are His creation.
If our theories of origins don’t line up with what He has revealed, then it is not His duty to adjust and flex; it is ours. Sadly today, modern theories of origins have taken on a religious faith component so that to deny or question a theory is tantamount with blasphemy. They demand an eternal universe, without an eternal God. They demand that everything be produced by nothing and with nothing. They even demand ethical requirements, without an eternal abiding Law, or eternal Law-giver, and without a Day of Judgment. In short, they want the gifts of God without God Himself.
We have a duty to see God’s glory all throughout the created world and worship Him. We are called to respond in obedience and faith, as we learn to see the world rightly as God’s. It is easy to do this as we remind ourselves of the lyrics of that old hymn, “This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heav’n be one.”