The book of Genesis is absolutely paramount to having proper foundational theological commitments. Central doctrines of the Christian faith are rooted in this book. Our current ongoing debate in evangelical circles between creation and evolution has more to do with foundational commitments than perhaps anything else. When commenting on the difference between creation and evolution, Dr. Jason Lisle says this:
The consistent biblical creationist is one whose worldview is based on the Bible; this is his or her ultimate standard.1
Here, Dr. Lisle makes the pressing point that we must base our worldview on the Bible as the ultimate standard. Evolutionists have a different ultimate authority:
Evolutionists reject the straightforward record of Genesis. The ultimate standard for an evolutionist varies from person to person, but they all have one — as we will show in chapter 9. Their ultimate standard is often either naturalism2 (the belief that nature is all that there is) or empiricism (the idea that all knowledge is gained from observations).2
Evolutionists launch from a different foundation than Christians. Therefore, it is not a surprise they have a different view of the origin of the universe than we do. Since Scripture is our foundation, the next logical question then becomes, what does the book of Genesis teach about the origin of the earth? Is it contradictory with science?
The Age of The Earth
God created the world ex nihilo, which is to say He created everything out of nothing (Genesis 1:2 and Colossians 1:17). There was no pre-existing matter of anything for God to work with. He simply created by the power of His Word. The Hebrew word yom is the one that is used to describe the days of creation in the book of Genesis. Accompanying this word is the phrase “evening and morning” used throughout the first chapter of Genesis. This phrase indicates the fact the text is talking about literal 24-hour days. Another point of emphasis to corroborate this viewpoint is passages outside of the creation account that discuss its timeframe. Exodus 20:9-10 draws on the creation account as paralleling the fact mankind is to imitate God by working for six days and resting on the seventh. The Hebrew word yom is also used in this text. God’s command in the ten commandments regarding the Sabbath is predicated on the notion of literal 24-hour days of creation. There is no substantiated exegetical reason to view the days of Genesis as anything other than literal 24-hour days.
Another issue that must be dealt with when examining the creation account is not only the days themselves but also variations of the gap theory. This idea holds to the concept of there being an original and complete creation billions of years ago supposedly mentioned in Genesis 1:1, but then some sort of catastrophe occurred, so the creation became empty and unformed in Genesis 1:2, thereby leading to the creation account starting in Genesis 1:3. Those holding to this idea will often try to link the catastrophe of this speculated first creation to the fall of Satan. While this theory may be intriguing, there is no exegetical basis to substantiate the ideas it promotes. In Mark 13:19, when talking about the Abomination of Desolation, Jesus mentions “the creation that God created” which shows there is only one creation, not multiple. The idea of a gap between Genesis 1:1-2 and Genesis 1:3 is inconsistent with the testimony of Scripture because God did not use billions of years to create, but six days creating by the power of His Word (Hebrews 11:3). The flood explains why parts of the earth look old because the Noahic flood accomplished what would have normally taken billions of years in terms of putting down layers of rock. Therefore, this gap theory ends up being inconsistent with the teaching of the text and biblical history. The clear meaning of Scripture is to ascertain God created in a literal 6-days, and there is no sort of a gap in the creation account.
Once you tally up the genealogies of the Bible and do some historical research, you will get a date of right around 6,000 years for the age of the earth.3 From the text of Scripture, there is no reason to debate this subject. The creation account is clearly laid out in the biblical passages, and the testimony of God who made everything is clear on this issue. The earth is thousands, not millions or billions of years old.
The Historical Limitations of Science
It is important to understand the limits of scientific investigation:
The scientific method uses the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell) to hypothesize (predict) and then directly observe, record, and analyze information to collect empirical data. Can this method be used when examining evidence from the past? Evidence that is not directly observable in its original form, like fossils, archeological artifacts, or crime scene evidence? In order to analyze this type of evidence, a scientist must draw conclusions and make inferences about things they did not directly observe. This lies outside the realm of the scientific method and demonstrates that scientific study does have limits.4
I, as you can certainly tell, reject the idea of evolutionary theories and do not believe the earth is billions of years old. However, let me play along with the idea that the earth is billions of years old for a second. How does “science” know what happened billions of years ago? Do we have any 10 billion-year-old scientists wandering the earth that I have not met as of this point? No, of course, we do not! The notion that “science” is going to be able to observationally tell us what happened 10 billion years ago is nonsensical. However, the God who created the universe can make this truth clear to us. He was there, and He made everything, therefore, He is the credible source for telling us about our history.
The objection to the biblical creation account on the basis of “scientific observation” really has nothing to do with literally observing science because no one has observed the earth over millions or billions of years. According to the Scripture, the earth is thousands of years old, and this issue has more to do with worldview foundations than anything else. We are looking at the same earth and the same physical evidence, yet creationists and evolutionists will come to different positions. Dr. Lisle comments on this fact:
“Creationists and evolutionists have a different worldview — a different ultimate standard by which all evidence is interpreted. Once we understand the different worldviews, it is easy to see why people draw different conclusions from the same data.”5
Ultimately taking the position of millions of years and evolution can only be done by neglecting the clear teaching of Scripture and inserting ideas into the text which are from a worldview outside the text. So, why take Genesis 1-11 literally? Ultimately, because it is the Word of God, and it is the historical narrative given to us by God to know the origin of the earth and how He created everything. It is not mythological nor a mytho-historical account somehow combining both myth and history. Rather, it is the inspired Word of God’s historical testimony as to the act of creation undertaken by our Holy God!
Genesis Is Literal History
The book of Genesis lays the foundation for the major doctrines of the church. Sin, atonement, gender, family, and countless others all have their foundation laid in this book. Exegetically speaking, there is no good reason to take this book as anything other than historical. It does not contain apocalyptic language, nor is there any sort of figurative literature such as we might see in the Psalms. A mythological snake is not to be found in this account, but a real one tempting Eve, who fell into sin along with Adam. Genesis is literal history, Christians, I urge you to build your foundation from this book. It is the steel in your foundation that will enable you to contend for the faith and stand solidly upon the entire Word of God!
1 Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, p. 28.
2 Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, p. 30-31.
5 Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, p. 32.