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How could anybody think Genesis was meant to explain how God created?

From Brian Stanley of Phoenix, Arizona, USA, who gave permission for his full name to be used. His letter is printed first in its entirety, then with point-by-point responses by Dr. Don Batten of Creation Ministries International–Australia, interspersed as per normal email fashion.


Gentlemen:

I am puzzled by your approach to Gen. 1. I cannot understand how anybody could think this text was meant to explain HOW God performed the various acts of creation which it attributes to Him. A writer confining himself to simple and concrete images would be hard-pressed to convey the mere exercise of creative will, on the Divine side, mysteriously operating to bring about a particular physical configuration, on the material side, than Gen. 1’s “God said, ‘Let there be X,’ and there was X” formula.

Moreover, as the process unfolds, the formula changes to “God said, ‘Let (Created Thing) X bring forth (Created Thing) Y, and X brought forth Y.”

Again, a writer confining himself to simple and concrete images could hardly devise a more powerful way to depict Divine creative will mysteriously effecting or directing the development of one physical configuration into a succeeding physical configuration.

You would agree that the God referred to is bodiless, and that when the text says, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’” it does NOT mean that a vocal sound was produced by Divine vocal cords in a vacuum, nor formed into Hebrew words by a Divine tongue and Divine lips, nor that audible Hebrew words somehow operated upon the vacuum to produce, as a matter of physical cause-and-effect, an emission of electromagnetic radiation, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you agree that what the text describes, instead, is God’s definitive exercise of His will that a certain physical configuration should come to be? And that the text leaves the MEANS whereby this exercise of the Divine will produced light as a physical result completely unexplained?

I believe the questions just posed should suffice for the time being. I will be very interested to see your response.


Gentlemen:

I am puzzled by your approach to Gen. 1. I cannot understand how anybody could think this text was meant to explain HOW God performed the various acts of creation which it attributes to Him. A writer confining himself to simple and concrete images would be hard-pressed to convey the mere exercise of creative will, on the Divine side, mysteriously operating to bring about a particular physical configuration, on the material side, than Gen. 1’s “God said, ‘Let there be X,’ and there was X” formula.

When the Bible says that God spoke and something came into being, then it is indeed telling us ‘how’ that thing came into being. The other ‘how’ that is proclaimed today is that everything made itself by natural processes—processes that need no Creator (i.e. evolution). Now of course the details are not there about just how God brought things into existence, but that does not mean the text is not telling us ‘how’. For example, how did a Model-T Ford come into being? We might answer simply, ‘Henry Ford made it’. The statement does not tell us the detailed processes by which Mr. Ford manufactured the car, but it still tells us how the Ford came into existence—it did not make itself, for example.

Moreover, as the process unfolds, the formula changes to “God said, ‘Let (Created Thing) X bring forth (Created Thing) Y, and X brought forth Y.”

Again, a writer confining himself to simple and concrete images could hardly devise a more powerful way to depict Divine creative will mysteriously effecting or directing the development of one physical configuration into a succeeding physical configuration.

Hmm. Reading between the lines, it seems that you want to make the account in Genesis 1 conform to an evolutionary notion of origins. However, the formula is not quite as you imagine. The formula is ‘let the earth bring forth vegetation’ (v. 11), and ‘let the waters bring forth’ sea creatures (v. 20) and ‘let the earth bring forth’ land animals (v. 24). Note also that the sun, moon and stars (vv. 14–18) were not ‘brought forth’ from anything. Also, mankind was not ‘brought forth’ from anything in chapter 1 (although in chapter 2, where more details are given, Adam was made, not from an animal, but from the dust of the ground, as an explicit creative act of God). Notice that in each case where something is brought forth, it is a whole group (or groups) of living creatures, and from non-living matter! The evolutionary doctrine claims that living creatures gave rise to different living creatures, by natural processes. The description in Genesis could not be more anti-evolutionary!

Furthermore, the repeated use of the phrase ‘after their kind’ (ten times in Genesis 1) reinforces the non-evolutionary nature of how God created. The concept is defined at first use in verses 11–12: plants are created to produce fruit and seed of their own kind. So a mango tree will produce mango fruit with mango seeds that produce mango trees (that produce mango fruit with mango seeds in them, and they will produce more mango trees …). This is not an evolutionary process; it is a fine description of probably the best-established principle of biology: that different kinds of living things reproduce true to their kind. Everyone knows that their cat/dog/guinea pig will only produce cat babies, dog babies or guinea pig babies, respectively, when they reproduce. Chimps will produce chimp babies and humans will produce human babies. No-one has ever observed any contradiction to this principle.

And finally, the repeated phrase ‘there was evening, and there was morning…the xxx day’ proves that creation was supernatural and not by a slow evolutionary process over millions of years.

You would agree that the God referred to is bodiless, and that when the text says, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’” it does NOT mean that a vocal sound was produced by Divine vocal cords in a vacuum, nor formed into Hebrew words by a Divine tongue and Divine lips, nor that audible Hebrew words somehow operated upon the vacuum to produce, as a matter of physical cause-and-effect, an emission of electromagnetic radiation, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you agree that what the text describes, instead, is God’s definitive exercise of His will that a certain physical configuration should come to be? And that the text leaves the MEANS whereby this exercise of the Divine will produced light as a physical result completely unexplained?

Agreed that God is spirit, and that His creative acts are a ‘definitive exercise of His will’, and granted that we do not know just how God created light, or matter, or space, or us. However, this does not leave the field open for us to devise theories of means that claim to explain how all these things came into being without the need for the expression of divine will. Indeed, the materialists’ effort to explain how everything came to be (big bang goo-to-you evolutionary view) contradicts the clear revelation of God in Genesis 1 of the order in which things came into being. Again, the timescale is clearly defined as six earth-days, with the seventh day rest (cessation) as a model of our working week (Exodus 20:11). This alone excludes any evolutionary (or progressive creation) notion regarding the process of creation (see How long were the days of Genesis 1? and other articles listed on the Q&A page under Genesis: Days of Creation). Also, the evolutionary and progressive creation ideas put death and suffering in God’s very good creation before Adam and Eve’s sin brought death and suffering (the Fall) into creation (see also Creation/Evolution: What are the Issues for the Church?).

We may enter into all manner of conjecture about the precise mechanisms by which creation came about (and it can be good fun!), but we must always remember that God was there in the beginning; no-one else was there. We should therefore have the humility to accept the word of the Creator as to what happened, what order it happened and how long it took. It might be fun to stretch our brains to try to imagine how God did it, but if this leads us to question what He has told us of how he did it, or even to (ultimately) reject the necessity of His involvement at all, then our thinking has become corrupt (Romans 1:18–25). And we must always be aware that our attempts to reconstruct the past are always conjectural—we do not have access to the past to do experiments on it, or to observe it (rather obviously—see Creation: ‘Where’s the proof?’).

I believe the questions just posed should suffice for the time being. I will be very interested to see your response.

I hope my answers will help you understand and accept the clear teaching of Scripture.

Dr. Don Batten


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