We read these words nearly every Lord’s Day in our churches as part of the commandments by which we express gratitude to our covenant God: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is … (Exodus 20:11). All Scripture is inspired by God, but this verse was originally inscribed by God, written by His own finger in tablets of stone. If any verses of Scripture command our special attention, certainly included are those written by God Himself.
A Clear Account
Although the apostle Peter tells us there are some things in Scripture “difficult to understand,” Exodus 20:11 seems very clear and straightforward. God is restating the pattern of six work days followed by a seventh day of special worship and rest that He established at creation. The creation account in Genesis 1, while emphasizing the extraordinary acts of God’s supernatural creation, uses a whole series of devices apparently designed to emphasize the day as an ordinary unit of time as much like our own day as possible: bounding each day with evening and morning; using “day” for both the day/night cycle as well as for the lighted portion of that cycle; distinguishing between days, seasons, and years; etc.
It is, more than incidentally, God Himself who specifies the time involved in creation. As Genesis 2 illustrates, God could have described the events of creation without reference to time, but He chose to tell us that which we could not otherwise discover for ourselves, that He spent six days, in creation, describing those days as we do our own. Indeed, if God had wanted to tell us how long He spent in creation (and apparently He did), it is hard to imagine how He could have spoken more clearly.
The Perspicuity of Scripture
That’s the key issue in this matter of the creation days: the clarity (or “perspicuity”) of Scripture. If we cannot take God at His Word in this simply “earthly” matter, how can we be sure of the grander, often more difficult, “heavenly” matters? (See John 3:12). In fact, in discussion with one of our CRC pre-seminary students, it was very easy for me to use his arguments regarding the obscure meaning of the creation days to show that the Bible—by his erroneous standards—was also unclear in its teaching regarding the divinity of Christ and His bodily resurrection! It would be an easy thing for our God to create the universe in six days; since He states and repeats that He did, why not just take Him at His Word?
Sadly, however, Exodus 20:11 has become, for too many “twentieth century” Christians, the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. At our own Calvin College, for example, we have Professors Davis Young and George Marsden zealously writing and even testifying in court to discredit Christians who believe—and who put into practice their belief—that God simply said what He meant and meant what He said in both Genesis 1 and Exodus 20.
Nearly all who oppose accepting the Sabbath Commandment with child-like (not childish) faith have some reason outside of the Bible for wanting to stretch out the length of the creation days. Many members of the American Scientific Affiliation (MA), for example, believe that God used evolutionary processes to bring into being a succession of life forms, including man’s body (“theistic evolution”). But evolution as a process is based on accidental changes in heredity called mutations and on the continual death of the less fit in the constant struggle for survival. These processes don’t create; they corrupt, becoming a part of our world only after the Fall (Genesis 3:14–19; Romans 8:18–21). Allowing more time for accident and death (the evolutionary processes of mutation and the struggle for survival) would only increase our genetic burden of birth defects and disease. The Nobel prize-winning biochemist, Jaques Monod, himself an outspoken atheist, once expressed his surprise that any Christian would believe that God would use such a “cruel, wasteful, and inefficient process” as evolution as His means of creation – and more time would only make the problem worse.
Christians who want to lengthen the creation days to allow for God’s use of some process routinely forget that there are at least three different categories of process: processes that create, processes that maintain, and processes that destroy (processes of creation, conservation, and corruption, if you like the alliteration). When it comes to automobiles, for example, pouring molten steel into especially designed molds (part of creating or making the car in the first place) is a process radically different from using gas, oil, the steering mechanism, etc. to drive the car (processes of operation and maintenance), and these are both radically different from rust, tread wear, and abrasion that represent processes of decay. Mutations and the struggle for survival are processes that really operate in our present world, but these neither would nor could be the processes a God who is grieved to His heart at the violence that fills our post-Fall world (Genesis 6:5-8) would use to create a world He called initially “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
What About Fossils?
But what about the fossils and the sedimentary strata that blanket the earth? These are the result of process, but not creative process. Would there be time since the Fall for these monumental fossil-bearing deposits to form?
Thanks to decades of indoctrination in evolution only, most people just assume it takes millions of years to form fossils and rock layers. Just the opposite is true. It is not even possible to form fossils slowly and gradually. Even evolutionary textbooks point out that most fossils are the remains of plants and animals buried rapidly under a heavy load of water-borne sediment (i.e. flood conditions). If the Grand Canyon had formed slowly and gradually, it would look nothing like it does today, and the same is true of coal seams and oil deposits. Trying to explain fossils, the Canyon, coal, and oil on the basis of slow and gradual processes is like trying to explain the evidence of the Hiroshima blast or the explosion of a grain elevator as the result of millions of years of wind erosion. Great age makes it difficult, not easy, to understand many of the geological features of our earth.
Indeed, the evidence of continental or global catastrophism is so strong that some evolutionists are now calling themselves “neo-Catastrophists” It is sadly ironic that just as some Christians are beginning a loud and public attack on fellow Christians who take the Biblical account of the flood as well as the creation days historically, non-Christian geologists are beginning to recognize the overwhelming evidence of continental and global catastrophism, and the published research creationists/catastrophists is pointing the way to a new and productive understanding of such things as megabreccias, polystrate series, and coal.
Faulty Time Clocks
It is true enough that this new breed of catstrophist evolutionist still fervently believes in the great age of the earth, but some secular scientists are openly admitting problems even in this most sacred pillar of evolutionary thought. In a college textbook written by an evolutionist for evolutionists, (The Science of Evolution, Macmillan. 1977, pp. 80–84), William Stansfield reviews about a dozen major indicators of the earth’s age. Concerning the amounts of water and lava released from volcanoes, helium in the atmosphere, uranium salts in the ocean, meteoritic dust in the crust, and meteorites in the sedimentary strata, etc., Stansfield says that creationists submit evidence of a young earth—and he responds neither by ridicule nor by refutation but by admitting creationists have made several scientifically valid points that pose real problems for the old earth view!
Radioactivity used in age dating? Stansfield – in that college textbook by an evolutionist for evolutionists first describes the host of assumptions that must be made before isotope ratios can be used to estimate age, and then he points out gross errors that have resulted in the practice of those methods. His summary: It is obvious that radiometric techniques may not be the absolute dating methods that they are claimed to be. Age estimates on a given geological stratum by different radiometric methods are often quite different (sometimes by hundreds of millions of years). There is no absolutely reliable long-term radiological “clock” (p. 84).
What an astonishing assessment of radiometric dating by an evolutionist! The problems in the method are obvious, not difficult or subtle, or hard to explain (and they are the problems, by the way, which young earth creationists have been pointing out for years). Age estimates for the same unit are often, not rarely or occasionally or once in a while, but often quite different. And not just different by 1 or 2% or even 10 or 20%; dates can differ by hundreds of million of years – just as young earth creationists have been pointing out.
But Stansfield doesn’t even stop with the negative. When it comes to carbon-14, Stansfield simply acknowledges that the Creationists are right about the disequilibrium in its production and decay rate in the atmosphere, and he acknowledges quite logically that in itself this fact would argue for a young atmosphere. How does Stansfield the evolutionist get around the potential young earth implications of carbon-14?
“It is possible that a greater concentration of water vapor existed prior to the Biblical Flood (presumably about 5,000 years ago)” … Wow! Here’s an evolutionist writing a college textbook for evolutionists who treats the Biblical Flood as a simple fact of history, and he uses that fact to argue that the carbon14 imbalance points either to a young earth or to a recent global disaster. Although a recent cataclysm is the more logical inference in this case, young earth creationists are really happy with either choice Stansfield makes.
Sadly “old earth creationists” or “progressive creationists” can be happy with neither choice, neither a young earth nor a recent global Flood. They have already reintepreted the days of creation as long periods and have put all the geologic evidence of global disaster back in the indefinite “creation week” of long time between God’s creative acts. So, to defend their view of the Bible they must side with evolutionists, robbing themselves of seeing the marvelous fit of the real evidence in God’s world with the simple reading of His word. I have several Christian friends who are more committed to radiometric methods as proof of great age than many evolutionists I know! If only these old-earth Christians could accept the Scripture account of creation and Flood with the same simple, child-like faith they seem to put in radiometric age dating, I believe creationists working together could turn the topsy-turvy world of Lyell and Darwin right side up again!
The “Spectacles” of Scripture
Unity of thought, purpose, and action among the people of God, however, is only possible when we all put on the same “spectacles,” as Calvin put it: adopt a humble (and sometimes humbling) willingness to look at the world and our place in it through the spectacles of Scripture. If we believe the spectacles are foggy and unclear (or worse, if we put them on backwards and look at Scripture through the spectacles of the world, i.e. the “vain philosophy” of Colossians 2:8 or the “science falsely so-called” of I Timothy 6:20, then unity in works cannot be achieved (although, praise God, unity in faith and love can be maintained by His Spirit).
There remains of course, that old anesthetizing cliché, “But the Bible is not a textbook of science.” The statement is, in a sense, true. I’ve written five science textbooks published by the secular press. But, like every other science textbook, they have all had to be revised; the Scriptures have never had to be revised even once. Why would we want to base our interpretations of Scripture on the changing milieu of science when we could base our understanding of science on the changeless Word of God? Surely God’s Word is the surest guide to understanding God’s world. That is a faith that works!
Dr. Gary B. Parker, who formerly taught at Dordt College,was a writer and lecturer at San Diego’s Institute for Creation Research and head of the Biology Department at Christian Heritage College when this article was written.