Theology Tuesday: The Non-Negotiables of Genesis 1 and 2, Regardless of Your Position on the Age of the Earth

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If you want to get a conversation started, bring up Genesis 1 and 2 and make some sort of stance regarding whether the earth is young or old, whether God made the earth in six days or millions of years, etc. Some of the most productive and difficult conversations I’ve had over the years deal with how to look at Genesis 1 and 2.

For transparency’s sake: I’m a young earth creationist. Six-dayer, with literal 24-hour days. I’m a young earth creationist for one major reason: I believe based on my understanding of Scripture that death did not occur prior to Adam’s sin that cursed the earth (Genesis 3:1-20; Romans 5:12-21; 8:18-25). Plus, every time the word ‘yom’ (day) is connected with a number in the OT, it’s a 24-hour period. I have other reasons, but that’s for another time. I have very close friends that disagree and I love them and still call them brother and sister. In fact, my tribe gets smaller with each passing year.

Friends and foes debate these issues rigidly. Both sides’ view have ripple effects and consequences, both good and troublesome. Is this a first tier issue? No, I do not believe so. It’s important to me, but those who are old earth who believe in Christ’s saving work on the cross and His resurrection are still my brothers and sisters in Christ.

J.I. Packer in his book 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know outlined the non-negotiables in visiting Genesis 1 and 2.

We cannot dwell here on the relation between the biblical creation story (Gen. 1:1–2:4a, with Gen. 2:4b-25 supplementing Gen. 1:26-30 in the manner of a long footnote or appendix) and contemporary scientific thinking about origins. Suffice it to say that

(i) the narrative is a celebrating of the fact of creation and of the Creator’s wisdom, power and goodness, rather than an observational monitoring of stages in the creative process;

(ii) the story focuses not on the cosmic system as a system, but on the Creator apart from whose will and Word it would not at this moment exist;

(iii) the narrative method is imaginative, pictorial, poetic and doxological (glory-giving, in the style of worship) rather than clinically descriptive and coldly prosaic in the deadpan scientific manner;

(iv) the Earth-centredness of the presentation reflects not scientific naïvety about the solar system and outer space, but theological interest in man’s uniqueness and responsibility under God on this planet;

(v) the evident aim of the story is to show its readers their own place and calling in God’s world, and the abiding significance of the Sabbath as a memorial of creation, rather than to satisfy curiosity about the details of what happened long ago.

Within these perspectives various ways of understanding the six days of creation and relating the creative process to the shifting hypotheses of science are open. None is more than an educated guess; verification is not possible. All hypotheses that take note of the five points above should be judged legitimate, but none should ever expect to have the field to itself, and its sponsors will need to put it forward with modesty and tolerance towards other views.

What do you think? Are there more non-negotiables? Do you believe Genesis 1 is a possible verification? How tolerant are you to other views that disagree with your conclusions?

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