Light vs. Sun : Does Genesis Contradict Itself?

We examined days 2-6 of creation yesterday in week 3 of Rise and Fall at LPC. Day 4 is one that has received its fair share of commentary over the years. A cursory reading of the creation account in Genesis 1 has even led some to cry “contradiction!” when they parallel Day 1 (1:2-5) with Day 4 (1:14-19). I think it is a worthy dialogue to engage in this format.

The perceived contradiction:

On Day 1 God says “Let there be light” and there was light. It seems quite clear that on Day 1 “the lights were turned on” as it were. At the conclusion of Day 1 God also “separated light from darkness,” naming the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.”

On Day 4 God says “Let there be light in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.” Further, verse 16 says about Day 4, “And God made the two great lights- the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night- and the stars…”

Further, how could the author of this account (Moses) describe “evening and morning” within the first three days of creation if God didn’t create the sun and moon, day and night, until the 4th day?

For those hankering for a contradiction in this account, it seems the parallel of Day 1 and Day 4 may be just that. How could God create the light on Day 1 when the text itself says that He created the source of light on Day 4? Did Moses make an oopsie in this text that Jews and Christians have been winking at for the last 3500 years? What’s going on here?

It is probably obvious that I don’t think the text actually contains a contradiction. Here are two theories that I find convincing in regard to the Day 1/Day 4 conundrum.

Theory #1:

John Sailhamer, in Genesis Unbound, asks this simple question: “Does the text actually say that the sun, moon, and stars were created on the fourth day?”[1]

The simple answer is “no.” Sailhamer holds that Genesis 1:1 reveals that God created the whole universe (including sun, moon, and stars) “in the beginning.” He then proposes that the rest of the chapter (1:2ff) is the account of God ordering that which He already made in the beginning as He prepares the land for humanity to dwell in.

Sailhamer explains:

What the writer wants to show in this narrative is not that on each day God “made” something, but that on each day God “said” something. The predominant view of God in this chapter is that He is a God who speaks. His word is powerful. As the psalmist who had read this chapter said, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Psalm 33:6). Thus, often when God speaks, He creates. But that is not always the case in this chapter…On this day God “makes a proclamation” about that which He has already created (the sun, moon, and stars)…God announced His purpose for the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day.[2]

Sailhamer goes on to say that he would translate verse 16 more clearly as “So God (and not anyone else) made the lights and put them in the sky.”[3]

To summarize: God created the sun, moon and stars “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1), and then throughout the days detailed in Genesis 1:2ff God ordered all he had created with the express purpose of preparing the land for humanity to dwell in. This eliminates any perceived contradiction, because the sun, moon, and stars were not created on Day 4.

Theory #2:

Simply put: light isn’t dependent on sun, moon, and stars, because God is the source of light.

A number of scholars have proposed theories similar to this, including Douglas Kelly in Creation and Change and Bruce Waltke in his commentary Genesis.

To me, the best evidence for this claim is Revelation 21:23. As John reported on the New Jerusalem he said, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

Isaiah 60:19 carries a similar theme with it: “The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”

Waltke says:

“Since the sun is only later introduced as the immediate cause of light, the chronology of the text emphasizes that God is the ultimate source of light.[4]

Kelly says:

“We are simply not told what the source of light was before the sun was placed in the sky. All the text says is that God spoke and the light was there.”[5]

Conclusion:

I see validity in either theory. I tend to favor Sailhamer because his entire viewpoint on the initial chapters of Genesis holds significant consistency. When reading the text in Hebrew and taking into account the historical and grammatical context of it all, the text doesn’t claim God “created” those pieces (sun, moon, stars) on day 4. It seems clear that he created them in Genesis 1:1 in the beginning, and then the literal week dictated in 1:2ff is when he “gave them their job descriptions” for the land which he was making inhabitable for humanity.

[1] Sailhamer, p. 137, emphasis mine.

[2] Sailhamer, p. 142.

[3] Ibid, p. 143.

[4] Bruce Waltke, Genesis, p. 61. Waltke also postulates that this “dischronologization” is probably for the purpose of differentiating this creation account from the pagan religions of the time–which would worship the sun and stars because of the role they play in giving light on earth.

[5] Douglas Kelly, Creation and Change, p. 76.

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Origin Issues: The Struggle To Cut God Out

Despite what you may have learned in school or picked up at your local Barnes and Noble lately, the issue of origin has not been settled in the hearts and minds of your fellow humans. A few things are clear:

1) We want to know where it all came from.
2) We are on the search to find out.
3) Naturalism (non-theistic evolution) isn’t actually as popular as you may have heard.

A recent Gallop poll reveals that God still gets a lot of credit for creating it all, and those who deny any involvement from God are still a significant minority.

Francis Schaeffer wrote a phenomenal book in 1972 entitled Genesis in Space and Time. In one of the opening chapters he discusses “modern man’s basic mystery.”[1] This mystery revolves around the issue of Being. Basically, when we view the world around us, we must give an answer for Being. We know we exist (at least most of us do), and we see a world around us that exists, and something within us calls out “Has it always been there?”[2]

Here are three origin options Schaeffer suggests:

1) Once there was absolutely nothing and now there is something.
2) Everything began with an impersonal something.
3) Everything began with a personal something.

Although Schaeffer claimed that, to his knowledge, the first option had never been “seriously propounded by anyone,” it is apparent he didn’t live long enough to meet Richard Dawkins.

I’m not an authority on his teaching, but I believe “nothing was and now something is” seems to be where Dawkins lands. He does admit that he doesn’t have an answer for how it all came to be. Here is what he says in his book The Ancestors Tale:

“The universe could so easily have remained lifeless and simple -just physics and chemistry, just the scattered dust of the cosmic explosion that gave birth to time and space. The fact that it did not -the fact that life evolved out of literally nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing -is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice. And even that is not the end of the matter. Not only did evolution happen: it eventually led to beings capable of comprehending the process by which they comprehend it.”

On option #2: “Everything began with an impersonal something,” Schaeffer says,

“The assumption of an impersonal beginning can never adequately explain the personal beings we see around us, and when men try to explain man on the basis of an original impersonal, man soon disappears. In short, an impersonal beginning explains neither the form of the universe nor the personality of man.”[3]

Schaeffer concludes with the biblical option, #3: “Everything began with a personal something.”

“…Genesis 1:1 does not depict an absolute beginning with nothing before it. God was there—and then came creation… “In the beginning” is a technical term stating the fact that at this particular point of sequence there is creation ex nihilo—a creation out of nothing. All that is, except for God himself who already has been, now comes into existence. Before this there was a personal existence—love and communication. Prior to the material universe, prior to the creation of all else, there is love and communication. This means that love and communication are intrinsic. And hence, when modern man screams for love and communication (as he so frequently does), Christians have an answer. There is value to love and value to communication because it is rooted into what intrinsically always has been.”[4]

As we wrestle through these “origin options” I think it is clear that something, some witness, within the human mind exhibits a gravitational pull toward a personal beginning. The poll linked above makes this obvious. In public schools in America we have taught either an impersonal beginning or a Dawkins-like nothingness-to-somethingness for decades. Yet, when people are asked what they believe concerning origin, 3 out of 4 still hold to a personal beginning. Admittedly, this in and of itself doesn’t mean they’re right, but I think at the most basic level it reveals that Schaeffer was onto something.

Human beings intrinsically cry out for love and communication. And when we see the form of the universe around us and the personality within us, an impersonal beginning just won’t suffice.

[1] p. 19.

[2] Ibid.

[3] p. 21.

[4] p. 26.

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SEVEN begins this Sunday

seven_screens_1024x768_This Sunday we begin seven days of prayer and fasting with hundreds of other churches in the Portland/Vancouver area. This initiative grows every year, as area churches have committed a week in late September to unify, pray, and fast for the work Jesus is doing in our lives and community. We are hosting the final night in Clark County: Friday, September 26th at 7pm @ LifePoint. You can find the full schedule for Clark County here.

A.C. Dixon said:

When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend upon education, we get what education can do; when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do.

 

 

 

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Inigo Montoya on the Bible and Science

Inigo

“I do not think that means what you think it means.”

As we preach through Genesis at LifePoint, a main point of emphasis for us is allowing the Bible to speak for itself. This is a good discipline no matter what text of Scripture you are examining, but it’s not always easy. One of the crucial steps in this process is working hard to discover the original context, both in terms of the author and the original readers. We want to ask questions like “Who was the original author?” “What was the mindset of the original reader?” “For what purpose did this author write to these readers?” and “What was this text meant to accomplish and communicate in the context of those who originally received it?”

When asking questions like these concerning the first chapters of Genesis, we find that Moses was writing these chapters to the people of Israel, communicating about the origin of the universe, the creation of humanity, and God—the sovereign Creator of it all. These chapters should not be separated from the rest of Genesis, the Pentateuch, or the Old Testament. These chapters serve as the introduction to the whole narrative.

I think one of the issues for the 21st century reader is the temptation to ask questions of these texts that Moses clearly never intended to answer. The history of interpretation of Genesis 1-2 shows that readers in every century have struggled with this conundrum. As scientific discovery (read “theory”) develops, our viewpoint of the Bible’s origin narrative continues to morph. We read these chapters through progressively changing geological, genetic, and cosmological filters, but the text itself remains intact, still written by Moses at the outset of the Pentateuch to God’s covenant people. When we let Genesis speak for itself, without attempting to impose our culture’s ever-shifting scientific ideologies onto it, we find that the truth contained in this narrative is amazingly timeless.

This isn’t easy though, because this means that some of our questions will remain unanswered. Why? Simple answer: the Bible wasn’t written to communicate exhaustively concerning every issue.

Francis Schaeffer, in his book Genesis in Space and Time, differentiates between what he calls “true communication” and “exhaustive communication.”

What we claim as Christians is that, when all of the facts are taken into consideration, the Bible gives us true knowledge although not exhaustive knowledge. Man as a finite creature is incapable of handling exhaustive knowledge anyway…A Christian holding the strongest possible view of [biblical] inspiration still does not claim exhaustive knowledge on this point.

The Bible is a most efficient book. We must remember its purpose: It is God’s message to fallen men. The Old Testament gave men what they needed from the Fall till the first coming of Christ. The Old and New Testaments together give all that men need from the Fall until the second coming of Christ. Many other details which we need are also given, but the main purpose is kept central and uncluttered.[1]

What the Bible tells us is propositional, factual and true truth, but what is given is in relation to men. It is a scientific textbook in the sense that where it touches the cosmos it is true, propositionally true…The Bible is not a scientific textbook if by that one means that its purpose is to give exhaustive truth or that scientific fact is its central theme and purpose…the whole of Scripture is revelational.[2]

I think much of debate and hand-wringing would subside if we took into account what Schaeffer says in this final paragraph. The Bible is true truth, communicated by God to reveal Himself and His plan to humanity. The origin of the universe and the creation of humanity in His image are things God chooses to reveal to us through Genesis 1-2. He reveals it on his terms, and He leaves a few points unanswered. When we attempt to read back into the text our scientific presuppositions we would do well to examine the filter through which our questions develop. As we do this, I think more times than not we’ll hear the prophetic voice of Inigo Montoya cautioning us, “I do not think that means what you think it means.”

[1] Schaeffer, p. 35.

[2] Schaeffer, p. 36.

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Introducing Bo, Melissa, Benjamin, and Bella Lane

LaneFamFor a number of months, perhaps years, we have been praying about filling a key role on our leadership team that we have come to call “Media Director.” We searched high and low and in the middle, and we found a man named Bo.

In August, Bo Lane joined the team as (to my knowledge) LPC’s first ever dedicated Media Director. Bo’s portfolio includes everything media related, as he empowers, oversees, and equips our teams in the areas of video production, website, tech, IT, sound, lighting, stage design, and graphics. Bo is a key leader on our creative team, working closely with Pastor Tyler in the planning and execution of all things creative at LPC. He brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the team, and we’re extremely blessed to have him.

Bo also brings with him a wonderful family.

Bo and Melissa have been married for over 12 years and have been in full-time ministry for most of those years, serving as youth and worship pastors in Oregon, Iowa, and California. More recently, Bo has served as Media Director at a church outside of Seattle.

They have two super awesome kids, Benjamin and Bella, who are in 3rd and 1st grades, respectively.

LaneFam2 Previously Bo and Melissa published Rethink Monthly, a print and online magazine with the mission of presenting real and authentic thoughts, news, and opinions about spirituality, life, and culture. They also have a ministry that encourages pastors and leaders who have or are going through a break-up with the church and have left a position of active ministry due to things such as: burnout, stress, frustration, fear, or moral failures.

We are thrilled that the Lane family has joined the LifePoint family! We look forward to what the future holds.

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Classes @ LPC Beginning This Week

Sign up for financial peace by clicking here.
Sign up for the parenting class here.

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Do Life Together @ LPC

On September 21st, Summer will come to a close and our Fall Session of LifeGroups will kick-off as our LifeGroups resume their normal routines (or rhythms as we call it).

LifeGroups are a way of life for us here at LifePoint Church. In these groups of community we grow as disciples, form new relationships to care for one another, and engage the surrounding community where we live on mission with Jesus. Doing life together in a group with other Christians is the primary way we embrace our vision of being the church in our community at LifePoint.

Groups will be meeting consistently throughout the fall from September 21 – December 6th. Then, before the holidays, they’ll slow things down and continue to do life together in other ways.

If you haven’t experienced life in a LifeGroup yet, you can find a group near you and sign-up HERE. If you have any questions, LifeGroup leaders will be available at the Get Connected Counter for the next several Sundays at LPC.

Discipleship Care Mission

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