Your help with how to answer this question would be appreciated! I showed a clip of John Lennox describing his view of the definition of days in Genesis 1 to a youth group class I was helping out with. We were reading through Gen 1 and a young man asked the following questions:
“Why were there livestock if there were no humans yet? Was Adam supposed to take care of all the livestock for the whole world? And if a day was not a day, how long did the livestock have to take care of themselves before humans arrived?”
I stumbled around a bit - longer than I should have - and said that they were all semi-wild and able to take care of themselves until humans domesticated them.
But wow - I thought those were good questions. Does any one have other views on this? I know there is not consensus on the literal or figurative meaning of these verses among believers, so I proceed with respect for the different views that my brothers and sisters may have on this. All of your viewpoints and suggestion would be greatly apprectaited. Thank you!
I don’t think your answer was half-bad. It was a tough question!
I have a huge respect for Dr. Lennox and, without question, he is a LOT smarter than me! His science-based apologetics are fantastic. But, on his definition of days, I respectfully disagree. Your young friend picked up on one of the many problems that arise when the days of Genesis are interpreted as long periods of time. Others have asked how the vegetation created on “Day 2” could have survived long when photosynthesis requires the sun, which was not created until “Day 3.”
Although “yom” can be a general term for an unspecified period of time, it is most easily understood as a literal 24-hour period when there is a quantifying word preceding it. To grasp this concept, look up the word in an exhaustive concordance and you’ll see this pattern. But see for example Genesis 8: 150 days; seventeenth day of the seventh month; first day of the tenth month, etc.
There is also the repetitious use of the phrase “and it was evening and morning—the [first, second, third… sixth] day, which define the “day” as a 24-hr period. It was if God was taking great pains to avoid any confusion. Those terms used in the creation account when used elsewhere in the Bible are most easily understood when we ascribe to them their most common straightforward meaning.
If the days are long periods of time, then the animals would have to be living for millions of years because there are significant theological and philosophical problems if they are suffering, dying, and killing each other before God created people and people sinned. Death came through the trespass of the one man Adam (Romans 5:17; 1 Cor. 15:22). Some have tried to exclude animals from this sin-induced death (saying God made the natural world that way), but this calls into question the character of God. It also contradicts verses like Hosea 4:1-3 which state clearly that the causative factors in the death of “beasts, birds, and fish” are the sins of humankind such as murder, lying, adultery, etc. Furthermore, carnivorous behavior is defined as “harming” and “destroying” and will not be happening on God’s holy mountain. (Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25). If physical death is not the penalty for sin, then Christ’s physical death cannot be sufficient. But thanks be to God, this is not so! Because the creation was subjected to frustration by the will (sin) of Adam, it also waits and hopes for the liberation from its bondage to decay when it also will be brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21).
There are many reputable scientists that can explain scientific evidences supporting a young earth. It is not a popular view because it pretty much excludes Darwinian evolution which also introduces significant theological and philosophical problems.
Bless you for helping out with that youth group! Again, I think Dr. Lennox is fantastic. I would love to talk with him about this too.
Kathy, I assume that the “youth” in your group are teenagers for the sake of my answer. If this is not correct, please correct me.
My answer is a non-answer. Teenagers need to learn that not all questions of Biblical interpretation have easy answers, and that is okay. You had difficulty answering the questions because this is one of those difficult passages. There are many views on how to interpret Genesis 1, none of which fits perfectly. @GreenChristian posited one view with a good argument. Dr. Lennox posited another. This is an opportunity for your teens to learn that not knowing the answer is okay, not all doctrine is equally important, and that Christians can respectfully disagree about things. My response might be one of the following:
- “Those are great questions, Tom. How would you answer them if you were God?”
- “I don’t know, Sally. What do you think about researching them with me and comparing notes?”
- “There are many views on this, Joe. Dr. Lennox gave one. What others have you heard?”
You can see how these can lead to some interesting and productive conversations.
I do caution against being too doctrinaire about the age of the Earth or spend too much time on it in class. This has become one of the most harmfully divisive issues in Christianity. Teens need to stay focused on the story of creation, fall, and redemption. We need to be particularly careful to avoid logical fallacies, oversimplifications, caricatures, and mistaking speculation for fact. One does not need to believe in a young Earth in order to believe that God created the Universe and everything in it. Not all Old Earth believers are Darwinists. Fools and sages reside in both camps.
In sum, enjoy the questions, encourage exploration, and stay focused on the Cross. That is our most important task in our work with teens.
Hey @klaubster, like the others stated, I think that for being in your position and situation that was a very satisfactory answer! What a neat opportunity for you to minister to young people and cultivate an environment for them to seek and find biblical answers to life’s questions!
If I could encourage you with a few things…
I think these type of questions can be very good especially as a young person is desiring to seek for truth and not take whatever may come his/ her way just because so-n-so said so but sometimes we pressure ourselves to answering the question all in one setting, it doesn’t have to be that way. We live in a ‘now’ mentality. And please don’t take me wrong, we should desire and strive to be able to give a biblical answer of what we believe and why… especially when it comes to the core doctrines of Christianity. But on some of the other “building blocks” to our faith when you don’t have a sure footing on it, allow it to grow your relationship with one another as you search out what God has to say about it. Like Brendan mentioned, see if they are willing to pursue the question with you. If you are able to take this kind of opportunity and become a “running partner” with the individual in his pursuit of truth then awesome and by doing so it can open up the door for them to ask you about other things they are facing or seeking answers for. I like what Ravi said in one of his talks — “People use questions to find answers, answer the person not just the question.” I trust that that is your heart in this situation, to go beyond the question and that would not be in a way that would be neglecting the question, but reaching the person through the “question gate”. Honestly, I wish I had a teen group leader that had done that for me! Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know, can we search it out together?” It helps them to see that you (especially in leadership position) are a real person too and allows them to see what you do with your questions.
I too have really enjoyed John Lennox’s talks and highly respect and admire him, but on that specific issue I too would differ with him and would see it more from the perspective that @GreenChristian provided.
I love the engaging questions that Brendan gave! Thanks for sharing them, Brendan! And like he said:
I know this kinda went long, and may have not directly addressed your question but I hope it has provided a few extra nuts and bolts for your tool box.
May the Lord bless you as you continue serving Him and touching the lives of those young people!
Thank you very much for the encouragement and the information. I really appreciate your time and perspective!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer. It was very helpful. Yes these are young high schoolers who were in the group. I am not the primary person leading so it was a little awkward no know the kids real well. Your information was so helpful, esp to remember that I don’t have to have all the answers (a fool’s errand there for sure lol).
Thanks so much for your reply and encouragement. I agree that the answers I received were very very helpful. This community is the best!
Hi @klaubster. Great question. Great replies from above. My 2 cents is that Genesis or the bible in general was never meant to be an explanation of the exacts of how the world was created or was it designed to explain how old the earth was etc. A lot of people will try to force it but there is no way to know until we meet our Lord in heaven. So anything goes and people try to give the best answers that they can.
Now, in Eden, or in God’s hand, nothing is forced to go by the law of physics as we know them today. God is above all of that and can do as he pleases. You may not need a domesticator at the time of eden or the sun may not be the only source of light to say you need photosynthesis etc. So there are many unknowns to say for sure. Not saying this as a cop out but at the level of the high schoolers may not be the most important thing.
Thanks for your service trying to get the word out to the next generation. As everyone has said, the core of Christianity is what saves, not the curiosity question, but once someone has the core they can definitely delve in.
I would add how I understand this complicated issue for so many people as I said to my youngest daughter “it is not thinkable God would give us a complete scientifically detailed explanation of the creation in Genesis 1 and 2, as there are so many issues (thousands of physical, chemical, thermodynamic equations/concepts which would need hundreds of complicated books explaining that, plus innumerable philosophical statements/approaches about what the reality is and how can we comprehend it, plus incredible theological, sociological and anthropological issues), so God gave us what we need to know: there was a beginning and a process of creation established by God. All of that in a kind of text genre suitable for people who didn’t have the knowledge we have now about Science, History, etc. (including the rest of the Revelation in His Word). So, as Brendan said, it is great to have questions and each one can have an understanding of how it went, but we will only be sure at Heaven. In the mean time, we can try to figure out the whole thing by understanding the basics”.
I hope this helps in any way.
Big questions from young people are good and can be intimidating.
Good topic Kathy,
Old Earth or Young Earth, many, many years or catastrophic flood seems to be the debate. The Bible- literal or figurative language in Genesis, which do you prefer? A strong argument can be made for both views, using science. I have found a few sources of study that will help develop understanding on both sides, at least a start:
-Biologos/ The Bible, Rocks, and Time: Christians and an Old Earth
This site presents both the Young and Old earth views well. They side obviously on the Old earth perspective. But there are lots of cross-reference sourcing listed for further research.
-In the Beginning: Compeling Evidence for Creation and the Flood/ Walt Brown
This book is filled with Young earth data and evidence.
Realistically, as mentioned by Aldo Ventura Ferrari (very cool last name) pointed out, this is a very big discussion. It isn’t an easy conversation in certain circles. And sides are set in some respects. Be gentle. Expect confusion and be ready to develop a defence for what you believe.
Also, God does the impossible. Jesus is beyond creation, He made it. Every miracle Jesus did defies science as we know it, He doesn’t bend the knee to natural law. So, when we look at the world around us, what we see is finite. Whether science or interpreting Scripture, we are limited. And still, we are commissioned to teach God’s Word and represent Him in this world. As you study this topic, a perspective to stand on will appear and your ability to give a defence for what you believe about it will shore-up in truth.
Teaching the youth is amazing. Every question is precious. “Why were there livestock if there were no humans yet?", a simple question of something that makes no sense. And you get the blessing of helping make sense of it. And they are the next generation. You are certainly investing into something great.
I hope this helps,
The sequence of the Creation has great significance.
1st day: Light
2nd day: Atmosphere and water
3rd day: Land
4th day: Sun, moon and stars
5th day: Birds and fish
6th day: Animals and then man.
God’s creation is neither random nor unplanned. He works in systematic order and with specific purposes. What is the significance of the sequence of Creation? Why did God create mankind last? The purpose of Creation is mankind, it was for you and I. God created man only after everything we would need was ready. God’s creation includes the beautification with nature around us and the celestial bodies in outer space.
As for taking care of lifestocks, the Garden of Eden in its unfallen state can thrive without the immediate presence of Adam. This subject today is considered as human’s environmental responsibilities.
The main message here is that we are indeed the crown of God’s Creation.
In the book of Job, God describes how he is the one who cares for the animals. Just a little thought. Great that that little mind is questioning things so deep! Very encouraging.
I absolutely agree with you. God is logical and systematic. The law of Genesis is logical, and yes God would create everything first so that mankind could be presented with the garden in all its glory, after all, when we give a gift to our son or daughter, we are excited to present them with the gift, in as much mankind was the crowning glory in Gods creation.
Concerning time and age of the earth…The bible literally states that at some point in creation the morning and the evening were the first day etc. etc. etc.
I also heard John Lennox and his explanation about the age of the world. Carbon dating does not at all contradict the book of Genesis because Genesis doesn’t state anything about the age of the world. According to John Lennox and some certain scholars, when God separated the light from the darkness it uses a specific form of past tense. Then when Genesis speaks about day 1,2,3… it uses a different form of past tense. Between these two different forms of time, hundreds and thousands of years could have past. Essentially the age of the earth is more or less unknown according to bible knowledge and the varying past tense used.
All in all, God can do what He wants, Genesis shows that even the Carnivores used to be plant eaters, and if he didn’t want the cows to produce milk then they wouldn’t
It is good to see the young minds thinking and these opportunities should be turned back to them in a constructive way to find answers in and about God for themselves.
Wishing you all the best