by Jack Hoehn

These comments continue a weekly discussion on the current Sabbath School lessons on Origins Lesson 4.   They attempt to open the conversation to a broader understanding of Creation than simply young-earth, short-week Creationism.

In general I find Lesson 4 very useful, showing additional creation stories throughout the Bible, which add breadth and context to the Genesis 1,2 stories.  It is clear that Jesus and the Bible writers take creation literally.  They all accept that God created time and sky and earth, and everything in it.   It is not clear that they had any particular chronology in mind.

The disconnect comes when the author/editor insists that if you accept that the creation stories are real, this means you have to accept their Young Earth Chronology of events including a short few thousand year history of life on earth and an even shorter understanding of the Creation Days as a common 7 x 24 hour day week, 144 hours of which were supposedly used for the creation of everything on earth.

We know many good Christians have believed this, including our 19th century prophetess.  But it is becoming impossible for 21st century Christians to accept the 17th century chronology of Ussher and the creation days as 24-hour days.   

There is much good evidence to the contrary, available to all of who want to know. The universe has grown much larger than our spiritual leaders in the past could know.  And the history of the creation of life on earth is much more complex than they could have known.  God of course knows, but it is clear that on scientific questions God does not use revelation to replace what he expects us to learn on our own.  Neither Moses nor Jesus gave scientific revelations.  The task of science has been delegated to us.  It is our job to figure things out.  Just as it’s our task to feed ourselves the best diet, our task to build our own houses and furnish them, our task to care for the needs of animals, widows, orphans and aliens.

We know church leaders have been wrong before on the shut door, on the use of tobacco and pork, on which day to worship, and on the date Jesus would return to earth in the clouds of heaven.  Adventists from the beginning are a movement which has had to change our emphasis and our teachings. We had to move from legalism to righteousness by faith. 

This seems to be another time for correction of our teachings, to align more perfectly with the truth as God has revealed it to us in the best scientific discoveries.  Just because Satan has tried to use science to promote atheism, does not mean we should not use science to promote faith in the Creator God.  We just have to stop promoting an impossible and extra-biblical chronology on creation.

The problem is that the lessons only give you two choices, Young Earth Creationism or godless evolution.  And they lump Christian evolutionists in the same black pot, plus refusing to consider the other varieties of creationists as Old Earth Creationists (OEC), who are not evolutionists, and the Intelligent Design (ID) movement whose Christian proponents find even Christian evolution inadequate for either the scientific or the biblical evidence.

Alternative views of creation tend to be concordist, that is they try to have the Bible and the evidence from nature agree.  OEC and ID movements challenge the naturalistic, godless interpretations of nature and the whole premise that science must not consider the possibility of divine interventions.   But they do not deny the evidence of the age of the universe and of life on earth. 

I believe that authentic Adventist Theology has something very important to offer these movements in the Great Controversy understanding of life.  I will write on this another place and another time.  For this week’s Sabbath School Lesson, however,  let’s consider some of the many Bible texts which help us consider a longer chronology of creation than simply 144 magical hours, 6,000 very short years ago.

Bible texts on creation found outside of Genesis 1, 2. 

What hints might these Bible texts give of an older earth and a more complex creation than 144 hours in 6 earth days?

Theologian and Astronomer Hugh Ross has listed many of the Bible texts supporting the concordance or agreement of the Bible with the best of Science.  Here are a few of them.

God created the beginning of time when he created the Universe: 
2 Timothy 1:9 “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”
God and Jesus existed before the creation of the Universe: 
John 17:24 “You loved me before the creation of the kosmos.”

Every part of the Universe is God’s creation, so when we observe events in galaxies and stars we are observing what God did and is doing, such as the ongoing creation of new stars as we speak, but happening over time, not instantaneously: 

Colossians 1:16-17  “For by him all things were created: thing in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

The Bible speaks of the forming of a baby in the mother’s womb as “creation” so the fact that things happen in what we consider a natural way, does not mean that they are not God’s creation:

Psalm 139:13 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Also Job 31:15.

The universe has been continually expanding from the beginning of time and space (the Big Bang): 

Job 9:8 He stretches out the heavens…” 

Psalm 104:2  “He stretches out the heavens like a tent.” 

Isaiah 40:22  “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.  He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

The Universe including earth is subject to fixed physical laws: 

Jeremiah 33:25  “This is what the LORD says:  ‘If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth…”

All of creation is subject to the same laws: 

Romans 8:20-22  “For the creation was subjected….to decay…the whole creation…”

Bible metaphors give a sense of great age.  God’s eternal existence is compared to the duration of the mountains, oceans, rivers, hills, soil, and fields: 

Psalm 90:2  “Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

 Ecclesiastes 1:4, 10  “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever… It was here already long ago…”

Micah calls the earth everlasting (or enduring): 

Micah 6:2 “Hear O mountains…listen you everlasting (enduring) foundations of the earth….”

Habakkuk declares God is eternal, but the mountains  are “ancient” and the hills “age-old”: 

Habakkuk 3:6  “The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed.  His ways are eternal.”

Peter says the heavens and earth existed “long ago”: 

2 Peter 3:5  “they…forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and (surrounded) by water.”  

Now perhaps long ago was 4,000 years?  But not when God’s eternal existence is compared to the ancient and age-old earth.  Doesn’t 4.6 Billion years for age of the earth seems like a bit more of a comparison to God’s eternity, than 4,000 years?  Although Peter of course didn’t know that number.

Neither did Job, and both would agree that God could have created in any time he pleased, from instantaneous, to a 7 solar day week,  to spread out over longer ages of an ancient and age-old earth:  Job 42:1-2  “Then Job replied to the LORD: I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted…surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

I hope that Adventism like Job will be willing, as more of God’s creation, more of his plans become revealed, to repent of our narrow chronological dogmatism on things like the true age of the earth we did not before understand, things perhaps new and different than we thought before, but perhaps things  that will turn out in truth to be too wonderful to even now imagine!

Many times Ellen White’s agreement with Ussher’s short chronology of life on earth is used to stop this discussion,  so let me remind you of her other words that may permit this discussion to continue.

"There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without error.  The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people is not a proof that our ideas are infallible.  Age will not make an error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair.  No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.”   Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, December 20, 1892.
 
Creationism is surely our true and foundational doctrine.  The Adventist possible error is not Creationism, but an inadequate chronology of the age of the universe, the earth, and the wonderful creation events so simply and beautifully outlined in Genesis 1 and 2.