I have been making a few posts about the way we understand Genesis. Originally, I wrote a post called Genesis: Fact or Fiction. This post attracted some comments and I am in the process of trying to provide sound answers to the objections which were raised. Here is the objection I am dealing with just now:
“On the second day God separates the water in the sky from the water in the ocean. This might make sense to someone sitting in a desert thousands of years ago but it doesnt make an inch of sense to us.”
Now, I have to admit this objection is not an easy one to deal with. More so than most parts of Genesis, understanding this part of Creation requires us to read the Bible with a biblical worldview. Failure to do so makes the Bible incomprehensible at this point. It would be a bit like me trying to find my way around London by referring to a map of Paris!
To begin with, we should remember the purpose of the account of Creation recorded in Genesis One. This account tells us how God took the disordered cosmos and shaped it into the place people live. Genesis 1:1-2 says this:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Here is the state of the earth prior to any of its shaping. God created the heavens above and the earth below and that is all. The earth was without form and void. This means it was barren of life and had no distinguishing features.
What about all of this water? Well, if you flattened out all of the land on the earth now and just let the water spread out then the water would cover all of the land to a depth of about three kilometers. The reason this is not the case now is because the earth’s surface is not flat. Rather, some places, like Mt. Everest, stick up really high and other places, like the Challenger Deep, are really low. So there is an awful lot of water on this planet!
Because the Genesis account was written to convey the process of shaping the world into this place where humans live, it does not give extensive information about other places. So at the point of Genesis 1:6, where water gets separated, we need to recognize something crucial:
The waters above the expanse could be just about anything. More on this in a moment.
The simple part of these verses is understanding the expanse and the waters below it. The expanse is simply the Heavens. Birds were created later and were placed in the expanse, which is where they live and fly today. The waters below the expanse were what we now see as seas, oceans, lakes and rivers. There is also the possibility of these ‘waters below’ including a great deal of subterranean water.
At this point, bearing in mind we are not considering the ‘waters above’ for a moment, there are no contradictions to a reasonable way of looking at the world at all. Again, if one can accept the existence of an all-powerful God who created this planet, then it is plausible for this God to create the world in this way. First God made all of the raw materials. Then God separated some of the raw materials from the other raw materials. This separation was useful because it created the atmosphere required for life to be sustainable on the earth. Finally, God goes on to use some of these separated raw materials to form the earth into a place suitable for human habitation. As a sequence of events, this certainly seems plausible. Given the existence of God then this becomes possible and even reasonable.
Now, back to the ‘waters above.’ What are they? I think the shortest and most honest answer is to say “I don’t know.” This would be true. However, there are some plausible theories about where any or all of that water went:
- This water which was separated above the atmosphere could all be ice crystals floating around in space right now. Many asteroids and small space objects are made almost entirely of ice with a rocky core.
- Another theory states that the Hebrew language and intention was to exclude the waters above from further reckoning. So the waters below could be viewed not as water, literally, but as water as a basic element out of which other things emerge. So the waters above would be the same sort of thing – a picture of a mass of basic elemental building materials which God used to shape the rest of the cosmos.
I think I prefer the first idea. There is a good explanation of this at creation.com here. This seems like a plausible explanation of what God did with the waters which He separated above the earth.
So, the short story is that these verses, taken from a biblical point of view which considers their purpose and their assumption of God’s existence, present a plausible progression of how God shaped the earth into a place for people to live. They do not present any contradiction to the specific claims of science about the amount of water currently on the earth, the way water is dispersed on the planet or the amount of water in the universe.
Genesis: Fact or Fiction?