I believe my ten arguments for a literal reading of Genesis 1 and my five response to objections sufficiently demonstrate the validity of the Westminster Confession (4.1) when it declares: “It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.”
In Part One of this piece, I offered 10 reasons for reading the six days of creation as six chronologically successive periods of 24-hours each. Today, I will answer five common objections.
Objections to Literal, Chronological Days
1. Objection: Genesis 2:4 speaks of the entire creation week as a ‘day,’ showing that ‘day’ may not be literal.
Response: The phrase here is actually beyom, an idiomatic expression meaning “when” (NIV, NRSV, NAB). Besides, even had Genesis 2 used “day” in a different sense, Genesis 1 carefully qualifies its creative days (see points 2–5 in the previous article).
2. Objection: Genesis 2:2–3 establishes the seventh day of God’s rest, which is ongoing and not a literal day. This shows the preceding six days could be long periods of time.
Response: (1) Contextually, this is an argument from silence—one which contradicts Exodus 20:11. (2) If true, it would imply no fall and curse (Genesis 3), for then God would be continually hallowing and blessing that “ongoing day.” In fact, God does not bless his eternal rest, but a particular day. (3) Days 1–6 (the actual creation period) are expressly delimited; Day 7 is not. (This is, however, because the creation week has ceased. To mention another “morning” would imply another day followed in that unique period.) Since this is the seventh in a series of six preceding literal days, how can we interpret it other than literally?
3. Objection: On Day 4 God creates the sun to provide light; but light was created on Day 1. This shows that the days are not chronologically ordered, but thematically cross-linked.
Response: This “problem” is answered in the context. On Day 1 God declares “good” the newly created light, but not his separating it from darkness to form “evening and morning.” This is because the final, providential mechanism for separating (the sun) is not created until Day 4. Thus, when Day 4 ends we finally read: “it was good” (Gen. 1:18). This is similar to the separation of the waters above and below on Day 2, which is not declared “good” until the final separation from the land on Day 3 (Gen. 1:9). Or like Adam’s creation not being “good” (Gen. 2:18) until Eve is separated out of him. Also, Scripture elsewhere suggests light was created separately from the sun (2 Cor. 4:6; Job 38:19–20) and can exist apart from it (Rev. 22:5).
Besides, most of the material in Genesis 1 demands chronological order—even for Framework advocates. This suggests that the surprising order of light-then-sun is also chronological. Not only is Genesis 1 structured by fifty-five waw-consecutives (often translated “and”) that indicate narrative sequence, but note: Separating the waters on Day 2 requires their prior creation on Day 1 (Gen. 1:2d). Creating the sea on Day 3 must predate the sea creatures of Day 5. Day 3 logically has dry land appearing before land vegetation later that day. Day 3 must predate Day 6, in that land must precede land animals and man. Day 6 must appear as the last stage of creation, in that man forms the obvious climax to God’s creation. Day 6 logically has man being created after animal life (Days 5 and 6) in that he is commanded to rule over it. Day 7 must conclude the series in that it announces the cessation of creation (Gen. 2:2). And so on.