by Jack Hoehn
Introduction Lesson 2: “Starting with a planet that was unformed and unfilled, God spent the first three days forming the world for occupation and the last three filling it.”
How refreshing to see our official GC-approved Sabbath School Lesson educating Sabbath School members that Genesis 1 may be more than a simple creation history.
I am encouraged that the author and his editor agree that the Genesis 1 story can be viewed not as a simple chronological narrative, but also as an interpretation of Creation. The Genesis creation story may be explaining creation, instead of simply recounting it.
This is the first time I can remember recognizing the possibility that Genesis 1 is organizing creation, rather than simple recounting chronology, in denominational literature. I am pleased that it shows a willingness to make our Creation doctrine bigger and broader, instead of narrow and small.
Sunday January 6: “The text does not tell us exactly when the rocks and water of the earth came into existence, only that the world had not always been suitable for life. The world became fit for living creatures only because God acted to make it so.”
“The simple fact is, we don’t know…”
Right on again, brothers! The text does not tell us exactly when ANY of the created things happened, except that there were 6 sequential Days/Yom (in Hebrew). 3 Making spaces, 3 Filling those spaces, and then inauguration of religious/worship on the 7th Day/Yom. So since the text does not tell us exactly when creation happened, why should we alter Fundamental Belief 6 on Creation, to say “exactly” when creation of the rocks, water, dark and light cycle, atmosphere, and continents happened? Leave the “when” to extrabiblical sources and discussions from inspired writers outside of the Bible, sure, and from inspired scientists as well.
Monday January 7: “We note in passing that the first day was composed of a period of darkness and a period of light, in the same way we observe days now.”
Yes, a period of darkness and a period of light. But likely not a 12-hour period of darkness and a 12-hour period of light. Astronomers have reasons to deduce that the ancient earth had 3-hour days in the past with a more rapidly rotating earth, only later slowing down to 12-hour days and 12-hour nights at the equinox. So let’s be safe and conservative as a church, and leave the “days” of creation as a period of time, and not specify the time, please.
Genesis 1:11,12 “Let the earth sprout forth with sprouting-growth, plants that seed for the seeds, fruit trees that yield fruit, after their kind, in which is their seed, upon the earth! And it was so. The earth brought forth sprouting-growth…” Everett Fox translation.
We were told in the lesson introduction that “the context demands that it be taken literally.” So we note that God did not say “let trees appear”; God said, “let the earth sprout.” So if on Day 3 earth was covered with sprouts as God commanded, what would there have been 3 x 24-hour-days later when he created Adam and Eve?
I have no problem with taking the creation story literally. And if I take it literally, then I am forced to conclude that the “days” of creation are indefinite periods of time, not 24-hour days. For sprouts from the earth as God commanded on Creation Day, three to turn into trees with fruit that Adam and Eve could be instructed to eat as their food on Creation Day Six, suggests to me the passage of months for vegetables, and years for fruit trees, to be ready for a literal Adam and a literal Eve to eat literal fruit, that God commanded to sprout from the earth on Creation Day Three.
Yes I know YEC will roll their eyes, and moan, “Jack, that’s not what it means, what it means is that, 'Poof,’ God caused all kinds of plants and trees to magically appear full grown on the 3rd x 24-hour-day of creation. ‘Let the earth sprout’ is just a quaint way of saying it…." Okay, but who is taking Genesis literally now? Yom as indefinite periods of time or stages Creationists, or Young Earth, 24-hour-day Creationists?
(I’ve previously pointed out the same conclusion from a literal reading for Creation Day 6 here.)
Thursday January 10: “Most non-biblical creation stories tell of conflict and violence in creation.”
The author and editor also suggest that “modern men” have also created a popular story of creation through violence. I suspect they mean the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest popularly known as the bloody struggle through tooth and claw, leading to new species fit for earth by virtue of survival. They could add that geologists and paleontologists also study a world of conflict and controversy from the beginning of creation of life, with multiple mass extinctions shown in similar layers all over the planet.
Finally they could have mentioned that Ellen White agrees that Satan has been Fighting God on this planet before and after the creation. Great Controversy page 552 is typical, “…the great rebel still carries on his warfare against God, begun in heaven and (for nearly 6,000 years) continued upon the earth.” So even if this is a 6,000-year struggle since creation, and not a 4.8 billion-year struggle, there is still only one 7- day-week in the history of earth, when there was not a great controversy going on! Even with YEC reckoning that is only 7/2,190,000 days not in “conflict and violence.” Is it any wonder that all the evidence is of a history of conflict and struggle?
So let’s at least agree: Non-biblical creation stories, biology, genetics, paleontology, geology, and Ellen White agree that that majority of the record of life on earth in fact is one of conflict and violence. At most there was a week of peace.
But I’m beginning to think that the Bible Creation Stories too, agree with controversy. That each Creation Day is an episode of conflict between Light and Darkness, each starts with Darkness, and ends with “Good” or Light . God’s creative actions are in opposition to the disorder–chaos–existing on earth. Each Day can be seen as another stage of correcting the problems that the Great Controversy brought. As the creation story of John 1 puts it, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” John 1:5 Weymouth.
It is possible to see that each stage of creation was a progression of the fight of God (Light) with Satan (Darkness). While this is a new way of thinking about Creation as a series of battles instead of a series of perfections, at least it has the benefit of bringing the Bible account in line with all the rest of the evidence. And although the author and editor don’t agree, actually you can have the Bible and the evidence agree. It does not make God the wicked and distasteful “god” they posit, when you understand that Adventism has an explanation for this in our doctrine of the Great Controversy, which they have not yet applied to Creation.
So Great Creation Day/Age 1: God Creates time, sequence, chronology, Light for the Dark, Satan-infected Planet.
Great Creation Day/Age 2: God creates atmosphere, space, order in the sky, protection from bombardment from space, more Light for the Dark, Satan-infected, airless Planet.
Great Creation Day/Age 3: God creates land and plants, place for advanced civilization to form, more Light for the Dark, Satan-infected, landless, lifeless Planet.
Even if things appear to be evolving, developing, even if Creation is by stages, steps, ages, and not instantaneous, God’s character as the Light-bringer, against Satan’s character as the Darkness-bringer is clear.
This discussion is to be continued at a Sabbath School near you. God bless each truth-seeking, God-loving heart.