Bavinck on the Creation Days

At the Reformed Reader.

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  1. Unfortunately for Bavinck, the creation account was set down after the creation, so the term “day” was the term in use when the account was set down. It is unlikely that Abraham, Moses, or the Israelites would have understood “day” in some cosmological sense, different from ordinary usage. Also, there is no indication that they were using it in a metaphorical sense in Genesis 1.

      • The article says, “Thus, technically speaking, we don’t even know what “literal 24 hours” mean since that depends on the observer.” But the observers were Adam, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Noah, the Israelites, to whom a “day” meant a day, not a relativistic, non-classical, time-distortion event.

        Never ceases to amaze me how a strict Sabbatarian can hold to an OE view.

        • You are forgetting that we are talking about the creation. So then how can Adam be an observer when he was created on the 6th day?

      • What do you mean by “cosmological”? The word in philosophy refers to a first cause (Aristotelean). Otherwise it just means a study of the universe, which does not suggest anything in particular.

        So “he knew it was cosmological” means…?

        • Not the philosophical one, but in the sense of “scale”. I meant that the ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ in Genesis 1 shouldn’t be understood as events happening in some local scale on Earth, but in the sense that is harmonious with events happening in cosmological scale. We are so used to equate “evening and morning” with “rising and setting of the sun,” which is a local notion that cannot be defined globally; they can be defined at most with respect to some local position; but the text of Genesis 1 doesn’t warrant such reading for its description on the creation.

  2. Even with a solar system it is possible that a day is not 24 hours… i.e. the long day of Joshua where the sun stood still. Interesting too that it is not possible according to the text in Joshua:

    [12] At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

    “Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
    and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
    [13] And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
    until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
    Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. [14] There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.
    (Joshua 10:12-14 ESV)

    “There has been no day like it before”… like what? Like this long day that was different than any other day… sorry Bavinck.

    • I generally support the “literal day” interpretation, but what you’re saying doesn’t follow at all. The text tells us in what sense the day of Joshua was unique: “the LORD heeded the voice of a man”, not “the day lasted longer than 1440 minutes”.

  3. If the tag QIRC and the discussion in RRC is anything to go by, I think (though I may be wrong) that the point Dr Clark is attempting to make has less to do with advancing a view of the length of the creation days than it does with demonstrating that inasmuch as our forefathers do not appear to have thought the length of the days to be a confessional matter – there was a variety of views – so it should not be used as a boundary marker to judge who is and isn’t Reformed.

    Might be wrong though, maybe Dr Clark does agree with Bavinck.

  4. QIRC or not, don’t forget that the number of people who hold to a 6 consecutive days of creation that are all alike enough to use the word day and to be the foundation for what we all know as the day/night cycle that also deny the historicity of Adam is ZERO. Bavnick may not deny the historicity of Adam, but if days are not days, but instead just literary devices, then why isn’t Adam, his rib, Eve, & the serpent just literary devices or why does Adam have to mean just one guy or one couple. If days can be millions or billions of years, can’t Adam just mean the billions of people that comprise the human race?

    I wonder if Enns, Longman & Waltke think that requiring a historical Adam is nothing more than QIRC? Guilt by association may be a logical fallacy, but at least you can keep company with them on creation at least until you go all QIRC on them with respect to using the historical Adam as a boundary marker.

    The creation of Adam is tightly coupled with the rest of the creation account. What is the logic for the hermeneutic break, wherein the structure and language of entire account up to that point is just a series of literary devices, while then suddenly at Gen 1:26 it becomes history. Since the double triad is not complete until 1:31, why only one bit of real history in an otherwise unhistorical literary framework? There doesn’t seem to be any more reason to take 1:26-28 as history than 1:1 to 1:25. Here’s another set of questions – Did God actually say things that Gen 1 says He said? Did God actually say, “Let there be light.”? Did God really call the light day, and the darkness night? Did God actually say “Let us make man in our image…”? If the latter why not the former? if not the former why the latter? If scripture says God said something he didn’t really say, how do I know Jesus really said of himself, the very words of eternal life?

    The bottom line is this. There is exactly one and only one account of the creation of the world. It is the only source of information on the subject. There is no possibility of scientific enquiry on the subject, because there is no way to create or even devise an empirical study because the initial conditions can not be even be modelled. What is gained by taking the account of Gen 1 at anything other than face value?

    • Andrew,

      It’s not a question of whether to take the text at face value. The question is how to take it at face value. The Framework Interpretation and the Analogical Interpretation believe that they are taking the text at face value.

      That’s why this is an exegetical issue and not an issue of orthodoxy. It’s not about inerrancy or inspiration or even heremeneutics. it’s about the results that follow from the application of a grammatical, historical interpretation of the text of Scripture.

      • Scott,

        But don’t the Credo-Baptists, Arminians, Theonomists, and FV all argue the same about the texts on which they base their own distinctives — at least on some level? So does that mean that above all get your blessing of orthodoxy, because they see their own approach as honest exegetical effort?

  5. In the Genesis account “day”, enveloped by “evening” and “morning”, constitutes the kernel meaning of time, albeit not yet temporally defined by the matrix of the sun, moon and stars. This absence of celestial bodies seems to be the rub for many folks. It is assumed that without these “time” is a sort of flexible entity – a kind of immeasurable period, marked only by the visual distinction between dark and light. I think it could be said that what is meant by that is that watches did not exist at that time, and so there is no such thing as time as we know it, back then. In fact, it could said that “time” did not exist yet, because it wasn’t yet measured. So, the terms “day” etc. are really meaningless, at least in those first few “days”, which were not really days, just ambiguous periods of “time”, oops, no such thing yet! Measureless times? Ignoring for the moment the modernistic assumptions of these arguments (things that cannot be measured do not exist), let me get to the main point.

    If the inception of the Sun begins a definitive meaning of “day” and time (or possible not according to Bavinck), there is no longer any measure, and therefore no longer time. Time becomes whatever the things dictate, and thus it becomes meaningless. The chronological and temporal measurement of the universe is not simply marked by other temporal elements, but is bestowed meaning by those elements- which is not actually possible in the long run (and ideas usually take the long run to really get started). Beyond exegetical debates, what has occurred is a switch in metaphysics, in the nature of reality.

    The structure of reality has become hierarchic, with matter as the determiner of what is real. Being now precedes meaning in the order of things. Those who take this view need to face up to the philosophical implications of what they are suggesting. If God has thus spoken, or rather not spoken, then time is meaningless, and it will follow, that we too are meaningless. Maintaining that one aspect of creation is dictated by creation itself will eventually bleed into all aspects of creation. Meaning is given by God, but with the sort of arguments being posited here, created things dictate meaning in the temporal order of things. A prior meaning is denied, and so meaning is left open as subject to pressure from other things. Perhaps men do not intend this, but the philosophical implication is ultimately Nihilism. This may seem a long way off, but it is now on the horizon as the inevitability. 

    According to the classic 24-hour, six day creation view, time and space are equally ultimate. “In the beginning” starts the clock, measured by God’s determination of time. God gives meaning to all things, apart from their existence. As Paul writes, “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world”. Meaning precedes being. All else is Nihilism.

    Grace and peace,

  6. Chris,
    I’m not sure I follow you in reaching the conclusion that you do that time becomes “meaningless” and that the implication is nihilism for those who do not adhere to 24-hr six day creation. The fact that time wasn’t measured by a watch does not mean that time did not exist. I’m missing something here.

  7. I think I see what Chris is saying. It is not the existence of the sun, moon, and stars that give time its meaning, but rather they are simply instruments given by God to us to measure that which he established on day one. If we view the first three days as being without established parameters and only the existence of the sun, moon, and stars establishing these parameters then we have in effect replaced the Creator with the creature as to that which provides meaning at the very least to the idea of time. And if we are willing to do this at any point we have just sacrificed Christianity, and ultimately meaning itself.

  8. Richard,
    I agree, that time did exist despite the absence of a Casio and, even more so, despite the absence of the spheres. But I am suggesting that those who hold to anything but the notion that what we see today is what they saw then must hold to a view that is either a Hellenic or neo-Thomistic view of reality- that being dictates meaning.

    What is being implied by the rationale that the spheres dictate time and what a day means (or doesn’t mean, if Bavinck is correct) is the subjugation of one aspect of reality to another- time is subject to space, or rather, the movement of objects within space creates time, gives meaning to the existential reality of “day” and “night”. This was Einstein’s view, and it is that of most modernists. I say that not as some kind of proof of my argument, but just to point out the adherents. All truth is God’s truth, so they may be right, but I am not so sure.

    The 24-hour view (although I do not like the designation), maintains that time and space are co-equals- they are not dependent on one another, but mutually inhabit and structure reality. Most importantly, the 24-hour view guards the notion that God dictates meaning apart from the existence of us or anything else, or our interpretation of “things”, such as time. This is what is important to me. It is the deeper root of the Christian worldview that is at issue in my mind.

    I realize I am just touching the edges here, and I am not articulating myself as well as I might.

    Grace and peace,

  9. Chris and Terry,

    Thanks! I appreciate the help on what you were saying. And I appreciate the help in making me think!

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