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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Is the Religious Only View of Genesis?

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Don Stewart
A popular way to view the days in Genesis is the religious only approach. According to this view, it was not the intention of the author to give any information of a scientific nature. Theologian Victor Hamilton explains this theory.

This approach leaves open the possibility for taking day literally or nonliterally. It begins by placing the Gen. 1 Creation story in its historical context. This is a word from God addressed to a group of people who are surrounded by nations who cosmology is informed by polytheism (belief in many gods) and the mythology that flows out of that polytheism . . . The contest is not between a religious view (Israel's) and a secular view (non Israel's). There were no Charles Darwins in the ancient world who operated from nontheistic presuppositions . . . The writer's concerns, then were theological and historical - what happened, and why and so what . . .
A literary reading of Gen 1. still permits the retention of day as a solar day of 24 hours. But it understands day not as a chronological account of how many hours God invested in his creating project, but as an analogy of God's creative activity. God reveals himself in a medium which they can identify and which they can comprehend (Victor P. Hamilton, Genesis, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1990, pp. 55,56).

Irrelevant Question

Therefore some scholars see questions about the length of the days in Genesis as irrelevant because it is not the Bible's intent to reveal this type of information. They contend that Genesis speaks in religious terms, while science has the job of explaining how it happened. Anthropologist R. Clyde McCone writes:

Many seemingly unresolvable controversies regarding the Bible are the result of attempting to find scriptural answers to questions that contain non-biblical assumptions. One such controversy focuses on questions concerning the date of 'the beginning' (Gen 1:1) and the length of the days of creation. Such questions carry the assumptions that (1) creation was an event that took place in time, that (2) the Genesis account describes a process in time that is scientifically explainable, and that (3) Genesis was written to make known the original point in time as well as the subsequent process through time (R. Clyde McCone in The Genesis Debate, Ronald Youngblood Editor, Thomas Nelson, 1986, pp. 12,13).

Wrong To Look

Those holding this point of view assert that it is wrong to attempt to discover scientific information in Scripture. They believe that every attempt at reconciling Genesis with the exact requirements of modern sciences has been doomed to failure. Only a forced interpretation of the text can make Genesis conform to modern science. Theologian Bernard Ramm explains:

The religious-only theory would assert that the theologian who tries to derive science from Genesis is as much in error as the scientist who sees nothing of God in Nature. It would assert that it is not necessary to harmonize geology and Genesis for it is impossible to do so with theological utterances on the one hand and scientific ones on the other . . . Genesis is theologically a true view of Nature; but scientifically it is of no moment (Bernard Ramm, The Christian View Of Science And Scripture, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1954, p. 123).

Among those who hold this position are Christians who adopt the theory of evolution.

Difficulties With The religious only Interpretation

This approach attempts to remove the tension between science and Scripture by making it a non-issue. The problem is that it undermines the authority of Scripture while giving all authority to science. It makes the statements of Genesis irrelevant. If the scientific matters are not to be considered, then why are they recorded and given so much emphasis in Scripture? Why is the account recorded at all? The Genesis account of creation must mean something.

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