The first chapter of Genesis has been a source of religious and scientific disagreement for centuries. In the 20th Century, Darwinian evolution became a foundational dogma of both secularism and science. Because it lends its weighty influence to atheism, many regarded Darwinian evolution as being antagonistic to the faith.
According to faithful adherents, Darwinian evolution is undeniable scientific fact, but a number of its key doctrines such as natural selection have been questioned with much skepticism by hundreds biologists, geneticists, chemists, evolutionists, and other scientists.
The most recent public contention has been between establishment Darwinists and intelligent design (ID) scientists. Darwinists call IDers names like religious fanatic, evangelists, and other words not worthy of mention. Yet, most leading IDers are either educated practitioners in scientific fields or science educators. IDers infer an intelligent designer from both their own scientific research (that apologists of Darwinism claim don’t exist) and from the research of other scientists. Darwinists see the inference as a religious threat to evolution science and many of them oppose ID based on their atheistic views.
Earlier in the 20th Century, the debate was between Creation science and Darwinian evolution. Today, many leaders in the scientific community regard ID as a renewed form of Creation Science, which means scientific findings biblically interpreted.
One of the hotly contested interpretations has been a literal seven day creation of the heavens and/or earth. It has been contested because the results of scientific dating techniques refute its claim. Carbon dating show the earth is billions of years old. Yet, evidence also exist that shows humans lived contemporaneously with dinosaurs–an evolutionary impossibility. There even exists a fossilized human sandal embedded in pre-dinosaur sediment, which raises a legitimate but unanswered question as to whether carbon dating is correct or whether human have been around throughout most of earth history.
If the Hebrew word for day in Genesis 1 is literally interpret as a 24 hour period, then Genesis 2 presents a terrible problem. In that chapter, the universe was created in one day. Overcoming this dilemma is not that difficult because the text also says that on the 7th day God rested. It is logical to infer that here is a summary reference to chapter one.
Nevertheless, literalists are not out of the deep waters. For covering the scriptures are the waves made by the prophets who said that a day (24 hrs.) is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day to God. Punching a few more holes in the literal boat are scientific scholars like Gerald Schroeder who claim that time being relative as proven by Einstein allows for a day being thousands if not billions of years, while at the same time, being merely 24 hours viewed from an earthly perspective. Schroeder is a proponent of the Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe.
The Big Bang theory lends itself to a triune God creating the universe out of nothing as explained by mathematical physicists Frank Tipler as well as to an evolutionary view such as quantum physicist David Bohm’s Implicate and Explicate Order.
A more important question concerning the Creation account than whether God created it in 7 days, 7 millenniums or 7 other periods is how and what did God create? Yet, science specializes in answering how questions. The author of Genesis only informs us that God made the power of His information the source of the Creation. Oddly enough, Bohm also believes that information guiding energy is the source of all matter and life in the universe.
Genesis gives us some additional clues as to how God created. One of those clues is the absence of any mention of God making or creating plant life. God’s involvement is mentioned in all other aspects of creation except plant life. The clue suggests self-organization and replication. Bohm’s theory is particularly useful on the third day.
Not only did plant come forth out of the ground on the third day but so did Jesus of Nazareth. His roots may have been earthly but his destiny extended to the heavens, which leads us to another clue.
In verse one, God began creating the heavens and the earth. A careful reading of the rest of Genesis reveals a clear distinction between heavens and heaven. This distinction refers to all planets, suns and stars beyond the living environment of the earth and its heaven–the airy atmosphere and its upper canopy of water–that God created on the second day.
On each day, God intervenes to form each part of our living environment and each group of species except for plants and humans. That’s right; humans are not a completely separate and distinct specie in the Genesis account. That is inferred by the lack of a new division, either a new day or a distinct body type from those animals of the earth. The uniqueness of humans is their likeness to God. It is true the human body has unique features enabling humans to reflect the nature of God or its opposite. Nonetheless, humans continue to bear a resemblance to other mammals that were also created on the sixth day.
The answer to the question about what God created would not be complete–if it can ever be completely answered–without the following observation:
The first chapter of Genesis is not primarily about God creating the universe; that is limited to the first verse. The focus of Genesis 1 is about God creating a planet capable of sustaining all forms of life. Most importantly, the one eternal creature that God created from the dust–whether by modifying a prior specie or by a special creation–is the only creature that resembles the Creator. The human body resembles the form of God as revealed to Moses, the elders of Israel, the prophets, the apostles as well as by the only perfect human representation–the only begotten son of God, Jesus Messiah. Most importantly, humans resemble the moral, intelligent, aesthetic, and creative being of God.
Literally, Genesis 1 (and 2) is the goal to which the history of corrupted humanity and the history God’s redemption of we humans is destined to attain. The end time is not a bleak account of God’s arbitrary cruelty but rather a judicial account of the final achievement of history’s goal for those who choose the path of God’s redemptive justice. That is also the meaning of chapter 21 of Revelation.