The original creation and subsequent formation

 

In, The Invisible War, Donald Grey Barnhouse described the “vast difference between the original creation of the heavens and the earth, and the subsequent formation, fashioning and restoration of that same earth which had been turned into chaos.”

“In a brilliant manner, the author has stretched out the panorama of time and focused upon it the illuminating light of Eternity.” 

The Great Interval:

On the one side of the abyss stands the phrase, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” 

We come to the other side and read the second verse as it is found in the King James Version: “And the earth was without form and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep.” The revisers in both the English and American revisions, not satisfied with the terms “without form and void,” have given us the better translation, “waste and void,” though the RSV has gone back to the King James rendering. Still another translator interprets the Hebrew as “a wreck and a ruin.” In French there is a common expression which translates our idea of topsy-turvy: it is tohu-bohu — an expression transliterated from the Hebrew of this second verse of Genesis. These are the words which various translators have rendered “without form,” “void,” “waste,” “desolate,” “empty,” “wreck,” “ruin.”

Just here the importance of the comparative method of Bible study is seen. In Isaiah 45:18, we read that God did not create the world as it is found in the second verse of Genesis: “For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not tohu . . .” Here is the same Hebrew word as in the second verse of the Bible. It is a formal statement: God did not create the earth as it is portrayed in the description that has commonly been called chaos. The great French Catholic translator, Abbe Crampon, boldly renders it thus: “He hath established it Himself and did not make it as a chaos [Qui l’a fondee Luimeme et qui n’en a pas fait un chaos].” It is noteworthy that the Revised Standard Version has adopted this reading. “He did not create it a chaos.”

This categorical statement is sufficient to prove beyond any shadow of doubt that the first and second verses are separated by an interval. We might read the two verses from Genesis and the one from Isaiah as follows: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth — though God most certainly did not create it that way — became a wreck and a ruin, and darkness covered the face of the deep.”

That we have every right to translate the verb by the continuing form “became” is amply demonstrated by the fact that this precise form is thus translated in other parts of the Old Testament, as for example, “Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).

So far, this is very satisfying to the heart. If a perfect God should create a very imperfect world, chaotic, waste and desolate, a wreck and a ruin, it would be a violation of one of the great spiritual principles, stated by the Holy Spirit Himself: A fountain cannot send forth sweet water and bitter (James 3:11). And if “a good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35), how much more must a good and perfect God bring forth a good and perfect creation? Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy saw this dilemma and sought to resolve it by saying that God had created everything perfect, and that, therefore, everything is perfect, and that any impression to the contrary is but an error of mortal mind. What she failed to realize was that the invisible war had broken out against the background of a perfect creation, and that God, for His own purposes, which we shall study in detail, put forth His Word to turn that perfect creation into a wreck and a ruin. So our hearts rest quietly in the truth set forth by the Psalmist, “As for God, his way is perfect . . .” (Psalm 18:30).

One objection has been imagined which we will do well to meet and set aside at once. It is argued that the passage in the Ten Commandments concerning the seventh day contradicts what we have been saying. We read the following: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11). The answer is that there is a vast difference between the original creation of the heavens and the earth, and the subsequent formation, fashioning and restoration of that same earth which had been turned into chaos.

The careful reader of the first chapter of Genesis will note that the word create is found in the first verse and appears no more in the account until the introduction of life, in the fifth and sixth days of the restoration. God was not seeking mere literary effect when He used the several verbs in Isaiah, “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:18).

To create, as the great linguist Rabbi Naskman put it, is “to produce out of nothing.” It is to call into being some material thing without the aid of any existing material. It is the materialization of a thought of God. The discoveries of the atomic age, centering in the recently acquired knowledge that mass and energy are the same thing in different form, give powerful significance to the Bible teaching that the material universe is the tangible expression of the Word of God going forth in the command of His desire. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made: and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth … he spake and it was . . .” (Psalm 33:6, 9).

We are not told in Scripture how God created the heavens and the earth. We do not know whether it happened in an instant, as He most surely could have caused it to appear had He thus desired; or whether the process of creation covered a period of long ages. God could have done it any way He liked. He has revealed only the quantity of truth that seemed best to Him for His purpose. There is not a line in the Bible which is placed there for mere rhetorical effect, or for the gratification of curiosity. To satisfy the carnal mind was not one of God’s purposes; of that we may be sure. What we have in the Book is all relevant to His main purpose. He is giving us the story of the eternal plan.

That something tremendous and terrible happened to the first, perfect creation is certain. We know that later the earth which had become waste and empty was reformed and refashioned in the six days and peopled by the newly created beings, Adam and his wife; and that this renewed and restored earth, of which it is stated six times that God saw that it was good (1:4, 10, 12, 18,21,25) and once that it was very good (1:31), was later cursed on account of man’s sin. We have every right to argue from analogy that the original creation, long before Adam’s remade world was cursed because of earlier sin, fell into chaos because of the righteous judgment of God upon some outbreak of rebellion. We believe that there is sufficient light in the Word of God to give us more than a few details. Somewhere back before the chaos of the second verse of Genesis there was a great tragedy and a terrible catastrophe.

It should be pointed out, perhaps, that the knowledge of this explanation of the Scripture is nothing new. It is well over a hundred years since Dr. Thomas Chalmers of Scotland observed that there must be a considerable interval of time between the first two verses of Genesis. And we read in the notes of Crampon, who is perhaps the greatest emphasis on man’s complete ruin in sin, and His own perfect remedy in Christ.

The other verbs which are used to describe the work of the six days, such as made, divide, and set, are used elsewhere of work done with existing materials, as when a woman prepares a meal or a man builds a boat. The original creation was before the forming and fashioning.

That something tremendous and terrible happened to the first, perfect creation is certain. We know that later the earth which had become waste and empty was reformed and refashioned in the six days and peopled by the newly created beings, Adam and his wife; and that this renewed and restored earth, of which it is stated six times that God saw that it was good (1:4, 10, 12, 18,21,25) and once that it was very good (1:31), was later cursed on account of man’s sin. We have every right to argue from analogy that the original creation, long before Adam’s remade world was cursed because of earlier sin, fell into chaos because of the righteous judgment of God upon some outbreak of rebellion. We believe that there is sufficient light in the Word of God to give us more than a few details. Somewhere back before the chaos of the second verse of Genesis there was a great tragedy and a terrible catastrophe.

It should be pointed out, perhaps, that the knowledge of this explanation of the Scripture is nothing new. It is well over a hundred years since Dr. Thomas Chalmers of Scotland observed that there must be a considerable interval of time between the first two verses of Genesis. And we read in the notes of Crampon, who is perhaps the greatest Biblical scholar produced by the Roman Church in modern times and who works in the shadow of all the church fathers, the following: “Verse two refers to the indefinite interval of time which separates the primordial creation from the organization of the terrestrial globe as the author is about to describe it. This interval gives every latitude for explaining the transformations which matter has undergone according to the diverse scientific hypotheses.” If the Church had followed these great students, Protestant and Catholic, there would not have been so great a furor concerning the modern theories of science, and it would have been much easier to winnow the wheat of truth from the theories and to throw out the chaff of speculative hypothesis.

As we have said we do not know anything of the time element involved. God may well have first created the earth over the course of millions or billions of years; or He may have done it in the flash of a second and then allowed it to go on in its perfect form for untold millions of years. We do not know. Again, after the earth was blasted in judgment and had become a wreck and a ruin, it may have remained in that state for another period of ages. We do not know. There is not a line in the Bible on that subject.

All we know is that there are two unknown periods to be accounted for — 2x to express it mathematically — and if some scientist wants to argue that the age of the earth is 2x to the nth degree, it makes no difference whatsoever to the child of true faith. We know that our God spoke the original word of creation, and materialized the original thought of the divine idea which became the heavens and the earth. We know that it was the hand of a holy God which struck the earth into ruin because of a great outbreak of rebellion, and we know that it was the hand of our Lord which moved, all in His own time, to bring the earth out of that chaos. This was the same hand that was later pierced with nails for the salvation of the sinner. We know, too, that it was the voice of our God which spoke the great fiat, “Let there be light . . .”

We know that that same voice is calling unto hearts to return to Him for rest, and that that same light is ready to shine into darkened hearts to  reveal the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 4:6). We know, also, that the other verbs in the account of earth’s history — God made, God formed, God fashioned, God said — are all within the power of the omnipotent God who said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9)” (Donald Barnhouse).

In the rest of the book, Barnhouse “explored a theme rarely touched upon by students of the Bible: the great conflict which exists in the spirit realm. Although almost entirely unrecognized by mankind, this warfare affects, in one way or another, the life of every person on earth and especially the life of the child of God.” (From the Preface).

To read the entire book, see here.

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Christian worldview, Creation, Devil, Evil in the world, Evil One, Intelligent Design, Satan, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The original creation and subsequent formation

  1. clover says:

    interesting! thank you for sharing!

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