We are Lutheran enough to have had two children baptized as Lutherans though we take projects in new locations every year and usually find other churches more accessible than Lutheran ones when you are not a long-time member of the community.
I’d like @Philosurfer and Joel Oesch to comment on how acceptably “Lutheran” it is to consider the idea that no matter how long the six days of creation were there is an unspecified amount of time Before the First Day.
The idea goes like this…
A careful reading of the text shows that the first “day” does not begin until verse three. God does not create the heavens and the land on “day one”. Rather, on day one He separates darkness from light in a universe which had previously been created, as is stated in verse one. Therefore the universe had existed for an unstated amount of time prior to the first day.
I support that claim based on two things. First, in verse one the Hebrew word translated “created” ( bara ) is in the “Qal perfect” form. That form is used to indicate completed action. That means it is talking about something which had already happened. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The text moves on from there to say that the earth was formless and void “and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters”.
So verses one and two are like a “set-up” of the account of God’s intervention on the earth, which starts off “formless and void”. These two verses are not a part of the first “day”. Instead they are setting the scene for the account of the days, each an intervention of God in some area, which follow.
Just look at the structure of the other days. Each one starts with “And God said”. God makes a statement, creation responds, the text describes God doing something related to His statement, and then the text says (in all but the seventh day) that the “evening and the morning” of this process was day “X”. Here is the pattern of the six days….
Creation responds (sometimes recorded only as “and it was so”)
God acts (sometimes only “seeing” and sometimes more direct action)
Day is summed up: The evening and the morning, day X.
Each of Creation’s days starts off with “And God said”. To fit the pattern, this would include the first day. The first “And God said” is found in verse three. Therefore verse three is the beginning of the first “day”. The first two verses then can only be referring to things which occurred before the first “day” occurred.
Ok, it’s clear from the structure of the six days that day one does not start until verse three. That leaves us with “in the beginning” as something before that. “The beginning” started before the first days of creation started. How long before that? One might be tempted to ask “how long does the beginning take”? Actually I think that is asking the wrong question here.
Young earth creationists often point to Mathew 19:4 and Mark 10:6 to show that Jesus considered the creation of mankind to have occurred “in the beginning of creation”. Their thinking is that since the creation of the cosmos was also “in the beginning” then the heavens and the earth could not have been created billions of years before people. So even if heaven and earth were created “before the first day” they assume they were made in a very brief period of time.
This argument does not make sense logically. Jesus said male and female were made “at the beginning of creation” when the text shows they were made at the end of the creation “week.” So either Jesus is referring to the beginning of the creation of men and women, or He considers the beginning of creation to be when the creating is finished on the end of sixth day. Either way makes no statement about how long it took to create the heavens and the earth or how long the earth stayed formless.
In earlier versions of this work I also had more speculative textual answers to that objection. But I now think the better answer is to keep it simple. We are the ones bound by time, not God. We are the ones who have trouble with the idea that “the beginning” can take immense amounts of time while the middle and end of the story are wrapped up in a comparatively brief time. To us, it should not take vastly more time to create a world than that world is scheduled to last. But that’s us. The whole objection is based on the idea that God views time the same way we do, but that idea is explicitly rejected in scripture. 2nd Peter 3:8 says…
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Peter asks believers not to be ignorant about just one thing, but apparently that’s too much for us! We are so wrapped up in ourselves that we just can’t get out of our own time-bound skin to appreciate things the way that God sees them. God is not bound by time. He has no problem taking fifteen-billion years to set up a story that plays itself out in tens of thousands of years. Nor to Him does the set up necessarily take any longer than the playing out. That we have trouble grasping this is no limitation on Him, it’s our limitation.
Haven’t you see elaborate patterns of dominoes which have been set up just for the purpose of watching them fall in a particular way? It may have taken hours for the creator to set up a series of dominoes which fall in a matter of seconds. The first six dominos to fall may be the “beginning” of the story playing out- but it took a lot of time to even prepare that beginning. So even we humans, made in His likeness, sometimes have a penchant for similar things. The joy comes from the setting up of the event as much as the event itself. The beginning of the event comes long after the set-up for the event. The life of the event takes much less time than the set-up.
Further, we don’t even know if God considered the set up as “taking more time”. The amount of time one perceives passing depends on the position of the observer- and remember no humans were around to observe the events of Genesis chapter one until the very end of it. From our view setting up the dominoes was a lengthy process. To Him, the falling of the dominoes may be the lengthy process. And we were not around!
In the next three chapters I am going to communicate some pretty heady stuff about time and perspective. By the end of it I hope you will see that the argument being used from Mark 10:6 is based on a flawed assumption about God and time.
To be clear, I am not advocating for the old Scofield “Gap Theory” which postulated a long gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 during which a prior creation populated the earth and was destroyed. I am just saying that the test allows that there was a large interval of time between the creation of the heavens and the earth and the start of the first “day” in verse three. I am not claiming there is a missing story there.
My point is simply that the text shows that Creation’s first day does not begin until verse three. So regardless of how long the “days” of chapter one are, verses one and two happened an undetermined amount of time beforehand.
I also want to point out that the heavens are something which God creates, not something He is contained within or bounded by. 1 Kings 8:27 et al point out that “ the highest heaven cannot contain Him. ” God is not constrained to exist “in” Heaven. He is beyond the heavens. He may be “in” heaven in the way that I sit “in” a chair. I am not within the chair. As it is written (Isaiah 66:1) “ Heaven is My throne and the Earth is My footstool ”. Later on, a person of the Trinity does enter within heaven, but I get ahead of myself.
Another thing I want to point out is the condition of creation prior to God filling it with Light. It was not a good place to be. The initial conditions are not good, in any realm of creation. They are dark and foreboding. When it says “the deep” in this passage, the Hebrew word “ tehom ” is used. This term also means “abyss”, and can refer to subterranean waters. It is thus comparable to the Greek term used to describe the place where the spirits who left their proper abode are kept in chains (Jude 1:6), or the place in Revelation from which such creatures emerge (Rev. :11). In Luke 8:31 the demons who possessed a miserable wretch begged Christ not to send them to “the deep.” The word here again refers to an abyss.
The initial conditions of creation were like the realms where the very worst spirit offenders are kept in custody, like some sort of other-worldly super-max facility. Perhaps the “abyss” spoken of in later scripture is a realm or void where things have been left exactly as creation was at this point. It is a space utterly lacking in the light of God’s wisdom, judgement, personality, or word.
Even vice enjoys the fruits produced by virtue, and even evil spirits dread to be confined to a place where the light of God has in no way entered. They don’t want too much of it to shine, they wish to lurk about in the evening shadows. Despite this, they dread the deep and utter darkness.
So did God create the universe as a place of evil? Consider what evil is. He created it as a place of darkness- a place which lacked His Divine light. This is not because He made creation evil, but because He had not at this point illuminated it with His own Word. Evil is not a thing in itself, it’s the absence of good in a thing. It’s the absence of God, or more precisely (since God is omnipresent) an absence of His Word. When He made something outside of Himself, it could not help but be dark until His Word was injected into it.
I know that a lot of people are convinced that God created an unfallen universe which was in a state of perfection comparable to that of heaven at its holiest, but that is not what the text says. The text says that when God creates something outside of Himself it is an undesirable place to be- until He begins to put His Word and His actions into it.
I should also mention something about Exodus 20:11 while I am on this subject, and it is a verse which I will have more to say about later. It says that “For six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth” as well as what is in them. Though the King James Version says “For in six days….” we find that the word “in” is not a part of the original text. Plus the word translated “made” here, and in Genesis, is different from the word translated “created” in Genesis 1:1.
I will go into more detail in a bit but my point is that you cannot equate Exodus 20:11 with Genesis 1:1. This is because 1) Genesis 1:1 speaks of the creation of the earth and the universe before God spoke the first day into existence in Genesis 1:3 while Exodus 20:11 speaks of God’s work on the heavens and the earth during the six days of Genesis chapter one. And 2) the word “in” is not in the text. It is not saying that God created the world “in” six days. Rather He worked on His creation for six days. He created it “in the beginning”.
This fits a lot better with the context of the verse, where it is arguing that man should rest from his own labors on the land for one day out of seven because the Lord Himself did the same. He worked for six “days” and on the seventh He rested. Farmers do not “create” the earth they farm, but they do make it into something productive. That is mostly what the Lord did during the so-called “Creation Days.”