Some Problems With Fischer's
"Days of Creation"
David F. Siemens, Jr.
2703 E. Kenwood St.
Mesa, AZ 85213-2340
From: Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 42 (September 1990): 180-181.
I was disappointed by the way Dick Fischer, "The Days of Creation" (PSCF, March 1990) handled the biblical passages. For example, he disregarded the quoted comment that 'day` with a numeral means a solar day (p. 16). I expect an evangelical scholar to hold that scriptural usage is vitally important, not something to be sloughed off or ignored. This is not a matter of a grammatical rule (p. 17). The claim seems to me to be a red herring. A grammatical rule is syntactic, whereas this is a matter of consistent semantic usage. On this point, Ryrie is certainly correct. Further, Fischer's comment extends through the rest of the Old Testament, so far as I have been able to determine. There are numerous passages that note the day of the month. There are others, like Leviticus 8:35 and 9:1, that specify a number of days and the day following the sequence-or one of the days in the sequence (cf. Deuteronomy 16:4). The sole restriction I can find is the coupling of `day' (Strong's 3117) with `night' (3915), as in the forty days and forty nights of the flood (Genesis 7:4, 12), of Moses' stay on Sinai (Exodus 24:18; 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9, 11, 18, 25; 10:10), and of Elijah's miraculous sustenance (I Kings 19:8). Related usages are found in I Samuel 30:12; Job 2:13; Jonah 1:17. In these passages, the reference of `day' is to the daylight hours rather than to the sunset to sunset Hebrew period.
But if, despite the consistent usage of yom with a numeral to specify either a 24-hour period or its daylight portion, we allow that the word may mean an indefinite period, we find our selves involved in more serious difficulties. The term's specific coupling to ereb, `evening' (6153), and boquer, `morning' (1242), in each reference with a numeral in the creation passage (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) creates grave difficulties. Whatever can be the evening or dusk of an eon that is followed by its morning or dawn? What warrant can be found to make sunset and sunrise geological periods or epochs? Obviously none. So Fischer makes it "God's timing" (p. 18; cf. p. 15). But this leads to incoherence.
We are told that the first chapters of Genesis must speak of eons because of Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8-along with the "of old" of 2 Peter 3:5 (p. 20). But how long must we wait for something to be from antiquity? United States tariff regulations in 1966 were amended to make any object a century old an antique. The Egyptian pyramids, antedating both Moses and Abraham, certainly qualify. So the universe, whether it antedates Adam by days or gigayears, may be said to be "of old." For the rest, do not the verses quoted rather indicate the timelessness of God by refer ring to the largest time readily formulatable and the smallest obvious division? Until recently, the largest named unit of time was the millennium, despite the larger number, myriad, used by Archimedes in his unique computations. The smallest clearly demarcated unit was the day. I suspect that, if the passage were written today, it would probably refer to gigayears and attoseconds-provided the multipliers were commonly understood. There are the prefixes `tera', `peta' and `exa', but they would take us back before the Big Bang, which is the probable commence ment of time.
Applying this philosophical and theological insight that God is timeless, what is "a day of God's time" (p. 15)? Since this is a nonsense question, Fischer's day-age interpretation must also be nonsense. The only way out of this conclusion that I know of is to make the deity limited, within the universe. But this is pantheistic or panentheistic, not theistic. Although probably totally unintended, what Fischer says of God's omnipresence (p. 18) can also be fit into these non-theistic views. He has God everywhere at once, whereas the orthodox interpretation has God outside of or independent of place, as He is independent of time and matter. Only thus can He be truly the Creator, the source of all things rather than a part of the universe.
Fischer tries to deal with another aspect of the general problem on pp. 18ff. Arguing in defense of a fourth day sun, he clearly adopts a terrestrial view-which seems to be generally appropriate throughout the narrative. But then he switches to an astronaut's view from low earth orbit to try to twist his way out of the problem. This cannot be passed off as God's view point, for, as non-spatial, He does not have a point from which to view. Fischer passes over the impossibility of such a view making sense to anyone until, at the very least, the Copernican view became current. So far as I have been able to discover, apart from the views of the Pythagoreans and Aristotle, later followed by Eratosthenes, the consistent ancient view was that the habitable earth is flat-unless it is saucer-shaped, the Egyptian view. For these ancients, sunrise and sunset occur at the same time for all. Only the rate of the sun's movement toward or from the zenith would vary with east-west position. Thus the morning would theoretically be shorter and the afternoon longer at Babylon than at Thebes. A consequence of Fischer's view is that God chose language that necessarily confused and misled everyone studying the Word until the modern period was reached. As a matter of fact, not till the astronauts' reports would the interpretation Fischer advocates be likely to occur to anyone. Is this consequence consistent with the character of God?
There is a further problem with this interpretation, popular though it be. In the same issue of the journal, John R. Arm¨strong noted Buckland's 1837 objection that the "order of appearance in the strata did not match the order in Genesis 1" (p. 36). This difficulty cannot be met by explaining how there could be days before the appearance of the sun (p. 17). What is needed is an explanation of how there can be seed-bearing herbs and trees (polycots, Permian, 250 million years before the present; dicots, Jurassic, 200 m.y.b.p.-dates are rounded off very rough¨ly) and grasses (monocots, Cretaceous, 100 m.y.b.p.) before fishes (Cambrian, 550 m.y.b.p., or Ordovician, 450 m.y.b.p.); and birds (Jurassic, 150 m.y.b.p.) before "creeping things" (amphibia, Devonian, 400 m.y.b.p.; reptiles, Carboniferous, 325 m.y.b.p.). Adding the insects (Carboniferous, 300 m.y.b.p) as "flying things" (p. 15) and creepers (cf. Leviticus 11:20-46, where words from two roots are intermingled-Strong's 7430f, 8317f; Genesis 1:24-26, 30, uses the former) does not help sort things out. Can the Author of Scripture be that confused, not knowing what the Source of terrestrial life did?
Does the interpretation of yom in Genesis 1 as strictly solar days contradict Genesis 2:4 (pp. 16f)? Only if the latter is part of the seven-day report. If it is part of a new revelation, a different view of the work of the Creator, there is no problem. That it is thus to be understood follows from the impossibility of fitting the events of Genesis 2:15-24 into the sixth day, as Fischer notes (pp. 19f). He is right that Genesis 2 is a problem for those who argue for a creation begun and finished within 144 hours. But that does not necessarily bolster his view. An elementary truism in logic is that demolishing view A does not prove view B unless it has been previously demonstrated that A and B jointly exhaust the possibilities. Dallas Cain's presentations in numerous annual meetings, which note a score of alternates, warn us against such oversimplification.
Fischer also argues his age-day theory on the basis of the seventh day extending down through the church age (p. 20). How does this perpetual divine rest fit with Christian theism? It sounds like deism. How does it fit with the words of our Lord, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17)? The original may be translated, "My Father down to the present moment is working continually, and I am working." Paul declares that the believing "are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10; cf. 4:24; Colossians 3:10, etc). But Fischer's God is resting.
Does Hebrews 4:1, 3, demonstrate that God is resting in the church age (p. 20)? In Deuteronomy 3:20, the Lord gives rest in the Promised Land (cf. 12:9; Joshua 1:13, 15; 21:44; 22:4; 23:1). This is specified by God as "my rest" (Psalm 95:11). This last is quoted in Hebrews 3:11 (cf. v. 18), leading up to the passage Fischer cites. So what the passage declares is that the rest of Genesis 2:2ff and of the Promised Land (and probably even Christ's gift of rest [Matthew 11:28-30], which we already enjoy) foreshadow a perfect rest.
I do not believe that Fischer is unorthodox at heart. He simply exemplifies the
common human failing of seeing another's problem clearly without seeing that he,
too, has a problem. Indeed, it appears to me that he has so singlemindedly pursued
his viewpoint that he has inadvertently substituted eisegesis for exegesis. He has
correctly seen that the view that attempts to compress the entire history of
creation into 144 hours produces conflicts with other scriptural passages and with
science. He has failed to see that his day-age interpretation does the same, but
with different passages and different areas of science. The opponents he recognizes
usually perceive the alternatives as their 144-hour view and atheistic evolutionism
(p. 21). Fischer correctly sees that there is a third view. But here he gives no
evidence of recognizing the wider range of positions advanced by serious Christians.
I am convinced that he, and I, and the rest of the family of God, need a concerted
effort to distinguish between what we have been told the Bible says and what it
says, between bad philosophy mistakenly touted as good theology or good science
and the full scope of good philosophy, good theology and good science. May God
grant us wisdom and understanding.