Why is CMI so dogmatic on 24-hour creation days? Revisited
We received a number of feedbacks from Jonathan Sarfati’s response to André of New South Wales, Why is CMI so dogmatic on 24-hour creation days? The first, by Josh C. of the USA, raises questions that have already been answered in Refuting Compromise. Some other feedbacks follow with brief responses from Dr Sarfati.
I would whole heartedly agree with Andre. I’m a committed Christian and Biochemistry PhD, and see no theological necessity for 24-hour days, and to see fellow christians clinging desparately to this artefact is extremely disheartening.
How is it an ‘artefact’ when normal-length creation days is the direct teaching of Scripture, as eminent Hebrew scholars such a James Barr and Ting Wang recognize. This is why most biblical scholars before the rise of long-age geology accepted Genesis as written, including Josephus and later Jewish scholars, most church fathers including Basil the Great, Thomas Aquinas,1 and all the Reformers including Luther and Calvin.
The 3 main theological pillars that I see as necessary from our understanding of Christian doctrine are 1) Literal Adam, created in God’s image 2) Original Sin,
We agree. However, original sin is connected with human death in Romans 5:12–19.2 But if uniformitarian dating methods are believed, then there are undoubted Homo sapiens fossils far older than any biblical date for Adam, even if genealogies were far stretched out, and of course, fossils are the remains of dead creatures! From Refuting Compromise (RC):
Undoubted Homo sapiens ‘dated’ before Ross’s ‘date’ for Adam?
[Progressive creationist] Hugh Ross also completely misses the mark about fossils of undoubted Homo sapiens. Even if we were to grant, just for the sake of argument, his belief that Neandertals were ‘soulless pre-Adamites’, Ross’s ideas would collapse solely in the face of the evidences available from remains of modern man. To begin with, any sort of indicator pointing to a unique appearance of humans sometime in the interval between 7,000 years bp and 60,000 years bp, is completely lacking. Worse yet for Ross’s position, anatomically-modern humans predate even his 60,000 years figure—according to dating methods he defends:
‘“The fossils from this site [Klasies River Mouth, South Africa] are totally modern in all observable respects”, comments Richard Klein of the University of Chicago, “including the presence of a strongly developed chin.” The dating of 100,000 years is strongly supported. [Emphasis added]3
‘… a basic cranial bauplan was maintained for at least 100,000 years.’4
All lines of evidence considered, there is no indication that conventionally-dated ‘early humans’ were, in any sense, cognitively inferior to their modern counterparts:
‘Specifically, there are no data suggesting any major qualitative changes in language abilities corresponding with the 200,000–100,000 bp dates for modern Homo sapiens origins proposed by single origin models or the 40,000–30,000 bp period proposed as the time for the appearance of modern Homo sapiens in Western Europe. Instead, there appears to be archaeological and paleontological evidence for complex language capabilities beginning much earlier, with the evolution of the genus Homo.’5
Homo sapiens idàltu
The recent discoveries of Homo sapiens fossils in Ethiopia ‘dated’ to 160,000 and 154,000 years ago have provided further evidence against Ross’s anthropology. Dr Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, discovered them in 1997 near Herto, a village 230 km northeast of Addis Ababa. It was on the cover of the prestigious journal Nature (12 June 2003), and this issue contains articles about this discovery by leading evolutionary paleoanthropologists. White and colleagues reported on the fossils,6 and another paper reported on dates, derived via the latest radioisotope methods, and on the evidence for fully human behaviour.7 Another leading evolutionary paleoanthropologist, Dr Chris Stringer, of the Human Origins Group at The Natural History Museum, London, commented on the article in depth.8 He claimed that this was further support for the ‘out of Africa’ model of human origins and against the rival evolutionary multi-regional model.
These Ethiopian skeletal remains are not totally dissociated anatomically from ‘earlier’ type human bones, i.e. despite being clearly Homo sapiens, they show some features reminiscent of ‘archaic’ human anatomy. Hence the suggestion that they be given the fuller name Homo sapiens idàltu, indicating that they are a subspecies (i.e. subgroup) of our species. This means that not only are they clearly modern-type humans, they indicate a genetic connection with the types of skulls that Rossists have been trying to sideline as being not in the human family at all, including the Neandertals.
There is no way to escape that these are Homo sapiens and not a primitive non-human. They actually had larger braincases than the average modern human. Some evolutionary experts were quoted in The Age (Melbourne, Australia):9
‘Skulls of the oldest modern humans have been uncovered in Herto, Ethiopia, showing that people looking remarkably like us were roaming the African plains 160,000 years ago. …
Professor [Tim] White [co-leader of the excavation team] said the early humans at Herto lived on a shallow lake alongside hippos, crocodiles, catfish and buffalo. Over 600 stone artefacts, including axes, were also found. …
Australian anthropologists expressed surprise at how modern the skulls looked. ‘It’s quite extraordinarily modern-looking really,’ said Stephen Collier, a lecturer in archaeology at the University of New England. ‘You wouldn’t have expected this 10 years ago, anything this modern.’
Geologist Jim Bowler, who discovered Australia’s oldest human remains, the 40,000-year-old Mungo man in 1974, said the skulls looked remarkably like modern people. ‘If you put this fellow in a grey charcoal suit, they wouldn’t look out of place on Collins Street.’
‘Homo sapiens sapiens is a very slippery concept,’ said Colin Groves, of the Australian National University’s anthropology department. ‘The new specimen is exactly what we predicted for Homo sapiens before it starts to branch out and diversify, before it started to develop racial features.’
Not only are these specimens undoubtedly anatomically modern humans, they also had indisputably human cultural features. For example, mortuary practices, butchery of large mammals, and what evolutionists describe as ‘an interesting combination of Middle Stone Age and late Acheulean technology.’8
The age range is regarded as ‘very secure’ using a form of radiometric dating involving argon isotopes called the 40Ar/39Ar method. As shown in ch 12, these dating methods are unreliable, but the problem is that Ross accepts them. And that puts still more undoubtedly modern humans well before his arbitary 60,000 date for Adam.
But Ross argues that all pre-60,000 bp remains were merely apparently human in both anatomy and culture, and were actually spiritless ‘pre-Adamites’. But this is clearly clutching at straws, and engaging in arbitrary, imaginative speculation.
3) 6 periods of time and a rest which are the basis of our work week and sabbath/Lord’s Day rest.
But the basis for the working week is precisely the parallel with the Creation Week, as I write in RC:
The clearest of all is the Fourth Commandment, which, in both Exodus 20:8–11 and 31:17, has the causal explanation ‘For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the Earth … but he rested on the seventh day’. The word ‘for’ (Hebrew kî, also having the sense ‘because’) at the beginning of this expression is a causal explanation, showing that the Creation Week is the very basis of the working week. In these passages, it’s explicit that the Creation Days were the same as those of the human work week. There is no point even trying to understand the Bible if a word in the same passage and same grammatical context can switch meanings, without any hint in the text itself.
Ankerberg again showed his partiality by citing, with approval, a rationalization often advanced by Ross, following old-earth Old Testament scholars Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke:
‘In terms of Exodus 20:8–11, in terms of what the Sabbath is referring back to, he says, “By no means does this demonstrate that twenty-four hour intervals were involved in the first six days any more than the eight-day celebration of the feast of tabernacles proves that the wilderness wanderings under Moses occupied only days.” Remember Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. So it was a symbolic commemoration of that time is what they’re saying.’
Ross himself, in the same debate said (much the same as in his books):‘It also ignores the problem of Leviticus chapter 25. There you’ve got the case of God setting up a work period and a rest period for the agricultural land. It was to be worked six years and rested on the seventh year.’
They are referring to Leviticus 25:3–4:‘For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.’
However, this passage does not even mention the working week! Rather, it talks about years, not days! These were symbolic representations of one time period by a different one. So it’s comparing apples with oranges. Furthermore, Leviticus is speaking of literal years, not some vaguely defined ‘period’ of time. Also, it lacks the causal connection kî. But Exodus 20:8–11 is comparing apples with apples.
Hugh Ross’s disciple Don Stoner10 objects by arguing that sabbath days are merely a ‘shadow’ or type of the eternal state, which is the antitype. Supposedly this means that we cannot come to a definite conclusion about the length of something by looking at its ‘shadow’. He quotes Colossians 2:16-17 and Hebrews 8:5.
I agree that Stoner is right about a shadow not determining the length of that of which it is the shadow. The Sabbath is a type of the eternal state, and, indeed, one cannot tell how long the latter is. However, since the antitype is the eternal state, we have to wonder why he thinks that has the remotest connection to the Days of Creation.
There is nothing about the TIME or AGE that is required for any other part of our doctrine, why cling to it? Especially when ‘apparent age’ is so clearly an likely ! option? Adam was not created a zygote. Thus any scientist coming upon Adam would infer and OLDER history than his actual “age”, why is this so difficult?
Indeed, it should not be difficult: the whole point is this older history is errant as we know from the revelation that God created Adam as an adult. However, we would dispute that the earth even ‘looks’ old, although on the other hand we would says that it is old, since ~6,000 is an immense age. See The earth: how old does it look? Even many of those who believe that the earth is young think that it looks old . But does it?
This is coming from a Reformed Baptist, Westminster Confession subscribing believer,
This is hard to understand. The WCF explicitly states that God created in six days! As RC points out:
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)
After the Bible itself, this is one of the major statements of faith for many Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Statement 4:1 is unambiguous:
‘It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create or make of nothing the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.’
However, there are certain revisionists, including Ross, who claim (in the face of all the evidence) that when the Reformed Confessions were written, the church did not consider the length of the days, but only that God created. That is, because the text did not explicitly state that the days were 24 hours, they were allowing for the possibility of long days.
However, the Westminster Confession’s statement clearly follows the language of Calvin, saying ‘in the space of six days’. There is no room in the language of either Calvin or the WCF for anything other than normal-length days. There was no need to state the obvious—an employee asking his boss for six days vacation doesn’t have to explain that they are 24-hour days and not long periods of time! Calvin, the Haak Bible and the WCF reflect the normal orthodox view of the Reformed Faith.
Even more importantly, we have more explicit statements from the WCF’s framers themselves!11 he Westminster Annotations is a five-volume set of Annotations on the Scriptures, first printed in 1645—right in the middle of the sitting of the Westminster Assembly. The New Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia explains the later editions of the Westminster Annotations (emphasis added):
‘In 1657 there was published Annotations upon All the Books of the Old and New Testament … Wherein the text is explained, doubts resolved, Scriptures paralleled, and various readings observed by the labor of certain learned divines thereunto appointed and therein employed, as is expressed in the preface, 2 vols., London, 1657. This work is usually called the “Assembly’s Annotations”, from the circumstances of its having been composed by members of the Westminster Assembly.’12
In particular, they commented specifically on Genesis 1:5, explicitly teaching that the creation days were 24 hours long:
‘V. 5. God called (Or, decreed it to be so called: for contrary things must be called by contrary names, Isai. 5:20, the light, Day) The word Day, in the former part of the verse, noteth the day artificial from morning till night, Exod. 16:12,13, which is the time of light, measured out to twelve hours, Joh. 11. 9. Matth. 20:3, 6, which were not more nor fewer, but longer or shorter according to the different proportion of the days in Summer and Winter: the first began with the Sun-rising, and the last ended with the Sun-setting; which division was in use, not only with the Jews, but with the Romans, Cal. Rohdig. Lib. 2. Antiq. Lection, chap. 9, but in the latter part of the verse, the word Day, is taken for the day natural, consisting of twenty four houres, which is measured most usually from the Sun-rising to the Sun-rising; or, from the Sun-setting to the Sun-setting: for the use of the word Day in this sense, compare Exod. 12:29 with Numb. 3:13 & 8:17 the first day.
‘In the Hebrew, it is one day in number, not expressly the first in order; the like expression we find in Gen 8:5, Numb. 29:1 and it is followed in the Greek, Matth. 28:1, Joh. 20:1. I Cor. 16:2.
‘This first day consisting of twenty four hours had (as some think) for the first half of it the precedent darknesse, and for the other the light newly created: the night they take to be meant by evening a part of it, and the day by the morning, which is a part of it also: and according to this the Sabbath, (being as large a day as any of the rest, and so containing twenty four houres) is measured from even to even, Levit. 23:32, the Romans, and other Western Nations, reckon the twenty four hours from mid-night to mid-night; the Egyptians contrariwise from mid-day to mid-day.
‘Yet it may be with good probability, thought that at the first (according to the Chaldean account, which is quite contrary to the Jewes fore-cited, measuring the day from Sun-rising to Sun-rising) the day natural began with the light: for Even is the declining light of the fore-going day; and the Morning may as well be called the end of the night past, as the beginning of the day following: and so divers of the Learned by the Evening understand the day, as the end thereof, and by Morning the night, at which time it is at an end: for denominations are many times taken from the end, because thereby the thing is made complete; for the whole week is called by the name, Sabbath, Levit. 23:15 and Luke 18:12. because with it the week is made up and fully finished.’
i’m no novice on science or theology. I just am wrestling why some Christians espouse dogmatism in the wrong places.
Soli Deo Gloria,
I do too—and why some Christians avoid dogmatism in the wrong places, i.e where Scripture has clearly spoken, or what may be logically deduced from Scripture. Indeed, we would follow the WCF that you approve of (1:6):
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.
We explain more in the ~20yo article Hanging Loose : we hold Scripture firmly, while any models we propose to elucidate Scripture, no matter how plausible, should never be elevate to this level.
Dear Dr. Sarfati, I agree that the days of Genesis One must be very like the days we now experience, but how similar?
Yes, they must correspond fairly closely to the period of the earth’s rotation, but was this 24 hours long at the time of creation? We read in two places in Scripture of God apparently interfering with the smooth advance of day and night—in Joshua 10 we read of an abnormally long day and in Hezekiah’s time we read of the shadow on the sundial going ten degrees backward. Must we assume that the smooth rotation of the planet started again at exactly the same rate after these interruptions? Was the average day not quite likely a few minutes—or perhaps a couple of hours—longer or shorter than it was prior to these events? Can we even be quite sure of the answer to this question?
As to vegetation and fruit trees bearing fruit all sprouting within 24 hours at the time of creation, I think it would be quite sufficient for a few of the quicker growing ones to do so to provide food for Adam and Eve, who could then wait for the others to bear fruit in due season.
I would be interested in your comments.
Meanwhile, may I express my admiration for your vital—and outstanding—work for the Lord. Please congratulate your colleagues too.
God bless you all,
Seathrún Mac É.
Dear Mr Mac É
Thank you for your comments.
I thought that Joshua’s long day was a temporary interruption of the normal cycle, implied by Genesis 8:22, ‘As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’ We published an article on Joshua’s Long Day a while ago. But I am not dogmatic that the days were exactly like ours, just that they were about the same, and not thousands or millions of years.
Please pass on to Jonathan Sarfati our thanks and appreciation for his straight forward and clear answers in the article; "Why is CMI so dogmatic on 24-hour creation days?"
These answers also give us much material to use in our own situations as we seek to present the biblical record without compromise.
May God continue to bless you all with wisdom.
Your responses to André‘s questions were insightful, thank you.
May I pass on to André that as fallible humans we often try to put God ‘in a box’, and somehow restrict what He can or did do. The question may be asked, ‘why didn’t God make everything in one day or even one minute?’
We need to be reminded sometimes that God can do whatever He pleases, when He pleases, and how He pleases, because He is God.
Anyway, thanks again, I really appreciate your ministry using the wonders of God’s creation (yes, I believe Ussher got it right too)
Thank you. As you’re no doubt aware, the answer to ‘why didn’t God make everything in one day or even one minute?’ is that He wanted to give us a pattern for the Sabbath. And the only ‘restrictions’ should be on us to believe what God said He did.
Some development of the points are in the previous Feedback responses:
- What is good ? (Answering the Euthyphro Dilemma)
- If God can do anything, then can He make a being more powerful than Himself? What does God’s omnipotence really mean?
André misses one point:
Once the plants were created, days would HAVE to be 24 hours, or the plants would die.
Why? … If the days were (say) 2million years, there would be one million years of light & one million years of darkness. After all, evening is the beginning of darkness, and morning is the beginning of light.
Keep up the gracious reasoning
True enough. Refuting Compromise points out:
This unusual, counter-intuitive order of creation (light before sun) actually adds a hallmark of authenticity. If the Bible had been the product of later ‘editors’, as alleged by the Wellhausen school (‘Documentary Hypothesis’),13 they would surely have modified this to fit with their own understanding. Having ‘day’ without the sun would have been generally inconceivable to the ancients.
Having the sun appear after the light would have been very significant to pagan worldviews which tended to worship the sun as the source of all life. God seems to be making it pointedly clear that the sun is secondary to Himself as the source of everything. He doesn’t ‘need’ the sun in order to create life, in contrast to old-Earth beliefs.
In fact, early church writers used the literal fourth day creation of the sun as a polemic against paganism. For example, in the second century, Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, wrote in an apologetic work to the learned pagan magistrate Autolycus:‘On the fourth day the luminaries came into existence. Since God has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth come from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and seeds came into existence before the stars. For what comes into existence later cannot cause what is prior to it.’14
In the 4th century, Basil the Great commented on the same passage:‘Heaven and earth were the first; after them was created light; the day had been distinguished from the night, then had appeared the firmament and the dry element. The water had been gathered into the reservoir assigned to it, the earth displayed its productions, it had caused many kinds of herbs to germinate and it was adorned with all kinds of plants. However, the sun and the moon did not yet exist, in order that those who live in ignorance of God may not consider the sun as the origin and the father of light, or as the maker of all that grows out of the earth. That is why there was a fourth day, and then God said: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven.”’15
Indeed, it is no good claiming that the days really were long ages, because the order is contrary to the uniformitarian one. Not only vegetation before the sun, but also birds and whales before the land creatures they allegedly evolved from. See our Evolution vs the Bible comparison chart.
Wonderful response to the questions! I really needed this refresher in faith!
Why do we believe that God created everything and yet, then try to deny He could have done it as He said in Genesis? We, I believe, allow our minds and surrounding, worldly influences affect our belief and therefore, our faith.
Indeed so. A denial of a plain reading of Genesis is tantamount to denying that God can reveal what He meant. If God had meant to communicate long days and evolution, He could have done so easily even with only the Biblical Hebrew words we know. See:
- How long were the days of Genesis 1? What did God intend us to understand from the words He used?
- Genesis according to evolution
References and notes
- Thanks to Gerry Keane of Melbourne, Australia, for bringing this to my attention. Return to text.
- Lita Sanders, Romans 5:12–21: Paul’s view of a literal Adam, Journal of Creation 22(2):105–107, 2008. Return to text.
- Lewin, R., Human Evolution, Blackwell Scientific Publications, Cambridge, p.153, 1993. Return to text.
- Neves, W.A. et al., Modern human origins as seen from the peripheries, Journal of Human Evolution 37:132, 1999. Return to text.
- Schepartz, L.A., Language and modern human origins, Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 36:91–126, 1993. Return to text.
- White, T. et al., Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia, Nature 423(6941):742–747, 12 June 2003. Return to text.
- Clark, D. et al., Stratigraphic, chronological and behavioural contexts of Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia, Nature 423(6941):747–752, 12 June 2003. Return to text.
- Stringer, C., Human evolution: Out of Ethiopia, Nature 423(6941):692–695, 12 June 2003. Return to text.
- Cauchi, S., Fossils find writes new chapter in our narrative, The Age (Melbourne) 12 June 2003, p. 1 (emphases added). Return to text.
- Stoner, D., A New Look at an Old Earth, Resolving the conflict between the Bible and science, Harvest House, Eugene, OR, pp. 48–50, 1997. Hugh Ross wrote the foreword. Return to text.
- Thanks to Rev. Chris Coleborn of Victoria, Australia, for bringing this to my attention. Return to text.
- Bibles, Annotations, and Bible Summaries’, New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia 2. Return to text.
- Grigg, R., Did Moses really write Genesis? Creation 20(4):43–46, September-November 1998. Return to text.
- Theophilus, To Autolycus 2:15, AD 181, Ante-Nicene Fathers 2:100. Return to text
- Basil, Hexaëmeron 6:2; <www.newadvent.org/fathers/32016.htm>. Return to text