There is no doubt that the doctrine of creation is one of the most disputed aspects of Christianity today, particularly among Christians. This debate drives division among Christian culture, and has even elevated to the point of hostility on occasion, while terms like “heretic” are loosely thrown around in anger. As Christians, can we seriously justify this level of divisiveness over the details of such a doctrine?
There is no serious segment of Christianity which denies the absolute truth of the above statement. Even those who would classify the entire book of Genesis as allegory would not claim that Genesis 1:1 is a false statement. The contention begins as we move further into the book and examine things like the order of creation, the amount of time it took, and whether or not Genesis 2 occurs during or after the creation “week”. In my opinion, most of these debates seem to center around the proper interpretation of the ancient Hebrew into modern English, and each argument has a certain level of reasonableness to it. I will list out some of the differing views for clarity.
- Genesis 1 covers six 24 hour days during which God creates all things.
- In this interpretation, Genesis 2 takes place either during the sixth day of creation, or is intended to be a more specific version of the cumulative events of the creation week, with a particular focus on humanity.
- Genesis 1 refers to six unspecified periods of time, allowing for an older earth and an older creation.
- Adam is very literally created from the earth, and all of the creatures in Genesis are created directly by God with no possibility of evolution.
- Genesis 1 refers to six unspecified periods of time, evolution is the method by which God creates each new creature.
- Given that God created the very first living being from the ground, it is possible to state that even if Adam is the product of evolution, he is still created from the ground by God. In this interpretation, the evolutionary model is accepted, just as we accept other scientific models, such as the water cycle. While we understand the water cycle, we still attribute every natural rain drop to God, in the same way, every evolved naturally evolved creature is created by God.
- Genesis is complete allegory, meant only to teach us that God is responsible for the creation of all things.
- In this interpretation, the creation week is meant to symbolize our work week and relationship with the Sabbath.
A good case can be made for every one of these views, each with its own pros and cons. Personally, I subscribe to a blend of the last two interpretations listed above, and I write about how I have established that viewpoint in my book, Canon of Reason – Genesis.
Ultimately, it is not profitable for Christianity as a whole if we are so troubled by various attempts to legitimately translate a portion of the Bible that we find ourselves being combative with one another. It does not serve our cause, which should be the expansion of the kingdom of heaven, if we are reduced to accusations of heresy over such minor details of scripture. Without a doubt, our questions over the details of the “creation week” will be settled in due time. It is far more likely however, that aggressively forcing Christians to choose a side in regards to this debate will instead cause increased resistance among nonbelievers to the Christian message and community as a whole.
It is absolutely reasonable for each of us to study the Bible, form our own viewpoints, and even to debate those viewpoints with one another, but there is no need to question the legitimacy of someone’s faith over such matters. Each of the views above agree with and promote the core message of the opening chapters of Genesis, that all things come from God, and that mankind rebels against God and is in need of salvation. Let’s not get too distracted from the importance of that message.