But Isn’t 7 Literal 24-Hour Days The Simplest Reading?

I’m sure most of you have been keeping up to date on the current sermon series through Genesis. Weeks ago Dave Cover preached a sermon on Genesis 1-2, in which among other things he stated that he personally believes Genesis 1 is not referring to literal 24 hour periods. Some of you agree wholeheartedly with that, some of you are border-line offended (just for the record, this is neither the official nor the unanimous position of The Crossing).

I don’t intend to clear the issue up once for all. Interpreting this passage is a tough task, and there are several views which are biblically defensible. The question is what tools do we have and what guidelines do we need to abide by to interpret well?

There are a handful of questions which are difficult to answer about this text. How old does Genesis say the earth is? How long did it take to create it? How many different types of animals did God create (and thus, how many variations have emerged since)?

I’m not going to answer these questions. But in asking them most of you see the difficulty. External sources (such as scientific research, geological data, etc.) seem to suggest certain answers (like the earth is quite old, say billions of years, and that some sort of genetic mutation and natural selection takes place). While the straightforward easiest reading of Genesis 1 doesn’t seem to clearly suggest these things.

What are we to do?

Some would look at interpretations of Genesis 1 which are not straightforward (such as a non-literal day view or a view that would allow an old earth) and see unbiblical compromise. They would say that we are weakening the authority of Scripture to accommodate secular reasoning. That may be true in certain situations, but I don’t think it’s a fair accusation across the board. Here’s why.

In reading a book on multiple perspectives regarding creation and evolution I stumbled upon this wise nugget, spoken by J.P. Moreland –

“Suppose we are interpreting some biblical text and we have hermeneutical option A and option B. Suppose further, that on exegetical grounds alone, we compare the text with other portions of Scripture and find that (1) A and B are both plausible, that is, within the bounds of reason exegetically speaking, and (2) A is superior to B. Now suppose further that B harmonizes Scripture with what we have pretty good reason to believe is true outside the Bible, but A flies in the face of these extrabiblical factors. In short, B solves external conceptual problems. Then, in my view, it is hermeneutically permissible to adopt B as the correct interpretation of the text.”

A few notes –

1. Notice Moreland says that it is “permissible.” He’s not saying it’s cut and dried, he’s saying we shouldn’t dismiss out-of-hand such an interpretation.

2. This doesn’t mean that people like Dave (and myself) are correct. It means, that at least in this Professor of Philosophy and Theology’s view, we’re not totally off our rockers.

3. Historical Christianity would have done better had they kept this advice in mind. For instance, when Galileo suggested that the earth revolved around the sun and Christians followed this belief, some of them were executed (see Psalm 19:5-6).

4. In this specific scenario – when the geological consensus is that the earth is quite old, and when the easiest, most straight-forward reading of the text would suggest an earth that is at most tens of thousands of years old – a reading of the text which allows for an old earth is permissible.

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