Does It Really Matter What We Believe About Genesis 1?

In the past century and a half modern man has been thoroughly indoctrinated with the notion that natural law, not a personal God, controls the world. The apostle Peter stated that “there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” (II Peter 3:4). Such men secretly, if not openly. scoff at the idea of a sudden, divine intervention into this world, whereby every unbeliever will be judged by his Maker, and the kingdoms of this world will be swept away and replaced by the kingdom of God’s own Son. But the reason for this scoffing attitude is highly significant: “for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” Thus, the apparent uniformity of nature’s laws and processes becomes the lever by which man removes God from His own universe.

But the entire Word of God cries out against such a concept. The apostle Peter says that scoffers are willingly ignorant of two stupendous events in past history: the fact of a direct, dynamic creation of the earth by God, and the fact of a universal flood (II Peter 3:5,6).

This is not surprising. The Bible makes it clear that the natural man “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged” (1 Cor. 2:14). The Scriptures further assert that the doctrine of supernatural, direct creation is beyond the grasp of the natural mind, for it is “by faith” that “we understand that the worlds have been framed b y the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear” (Heb. 11:3).

It is of the utmost importance that Christians discern these issues clearly, lest they fall prey to the naturalistic philosophy of origins which permeates our scientific world today. Because they are limited, basically, to an analysis of the present processes and laws of nature, the most refined scientific methods and the most delicate scientific instruments can never explain how the earth was created. Only by God’s special revelation in Scripture can we know that “in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exod. 20:11). In line with Hebrews 11:3, this could involve the concept of creation with a superficial appearance of age—a concept that far surpasses the realm and scope .of unaided human reasoning, but harmonizes perfectly with the wisdom and power of God as revealed in Scripture.

Supernatural creation. On the third day of creation, God commanded: “Let the earth put forth…fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, wherein is the seed thereof” (Gen. 1:11 ). Modern evolutionary theory insists that all plants and animals developed over hundreds of millions of years from a single speck of life in the ocean, and theistic evolutionists claim that the Bible allows for such processes by the use of such phrases as ‘let the earth put forth…” However, Genesis not only contradicts this by dating the creation of marine life after the creation of plants and fruit trees (1:20), but also reveals that fruit trees were created already bearing fruit with seed in them. In other words, so far from allowing the idea that fruit trees developed from marine organisms, the Scriptures indicate that the first fruit trees did not even grow from seeds. They were created full-grown, as “mature” and “adult” organisms, with a superficial appearance of age (superficial in the sense that they outwardly appeared to have grown, but did not necessarily have growth rings within).

Could such an interpretation be correct? The phrase “after its kind” (which appears ten times in Genesis 1) could demand such an interpretation, especially in the case of mammals; for such creatures could not have existed as mere “seeds” (or fertilized eggs) outside of a mother’s womb. In the second place, there seems to be a clear biblical analogy in the creation of Adam and Eve. Nothing could be clearer in Scripture than the fact that our first parents neither evolved from animals nor did they experience birth and growth. In spite of the fact that they were adults, their “superficial appearance” of age was only apparent, not real. Not until God breathed into him the breath of life did Adam become “a living soul” (literally, “a living creature”—same Hebrew words as in 1:21). Until that moment, he had no life at all, and thus no previous history. Eve, likewise, had no mother or childhood. She was created as an adult from a portion of Adam’s body (cfI Cor. 11:8; I Tim. 2:13). They both appeared mature when God created them and yet by our understanding of age, they were not over a day “old.”

What about the work of the Son of God in the New Testament? When Christ began His public ministry, the very first miracle He performed was intended to “manifest his glory” (John 2:11) as the Creator of the world. How did He accomplish this? By instantly transforming about 150 gallons of water into delicious wine. Now wine is the end product of a long series of complex natural processes involving the drawing of water from the soil into the fruit of a grape vine, and the gradual transforming of this water into the juice of grapes. Even then, the grapes must be picked, the juice squeezed out and the sediments allowed to settle down. But Jesus, the Lord of creation (cf. John 1:3), by-passed all these natural and human processes and created the end product with an appearance of age.

This event could possibly shed important light on the events of Genesis 1 and 2, for it shows us that Christ the Creator was not limited by time or processes when He brought a complex world into existence. And the perplexity of the ruler of the feast, who “knew not whence it was” and mistakenly assumed that this “good wine” had been somewhere “kept…until now” (John 2:10), could parallel the perplexity of modem scientists who look at the biblical doctrine of supernatural creation and assume that mankind, animals, plants, and even the earth itself, must have developed from previous forms of existence.

By means of these and other biblical passages that teach the doctrine of creation with an appearance of age (such as the creation of loaves and fishes to feed thousands of people), could we not assume that this was God’s method of creating the world in six days? The apostle Peter wrote: “Forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” (II Peter 3:8). In other words, could not God accomplish in one day of creation what men would have to explain in terms of vast periods of time?

Since the creation week, no new kinds of living things have appeared, for the Bible states that “the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made” (Gen. 2:1 ,2).

All true discoveries in the realm of paleontology and genetics tend to confirm the biblical record of creation and the flood. The fossils themselves call for a catastrophic interpretation. There is no evidence that evolution is occurring anywhere in the earth today (Henry M. Morris, The Twilight of Evolution, Baker Book House, 1963).

Creation of the sun and moon. In light of the recent successful moon shot and the new discoveries that have been made as a result, the biblical account of the creation of the sun and moon takes on new Significance. “God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night” (Gen. 1:16). Evolutionists reason that the earth was either thrown off from the sun, or else both bodies condensed from a gigantic “protosun” of whirling dust and gas billions of years ago. In ancient times, too, men believed that the earth and its living things owed their existence to the sun, and they actually worshiped the sun as a creator-god (Deut. 4:19; Job 31:26–28).

In contrast to such views, the Word of God reveals that the earth was created first, and the sun, moon and stars were created three days later. In this way God makes it clear that He, not the sun, is the earth’s Creator, and that God is not dependent upon the sun either for the earth’s material substance or for the sustaining of life upon the earth. In other words, Genesis would seem to clearly teach that the universe was supernaturally created, not evolved; and its origin is not to be traced to some “protocosmos,” but rather to the infinite and personal God of Scripture. Modern man, resting complacently in the pseudo-science of cosmic evolutiOnism, needs to be reminded that “by the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth…for he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa. 33:6, 9). The pre-incarnate Christ, not natural processes alone, brought this amazingly vast and complex universe into existence (Col. 1:16). As David expressed it by divine inspiration, they are “thy heavens, the work of thy fingers” (Psalm 8:3).

In Genesis 1:16 we are told that “God made the two great lights.” The verb “made” (asah) is not the same as the verb “created” (bara) in Genesis 1:1. Nevertheless, it seems rather obvious that these two verbs are used synonymously throughout the chapter, for God “created” (bara) the great sea-monsters (v. 21), but He “made” (asah) the beasts of the field (v. 25). Surely we are not to find any significant difference here. The sea-monsters were created supernaturally by God, and so were the beasts of the earth. Likewise, in 1:26 God said, “Let us make man in our image.” But the next verse states that God “created man in his own image.” Once again the verbs are used synonymously. Therefore, 1:16 must refer to the original creation of the sun, moon and stars. If God had intended to convey to us the idea that these heavenly bodies were created on the first day, but only appeared on the fourth day (perhaps by a removal of clouds), the verb “to appear” could easily have been used (v. 9).

With all the advances that astronomy has made in recent centuries, it is still groping in vain for a naturalistic explanation of how the solar system came into existence. This may be seen, for example, in the current debate concerning the origin of the moon. The British astronomer George Darwin (son of the famous evolutionist, Charles Darwin) discovered in the year 1890 that the moon is receding from the earth at the rate of five inches a year. By means of a typically uniformitarian extrapolation, he concluded that about four billion years ago the moon was pulled out of the earth, leaving the basin of the Pacific Ocean as the scar which marks the point of its departure, and that it has been receding from the earth ever since. Many leading evolutionists still accept this view, in spite of the fact that another British astronomer, Harold Jeffreys, demonstrated rather conclusively in 1931 that such a separation of the moon from the earth would have been physically impossible. Thus, the present rate of its movement away from the earth proves nothing as to its origin.

“Once again, the theory of evolution fails to explain the origin of the earth and its great satellite, the moon.”

Though the moon is not the largest planetary satellite in the solar system, it is much the largest in proportion to the size of the “mother” planet, with a diameter that is more than a quarter the size of the earth’s and more than two-thirds the size of Mercury’s. For this reason, as Arthur Beiser points out, “modern thought on the formation of the solar system regards the moon as a legitimate planet, which either took shape as a near twin from the same cosmic raw material that the earth began with or, forming elsewhere in the same general zone, was captured later by the earth to make up the present double system” (Life Nature Library: The Earth, Time, Inc., 1962, p. 14).

But Beiser recognizes that this view of the moon’s origin faces very serious difficulties, for he goes on to state: “From observations that yield the moon’s dimensions and its mass, we know that the moon has an average density a full third less than the density of the earth. If both bodies were formed of much the same stuff, what accounts for this discrepancy?” No answer is given to this significant question. “Once again, the theory of evolution fails to explain the origin of the earth and its great satellite, the moon.” (For further problems faced by evolutionists, see J. C. Whitcomb, The Origin of the Solar System, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 1964.)

If the moon were millions of years old, one would expect to find it pockmarked with vast numbers of meteor craters .and covered with a very thick layer of dust. However, the lunar photos taken by Ranger VII last summer showed that “there may be a layer of soft material an inch or so thick, but Dr. Eugene Shoemaker of the U.S. Geological Survey, a former believer in deep moon dust, said he would not hesitate to step on the moon’s surface” ( Time, Aug. 7, 1964, p. 42). Another surprising discovery was “the comparative scarcity of small primary craters blasted by meteor impacts.”

We may conclude from all this that the scientific method, extremely valuable though it may be within its God-ordained limits, is simply incapable of giving us the answers we so desperately need concerning the origin of the world. The truth concerning ultimate origins is attainable only through special revelation in Scripture. With regard to the sun and moon, it is by faith (not by observation and experimentation Heb. 11:3) that we understand that “God made two great lights…to rule over the day and over the night” (Gen. 1:6, 18). They were supernaturally created in essentially their present form. Similarly, the earth did not condense from a gas-dust nebula, but was created by God with a cool crust, covered with salt-water oceans and surrounded by a blanket of air. Such features as mountain ranges filled with fossil strata must have been formed later, at the time of the great Hood and subsequent continental uplifts (Psa. 104;6–9, ASV); but the biblical doctrine of creation would imply that the earth was originally created as a dynamic, functioning entity, completely stocked with a great variety of metals and rocks, full-grown plants, trees, and animals and capable of serving as a proper home in which man could serve his Creator effectively.

The loss or serious modification of the biblical doctrine of creation can only serve to prepare the way of man’s ultimate self-deification.

Having nearly conquered the earth and reaching not for worlds beyond, modem man is beginning to feel that he bas no further need for God. Apparent obstacles to his relentless progress toward mastery of the earth have disappeared with the magic wand of scientific genius and technology, and breathtaking new possibilities of exploration and conquest continually unfold before his astonished eyes.

After centuries of painful and costly experimentation, man considers himself to be at the threshold of complete self-sufficiency. All he needs is the formula for creating life, and more advanced techniques for indefinitely postponing death—and the universe will be his!

This, however, is only the beginning of blasphemies. Self-sufficiency is only a first step. The ultimate climax is self-worship. To the extent that the doctrine of God as Creator is abandoned, to that same extent man’s awareness of God’s power and sovereignty will fade away. Worship of the one true God is then replaced by a deification of Nature, for this is the only “god” that remains. But since Nature, through vast ages of blind struggle and groping, has finally evolved into self-consciousness in the human brain, man himself becomes the only valid object of worship.

But all of this is a vain delusion. For when sinful man approaches the day of his supposed independence from the “God-concept,” it will so happen that “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (Psalm 2:4, 5). At the climax of human history, at the end of man’s day, God will forcibly remind the human race of His absolute sovereignty in tile world, by virtue of the astounding fact that He created it out of nothing (ex nihilo) by a mere act of His omnipotent will. Thus, the apocalyptic warning will resound from heaven: “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Rev. 14:7). Man must surrender to God on His terms, because this is His world, by right of creation!

Too often what Genesis 1 has to say about God and his creative activity is being read and re-interpreted in the light of present-day scientific and philosophical theories to the undermining of faith in the Scriptures.

Dr. John C. Whitcomb, professor of Old Testament at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, IN, speaks clearly to the issues in this articles which first appeared in Moody Monthly. We are deeply grateful to the publishers for their readiness to permit its appearance in these pages.