We will not discuss the “literal-six-days” issue here which, in my view, seems irrelevant to the subject at hand. The creation narratives in Genesis 1 & 2 simply were not written to answer such a question in scientific terms, nor does the writing style lend itself to such an answer. The questions they are written to answer are both broader and grander in scope. Within Christianity, there are generally two views of creation. Admittedly, for the sake of our discussion, I am going to be speaking in very broad generalities. Indeed, few would say that my characterizations fit them exactly, but most will admit that one characterizes them more closely than the other.
On the one hand, some view creation to be fatally damaged or ruined. Their story begins with God’s pristine creation. God creates a world (or at least a garden in a world) that is perfect and apparently static. People are placed in this world and charged with maintaining the perfection that God originally created. This point is crucial to understanding this perspective: The role of humans was understood in terms of maintenance. Creation is a finished product that is to be maintained. However, in this view, people make a choice that sends all of creation into an irredeemable tailspin. Satan’s trick works and the whole project is thrown irrevocably off course.
On the other hand, there are those who view creation as damaged, but “good”. Their story begins (based on the same texts) with God creating a world that is “good” and as Rob Bell says, “loaded with potential”. Creation is dynamic, not static or as N.T. Wright puts it, “creation is a project, not a finished product.” God puts people in the middle of this dynamic creation and charges them with the responsibility to govern it in His image. As before, people make a choice that fundamentally damages creation, sending the whole project off course. This is the point where we reach the major difference in these two perspectives. It can perhaps best be summed up with the following question: Does God give up on his dream for the world? Whereas the first view answers in the affirmative, the second view responds with a resounding “No.”
(To Be Continued)