Are the Genesis Creation Days 24 hours Long? Ages of Time? Or a Literary Framework? For some time, the Christian community has needed to have committed evangelicals charitably discuss their competing views about the creation days in a single volume. That need has given birth to The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation.
As the title indicates, this volume gives proponents of three evangelical schools of thought the opportunity to explain their respective views and to interact directly and meaningfully with one another. The three views presented are known as the 24-hour, day-age, and framework views.
The 24-hour view holds that God created the universe and all life in six sequential natural days marked by evenings and mornings. According to this view, God created the universe and all life in approximately 144 hours and in the sequence presented in Genesis 1. Defending this view are J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall.
The day-age view, defended by Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer, agrees with the 24-hour view that the events recorded in Genesis 1 are sequential. The day-age view, however, parts company with the 24-hour view regarding the length of the creation days. According to the day-age view, God did not create the universe and all life in six 24-hour days, but in six sequential ages of unspecified, though finite, duration.
The framework view holds that the days of Genesis form a figurative framework in which the divine works of creation are narrated in a topical, rather than sequential, order. This view holds that the picture of God completing His work of creation in six days and resting on the seventh was not intended to reveal the sequence or duration of creation, but to proclaim an eschatological theology of creation. Lee Irons defends this view in consultation with Meredith G. Kline.
Part One focuses on the 24-hour view, presenting the 24-hour opening essay, followed by the day-age and framework responses, and closing with the 24-hour reply. Part Two repeats this pattern with the day-age view, and Part Three presents the framework view.
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Release Date Nov 1, 2002
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|All hail the Framework Theory! Jan 13, 2003|
|In getting two Young-Earth proponents to debate their ideas in a civilized format with proponents of other views, the editors of this volume have more than earned their 5 stars (I'd give them six if six were an option). Young Earth'ers are vociferous dogmatics who routinely castigate other believers as heretics for not subscribing wholeheartedly to their particular interpretation of Genesis - in arranging for a fair debate between Young Earth creationists and other scholars, this book reveals how Biblically hollow and unsatisfying Y.E. arguments really are. I was literally shocked to the point of revulsion at how weak YEC theories are - all the YEC team did was assert that ALL prescientific Biblical commentators (Calvin, Luther, various church fathers) believed that the Earth was 6,000 years old and that anyone with another view was a liberal-compromiser with evil "science." The YEC team's assertation that all pre-1800 Christians believed in a young earth was quickly shown to be false (although the YECs refused to accept the truthfulness of the Old Earth team's quotes!), and the YEC team was unable or unwilling to interact with or deal with the scientific evidence or the Biblical evidence. I came away from the YEC essays with a profound feeling of disgust at how so many Christians can be seduced by this blatantly false ideology.|
But the book does one better: rather than casting the debate as strictly old earth vs. young earth, the book gets to the heart of the problem: how is the Bible rightly interpreted? Proponents of the Framework theory point out that the Bible is a literary account of creation, not a scientific one, and debates about how old the earth is may be scientifically interesting, but they simply aren't Biblically relevant. The Bible doesn't tell us how old the Earth is - it tells us that God created us in his image to love and know him, and man is lost because of disobedience.
I was raised, like many, to believe in Creation Science, but immediately I was unconfortmable with the position. The old-earth or "Day-Age" theory appealed to me, but I never felt that theory was 100% right. I am not a scientist, and I cannot debate the fine points of geology or chemistry. I do, however, have a degree in literature and an advanced degree in Writing. When I applied the techniques of my own discpline to Genesis, I arrived at the Framework view. The Genesis story has plain symbolic elements (e.g., the Snake), and from a literary standpoint, it's a parable. It is not against a "literal" interpretation of the Bible to say that a portion of the Bible with obvious symbolic elements is, well, symbolic. Even the most literalistic among us routinely recognizes this quality in other portions of Scripture, and even within Genesis 1 itself. (Relatively few people will argue that man really fell simply due to a talking snake...particularly since the Bible later informs us that the Snake was a symbol of Satan.) I'm glad that my insight was not an aberration, and that this view point is in the ascendency. I greatly respect Hugh Ross and other old earth creationists, but even their reasonable attempts to reconcile a literalistic reading of Genesis with modern cosmology, while a vast improvement over YEC theories, aren't really faithful to the Bible's own character. I work with engineers, and I know that scientific people are often very literal in their mindset and aren't the best people to interpret a poetic text. English majors are the ones who really have the goods on Genesis 1, and debates on the earth's age belong wholly outside any discussion about the meaning of Genesis 1.
|Beneficial for understanding the differences Mar 26, 2001|
|The Genesis Debate allows 3 pairs of scholarly authors to present (and dialog on) the 3 most widespread evangelical interpretations of the creation days. The presented views are the 24-Hour (young earth created in 144 consecutive hours), Day-Age (old earth created over 6 extended periods of time), and Framework (Genesis 1 is a literary expression of actual non-sequential creation events at some unknown time in history). The book format allowed each team to present their view, the other 2 teams respond to that presentation, and then the view presenter responds to the responses. This back and forth format was better than many similar multi-view books.|
Norman Geisler gives a very wise forward to the book. He states that "the creation-day debate is not over the inspiration of the Bible, but over it's interpretation...no one holding any of the views should be charged with unorthodoxy for the position he espouses in this volume...the Church needs to shift its focus to the real enemy - evolutionism - not to other forms of creationism that remain true to the historicity of the events recorded in Genesis". I think all believers involved in these discussions would be wise to heed Dr. Geislers advice and lower the intensity and frequency of their attacking of one another.
The 24-Hour view based their arguments primarily on tradition. They went to great lengths to show how most interpreters in the early history of the church (pre-1800) held a view similar to theirs. They also presented a bible overview of various verses that speak of creation. The main weaknesses (pointed out by the other scholars) of their presentation is that tradition has been wrong in the history of the church. While tradition is important, if evangelicals/protestants thought it was the ultimate authority then the reformation would never have occurred. The second weakness of their presentation was that their Bible overview had virtually nothing that contradicted the other two views. The verses basically all supported the concept that God performed special creation (something the other two views agree with).
The Day-Age view based most of their arguments on how well scientific discoveries correlate with the sequence of events in Genesis 1. The science presented was very convincing. Unfortunately, neither of the other 2 teams had the knowledge or inclination to dialog on any of those issues (other than a few feeble attempts to instill doubt in the scientific evidence). Perhaps another book where the 24-hour vs. Day-Age view, focussing primarily on scientific evidence, would be good. Another major facet of this presentation was to show how various Hebrew words have multiple meanings (e.g. yom - 24-hours, daylight period, or unknown period of time). There was some good dialog, especially between the Framework and Day-Age teams, on these lexical type issues.
The Framework view (surprising to myself) was actually the most interesting. They went into great depth of exegesis on Genesis 1 and several other creation related passages. Though I'd not seriously studied this view before, I found myself more persuaded by their presentation than either of the other two (though I wasn't convinced, I was persuaded to consider this a viable and legitimate option). Interestingly, Framework holders can believe in either a young earth or an old earth, since (as they interpret) the issue of "when" in creation really isn't covered in the text.
Overall, this was a good book. I wouldn't recommend it to someone new to this topic (as some level of previous knowledge is required to follow parts of the presentations), but for someone wanting to expand their understanding of the issues and read a relatively polite dialog on an often heated issue this is about the best book I've come across.
|Reviewing "The Genesis Debate" Feb 28, 2001|
Each of the three pairs of authors have contributed something vital to the Genesis 1 discussion for which they should be commended and thanked for their time and effort. Duncan and Hall have rightly reminded the reader of the dangers that conformity to the present age presents to every generation. Their appeal to past interpreters further reminds us of the dangers of "novel" thinking and the importance of an orthodox consensus. Ross and Archer bring with them an arsenal of scientific understanding that has been used by the unbelieving community to attack the Bible and have sought to use it in support the Bible. They have found no reason to reject the Bible in the name of science. Their efforts affirm that the Bible can be reasonably interpreted without compromising inerrancy or a critically scientific mind. Irons and Kline offer a strongly textual argument reminding the reader that the Genesis 1 text had and has primarily a theological and a literary meaning. By offering an exegetical and theological argument that leaves ample room for secondary apologetic considerations.
Of the three arguments presented, the strongest by far is the framework view. Irons and Kline have put together an impressive work of exegesis and theological erudition that places the biblical text in its proper place without snubbing a literal treatment of the text or sidelining the concerns of science. On the other hand, Duncan and Hall do not present a unified and exegetically convincing argument. Too much rests upon the lexical use of a single word divorced from a broader context. Ross and Archer similarly offer a minimal amount of exegetical work and only that for which accommodates their pre-commitment to make science fit the textual data.
Presuppositions become clear in this discussion. The 24-hour view and the day-age view appear to come to the text with a strong commitment to something other than letting the text speak for itself. Duncan and Hall even chide Irons' and Kline's work for doing this. Yet the chiding reveals that they themselves have not done this. Duncan and Hall are set against a conformist's view and see anything less than a belief in their view as a compromise to worldliness. But the accusation only stands if the biblical text demonstrates their view convicingly. And while in actuality it might, it does not in their presentation. Their constant appeal to church tradition rather than a fully orbed exegesis appears to show a failing in their argumentation. Other voices have to shore up where textual evidence has fallen short.
Ross and Archer show a pre-commitment even more strongly than Duncan and Hall. They are unabashed about their belief in certain facts of science as irrefutable, requiring the text to accommodate for them. They assert that general revelation ought to share a proper place alongside special revelation. But in practice, it seems that general revelation is taken as "fact" whereas special revelation is subject to interpretation and is more subjective, thus the Bible can bend in places where its strict literalness can be questioned. Here Ross and Archer have not demonstrated the awareness that science is just as subjective and involving interpretation as biblical exegesis. Not only are the scientific "facts" today often overthrown or changed tomorrow, but most importantly, while the "facts" do not lie, the way they are interpreted, handled, systematized, and shown in relation to other facts (which cannot be avoided in any knowledge-based inquiry) is absolutely a matter of interpretation. The most recent hermeneutical discussions have not only crossed philosophy, theology and linguistics but are now branching into the realm of science which is beginning to see that it, indeed, involves interpretations of facts and the use of models to generate systems of knowledge. Ross and Archer seem to take the "facts" of science too much for granted, not allowing for immense complexity involved in moving from observation of phenomena, to understanding of said phenomena, to extrapolation of said phenomena from present observation to past reality, and then to abstract principles that govern theological issues such as creation. Each of these steps involve many levels of interpretation, especially since no one ever has "all the facts" even in scientific inquiry.
Hence, the approach of Irons and Kline not only takes us back to the proper focus-- the text-- but also to the proper focus of the text which is theological and practical issues. Since it is a theological conclusion we are attempting to reach, priority is placed rightly by Irons and Kline in the exegesis of the text rather than upon science or an appeal to a single lexical term or to church history. Duncan and Hall claim that when all is said and done the 24-hour view will stand when science and novel interpretations have fallen away. What is more accurate is that the Biblical teachings will endure when all else has fallen away, and Duncan and Hall have asserted more than successfully argued that their interpretation is the correct one. Irons and Kline have presented a more biblically convincing argument and have used their space in their essay to argue the text of Genesis 1.
Overall, the book was interesting, readable, and helpful in understanding three of the major views on the debate. I commend and recommend it highly.
|The Debate on Creation Goes On Nov 30, 2000|
|Mention evolution at a party and one can instantly polarize a room full of people. There will likely be a handful of people who don't believe in evolution, who will find themselves relegated to the party's margin. The Kansas State Board of Education discovered this very thing when they deleted macroevolution from the state's science education standards. They believed their decision to let local school boards decide whether or not to teach macroevolution was rather innocuous. Instead they found themselves alone at the party. Most people have strong beliefs regarding evolutionary theory, but in many cases these beliefs are based on feelings rather than on knowledge or study. With the exception of a high school biology class, few people know the details of evolutionary theory or keep up to date on the latest science. This same notion can be applied to people's knowledge of the book of Genesis, strong feelings, but little grasp of details or themes.|
Just as the evolution debate has heated up this past year so has the debate about the book of Genesis. The view that the days of creation were literal twenty-four hour days is prevalent amongst Evangelical Christians. So prevalent that many Evangelicals now equate this interpretation as orthodoxy. But this interpretation does indeed have competition. Creeping competition that challenges the traditional view of the creation account. The Genesis Debate takes on this topic, and presents three interpretations of Genesis's creation account.
In The Genesis Debate six scholars present to us a written discourse of their disputed interpretations of Genesis's creation account. Specifically their debate centers on whether the "days" of creation were literal twenty-four days. The two scholars who champion the traditional Twenty-four Hour view are J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall. Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer pitch the "Day Age" view. This view states that the each day of creation is an age of unspecified duration. They further believe that these ages dovetail perfectly with the latest scientific data. Lee Irons and Meredith G. Kline, present perhaps the most novel interpretation of Genesis. They call it the "Framework" view. The Framework view takes a non-literal interpretation of the creation account. The Genesis Debate is organized into three sections. Within each section one view is given an opportunity to present their case. Then the opposing views critique that view. Each section is concluded by a response to the critiques by the view presented in that section.
The first view presented is the Twenty-four Hour view. Two distinguished scholars, J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall, make the case for interpreting the days of creation as seven twenty-four hour time periods. Duncan and Hall's knowledge of church history and the Bible are formidable. They make it abundantly clear that throughout the history of Christianity, most church leaders have believed the days of creation to be literal twenty-four hour days. They support their view with a scriptural diatribe that falls somewhat short of the mark. They use heavy pedantic language that renders the simple complex. They could have bolstered their support by simplifying the ideas they use to support their view. They also fail to answer the question that nags modern readers. That question is, what would the church fathers do if they had access to the technology and scientific data that is now available? Would they consider a different interpretation of Genesis? By not dealing with this question, they leave some wiggle room for newer interpretations. These two bright men seem to make the mistake that the O.J. Simpson prosecutors did. They rely on a "mountain" of Biblical evidence, but fail to deal with a few specifics that are exploited by the competing views.
The "Day Age" view goes second. Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer present a lucid, well-written account of their interpretation. The strength of their view lies in their ability to meld their interpretation of the Genesis creation account with scientific data. Their argument centers on the Hebrew word used for day, which they say can be used to represent a long period of time as well as twenty-four hour day. By interpreting the creation days as periods of unspecified lengths of time, the Day Age view can reconcile Genesis with science. But, Ross and Gleason's case is thin when is comes to finding church fathers who agree with them. They have quotes of church fathers that support their point of view but Duncan and Hall dispute these quotes, which make it difficult for the lay reader to know which side is correct.
The last view presented is the "Framework" view. Lee Irons and Meredith G. Kline do an excellent job of presenting their view, which is not easily done. The Framework view takes a non-literal and non-sequential interpretation of the creation account. That is, they don't believe that each day of creation is a literal twenty-four hour day. They also assert that the creation events mentioned on Day One do not necessarily occur before those of the following days. That is, these events are not listed in sequence. The Framework view is attractive because it allows one to bring out the poetry of the creation account. In fact they assert that the significance of the creation account is theological. The Framework view, however, is perhaps at some point too broad. So broad that the non-disciplined interpreter could take a non-literal interpretation in a direction that the Framework adherents themselves would not approve of.
The Genesis Debate is perhaps the only place one will find a civil discourse between Christians who believe the days of creation were literal twenty-four hour days and those who hold different views. The Genesis Debate is a worthwhile read for many people because it may be the only place they will hear a view different than the Twenty-four hour view. The layman, however, must be warned. The writers are from academia and many of their arguments are technical and filled with terms unfamiliar to the average reader. Some of the prose drags. Yet it is worthwhile reading because it will acquaint the reader with the current state of a debate that is important to Christians. One cannot divine with any degree of certainty which view will enjoy widespread acceptance. But one can be certain that the debate on Genesis will continue.
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