I have encountered a “theology” on creation (Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2) that the
Bible gives us a hint where Dinosaurs thrived here on earth. Yes, science
claims that they really lived millions of years ago. A “teacher” taught
that in between these verses, there is a very long time span. Verse 1
states that “IN THE BEGINNING God created the heavens and the earth” and
verse 2 states “NOW the earth was formless and empty… (emphasis added)”.
The time spans from “IN THE BEGINNING” to “NOW”. I can’t totally recall
those that contradicted this supposition, but I will be very pleased to
hear you shed light on this.
What you are describing is known as the “Gap Theory” explanation of
Genesis chapter 1. Of course, there are many proposed approaches to
resolving the creation account in Genesis with what is known from science.
Let me give an extremely brief synopsis of some of the most common
approaches to understanding the Genesis creation account.
One approach is to assume that the creation of the universe, the earth,
and all life on earth occurred within six literal twenty-four hour periods
just a few thousand years ago. This is the simplest and most
straightforward reading of Genesis chapter one, but it does not agree at
all with the scientific evidence. All the evidence we have at our disposal
implies that the earth and the universe are very old–probably billions of
years old. This in and of itself does not disprove the literal twenty-four
hour approach, as God certainly could have created the earth a few
thousand years ago, already appearing old. The problem comes when many
claim that scientific evidence agrees with the earth being old.
Another approach is known as the day/age theory. In this approach, the
“days” of Genesis chapter one are not literal twenty-four hour periods,
but are rather symbolic of great periods of time over which God did the
things described in Genesis. For example in the first period of creation,
presumably over great periods of time, God created the heavens and the
earth. In the second period of time, represented by the second day, God
created separate land and seas as the earth cooled and so forth. This
approach can be made to agree well with scientific evidence. Scientific
evidence agrees in outline with the description in Genesis chapter one, if
one can accept that the “days” are symbolic of great periods of time.
However, some are uncomfortable with allowing what appears to them to be
literal twenty-four hour periods to be taken as symbolic of a greater
period of time. Both of these theories are discussed thoroughly in my book
“Is There a God,”.
A third approach, which is not dealt with thoroughly in my book is the Gap
theory. This attempted explanation of Genesis allows for a great period of
time–a great time gap (and thus the name) to exist between the creation
of the universe and the first “day” in Genesis 1:1. In other words, this
theory would allow for the great age of the universe, but would still
assume that the twenty-four hour periods of Genesis are literal. To put it
another way, the first approach described above has both the universe and
the earth being very young. The second approach described would imply both
an old earth and an old universe, while the Gap theory implies an old
universe but a young earth.
Now let me give you my view on the Gap theory, for what it is worth. The
Gap theory, rather than being the best of both worlds, is the worst of
both worlds (again, in my opinion). What I mean by this is that the Gap
theory, although it allows for an old universe, does absolutely nothing to
solve the problem of the scientific evidence that the earth is extremely
old. Therefore the Gap theory does not address the complaints which are
solved by the day/age theory. On the other hand, there is no real
justification for allowing a great period of time before the first “day”
of creation. The Gap theory puts great periods of time into one part of
the Genesis account, but not into another. The choice seems to me to be
somewhat arbitrary. The Gap theory certainly does not solve the criticisms
raised by the literalists. Those who propose the Gap theory are attempting
to find a middle ground where there probably is none. Either one accepts
the scientific evidence to say what it says, or one believes that God
created the earth and universe with an appearance of age.
In saying this, I do not mean to ridicule the Gap theory or those who
believe in it. I simply am saying that I do not believe this is a theory
which is theologically or logically consistent, so I personally reject it.
I do not believe one’s conclusions about the age of the earth is a
salvation issue, but it is a good idea for those of us who tend to
approach things intellectually, and especially for those who are
interested in science to ask these questions and at least come to some
sort of personal conviction so that we can be “always prepared to give an
answer” (1 Peter 3:15) to those who will ask.
John Oakes, PhD