Is Belief in a Literal, Six-Day Creation Nothing More than a Tenet of Fundamentalism?
In a recent issue of his magazine, a writer had an article titled: “Biblical Fundamentals vs. Religious Fundamentalism.” In this article, the author ridiculed those so-called “fundamentalists” who believe that the entire creation was completed within the six days of the first week. He stated that “religious fundamentalism has done an incredible amount of damage,” and he identified six-day creationism as a basic element of “fundamentalism.” He even put it in the same category with belief in UFOs, demon exorcism, etc. Here is one of his statements. Would you respond to it?
It [fundamentalism] demands the entire creation to have been accomplished in a literal seven-day week instead of recognizing God has been active before and after that week.
I am familiar with the piece cited, which appeared in the January/February 1997 issue of Does God Exist?, a small, bi-monthly publication edited by John N. Clayton of South Bend, Indiana (see Clayton, 1997, 24:4-8). Clayton, who is the chief architect of the Modified Gap Theory (see Jackson and Thompson, 1992, pp. 115-120), is known far and wide for his compromising views of the Genesis account of creation, including his opposition to a Creation week composed of six literal 24-hour days. In response I would like to note the following.
First, none of the Lord’s people with whom I am familiar adopts the designation “fundamentalist.” A Bible believer ought to be satisfied with the name “Christian.” This term ought to be sufficient for the child of God, and should signify that one accepts the testimony of the Scriptures—nothing more, nothing less—as the sole authority in all matters relating to faith and practice.
Second, since none of us was there “in the beginning,” we are wholly dependent upon the declarations of the inspired writers as to what transpired.
Third, the allegation that “the entire creation” was not accomplished within Earth’s first week should be examined in light of biblical testimony, not within an emotional climate tainted with evolutionary suppositions. And make no mistake about it; this man has been influenced significantly by the propaganda of evolutionism. He is the one who has claimed that “evolution and the Bible show amazing agreement on almost all issues...” (1990, p. 135). For ample documentation see the book that Dr. Bert Thompson and I co-authored, In the Shadow of Darwinism—A Review of the Teachings of John N. Clayton (1992), which is available from the offices of Apologetics Press or on-line in the “e-books” section of the Apologetics Press Web site). Let us now focus upon Clayton’s statement that “God has been [sic] active before and after that week.”
THE TOTAL CREATION IN SIX DAYS
The explicit testimony of Moses is this: “[I]n six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is...” (Exodus 20:11). Two items are of special interest, “in” and “all.” The creation—“all” of it—was accomplished “in” the six-day period. The Hebrew term kol, rendered “all,” signifies “the whole” or “totality” of a thing (Gesenius, 1979, p. 396). Could a statement be any clearer than that? It is difficult to see how. But Clayton simply cannot accept that. And why not? Because he has endorsed the evolutionary system of chronology which demands that the Earth be billions of years old. His belief in a substantial portion of the evolutionary theory has distorted his view of the Bible.
NOTHING BEFORE “THE BEGINNING”
The Genesis record commences with these words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth....” Subsequently, the text says: “And there was evening, and there was morning, one day.” Verses 1-5 deal with the divine activity of the beginning day of Earth’s first week. But Clayton suggests that “before that week” God already had “been active” in the work of creation. Does that make any sense—logically? How could God have been “creating” things before the beginning of the “creation”? Such a contradiction should not be attributed to be Scriptures.
THE WORK WAS “FINISHED”
The gentleman further asserts that God was involved in creation activity “after that week.” That statement explicitly contradicts the testimony of Genesis 2:1-3. Therein, Moses records that “the heavens and the earth” and “all the host of them” were “finished” (kalah—“to complete, bring to an end”; Brown, et al., 1907, p. 478) as the first week came to a conclusion. The inspired writer affirmed that God “rested” (shabhath—“to cease, desist”; Brown, et al., p. 991) from “all” His creation activity. One scholar noted that this language
...implies that the created world came into being as a fully developed whole, as a finished product. God’s creative power did not merely produce a phenomenon with vast possibilities and potentials which, in turn, would develop in the course of eons of time. The world was finished, complete, a product of God’s workmanship and was fully done (Aalders, 1981, p. 74).
This agrees with the well-known first law of thermodynamics, which asserts that, according to present processes, nothing is being created now.
The gentleman under review is so radical in his quest to find “creation activity” outside the bounds of the initial week, that he labels the contrary view as “apostasy.” Within this context he charged: “The apostasy of religious fundamentalism has been as catastrophic as the forsaking of the simple message of the Gospel by modern denominationalism” (1997, p. 8). Clayton appears to be calling for a cessation of doctrinal fellowship with all who subscribe to a literal view of the Mosaic testimony. Of course, if he is accurate in his charge, Moses himself becomes an apostate (Exodus 20:11). The implication is indeed both serious and foolish.
The fact that this man is used, week after week, in churches all across this country, is a vivid and tragic commentary on the ignorance of our age.
Aalders, G. Charles (1981), Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Brown, Francis, Sr. Driver, and Charles Briggs (1907), Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (London: Oxford University Press).
Clayton, John N. (1990), The Source (South Bend, IN: privately published).
Clayton, John N. (1997), Does God Exist?, 24:4-8, January/February.
Gesenius, William (1979 reprint), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids. MI: Baker).
Jackson, Wayne, and Bert Thompson (1992), In The Shadow of Darwin—A Review of the Teachings of John N. Clayton (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).