IS SIX-DAY CREATION NAIVE FUNDAMENTALISM?

PMW 2020-069 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Many academic evangelicals decry Six-day Creation as naive fundamentalism. They reject it as beneath the dignity of serious exegetical theology. Of course, this is quite mistaken. For a compelling, sophisticated exegetical argument can be made in defense of this view.

As a Reformed Christian trained in exegetical theology, I do not tenaciously hold to an approach to Scripture more in keeping with a “naive fundamentalism.” Rather my view of creation continues an exegetical tradition with a well-argued, long-standing, traditional orthodoxy — an orthodoxy including many noteworthy biblical and exegetical scholars from the past and the present.

Though counting noses is not the way to argue a theological point, I do want to point to many world-class scholars who have held and continue to hold to Six-day Creation.

Older scholars

• Martin Luther (1483–1546): “Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read.” (Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5, trans. George V. Schick, vol. 1 of Luther’s Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan [St. Louis: Concordia, 1958], 1:5.


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• John Calvin (1509–64): “God himself took the space of six days” to create; “six days were employed in the formation of the world.” (John Calvin, Commentaries of the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, trans. John King [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948], 1:78, 105)

• The Westminster Standards (1643–49): God created the world “in the space of six days” (WCF 4:1; LC 120; SC 9), “within the space of six days” (LC 15).

• Francis Turretin (1623–87): “the simple and historical Mosaic narration . . . mentions six days and ascribes a particular work to each day.” (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, edited by James T. Dennison, Jr. [Phillipsburg, N. J.: P & R Publishing, rep. 1992], 1:444)

• John Gill (1697–1771): “though God took six days for the creation of the world and all things in it, to make his works the more observable, and that they might be distinctly considered, and gradually become the object of contemplation and wonder; yet the work of every day, and every particular work in each day, were done in a moment, without any motion and change, without any labour and fatigue, only by a word speaking, by an almighty fiat, let it be done, and it immediately was done.” ( John Gill, A Body of Divinity [Grand Rapids: Sovereign Grace, 1971; rep. 1769], 261)

• Heinrich Heppe (1820–79): “God completed the creation of matter and of the creatures made from it in the course of six successive days; not as though God could not have called every item into existence in one moment, but in order to manifest the variety and wise ordering of His creatures.” (Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics: Set Out and Illustrated from the Sources, ed. Ernst Bizer, trans. G. T. Thomson [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978; rep. 1950], 199)


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• C. F. Keil (1807–88) and Franz Delitzsch (1813–90): “If the days of creation are regulated by the recurring interchange of light and darkness, they must be regarded not as periods of time of incalculable duration, of years or thousands of years, but as simple earthly days.” In their footnote they add: “Exegesis must insist upon this, and not allow itself to alter the plain sense of the words of the Bible, from irrelevant and untimely regard to the so-called certain inductions of natural science. Irrelevant we call such considerations, as make interpretation dependent upon natural science, because the creation lies outside the limits of empirical and speculative research, and, as an act of the omnipotent God, belongs rather to the sphere of miracles and mysteries.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on Genesis, 2001: 32)

• Robert L. Dabney (1820–98): “the sacred writer seems to shut us up to the literal interpretation,” noting that “the natural day is its literal and primary meaning,” (Dabney, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: 1973], 255)

More recent scholars

• Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949): “the days of creation were ordinary days.” (From his Gerreformeerde Dogmatiek, as cited in Berkhof , Systematic Theology, 1941: 154)

• Louis Berkhof (1873–1957): “the literal interpretation of the term ‘day’ in Gen. 1 is favored.” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: 1941], 154)

• H. C. Leupold (1891–1972): “when the verse [Gen. 1:5] concludes with the statement that the first ‘day’ (yôm) is concluded, the term must mean a twenty-four hour period.” (Leupold, Genesis [1970] 1:56)

• Jack B. Scott (1928– 2011), Professor of Old Testament: the days of Genesis are in “the Biblical order of the 24 hour period.” ( Jack B. Scott, God’s Plan Unfolded [n.p., 1976]).

• John MacArthur (1939–), pastor and scholar: “I am convinced that Genesis 1–3 ought to be taken at face value — as the divinely revealed history of creation. Nothing about Genesis suggests that the biblical creation account is merely symbolic, poetic, allegorical, or mythical” (John F. MacArthur, The Battle for the Beginning: The Bible on Creation and the Fall of Adam [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005])

• Douglas F. Kelly, Professor of Systematic Theology: “Genesis ‘days’ as plain, solar days.” (Kelly, Creation and Change [Edinburgh: 1997], 109)

• Robert L. Reymond (1932–2013), Professor of Systematic Theology: “[I] can discern no reason, either from Scripture or from the human sciences, for departing from the view that the days of Genesis were ordinary twenty-four-hour days.” (Reymond, Systematic Theology, 1998: 392)

• R. C. Sproul (1939–) of Ligonier Ministries: “For most of my teaching career, I considered the framework hypothesis to be a possibility. But I have now [2006] changed my mind. I now hold to a literal six-day creation.” (R. C. Sproul, Truths We Confess [Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R, 2006] 1:127)

• Morton H. Smith (1923–), Professor of Systematic and Biblical Theology; Joseph A. Pipa, Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology; Benjamin Shaw, Professor of Old Testament; Sid Dyer, Professor of Greek and New Testament; and W. Duncan Rankin, Professor of Systematic Theology, are contributors to a book-length defense of the historical exegesis of Genesis 1 (Joseph Pipa and David Hall, Did God Create in Six Days? [Taylors, S. C.: Southern Presbyterian, 1999. 1999])

Conclusion

The Christian in the pew should not be cowered by the fact that many theological elites deny Six-day creation. For there have been many world-class scholars who have affirmed it.

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28 thoughts on “IS SIX-DAY CREATION NAIVE FUNDAMENTALISM?

  1. Fred V. Squillante September 1, 2020 at 7:07 am

    And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Pretty straight-forward.

  2. Alvin Plummer September 1, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    Of course, it pays to remember that Christian academic loathing of the six-day creation has nothing to do with fidelity to Scripture or to the Commands of Christ, or even with thoughtful consideration of science, reason and logic.

    But, it does have everything to do with gaining the approval of secularists and powerful men.

  3. Joshua Stevens September 2, 2020 at 9:48 am

    It boggles my mind that even some Bible scholars who spend their lives studying God’s word, would fail to realize the significance of a six-day creation. God could have created the entire universe in the blink of an eye, but chose to spread it out over six days, in order to establish the pattern of a week and a sabbath rest. This was not for God’s benefit but for ours. Otherwise, without Genesis 1:1-2:3, we as the human race would have no concept of a week, or of a weekend!

    We can measure every other length of time by observing nature: we can measure years by the seasons (the revolution of the earth around the sun), we can measure months by the moon cycle (the revolution of the moon around the earth), and we can measure days as observable 24-hour periods (the rotation of the earth).

    But where do we get “a week?” Only from divine revelation. Those who try to harmonize Genesis 1 with naturalistic theories of the Big Bang, cosmic evolution, human evolution, etc., are trying to harmonize two worldviews that cannot be reconciled. You can either believe that God created the entire universe “supernaturally” by simply commanding all things to exist, or you can believe that the universe just randomly happened through “naturalistic” causes. It really comes down to a matter of faith, as Hebrews 11:3 says,

    “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (NKJV)

  4. Kenneth Gentry September 2, 2020 at 9:53 am

    It is true that our week is rooted ultimately in God’s seven-day week of creation and rest. However, the pagans in antiquity believed the seven-day week was rooted in the seven (visible) planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

  5. frankie251 September 2, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Have you ever wondered how Einstein’s relativity — the relationship between mass, light and time, which relationship itself was created by God — might have affected our perception of the passage of time? I’ve often wondered if there was at least a theoretical solution to the time problem that might be found in relativity. In other words, both camps might be right. There’s a scene in the movie Interstellar with Matthew McConaughney, where the space travelers are in the proximity to a massive black hole with an immense gravitational force (don’t ask how they managed to not get sucked in). But they visit a planet that’s in orbit around the black hole and return to the mothership after a day or two, but when they get back they discover that 20 years have passed on the mothership and the lone occupant has spent 20 years waiting for their return while they only spent 2 days on the planet. While this is obviously a Hollywood version, and I have no idea if the ratio is right, the scene is based on special relativity — that mass has an affect on time and space.

    I presume that when God created the universe, He put the laws of physics into being just as He did the elements. Of course, He is not bound by those laws, but they are the nature of His creation, so assuming they are in play, what was the effect on time when God held all the matter in the universe in his hand — perhaps in the size of a marble? Or when God sent light speeding across the universe for the first time?

    The Big Bang is a very creationist scientific theory that is substantiated by the observation that the universe is moving away — expanding outward from some point in the distant past. The Big Bang postulates a point in time when all the matter in the universe exploded outward. If in fact there was a millisecond where God held the matter that makes up the trillions of galaxies into the universe, the effect on time would be substantial to put it mildly.

    This is why I don’t worry much about the age of the earth or the days of creation. I accept the text. God created the universe in 6 days. Jesus corroborated Moses account. That’s all I need, but at the same time I truly believe that no one knows how fast or how slow the clock was spinning at the moments of creation due to the very laws of physics that God Himself put into play, and we may never know on this side of eternity — a place where the clock stops altogether. One thing I do know — we’re all going to be wildly surprised to find out what really happened.

  6. Kenneth Gentry September 2, 2020 at 10:00 am

    I know many Christians hold this view to remove the tension between the interpretation of the universe rooted in scientific theory and the interpretation of the universe rooted in Scripture. However, I do not believe this coordination works. I recommend checking Creation-scientist and astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle’s studies on the subject. Here is one I recommend: https://answersingenesis.org/big-bang/the-big-bang/

  7. Joshua Stevens September 2, 2020 at 10:09 am

    Wow, I didn’t know that! That’s really interesting. But do those planets in their courses measure out the length of a week by their movements? Or is this just another example of pagans exchanging God’s truth for a lie, and worshiping the creature more than the Creator (Romans 1:25).

  8. Kenneth Gentry September 2, 2020 at 10:14 am

    It obviously is rooted in their astrological assumptions.

  9. frankie251 September 2, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Thank you, Dr Gentry, for your response, but I think you might be misunderstanding my post. I’m not an old earth creationist or a day-age adherent nor am I advocating for any such position, nor do I dogmatically accept the time frame of materialistic science surrounding the Big Bang. I’m simply asking a straight forward question — what was the effect (affect?) on time at the moment of creation assuming God had simultaneously put the laws of physics into play? I think it’s a valid question.

  10. Kenneth Gentry September 2, 2020 at 10:25 am

    I suspected that you were a creationist. But I have heard a number of creationists attempt to use the Big Bang as evidence for instantaneous creation. One very helpful issue in this regard is “the speed of light problem,” in that light gets from distant stars to the earth on Day 4, despite being light-years away. Again, Dr. Lisle is my go-to scientist on this issue. Check him out. https://biblicalscienceinstitute.com/refuting-the-critics/refuting-the-critics-distant-starlight-and-asc/

  11. Joshua Stevens September 2, 2020 at 10:43 am

    “I’m simply asking a straight forward question — what was the effect (affect?) on time at the moment of creation assuming God had simultaneously put the laws of physics into play? I think it’s a valid question.”

    frankie251, I think you are asking questions beyond mortal man. We weren’t there when God laid the foundations (Job 38:4).

  12. frankie251 September 2, 2020 at 11:11 am

    I will check out Dr. Lisle. Yes, I am a creationist, dogmatically and unwaveringly. I don’t like playing games with the text like the day-age proponents do (as I understand it, Sproul was a day-ager until late in life when he accepted the normal days of creation). While I have explored Hugh Ross and the old earth position, I could never reconcile myself to that degree of textural manipulation. I accept the text in its straight forward interpretation as corroborated by Jesus. I am also, a virulent anti-evolutionist and interestingly, feel the science has caught up to the false propositions of materialistic evolution. That being said, science is just the uncovering of God’s creation. Scientific truth (if really true) is God’s truth. I think we make a mistake when we reject science because it has been perverted by fallen man. The Big Bang is strong evidence for creation. The materialists initially hated the Big Bang, which is a recent scientific proposition based on recent discoveries revealing an expanding universe. I heard Stephen Meyer explain it this way: Take a balloon and mark it with dots then blow it up. As you blow it up, the dots move away from each other. The expanding universe is strong evidence that the universe had a beginning. While we should reject the materialistic explanations of the Big Bang, we don’t need to reject the scientific evidence that is in keeping with creationism. Science will always eventually fall in line with God’s word because all truth is God’s truth whether in science or in written revelation, so I don’t think it violates my acceptance of a six day creation to wonder, if in fact God created time in some degree of flux as relative to mass and light, how that might have effected time at the moment God created light and matter. I at least feel it’s safe to say a moment now might not have been the same moment then, and I can feel that way without rejecting a 6-day creation.

  13. Kenneth Gentry September 2, 2020 at 11:31 am

    Yes, science is valid and supported by Scripture. But the theories of scientists are not necessarily so. They are explanations of what scientists believe. They are interpretations of the world and life — which could be either right or wrong even while science remains valid.

  14. Fred V. Squillante September 2, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Because we don’t know how old the universe is, the evening/morning (rotation of earth on its axis) all in probability, was not 24 hours. Likewise, one revolution around the sun was not 365.25 days. From that, all sorts of hypotheses can be put forth. One question I have is, if the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into, i.e., what is beyond it? And, when God said “Light – BE!” that is what the evolutionists are seeing.

  15. Aleks Lukyanov September 2, 2020 at 5:54 pm

    Through His scriptures, God’s purpose is to communicate to our feeble-minded humans in a language we understand. So when Genesis uses “morning” and “evening” – those terms are merely used to distinguish the beginning and the end of the specific creative process described beforehand. The mere fact that the sun and the moon aren’t created until the 4th day tells you all you need to know with respect to this question. As far as I’m concerned, neither “morning” nor “evening” existed until they were guided and restricted by the sun and the moon.

    Beyond that, however, we don’t really know how long a day lasted. We simply cannot claim that it was 24 hrs. just because our days as we know them now are. For all we know a day could have lasted 1000 years or 2.5 seconds. Nothing is impossible to God who stopped the sun from setting in order that the Israel army might defeat their enemies. I think the creation process could have easily taken an extended time period, not because God couldn’t make it in a few minutes, but because being the Artist that He is, he WANTED to pay attention to every single nuance and atom he created so as to show the extent of His glory to all of us – His creation.

  16. Kenneth Gentry September 3, 2020 at 7:32 am

    Your comment doesn’t make sense: Because we don’t know how old the universe is does not result in our not knowing about the rotation of the earth. The language of “evening/morning” throughout the Pentateuch involves a standard evening and morning that we experience. And on what basis are you saying “one revolution of the sun was NOT 365.25 days”? Your comments are pure assertion.

  17. Kenneth Gentry September 3, 2020 at 7:37 am

    And God communicates very clearly and in many different ways that the days of Genesis 1 were normal days such as we experience. And on your own assertion that there can be no evening and morning until the sun is created (although God created an alternating light/dark pattern prior to Day Four), you are confessing that Day 4, 5, and 6 ARE 24-hour days.

    Notice the numerous arguments for six 24-hour days in the two following exegetical articles. You need something more than “I know it wasn’t so,” as an argument:
    https://postmillennialworldview.com/2013/10/23/creation-days-literal-or-metaphorical/

    https://postmillennialworldview.com/2013/10/25/how-long-were-the-days-of-creation-part-2/

  18. Fred V. Squillante September 3, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Ok, “in all probability” it was not 365.25 days. One thing about WordPress is unless you state who you’re responding to there’s no way to know, so I’ll assume you’re addressing my post. That said, whether you believe in a 10,000 or 9 billion year old earth, the forces of nature (gravity, centripetal, etc.) all have an affect. I might add, most of what all of us are saying are assertions since none us us know.

  19. Fred V. Squillante September 3, 2020 at 10:13 am

    I’ll try again. When there are multiple responses I go to the most recent. I then tried the first one first and I saw you were addressing me so here goes. Look at my first reply to your post. I said evening/morning = one day was pretty straight forward. That’s what I believe. What I was inferring with the earth’s rotation and revolution was addressing the others and all their assertions by simply stating that because there probably is a difference in time of Earth’s movements, they are most likely insignificant, but people put forth all sorts of crazy things.

  20. Kenneth Gentry September 3, 2020 at 10:17 am

    But the affects of the forces of nature are smaller in shorter segments of time, such as a 10,000+ BC creation vs. a 13 billion year BC creation. God’s word in Genesis is quite clear.

  21. Fred V. Squillante September 3, 2020 at 10:30 am

    No argument here.

  22. Aleks Lukyanov September 4, 2020 at 12:04 am

    At the end of the second blog post (which you supplied a link for) you state: “Any attempts to re-interpret Genesis 1 in order to allow for enormous stretches of time, are manifestly contra-Scriptural.”

    Ok, but why ignore 2 Peter 3:8 from any of your considerations where he clearly states, and I’m paraphrasing: “our day is like a 1000 years to God and vise versa?” Does that NOT leave at least the possibility that those are time periods that God simply identifies as days in order to accommodate our limited understanding of His supernatural nature?

    Moreover, according to Genesis 2:2-3, God rested on the 7th day. However, the author of Hebrews in chapter 4 goes out of his way when he speaks about “entering God’s rest” and that God COMPLETED all of His works and in the beginning and is now at Rest. So according to your interpretation, God either a. exited His rest or b. His 7th day is lasting a bit longer than the other 6?

  23. Kenneth Baits September 4, 2020 at 12:43 am

    Have you considered that the six days are six consecutive 24 hour days that Moses spent on Mt Sinai around 1500 BC receiving a vision of the creation from God? After all, the book of Genesis is has many visions, dreams and appearances from God. Obviously this approach would eliminate the debate about the true age of the earth and universe.

    I’m no prophet, but I think I can accurately predict your response.

  24. Shaun Snyder September 4, 2020 at 11:57 pm

    Concerning R.C. Sproul, who I sincerely admire, I have to quote his own words a few years before he went home in 2017: “I don’t know how old the earth is.”

    It seems that some Young Universe Creationist are like 2-Dimensional beings who believe they are truly living in a 2D world. Everything looks like lines to them and they can’t picture height. They interpret height as length or width. The universe and our world have a remarkable history and we are living in a fascinating time of putting those details together in an amazing picture. The rate of recovery for geological and astronomical events within a young earth is one aspect to look into for weighing the evidence for an old universe. The Genesis account is defining the forming of multi-dimensional space in literary form. It’s layered text which goes from pre-space/matter/energy to 0D to 1D to 2D to 3D and even 4D. The six-days appear to be containers of time. It’s not that there’s one over-arching interpretation but one interpretation per dimension that paints a resulting coherent and non-conflicting picture. Did the people living during Moses’ time care about the age of the earth? Negative. (They didn’t even know what the New World was.) They understood simple terms of units – not millions or billions. Did the disciple’s understand the Messianic prophecies as they walked with Him? Not exactly – hence all of the questions – and corrections.

    I think we need to patient with our understanding of this topic and heed the words of Dr. R.C. Sproul: “The church has said , “Look, we misinterpreted the teaching of the Bible with respect to the solar system, and thank you, scientists for correcting our misunderstanding.” I think we can learn from non-believing scientists who are studying natural revelation. They may get a better sense of the truth from their study of natural revelation than I get from ignoring natural revelation.”

    Consider Reasons To Believe for further study:
    https://reasons.org/explore/publications/rtb-101/scientific-evidence-old-earth

    God Bless.

  25. Kenneth Gentry September 8, 2020 at 7:51 am

    Natural revelation is certainly valid: God created nature. But natural revelation must be interpreted properly, just as Scriptural revelation must. I believe the young earth view not only interprets the evidence better, but more in line with the Scriptural revelation.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MXBK0nprSc

  26. Kenneth Gentry September 8, 2020 at 7:52 am

    Yes, I have considered that. And found it lacking.

  27. Kenneth Gentry September 8, 2020 at 7:59 am

    Second Peter was not ignored; it is irrelevant. Peter is explaining the delay of Christ’s return by noting the delay does not hinder God’s plan. Moses is explaining how God created the universe. Peter is offering a theological observation regarding Christ’s return; Moses is offering a historical report on the creation process. Moses defines and limits his day in over a dozen ways: “evening/morning,” “first, second, third,” etc., and so forth (see other articles on my blogsite). Moses’ historical report uses (and defines) “day” like Moses’ original audience (and us today) would have understood the meaning of “day.” I deal with these issues in great detail in my book As It Is Written.

  28. Fred V. Squillante September 8, 2020 at 8:47 am

    I have to say once again that evening/morning, the first day, evening morning, the second day etc. is straight forward: one earth rotation is a day, and they are numbered consecutively. Look at Daniel 8:14, where evening/morning is once again used, and well-meaning scholars have come up with 2300 days and even years, among other interpretations when it is 1150 days.

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