[Originally published as part of Defending a Young Earth: A Response to Tyler Vela (Part 1)]
In recent days, a talented, skillful, and gracious Christian apologist named Tyler Vela has been advocating in defense of a particular brand of “framework hypothesis.” Although he claims to have “no dog” in the “age of the earth debate,” that has not stopped him from releasing materials attempting to refute common young-age creationist arguments. Each of main point will be the argument as stated in Tyler’s article. Below, I will post a direct quote (or quotes) that captures the thrust of his objection and my response below. I will make note of any time I quote Tyler directly within my response.
If you just take the plain meaning of the text, it clearly means six literal solar days.
While this does touch on what I will address in later articles in a more robust manner, let me simply state that this is clearly false. In fact it was precisely the plain meaning of the text which drove myself and many others away from a literalist understanding of Genesis 1.
On this point, Vela mentions five specific questions which supposedly rise naturally out of the text, causing an alleged issue for the young age interpretation.There are two things to keep in the back of your mind when going down this list:
- First, Tyler claims these objections are merely textual, but a few of them seem to be importing our current scientific understanding. I’ll point these out.
- Second, this entire piece is based exclusively on Genesis 1, and yet, a creationist who believes in taking the “plain meaning of the text” is speaking about a hermeneutical approach to the whole Bible. To detach Genesis 1 from the other passages used to support this view is unhelpful.
Tyler raises five questions of the Genesis 1 “literalist”
How is there morning and evening with no sun?
I’ve given this exact question a thorough treatment here, but there’s a problem with the question. Namely, you don’t need a sun to have evening and morning.
You need two things:
- A light source (which is present on day 1)
- and the earth (which is also present on day 1).
To even ask this question is to assume that God must have already created the sun on Day 1 because it is our light source today.
A plain reading suggests that God created light first, and then a few days later, created the sun. That’s what the text says. My point is that the text is clear as to when the sun was created vs. the original light source. To suggest otherwise is an exercise in eisegesis.
This brings us to Tyler’s next question:
Is this supernatural light ‘good’ and if so why did God scrap it and replace it just a few days later with the sun?
This question represents a logical fallacy called a “complex question.” Tyler’s question makes myriad assumptions that affect the answer a priori:
- the light was supernatural,
- it wasn’t good (or it didn’t exist as a separate light from the sun), and
- that God “scrapped it” and “replaced it” with the sun.
I am not aware of any recent creationist who claims that the “first light” was supernatural, unless he is making reference to those who claim the light was God Himself, as hinted to in the book of Revelation. This is not my personal view, but there are many creationists who do, in fact, hold it.
The point is that there are plausible (and even scripturally supported) views about first light that do not appeal directly to the supernatural. Again, see my article on this for a couple of those views.
However, a glaring question seems to arise
Just what was creation if not supernatural?
Is Tyler suggesting that we must view creation on naturalistic terms? The supernatural isn’t allowed in creation, all of a sudden? I’m not trying to make any sort of indictment here, but rather to point out the logical consequences of arguing in the manner that he has.
As asked, Tyler’s rhetorical question also assumes that the light created in the beginning wasn’t good (because it was “scrapped”), in order to raise a seeming contradiction. His unstated conclusion is that if we’re going to call the light part of God’s “good” creation, it will have to be attached to the sun.
The problem? This is not what the text says! I cannot stress this enough. On two separate occasions, God creates light and the sun, respectively, and each time calls it good! Again, a plain meaning is simply that — taking the text for what it says, not for what some scientists think about when/how the sun was formed.
Did God actually scrap the light, as Tyler suggests? Of course not. Why? Because the text does not say that’s what happened. Of that, I can be dogmatically sure. From a scientific standpoint, there have been numerous suggestions. I won’t give my personal view, but here are a few options:
- God was the light. If this is true, then the sun was simply put in place to help God’s creation (humans) tell time. This is the purpose stated in Scripture.
- The light was a form of energy. This view, again, allows for the sun to be put in place as the text says to do the job God intended for it.
- God “attached” the light to the sun. John MacArthur has argued that whatever the “first light” was, it has not been deprecated, but is now attached to the sun, which has a more specific purpose.
The above suggestions are, of course, speculative. But no more speculative than the current naturalistic story of the sun’s origins. This is why creationists are so adamant on this point. The Bible says one thing; naturalists say another. So it just doesn’t make sense to us when Christians side with naturalists on some points about origins, but not others.¹
Tyler’s next question:
How are there days when God says that the whole purpose of the sun and moon and stars was for the purpose of marking out days and seasons in Day 4?
As stated, Tyler’s question doesn’t make sense, so I am assuming he means to ask how Days 1–3 could have been literal, 24-hour days in light of the fact that the sun wasn’t created to mark off time until Day 4.
Scripturally, because the “evening and morning” had taken place to constitute the first day, regardless of Day 4 events. If you look to the Hebrew, many have rightly argued that the close of verse 5 could/should read, “and the evening and the morning were day one.” Also, since context determines meaning, and God wrote this to communicate with the original readers,² Genesis 1 allows for only three possible contexts:
- 12 hours (morning/evening),
- a 24-hour day (due to the use of ordinal numbers),
- or a collection of six days (since Genesis 2:4 seems to be summarizing the events of Genesis 1).
Practically, because even though a day is possible with no sun (more on that in a moment), signs, seasons, etc.–i.e., a day as we experience it–is not. This light source (the sun), coupled with the rotation of the earth, would now produce these things, which give us a sense of time-keeping and commemoration.
Scientifically, because the sun actually has very little to do with the length of a day. It is the rotation of the earth that gives us this measurement (about 96%). The sun may help us to mark out days, seasons, etc., but it brings almost nothing to bear on the actual length of a day.
Therefore, there is no problem with days 1–3 being ordinary days. Further, Exodus 20:11 makes no distinction between the length of the days. Everyone knew what was meant. More on that in part two.
The light and the darkness are separated on Day 1 but then God creates the sun and the moon for the purpose of separating the light and the darkness on Day 4. But if that had already happened on Day 1, then what light and darkness are being separated on Day 4? Did they fuse back together at some time?
This is an interesting question, and, admittedly, one I had never heard before. My attempt at answering this may not be fully satisfactory, but it should be sufficient. I think it would be helpful to answer in the same way I answered the above question: scripturally, practically, and scientifically.
Scripturally, then, this is certainly no contradiction. It may be an interesting question for reflection, but if the record is right as stated, God separated some light from some darkness twice. Further, 2 Corinthians 4:6 may give us an interesting clue. It says, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
A comparison is being drawn with creation here. It seems to me that the creation of the sun could not be considered “commanding the light to shine out of darkness“, because the sun is an entity that gives off light from within itself based on its nature. Further, a common sense reading of this verse would seem to indicate that it is speaking about the first time that light had ever shone out of darkness, just like the light of the gospel shines in the heart of a dark, dead sinner for the first time.
Practically, if we allow for the fact that God created the universe (the heavens), and the earth, and for the logical progression of the text moving from the general to the specific, we can easily see how the separation of “first light” from original darkness pertained to the universe writ large, and the second separation was specifically with respect to the earth.
Scientifically, and to build on the previous point, just because there was light of some sort in the universe on Day 1, it does not follow that there was light on the earth. The sun was created on Day 4 to give light on the earth, since the sun (and the moon, by way of reflection) is the only way light is shone onto the earth. To assume that there is a contradiction because a superficially similar phenomenon is described twice is, once again, an exercise in eisegesis.
Tyler’s final question on this point:
”How is it literal days if plants are created on day 3 but we are told in Genesis 2 that no plants had grown because it had not yet rained and man was not yet created to work the earth? Could they not survive the 3 days without water until man was created?”
Another good question! Unfortunately, this objection is based on a misunderstanding of Genesis 2 writ large, and is based on an old objection raised by Meredith Kline, a popularizer of the Framework Hypothesis which Tyler holds.
Much could be said about this. However, what I (and many others) argue is that Genesis 2 is not a creation account at all, and is simply a “zooming in” on the events of the Garden of Eden.
Kruger offers six pieces of evidence in support of this view in his paper, An Understanding of Genesis 2:5. Within the paper, Kruger also highlights the fact that Genesis 2:5 is speaking of the type of vegetation that required the cultivation of man–one completely distinct from that which was created by God on day 3, which is clearly seen in an examination of the Hebrew.³
Therefore, if Vela wants to stretch credulity by saying that a plain English reading of the text creates difficulty, he is welcome to do so, but that is a disingenuous position to take since the original readers, reading in their own language, would have clearly seen the difference between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2:5.
He wraps up this second point of objection by saying, “a straight forward reading will not yield 6 literal days. It simply is not the clear and plain meaning of the text like they imagine it to be.”
Well, as hopefully you’ve surmised from the above points, what he actually means is that it’s not the plain and clear meaning of the text if you assume the order of “creation” as agreed upon by the majority of scientists.
Six literal days certainly is the plain and clear meaning of the text if it’s proper exegesis–and not eisegesis–we intend to accomplish.
- For example, many Christians who argue using the big bang also argue against evolution! Of course, the big bang is fraught with many scientific issues just like evolution theory is. So why accept one, but not the other? It doesn’t make sense.
- I owe my thanks to Old Testament professor, Dr. James Allman, for this practical understanding of Scriptural interpretation.
- Kruger’s paper also addresses other objections of Kline’s with respect to this issue. It’s a worthwhile read.