The Genesis Debate

Friend: So are most people in the PCA Old Earth Creationists?

Me: Ummm (desperately rack brain to figure out what “old earth creationist” means and immediately determine need to find a book)

Fortunately my good friend Amy L. went to Reformed Theological Seminary and had taken a class in the various creation views deemed orthodox by reformed Christians.  It turns out that there are several ways to interpret Genesis that are still deemed orthodox (if you’re interested, this document details them).

Amy also recommended a really fascinating book called The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation that I found incredibly helpful and thought-provoking.  The book is set up like a debate, with proponents of each of the three views presenting an opening essay, and then the other positions writing an essay in response, with a concluding essay by the initial team.  I appreciated that all of the authors were committed to “the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation” and that the focus of the debate remained, for the most part, on the study of what the Bible actually says, rather than devolving into speculation and theorizing that can’t be either proven or disproven by the text.

The 24-hour view is presented first, and, I felt, was actually the least convincing.  The authors relied heavily on quoting other theologians from history, which can be helpful in establishing precedents, but was often answered by contradictory quotes from the same sources given by proponents of the other views.  It seemed that the authors of the 24-hour view felt that their position is the default and thus they shouldn’t really have to defend it.  I do think that the majority of Bible readers probably assume that the days are meant as literal days, but there are some issues with that interpretation and I felt like the 24-hour team didn’t do a good job of answering those issues.

Next the Day-Age View presented the interpretation that the creation account represents historically defensible and chronological history, but that the days of creation are definable ages rather than literal days.  I had not previously considered that position, but found the authors’ exegesis compelling and very well reasoned.  I appreciated how they surveyed Scripture for word meaning, references to creation, and understanding of the character of God.  I also appreciated their view, not explicitly espoused by the other teams, that scientific knowledge does not threaten a commitment to Biblical inerrancy, but rather strengthens such a view.

Finally a third team of theologians presented a Framework view, which interprets Genesis 1-2 as a literary description of actual events.  In other words, they think that the text suggests that creation was an actual event, but that the account is written in literary language and not literal language, so the order of events or length of them or age of the earth is not found in those chapters.

Each of the sections presents rigorous study and exegesis of the Scripture, as well as thoughtful and reasoned debate firmly grounded in the commitment that the Bible is God’s word, that God created the earth ex nihilo (out of nothing) and that God made man in His own image.  I think that’s why I found the book so helpful–the views presented, while divergent in interpretation, were not different in ultimate worldview.

After reading the book, I don’t know that I have a firm commitment to any of the three views, but I found the Day-Age view most compelling, and have to admit that I don’t think I’m a young earth creationist, now that I know what that means.

Whether or not you think you understand the Creation account, I’d encourage you to read this book, if only to think through and interact with the other views, which can only serve to strengthen your understanding and ability to intelligently discuss the issue with other people who might believe differently.

Because I found in this book such a wealth of food for thought, and I love a good intellectual challenge as well as always marveling at the depth and richness of the Bible, I think I’ll make The Genesis Debate one of my top picks of 2012.  If you decide to read it, please let me know what you think!


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

5 thoughts on “The Genesis Debate

    1. Heather, I will be really interested to hear what you think after you’ve read it. You may have to get it on interlibrary loan or ask your friend who works at IMCPL to order it, as they didn’t have it when I was looking. I borrowed a copy from my friend but have to take it back to her when I go east for Christmas.

  1. Thanks for reviewing this book. I knew of the first two views having done my “homework” many years ago, but I was not aware of the third view. I’d have to read more about it to fully understand it, but it’s certainly food for thought

    1. Thanks Dovey, that was a good article. And the author did a much better job of articulating the six day view than the guy in the book did. I will add though that all of the authors in the Genesis Debate adhered to literal creation, historical Adam, and were not believers in evolution–the article you linked implied that people who follow the other two views from the book would have less orthodox views on those issues.

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