O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. (1 Tim. 6:20-21)
The third problem that the traditional interpretation of Genesis has is that it believes that Moses was correct when he recorded that the creation of vegetation preceded the creation of the sun.
3) Vegetation is created before the sun, making photosynthesis impossible. Had a college atheist biology major bring that one up. If you are going to insist on a 6 literal days and that the light of Day 1 kept the vegetation alive until Day 4 then you run into other problems…
Now, this is probably one of the less interesting of the supposed problems for the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2. This way of reading Scripture is inculcated with enlightenment rationalism. The historical-critical method of interpreting Scripture, which came to prominence on the heels of the enlightenment, places human reason in the judgment seat and Scripture in the dock. In the name of scientific objectivity, some are reconsidering the straightforward claims of the Bible. And in this case, something as straightforward as the supernatural creative activity of God and his subsequent supernatural revelation of Scripture become the objects of human judgment. Keep in mind, the issue here is not a matter of grammar. Behind any grammatical questions, there is the question of a reliable account of the creation order as outlined here in Genesis 1.
The Problem of the Impossibility of Photosynthesis without the Sun
It is not surprising that a non-Christian would find it problematic that photosynthesis could occur prior to the Sun being created because, well, that would violate the laws of physics. Photosynthesis, 6CO2 + 6H2O ——> C6H12O6 + 6O2, is required in order for vegetation to survive. Therefore, without the Sun, there is no photosynthesis. And without photosynthesis, there can be no vegetation. The only way such a scenario could present a valid objection to the creation account is if one presupposed that God would have to create or order the universe in accordance with pre-existing laws of nature. As we know, the Christian worldview has historically affirmed the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. That is to say that God created the entire physical universe and everything that is within it by the word of his power, from nothing, in six days and rested on the seventh. (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11; Heb. 4:4; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3)
My claim is that the sun nor photosynthesis as we know it were necessary to sustain vegetation as created on the third day. If God exists, then miracles are possible. Vegetation surviving apart from the laws of physics would be defined after the fact as a miracle. Therefore, vegetation surviving apart from photosynthesis is possible according to the Christian worldview. This leads me to conclude that the claim that the traditional interpretation of Genesis encounters a problem due to this particular order of creation is mistaken.
The issue this raises concerns the appropriateness of applying the laws of nature to the act of supernatural creation. There are two basic commitments set against one another in this objection to the traditional interpretation of creation. Christian belief takes the grammar of the text and its record at face value. There is no ambiguity in the text. It claims that God created vegetation on day three and the sun on day four. The reader has a choice at this point. Believe what the text claims or reject the text. In order for the decision to attain a degree of credibility, it should have some warrant, backing, in other words, there should be some rational grounding whatever the final decision turns out to be.
The decision to reject the Genesis account as either out of order or even to relegate it to myth or saga is not the product of grammatical analysis. The grammar offers no support here. Instead, the decision must be based on something other than grammar. Specifically, the decision seems most likely to be the outworking of philosophical commitments. The real issue is that science, or better, the philosophy of science has displaced the Christian philosophy of revelation and the epistemic authority of Scripture has been subordinated to autonomous human reason. Is it a good practice for Christians to accept secular theories or philosophies of science? Vern Poythress writes, “The particular form that sciences have taken in our time is greatly influenced by a historical development that has contained both good and bad influences. The existing form of sciences therefore cannot serve as a norm for us.” [Poythress, Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God, 7] In short, the answer is not no. Without a philosophy of science and of the world, scientific method is impossible. J.P Moreland points out one of the most serious problems attaching itself to science: First, there is no definition of science, no set of necessary and sufficient conditions for something to count as science, no such thing as the scientific method, that can be used to draw a line of demarcation between science and nonscience. [Moreland, Christianity and the Nature of Science, 13] If there is no agreed upon definition, then it seems that this criticism of the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 has no grounding, either in exegesis, in philosophy, or in science. Science is the modern tool by which rebellious men seek to control everything, including the divine revelation. Rushdoony observes, “In terms of this evolutionary perspective, science is not so much the understanding of things as the controlling of things. [Rushdoony, The Mythology of Science, 30]
Christians must improve their critical thinking skills if they are going to accurately discern the hidden agenda of the blackened and depraved heart of secular man. A popular expression by the National Science Foundation is displayed in every high school textbook: “Science extends and enriches our lives, expands our imaginations and liberates us from the bonds of ignorance and superstition.” [Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion, 15] Indeed, it is not just unwise to uncritically bow the knee of Christian theology at the throne of science, it can be reckless and is quite often catastrophic. For instance, the last few months and years have witnessed a number of popular pastors attempting to help Christians determine which parts of the bible they don’t have to accept as true on the ground that they are just too outrageous for modern sensibilities. Andy Stanley’s position on the virgin birth stands out as one example. Mike Licona’s reductionist view that all we have to defend is the resurrection miracle where Christian belief is concerned. Everything else is fair game. The slippery slope argument may be a logical fallacy, but that does not mean it is not a tragic reality of many supposed leaders inside the Christian church.
In addition to its lack of coherence with Christian belief, this objection regarding vegetation being created before the sun has another problem. If detractors are going to employ the laws of nature to determine when a teaching of Scripture is rationally acceptable or not, then we will have to toss out all of the miracles of the Bible. For example, Numbers 22:28 records that Balaam’s donkey literally spoke to him. I have to say that enlightened man simply cannot accept such an outrageous story. Surely donkeys cannot speak and this story cannot be taken literally! Another example is found in 2 Kings 6:6 where Elisha makes an axe head float. This miracle is so trivial there is no reason for us to expect that it is little more than legend, myth, or exaggeration. The laws of physics would not permit an axe head to float any more than they would permit living vegetation without the sun. The number of miracles that would have to be eliminated if Nathan’s objection from photosynthesis were valid, is overwhelming. Once the dominos begin to fall, there is no end to what amounts to the ultimate collapse of anything remotely resembling consistency in Christian belief. The virgin birth, the resurrection, Christ’s walking on the water, etc. If plants cannot survive without naturally occurring photosynthesis, then a donkey didn’t talk, an axe head didn’t float, the Messiah didn’t walk on water, a virgin didn’t become pregnant, and a dead man did not rise from the dead. This small objection logically leads to the end of Christian belief.
In summary then, it seems that the claim that the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1, an interpretation of the text that literally places the creation of vegetation before the creation of the sun, is itself wrought with problems is based on prior commitment to a philosophy of science. Since there is no agreed upon definition for what is and is not science, and since there are numerous philosophies of science to choose from, and since science is often proven to be wrong, it seems that to base one’s criticism of the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 on science is tenuous at best. The ground upon which such an objection rests feel more like quicksand that solid ground. The warrant for this argument is incredibly weak. Surely if God can create something from nothing, and since God is the author of what appears to be natural law to begin, and since God orders the physical properties of the universe in whatever way he pleases, according to His own purpose, any objection to the order of creation based solely on the belief that it somehow violates some existing law of nature reduces to absurdity.