Much of the apparent conflict between science and the Bible stems from the opening chapter of Genesis. How can the Bible say that everything came into being through independent creation acts caused by the speaking of God? Science clearly shows that the heavens, the earth, and everything on the earth form an interconnected, progressive link that can be traced back to a single explosion 13.77 billion years ago.
My goal in this post is not to present a view on Genesis 1 that reconciles the scientific evidence with the creation account, a goal undertaken by many Christians through the use of day/age theory (an incredibly plausible theory best taught in my opinion by Hugh Ross), young-earth super-earth models (i.e. psuedo-science widely criticized by the scientific community, promulgated by brothers in the Lord such as Ken Ham and Kent Hovind), or other reconciliatory attempts of a similar nature. Rather, my goal is to bring believers back to the hermeneutic of Paul when reading Genesis 1, that we all may come to a full understanding of the divinely inspired Word of God, with no compromise to our intellectual integrity.
Hermeneutic – Interpretive Lens
In case any of you were thrown off by my usage of the word “hermeneutic” (as I would have been just a couple of years ago), I simply mean the lens by which we interpret the Scriptures. While it is beyond the scope of this post to comment on the benefits and short-comings of various hermeneutics proposed throughout the centuries of church history, I do hope to present what Paul used, simply by looking at a view key verses.
…charge certain ones not to teach different things, nor to give heed to myths and unending genealogies, which produce questionings rather than God’s economy, which is in faith.
-1 Timothy 1:3b-4
Paul’s view in the teaching of the Scriptures was that only what produced God’s economy is proper. God’s economy, as laid out in previous posts linked above, refers to God’s household arrangement, by which He dispenses the grace of Christ in His unsearchable riches to the Church, which is the house of God, in order that He might be glorified in and through the Church as the fulfillment of His eternal purpose (Eph. 3:2, 8-11, 21; 1 Tim. 3:15).
Wow. That was a mouthful. As a means of simplification, God’s economy is His plan of salvation, by the redemption of Christ and the sanctification of the Spirit to produce the Church as God’s house, bride, kingdom, expression, and many sons.
When Paul read and taught the Scriptures (which to him was only the Old Testament!), he did so through the interpretive lens of God’s economy.
Paul Interpreting Genesis
But the God who said, ‘Out of darkness light shall shine,’ is the One who shined in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
-2 Corinthians 4:6 (c.f. Gen. 1:3)
For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great, but I speak with regard to Christ and the church.
-Ephesians 5:31-32 (c.f. Gen. 2:24)
Paul read Genesis with Christ and the church in view. When he read about God’s speaking light into the darkness of the earth, he saw that this refers to God’s speaking light into our dark hearts through Christ! When he read about Adam and Eve being joined in marriage to become one, he saw that this refers to Christ being made one with his church!
Ground to Continue Paul’s Exegesis
Most believers acknowledge this method of allegorical interpretation as appropriate when given the direct interpretation by Paul, but they never extend it to the rest of the Bible. “How dare you try to spiritualize or allegorize the Old Testament as if it has some sort of a deeper meaning! The Old Testament is about the Jews, and the only application for us today is when it speaks prophetically of the coming Messiah.” This is what I hear from some. The problem is, Paul’s writings don’t touch on everything:
And above it cherubim of glory overshadowing the expiation cover, concerning which it is not now the time to speak in detail.
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews (presumably Paul), in his bringing out the figurative, spiritual interpretation of the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the Sabbath, Melchizedek, and many other things, reveals that not everything has been interpreted in the New Testament! There were more details to cover, but then was not the time to do so.
So as a segue to perhaps my longest introductory material to the heart of a post ever, I would like to take the full liberty granted by the New Testament-prescribed hermeneutic to briefly (and I really mean brief, there are way more riches in this chapter than I can put in one post) interpret Genesis 1:
Genesis 1 – A Picture of God’s Full Salvation
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Here is pre-fall man in his perfect state.
But the earth became waste and emptiness, and darkness was on the surface of the deep
Here is man in his fallen state, waste of sin, empty of God’s life, and dwelling in the darkness of the devil.
and the Spirit of God was brooding upon the surface of the waters.
Here we see the Spirit of God, brooding upon the heart of the sinner, sanctifying man unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus (c.f. 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 This. 2:13).
And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.
God shines His light into the believer’s heart and regenerates him unto a living hope (2 Cor. 4:6; 1 Pet. 1:3).
…and God separated the light from the darkness.
God then begins to bring man into a new way of living, distinguishing and separating the sinful from the good (c.f. 1 Jn. 1:6-7).
And God said, Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.
God advances in his salvation of man by transitioning his view from good vs. bad to heavenly vs. earthly. Though believers may be concerned primarily with not sinning, God desires to progress to the state of living in the heavenly realm beyond all earthly matters, whether good or bad (Eph. 2:6; Col. 1:1-3).
And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so.
Now on the third day, the day of resurrection, God brings forth the resurrected Christ as the place where all the riches of the divine life may be experienced, all the growth in the divine life may take place, and all the fruit of the good earth may come forth (c.f. 1 Pet. 1:3; Gal. 5:22; Jn. 15:2; Deut. 8:7 (as typified by the good land Canaan)).
I can’t continue at this pace, but as a summary, the various life-forms of plants, fish, birds, beasts, and men represent a progression from the lower life to the highest life. The plants are the initial life, the fish are more active and can be in the salty waters (representing the world) while not becoming salty (c.f. Jn. 15:19), the birds live in the heavenlies and transcend the earthly matters, the beasts are actually able to be on the Earth to till the ground (representing serving and laboring for God), and man is the consumption of God’s creation as His glorious expression. For further interpretation, either call me if you know me 🙃 or look to various expositors’ works who have seen similar things and of whom I am greatly indebted to for this, among which are Augustine of Hippo’s “Confessions” and Witness Lee’s “Life-Study of Genesis.”
When you read Genesis 1, don’t see it as a mere account of God’s creation. Moses recorded Genesis 1 as a description of creation to a particular group of uneducated slaves at a particular time when only a small amount of scientific knowledge of the universe existed, presenting God as the creator and man as His special creature. It falls way short of a full account of a “Genesis,” so to speak, of all things, for where is the creation of the angels, planets, demons, cherubim, comets, radio waves, etc.? What we are to take from Genesis 1, as Paul did, is the deeper, hidden revelation of God’s intention in His creation, i.e. His divine economy.