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Popular Compromises of Creation—The Day-Age Theory

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

In chapter six of the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul spoke to first-century Christians to discuss with them the spiritual battle in which they were engaged. He wrote to admonish, to warn, and to encourage. These were his words:

Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:10-12).

We, too, find ourselves involved in a spiritual battle—a battle over the accuracy of God’s Word in regard to its teaching on origins. Why is this particular battle of such importance? There are a number of reasons, but primarily what makes victory so urgent is best summarized in this one thought: give a man a false, warped view of his origin, and he likewise will possess a false, warped view of his destiny. Matters of origin and destiny are inextricably linked.

Those of us who accept the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God, and who accept the biblical record of origins at face value, must deal with opponents from not one, but two different camps. First there are the strict evolutionists—those who profess no belief whatsoever in God or His Word. To them, their origin is strictly a naturalistic phenomenon.

Second, there are the opponents who profess a belief in God and His Word, but who are intent on compromising the biblical account of origins so that aspects of the evolutionary world view may be incorporated into that divine record. Opponents in the first group rally under the names of atheists, agnostics, infidels, freethinkers, and the like. Opponents in the second group fight under the banners of theistic evolution, progressive creationism, threshold evolution, and other similar concepts.

While our warfare is with both groups, this is a discussion of the ongoing battle with only one of them—those who have compromised the Word of God with naturalistic theories of origins. Much is at stake, for if the theistic evolutionists, progressive creationists, and their cohorts are correct, we who have understood the biblical record to be taken as a literal, historical account of our ultimate origin are wrong. Our opponents advocate a view which suggests that the account is not to be taken in such a fashion; rather, it is a mythical, allegorical, or liturgical story that, when viewed as such, is not inconsistent with many of the tenets of organic evolution.

The battle lines have been drawn. It is our position that there can be no compromise. While we do not desire to be harsh, we do wish to defend the Genesis account of origins as being an accurate, historical account of God’s activity in the realm of creation. Christ, and His Old and New Testament writers, viewed it as such; therefore we not only are correct in following their example, but absolutely must do so. Those who compromise the plain teaching of the Word of God need to know that their actions will not go unchallenged or unanswered.

THE DAY-AGE THEORY

In his book, Creation or Evolution?, D.D. Riegle observed: “It is amazing that men will accept long, complicated, imaginative theories and reject the truth given to Moses by the Creator Himself ” (1962, p. 24). One such theory is the Day-Age Theory, which suggests that the creation days in Genesis 1 were not literal, 24-hour days, but rather were long ages or eons of time.

Why Believe the Day-Age Theory?

There are at least two reasons why the Day-Age Theory has been advocated. First, some in religious circles have accepted as factual most, or all, of organic evolution, and in so doing have adopted the concept known as theistic evolution—the idea that evolution did occur but was guided and controlled by God. Theistic evolutionists therefore must find a way to accommodate the Genesis record to the evolutionary scenario, a critical part of which is an ancient Universe and/or Earth. Without vast amounts of time, evolution is impossible. Thus, the Day-Age Theory often is employed to insert geologic time into the biblical text so that evolution may be accepted as true. John Klotz addressed this point in Genes, Genesis, and Evolution: “It is hardly conceivable that anyone would question the interpretation of these as ordinary days were it not for the fact that people are attempting to reconcile Genesis and evolution” (1955, p. 87).

Second, certain Bible believers, although not necessarily desiring to defend organic evolution as correct, nevertheless have accepted uniformitarian dating methods. These “progressive creationists” (so named because they believe that God created, not instantaneously, but through “progressive” time periods) are convinced that such methods are correct and that the Earth is ancient. They therefore must find a way to inject geologic time into the Genesis record. A good example of this can be seen in the book, A Scientist Examines Faith and Evidence, by Donald England of Harding University. Dr. England has suggested that:

...it is not recommended that one should allow a general impression gained from the reading of Scripture to crystallize in his mind as absolute revealed truth. A reading of the first few chapters of Genesis leaves one with the very definite impression that life has existed on earth for, at the most, a few thousand years. That conclusion is in conflict with the conclusions of modern science that the earth is ancient (1983, p. 155, emp. added).

Jack Wood Sears, while also a professor at Harding University, wrote: “Science, as I indicated earlier, has seemed to indicate that life has been here much longer than we have generally interpreted the Bible to indicate” (1969, p. 97, emp. added).

The professors’ point—explained in detail in their writings—is this: uniformitarian dating methods take precedence over the Bible! Scientific theory has become the father of biblical exegesis. The question being asked is not, “What does the Bible say?,” but rather, “What do evolutionary dating methods indicate?” In order to force the biblical record to accommodate geologic time, defenders of these dating methods do indeed find it necessary to invent “long, complicated, and imaginative” theories.

Is the Day-Age Theory Popular?

Over the years, the Day-Age Theory has been advocated by a number of influential religionists. Wilbur M. Smith, former dean of Moody Bible Institute, went on record as stating: “First of all, we must dismiss from our mind any conception of a definite period of time, either for creation itself, or for the length of the so-called six creative days” (1945, p. 312). Bernard Ramm called the belief that the days of creation were 24-hour days the “naive, literal view” (1954, pp. 120-121). Kenneth Taylor, producer of the Living Bible Paraphrased, added footnotes to Genesis 1, explaining that the Hebrew phrase “evening and morning” meant a long period of time.

In more recent times, the Day-Age Theory has been championed by such writers as Davis A. Young (Creation and the Flood, 1977, p. 132), Alan Hayward (Creation and Evolution: The Facts and the Fallacies, 1985, p. 164), Howard J. Van Till (The Fourth Day, 1986, pp. 75-93; Portraits of Creation, 1990, pp. 236-242), and Hugh Ross (Creation and Time, 1994, pp. 45-90).

What Is Wrong With the Day-Age Theory?

As we begin an examination of the Day-Age Theory, this fundamental question might be asked: If the author of Genesis wanted to instruct his readers on the fact that all things had been created in six literal days, what words might he have used to convey such a thought? Henry Morris has suggested:

...the writer would have used the actual words in Genesis 1. If he wished to convey the idea of long geological ages, however, he could surely have done it far more clearly and effectively in other words than in those which he selected. It was clearly his intent to teach creation in six literal days.
Therefore, the only proper way to interpret Genesis 1 is not to “interpret” it at all. That is, we accept the fact that it was meant to say exactly what it says. The “days” are literal days and the events described happened in just the way described (1976, p. 54).

I concur, and would like to offer the following information for careful consideration by the reader.

1. The days of creation should be accepted as literal, 24-hour periods because the context demands such a rendering.

The language of the text is simple and clear. Honest exegetes cannot read anything else out of these verses than a day of 24 hours and a week of 7 days. There is not the slightest indication that this is to be regarded as poetry or as an allegory or that it is not to be taken as a historical fact. The language is that of normal human speech to be taken at face value, and the unbiased reader will understand it as it reads. There is no indication that anything but a literal sense is meant (Rehwinkel, 1974, p. 70).

It is true that the word for day (Hebrew, yom), as in many other languages, is employed with a variety of meanings. But, as in other languages, context is critical in determining exactly what the word means in any given instance. Morris has noted:

Whenever the writer really intended to convey the idea of a very long duration of time, he normally used some such word as olam (meaning “age” or “long time”) or else attached to yom an adjective such as rab (meaning “long”), so that the two words together yom rab, then meant “long time.” But yom by itself can apparently never be proved, in one single case, to require the meaning of a long period of time, and certainly no usage which would suggest a geologic age (1974, p. 223, emp. in orig.).

2. The days of creation should be accepted as literal, 24-hour periods because God used and defined the word yom in the context of Genesis 1.

Actually, it is nothing short of amazing to discover the evidence actually built into the text for “interpreting” what kind of days these were. In Genesis 1:5, Moses wrote: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” The “first day” is thus defined by Moses as a period consisting of both day and night—i.e., a normal day.

Second, Genesis 1:14 is instructive on this matter: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years.” If the “days” are “ages,” then what are the years? If a day is an age, then what is a night? In other words, the whole passage becomes ridiculous when one attempts to “reinterpret” the word “day.” Marcus Dods, writing in the Expositor’s Bible, stated simply: “If the word ‘day’ in this chapter [Genesis 1—BT] does not mean a period of 24 hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless” (1948, 1:4-5).

3. The days of creation should be accepted as literal, 24-hour periods because whenever the Hebrew word yom is preceded by a numeral in Old Testament non-prophetical literature (viz., the same kind of literature found in Genesis 1), it always carries the meaning of a normal day.

In addressing this point, Arthur Williams has remarked: “We have failed to find a single example of the use of the word ‘day’ in the entire Scripture where it means other than a period of twenty-four hours when modified by the use of the numerical adjective” (1965, p. 10).

Raymond Surburg was invited to contribute to the book, Darwin, Evolution, and Creation, edited by Paul Zimmerman. In his chapter, Dr. Surburg quoted from a letter written by Canadian anthropologist, Arthur C. Custance, and sent to contemporary Hebrew scholars, members of the faculties of nine leading universities—three in Canada, three in the United States, and three in England. In the letter, Dr. Custance inquired about the meaning of yom as used in Genesis. For example, he asked: “Do you understand the Hebrew yom, as used in Genesis 1, accompanied by a numeral, to be properly translated as: (a) a day as commonly understood, or (b) an age, or (c) an age or a day without preference for either?” Seven of the nine replied, and all stated that the word yom means “a day as commonly understood” (as quoted in Surburg, 1959, p. 61).

4. The days of creation should be accepted as literal, 24-hour periods because whenever the Hebrew word yom occurs in the plural (yamim) in Old Testament non-prophetical literature (viz., the same kind of literature found in Genesis 1), it always carries the meaning of a normal day.

Yamim, the Hebrew word for “days,” occurs over 700 times in the Old Testament. In each of those instances where the language is non-prophetical in nature, it always refers to literal days. Thus, in Exodus 20:11, when the Scripture says, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is,” there can be no doubt whatsoever that six literal days are under discussion. Even the most liberal Bible scholars do not attempt to negate the force of this argument by suggesting that Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:11 are prophetical.

5. The days of creation should be accepted as literal, 24-hour periods because whenever the Hebrew word yom is modified by the phrase “evening and morning” in Old Testament non-prophetical literature (viz., the same kind of literature found in Genesis 1), it always carries the meaning of a normal day.

Having separated the day and night, God had completed His first day’s work. “The evening and the morning were the first day.” This same formula is used at the conclusion of each of the six days; so it is obvious that the duration of each of the days, including the first, was the same.... It is clear that, beginning with the first day and continuing thereafter, there was established a cyclical succession of days and nights—periods of light and periods of darkness.
...The writer not only defined the term “day,” but emphasized that it was terminated by a literal evening and morning and that it was like every other day in the normal sequence of days. In no way can the term be legitimately applied here to anything corresponding to a geological period or any other such concept (Morris, 1976, pp. 55-56).

Some have suggested, of course, that literal, 24-hour days would not have been possible until at least the fourth day, because the Sun had not yet been created. Note, however, that the same “evening and morning” is employed before Genesis 1:14 (the creation of the Sun) as after it. Why should there be three long eras of time before the appearing of the Sun, and only 24-hour days after its creation? Numerous writers have responded to this objection.

Insofar as the view is concerned that these could not be ordinary days because the sun had not been created, we should like to point to the fact that we still measure time in terms of days even though the sun does not appear or is not visible. For instance, north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle the sun does not appear for periods of time up to six months at the poles themselves. We would not think of measuring time in terms of the appearance or lack of appearance of the sun in these areas. No one would contend that at the North or South Pole a day is the equivalent of six months elsewhere (Klotz, 1955, p. 85).
...If to this the objection is offered that the sun did not shine on the earth until the fourth day, it should be remembered that it is the function of the heavenly bodies to mark the days, not make them! It is night when no moon appears; and the day is the same whether the sun is seen or not (Woods, 1976, p. 17, emp. in orig.).

6. The days of creation should be accepted as literal, 24-hour periods because of the problems in the field of botany if the days are pressed into becoming long periods of time. Woods has commented:

Botany, the field of plant-life, came into existence on the third day. Those who allege that the days of Genesis 1 may have been long geological ages, must accept the absurd hypothesis that plant-life survived in periods of total darkness through half of each geologic age, running into millions of years (1976, p. 17).

Morris has also addressed this issue:

The objection is sometimes raised that the first three days were not days as they are today since the sun was not created until day four. One could of course turn this objection against those who raise it. The longer the first three days, the more catastrophic it would be for the sun not to be on hand during those days, if indeed the sun is the only possible source of light for the earth. The vegetation created on the third day might endure for a few hours without sunlight, but hardly for a geologic age! (1974, p. 224).

In addition, there is a serious problem in regard to reproduction of the plants. The Genesis text indicates that the plants were created on the third day. Yet the kingdom of other living things was not created until the fifth and sixth days. How could plants have survived which are pollinated solely by insects? Clover is pollinated by bees and the yucca plant has the pronuba moth as its only means of pollination. How did plants multiply if they were growing millions of years before their friends the insects came into existence?

7. The days of creation should be accepted as literal, 24-hour periods because of plain statements about them in Scripture.

“For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is...” (Exodus 20:11).
“For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9).
“Let them praise the name of Jehovah; for he commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:5).
“For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17).

Does a simple, straightforward reading of these verses imply long periods of evolutionary progress, or literal, 24-hour days and instantaneous creation? Riegle has noted:

The Hebrew text implies that the Creative acts were accomplished instantly. In Genesis 1:11 God’s literal command was, “Earth, sprout sprouts!” In the very next verse we find the response to the command—“The earth caused Plants to go out.” There is no hint that great ages of time were required to accomplish this phase of the Creation. It could have been done in only minutes, or even seconds, as far as God’s creative power is concerned (1962, pp. 27-28).

In its appropriate context, each of these passages can be understood correctly to be speaking only of literal days and instantaneous creation.

8. The days of creation should be accepted as literal, 24-hour periods because of God’s explicit command to the Israelites to work six days and rest on the seventh, just as He had done.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: ...for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8-11).

The Sabbath command in Exodus 20:8-11 can be understood properly only when the days of the week are considered as 24-hour days.

The Sabbath was instituted by God as a memorial of His completed creation, but according to uniformitarians, creation, in the sense of evolutionary change, is still going on, just as it has throughout geologic time. The Sabbath thus becomes quite meaningless under the day-age theory. The difficulty is increased by the fact that a “week” composed of seven aeons, each of different and indefinite length, some overlapping, some concurrent, one still continuing, could never be reasonably taken as the basis for the very rigidly described and enforced week of seven days with its Sabbath. But the creation week is definitely the basis for our week, according to the Bible (Morris, 1966, p. 35).

CONCLUSION

To those who are enamored with the Day-Age Theory, I would like to offer for serious and thoughtful consideration the challenge set forth by Fields:

We would like to suggest two courses of action for those who so willingly wed themselves to such extravagant misinterpretations of the Scripture: either (1) admit that the Bible and contemporary uniformitarian geology are at odds, reject biblical creation, and defend geological and biological evolution over billions of years; or (2) admit that the Bible and contemporary uniformitarian geology are at odds, study all the geological indications of the recent creation of the earth, accept the implications of Noah’s flood, and believe the recent creationism of the Bible. One must choose either the chronological scheme of uniformitarianism or the chronological scheme of the Bible, but the inconsistencies of this sort of interpretation of the Hebrew text for the purpose of harmonizing mutually exclusive and hopelessly contradictory positions can no longer be tolerated (1976, pp. 178-179, all emp. in orig. except for last sentence).

Dr. Fields urges that the off-beat interpretation necessary to make the Day-Age Theory acceptable be tolerated no longer, because it is not only internally inconsistent, but is illogical, and sets Scripture against itself time and again. Faithful Christians should reject such a doctrine. Further, why should such an idea be accepted? What is wrong with God’s having created the Universe and everything in it in six days? Not only could God accomplish such a task, but His Word states that this is exactly what He did.

REFERENCES

Dods, Marcus (1948), “Genesis,” The Expositor’s Bible, ed. W.R. Nicoll (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

England, Donald (1983), A Scientist Examines Faith and Evidence (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).

Fields, Weston W. (1976), Unformed and Unfilled (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Hayward, Alan (1985), Creation and Evolution: The Facts and the Fallacies (London: Triangle Books).

Klotz, John (1955), Genes, Genesis, and Evolution (St. Louis, MO: Concordia).

Morris, Henry M. (1966), Studies in the Bible and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Morris, Henry M. (1974), Scientific Creationism (San Diego, CA: Creation-Life Publishers).

Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Ramm, Bernard (1954), The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Rehwinkel, Alfred (1974), The Wonders of Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Riegle, D.D. (1962), Creation or Evolution?, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Ross, Hugh (1994), Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress).

Sears, Jack Wood (1969), Conflict and Harmony in Science and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Smith, Wilbur M. (1945), Therefore Stand! (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Surburg, Raymond (1959), “In the Beginning God Created,” Darwin, Evolution, and Creation, ed. P.A. Zimmerman (St. Louis, MO: Concordia).

Van Till, Howard J. (1986), The Fourth Day (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Van Till, Howard J., R.E. Snow, J.H. Stek, and Davis A. Young (1990), Portraits of Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Woods, Guy N. (1976), Questions and Answers: Open Forum (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University).




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