Old Earth Creationism: Figurative Interpretations of the Days of Creation (Part 1)

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In my Biblical Creation class this past Monday, I covered more than half of my fourth lesson that focuses on figurative interpretations of the days of creation. We looked at four of these interpretations: theistic evolution, the day-age view, progressive creationism, and the framework interpretation.

Theistic evolution, recently labeled by one of its current advocates as “the fully gifted creation,” argues that God created inorganic matter that contained properties with the potential to evolve into the wide variety of life forms presently observable. The advocates of this view affirm that God “created” all current life forms over extended geological ages and through random mutations and natural selection.

The day-age view maintains that the six days of the creation week were six
chronologically-arranged geological ages. This “concordist” position is supported by two primary arguments. The first is that the Hebrew term yôm (“day”) can be used figuratively to refer to an extended period of time, as it does, for example, in the expression, “the day of the LORD.” The second argument relies on the results of modern scientific dating. As such, the obvious advantage of this view is that it harmonizes the Bible with the current scientific estimate for a 4.5 billion year old earth.

Progressive creationism is distinct from theistic evolution in that progressive creationists postulate that God, while using evolution, intervenes at key junctures to create life forms that would not naturally evolve. In reference to God’s involvement in evolution, theistic evolutionists postulate that God created all current forms of living things from non-living matter by strictly using the mechanism of evolution. In contrast to this, progressive creationists assert that God progressively intervenes in many places to create specific life forms in the course of billions of years. In reality, the progressive creationist view is very similar, if not at times identical to the day-age view, though progressive creationist defenders do not tend to promote it as a concordist understanding, which often focuses on harmonizing the so-called findings of Scripture with the progression related to the unfolding of the days of the creation week.

The framework view asserts that the creation “week” of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a literary device intended to present God’s creative activity in a topical, non-sequential manner, rather than a literal, sequential one. Framework defenders supports this hypothesis with three primary arguments. First, they contend that the figurative nature of the creation account demonstrates that it is arranged topically rather than chronologically. The following chart reflects the framework’s literary frame.

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The parallel nature of days 1–3 with days 4–6 reflect that this is something of a poetic account which overrides the sequential numbering of the creation days. Second, it is argued that the unending character of the seventh day (Heb 4:3–4 cites Gen 2:2) indicates that the six days of the creation week are not normal days. This argument is a fundamental aspect of the framework. If the seventh day of the creation week is a continuous day, then the days of the creation week are also long periods of time, heavenly time as opposed to earthly time. Third, those framework advocates who follow Meredith Kline’s version of this position also argue that God used ordinary providence (i.e., the non-miraculous sustaining and directing of all creation) to control the creation “week.” This argument is predicated on interpreting “because it had not rained” in Genesis 2:5 as suggesting that God did not create plants until he first created an environment conducive to sustain plants Based upon what Kline calls “the unargued presupposition of Gen 2:5,” he infers that God primarily used ordinary providence to control the creation “week.” Thus, Genesis 1:1–2:3 cannot be a sequential account because, for example, vegetation was created on third day before the sun was created on the fourth day.

In our next class on March 8, we will look at the major problems with these four views.

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