A gracEmail reader is outraged because science professors at a particular Christian college have suggested that the “days” of creation in Genesis 1 might not mean literal 24-hour days. He demands that the college “do something” about the science professors, who also believe that God created the universe and that his Spirit inspires the Old and New Testament Scriptures.
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We should learn to read the Bible to hear its message to us, not to ask it questions which those who wrote it never remotely intended to answer. That is especially true when reading Genesis and Revelation, both of which discuss the frontiers between time and eternity. Compared to other ancient Near-Eastern accounts of origins (Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite and Ugaritic), Genesis 1-3 uniquely proclaims fundamental biblical truths: God exists separate from and before his creation; God made all that exists; God made humans in his image to care for the rest of creation as good stewards; humans are to live in creaturely dependence on God; when humans abandon proper relationship with God, all creation suffers.
The arguments of the past 150 years, about “how” God created and made all that exists, could not have been farther from the mind of the author of Genesis. Conflicts between science and religion generally arise when scientific people try to elevate scientific theories into a theology, and when religious people try to turn the Bible into scientific theory instead of theology. That does not mean that the Bible is inaccurate when it comments on scientific matters. It does mean that the Bible scarcely comments on scientific matters — including what it says in the opening chapters of Genesis. “What,” “who” and “why” are theological questions, which Genesis answers. “When” and “how” are scientific questions which it does not.
Sometimes the Hebrew word translated “day” (yom) means a 24-hour day and sometimes it means another period of time. Genesis 2:4 speaks of “the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven” — then summarizes events which cover several “days” in Genesis chapter 1. There is certainly room for legitimate question and interpretation regarding what Genesis chapter 1 means by “day.” However, there is cause to be sad when people who believe in God, who follow Jesus Christ and who regard the Bible as authoritative canon, assail others who share those same convictions simply because they come to a different conclusion about such uncertain matters as these.