ONCE AGAIN THE QUESTION OF “DAYS”
In the debate over the question of evolution the church has conceded much to evolutionistic thinking. When the debate began many years ago (when I was still in college), the question was mostly concerning the length of the “days” of Genesis 1. It was popular then to describe these days as long periods of time and, in this way, to make room for an old earth. By making room in the Scriptural narrative for an old earth, sufficient concessions were made to science to answer most objections the scientists raised against the position of the creationists.
But the times have changed. Almost no one any longer believes in the “period theory.” Once concessions were made to the scientists there was no stopping. It soon became clear that evolutionism was not content merely to stretch the days of Genesis 1into long periods of time while retaining all along the idea of creation by divine fiat. After all, if God created by divine fiat, why did He need long periods of time to do this? And, more importantly, the evolutionists were not merely interested in an old earth. They were interested in explaining how the world came into existence. And they would have nothing of creation in any sense. Hence, the church was forced to concede more and more until finally creation was denied altogether. Few today, within the Church, consider the question of the days ofGenesis 1 a pertinent question. The whole of Genesis 1 (as well as subsequent chapters) is now usually described as myth, as less than actual history, as ancient traditions, not historically true, but preserved in Israel’s legendary tradition as interesting but ancient beliefs of how the world came into being. These myths may have some, religious and liturgical value; they may even give us some general truths concerning the works of God; but they are not history in any sense of the word. The existence of the world is to be explained in evolutionary terms.
It is no wonder that this development took place until finally evolutionism has taken over completely. After all, the question which occupied a central place in the debate between evolutionism and creationism never was a question of the interpretation of the “days” of Genesis 1. This was always incidental to the real discussion and a comparatively minor point in the debate. The real question was always: “How did the world come into existence? Did it come into existence “by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear?” Or did it come into existence by biological evolution? This is the real question. Therefore, once to have made a concession to the evolutionists, the church was forced to make more and more concessions until it lost entirely the Scriptures in the first part of Genesis. The result is that the question of the “days” of Genesis 1 is not any longer an important question.
It came as somewhat of a surprise therefore, that in a recent issue of the Torch and Trumpet, Dr. Maatman, from Dordt College, was found defending this all but forgotten idea. And the old arguments, so often refuted, were once again brought up.
It might be well to review this briefly, not so much because the old debate has very much relevance any more; but rather to demonstrate that it is indeed true that this seemingly innocuous concession inevitably leads to more and more concessions until the whole truth of creation is lost.
In support of his position that the “days” of Genesis 1are long periods of time, Dr. Maatman urges the following arguments.
Dr. Maatman, in a former article, was making the point that nothing in Scripture (including scientific matters) is peripheral. From this he argues that those who accept “general evolutionary theory” are guilty of imposing their own ideas on the Bible. But he makes the point in this connection that those who insist that the days of Genesis 1 are days of 24 hours also impose their ideas on Scripture. The basis for this latter assertion occupies the rest of the article.
In the first place, Maatman argues that the Hebrew word for “day” can mean a long period of time when used in other places in Scripture. Now, apart from the fact that this is an old argument and has often been refuted, Maatman quotes but one text: Psalm 2:7. This passage reads: “This day have I begotten thee.” Maatman argues that the word “day” here refers to an eternal period. Certainly this will never do.
In the first place, I do not think that Maatman wants to make every “day” of Genesis 1 an eternal period. This would be absurd. In the second place, however, Maatman is apparently unaware of the fact that the apostle Paul quotes this text in his sermon in Antioch of Pisidia. And Paul speaks of the fact that this prophecy was fulfilled at the time of the resurrection of Christ: “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again, as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” Acts 13:33. The “day” therefore is the day of the resurrection.
But this is not all. .It is true that the word “day” sometimes refers to a period of time. We use the word in the same sense. We speak, e.g., of “the day of the horse and buggy.” But when the word “day” is used in this sense, it is used to describe a period of time from a particular viewpoint; i.e., a dominant characteristic of a certain period of time. It is for this reason that we cannot use ordinal numbers with the word “day” when it is so used. Nor does Scripture. Never in the whole Bible is the word used with ordinal numbers to refer to a period of time. But this is emphatically the case in Genesis 1: the first day, the second day, the third day, etc. Quite obviously the meaning is not to describe a period of time characterized by one general characteristic, but is to indicate days such as we know them now.
Further, Maatman argues that the seventh day is a period because it is a period in which God rests. He rests today. And, if the seventh day is a period, why not then the rest of the days? But this is not the point of the Genesis narrative. It is not true that God rested from the seventh day onward up until today. God’s rest is an eternal rest. And, once again, Maatman will not want to make these “days” of Genesis 1 eternal periods. Nor will it do to say that this “rest” is described in terms of God’s “work” the previous six days as if God worked six days and then began his rest which endures to the present. Jesus reminds the wicked Jews that “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” John 5:17. The whole argument is fallacious and based upon a false interpretation of the seventh day of the creation week. God rested on the seventh day exactly to establish the week referred to in the law: “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” This is rooted in the creation ordinance itself.
Further, Maatman denies that the limitations of “morning” and “evening” in Genesis 1 point to a day of 24 hours. He argues this on the basis of the fact that Zechariah 14:7 uses the same word in a different sense. A couple of remarks about this will suffice. It is not at all obvious, in the first place, as Maatman insists, that the evening referred to in that passage “is associated with a day which obviously is not a day of 24 hours.” This requires some very special exegesis. A mere affirmation will not do. But, in the second place, even though we should concede Maatman’s argument, the fact is that Genesis 1 uses not only the word “evening” but also the word “morning.” If Maatman’s argument is accepted, then we shall have to read Genesis 1:5b in this way: “And the beginning of the first period of time and the end of the first period of time were the first 900,000,000+ years.” This is a most peculiar way to read the passage, and, far worse, it is an obvious denial of the perspicuity of Scripture.
Finally, Maatman argues that long periods of time are not incompatible with instantaneous creation. He says it is entirely possible that instantaneous acts of creation were surrounded by long periods in which no creative work was done. Here really we come to the heart of the question, I think Maatman himself apparently does not really believe this. In this same paragraph he speaks of the fact that not all the miracles of Scripture were performed instantaneously. (Parenthetically it should be remarked that it is not altogether clear precisely what Maatman means by this. To illustrate this he points to the fact that the time between Christ’s conception and birth was nine months. But the miracle of the incarnation took place at the moment of conception. And the fact that Christ united our human nature with the divine nature in the Person of the Son of God was not terminated with Christ’s birth but continues eternally. This is the only example he gives—a most unusual one.) But when he speaks of the fact that not all miracles were performed instantaneously, he suggests, after all, that the same was true of the miracle of creation. It could have been, in his words, “a slow process.”
Then we are back to where we started. If creation is a slow process, then, after all, creation could have (and, indeed, did) take place by means of evolution. Then the question is not merely one of an old earth vs. a relatively new earth. The question is: How did creation take place? Did it take place by divine fiat? Or did it take place by evolutionary processes? Maatman, at least suggests, that the latter is possible. But then the debate need not revolve around the question of the meaning of the word “day.” Then the debate centers in the very truth of the Word of God itself. Those who shove aside much of Genesis as “myth” are more consistent than Maatman.
We, for our part, are content with the clear and concise statement of Hebrews 11:3: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
MAN BECOME GOD
In a recent article we made mention of the fact that the evolutionists speak of man himself controlling the evolutionary process to guide it in such a way that some kind of superman is produced. What they mean is that in the most literal sense of the word, man has it in his power to become God.
Christian News, a conservative and forthright weekly published by a minister of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, quotes from an article by a Dr. Lutz which appeared originally in Concordia Theological Monthly. Dr. Lutz writes:
The artificial creation of life in a test tube will probably be a reality within a year or two, certainly by the end of the 1970s. Now for the first time, a living creature is beginning to understand its own origin and can logically undertake to design its future. Never before has man been able to rise above his nature to chart his destiny. Genetic engineering can be a reality before the end of this century.
Technological progress is now making the traditional concept of the family obsolete. The reasons are many, complex, and interrelated and should be discussed at length. . . .
It is not unreasonable to assume that human eggs, or ova, could likewise be amassed and stored by freezing. With artificial ovulation and implantation as available as artificial insemination and with egg banks as well as sperm banks to draw from, either a genetic mother or father or both could be selected for the prospective child. Men and women could then ignore heredity in their choice of mates. Within 20 years it may be possible for a couple to shop in a new kind of commissary, for sperm, eggs, or even frozen one-day-old embryos. But, at the same time, the mother might elect not to carry her chosen fetus. She might instead hire out another female as a surrogate mother to carry her embryo for the development period. Just around the corner then is an era when children perhaps will be born of geographically separated or even long-dead parents and where virgin births are possible. This will be an era in which women may give birth to other women’s children and one in which a few favored persons may be the parents of thousands of progeny. . . .
Not far off even now is the perfection of several drugs that will emotionally incapacitate persons and disorganize brain functions to such a degree that physical, armed resistance cannot be maintained. Thus, warfare may, it is hoped, become obsolete.
Passion between the sexes must, of course, remain a basic and fundamental human right. But this basic and fundamental human right cannot include having children at will. Procreation must become a matter of public concern. Man has an acute responsibility to the next generation of limiting the size of that generation. . . .
This type of writing is increasingly common today. One would be amazed if he knew how seriously these things are considered by scientists, sociologists and, worse, theologians. It all presents a vivid and terrifying picture of the kingdom of Antichrist.
—The World Council of Churches has initiated talks with representatives from other religions. Included were Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. The purpose was to see what could be learned for future relations between people of all religions.
—The United Methodist Church, the largest of the nine denominations participating in COCU has expressed strong reservations about the projected new church. Apparently the provisions made for bishops is especially troublesome to independently orientated Methodists. COCU may be in some trouble.
—The Supreme Court, by a 7 to 1 margin (Justice Douglas dissenting), ruled that tax exemptions for religious bodies was constitutional. The case heard was brought by Attorney Frederick Walz who purchased a small plot of ground in New York on which he paid $5.24 tax. He argued that he was being discriminated against because of the exemptions granted religious organizations. Much of the church world breathed a collective sigh of relief.The total value of church property in this country is in excess of $100 billion.
—Reports continue to filter out from the Soviet Union that the church behind the iron curtain is still suffering persecution. Many Christians are held in prisons or labor camps. There is constant pressure of all kinds upon Christians to abandon their faith.
—The World Council announced that it was sending $25,000 to the Viet Cong towards the purchase of sixteen tons of medical supplies.