Atheistic naturalism leads us to boldly confess God’s work of creation. We must be careful, however, not to divide the church over the interpretation of Genesis 1.
“God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’…And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock…and everything that creeps on the ground.…And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:22–25).
- Genesis 1:20-25
Over the past two hundred years, the church of Jesus Christ has engaged in a seemingly endless battle with metaphysical naturalists. Faithful believers continue defending the existence of God and His work of creation against the onslaught of atheistic evolutionists.
However, orthodox Christians differ in their defense of creation. Some read Genesis 1 chronologically, asserting that God made the world in six, literal twenty-four hour days and that the earth is only a few thousand years old. Others say the earth is much older, arguing the events of Genesis 1 spanned millennia. Still others believe chapter 1 is more concerned to teach theology (God’s relationship to the universe) than to impart cosmology (how the universe was created).
One theory embracing this last perspective — the Framework View — sees a “framework,” a deliberate literary construction, in Genesis 1, whereby the first three days of creation parallel the last three days so as to evoke awe at God’s purpose in creation. On day one, God creates the light and darkness as realms to be inhabited on day four by the sun, moon, and stars. The sky and sea of day two is filled with birds and fish on day five. Animals and people on day six dwell on the land made on day three. Moses is said to have “framed” the chapter in this way to show the importance of Sabbath rest to Israel and to highlight the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2).
The Framework View does take the carefully crafted prose of Genesis seriously. However, seeing an obvious literary structure in Genesis 1 does not preclude a literal, seven-day week of creation. Hebrew scholars note that the Hebrew word for “day” (yom) universally means a twenty-four hour solar day when preceded by ordinal numbers, as it is in this chapter. Furthermore, it is hard to believe Moses’ original audience would have understood the period of creation as occupying a time span longer than a normal week. Finally, God’s work and rest could hardly serve as a pattern for our own if, unlike ours, He took longer than a week to finish laying the foundation of history (see Ex. 20:8–11). For these reasons, we believe that a literal week of seven twenty-four hour days is most faithful to the author’s intent.
Atheistic naturalism leads us to boldly confess God’s work of creation. We must be careful, however, not to divide the church over the interpretation of Genesis 1, for godly men have confessed God’s creation of all things while differing on how the creation account is to be understood. Ask the Lord to help you to be humble toward other believers who disagree with you on minor interpretative issues, as they too wish to uphold God’s sovereign act of creation.
Passages for Further Study
- Gen. 2:19–20a
- Job 40:15–24
- Col. 1:15–17
- Heb. 11:3