Last Monday evening in my Biblical Creation class, we looked at our third lesson: “Creation of the Heavens and the Earth.” Until God created the temporary light source to initiate the first day (Gen 1:3), the heavens would have been empty and dark. Undoubtedly, this initial aspect of creation would have included the heavenly sphere surrounding God’s immediate presence. The second aspect of his initial creative activity was the formation of the earth. Like the heavens, the earth was made out of nothing. As such, the creation of the earth would have been supernatural, sudden, and mature. Immediately after the initial formation of the heavens and earth, God created a temporary light source (Gen 1:3) to establish the day-night cycle. This would have unquestionably included the earth rotating on its axis. In addition, Genesis 1:5 defines a day as a period of light-separated-from-darkness. Therefore, this is the first of six day-night cycles that took place in the creation week.
Concerning the formation of the earth, like the heavens, the earth was made out of nothing. As such, the creation of the earth would have included things like rocks and minerals, and water. The condition of the earth is described in three coordinate clauses in Genesis 1:2: (1) “Now the earth was formless and empty” (2) “and darkness was over the surface of the deep,” and (3) “and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Since the earth was covered with water and had no biological life forms, we could say that the earth was created in an abiotic condition.
In the creation account, Genesis 1:2 is foundational for the creation week. The remainder of Genesis 1 is God’s progressive forming and filling the formless, empty, and darkened heavens and earth. In progressively dealing with the abiotic earth, “God first creates an environment in a progressive fashion—light, atmosphere and earth, sea and dry land, and vegetation on the dry land—and second, he creates the inhabitants of the environment, again moving progressively—heavenly bodies, creatures more removed from man, animals, and man” (Pipa).
Another item that we dealt with was what happened to the waters lifted above the earth in Genesis 1:6-8. I organized my notes in this section around two issues: the water vapor canopy and the collapse of the water vapor canopy. According to some young-earth creationist, this would have been an invisible, thermal canopy blanketing the earth’s atmosphere. In effect, this canopy would have created a greenhouse effect on the entire pre-flood world that would explain the subtropical climate on the earth, the longevity man’s age before the flood, and a way of explaining how it could rain for forty days and nights. However, a canopy such as this (with as much as 40 inches of water) would have made life on earth impossible. Consequently, many young earth creationists have rejected this canopy hypothesis.
While there are a number of reasons for rejecting this view, a major problem that has contributed to the collapse of this model relates to the expanse created on the second day. If the expanse (raqi‘a) separating the water on the earth from that which is above the earth (Gen 1:6–8), and the sun, moon and stars are part of the expanse (raqi‘a, Gen 1:14–19), then the waters lifted above the earth are beyond the sun, moon, and stars. This is a major problem for the canopy model. At least on a surface level, it looks like the waters lifted beyond the expanse in Genesis 1:6–8 may be alluded to in a post-flood comment in Psalm 148:4: “Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.”
Next week, DBTS will be on its winter recess and will return to classes on March 1 at which time I will address “old earth creationism: figurative interpretations of the days of the creation week.”