“God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!” That’s the way many Bible-believing Christians handle the Genesis account of the Creation of the world in six days. But anyone who’s had an elementary school science course knows that it’s more complicated than that.
As a matter of fact, anyone who slows down and reads the Biblical words more carefully realizes that taking the description of Creation in six days literally raises some very difficult questions. How can God separate light from darkness on the First Day, naming the light “Day” and the darkness “Night,” but not create the sun until the Fourth Day? How can the sun and moon, created on the Fourth Day, be placed in the dome of the sky underneath the “waters that were above the dome” (Second Day)? In this literal approach, the expanded story of the creation of humans in Genesis 2 must have occurred during the Sixth Day of Genesis 1. How can it be said that before the creation of humans on the Sixth Day, “no plant of the field was yet in the earth” (Genesis 2:5), when it was on the Third Day that God created “vegetation, plants of every kind” (Genesis 1:12).
But when a person sees this Creation story, not as a science textbook, but as a profound poem about God’s creativity displayed in the natural world, all sorts of wonderful truths jump out of the ancient words and phrases. Let me give an example.
The second verse of Genesis begins:”The earth was without form and void.” The Hebrew words behind this phrase are tohu and bohu, obviously chosen because they rhyme. Tohu can be translated as “UNFORMED” and bohu as “UNFILLED.” If you look at the Creation account as a poetic description of how God solved the tohu/bohu problem through his creativity, with the six days being stanzas of the poem, the pattern becomes clear. On the first three days, he resolved the tohu problem by shaping things through separating their elements:
First Day – separating light from darkness;
Second Day – separating the sky from the seas;
Third Day – separating land (with its vegetation) from water.
On the last three days, he resolved the bohu problem by populating the environments he created in the first three days:
Fourth Day – “populating” the light with the sun, the darkness with the moon;
Fifth Day – populating the sky with birds, the seas with fish, etc;
Sixth Day – populating the dry land with land animals and, ultimately, humans.
At the end of each poetic stanza (“Day”), God stepped back and admired his creativity: “And God saw that it was good.”
The capstone of God’s Creation was making human beings “in his image.” When a person has a saving encounter with God, one of the results is a new awakening of that individual’s unique creative instincts, in the image of the Creator. The Psalmist wrote:
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well” (Psalm 139:14)
An individual’s own creativity is enhanced by
(1) The discovery and unfolding of his own being, made in God’s image (“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”)
(2) The observation of the wonders of nature, magnified by the lens of faith (“Wonderful are your works.”)
(3) The person’s relationship with God, a unique and creative encounter with the Creator (“that I know very well”).
Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers that God “by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine ” (Ephesians 3:20). Each one of should take this as a personal challenge to expect more faith-inspired creativity to emanate from our Christian lives. By his creative Spirit we will resolve some of the tohu and bohu in the chaotic world around us.
–Pastor George Van Alstine