Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning according to Genesis and Science

Written by John Lennox Reviewed By Robert Howell

There is a volatile debate concerning science and Christianity most of which centers on the first chapter of Genesis. Even Christians have wrestled with proper interpretation of the creation account for centuries. Does a six-day creation account match what we know about the age of the universe? Can a Christian who believes in an old universe be true to what the Scripture says? What does the creation story tell humanity about God and nature? John Lennox has written Seven Days that Divide the World to answer these questions and more.

John Lennox is a Christian mathematician and philosopher. He begins his book affirming the truth that God is the author of both Scripture and nature. In the introduction, Lennox says, “We think that, since God is the author both of his Word the Bible and of the universe, there must ultimately be harmony between correct interpretation of the biblical data and correct interpretation of the scientific data.” He fully affirms the inerrancy and ability of the Bible to inform humanity about nature. He understands there seems to be a troubled relationship between science and interpreting the Bible. Lennox believes that the two are equal in truth-value because God has authored both and that each are meant to illuminate, not dominate, the other.

Lennox lays out three basic models of interpreting the creation story. The first is a so called “young-earth creationist” account that reads Gen1 as seven (24-hour) days. This model tends to point to a young earth that may only be ten thousand years old. However, Lennox mentions that 24-hour days in Gen1 could still be congruent with an old universe. He mentions the possibility that long periods of time could have transpired between the days of creation yielding an old earth.

The second model is known as the day-age view. It interprets the Hebrew word for day based on other passages in the Bible that describe a day as an age or long period of time. In this view, the creation story lasts quite a long time and is in harmony with scientific evidence of an old universe.

Lennox's third category is known as the framework view. This view is the most discussed and is obviously closest to Lennox's own view. It explains the days in creation in a logical order rather than a chronological one. In this view, the days are not necessarily 24-hour periods but are logical categories. Lennox asks the reader to consider metaphorically how a builder and a surgeon would explain the construction of a hospital. The builder would most likely explain the construction in a chronological fashion beginning with the foundation, then a floor-by-floor description. A surgeon might explain the building categorically by first referencing a third floor surgical ward, then second floor children's ward, then basement parking garages.

Lennox provides ample support for this framework view with some exegetical evidence. He does not pretend to be a Hebrew scholar and cites plenty of other scholars. The basic clues indicate that the Bible uses different articles to describe the days giving special distinction to days six and seven. The first three “days” of creation sum up the universality of creation, which includes light and darkness, water and air, land and vegetation. The last three sum up the particulars-sun and moon, fish and birds, and animals and humanity. This logical explanation helps explain why the earth would have light even though the sun is not introduced until day four.

The crux of this book is the last chapter, entitled “The Message of Genesis 1.” Lennox rightly explains how the creation story exalts God as the supreme being over all and that humanity has a special place among creation. His resting on the seventh day is also important; it is not to show that God was tired, but that his creating was over and complete. Lennox notes this completeness as a polemic against evolution. He states that God's infinite Sabbath does not allow for the guided evolution that some theistic evolutionists posit. Lennox also includes humanity's unique creation, specifically that there were no suitable animals to tend the ground. Genesis 1:27 is the axiomatic verse for the distinction between humanity and animals.

Lennox does not pretend that his book is the answer to all the riddles of the creation account. Additionally, this book is not limited to the creation account. He notes with some frequency that his text is a mere introduction to some of the issues in Genesis, but that it can serve both Christians and skeptics. His scholarship is both thoughtful and respectful of other interpretations of Genesis. Lennox wrote this to demonstrate how Christianity and science are both expressions of truth and how the book of Genesis is integral to human existence. He succeeds on both accounts. Lennox is humble enough to admit his own inadequacies in Hebrew translation and faithfully gives credit to multiple sources that have contributed to his views. He also highlights the overarching narrative of the Bible that God is a redeemer who has provided the necessary and sufficient means for reconciling humanity to himself through Christ.

Robert Howell

Robert Howell
Denver Seminary
Littleton, Colorado, USA

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