The Reconquista Initiative
Literal Genesis Days & Billions of Years Harmonized
For many years, traditionalist Christians in the West have argued over the days of creation as found in the Genesis text. In opposition to the scientific claim that the world is vastly old, with an existence numbering into the billions of years, so-called Young Earth Creationists generally hold to the idea that the Earth was actually created in six literal days and is only a few thousand years old; not only do they hold to this view, but they argue against other Christians who do not. Indeed, vast quantities of time and effort have been expended in pursuit of this issue. And while it is important to both appreciate and discuss theological differences, it is arguably the case that all that time and effort could have been better spent dealing with such things as the secularization of our culture, the liberal take-over of the media, and so on. Nevertheless, to many Christians, this issue is vitally important, and so, in light of this fact, this short essay endeavors to take on a herculean task: in essence, this essay seeks to show, in a way that is both scripturally faithful and plausible, that a ‘six-day’ view of the creation in Genesis can be completely, directly, and literally harmonized with a creation that actually took billions of years to occur. In doing this, this article hopes to lay to rest the constant debate over the creation-days in Genesis.
Now, the forthcoming solution that will be presented to this problem is, to the best of my knowledge, unique; but if it is not, then that is my error and all credit goes to those who saw this solution first. Nevertheless, the important thing is that this solution truly has the potential to resolve the Genesis ‘days’ issue once and for all. And though some may call this solution contrived, the fact is that it is actually a perfectly plausible and reasonable interpretation of the Genesis text.
So, moving to the solution itself, the first critical thing to note is that in Genesis 1:1 we are told that the Spirit of God was hovering or moving over the waters of the Earth. Furthermore, note that this Earth-bound but Godly perspective is introduced to us before any of the creation days are even mentioned. Thus, it is quite reasonable to accept that the perspective of the Genesis text from the start is not only God’s perspective, but specifically the perspective of God close to the Earth and moving over it. Additionally, in the text itself, there is no other individual there except God, thereby giving us yet more reason to believe that the Genesis text is looking at creation from God’s perspective. And also note that this ‘God’ perspective carries on throughout the rest of the Genesis 1 text. So this is the first point to realize.
Second, it is vital to understand that in the Genesis text specifically, the days of creation are not counted by hours or minutes or by any other human time calculation; rather, a literal and direct reading of the Genesis text shows that a day is only counted as a completed day by the fact that there was the day, then the evening, and then the morning. Thus, in the Genesis text, when read literally, the days are only “days” once there has been a cycle of day, evening, and then morning; the days are not counted by some human time calculation of 24 hours, but rather they are counted by the occurrence of day, then night, then day again. This cannot be stressed enough: the text of Genesis 1, when read literally, shows that the days of Genesis are counted through the physical transition of day to night to day, not through human hours or minutes.
So, with all this in mind, the way to harmonize the idea of six literal days of creation, as the Genesis text describes it, with the scientific evidence that the Earth is billions of years old, is both simple and clear. Remembering that the Genesis narrative, when it locates God, locates Him specifically as moving over the Earth and therefore in direct and close proximity to it, and also remembering that the Genesis narrative is from God’s perspective, then the solution to the Genesis problem becomes the following: during creation, God simply remained moving in what was essentially “daytime” even while millions of human years passed by, and God only allowed Himself to complete the day-to-night cycle when He wished to do so. In this way, we have one literal Genesis day occurring to God, even though in what we would see as human time, millions or billions of years actually passed. Indeed, the fact that God, as He moved over the Earthly waters, could remain in the daylight phase for as long as He desired to do so is obvious, for He is God, and thus there is no difficulty in accepting that this is a logical possibly.
And note that this is in much the same way that if a person, for example, remained in some of the places on Earth, such as the North Pole, where the sun never sets or never rises for weeks at a time, then even though weeks might pass in actual measured human time, it would still be true to say that that person only experienced one day if a day was being counted as a day-to-night transition rather than as a period of time. So even we, in our own lives, can see how one day, if defined as a day-to-night cycle, could remain as just one day even though much more than 24 hours might pass by in just that “one” day.
Additionally, note that in 2 Peter 3:8 we are told that to God, a day is as a thousand years and, more importantly, a thousand years is also as one day. And while a number of meanings could be drawn from this scriptural passage, it is clear that the “thousand years” is meant more to give the impression of a long period of time than an exact thousand years, and so the point is that this verse lends support to the aforementioned solution to the Genesis problem, for this verse shows that a day to God could be a seen as a very long time to us, and that a very long time to us could be but one day to God, which is precisely what the solution above is claiming.
Note as well that this solution can absorb the fact that the Hebrew word for ‘day’, namely ‘yom’, usually means a period of light and then darkness, such as is experienced by us during one day. Indeed, since this solution agrees that each creation day was only one period of light and darkness—but one period of light and darkness from God’s perspective, which could have been billions of years to us—then this solution is easily able to accept the claim that ‘yom’, in the case of Genesis, is best defined as just one period of light and darkness. And so the word ‘yom’ can be accepted in its most conventional understanding, and yet this solution still works just fine even in that case.
And so we see that when the Genesis “days” are understood as they are literally described in the Genesis text, which means not as being a clear period of human-like time but rather as the completion of an observer-relative day-to-evening-to-morning cycle, and when we understand that the observer in question is a God who would not have to transition through a single one of those cycles for billions of human years if He did not wish to do so, then we can understand that it is actually easy and scripturally reasonable to harmonize six literal God-perspective Genesis creation days with billions of human years.
Finally, it is worth mentioning why God would use billions of years to create the universe and the Earth. Very briefly, Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s nature is seen and understood through His creation. But part of God’s nature is His eternality or everlastingness. Now, a universe that was created billions of years ago—an age almost incomprehensible to us—points to an eternal or everlasting creator much better than a universe which was only created a few thousand years ago. After all, we can easily conceive of some super alien-like entity being able to create a universe that is only a few thousands of years old, but a universe that is billions of years old makes it much easier to picture only an eternal or everlasting God as the possible creator of such a universe.
And so the long and short of it is this: not only can we see that the Genesis text can be literally harmonized with billions of years of Earthly existence, but we can also see that there is a reason why God would use billions of years to achieve His ends. And while the solution presented here will obviously not suit everyone, and while this solution does not resolve every concern with the Genesis text, the fact is that this particular approach to the Genesis issue is indeed a way to plausibly, faithfully, and reasonably reconcile the Genesis text with the scientific claims about the age of the Earth. And achieving even this is no small thing.
Anno Domini 2016 11 12
Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.