Vonk on Genesis 1 (2)

Much writing and controversy

These difficulties which seemed to many to be occasioned by the reading of Genesis 1 have given rise to an extensive literature and much controversy. Some decided, on the basis of supposed inaccuracies in this one chapter, to reject the rest of Scripture as well and to abandon their faith altogether, whereas others looked for a solution in harmonizing the Bible and science.

The most obvious way of doing this was to equate the days of Genesis I with epochs, possibly epochs of immense length, which could easily accommodate the results of astronomical and geological research. Perhaps there have also been those who thought to themselves: those days of Genesis I were just ordinary 24-hour days and those geologists and other scientist types are selling me a bill of goods. But, of course, to hide one’s head in the sand is not a satisfactory solution, not to mention the hard-line which this implies against fellow-believers who are also serious about their faith.

We do not wish to suggest that we are above all such debates among Christians about the interpretation of Genesis 1, but the question has occurred to us from time to time whether we are really dealing here with genuine difficulties resulting from a real clash between Scripture and science, and whether, consequently, the search for solutions is not superfluous. Is this a proper use of the Genesis creation story? Or is it possible that we can properly apply the following analogy, which we once heard someone use in a discussion of these matters?

Imagine a great industrialist, someone like Henry Ford, sitting in his old age surrounded by some of his grandchildren, who are 10 or 12 years old. They ask him how it came about that Grandpa created the large company which made him so famous. How will he answer his grandchildren in a way which will give them some insight into how he laid the foundations of his mighty enterprise?

He will tell a story, a story adapted to children. The story will be geared to children, not to adults. Making use of their limited conceptual possibilities he tells in sequence the story of some of the main components of his business, things that the children have some experience of at the present time. But now suppose that those same children go on to study economics and related disciplines, and then, armed with this academic training, begin to do research in Grandpa’s enormous business archives. Some of them, on the basis of certain items in Grandpa’s immense archives, will feel compelled to come to conclusions that are somewhat different from what they remember of the story they heard as a child and will question the truth of that story. Others will try by all sorts of solutions to vindicate Grandpa’s truthfulness.

Is it really necessary to do either of these things? Was that really the point of the earlier children’s story, to be subjected at some time in the future to the criticism of economic science?

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