Christians too easily give away the beginning of Genesis. Not wanting to appear naïve in the face of their evolutionary friends, too many Christians downplay the first few chapters of the Bible. Perhaps, they reason, those six days are just metaphorical or symbolic. As long as we believe that God does the evolution, can’t we come to a compromise?
I don’t believe the Bible gives us that option.
While the Bible does use figures of speech and symbolic language, there is nothing in Genesis that indicates they are being used in the first chapter. So even though there are verses elsewhere where the word “day” can mean more than a twenty-four hour period of time, such as “the day of the Lord,” that is not the case in Genesis 1.
Genesis 1 uses qualifying language that indicates normal days are in view. It refers to morning and evening. And it numbers the days, first, second, third, and so on. Nowhere else in the Bible is the term “day” used with such qualifications to mean anything other than a normal twenty-four hour day.
Also, the order of the creation in Genesis is incompatible with evolution. It just doesn’t work to make the days millions and millions of years. One example is that Genesis says that God created plant life on the third day and the sun on the fourth day. How could plant life survive for millions of years without the sun? Maybe God did a miracle! Well, okay, but why not just stick with the miracle of God creating the sun the next day like the Bible says happened?
Another clear indication that God wanted you to be thinking of six days in Genesis 1 is that in Exodus 20:11 as God give the rationale for the Sabbath commandment, he says, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Everyone agrees that the Ten Commandments are not symbolic, and yet they include the six days of creation.
Even more evidence that Genesis 1-3 is to be taken literally is that Jesus and the New Testament writers make reference to these sections as if they were literal and historical. When Jesus wants to establish the pattern of marriage, he says, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:4-5).
Notice that Jesus quotes from Genesis 2:24, right after God made Adam and Eve. Further notice that Jesus seems to think that the quote came from “the beginning.” It seems that Jesus didn’t have Adam and Eve as symbolic people who showed up after the earth and the universe had been in existence for billions of years already. Paul and Peter also quote from the early chapters of Genesis as if they contained historical figures and facts.
But having said all of these reasons that I think Christians ought to believe in Genesis as it is written, does it really matter? In one sense no, but in another sense yes.
You don’t have to believe in Genesis as six twenty-four hour days to be a Christian. Being a Christian is recognizing your desperately sinful condition and crying out to the Lord for mercy on the basis of the cross of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. Salvation is trusting in Jesus, not understanding the origin of the universe.
As you grow in your understanding of the Lord and his ways, however, I think you will better appreciate every part of the Bible, including the first three chapters. It makes a lot of sense as a more mature Christian that the same God that did such a powerful work of grace in my life could have created everything in six days.
Another reason why believing in Genesis is important is that many foundational truths of theology are found there. Genesis 1 is where we learn that man was created in the image of God, setting humanity over and above the rest of creation. Everyone, no matter their skin color, size, shape, or intellect (even the unborn), has special dignity and worth because of being made in God’s image.
Without Genesis, societies can elevate the rights of dogs and trees over people. Without Genesis, the lives of unborn babies, severely handicapped people, and our elderly are not considered sacred.
In Genesis 2, God not only created Adam and Eve, he also brought them together to become husband and wife, thus establishing marriage. Without Genesis, civil governments might think they have the right to tell us what constitutes a marriage. Who can be married, what is involved, and how long it should last is all spelled out in Genesis.
Genesis 3 records the story of the Fall of Man, when Satan through the serpent tempted Eve to sin. After sin entered the world it brought death and destruction. Those who believe that the days were symbolic for millions of years are forced to concede that death was not really the result of sin. Genesis sets the record straight.
Genesis 3:15 also includes the first promise of a Savior who would crush the head of the serpent. As the rest of the Bible unfolds it becomes clear that that Savior is the Lord Jesus Christ. As God punished his Son on the cross for sin, the work of the devil was being destroyed.
Many people don’t want to believe in Genesis. If there is a Creator, after all, he would have the right to rule his creation. If creatures then violated the laws of the Creator, he would also have the right to judge those creatures. Friend, God did create the heavens and the earth. He has established good laws for his creatures to obey. You have not obeyed the Creator, and he knows all about it. You will die and face him as your Judge.
Your only hope of forgiveness is the Promised One of Genesis, the Lord Jesus Christ. Cry out to him for mercy. Repent from your rebellion. Become Christ’s follower. He can and will show you his mercy and grace. But please don’t wait. You are not promised tomorrow. The Creator is patient, but his patience will soon come to an end.