Is Day-Age View of Genesis Synonymous w/Evolution?

by Nina Street Dunton

Ed.’s note: The author of this blog post took exception to the post of a few weeks ago by Pastor Ronnie Rogers titled “A Day Is a Day Is a Day of Course: Unless That Day Challenges Evolution!
SBCToday asked Nina Dunton to write a response, which is below. And below that is a response from Pastor Rogers to this post. Pastor Rogers’ 2nd of this multi-part series will be posted on Wednesday.

Nina Street Dunton is a lay member of North Glencoe Baptist Church in Glencoe, Alabama. She has studied Christian apologetics for 18 years and holds a certificate in CA from Biola University, a bachelor’s degree in visual arts from Auburn University, and is a member of the board of directors of the Christian ministry Reasons To Believe.
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The first time I became aware that there was confusion about the day-age view was at a speaker’s workshop in Georgia a few years ago. I was in conversation with a young Institute for Creation Research apologist who, after finding out I held this view, said, “So you believe in evolution?”

I scrunched up my nose and said, “No,” rather emphatically. In hindsight, I wish I had followed up on his reasoning that someone who held an old-earth view must necessarily believe in evolution—for they are two very different ideas.

What does a day-age creationist believe?
Hundreds of day-age creationists I know personally believe the universe is 13.8 billion years old and the earth is 4.6 billion years old. The ancient Hebrew word yom in Genesis, translated “day” in English, is literally a reference to six long periods of creation, not evolution.

When, in my early 20s, I first became aware of a potential conflict between science and the biblical account of creation, I naively assumed God did it through evolutionary means. Some years later I read a book, “The Creator and the Cosmos,” by astronomer Hugh Ross that set me straight, answering many of my questions, including whether evolution was God’s method of creation. I saw evidence that it was not.

To be clear, let’s define evolution. Its most simple definition is “change over time.” We sometimes hear of “micro” evolution. This type is non-controversial because it’s observable. We know it occurs. An example is when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Small changes over time happen, but the bacterium is still a bacterium, though slightly altered.

Most folks don’t mean the definitions above when they refer to evolution. Usually they mean “macro” evolution, where completely new body plans are assumed to appear through natural means. This is the controversial type. The goo-to-you type.

Historically, what has the Church believed?
Back to the day-age view; it’s not new. Early church fathers considered it, along with 24-hour days and instantaneous creation. They were unable to come to a consensus, however, due to a lack of scientific evidence to help guide them. Oxford mathematician John Lennox reminded us at the “In The Beginning,” conference a few years ago in Birmingham, Alabama, that our modern-day debate over the age of the earth has a precedent.

A few hundred years ago the debate was not over the “age” of the earth, but rather earth’s position in the universe. The accepted interpretation of several Bible verses was that they indicated a “fixed” earth, one that stood still, unmoved. Therefore, common reasoning suggested, the planet Earth must occupy the center of the universe while other celestial bodies revolved around it. This was called geocentrism.

Along came Galileo with his telescope and visual evidence that the Sun was in the center of our solar system with the planets, including Earth, in revolution around it. What were Christians supposed to do with Psalm 104:5 or 1 Chronicles 16:30? Was the Bible wrong?

As Lennox pointed out, we have no “fixed earthers” today because theologians rightly decided the scientific evidence was too weighty to be ignored and took another look at their interpretations of these verses.

This is where we are presently on the question, “Does the Bible teach that the earth is only thousands of years old?” The scientific evidence overwhelmingly (and measurably) shows the universe and the earth are billions of years old. In the words of researchers Allen Hamond and Lynn Margulis, writing for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Adoption of creationist [that is, young-Earth creationist] ‘theory’ requires, at a minimum, the abandonment of essentially all of modern astronomy, much of modern physics, and most of the earth sciences.”

Please understand, Christians are not being asked to choose between the Bible and science. Rather, we’re being asked to choose between two interpretations of the Bible, both by fallible human beings. Dr. Ross holds a concordant view of the relationship between the Bible and the record of nature: IF the Bible and the record of nature have the same Author, they should agree. A theologian’s job is to interpret scripture; a scientist’s job is to interpret the record of nature. When the theologian and the scientist disagree, they need to reexamine their interpretation(s).

Does the day-age view have anything in common with macro evolution?
The order of significant events remains the same from both a day-age view and an evolutionary view. An important key to consistency is the often-overlooked perspective shift in Genesis 1:2. In the context of Genesis 1:1 God is outside his creation. In the context of Genesis 1:2, God’s Spirit moves along the surface of the Earth, and the events that follow are described from that perspective. Verse 3, “And God said, Let there be light,” describes the first moment when sunlight penetrated the heavy cloud layers that blanketed the primordial Earth, not the creation of the Sun.

Similarly, on the fourth long day, the Sun, Moon and stars that had been created long ago finally became clearly visible through the dissipating clouds. This took time—a lot of it. We can see the stars today through a mostly transparent atmosphere, except when clouds obscure our vision.

I hope this article has cleared up some of the confusion about day-age creationism. There is much more to say than space allows here. For an in-depth look at Genesis chapters 1-11 from a day-age perspective, read Navigating Genesis, by Hugh Ross.

3 Comments

Norm Miller 15-07-2014, 02:02

Posted by SBCToday on behalf of Pastor Ronnie Rogers.
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Hello Nina

I am assuming that your post is in some way, either a response to or prompted by my article on June 4th entitled A Day Is a Day Is a Day of Course. If not, please forgive my unfortunate assumption and therefore my response to your article.

Your title “Is the Day-Age View of Genesis Synonymous with Evolution?” and some of your article’s content seems to make a point that I did not make. To wit, I did not argue that the Day-Age theory was synonymous with evolution. In my second paragraph I state, “In this article, I am only addressing the two perspectives mentioned, and I use the term “evolution” to encompass such approaches that undermine interpreting the days in Genesis as a normal day.”

You addressed the age of the earth saying, “Hundreds of day-age creationists I know personally believe the universe is 13.8 billion years old and the earth is 4.6 billion years old.” My article does not see to address the age of the earth. Rather, I maintain that the contextual evidence weighs heavier for lunar days than vast periods of time. It seems to me that the latter, days as vast periods of time, has been deduced from the weight of science rather than consistent hermeneutics. I think Hugh Ross applies inconsistent hermeneutics so as to reconcile Scripture to his science (I have read his book). In addition, I referenced articles on my blog where I do explore issues regarding time.

You said, “We have no “fixed earthers” today because theologians rightly decided the scientific evidence was too weighty to be ignored.” As I mentioned, I have a great regard for the advancements made by science. I have had and presently have many scientists as members of my church, as well as speaking in my church on these subjects from various perspectives.

However, I do not accept the postulate that science is the unbiased enlightening guide for hermeneutics. I find your analogy to previous debates regarding the earth’s position in the universe to be disanalogous to this discussion. I consider the position that regards the days as indefinite long periods of time to be the result of discovering ways to reconcile current widely accepted scientific theories with Scripture, by relying upon exegetical possibilities rather than consistent scriptural probabilities. I do not mind being informed of and by science, but interpretation is to be the outflow of consistent contextual, exegetical hermeneutics—sola Scriptura. I understand the principle of the range of exegetical possibilities of words, but that does not determine the way a word is used in a particular context. My article seeks to give grammatical and contextual reasons for interpreting the days as normal days.

Viewing the days as undefined periods of time is in concert with some of the modern assumptions of evolutionary science. Many are unaware that the age assumptions, reckoning of time, are based upon various theories of time, none of which are innate to matter. That is to say, our theory of time is a convention rather than something that is inherent to matter—according to Einstein, etc. I explore this in my articles I referenced.

Further, I believe books such as Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions or Alexander Kohn’s False Prophets provide sufficient reasons for viewing science more guardedly than to grant it the preeminence of guiding our hermeneutics (both books are written by scientists). Again, while I am greatly appreciative and even amazed at some of the discoveries and advancements made by science, this elation cannot obscure the reality that science is not the unsullied objective, sufficiently self-correcting bastion of truth seekers it is often proclaimed or assumed to be. The evidence for this conclusion is voluminous indeed. This should at least, provide a cautiousness to granting the dominant science of the day too much trust. A caution well needed in our day, in my opinion. I deem it to be dangerous indeed to permit science to guide our interpretation of Scripture at any time, but particularly so with verses, which otherwise seem quite clear, at least to me.

You state, “The ancient Hebrew word yom in Genesis, translated “day” in English, is literally a reference to six long periods of creation, not evolution.” In my article, I seek to present exegetical evidence to the contrary. One may not agree with my position, but at least the exegetical evidence is there for consideration. I do not think we should consider mere statements to the contrary to be persuasive without compelling exegetical evidence.

I stated my reason for writing the articles, “I intend to write a series of articles that highlight the strengths of interpreting the word “day” in Genesis chapter 1 as a normal lunar day and answers objections to this normal reading of the text.” Stated another way, I believe the preponderance of hermeneutical evidence from strictly a textual perspective is that the days in Genesis approximate days, as we know them today. Consequently, if that is true, then science must be interpreted in light of that rather than conversely.

I well recognize that many of my brothers and sisters disagree with me on this, as you yourself do. I truly understand that, and I do not wish to impugn one’s love for God or His word by my position. I do only wish to lay out evidence as I am in the process of doing, and consider contrary exegetical evidence—not exegetical possibilities. My goal is to understand Genesis creation in accord with a normal reading of the contextual evidence. Then, consider various scientific theories based upon that.

Reply
Nina Dunton 15-07-2014, 08:43

The main point I take exception to is the redefining of the term “evolution” to mean any belief other than 24-hour days. To imply that Hugh Ross is an evolutionist undermines the Reasons To Believe ministry, which is extremely effective in reaching adults through evidence that the Bible is true.

Reply
Robert 16-07-2014, 11:53

Hello Ronnie,

I read your response to Nina and while I understand that you are claiming that your interpretation is merely based upon exegetical and textual analysis: you are neglecting an essential factor.

When I was in seminary we were taught (correctly) that we should seek to follow the grammatical/historical method of interpretation. What this meant was that we were to carefully examine the grammar of the text (something you seem to be attempting to do) but we were also to carefully examine the historical context of the text (Who was the author? What was their intent? To whom was the author writing? etc.). The latter seems to have been left out of your exegesis completely.

The best attempt that I have seen of someone carefully examining the historical context for Genesis 1-2 is the book by Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden (IN THE BEGINNING . . . WE MISUNDERSTOOD: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context). Like you Ronnie, they believe in careful examination of the text. What they do additionally however, is to examine the historical context.

When this is done, the emphasis of the early chapters of Genesis is to reveal the true and only God of the Hebrews is the creator of all things and that the Egyptian/Mesopotamian theologies and philosophies were directly refuted by Genesis. The early chapters of Genesis served partly as an apologetic against contemporary (for the first readers of Genesis) ideas and philosophies. It was not meant to establish a certain form of science nor was its intent to provide an answer to the question of how old the universe is. It was aimed at a particular audience in a particular historical context. Miller and Soden bring all of this out very well.

So if we are serious about doing proper grammatical/historical interpretation then we must seriously consider the historical contextual issues brought by Miller and Soden.

Robert

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