If you don’t believe that God created the heavens and the earth and all in them in six literal days, then you probably believe one of these rival theories.
1. Instantaneous Creation
This was Augustine’s view. Instead of six 24-hour days, Augustine said God created all of it instantaneously. It is as if Augustine thought “Six days? How limited are we to think it had to take God six days? He did it all in an instant.” He explains the narrative of the six days as God stooping to explain to us the creative process in ways we can understand.
Scripture doesn’t support this; Augustine was perhaps a little too zealous in his interpretation. But modern liberals and atheists take Augustine’s interpretation as evidence that he saw the six days as figurative, and then twist that to explain that “even Augustine didn’t believe in a literal six-day creation.”
But he never speculated that creation was longer than six days. On the contrary, he asserted that it was shorter than six days.
2. Gap Theory
This was the first response to Darwinism.
The theory is simple. It says Genesis 1:1 is true, and Genesis 1:2 is true, but there is, between those two statements, a second creative act that inserts some indeterminate period of time between them that we aren’t told about. In other words, there are undeclared “gaps” between the days and acts of creation. Conveniently enough, you add up those gaps and they come up to 20 billion years, or whatever the latest estimate of the age of the earth and the cosmos by atheistic science. These gaps are inserted elsewhere too, where convenient, such as between Genesis 5 and 11, and Daniel’s 69th and 70th week (Daniel 9:24-27).
It arose in the mid-1800s amidst a growing loss of faith in the historical Biblical account in the face of secular challenges to the earth’s age from uniformitarian geology (Charles Lyell). Then, after Darwinian biology moved in for the kill, the Gap Theory took deep root among Christians when it was presented in the Scofield Bible in 1909.
Darwin’s first book, On The Origin of the Species, was published in 1859, and his follow-up, The Descent of Man, in 1871.
Gap theory is supposed to reconcile the creation account (and other conflicts of the historical record) with the version proposed by atheistic science. Its problem, however, is that it is half-baked in its efforts. It still can’t get around a glaring issue: atheistic science says that the sun, moon, and stars evolved in the cosmos before plants and animals on earth. The Bible tells us otherwise: plants came first (Gen. 1:12), then the sun, moon, and stars (Gen. 1:16).
Gap theory collapses in the gap between Biblical truth and atheistic science.
3. Day-Age Theory
This theory turns the plain, literal meaning of days into that of figurative “ages,” allegedly to lean on an alternative meaning of the Hebrew word for day (yom) that means an indeterminate period of time. To further bolster their position, proponents enlist Peter in their ranks: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). The days are supposed to be figurative periods of evolutionary development in the history of the cosmos.
Proponents also try to use Augustine here for support. Wikipedia is in blatant distortion of the truth, for it writes “The Old-Earth figurative view can be traced back at least to Saint Augustine in the 5th Century.” As we have seen, Augustine’s view may have leaned towards the figurative, but in no way can it be misconstrued to support an old-earth view.
Nevertheless, the day-age theory fails at the same place that gap theory does: it can’t get around the conflicting orders of cosmic creation. It can squeeze in billions of years, but it can’t dodge the bullet of plants and the earth existing before the sun, moon and stars. It does nothing to enhance the Church’s respect in the eyes of atheistic science or God.
4. Theistic Evolution
This is the idea that evolution as proposed by the Darwinists is true, but instead of being guided by purely random processes it’s directed by God. It’s almost a total compromise. It is a new form of an old heresy: Pelagianism. A modern representative presentation of this idea comes from the “Christian” organization Biologos.
This view’s problem (which is the same as evolution in general) is that it is irreconcilable with the narrative of Genesis. Man is created from the dust of the earth and infused with the breath of life; how does this reconcile with the idea that man sprang forth from primordial slime, which became fish, which became monkeys, which became humans? Furthermore, the creation of Eve is irreconcilable with any evolutionary view. The Bible says Eve came from Adam’s rib; Darwinian evolution says both Adam and Eve must have come from the same primordial ooze.
Once the creation account of Adam and Eve is compromised, then you lose the purpose for which Jesus came to suffer death, resurrection, and ascension. The account of Adam’s original sin is fashioned into an allegory. Jesus’ references to Adam and Eve are either lies or ignorant mutterings of someone who apparently doesn’t know the truth of history and, therefore, cannot be omnipotent. You also reduce Paul’s words to nonsense:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom. 5:12-14)
Once you have embraced the possibility that Genesis is either lying to us or speaking in pure fables, then that calls the integrity of the remainder of Scripture into question. This is the path to apostasy. You might as well abandon Christ altogether since you have abandoned the Biblical doctrines of God’s wrath and divine justice. Paul’s presentation of the Gospel would make no sense:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
We are guilty of Adam’s imputed sin, as well as our own subsequent sins. To say that we are only guilty of our own sins (because Adam and Eve are allegories) is to hold out hope for the idea that we are not sinful from birth. That opens the possibility that we may be able to avoid committing a sin in our lives. That’s Pelagianism. It’s heresy.
5. Framework Hypothesis
The Framework Hypothesis tries to salvage the literal creation of Adam and Eve while leaving room for atheistic science’s theories of cosmic evolution to be true. The theory hones in on what it calls a biblical contradiction and attempts to resolve it: while Genesis 1 tells us that God made plants on the third day and humans on the sixth, Genesis 2 tells us that no plants had been made when God made humans. Its error comes from the fact that there is no contradiction to resolve.
The idea presented to work around this stumbling block is that the Genesis account is poetic parallelism and certainly not literal. It says that the accounts of days one through three parallel those of days four through six. It transforms an historical account into a literary device. Where Scripture says that God acted, that he actually performed some historical event, the framework hypothesis says “No, he didn’t. It’s just a literary framework.” So when Scripture says “And God said,” this view says “Not really.”
Theologian James Jordan has described this view well. He calls it a form of modern gnosticism. Gnosticism tends to replace historical facts with philosophical ideas, transforms history into ideology and “tends to see religion as men’s reflections about God and reality, instead of as God’s revelation of Himself and HIS Word to men.”
The Biblical resolution to the “contradiction” is much more enlightening — and that’s not to mention the benefit of ridding us of this cumbersome theory.
The two chapters of Genesis are distinguishing not between “plants” and “no plants,” but certain kinds of plants on day three and other kinds thereafter. The types of plants created on day three are grains and grapes: “plants seeding seed” and “trees fruitbearing fruit.” Genesis 2:5 refers to “shrubs,” which are more like weeds (thorns and thistles, Genesis 3:18). They are associated in Scripture with barren (dry) places (Gen. 21:15) and horrible people (Job 30:1-7). Genesis 2:5 also refers to the “plants seeding seed” from Genesis 1, but in a different state: God had caused them to spring up from the earth, but at the time of the Fall in the garden they had not yet budded.
The text anticipates the Fall, which comes in the following chapter. It is as if Moses were saying, to a reader who knew the general story, “Before the Fall, when no bush of the field was yet in the land because God had not yet cursed the ground, and no small plant of the field had yet budded because God had not let them.”
The reason is theological: there was fruit in the trees (symbolic of wine), but not yet any grains (symbolic of bread). After the Curse, man would have to work hard to get any bread from the earth. If he had not fallen, it would have been much easier for him to do so. Perhaps the way the grains budded would have been different without the curse.
The framework hypothesis was resurrected in the 1950’s by a Westminster Seminary theologian, Meredith Kline. It has been refuted numerous times. Those refutations have simply been ignored. Kline ignored Aalders’ refutation. Then he ignored E. J. Young’s refutation of Kline’s own essay. He only referred to Young’s work 28 years after Young’s death. And he never addressed Young’s criticisms directly. He dismissed them.
Kline’s purpose was clear, and he said so:
The conclusion is that as far as the time frame is concerned, with respect to both the duration and sequence of events, the scientist is left free of biblical constraints in hypothesizing about cosmic origins.
6. Anthropomorphic Days / Analogical Creation
Jack Collins, a professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary who has a science background, proposed this idea in the mid-1990s. It is simply the assertion that the six days of creation are anthropomorphic, or human-like, for our benefit. It assumes the creation account is figurative.
There’s not much to this one. Even if you grant Collins’ hypothesis that the creation account is a Divine accommodation for our human minds, it does not follow that it didn’t really happen that way.
Collins makes some other claims, such as that the seventh day never seems to end and the whole account is an analogy of God laboring like a man. In one sense, the seventh day never did end because God hasn’t stopped resting. But in another sense, he’s remained active in his creation.
The seven days of creation are typological of history, in the sense that history matures from the primitive to the glorious, from darkness to light. It also points to the final judgment, after which Christians will attain their final sabbath rest.
But at no point does the Bible suggest that these are anything more than ordinary days, especially when coupled with Exodus 20 which tells us that the creation week is to be our model. Our weeks continue onward throughout history. Also, Scripture never suggests that the creation account is building upon an analogy of God as imitator of a human laborer. On the contrary, it is mankind who is supposed to imitate God.
More in-depth criticism can be found by reading this article and its follow-up. A shorter critique in the form of a Creation.com book review is here. I don’t think this view has a widespread following.
The bottom line is that God did not have to build the heavens and earth and all in them in six days. As Augustine implied, God could have done it all in an instant. But he did it in six days, while resting on the second, for a very specific reason:
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:9-11)
He set the example for us to follow.