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Without Form and Void

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
November 13, 2021 12:01 am

Without Form and Void

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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November 13, 2021 12:01 am

How much time elapsed between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2? Was there a gap between God's creation of the heavens and the earth and the six days of creation? Today, R.C. Sproul addresses the difficulties associated with the gap theory of creation.

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This mirrors of recent origin/6000 years or so, or is the creation of the universe, something that is most modern astronomers and sergeants claim is something that took place 15 to 18 billion years ago. And Christians are engaged in debates all the time over the age of the earth, time elapsed between Genesis 11 in Genesis 1 to was there a gap between God's creation of the heavens and the earth and the six days of creation to them Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul exposes the false thinking bond was known as the gap theory is messages titled without form and void. Today were going to begin another series on the hard sayings.

Scripture now some of you will recall when we did an earlier series on this subject that I defined the concept of hard sayings really with three different references in the first place. A saying of Scripture may be called a hard saying if it appears to us to be somewhat harsh in its orientation. So that's one category of the hard sayings. The second reason why we will refer to a text is a hard saying is because it's hard to understand.

That is, it's somewhat enigmatic and problematic in our interpretation of its meaning, and the third category is similar to the second.

That is, we refer to a hard saying that has become. Controversy will in the history of biblical interpretation, usually because of one of the first two reasons. So as we consider that were going to begin today with the Old Testament. In fact, were going to start on page 1 of the very first chapter of Genesis and look at a controversial text that appears as early as the second verse of sacred Scripture. Let's look them at Genesis 1 verse two decided in context we need to read first one before we read verse two Genesis begins with these words in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth that is verse one.

Now here's the hard saying or the controversial verse that follows immediately. Verse two the earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. Now that's just the first part of verse to the rest of the verses in the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters, but it's this first segment of verse two of Genesis 1. That is our hard saying hard because of the controversy that attends the interpretation of it and actually there are two different controversies that have been attached to the understanding of verse two of the first chapter of Genesis. The first has to do with the third word of the verse in my translation I'm reading from the Geneva study Bible the earth was without form nine the early Scofield reference Bible the notation there indicates that the verse should be translated and the earth became without form and void. Now you can listen immediately and see the difference in meaning between those variant interpretations.

It's one thing to say that the earth was without form and void, and quite another to say and the earth became without form and void because the presumption is that if it became without form and void that it was something else before it became that now around this interpretation. The old Scofield reference Bible constructed a theory of biblical interpretation that condition the whole scope of understanding the entire book of Genesis, and that theory is known by one of two titles. The common view is that it's called the gap theory and the more technical term for it is called the restitution hypothesis the restitution hypothesis that is it's a hypothesis it's a surmise all its an attempt to speculatively to explain some significant problems in reconciling the biblical account of creation with certain modern theories of the emergence of the universe out of the primordial soup or whatever and it's called the gap theory because what it is suggesting that only suggesting but affirming is that there's only one verse in the book of Genesis that refers to God's initial work of creation and that is verse one.

Now of course the book of Genesis does not have a title in the original manuscript it's not called Genesis. That's the title that is been added throughout history by the Jews and then subsequently by the Christians in establishing the names of the books of the canon, but we are accustomed to thinking that the book of Genesis is so-called because it is concerned to teach something about the beginning of the universe. The Genesis of the universe in which we live. If we follow the gap theory we would say that only one verse in the book of Genesis refers to the original work of divine creation, namely Genesis 11 and then what follows, beginning in verse two is not an account of the original creation of the universe, but of the re-creation or regeneration of a creation that had fallen into a state of chaos. So then we would perhaps be better to title the book of Genesis, the book of re-Genesis rather than Genesis.

So the idea is that there is an historical gap between verse one and verse two, and that gap could be as long as several million years or even billions of years and so what were reading about when we read about the six days originally thought to be of creation refers to the six days of receipt, creation, rather than the original work of God L before I look at this further in terms of interpretation, let me say a word about why such speculation and why such a hypothesis emerged in the first place. One of the big problems that people struggle with in terms of the trustworthiness of sacred Scripture has to do with the onslaught of the reliability of the biblical description of creation. In light of modern scientific theories and particularly with respect to the age of the earth.

We will look at that more closely in our next lecture when we consider the whole question of the six days of creation.

But there is an ongoing debate today. Even within the Christian community with respect to the antiquity of the earth is the earth of recent origin, say, 6000 years or so ago or is the creation of the universe, something that, as most modern astronomers and scientists claim is something that took place 15 to 18 billion years ago. That's quite a huge discrepancy and Christians are engaged in debates all the time over the age of the earth and even the evangelical world is divided between the two camps of old age earth orders and new age. Arthur's not to be confused with the New Age movement, but in any case, this theory conveniently solves that dilemma by saying that the Bible only gives one verse to the original creation and it could have happened at any time, thousands, millions or billions of years ago and that what is being described here in the rest of Genesis is of much more recent origin, namely that what Genesis is describing here is the restoration or restitution of a creation that had undergone a cataclysmic catastrophic fall between Genesis 11 and Genesis 1, two, and there are allusions to some of the poetic literature later on in the prophets and in Job that refer to the cosmic upheaval in heaven with the fall of Satan and so on and interjected into this gap would be first.

The original creation where everything was good and we have this cosmic catastrophe with the fall of the Angels with Satan leading them and the plunging of the universe into ruin, after which then God repairs the damage and it is the repairing of that damage that we read about in the rest of the opening chapters of Genesis melt from a literary perspective. The whole thing virtually hinges on the interpretation of the verb here in Hebrew, which in almost every translation of the Bible is translated by the English word was, but according to the gap theory for the restitution hypothesis should be translated by the word became now was the word was would indicate the state in which it was in the initial aspects of creation and as I mentioned earlier, the word became would suggest a dramatic change of some sort. Not linguistically the verb that is used here occurs literally hundreds of times in the Bible and in any Hebrew lectionary, the primary meaning of the word is given to mean was.

Now it is true that in less than 1% of the occurrences of it in Hebrew. It can and is sometimes rarely in the translated by the English word became so the translator does have the option when it comes to attacks that uses this word to render it either by the English word was or the English word became melt. When that happens, the normal method of biblical translation is to use the primary normal meaning of the term unless there is compelling reason to use the other terms and usually that compelling reason is discovered within the immediate context of the text in question or in the broader context of biblical usage.

In this case it seems to me that the preference to use the translation became rather than was is not so much driven by the immediate context that would includes that the major motivation here seems to be this contemporary philosophical problem that we have reconciling the idea of an early Earth in the early day to creation with the scientific claims that run to the contrary is one who has been involved for decades in the special theological discipline of apologetics, which is the task of defending the truth claims of Christianity. I've never been very much impressed by the gap theory or the restitution hypothesis as nice as it would be to solve many of our problems. It seems to me this is a matter of opinion could be somewhat forced and contrived and I think that it behooves us as Christians. When we are defending the truth claims of Scripture to be very careful not to use hypotheses that seem to be extremely unlikely, linguistically and hermeneutical.

So as I said, I reject this theory now what I say. The immediate context is appealed to to reinforce the interpretation of the firm by the English word became has to do with what it is that is being described.

Remember verse two says the earth became without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. And again, the gap theory says the earth became without form and became void and became dark in terms of the deep and one of the compelling reasons that people use from that text to support the gap theory is that is somehow beneath the dignity of God to create anything in a state of formlessness of darkness and of emptiness, particularly when we see that these three descriptive terms of the void, the darkness and the emptiness suggest a picture or a portrait not of orderliness and harmony, but it gives a kind of an ominous threatening chaotic idea that is not overcome until the Holy Spirit does is transforming work of hovering over the waters of the deep and bringing substance into the emptiness in light into the darkness and order into this apparent disorder.

Add to that another salient fact and that is then in other near Eastern mythological accounts of creation such as found in the Babylonian you and others there is a common theme of seeing the universe coming into being as a result of a cosmic primordial struggle between forces of good and forces of evil between forces of darkness and forces of light where the principal poetic image or mythological image is that of God's struggling with a primordial sea monster, who dwells in the abyss of the deep.

And so we could pursue this business of a catastrophic fall but then sees the world being plunged in the chaos in the old serpent, Satan is ruling over the universities bring darkness to the earth, and so on, and what we do here than is the victory of God over the forces of chaos over the forces of Satan over the sea monster who inhabits the deep, and so on and so that's another reason why some have argued for a gap between Genesis 11 and 12 the historic and classic biblical interpretation of Genesis 12 is not that it is a description simply of chaos or of some threatening ominous evil that is part of the original creation. But as Luther and the reformers and others throughout history have argued that Genesis 12 is simply a description of the as yet un-ordered an uncompleted work of divine creation. The thematic statement of verse one refers to God's original work of creation and in the biblical account of that creation initially before God separates the dark from the light and before he creates any luminaries such as the sun and everything. There would be a darkness, and before he fills the earth with creeping things and flying things in fish and animals and plants and everything.

There would be a certain emptiness and that there is a predominance of water would be consistent with our understanding of how the world even is constructed today. If one looks at planet Earth from a spaceship and sees a photograph taken from outer space. The color of our planet is obviously blue, reflecting the massive amounts of water that cover the globe and so as I say, standard historic interpretation of Genesis 12 is not to describe some kind of cosmic battle between God and of equal and opposite force of evil or the force of darkness, but simply refers to the beginning stages of divine creation which then is spelled out in greater detail.

As God adds the lights and adds the animals and the plants and begins to fill that which he has molded this is the beginning superstructure for creation the outline as it would be before the details are filled in, but the controversy I'm sure will continue to rage and I'm simply taking the time today to spell out for you what this particular controversy is all about and why people are exercised over it and certainly the gap theory is possible. It is a possible interpretation of Genesis 1 verse two. I am persuaded that though it is a literary possibility and a theological possibility.

There really is no compelling reason to assume I think that when we look at a problem such as we have just discussed in the opening chapters of Genesis we have to do so with a certain kind of caution in a certain kind of patients and realize that in our day.

There is probably no dimension of the Christian truth claims that is more under attack in the secular world than the very foundational question of creation in the history of philosophy, one of the reasons why the Christian church received a high degree of intellectual credibility. For example, in the Middle Ages and in the European medieval university system, even from those who were not professing faith in Christianity was that the secular thinkers of that day found it difficult to avoid the conclusion that something had to create this universe. In the first place. And so it's not a surprise that the central point of pain of skepticism against Christianity against religion against Islam against Judaism is at the point of creation, because if we can eliminate the idea of creator and the rest of the message of Scripture. It's so easy for us as Christians to be tempted to reject the clear teaching of Scripture because we don't want to look foolish to a watching world, Dr. RC Sproul's response was helpful.

Wasn't it the creation account we find in Genesis is true that his message around Renewing Your Mind is from Dr. RC Sproul series hard sayings of the Bible, but I hope you'll stay with us in just a moment. Dr. Brooke Parsons will join us to talk more about this topic in this 15 part series Dr. Spruill tackle some difficult passages, including what it means when we read that God hardened Pharaoh's heart what the strange fire in Leviticus was sent how we make sense of the wars in the Old Testament will be happy to send you this complete series as a digital download just requested today. Would you give a donation of any amount to leader ministries.

There are couple of ways you can reach us to make a request to give your phone number it's 800-435-4343 but you can also go online to Renewing Your Mind.Ward was. I mentioned Dr. Brooke Parsons is here. The studio easily in her teaching fellow art chief publishing officer here at leader ministries and the senior pastor at St. Andrews Chapel is also the editor of table talk magazine in the Burke.

It's always great to have your the studio to talk about these things, of eternal significance. Obviously RC thought these hard sayings were important enough.

He he devoted four different teaching series to these difficult sayings or misunderstood sayings that we find in Scripture. Would you share with our listeners why we prioritize things like this will thankfully it is a significant topic, and the truth is we could write multiple books looking at many verses and passages in Scripture that have been misunderstood and misapplied because of poor hermeneutics that is a method of interpretation of a poor method of interpreting those verses taking them out of context, miss understanding how those teachings of Scripture both in the old and new Testaments really do applied to us as Christians today and so it is one of the things that we deal with all the time as editors and as teachers. As a pastor. People come from all sorts of different churches in all sorts of different backgrounds and they've they've been taught so many different things on numerous passages in verses and they come with all these presuppositions about what these verses must mean and do mean and you cannot disagree. So what we have found over the years is that there are certain passages that we believe are perhaps the most miss applied miss understood sometimes misappropriated and so were trying to do is gently help believers understand better what Scripture teaches and is equally important what it doesn't teach thank you Bert for being with us and then assuring that insight. That's why we hear the series. Each Saturday and next week Dr. Strobel turned to the six chapter of Genesis we read about the sons of God and the daughters of men who were these so-called sons of God will find out next week here on Renewing Your Mind.

Hope you'll join us

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