July 21, 2014

Cliff’s Edge

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” (Gen. 1:3-5).

Just a few texts, but they are filled with mystery and with the revelation that reality goes far deeper than what humans—even sophisticated, educated, twenty-first-century humans who study genetics and quantum physics—can comprehend. And though the act of speaking light into existence is beyond our understanding, nothing is problematic or inherently contradictory about it.

How, though, do we square day one of earth’s creation with day four, in which God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night” (verse 14), and then in which God made “the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night” (verse 16)?That segment ends with: “And there was evening and there was morning—the fourth day” (verse 19).

If on the fourth day God created the “greater light” (obviously the sun) to separate the “day from the night,” what was the light that God spoke into existence on “the first day” that “separated the light from the darkness” (verse 4)?

Who knows? And any human attempt to answer it would, I suppose, be sheer speculation. Unbelievers, however, use this challenge to argue against the inspiration of Scripture. Higher critics or theistic evolutionists, meanwhile, use it to argue that Genesis is not a reliable account of how creation happened and that challenges like this show that the story wasn’t meant to be understood literally.

Neither argument works. Far from diminishing the reliability of the creation account, this contrast between the two days affirms it, giving the Spirit-inspired reader more reasons to accept Genesis 1 and 2 as a literal account of the six-day creation of our world.

Let’s be reasonable. You don’t think that as he wrote these words, Moses knew that when the sun rose in the sky it brought the morning, and when it went down evening followed? Having spent the first 40 years of his life in the sweltering sun of Egypt, Moses knew how inseparably tied to day and night the sun was. Whatever he understood or didn’t understand about the motion of the sun in the sky, he knew that when the sun vanished over the horizon one day ended and a new one, an “evening and a morning,” began.

Yet he wrote what he did about day one, day two, and day three existing before the appearance of “the greater light” on day four? Why would Moses, or anyone, write a creation story that went so blatantly against what was one of the most obvious features of the natural world as we humans experience it: the dominance of the sun in determining the arrival and departure of each day?

Scripture was written so that people would believe it; thus, why would the author write an account so counter to everyday experience unless God told it to him? We don’t know exactly how the Lord revealed the truths of Genesis 1 and 2 to Moses, but Moses might have been as baffled as we are about the existence of day and night before the appearance of the sun on day four. That’s why one could argue that it was truth revealed to him; otherwise, who would concoct something so contrary to what humans experience on a daily basis?

Wrote Ellen White: “The mysteries of the Bible, so far from being an argument against it, are among the strongest evidences of its divine inspiration. If it contained no account of God but that which we could comprehend; if His greatness and majesty could be grasped by finite minds, then the Bible would not, as now, bear the unmistakable evidences of divinity.”*

And contrary to popular argument, the existence of these first three days, before the appearance of the sun on the fourth, can be interpreted as more evidence for that divinity, not less.

* Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), p. 170.