Foliage in fast forward
Why rapid plant growth during creation week poses no threat to the biblical timeframe
One excuse that some Christians have used for disbelieving in 24-hour creation days has to do with the way God created plants on Day 3. They point out that God didn’t simply cause plant life to pop into being out of nothing, fully formed. Rather, in Genesis 1, God’s command was: “Let the earth sprout vegetation” (v. 11). Thus, “The earth brought forth vegetation” (v. 12). It is true that these lines indicate a process of growth—and, by the end of that process, the trees were mature enough to bear fruit (v. 12). In today’s world, this would ordinarily take years. So, does the fact that the plants grew from the ground up to maturity prove that this activity could not have been accomplished in an ordinary day?
One critic of 24-hour creation days has argued, “if the author were thinking here of 24-hour periods of time, what he would have to be imagining would be something like time lapse photography where the little seed bursts out of the ground and then erupts into this tree, grows up and pops out blossoms all over and then bam! bam! bam! all the apples pop out on the tree. I just can’t persuade myself that this is what the author was thinking of—that he imagined this looking like a film being run on fast forward.”1
No ordinary week
However, we must remember that the Creation Week involved supernatural events. Genesis 1 describes the miraculous origin of the entire universe, so why think that God was limited to ordinary rates of plant growth?
Plus, Genesis 1:24 says the earth brought forth the animals as well—but animals don’t normally spring out of the ground, so the fact that the plants came from the ground need not indicate that they developed by ordinary biological means.
The creation days of Genesis 1 clearly must be the 24-hour kind, since the context constrains the meaning—each day consists of an ‘evening’ and a ‘morning’, for example, and the days are listed in a numbered sequence.2 So the plants made on Day 3 must have developed within a single day’s timeframe—they did indeed blossom and bloom with supernatural speed.
More examples of speedy sprouting
There is nothing far-fetched about this understanding of the passage, especially given the fact that numerous miracles in Scripture involve the rapid accomplishment of what natural processes today only achieve slowly. In fact, the Bible contains several examples of accelerated plant growth in particular and accelerated withering to boot. For example, God transformed Aaron’s staff overnight so that it “sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (Numbers 17:8). Jesus cursed a fig tree and, in short order, it withered down “to its roots” (Mark 11:20, cf. Matthew 21:19). God rapidly produced a source of shade for Jonah, but in the morning made it shrivel just as fast—the plant “came into being in a night and perished in a night” (Jonah 4:10). So, if God supernaturally hastened the advance and retreat of botanical objects on all these occasions, He certainly could have done the same during Creation Week, when “He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:9).
How the early church read Genesis
Many of the Church Fathers also recognized that, when God created the plants on Day 3, He caused them to spring up essentially instantaneously—even though these men lived long before time lapse photography and never saw a video in fast forward. Ephraim the Syrian (306–373), for example, commented that, “Although the grasses were only a moment old at their creation, they appeared as if they were months old. Likewise, the trees, although only a day old when they sprouted forth, were nevertheless … fully grown and fruits were already budding on their branches.”3,4 In addition, Basil the Great (329–379) remarked, “In a moment earth began by germination to obey the laws of the Creator, completed every stage of growth, and brought germs to perfection. … This short command was in a moment a vast nature, an elaborate system. Swifter than thought it produced the countless qualities of plants.”5 Furthermore, John Chrysostom (349–407) proclaimed, “everything heard the command, and at once sprang from the earth into view … In an instant you could see the earth, which just before had been shapeless and unkempt, take on such beauty as almost to defy comparison with heaven.”6
God meant what He said
We are in good company, then, when we take Genesis at face value. We serve a supernatural God who isn’t limited by the laws He established to regularly govern nature today. He can speed up the rate at which plants grow, and that is what the Bible indicates He did on Day 3. In the beginning—the Bible says—God made every green thing, and it was all in a day’s work.
References and notes
- Craig, W.L., Creation and Evolution (Part 3), Transcript of Defenders 2 class, 2013; reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s9-03, cf. creation.com/craig. Return to text.
- Batten, D., Ed., The Creation Answers Book, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, chapter 2, 2006. Return to text.
- The caveat should be added that God creates things with maturity, but not with a deceptive appearance of age. Return to text.
- Ephraim the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis and Exodus (Gen 1.22). Return to text.
- Basil the Great, Hexaemeron (5.5,10). Return to text.
- John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis (5.12–13). Return to text.
Dr Craig's comment is such an example of an unrenewed mind. Also of walking in the futility of the fleshly mind. God, in His infinity love for us, commands us not to walk as the unbelievers do.
In Ephesians 4:17 the Lord exhorts us- "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord that you walk no longer, just as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding,....". And, also, a clear example of the need to have our worldview transformed. (Romans 12:2), "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."
I fear for the Doctor, as teachers have a great accountability before the Lord, and if we willfully practice folly, choosing man's word as the final say and not God's, and this, to the best of my knowledge, after much reproof,... Well, may God be gracious and merciful. My recommendations: Pray for him. And pray for other who name the name of the Lord and do the same. May God open Dr Craig's eyes, and that his mind be renewed by the Word of God. Also- pray for those who sit under his teaching in this area that they would not be mislead.
Note - This is not a personal attack, but a recognition of a serious error made by a man who has great influence, and still, to my knowledge, has not accepted reproof and correction from numerous sources.
My hope is for the very best for him as God causes all thing, to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purposes.
I would not say that Dr Craig has an unrenewed mind in general, but when it comes to biblical creation we do think some of his public arguments are unbiblical and deserved a critique.
I don't see how people can have faith in God to raise them from the dead on the last day, if they can't believe that God created the lifeless body of Adam from the dust of the earth, and then put the breath of life in him, on a single day. The same reasoning applies with everything else that God’s Holy Spirit spoke into existence, as stated in Genesis.
The moment the first cell in the first plant came into existence how much time did the cell need to get all its genetic information to be encoded onto its DNA? How much time did the protein-building cellular nano machines take to "learn" each of their function within the cell?
No time. The moment He commanded them into being, that first instant, all their biological functions were fully formed. Compromise leads inevitably and inescapably to incoherence.
'Fast forward' Does this mean that if an oak tree is developing to its full size then it grew at a rate of (x)mm every hour? Would full size have occurred at sunset? How many hours of daylight in the first week? Was the first day in the Garden of Eden the mid summer equinox? Was this growth pattern different outside of the Garden of Eden? Was the other side of the new earth experiencing the first day of the new winter? Why did my biology textbook never have 'supernatural' in the index?
How does a biology teacher handle these detailed questions?
I'm not sure if you're asking sincere questions or trying to make a point. But when we're dealing with the past, there are many questions we may not be able to answer simply because we have not been given enough information. This is no mark against an idea if we can deduce it from the information we have been given in Scripture.
Also, to clarify, this article is about Day 3 of creation week, not the Garden of Eden.
It's nice to read ancient commentaries on Genesis when there wasn't such intense pressure to compromise.
What about the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus multiplies the fish and the bread? Did he command bakers to bake enough bread and fishermen to catch enough fish to feed five thousand? No, that would take a week!
Christians need to stop thinking like materialists because miracles are possible when God is in control. Jesus, (being god incarnate) commanded it and it was so, even though it was a violation of natural processes! Here at the Sermon on the Mount, God doesn't just fast forward a process; He creates out of nothing at all, because he can do that, just like in creation week. Also, god in Genesis would have had to create the seed out of nothing before causing it to grow and that is a bigger miracle in its self. I don't see how one can limit Him in creation week while believing the miracles that Jesus did being God incarnate? How can you believe one without the other?
For GOD is not the author of confusion, 1Co 14:33 and he wouldn't cause Moses to deceive in Genesis while preforming miracles during His earthly ministry. In my mind you have to believe one as well as the other.
It's sad that people put limits on The Lord's Power, and Glory. Keeping in mind the examples you gave during creation week, (creating land in one day, sun, moon, and stars in one day, etc.). I also remember Romans how all creation moans for the restoration of all things (keeping in mind God's power and glory) will also happen in a day in the very near future. My heart longs for that day, I'm sure we won't have to stand around and wait yrs. for creation to also be healed, it will happen in an instant and "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of The Lord" AMEN
If some one "can't imagine" the author of genesis to mean what he so clearly ment, then I gues this person should let the Holy Spirit teach himself and not the other way around...
But the claimed implaucibility of the treegrowth speed up smells like an excuse anyways. They're grasping straws.
Thank you for your article and I agree 100% that the six days in Genesis one were not ordinary and nothing less than an all imaginative, all designing, all creative and all powerful Creator GOD doing what he is able to do and that is create something from nothing. Even though we read in the Bible that the heavens and earth declare his glory and what has been created reveals his invisible attributes, trying to explain away the power of God's miracles in the Bible with what we observe today in nature is not a road I am taking or proclaiming. Scripture is always clear that these miracles are nothing less than the power of God at work. God Bless you and your ministry and keep up the good fight for the truth of GOD's written word.