It came as a surprise to many of my friends that I would be attending seminary after graduation. I like to think that I take people by surprise, but they were more worried for me than shocked by me. I do not subscribe to many of the ideas that are commonly associated with the Evangelical Christian movement, but would still consider myself an evangelical Christian. One of these ideas, that I still cannot for the life of me understand why it is a dividing point, is the insistence on a New Earth Theory.
What is New Earth Theory? I’m so glad you asked. It is a literal, six 24-hour day interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis. In other words, it means that God created the world exactly as it is written in Genesis–six 24-hour days, rested on the seventh. Why this point matters to people I will never understand, but there it is.
Why is man so wrapped up in determining how the world was created? Why are we not worried with how God created Himself? These are two things that are known only to God, yet we want to know how and why. If God had wanted us to know the way He created the world, don’t you think he would have told us? Some assert that He did in Genesis. But if it were possible for God to create the world in six days, what is to say that he could not create it in an instant? Why six days? Where does it even say that they were 24-hour days? There’s no real reason. The only thing that is apparent from the Creation story is that it happened. Each day deals with a separate aspect of the physical world in which we live, but there is no clear reason that says it happened exactly this way. I contend that this is a story, complete with clear literary elements, that explains the Creation story in ways that humans can understand. Just as with small children who do not know exactly how an engine works, they just knows that it does, God created the world and then simplified it down into this story from which we can glean information. The continuous repetition of “And there was evening, and there was morning—the ___ day” is a clear indication of an oral tradition. The repetition helps to remind the orator of his place. Furthermore, the days increase in complexity from the abstract (lightness and darkness) to the physical (land from sea) until things culminate with the creation of man. These things did not grow from each other, but the pattern in which they flow would have been easy for story-tellers to remember.
Moreover, I fail to see how this could possibly weigh upon one’s faith in Biblical truth. This tends to be the hardest point people make for keeping this view of Creation. If this one thing is false in the Bible, it just opens the way for the entirety of the Bible to be false. This is a logical fallacy of epic proportions. I am not saying that the Creation story is in any way false; the story is a simplified representation of the creation of the universe, inspired by God in a way that will contain life lessons for believers. The Bible is full of stories like this: God orchestrating behind the scenes for the betterment of man, simplifying things so that they are easier to understand, and finally sending His Son so that we may come to understand His ultimate mission. Why should the Creation story be any different? I contend that those who make this a foundation of their faith perpetuate a greater sin than those who ignore its controversy. They want to find an exclusionary point that will separate the church, when in reality, it matters very little to the mission of Jesus. To those who place more emphasis on determining the Creation of the universe, rather than loving those around them and following God’s word, perhaps you should read your Bible with the perspective of what is really important: God’s sovereignty over all.